Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Jason Michael Brescia on Bridge and Tunnel

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Jason Michael Brescia, writer + director of Bridge and Tunnel, a film about a group of twenty-somethings living on Long Island. We discussed the ideas behind the film, the soundtrack + even got a little bit of an inside scoop regarding his follow-up film.

How did you come up with the idea for Bridge and Tunnel?
Well, I had the idea to make a movie about twenty-somethings living on Long Island almost right after I finished my first feature film, The Newest Pledge. I knew I wanted to tell the story over a course of time. I wanted to play around with the narrative of it and I started off thinking I was going to make a few disjointed short films, then find a way to tie them together, but ended up instead focusing on letting a few characters evolve over time, and that sort of came together as i started to write it in 2011//2012.

Yeah, I liked how you included in the storm [Hurricane Sandy], because a lot of people on Long Island were affected by that, including myself [we had been evacuated + came back to foot of water in our apartment].
We were getting ready to go into production in 2012 + this was all happening. While this was going on we had no power; our friends were evacuated. I was like, well this is the reason why the story [is going in this direction] + why I wanted to make a movie about Long Island. It all made sense, not that we were capitalizing on it by any stretch of the imagination. We were making a movie about what life was like in 2012, so naturally, you can't tell the story without that.

I totally agree - when I was watching the film it didn't feel like it was fabricated. It felt very natural, so to speak.
We didn't want to get preachy with it, we wanted to show the characters living through it. We didn't want to get political - we just wanted to show how people lived through that, outside of it [the people who were affected by the storm firsthand]. Mainstream media showed Chris Christie and the concert with Bruce Springsteen at MSG. We weren't at that concert, Chris Christie never came to our street. Instead, what it was it that we were all really cold, there was no power, but we figure out a way to get through it. And then it snowed.

Yeah,  that whole ordeal was a shitshow. But, I like how the events weren't the central focus of the film. You addressed the topic, but the scenes were character driven, not situationally driven.
When you're writing a story like that you have to fish for excuses to get everyone into the same room. When you get to a certain age, you and your friends just don't end up in the same room as much as the characters on a TV show do, like Friends. They all just happen to be hanging out the the apartment at the same time. That doesn't happen in real life - everyone is too busy. If you're telling the story about a group of eight people, chances are those eight people are in the same room together maybe once or twice all year. Its usually something like a Super Bowl party or New Year's, which we used in the film. We were lucky that this was a year that the Giants were in the Super Bowl. We caught a break that we set out to tell the story of 2012 [back in 2011], and we are going to write this script next year and tell the story as we watch time unfold. Actually, in the original draft of the script [before the storm had occurred], Lina [Natalie Knepp] comes home from the city for Thanksgiving, and they go out the night before..

Typical Thanksgiving Eve shenanigans.
Exactly. Everyone's loose + relaxed. When she comes home after the storm [the characters end up going out because they are cooped up with no power], everyone is tired + on edge, + it worked so much better that way; it felt natural.

I hate to say it, but the timing of the events worked to your benefit for filming.
Yeah, if we weren't going into production when we did, there would have been no way to recreate that sort of set design. We wouldn't have been able to go to the wreckage like we did. Like you said, we weren't trying to capitalize on it. When we shot in Long Beach, we went to the neighbors to explain what we were doing, and they've all been very supportive. The apartment we showed that flooded out? We met some of the people who lived there, and they've even come to the screening to watch the movie. Its almost been a release for them, to be able to watch the film and tell their story. The whole purpose of the movie was to show what life was like, sometimes to a flaw, that we go that far with it.

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect when I had viewed the trailer, but after watching the film, everything made sense. It felt real. Who didn't go to the Hamptons because of scheduling conflicts; the quick exchanges at the funeral before Meghan [Brianne Berkson] has to leave the group to go to work. Real life surrounded the storyline.
The funeral was a way to get all of the friends in the same room. Thats the way the project was, trying to get them in the same room.

It's either events of catastrophic proportions or an event that everyone needs to be at, but that is realistic, though. I don't know how many times I'll try to make plans to get my friends in the same room. The last time it happened was for a wedding party, for our dress fitting. But, if we try to make plans for dinner, we are rescheulding three times, who can't come because something with the baby, etc. It doesn't happen like it used to anymore.
Thats what we were saying. The challenge in writing it was creating organic situations for the characters to interact within.

What was your favorite part of the movie to film?
My favorite part? Pretty much any shoot that takes place indoors or in some sort of business was always the most difficult to shoot because we would have to go in after they closed. On those days we didn't start shooting until 2 or 4 am, so the best would always be when we'd wake up and have to shoot scenes at the church, and that was a 10am - 5pm day, that was great. There weren't many of those.

John Nolan's video for "Here Comes the Wolf" was filmed at local music venue, Amityville Music Hall.

Now, how did you end up choosing Ryan Hunter + Brian Byrne to work on the score?
Ryan and I had gone to high school together, but we weren't friends back then. One of my friends was the Envy on the Coast tour manager [Hunter + Byrne's former band], so we kept in touch through the years. Ryan had given us some NK songs to use in The Newest Pledge, and was on board with Bridge and Tunnel from day one. Ryan came by the set once or twice, + as soon as we had stuff to show him, he + Brian got to work + they put their stamp on it. From there, the whole soundtrack unfolded. Ryan did a great job + Brian's great at helping Ryan create + manifest the sounds he's hearing in his head + how to get it onto tape. Ryan is a genius at the writing part + Brian is equally smart at creating + engineering.

Now that this project has come full circle, is there anything new you've been working on?
I'm moving onto a new project, which will start filming in June.

Are you allowed to reveal anything?
Its almost a continuation of Bridge and Tunnel, with people that are a little bit older now. Bridge and Tunnel is kind of like that purgatory phase, where you're in-between childhood + adulthood. The new movie is like, adulthood has started, this is what its like, have fun.

Have you finished writing it?
I'm a few drafts deep, but we're not at the final draft yet. I started writing it in late 2013, after Bridge and Tunnel wrapped.

Are you sticking to the same format you used for Bridge and Tunnel?
It's different, stylistically + tonally. Its for lack of a better word, its lighter viewing. Its not as real. Bridge and Tunnel is real, almost to a flaw where if you're not paying attention, you'll think nothing happened throughout the movie. This is more of a narrative film, where Bridge and Tunnel was a lot of subtext that needed to feel really real, almost documentary style. I want this to feel more like you are watching a movie, to the style of it.

Will you be working with many of the same musicians that you worked with on Bridge and Tunnel?
Nothings confirmed with that. I've spoke to Ryan + John Nolan [Straylight Run, Taking Back Sunday] to let them know that this project is happening, and I'm sure that at some point, that if they have the time, both will find ways to be involved in the project, which i think is cool. I'm sure I will connect with Brian at some point, but this movie won't have a score.

So this is going to be more like a soundtrack.
Yeah, just because it fits what it is - a score would take you out of the concept of what the new film is. There is going to be plenty of music. John + I spoke a few times about it. When John became involved with Bridge and Tunnel, he was coming into a finished product, there was only so much he could do. He had been working on "Here Comes the Wolf" at the time, and he and the producers made it more cinematic to "fit the film," but this time he'll be more involved in the beginning of the project; he'll have more of a clean slate. It'll be cool to give someone like him more of a wide palate of colors to play with. He did such a great job with Bridge and Tunnel, with such a small palate of colors. Now its like, John, here is this wide scope - give us what you got. It'll be fun.

The soundtrack you had for Bridge and Tunnel was great, too. Lots of bands that were born on the island.
I wanted to create a soundtrack that had lots of homegrown artists. I know when people think of the type of music our generation grew up with, John is one of the people at the forefront. For the characters who are in Bridge and Tunnel, the music they would have been listening to is what [is on the soundtrack]. Getting people like John, Vinnie Caruana [The Movielife, I Am the Avalanche], Bayside and Ryan involved in the movie… wasn't really a choice. If I wanted the movie to be authentic, I couldn't fill it with background bar noise - it had to be what these people had grown up listening to. We were really privileged to get that + John was the domino that sort of, in a way, legitimized us to everyone else. At the end of it, I'm proud of the soundtrack and the movie, + I think we did it justice + over time, I hope people discover them [the film + soundtrack] + think its cool.

Bridge and Tunnel will be streaming for free until the end of the month, which you can watch here. You can also snag a copy of the soundtrack from Enjoy the Ride Records, which I highly recommend [I'm picky about soundtracks, but this one is killer from start to finish].

Because I'm a music nerd + I could tell that Jason had great taste in music, I had asked him to put together a playlist of some songs he has been into lately [which is how I discovered the latest Music Monday], so head over to Spotify + give it a listen.

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