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Director/Writer Jacob Estes Interviewed

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We recently had an opportunity to talk with the writer/director of Mean Creek Jacob Estes. Read on to see what he has to say about shooting with a young cast, where the story came from and his favorite DVDs.

Stay tuned for an interview with Mean Creek star Rory Culkin. (ECDVD): What inspired the story for this movie?

Jacob Estes (JE): I was interested in getting revenge on this big oaf who I had a lot of contempt for but who I didn’t know very well. Then I started imagining that he must have some kind of private, sad life which led me away from acting violently. So the film was really borne out of empathy. Empathy for George…the enemy. Maybe a little pity too.

ECDVD: Were your own experiences as a youth helpful while penning the script?

JE: Yes. People were very cruel when I was in high school. I was a sucker for their cruelty, desperate to fit in, acting masochistically to make that happen.

ECDVD: The cast has great chemistry and are believable as a group of friends. How did you go about selecting them?

JE: We saw over 500 kids I think. I used my guts and instincts about who fit with who. The great concern was for the overall dynamic. One incorrect choice could upset the balance. Or maybe there are no incorrect choices? The problem is very heady. In the end you use your heart. Mainly I picked kids who reminded me of my own childhood in the sense of their personality and connectedness to the earth. A lot of young actors seem to be missing that connection, because they’re involved in this weirdo lofty routine of Hollywood auditioning. They’ve lost something.

ECDVD: What was it like working with such a young cast for nearly the entire picture?

JE: It was like having my own personal zoo, except there was a circus in the zoo. It was super. Lots of energy. They energized everything.

ECDVD: You had some great locations in the film. Where was it filmed and what river(s) did you shoot on?

JE: We shot on Super 16mm… and DV for the underwater and George’s camera. We shot in Oregon and Washington State. We shot on The Lewis river and The Clackamas.

ECDVD: What scene are you most proud of?

JE: I like a lot of things about the film. Sometimes I can’t believe what we did in the “truth or dare” scene. It’s 12 minutes long and there are a gazzillion different angles before it’s done. Yet the acting is alive and convincing. I like the scenes where the kids separate too, which is tied together with music. Whereas the truth or dare scene was invented on the page, the separation scene was invented in the editing room, as we combined the several disjointed separation scenes into one big emotional movement.

ECDVD: What scene would you have liked more time to shoot?

JE: We had no time at all. We shot what you see on screen in 20 days. On a river. The shoot was 24 days, but I’m not counting 4 of them since we cut so much out of the film–at least four days worth of the shoot. At the same time, our rush worked in our favor. The actors were always acting, there was no down time. Down time is hell on set.

ECDVD: Are you working on anything at the moment, and if so what is it?

JE: Yes, my wife Gretchen Lieberum who you hear in the closing credits of the film is about to release a new album which I helped produce. I’m very proud of it. Other than that, I’m writing two top secret scripts.

ECDVD: If you were stranded alone in space with a plasma TV and home theater setup, which 5 DVDs would you want to have with you?

JE: If I were stranded in space with nothing but a plasma TV, I’d step out of the spaceship without a suit on.

Special Thanks to Jacob and Terry Goldman (Electric Artists)

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