Your new movie Darcy - in
a few words, what is it about?
Darcy is the coming-of-age story of a 15 year old girl whose family run
a motel filled with society's castoffs. Some of these residents are coming
from prison and she sets her sights on one. Luke is a 28 year old former inmate
who just wants to stay out of trouble - but that is easier said than done.
How did the project come into being in the first place?
wife, Tracy Nicole Cring, and I wrote it, mixing elements from both of our
past and also a story we read about local citizens protesting the
residents of a motel outside town. At first we thought it would just be
part of the backstory for another film project but then I told my wife
that this world needed to be explored. I personally lived in a “No
Tell Motel” for about a year with my family. One of the interesting
neighbors we had was a pimp and his wife with their younger prostitute
living with them. They also had a kid. So they were this little family
during the day and something else at night. That demanded a movie.
what were your sources of inspiration when writing Darcy?
wife actually used dialogue and character names from her family like Lonny
Johnny. Peanut was a kid who terrorized my neighborhood but we ended
up creating a much more benevolent character. The name Darcy was my wife
Tracy's doll Darcy covergirl. The film also has a great deal to say about
the different ways women are dominated by men. Every woman has their own
emotional and psychological oppression to deal with inflicted my the
men in their life. I feel it is very timely in that respect.
what extent could either of you identify with your title character,
actually - or with any of the other characters for that matter?
when you are co-writing, one of you will take the lead on a scene or a
character. Darcy to me is a classic heroine who knows there is more to
life than what she is being shown but doesn’t know how to get it.
When you are 15, your life isn’t yours. I also really love the
character of Ali who is the pimp with a family. He wants to be a better
man than he is, but his darkness keeps seeping in. He sometimes finds
himself stopping and looking at himself and truly not liking what he
talk about your directorial approach to your story at hand!
was a co-director with Heidi Philipsen on this. She was also the producer
and played the mother of Peanut, “Toni". It was rewarding
experience co-directing this picture because Heidi and I wanted to show
the female and male perspective. I think movies miss out on the
opportunity to see with both eyes. If a woman and man come out of a film
and have two different experiences based on their lives, then why not
have more female/male teams so all the perspectives can be explored.
was the collaboration between the two of you like, actually? And how did
you first meet, even?
Jon: We were sort of friendly rivals in Upstate
New York where we live. I had seen Heidi's work (Her
Telling Heart) and vice versa (Hobo Hey Seus) and
there was a bit of competition. I could tell she was
incredibly committed to quality, so it seemed like a good
fit. Heidi comes from an impressive academic film background
and I just kind of did a ton of micro-budget projects by the
seat of my pants. It was a very Ying and Yang collaboration
but the bottom line was that we both were huge indy film
Heidi: Jon and I are truly like Ying and Yang… funny
enough, he’s an Aquarius and I’m Pisces, if you want to
characterize us via our horoscope personalities. Jon
is very much “in the moment”, a genius of creating
out of thin air. He’s not one of those difficult
directors at all. He loves everyone and everything
about being on set. He loves the authentic and often
has a mistrust for “messing” with something, like
emotions, because of the fear of them being less than truly
real. I could always lean on Jon when in doubt of my
take on the male emotion of the film and he would let me
know if the actor’s performance felt real from the male
perspective. Visa versa, he leaned on me in terms of
many of the actresses’ performances. In contrast to
Jon, I’m all about prep, prep, prep on everything —
perhaps way beyond what is actually necessary, but you have
to remember that I did not write this script and I wanted to
make sure that I understood it viscerally on a level that
Jon and Tracy did when they wrote it. You can’t fake
some of the emotions in the story on Darcy… if you do, it
ends up very cliché.
Heidi, you also play one of the
key characters in Darcy -
so what did you draw upon to bring her to life, and how much Heidi
Philipsen can we find in Toni?
When coming up with the stuff of Toni, I spent a lot of time
researching articles, documentaries and stories about real
women who were like Toni — i.e. not just prostitutes with
pimps living in motels (there are, unfortunately, many of
those), but also women who were victims of domestic
violence, abuse and sexual harassment. I also spent
quite a bit of time looking into women who had come from
well-off financial circumstances with loving families, but
who had still ended up as prostitutes… because of drugs,
an abusive boyfriend, childhood sexual incest, etc.
Heidi and Jon on set
In terms of what of Heidi Philipsen you can find in Toni,
let’s just say that I went through a very dark period in
my life in my early twenties, after being raped by someone
in college. I’m also a survivor of childhood sexual
incest — from a neighborhood friend, as well as from
some kids at the babysitters… and by an attempt by an
uncle — so I know how one of those experiences when
you are young can lead to several for the rest of your life.
“Toni” to me, is a woman who seeks a protector and
has been so beaten up by life, that she values loyalty and
her son more than anything else. Pretend airs and so-called
societal graces don’t mean anything to her… as she has
seen the dark side of people who parade around acting like
they are holier-than-thou, but keep secrets at their
What can you tell us
about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?
Jon: This was the first time that I had ever worked
with a casting director. Heidi had a contact in Caroline and
it made all the difference. It was Gus Birney's first
feature and she has exploded in television as the lead on
Spike TV's The Mist. David Thornton was a lead in
Notebook and Paulina Singer has been the star of several
network series since we shot the film. Also I cannot say
enough about Jonathan Tchaikovsky as Luke. It is an amazing
performance that reminds me of early Brando. Throw in the incomparable
Bernadette Quigley (Mr Robot) and Lawton Denis and this
greatest group I have ever had the opportunity to work with.
Heidi: What we were looking for in each an every
character actor was something authentic — and real. We
didn’t care about looks as much as we did the substance
behind the question: Could we actually see them as that
character? Each and every actor that Caroline Sinclair
brought in was amazing… these actors seemed to want their
roles and knew how to break through the bullshit of fear for
of course also have to talk about your film's motel location for a bit,
and how was it filming there? And how did you find the location in the
Jon: That was all Heidi so I will let her
answer that one.
Heidi: I had worked on several features
in the Hudson Valley over the period of several years and lived all over
— Poughkeepsie, New Paltz, Highland and Rheinbeck. While there, I
would drive past all of these motels that were remnants of the 1940s -
1970s hey days of summer destinations for families from NYC and beyond,
but, now, had clearly seen better days. I loved that they weren’t
nondescript hotel chains, but rather had personalities all their own…
with pools, tennis courts, dance halls, and cabins. And it was also
while working on all of these other features, as production coordinator,
mostly, that I saw what made - or killed - a low-budget indie
feature. The biggest mistake that first-time producers make
when making their first feature? The have too many locations for too
little time and money. It ends up being a logistical production
nightmare. And so, as I knew that I wouldn’t be given millions for
my first feature, I put out the word that I was looking for a feature that
could all be shot in one place. And then Jon and Tracy delivered Darcy
to me. I had been location scouting all summer for the
best motel that could fit their script. A fellow actress and local
to the area told me about this motel called “Catskill Mountain Lodge,”
and introduced me to the owners Al and Kathy Guart. It was perfect!
Of course, it was a bit too nice and well-kept to totally meet our
requirements, but our fantastic production design team, Sally and Nando
del Castillo transformed it for the scenes.
A few words about the shoot as such, and
the on-set atmosphere?
Heidi: We had an unbelievable crew that I was able to put
together, as line producer, with the help of associate
producer Heidi Eklund. Tracy Nicole Cring also
assisted in pre-production as production coordinator in
putting the word out. That’s the thing — with so
many women in top positions who are used to multitasking, we
were able to really put this film together with 1/3 the
necessary crew. And then, as soon as I put the mandate
out that I wanted to hire women and give them a chance to
lead, as opposed to only serve a leader, we had some AMAZING
talent come our way.
The biggest “find” was 1st A.D. Carol Mazzoni — who
broke our film down from a unaffordable 22 days to 14 —
and was one of the best 1st A.D.’s I’ve ever worked with
in my 20-year-career in feature-filmmaking.
Another great department head that I am very proud of
finding was Caroline Mariko Stucky. She had her
training in Hamburg, Paris and was Japanese-Swiss. Having
worked with the Swiss while living abroad in Germany for
nearly a decade, I knew that they were unbelievable
tacticians in precision and knowing their craft. A
cinematographer who also gaffed, I asked her if she would be
willing to be our gaffer. After a bit of negotiation
(she was nervous after having multiple bad indie experiences
in the States), she came on board. I’m proud to say
that she never regretted coming on board Darcy. I
mandated that Tracy and Caroline prepped the entire shoot to
the “T” in advance… and they did. It was
unbelievable. There is NO way we would have made those
14 days if it weren’t for Tracy as DP and Caroline as
gaffer. Very proud and grateful to them both.
In addition, I have to say that Sally and Nando del Castillo
are my heroes. I had first met them both when I was
acting in another feature in the Hudson Valley… and Sally
had been the art director. I asked her if she would
like to take the lead as head of wardrobe and production
designer. She and Nando are a married couple and as a
team have a business in decoration, renovation and fashion. Sally said “yes” — and she and Nando brought on
their own team behind both departments. I never had to
worry about costume or set design or props… they did it
all with great style and attitude. I’m forever
indebted to them.
Lastly, I have to thank camera operator Tom Bracone. Here’s
a guy who has over thirty years of experience on top
television series, films and commercials. In and of
his own right, he had more than enough to be our director of
photography. Tracy Nicole Cring needed a top-notch
camera op who had experience not only with the Red camera,
but could also take on the fast-paced shooting schedule and
deliver very specific close-ups (that are all in the
beginning of the film). Extreme close-ups are one of
Tom’s specialties. And yet, most men with his
experience and position would pass when asked to camera
operate for a D.P. with less experience (which, quite
frankly, Tracy was less-experienced than Tom). Yet Tom
agreed to come on board and support both Tracy and me, as
producer, in the making of Darcy. That was no small
feat and extremely gracious of him. Tracy was a better
leader because of his support… as were we all.
Jon: 14 days living and eating at this motel in the Catskill
Mountains. It was a crew of about 35 and they were
unbelievable. It was my first AD ever (Carol Mazzoni) too
and she was so important to keeping us on the path to successfully
finishing on time. It’s a total cliché but it was family.
Two people I adored were another husband wife team Nando and
Sally Castillo who did set dressing and some acting. The
greatest attitudes and pristine work.
The $64-question of course, where
can Darcy be seen?
March 22nd as the Officially Selected Closing Night Feature within the
Socially Relevant Film Fest in Manhattan. We are also fielding
distribution offers currently.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Darcy
Jon: It’s not an easy film. Some fests have been reluctant
to screen it. My favorite comment was someone who said that
they felt it was film about empathy. That is as good as it
gets as far as I am concerned.
Heidi: When audiences see this film, they are compelled to
discuss the subject matter, ask questions, share their own
experiences and speak up more about what needs to be done to
empower girls and women. Enough said. It’s a
true arthouse film.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Jon: I am in pre-production on a sci fi thriller with
political overtones and an erotic thriller webseries. I
also have three more scripts including a horror one that I
am seeking producers for.
Heidi: I’m in development of one feature and
currently rewriting two features, self-penned. I’m
also nearly finished with my first year of a two-year MBA in
Management Program at Eastern Michigan University.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Philipsen on Facebook, EliMeissner (director) on Facebook, Jon Russell Cring on
Twitter/Instagram/Facebook: @darcymovie. The company behind Darcy is
Personae Entertainment Pictures:
for the interview!
Thanks for the opportunity.