What will happen when one day you decide to play with fire? You get burned. But this is something Jackie knew nothing about. In one of his one-night stands, he meets a girl named Sasha. Early morning when he wakes up beside her, he does what he thought was right. He thinks he is in power to do anything he wants and will be able to get away with this. Perhaps, he was right. But the writer and filmmaker, Cody Campanale, thought otherwise.
It is hard imagining the effect “Jackie Boy” may have on you. This is why I simply could not lose the opportunity to talk to the filmmaker, Cody Campanale, the person who stands behind your future nervous breakdown after you watch his “Jackie Boy”.
MOVIEMOVESME: Should I begin my question with saying that I really hated Jack?
Cody Campanale: He’s definitely not a likable character in your world where you’re intending him to be. That’s a comment I always hear. Luckily what I find with some people is, and which is where I find the movie really works, is they don’t like him but empathize with him a little bit. In the beginning of the movie I present him as a club-hopping kind of character, super masculine, misogynistic, objectifying character. Although he’s still all those things till the end of the movie, as I take you through this, I show you a different side to him, only to bring you right back to what you saw at the end of the movie. It was kind of our intention to do that but it’s a hard journey, shocking to a lot of people because you don’t really see a lot of movies where the lead character is so unlikable.
MOVIEMOVESME: What inspired you to explore the subject of self-destruction, loyalty and revenge, all in one?
Cody Campanale: I started writing this when I was in my late teens, in my first year of college. It was a combination of a lot of things I was feeling. I think the big focus for me on the story is the depiction of masculinity and male rage and a lot of the disconnection between intimacy and sex. Those for me were like the major themes I was as a person struggling with as a younger man. So I think a lot of it stemmed from these places of putting my thoughts down on a paper, ideas I was struggling with, questions about homosexuality and its relationship to living in this culture of all these super heavy masculine people. The idea of male rage coming from not being able to understand your own emotions. So those were the things in my mind as a younger person. I’ve always been an analytical, self reflective person who grew up in the suburbs with a lot of people like this with intense masculinity around me. I’m Italian, the lead characters are Italian, so there’s the sense of this world. So I guess it came to me from a lot of being trying to figure out who I was, my relationship to growing up and finding new connection.
MOVIEMOVESME: In “Jackie Boy” the leading characters are quite dislikable. But at some point, they start changing toward the end of the film.
Cody Campanale: I present my characters the way they are and this film I think could have been a parable had I tried to defend them, if you know what I mean. That’s not human, first of all, and secondly, it’s way more interesting to present them as they are rather than trying to turn them into heroes or complete villains. I don’t believe any character is 100% hero or villain. I believe that characters have multiple shades of grey and that even goes for the women in the film. They’re not complete victims and they’re not complete villains either; they are complicated. Even though the focus of the story is on males, the women are incredibly important to us getting a window into them. Sasha has a terrible act happen to her in the early part of the film and we leave her for a little bit only to come back to her later and she looks different, she feels different than what we saw in the beginning of the movie; she’s dressed differently, her hair’s a little different and that’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to show her as a character that in the beginning had more of childlike innocence and playfulness to her and then the movie progressed we saw that taken away after what Jack did. We see a lot of how that affected Sasha through Jasmine. Using Jasmine as an interesting character too is that she clearly has a relationship with Sasha and as the movie progresses we see that she’s really, out of all the characters, is probably the most reflective in this film. I like to show things from different sides, I don’t like whitewashing characters!
MOVIEMOVESME: As a screenwriter and a filmmaker can you talk about the process of developing a conclusion without giving away much?
Cody Campanale: The ending was the most difficult part of the script to write. I always knew how I wanted it to end feeling-wise. I always knew I wanted you to feel that way at the end of the movie; feel like you’ve been punched and you cannot move and that you’ve been doused in violence and. I wanted you to feel really unpleasant at the end of the movie. I knew that was the feeling I was going for. But it’s also very important the way I handle it with such difficult sets of topics and really important issues. Originally the ending was not what you had there, there was no killings or brutality. What I end up realizing was that we needed Cal to be punished, he needed to be punished in order for the movie to work because it was so horrendous what he did, that for him to get away with it is too much. So I had to do lots of rewriting. So getting that right was very tricky; we walked a fine line and I think we found it. Writers are most important part of the process because you can have a great director and greeat actors but if the audience is not buying into what’s happening the movie’s not gonna work and the person who has the audience buying into what’s happening is the writer. So it was very important that we constantly work and get this script down in the way it works. I consider editing as a kind of rewriting and in the editing we really pulled back the story to its basic core and that’s when I knew we had a film that worked.
MOVIEMOVESME: What was going on between Kal and Jack? It seems like he wanted to punish Jack for not only distancing him from friends but from himself as well.
Cody Campanale: That was very complex and that was really hard for Edward, who played Cal. It took us a long time to discuss why does he do this, how does he do it, how to make it work believably-wise and what we kind of came out with was that the character was struggling with his own sexuality and it’s up for debate whether the character was gay or just in love with Jack. He uses Jasmine in a way of almost punishing Jack but at the same time loving Jack. Because Jack rejects him there’s a lot of pain and anger and confusing emotions in there for the character. It’s very very dark, the concept of why he does what he does and what that means. Me and Edward, we had a lot of conversation about this scene. It’s very hard for an actor to get inside those emotions.
MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about the casting process you went through with the lead actors?
Cody Campanale: Sure. I knew Alino before I made the film. He hadn’t done a lot of movie stuff but had done some short films. We got along because we particularly loved foreign films and we used to watch a lot of European movies and talk about them. I showed him the script very early on and he really fell in love with the project because he thought it was a really interesting character and had a kinda Indie/European feel to the film that we both liked. I did audition him and went with him mainly because he showed me he had everything to prove and nothing to lose, which is the main thing about all my casting. Because if you’re an actor fearing losing something this is a very scary role to pick because the movie could not work as I was untested, we had never made a feature before and I also didn’t have a big reputation as a short film director. Alino knew me so it was easier. He understood the club life and was around these people, so it was really hard to find somebody who really understood these people and were willing to find something interesting in them. I gotta commend his bravery for doing the role because I’m sure there were people behind the scenes telling him not to! I did not know Shannon till she came to audition. Originally, I was looking at the character from a very different perspective. When she came in I saw a very talented actor that had an unconventional look to her and had an edge to her. My producer and I sat down with her privately and said, “Now read this script and tell us what you think.” Shannon was scared and nervous but at the same time she was so down to do it because she really wanted to be in the movie and she really thought it was a great role. So that’s them! I didn’t know any other way of doing it rather than with newer actors who were basically hungry. I think when you make a movie like this, and if you’re not ready to talk about it, you’re in trouble because people have so many questions!