DIY FILMMAKERS: JEssE PERETZ’ “FIRST LOVE, LAST RITES”

Jesse Peretz, the director of the indie flick “First Love, Last Rites”, started in music videos doing those hilarious cab driver spots on MTV. He also played bass in the Lemonheads and now he’s got what looks to be the indie film of the summer. Jesse gives us the DIY lowdown on his film, “First Love, Last Rites”, which gave more than one Film Threat staffer a boner. (It’s sexy.)
[ TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF, WHAT’S YOUR BIO? ] ^ Alright now, that’s a big question for a “clever response.” I was brought up in Boston. I was an early member of the band the Lemonheads when they were a somewhat punk rock band in the ’80s. I’m a film school drop out. I have made a number of music videos like the Foo Fighters “Big Me.” video, which was the mentos commercials’ parody. My favorite non-feature film accomplishment is being a creator and the director of the MTV Jimmy McBride cab drivers spots from years past. ^
[ SO, WHAT’S YOUR FILM’S STORY? ] ^ My film is about two kids who are living together for a summer in a one room house on a Louisiana Bayou. He is from Brooklyn, she is from that town. When the movie starts they are in the middle of their first ever love/sexual relationship, and we experience their love fantasies as they are able to live alone together and have sex whenever they want, go to sleep whenever they want, eat what ever they want etc. ^
The boy, Joey, however, has a growing dark inner life as he tries to understand all these new elements of his life: sex, women, the mysterious world of the bayou, the sounds of a rodent who lives in the wall (which he will not except is merely a rat), a business partnership with his girlfriend’s somewhat creepy father etc. He can’t separate one element from another.
Eventually they begin to realize that they don’t really understand each other and what to make of their new lives. Eventually all these elements come to a head and force them to re-examine what everything means.
[ HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE STORY? ] ^ The film is based on an awesome short story by my favorite author, Ian McEwan. ^
[ WHAT WAS LEFT ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR? ] ^ An introductory scene which explained why Joey was down there. I thought it was cooler not to know. ^
[ BUDGET, SCHEDULE, STATUS? ] ^ It was shot for $750,000. It is opening in LA and NYC on Friday August 7th, and then a bunch of other cities in the following few weeks. ^
[ DID YOU HAVE TO SACRIFICE ANYTHING BECAUSE OF THE BUDGET? ] ^ You always have to sacrifice things because of budgets. When they are low budgets you sacrifice time, and maybe production value (eg.: “No, Jesse we can’t afford the crane shot for when you want the camera to soar into the sky looking at them down in the Swamp, as suddenly small creatures. How about putting the camera on a tripod up on that house’s balcony?” Jesse: “OK.” ^
When, on the other hand, your budget is big, you may get that crane shot — or even all the crane shots, the helicopter shots, the extra two weeks etc., but invariably you sacrifice creative control, and you at least run the risk that your film will be a set of compromises between the director, the producers, the investors, the distributor etc.
[ WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE MAKING THE FILM? ] ^ Making this, my first feature film, was — not to be corny — the high point of my life thus far. There is nothing that makes me happier than movies that I love, and there is nothing more satisfying then finally getting a chance to make one of your own. ^
[ ANY CRAZY SET ADVENTURES? ] ^ The craziest adventures just had to do with being in this crazy little town of Houma, LA. On our 3rd day down there my producer made an appointment with the deputy sheriff for the following day. Later that day he (the deputy sheriff) took the town bank hostage for 25 hours and killed two people in the bank before giving himself up. That was our welcome to Louisiana. The alligators seemed mighty calm compared to that. ^
[ WHY DID YOU DO IT? ] ^ The Movie? That question is self-evident. ^
[ ANY ADVICE OR PEARLS OF BRILLIANT FILMMAKING WISDOM? ] ^ Only get involved in making a film if your heart is 100% into the story, because it takes WAY more time than anyone would possibly imagine. ^
[ WAS IT WORTH IT? ] ^ YES! ^
[ WHAT NEXT? ] ^ I’m finishing up a script with two friends (Clay Tarver & Dan Estabrook) that will shoot in Paris and New York with a half French cast. The film is about a (non-sexual) relationship between a sexy 19 year old French pop singer who sings in the style of the great French girl pop singers of the ’60s and a 42 year old alcoholic, gay American sports photographer who was born in France to a mother who was a pop singer in the early ’60s. She died (supposedly) in 1962 when he was 4. He was raised by his father in America. She finds out he was lied to all his life and that she didn’t dies, but had a schizophrenic break-down and was institutionalized for good. She finally leads him to find his mother, but not without f—ing him up a whole lot in the process…
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Posted on August 10, 1998 in Interviews by
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