I am proud to present my recent interview with the incredibly talented writer and director Howard Goldberg, the man behind one of my favourite indie films of recent years, Jake Squared. He’s a great guy with a lot to speak about. Enjoy!
Nate: Did you experiment with film when you were younger, make any shorts etc? What led you to writing and directing.
Howard: I was always a film buff. Whenever the subject of film came up people would always say, “Ask Howard. He knows everything about film.” I remember always thinking, “Man, they’re nut! Little do they realize, I don’t really know that much.” I thought I had a bit of a phony reputation. But, then one day, I was looking through this long list of the greatest films ever made and I realized I’d seen them all! I thought, “Wow!! I really do know a lot about film.”
I started officially making films when I became a Film major at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. I spent three glorious years there and made many short films – all pretty experimental in nature. Nice to see that after all those weird films, many years later I’m making really straight narrative films that are quite conventional in nature. Like “Jake Squared!” Oh wait, that’s right… “Jake Squared” is weird as all get out!
Nate: Care to talk a little bit about your writing process, envisioning characters on film, where your ideas come from, how your creative process works?
Howard: As Dorothy Parker said – “I hate writing. I love having written.” My writing process basically follows the time-honored tradition of sitting at the keyboard until my forehead bleeds. There are many writers who just spew it out, page after page after page. I am not, unfortunately, one of them. Hard work. Endless procrastination. Things percolating and stewing in my brain. Endless drafts. Great fun! But, “I love having written.” The end product is almost always worth the long process of getting there. At least to me!
Nate: I know how you feel, I procrastinate in my work as well. Interests, hobbies besides writing and filmmaking? I read that you have done sculpture as well, is that still something you are involved in?
Howard: For a long time, I was the only struggling filmmaker in New York who supported himself by sculpting. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it was true. I was working on screenplays and constantly trying to raise money and, at the same time, I had fallen into a lucrative career as a sculptor. I did many fine arts piece and (financially) more importantly, many commercial pieces, like for The Basketball Hall of Fame, the Clio Awards, etc., etc.
I have two hobbies – My kids (which is not really a hobby, but a calling) and collecting old watches.
Nate: Jake Squared: How did that idea come about, how was the process of making it for you, did the final project resemble what you envisioned when writing it? (I ask because I write as well, and having gone to film school have seen how vastly different ideas on paper can become when put through the wringer of filmmaking) Also, I must ask, is the film in any way autobiographical?
Howard: “Jake Squared” just evolved. It came out of many hundreds of pages of writing all kinds of thoughts about all kinds of things. Somehow, out of all these unconnected scribblings, a character started to emerge and take form. Writing such a seemingly freeform piece became like juggling 7 balls at one time. When it was finally done, I was very happy and very satisfied.
Making the film itself was a dream. It came together the most quickly of any project I’ve ever done. Once Elias Koteas had signed on the rest of the cast started falling into place. From the time he said yes to the time we started shooting was only about 4 months. Unheard of.
I am completely and totally thrilled with the film. In terms of the script I wrote and how I originally envisioned the film, I think it turned out even better than I could have hoped. There is nothing I look at in it and say, “Wow, I wish I had done this or that or this differently. To me it’s the best incarnation of the film I wanted to make that I could have made. That being said, some people adore it and some absolutely despise it. That’s a different issue entirely. Me? I’m perfectly happy with everything about it.
Is it autobiographical? Well, yes and very much no. Many of the characters and situations have some small part of me in them, but they also have thousands of parts of other people, their lives and their situations as well. All of the characters and situations are really fictionalized and dramatized composites of many people and places.
Nate: In an interview I heard you say you made Jake Squared free from the pressures and permissions of powers that be- essentially on your own. What resources did you use, casting, equipment etc to pull that off? Because it looks so polished, the editing is out of this world and it seems like every aspect just really came together (Get used to me gushing about the film lol I’ve seen in 4 times already since June :P)
Howard: Since I produced the film and put together all of the financing privately with no pre-conditions, I was able to do exactly what I wanted to do. I love to collaborate, so I had a remarkable team, from actors, to makeup and hair, set design, cinematography, editing, etc. and that’s what makes the film great. But, I got to choose them all, listen to their advice, and rebel in their help in bringing about and even making better my original vision But, the bottom line was always me and that’s what I liked. The film is 100% my own artistic vision – so if one were to love the film or hate it, the buck stops here.
That being said, I couldn’t have made it look like I did without my incredible team.
Nate: Do you have any films you are trying to get made now? Scripts, stories, anything in the works you want to speak about?
Howard: I’m trying to get a new film off the ground right now called “Once in Blue Moon.” I wrote it with my friend, Broadway composer and librettist Paul Gordon. It’s a modern day “Midsummer Nights Dream” that take place all in one night, a night of a Blue Moon, at a restaurant/bar/indie-alt music club. It’s about love and regret and angels and music.
I also am just finishing a new screenplay, tentatively called “Clear.” That one I couldn’t possibly describe yet as I’m still trying to figure it all out. But, it makes “Jake Squared” look like a straight narrative!
Nate: What are some of your favorite Directors, films, stories, anything that has inspired your own work?
Howard: Jean Cocteau, John Huston, Martin Scorsese, Preston Sturges and about 500 more!
Nate: Awesome, Howard, thanks for sharing!