Jeremiah S. Chechik [Interview]
February 17, 2013 1 Comment
20 years ago, one of my favorite films of all time was brought out to the world. A graceful young man fresh off a hit TV show and entering a brand new world of self expression where he would only take on roles he specifically chose by the name of Johnny Depp shared the screen with Aidan Quinn and Mary Stuart Masterson in the (sort of) romantic comedy Benny & Joon. Now we all know Johnny as the sword swindling swashbuckler and ravishing sex symbol he has become, but this is where I like him. I a beautiful little story about what it means to find true and unconditional love. And why Buster Keaton is just downright awesome. It also didn’t hurt that it was obviously filmed in Spokane, Washington, and I would later create a jogging path that hit several land mark scenes from the film. Coincidence, really. Another classic film that nobody can deny, is the greatest addition to the National Lampoon’s series entitled Christmas Vacation featuring Chevy Chase and very young Juliette Lewis. This is by far the ONLY Christmas movie I can stand. And this goes for the hipster friendly piece of garbage with that weird bundled up kid and the leg lamp. Yes, this is the crown jewel of them all. Jingle All The Way might be a close runner up, but this is a whole other conversation waiting to be had.
And what does any of this have to do with absolutely anything? Well, as you should have figured out by now, these two films, as well as several fine works, are the work of legendary filmmaker Jeremiah S. Chechik, who we have had the direct honor of agreeing to share a few words with you all here at Trainwreck’d Society. I am so proud to have the visionary mastermind behind one of my favorite films of all time right here for you all. Enjoy!
You’re resume is obviously impressive. You’ve done hilarious slapstick comedy (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation), romantic comedies (Benny & Joon), and adventure (The Avengers, Leverage), and more…what would you say is your favorite genre to direct? What the distinct differences in working in different genres?
When you work on a comedy you try to spend the day laughing…then praying everyone else laughs with you. Comedy is tough. In drama one could hide behind technique, kinetics, music and photography and mood but in comdey you either laugh or you dont.
You are a renowned filmmaker and television director, we all know this. But, you were also an executive producer for the little known foreign film La reina de la note, released in 1994. How did you become attached to this project?
I discovered the story of Lucha Reyes in Mexico City one long night over many many tquilas in one of the most famous “ranchero” bars. Once I heard the story I know it had to be brought to film but as a mexican film. I found the writer , paid for the writer, found the director and hobbled the financing together with a french/mexican partner and we made it. Sorry it is not avail on dvd – its a very dark and cool film about an amazing musician.
You have directed some of Hollywood’s elite in the acting world from Sharon Stone to Johnny Depp to Chevy Chase and Zachary Levi. How is it having the idolized work for you? Does the media and estranged entertainment blogs blow things entirely out of proportion?
Actors are actors. I never consider their fame only who they are and what they need to deliver their best work. Most – if not all- pretty much surrender to the director as partt of what they do. of course, you have to earn their trust, give smart notes and be sensitive to their individual processes.
Since I used to literally live about a half a mile from the house that was the main setting for your 1993 film Benny & Joon, I have to ask…how did you enjoy your time in Spokane, Washington?
Loved being in spokane – It was a magical time for us.
In this modern age, everything seems to be shifting to digital works. Being a veteran of the film world with an abundance of experience, which do you prefer, digital or film?
I was and remain very much an early adopter and love the control of image on the set and the way digital embraces the shadows. but I still miss the simplicity and grace of the celluloid image.
You made a transition, but far from removal, to a lot of television from mostly film work. How do the two experiences differ? Do you have a preference, and why or why not?
Television is like a polaroid. It’s fast immediate and currently where all the best writing lives. as a director on a show I am but one piece of a larger machine which exists to serve the show. On a film the responsibility of tone, pace, performance, quality and effect is under the purview of the director. There is a lot more pressure.
Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming film featuring Catherine O’Hara, The Right Kind of Wrong?
Quirky, romantic and funny – i.e. a romantic comedy.
What was the last thing that made you smile?