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August 11, 2008

MOMMA'S MAN: A story made around a great Location

Interview with Azazel Jacobs (Director) and Matt Boren (Lead Actor)

In Guerrilla Filmmaking, the great equalizer is location. A unique location can make your life easier while shooting, give you something wonderful and interesting to look at, and, if you're really cooking with gas, provide you with a unique story to tell. For Azazel Jacobs' Momma's Man, the root of the making of the film was his main location, his parent's apartment in New York where he grew up. He knew he wanted to capture this unusual place on film and then tried to figure out a story that he could set there. To be sure, Jacobs' home isn't your typical Ozzie & Harriet, and neither are his parents. Father Ken Jacobs is a renowned experimental filmmaker and mother Flo is a frequent collaborator.

Their home is a very private place and it was clear to the son that you couldn't separate the people from the place. So he cast his parents as parents and the story grew from there. Ultimately, he wrote about a character that he didn't know--a married man who comes home for a brief trip, but then has difficulty returning to his responsibilities of wife and family. There was no casting on the film -Jacobs had worked with lead actor Matt Boren before and he wrote the part for him. Immediately after completing the script he gave it to Boren and cinematographer Tobias Datum, a classmate of Jacobs from AFI. A German now living in LA, Datum had shot the Sundance feature How The Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer and the Toronto feature Drama/Mex, and had also helped out on Jacobs' previous feature, The GoodTimesKid.

Even though it was clear the film was to be made on a low budget, the decision to shoot on Super 16mm was an easy one. Jacobs' father shot on film, his earliest memories were of his father shooting on 16mm, they never owned a VCR, and in a way, the apartment was built on film. Jacobs had shot the $10,000 GoodTimesKid on 35mm short ends, so he knew how to work with those limitations. In fact, as an artist, Jacobs needed those kinds of limitations in order to create. To Jacobs, "...limitations are a blessing. People with money? I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemies." Momma's Man was shot in 18 days in New York and three days in LA with a crew of 10-12 people. Crew members were paid and the film was shot using the SAG Ultra-Low Budget Agreement (Which means the film was made for 100 K or less), though several key cast members were not SAG, such as his parents, and his best friend growing up in a memorable role. They worked unrushed 10 hour days and crew members were given $10 and sent off for lunch, rather than figure out a catering situation. Datum and one assistant lit the sets minimally with mostly China balls since there was not much electricity in the place. Money came from a group of experienced producers who believed in the film and the filmmakers and were willing to risk the small budget because making their money back was not the number one priority.

The film was processed at Duart and edited for 2 ½ months in LA on an Avid Express. After getting into Sundance, the decision was made to blow it up to 35mm, which doubled the budget. They saved money doing it the old-fashioned way, optically, which pretty much no one is doing anymore. Post sound was completed at Sound Lounge in NYC and the print was finished on January 10th, about a week before their first screening. Momma's Man connected with audiences in a deep and personal way, and also appealed to fans of Ken Jacobs -the film takes a fascinating journey through an incredible work/live space, one like you've never seen before. A kind of magical emporium or creativity museum. Certainly a good inspiration for a movie. Kino bought "Momma's Man" (from troubled ThinkFilm) and expects to release it August 22, 2008.

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