Your new movie Wisper
- in a few words, what is it about?
is the true story of the murder of a middle-class African American family
in Northern New Jersey. In the summer of 2016, three children and their
mother were found shot to death in their large suburban home. Loosely
based on the personal videotapes and diaries owned by the father of the
How did you get
involved with the project in the first place, what drew you to it?
was the passion project of my producer Howard Nash, who had this idea in
his mind for near thirty years. He
and I worked together on four previous feature films including the
and he hired me to direct Wisper for
which I am extremely grateful. The
fact that it’s a story where the “protagonist” is an ambivalent
character was enticing for me because nobody is perfect and Josiah Wisper
is nowhere near that. That
makes for an exciting story. The
fact that it’s based on a true story was also something that made me
interested – I thought this story was worth showing to the world.
can you tell us about Wisper's
writers Howard Nash and Rod Cavin, and what was your collaboration like?
Nash is also the producer of the film and as I mentioned, we worked on
four previous feature films together.
The relationship we’ve had over the 14 years has been amazing and
if it wasn’t for Howard, I would not be a feature film director today,
so I owe him a lot. As for Rod
Cavin, he’s a wonderful person and very personable.
It made working with both him and Howard a pleasant experience,
which I hope comes through onto the film itself.
is, however loosely, based on a true story, right? So did you personally
do any research on the subject before making your movie?
I did, I looked at various digital archives and asked Howard Nash (the
producer/writer) for various newspaper clips he accrued.
Based on my research, it made directing the actors much easier,
especially Christian Barber who plays the lead character Josiah Wisper.
was made in the found footage/mockumentary style - why is that, and what
are the advantages and challenges shooting that way?
a great question. My previous
feature film Occupants was also in the found footage/mockumentary
style. The idea of shooting
this way was actually the brainchild of Howard Nash, the producer of both
films. His rationale was that
by filming this way, we could make this film for cheaper because unlike a
classical narrative film, we don’t need various angles to film each
scene, so that’s way less footage we have to shoot.
Unlike Occupants, which employed mostly static footage, one
location, and only three principal actors, Wisper was more fluid and
“handheld” taking place over multiple locations and over 100 actors
(principal, supporting, background).
main challenges of filming this way is first off, the actors have to treat
each scene like a play where they can break what we call the fourth wall
(basically, they can stare at the audience which in this case is the
camera itself). Secondly, it
makes editing much harder – because we don’t have numerous camera
angles per scene, the only way we can “cut/edit” is the same way we
did in Occupants – by employing a “visual glitch.”
can you tell us about your overall directorial effort to your story at
was a very ambitious project for me. I
mentioned before we had over 100 actors and 12 locations total located in
two states (New Jersey mostly and some in New York).
I worked with my director of photography Emile Haris (whom I worked
with since 2002) to carefully map out the script and bring it to the big
screen. Because it is a
“found footage” film, I had to direct the actors to treat the camera
as if it was a character itself because it is being “held” by someone
(mostly the character “Laura” played by Naaji Kenn).
I also like to give my actors both an “entrance” and “exit”
for each scene and incorporate their own mannerisms into their characters,
hopefully making their performances more natural.
As for the other departments, I like to do a breakdown of each
department so for instance, wardrobe knows what to expect in each scene.
Do talk about Wisper's
key cast, and why exactly these people?
Right off, I have to say, I had an amazing cast that
really gelled well together. Many of the key cast were picked based on the
audition process we held a month before we filmed, including Christian
Barber (Josiah Wisper), Naaji Kenn (Laura), Lanisha Javon Gholston
(Norma), Kenishia Green (Melonie), Laquana Henny (Alisa Wisper), Gayle
Samuels (Momma Wisper), Morris D. Small (Curtis Wisper), Vincent Michel
Paul Filliatre (Willy), Rachel Jarvis (Jenine Wisper), Shanel Cheatham
(Penny Wisper), and Cameron Newsome (Michael Wisper).
Others including Michael Emery (Reverend Henning), Michael Ray
(Manny), Craig Batchker (Detective Rothstein), Tim Cinnante (Detective
Cardelli), and Nicholas E. Calhoun (Detective Conlin), were people we
either worked with before or knew from other projects.
And two of our actors Joseph Coppola (Detective Shuster) and Isabel
Romero (Birthday Testimonial) were cast through the company Clapit, a
“talent discovery app that crowdsources professional and amateur actors
straight into film & TV roles.”
A few words
about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
filmed over 10 days and it was a 97-page script, meaning we had to film
over 9 pages per day. That
made for a very tough shoot, but because we pre-planned extensively
including rehearsals, we were able to be very efficient and even had an
incredibly fun atmosphere to work in.
In the end, looking back at the shoot, it brings a smile to my
$64-question of course, where can Wisper
Wisper can now be seen on Amazon Prime at the link:
Anything you can tell us about audience and
critical reception of Wisper?
far, people seem to like the film overall.
At our upcoming film festivals we have been selected to participate
in, we were nominated for “Best Thriller” and “Best Director” at
the 2020 Bare Bones International Film & Music Festival, as well as
“Best Feature Film” at the 2020 Las Vegas Black Film Festival. Recently,
a film reviewer, Mike Haberfelner, wrote that our film was “... a very
tight thriller without clear heroes or villains - thanks to a tight
directorial effort, a tense script and strong performances by all
involved... it's a genre movie that shouldn't be missed.”
future projects you'd like to share?
latest film which is currently in post-production is the action film The Assassin's Apprentice II: Silbadores of the Canary Islands
(2021). It stars Tarah Paige
(reprising her role as “Kaylee” from the award-winning first
Katherine Munroe, as well as Star Trek alums Armin Shimerman, Gary
Graham, Sean Kenney, and Tracee Lee Cocco. It’s
written by executive producer Paul Hickman (who was the brainchild of the
first film), and we even filmed on location in the Canary Islands (located
in Spain) in September 2019. All
I can say, whereas the first film was an action-packed adventure, this one
guarantees to be the first film on steroids!
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
website, Facebook, whatever else?
Russem Productions, my film production website:
Wisper official website:
Wisper Facebook site:
Wisper Twitter site:
Wisper Instagram site:
Anything else you're
dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
wanted to say thank you for interviewing me and helping to promote
Wisper which I think is a story that needs to be shared.
Thank you so much.
for the interview!