Exclusive Interview With The Writer of "The Fields" Harrison Smith
by, 04-17-2012 at 07:14 PM (3996 Views)
I have had the great opportunity to talk with Harrison Smith multiple times via Twitter. Harrison has written the upcoming film The Fields starring Cloris Leachman and Tara Reid. The film is set for release on April 24 of this year and is available for pre order at Amazon. After reading about it and watching the trailer I was excited to find out more. The end result is the following and I would like to thank Harrison for his time and patience for this interview. I Hope the KR readers enjoy!
Why don't you give us a quick synapses on this film and how it came about?
The film is based on a real incident that happened to me and my grandparents in the fall of 1973. Basically a young boy spends time on his grandparents' farm that comes under assault from something in the miles of cornfields around their home.
When did you decide that this personal experience needed to be portrayed on film?
When I was telling the story to a group of people and one said, "ya know that would make a great film." While it is personal, there are variances to make it a cinematic experience. My grandparents are portrayed accurately in the film and the overall events once the boy gets to the farm are the way things went down. My "parents" in the film are more like caricatures of my real folks, designed to get the boy to the farm and more a necessity of plot driving than non- fiction.
It seems you guys did a great job at selling the 70's look to film. Did anyone advise against it for budgetary reasons?
You get advised against doing a lot of things. We live in this world where everyone says they "encourage out of the box thinking" however the moment you do step outside the box, you get the negativity, doomsayers and uptights. We knew with the pastoral setting we could get away with it, and with the help of the surrounding community we were able to populate the film with proper vehicles, homes, etc. It was tough but we knew we could pull it off.
What was the one thing that was most important to you on the final cut of the film?
To deliver top production value and not turn it into a horror film. No matter how many times we say it, media and reviewers call it a horror. It is not. It's more suspense drama and thriller. Cloris refuses to even call it a thriller as she loves the term "suspense drama." She feels it is her best dramatic work since "The Last Picture Show." The other thing was to do something different instead of the same old same old. While there are a lot of great ones, the last thing indie film needs right now is another zombie, slasher or vampire movie. It woulda been easier that's for sure. We were urged to turn it into a horror film right down to shadowed knife wielding killer in the corn. We resisted that.
It is great to see such a highly regarded actress as Cloris Leachman in this film. How did that come about and how was she to work with? And what character does she play ?
Cloris plays my grandmother, Gladys. We never thought we would get her for this film. She's an Oscar winner, record Emmy winner and Frau Blucher, Nurse Diesel, Phyllis...you get the idea. However after seeing her on the Comedy Central Roast of Bob Sagett my wife said: "you have to get her for your grandmother. She's exactly like her." And she was right. I reached out to her agent in LA, sent the script and about 2 weeks later he called and said, "let's talk about getting Cloris in this movie."
Cloris was a delight to work with. Funny as hell and also sincere and very real. As I said we are an uptight world these days. Words like "awkward" and "inappropriate" are used so much they mean nothing anymore. The mention of sex, or the use of an off color word throws some folks into a "hot water burn baby" type of mania. Let's say people like that would not have enjoyed Cloris on the set. She teased cast and crew, chased our one grip with a fly swatter everytime he smoked (she HATES smoking) and entertained with rich stories of her life. When you listen to her adventures with Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, Gene Hackman...the list goes on, you know your in the presence of someone truly great and lucky to be there.
The film also has film star Tara Reid in it. This looks to be a different role for her career. Was this one of the reasons she chose this role? What character does she play?
She plays Bonnie, a character loosely based on my mother. Tara was terrific and she chose the role because she did not play a mother up until that time. She has such a genuine vulnerability to her acting and she is NOTHING like the media has portrayed her in the past. I reached out to her as my first choice for the role. We have since become friends and plan on working together in the future. Anyone who thinks they know her with the stuff on their blogs or cowards who anonymously post their judgments know nothing. She was professional, accessible to everyone on set. She ate with the cast and crew, hung out with everyone, posed for pics, signed autographs and brought a smile to the set every day. When she works, she is "in the zone" and is 100% professional. I wish other filmmakers who know this to be true would speak up about these things when she gets knocked in the press. We are really hoping for great success for the new American Pie film and are proud to have her in ours.
Did the director make many changes to the writing or did he stick with what you wrote?
The directors made changes they felt were necessary. I can't say I agreed with all of them, but in the end, they're the directors and most importantly I feel very well treated as a writer on his first film.
If you had to compare The Fields to any other movie which one would you compare it to?
How's this for a mashup: The Strangers meets Hope and Glory.
What do you want the viewers of The Fields to feel after they view it?
I want them to feel that this is about real people and that sometimes bad things happen but you deal with it, dust yourself off an move on. I have had people ask: "oh my God did you need therapy after that all happened?" Well first of all, it's a movie, but as to the real events, the answer is "no." I believe most kids today can't handle adversity. Over protective parents wanting the 50's sitcom Disney life aren't doing them any favors. Like I said, everything is "scary" today: sex predators will get you online, men are cruising your neighborhoods in vans, stalkers, Columbine killers...it's hyped up media bullshit. While these things do happen, they have always happened in one way or another. It's just now everything is exaggerated and hyped. Life's gonna throw some shit at you. Deal with it as best you can and stand afterwards.
Any other projects you are working on?
I am working on several TV shows in various states of production and have a slate of pictures of varying genres being looked at by several financiers. I am wrapping up my follow up feature, 6 Degrees of Hell with Corey Feldman as we ready it to go out to LA for distribs to look at and hit the festival circuit.
What is your favorite horror movie if all time?
Jaws is my favorite movie of all time. It's up to your readers to decide if it's horror or not. I call it adventure/drama
Any advice for anyone interested in writing a script?
Yeah, write. Don't talk about writing and what great ideas you have. Write it. And read everything. Don't just read Harry Potter because you think you're gonna write the next big wizard movie. Read science, politics, fiction as much as you can get your hands on. Mark twain said it best: write what you know. The worst writing is when some 19 year old kid who has no idea what it's like to pay a mortgage, pick up the kids from school, tries to write about that world without knowing anything about it. You wanna write? Read. Then start writing and don't fall in love with your own work. Be ready for criticism and the fact that despite what your elementary teachers told you, you're not special. There's a lot of writers out there and they all want the job you want. That's where ambition comes in.
If there is anything I did not ask that you would want people to know about the movie feel free to insert a question and answer it. I want to make sure we get all the info out that you want.
I think you hit it all. It's a great film, it's intelligent and has respect for its audience. It was made with passion, the best production value and is not sloppy. The directors cared about the characters, the atmosphere and it was a true community film that the town of Kunkletown got behind.
Where can people find your movie and keep track of upcoming projects?
Hit the Six Degrees website: www.sixdegreesmovie.com
This film's website: www.thefieldsmovie.com
Here are some screenshots from The Fields