Icons of Fright talks to FELT Director Jason Banker and Star/Co-Writer Amy Everson
Jason Banker’s FELT is now in theaters and is a film that screams to be watched. Revolving around a victim of rape and the psychological damage she goes through and the various ways she copes with it, the film is quite easily one of the best of the year. Banker, along with the film’s star (and co-writer) Amy Everson were nice enough to chat with Icons of Fright about the film and what led them to make it. Read on!
I found FELT to be incredibly interesting. I was wondering how it all came to be?
Jason – For me I’m kind of always looking for people that inspire me, in general. The way that I make films I never really start with a script I kind of start with a person or group of people. So, when I met Amy, randomly, at a club in San Francisco she kind of; it was basically me and a friend and we were in town from New York and she showed us her role essentially and her costumes. She took us around San Francisco. We ended up shooting a little music video, we shot a little video with her actually and I was just in love with this video. The way the costumes worked in the video and kind of her energy and for the next year I kept thinking about wanting to make something bigger with her. Finally I just called her and said, I don’t have a script or have a story but would you want to make a feature with me and she did. So, that’s how it came to be.
Amy, as far as you’re concerned, how much of the film is your character and how much is yourself? It seemed very natural to me.
Amy – The approach that Banker takes is weaving in and out of, it’s a pseudo-documentary. A lot of it is just me in my natural state. Completely venerable and comfortable with having the camera there. There are some embellishments and improvisation and different set ups but it is essentially I’m bringing myself to the film. A lot of it is just re-enacting moments of my life or putting me in specific situations and how I would react. Ultimately, there is a difference between me and my character in that I am not in jail. I was able to find a path of healing rather than self-destruction which is what my character, where my character goes down a path of self-destruction. I think the film works because there is a very blurred line between me and my reality and fiction.
When it comes to deciding how much of your actual self goes onto the screen, were you ever concerned about putting that out there a little too much as far as yourself or were you really excited to make this film and say what you wanted to say and show that side of yourself?
Amy – I was at a point in my life where I didn’t really have anything to lose. I was very much, kind of at this dead end like the character in the film and I was open to being venerable and exposing myself and saying this is me and this is my life and these are my experiences. I don’t really have anything to hide because this is the truth. There is some liberty with where the story goes and some of the acting, but I think it’s mostly very honest. I saw an opportunity to kind of express myself. It works because Banker made me feel comfortable in being open and venerable and not being exploited.
What kind of stood out to me about the film, among many things, is that it was very funny at different parts without going into that very offensive typical rape humor you find prevalent in a lot of things today. That felt really refreshing. It almost pushed that kind of stuff away, which is good. Was that kind of important to kind of put a stop to that kind of stuff with the film?
Amy – Yeah, definitely it was important not to perpetuate these things that were that kind of reinforce sexual violence and perpetuate sexual violence. I think there can be humor and a lot of it is gross out based humor and a lot of it is reinforcing problematic things in masculinity and embodying pornified mind. There is still humor in things that don’t have to demean or diminish a woman’s experiences or experiences of sexual violence. I think it’s more reflective of how someone copes with a history of toxic sexuality without making light of it or finding humor in it but still keeping a sense of humor.
Jason – In general Amy is a very funny person, I think she has a good sense of humor. She’s able to, when she is in a room, she brings such a good energy. I think that is the great thing about my approach to film making. You go with people’s strengths and you let them be who they are to the fullest instead of trying to make them do exactly what, if I were to be rigid and say “oh this is the story I want to do this is what you should do at this point”. I think all the humor, and I love all the humor in the film and a lot of that came out of just Amy being who she is and I really enjoy the film from that perspective.
Jason, what I really love of your films so far, both this one and Toad Road is how you have such a naturalism in your films. It almost feels at times, like there is no script whatsoever. It feels really great, in some ways kind of like the films of John Cassavetes or filmmakers like that, where a lot of it is reality. Is that kind of important to your process of filmmaking or do you just get actors that are that good?
Jason – I think that for me I like working basically in a completely organic way. I don’t even force my own opinion on to the scenes. I feel like if you approach something from level of honesty and naturalism. If I am going to work with somebody I need to believe in who they are and be inspired by who they are. Just hanging out with Amy made me want to shoot with her she just has this great spirit. In all my films, and hopefully this continues, letting that kind of organic dialogue happen. Even in some of the scenes I don’t even approach with a purpose as much as putting elements together, putting people together and seeing what naturally happens. It’s worked for me so far because I’ve produced these things myself and I don’t have a script when I start and it’s very important to me that I don’t have a script which is insane, because films don’t get made that way. That’s why I think my films are a lot different and feel different. They way that I work is not the way most people, it’s insane to work that way. I could talk about it for a while but I’ll stop.
After Toad Road was well received within the independent film circuit and stuff. Were you worried about making a follow up or was that something that never crossed your mind as far as caring about your follow up? The whole sophomore thing.
Jason – It was really important I do something in the same style of Toad Road. I do feel, I wanted to establish that this is the sort of film maker that I am. These are the films, I didn’t want to do something. After Toad Road came out, there were a lot of people pushing me to do something bigger to do something with all professional actors. I really didn’t want to go that way because I felt what I was doing, I needed more time to develop it. I’m still, I just started making a new film the same way. I think I will always be making films like it. That’s exciting to me. I’m kind of committed to that sort of film making. As of right now this is my 2nd feature like this. I’m trying to make a new film that will be a bit different it will have a script. If you get funding you kind of have to have a script. I need to grow as a film maker too, but this sort of film making is what I wanted to put my stamp on at least for my 1st and 2nd film.
Amy, my last question is about your art. I found it incredibly interesting throughout the film. As far as the art goes is that something you still do very actively and does that help you express yourself different than the film would express yourself?
Amy – Creativity and art is very therapeutic and enjoyable for me and I think do continue to make art. In different ways, some for myself and I’ve also done some art directing for some videos Banker has been working on as well. In general I find channeling some of my energy into creativity can be very appealing, it’s fun and I do try to do more art that has more meaning or some kind of consciousness to different ideas now. That’s not something I’ve always done but just making the film I’ve thought more about what the meaning behind some of my art is.
I definitely appreciate you both taking time out of your day to talk to us. Again, I absolutely loved the film you both did an incredible job. Thank you very much.