Joe Aaron’s inspiring and beautiful Santa Barbara International Film Festival entry “Crazy Jones” comes with an equally inspirational backstory.
The first-time actor/writer/director accrued $100,000 of debt shooting “Crazy Jones” on a brutal 12-day schedule using state of the art “Star Wars” 24P video format. Aaron’s personal experiences raising an autistic daughter also contributed heavily to “Crazy Jones,” the story of a 40 year-old suicidal Tourette syndrome sufferer, Finnegan, who finds a way back to life with help from a spunky but doomed 12-year-old girl named Syd.
The limited finances of independent filmmaking defined the production of “Crazy Jones.” From the choice of video format – soon to be used in the new “Star Wars” – to the speedy TV-trained crew, it all came down to the dollar.
“Shooting in videotape is really cheap and you can obtain a high quality image,” Aaron said. “People are always looking to save a buck. It is easier to edit when it is on video, easier to distribute, cheaper to make copies. I know George Lucas is supposedly going to shoot the next ‘Star Wars’ movie on 24P, which will be the first big studio movie.”
24P high-definition video runs at 24 frames per second as opposed to standard 30 frames per second video. Since film also runs at 24 frames per second the filmmaker can transfer video to film without losing frames or image definition.
“The lines of resolution are so fine (1080 lines per square inch) that the images captured are close to photo quality.”
In addition to 24P video, Aaron employed a speedy TV production crew including director of photography, Brian J. Reynolds, a network television and studio film veteran who was “ambitious in pushing the format to the max and gave the film its distinctive look.”
Aaron said the film benefited from such a tight budget and his crew’s fast-paced training.
“We didn’t waste one second, we got in and we shot. We just worked very efficiently,” said Aaron.
The story itself and the creation of the character Syd – a precocious 12-year-old loner with green hair and a great deal of personality played by Francesca Catalano – are largely influenced bywhat he experienced while raising his daughter.
“A story about a guy who has a disorder, that means something to me … I wanted to do it justice, I didn’t want it to be too melodramatic, I wanted it to be comedy, and I wanted it to be very human. Emotionally I needed to go trough the process of being the kid, taking it from the kid’s point of view. I needed to be the one who is not accepted. Real life is obviously different, but I think emotionally the progression is the same.”
Casting Syd as the foil for Finnegan Jones – a depressed and insecure 40-year-old man living with his overbearing mother and Tourette’s syndrome – proved difficult. Aaron said he was lucky to have found Catalano through a single magazine ad.
“Looking back on it … I should have had a talent search across the nation to find her because it’s such an important and difficult role. She had to be perfect, she had to look right, sound right, act right, and she had to be 12,” said Aaron.
“At the audition when I read with her, it was her opening scene and she says ‘see you later Jones’ and I felt myself waving to her very naturally. It was really Jones waving to Syd, she drew that out of me. It was cool.”
Aaron said his role as Finnigan was unplanned but necessary.
“When you write, you act out the scenes. I acted this role over and over in my little office as I was writing until I got to the point where I didn’t know who else could play this. I actually threw my neck out during the writing process because I would go through the jolts and twitches as I was writing.”
“Crazy Jones” took second place in the American Accolades Screenwriting Competition in the “other” genre, and Aaron has high hopes for its showing this week.
“I am not so na