Motivated by and inspired to counter the current laissez-fairre attitudes toward the glamorization of drug use depicted in queer cinema, Film Director Mark Robert Jackson bravely decided to tackle the subject of crystal meth addiction in the gay community with his entry into the 2007 Nashville Film Festival “Night Falls Fast”, a short 20 minute narrative film depicting the difficulties of recovery and sobriety that one man faces with his addiction.
With “Night Falls Fast” Mark Robert Jackson delivers a thrilling and enlightening glimpse into the unseen lives of meth addicts and the struggles that not only they but their loved ones are put through because of their addictions. Jackson utilizes creative film techniques that are at once enlightening and disturbing in execution as the viewer accompanies the addict on his rise and eventual crash.
In a recent phone interview with O&AN, Jackson and his Executive Producer Matthew Hallman the gentlemen talked about Timely Films, “Night Falls Fast” and it’s portrayal of crystal meth addiction.
Mark, you are a film student and Matthew is a former corporate executive. How did it come to pass that you should end up collaborating on a film together?
Mark Robert Jackson: We met at a party and at the time Matt was looking for somewhere to direct his efforts. We really hit it off so I asked him to join the team and it didn’t take him long to whip my script into shape. I had created the company in order to produce the movie and together we grew it into Timely Entertainment. I envisioned the company as a vehicle to do films of political relevance in a way that was sort of getting back to some of the films of the 70’s that dealt with big political issues of the time.
Matthew Hallman: The biggest challenge for me was the fact that I was coming form a very corporate background. I worked for New Line Cinema for seven and a half years and GQ for five years after that before I decided to go out on my own to produce independent film. When I first started working with Mark it was a major realization for me how much really hard work it is. There aren’t all of the assistants helping you out and there isn’t the money behind you that a major corporation gives you in order to succeed at your project. Every single dime has to be watched and every corner that can realistically be cut has to be in order to make the money go as far as possible.
Why did you choose the subject of crystal meth addiction as the topic of your first film?
MRJ: In New York’s gay community crystal meth addiction is huge. When I was doing research on the internet while trying to raise money I was shocked to find that there were actually two very distinct groups prevalently affected by meth addiction: so-called “rednecks” in rural areas in the middle of the country and gay men in the big cities and on the coasts. I have so many loved ones who have struggled with the problem and found their way to sobriety and I witnessed how challenging that process is especially in the case of meth addiction. I was moved by watching that daily struggle in their lives and wanted to put together a message that was encouraging to people like them. I wanted them to know that they could overcome the addiction. I was also really tired of seeing films coming out of Hollywood that really just portray drug addicts as people who never got anything together. These characters always fall into their addictions or either just die or just live dysfunctionaly for the rest of their lives (Requiem for a Dream, Leaving Las Vegas).
How did you choose to approach the subject in a way that was unique to cinematic representations of meth addiction?
The gay film movement has been such an incredible thing but often the narratives don’t seem to embrace the larger spectrum of the world outside of gay life so I was really motivated by that to create a real family drama around the central gay character that is a crystal meth addict. I was moved to show that when you are an addict you become blind to things around you so I went to great lengths to show how my main character was blinded to his father’s own troubles by his own addiction and his own self-destructive thoughts. It took the trauma of his father almost dying to wake him up enough to realize that he was basically losing everything.
What were some of the techniques you used to help communicate the message in such a short amount of time?
A lot of the challenge of making the film was trying to draw people into the story that don’t know what it’s like to be on meth so my cinematographer and I worked really hard to develop a sort of visual language to try and express that as best as possible. As the story progresses we move into a number of different camera formats including a still camera in movie mode that we used to film a large portion of the 9-1-1 scene. As the main character becomes more and more high the visuals disintegrate. The idea in my mind was this: I wanted the obstacle to be his addiction and I needed to communicate to the audience that because he made the choice to get high he found himself unable to function enough to even save his father. I feel like the visual language that we developed goes a long way towards communicating just how much of a challenge that situation was.
MH: From a marketing standpoint we want to be able to market this film across all genres and not just as a gay film. We are very excited about just having come from Philadelphia and won Best Short Project there so st Nashville will be a great playground for us to see what kind of response we get there. From st place Nashville we will be headed to the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival which will be our fist all-gay festival. We already know that we have a built-in audience with the gay festivals but we really want to market the film as much as possible to the straight festivals as well.
What can we look for from Timely Films in the future?
MH: Our next project will is very important to us. It will be our first full-length feature and we’re hoping to get that off the ground in September. We are in the process of acquiring the rights to a stage play called “Don’t Ask!” WE also have a couple of television properties that we are working on.
MRJ: “Don’t Ask!” is set in Iraq and centers on a secret affair between a Sergeant and a Private who is under him. In the prison that the soldiers are occupying one of the inmates is raped and killed. It’s not long before the Sergeant finds out that the Private he is having the affair with is a part of the gang rape killing. As a result, the Private begins to blackmail the Sergeant into protecting him. The Sergeant complies because he is on his way towards retirement and has a family back home that he doesn’t want to loose. The story turns into a sort of psychological cat-and-mouse thriller. It really fits our prototype of bringing timely films to the masses because it plays heavily with the idea of the closet and the whole “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and what it can be like to have to live in the closet in an environment such as that.