Juke: (verb)
to fake out of position

Chris Stack and Michele Remsen

Produced by:
Serge Nivelle and Stevedore Productions

Sound Design & Mix by Oscar-Winners 
(for Martin Scorsese's HUGO  ):
Eugene Gearty and Tom Fleischman  
Edited by Lin Polito (Patti Smith: Dream of Life)


A few years ago, I was acting in a play in Los Angeles, when Rainn Wilson walked up to me after the show and said, “You’re really good. We have to work together.” And I said, “Uh...okay, I’ll try to write us something.”  Rainn had worked with my theater company, the Stevedore Confederacy, so the plan was to write us a darkly humorous one-act. By the time I finished the piece, Rainn was working steadily on TV and was unavailable, so I performed the play via Stevedore in L.A. with the terrific Rod MacLachlan, and did public readings in New York with the wonderful Peter Frechette -- the piece always receiving enthusiastic responses, running the gamut from belly laughs to tears. So when contemplating filming a new directing-calling-card for producers interested in my feature screenplays, I revisited JUKE. When Serge Nivelle offered to line-produce, the film project began.

But I painted myself into a bit of corner: performing the play-version ‘Our Town’ style on a bare stage made it challenging to film. The first order of business was finding the ‘magic’ set. Scouring Manhattan and Brooklyn, I finally found a location, not as I had originally envisioned, but which added a compellingly complex visual pallet, which informed the tone of the film. A few jokes had to be rewritten, including the vintage of the jukebox, which ultimately made for a more resonate statement about life in America. I also came to discover that the structure of the building, its varied rooms and lighting, coupled with the phenomenal eye of shop owner, David Smith, who came on board as Production Designer, transformed what could have been ‘two people in a room talking’ into a deeply metaphorical journey into the hearts of two wary souls. So, thanks to Strawser & Smith, I was juked out of my original position and wound up in a cooler place.

And the coolness carried through post, where by coincidences, mitzvahs and good friends, the incredible editor Lin Polito (Patti Smith:  Dream of Life) came on board, generously donating her time and skill, as well as serving as Post Production Supervisor, which lead to the Oscar-winning sound gurus Tom Fleischman and Eugene Gearty designing and mixing sound for my lil film, while in the middle of working on Martin Scorsese's HUGO, just because they thought JUKE was that cool! Topped off with music by my cousin, Owen Ross, and a closing song by Chris Stack's friend, The Reverend John DeLore, JUKE's journey was twisted but wonderful.

Mirroring its production process, JUKE has a lot of story in its 25-minutes, and its shifting tones reveal a variety of styles found in my various screenplays. The goal being a one-size-fits-all film which entertains while acting as a gateway-drug to feature film opportunities. 

All of my plans, though, could not have been realized without an exceptional crew, who generously donated their time and craft, and are, to a person, my team going forward. A pleasure and a joy to work with such professionals, the set was a bit of a love-fest -- the most chill on which my crew had ever worked. I hope to carry that vibe forward, while continuing to create entertaining stories that touch chords and spark dialog long after the final frame.
Tales from the Trenches:

"Cold for Hot"
Due to scheduling conflicts, the shoot kept getting pushed back, so though it looks like summer, it was shot two days before Thanksgiving. The location, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is a cool (literally) garage-gallery whose fan-driven heating system had to be kept off during filming. So, though dashing around in a tank-top and sandals, I was in a down-coat between takes. When a few pick-up shots of Chris had to be filmed in January on a brutally cold day, we had to color-correct his pink nose in post.  :-)
"Chris Stack:  Rock Star"
With only days to go before shooting, the actor set to play Ed couldn't do it. With a finite window of opportunity for the crew and location, it was now or wait until Spring -- because after Thanksgiving, came the year-end holiday crush, snow and visible breath in footage. So I reached out to my old friend, Chris Stack, who agreed to play Ed on Thursday at midnight. We rehearsed all weekend, drilling lines and blocking scenes on location. Filming began Monday morning at dawn. Chris was off book, rock solid and brought warmth, depth and humanity to Ed, which made JUKE an entirely richer film. I am profoundly indebted to Chris. ...Fittingly, I got juked, and JUKE got better.

A woman tries to buy a jukebox and gets juked.
An intriguing 25-minute film in which the twists keep turning, as one person tries to buy the past and the other tries to sell it.
(25-minutes; 2-day film-shoot)

Easy Baby - Re-Up
Red River Valley - performed by Owen Ross
Wait Owen Ross
Slow Down -The Reverend John DeLore
Best Actress (Featurette)
Best Score (Featurette)
Audience Award:  Best Actress
Williamsburg Independent Film Festival 2012:
Best Williamsburg Film
NYC PictureStart Film Festival 2013:
Audience Award:  Best Actress
Jury Award:
 Best Narrative Short Film
Asheville Cinema Festival 2013:   Jury Award - Best Narrative Short Film
...with Festival Director: Sandi Anton
Brevard Short
Film Festival
8-6-14 Post-JUKE screening Q&A/Talkback
with Festival Director Kirk Gostowski
click to view NYCIFF Filmmaker interview
click to watch NewFilmmakersNY interview
Now on ShortsTV ! 
Distributor: ShortsTV - streaming North America