With each film I make, I try to bring something new to the table or further push an aspect (or aspects) of my craft. Heading into the fall of 2014, I had a desire to pursue more common topics in greater detail instead of trying to continue with abstract/concept shorts. I also wanted to bring Jackson Geiger and Alyssa Lang (now Alyssa Noel Stockford) together to collaborate on a story that would use as much of their talents as possible. After two months of story development based off of a collection of inspirations, we were ready to shoot 'Offbeat' (2014).
Of my first three feature length productions, 'Offbeat' (2014) is the most straightforward in terms narrative dynamics. The story follows two teachers facing challenges inside and outside of the classroom as they figure out their next steps together. Three plot-lines within the film are clearly established: each of the two having issues resonating as teachers inside the classroom, each of the two facing financial strain during an economic downturn, and the two trying to keep their faith-based values within their relationship.
This film was the biggest leap forward that I've had as a filmmaker. Due to pumping the brakes on my "artsy" nature and inviting collaboration, I was able to showcase two things that I hadn't done up to the point: depth and control.
Story depth is like a hole in multiple senses. If the framework of the hole is shallow or minimal then there's not going to be a lot of room for substance; and if the hole is dug properly but filled back in with random dirt, then the foundation of the ground won't be as solid as it could be. In short, there needs to be room to add depth and meaning behind what is explored.
Control in this context is a hybrid between writing and directing. As a writer, I needed to understand each element and specific intention that I was creating. As a director, I needed to understand how to assemble all deliberately together. In short, I was able to find control over creation and cohesion.
Without having made 'Offbeat' (2014), I wouldn't have had the proper long-form narrative experience heading into developing and producing 'Passage' (2019). 'Passage' (2019) has a level clinical and commonplace functionalities that 'Offbeat' (2014) had. The biggest difference between the two is that I had 5 more years under my belt heading into 'Passage' (2019).
'Passage' (2019) will be my feature feature played in a cinema since 'the One and Only' (2014). Revisiting 'Offbeat' (2014) before I debut 'Passage' (2019) is a great reminder to the level of growth JN Films (and myself) has experience over the years.