Spotlight: An Interview with James Cullen Bressack ("Murder, Anyone?")
Before we discuss the making of Murder, Anyone?, let's talk a bit about your background! Son of 3-time Emmy Award-winning writer Gordon Bressack and voice actress Ellen Gerstell, you grew up in a very creative household. Were you interested in filmmaking from a young age?
It was a creative household. I would have never had my love of the arts without them. When I was young I always wanted to be a filmmaker.
When did you make your first film and what was it about?
I was 18 years old and it was about a serial killer obsessed with movies. Dont watch it, its terrible.
Before the age of 30, you directed 4 action movies - two of them starring Bruce Willis, and one starring Mel Gibson. What were some of your takeaways from working with these legendary actors?
It's always amazing to work with people you grew up watching and its so much more special when they are so nice!
Who are some of your favorite filmmakers, and what do you find inspiring about their work? Do you feel their work influenced your directing style in any way?
Park Chan Wook
And yes for sure! I didnt go to film school, I went to movies.
Alongside filmmaking, you recently also published your first Comic book (distributed via Amazon). How did you get into comic-book writing?
I did when I was stuck home during the pandemic! I wanted to remain creative.
What drew you to the story of Murder, Anyone?, If it's not too personal, what was it like to film a screenplay your late father authored?
I really wanted to pay homage to his work.
And when he made it I asked him why he didnt make it as a movie. He said, “i did the play, you can do the movie” so i did the movie. When he passed one of the last things he did was make me promise him his scripts wouldnt just live on a hard drive. So i made sure they didnt.
The production budget was about 100k. How did you work alongside the producers to raise it?
I used all of my own personal money and did not raise outside funds, to honor my fathers work the best way possible with no outside input.
You've directed many films before (with a directorial debut at the age of 18)- but every film presents its own challenges. How did you prepare to direct this one?
I prepare every film uniquely but it usually starts with developing a thorough shotlist.
Did you use any film-noir and/or surrealistic/avant-garde references to communicate your vision to cinematographer Michael Moghaddam?
We talked alot about casablanca and the malteese falcon!
What are the challenges in directing a play-within-a-play-within-a-movie?
Honoring my fathers work and translating it to screen in a way that still honored the source material.
The ensemble, led by Galadriel Stineman, Spencer Breslin, Kristos Andrews, and Maurice Lamarche did a phenomenal job. How did this magic happen?
I was lucky enough to work with people that knew my father or were fans of his work. It was a family environment and when you have a good time making something it shows on screen.
What part of the production did you enjoy the most? And what was the most challenging part?
Seeing everything come to life and working with the actors.
Is this your first collaboration with editor Theoderic Ripper? What was the editing process like?
We worked together daily on the film. It was shot a specific way to honor the play so the edit went smoothly. We had a great time sitting in my living room working on this!
You're currently in post-production for an upcoming action film, Darkness of Man, starring the iconic Jean-Claude Van Damme. What can you tell us about it?
This is a very dark neo noir film that I truly believe is some of my best work. I cant wait for everyone to see this. I think its really going to get alot of attention.
Do you have any advice for young directors who wish to follow in your footsteps?
Don't let perfect be the enemy of good. Go out there and create. Dont be afraid to fail. Just fail a little better next time.
What's next for you?
I just wrote a children's book! I'm super excited for people to check this out!
Is there anything you'd like to add, or someone you wish to thank?
I'd like to thank my friends and Family for always believing in me.
Where can our readers follow more o your work?
@jamescullenb on IG and Twitter.