‘The Children of the night . . . what sweet music they make . . .’ – Bram Stoker
‘Joshua’ is a tale of the lost and of ones whom prey on them. Set in modern day suburbia and the modern metropolis, this dark tale focuses on the perils of the life of one prostitute, KATHERINE, as she navigates the rough path of her trade. When she meets JOSHUA, she is intrigued by his intellect, his charisma and charming way that he exudes calmness. IS he what he appears to be, or is he something darker than the night around them? Is he the good, religious man-child living with his elderly grandmother, or is he a charlatan with unspeakable nefarious appetites and desires?
‘Joshua’ is a snippet from the novel ‘The Dark One’ by Jason Krieger. The short film, directed by Cooper Griggs, is intending to introduce these 2 major characters to the viewer, in hopes that we will find an audience that would like to see more of the story.
From Mind to Page to Screen
A Quick Essay on the making of ‘jOSHUA’
by Jason Krieger
The journey of ‘Joshua,’ to get to this point (being promoted on a website!!!), has been one which has spanned over 2 decades since the inspiration of the character. Being someone influenced by masters of horror/thriller genre such as Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King and Clive Barker, it was a natural progression for me to envision such a dark tale. In fact, the original name of the novel is called ‘The Dark One’ because it was just that, ‘MY’ journey to the literary dark side.
I had ‘met’ Joshua in a dream around the time that I was preparing to go to college. While the figure in my dream was more cartoonish, the dark intensity that was portrayed to me in my slumber was something that I pondered for several days after. And then months. . . And then, obviously, years. The character from the dream shook me to my core. That, along with other weird images (which are hinted on in this short film) really pushed me to come up with a storyline and a desire to write my first novel.
I wanted to write a story much like my influences, but it wasn’t until the later part of my time in university that I stumbled upon the major push to ‘get inside’ this character’s head. Two works that I read and became driving forces to sculpt my own story, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ and Jim Thompson’s ‘The Killer Inside Me,” really drove home who this ‘dark one’ that visited me in my dream.
However, after experiencing the aforementioned literary masterpieces, I didn’t just start right away on my ‘dark’ endeavor. Like my literary heroes, I started to research, research and do more research. Obviously I did the reading research, but being a little into role play and performance/acting in my personal life, I even went so far as to do a photo book of some of the characters that I would write. I also ‘stalked’ unknowing individuals some nights – not in a way that they ever knew what I was doing, but to get in the head of this possibly nefarious character. One other method of research, which proved to be completely invaluable, was I picked up several ladies of the night working in New York and interviewed them. In a lot of ways, it was like method writing, which I always admired from Hemingway and his approach to his art. To be, emulate your idols, but try to make it your own.
With all of this research and data noted both in my head and in journal entries, I skipped my own BA graduation from Queens College and embarked on a 3 month tour of Europe, of which I penciled 2 full months to write ‘The Dark One.’ After 2 months in my temporary home in Amsterdam, I read what I had and said ,”no!!!” While I liked the foundation, my aspiration to tell a bigger tale than what I was capable of telling at 23 compelled me to put the idea and novel on the shelf. I decided at that point to revisit the tale in my 40s (but then, wrote 2 novels –‘Lost In The City’ and ‘The Accidental Hero’ in the meantime). Dusting off the tome in my middle age was something of an eye opener. As I read through my words from 20 years ago, I now, as an old fart, knew where to take tale and how to finish it. But, that’s for another essay . . .
IT was ALWAYS my intent for this story to be made into a film. The visual dream aspects aside, I have always loved cinema and really have felt that my writing can lend to both mediums. To do so takes a bit of ego, but also a bit of curbing said ego because while writing a novel is very solitary (excluding the work with an editor and publisher), filmmaking is a completely collaborative process where you have to let others change your initial vision – hopefully for the better.
It’s a point of record to state that though I love cinema, I had a rather harsh time working on a film (‘Maya’ or ‘Kamasutra Nights,’ as it was renamed upon release) many years ago as a script doctor/co-writer. Harsh not because the experience was necessarily unpleasant (I rather enjoyed the producers and especially the director, who brought me onto the project and was a great collaborator). It was harsh due to reality that what I envisioned on the page did not translate very well to what was on the screen. The film just did not come out as I expected it to. I chalk it off to my own naiveté in filmmaking, the process and expectations of the end result at the time, but it did drive me away from writing (screenwriting/filmmaking mostly) for quite a while.
So, when my friend and director Cooper Griggs mentioned he was looking for material to do a short film, it was something that I pondered. Could I open myself up again to this ‘artistic’ drive that I always have (and always will) in me? Could I play nice and collaborate with people, but also realize that it’s not ‘my way or the highway?’ Yes, I could and did. I jumped at the opportunity and I am completely happy that I did.
In any collaboration it’s good to actually have mutual respect and from the get-go, both Cooper and I knew our roles well. The writer writes, the director directs but this collaboration was very much in a ‘so, this is what I think we should do, what do you think?’ sort of way. The film is definitely his film and his vision, but our visions were so nicely melded throughout the entire process, I could not think of a better way to work. We may have had some disagreements on where the story may go, but both of us logically and respectfully argued our points until the other submitted that ‘yes, this is the right course to take the story.’ I can think of a few examples that I could share, but if you read this far, why would you see the film! You’ll have to wait for a Q&A session or a Blu Ray commentary (yes, I’m always the plugger/capitalist . . .)
From the writing standpoint, the writer should realize that page to film is much like the transition from mind to page. What you may envision you may not fully articulate at that moment. It may be because you don’t have the right vernacular at the time, or in the case of this film, the budget constraints hold you back from getting more takes, more coverage, more visuals. So, you make certain concessions, but like playing music (of which I co-wrote the score with my friend Chris Ramos) as long as the foundation is there and the keys/rhythm of the piece jive – man, just let you mind/fingers find its way.
The important thing for me always is that while you share the experience with others, it’s important to make sure that the journey is satisfying for the writer. Well, ‘Joshua’ came out very well in my humble opinion, thanks not only to my hard work, but the hard work of all of my collaborators on the film. I think the main thing for me is to know that each phase of the process is special and to embrace each section as its own amazing road in the journey of creation.
jOSHUA is my first short film as a director. I have edited and produced shorts and features before, but this was a new experience to have the weight of the entire project on my shoulders.
Social media was used heavily in the inception and funding of jOSHUA. I put out a request to my friends on Facebook in 2014 for creative projects, specifically a short film story. Jason Krieger, our writer and executive producer, answered that call and we started the creative process with developing a story he had started years before. It took some time and a lot of planning until we shot the project in late 2015 with a lot of help from my wife, Faizah Griggs (who happens to be the producer of the film).
For the funding, again we turned our focus to social media and put up a campaign on IndieGoGo. Once sufficient funding had been achieved, we pulled together a great team of actors, crew and friends to help with background and locations. It’s challenging enough to make a movie, but to do it with so little capital really stretches you thin.
Keseh Morgan did a fantastic job with production design given our very limited budget. Steven Moreno also gave us so much with his cinematography. We were very lucky to have them working with us on this project. It took some time to edit the project as well.
Our first cut was over 30 minutes and we ultimately got that down to 16. Jason stepped in again with the fantastic music he and Chris Ramos created just for this film. Again, VERY lucky.
Finally, the sound design and editing done by Ugo Dennard and his team really brought the whole thing to a new level in terms of quality, depth and professionalism. There are many more people I wish to thank, but I only have so much space here. Overall it was an incredible experience and I am looking forward to my next first; directing a feature.