At 21 or 22, I Was Getting Used to Living in LA and Was Hired to Direct My First Feature by Jacob Cooney of PITCHING TENTS

JACOB COONEY – FILMMAKER – ‘Pitching Tents’

 

.
FilmCourage: Where did you grow up?

Jacob Cooney:  I grew up in the small dairy town of Ferndale up in Northern California. Thinking about it now, my upbringing was a lot different than most. With apopulation of only 1500, I grew up knowing everyone in the town and actually went to school with the same kids from pre-school up until we graduated high school. My graduating class was a whopping 36 students…with the school’s total population being 175 kids.

My childhood friends and I spent our time outside terrorizing the town on our bikes, building tree houses, playing sports and working on the family farms. If you’re looking for a place to raise a child where they can kind of run around and be free… Ferndale’s the place.

My mom’s side of the family has had a dairy for over 100 years. While growing up I spent a good amount of time out in the fields helping my grandfather… and then A LOT more time after my parents took it over when I was in my early teens. Bailing hay, feeding calves and moving irrigation really kind of set the tone for my work ethic now and I’m really grateful to have had all those experiences.

Jacob Cooney as a child
FilmCourage:   Which of your parents do you resemble most?

Jacob:  Oh man… I’d like to think a little of both… but my wife thinks I resemble my mom with the faces I make and my dad’s personality.

FilmCourage:   Did your parents lend support toward creativity or encourage another type of career/focus?

Jacob:    Luckily my parents were very supportive in wanting me to follow my dreams of making films. Coming from a small dairy town where agriculture is the main focus, my interests in storytelling and filmmaking kind of differed from the majority of my friends and kids I knew.

Much like the lead character of Danny in “Pitching Tents,”  I knew a lot of people who were struggling with the same thing: follow in the footsteps of your parents/family or forge your own way. That’s not to say that all my friends were struggling… a lot of them planned to take over the family dairy or business either right out of high school or after college… but at times there was definitely an internal struggle about what the right decisions were. I feel that’s a universal struggle everywhere and kind of almost a rite-of-passage for teenagers moving toward adulthood.

 

 

FilmCourage:   First memory of going to the movies?

Jacob:    I just actually spoke to my mom about this surprisingly… she seemed to remember taking me to see “E.T.,” which I told her was an impossibility as I was only 1 year old when that film was released. Would have been amazing to see it in theaters when it first came out. I do remember watching it for the first time at home though. I was completely in awe.

As far as my first memory actually going to the movies… that would be forcing my parents at the age of 6 or 7 to take me to see the Ron Howard film “Willow.” LOVED that movie when it came out and still love it to this day. There might be some movie theater experiences before that… probably to see some animated movies with friends… but my trip to see “Willow” is the one that stands out.

FilmCourage:   Did you know before you graduated high school that you wanted to be in the movie business?

Jacob:   Oh yes. There’s a story my mom tells everyone about the time I was taken to lunch by my art teacher after winning an award when I was in kindergarten and when asked what I wanted to do when I grew up I answered, “I want to make movies.” Guess it was always in my blood.

After that I was continuously shooting short films (really bad ones) and fake TV shows with friends using my parents’ VHS camera. As I grew up, the cameras got a little better, as did the final projects… to some degree. To answer your question though, filmmaking (specifically directing) has been something I’ve wanted to do since I can remember.

.

FilmCourage:   How did you meet PITCHING TENTS producer Jane Kelly Kosek and writer/producer Jayme Petrille?

Jacob:   Jane and I have known each other for a little over 12 years now. After I graduated from college (California State University – Monterey Bay) I moved down to LA and while working at Nickelodeon I threw my hat in the ring to direct a number of independent projects that I found had postings for directors online. Somehow I managed to catch Jane’s eye for a film she was producing titled “Fierce Friend” (still don’t know how I managed that). From there I went through the interview process and after 3 or 4 interviews I somehow got landed the job.

I remember getting that call… I was 21 or 22 years old, still getting used to living in LA and then I got hired to direct my first feature. I was on cloud nine… still get that feeling every time someone lets me direct a film.

I met Jayme through Jane on our first phone conversation about coming on to direct “Pitching Tents.”

FilmCourage:   How did you book the directing job on PITCHING TENTS? 

Jacob:   Jane and I had been looking to do a project together since our last film, “The Frolic” in 2007. We had a really good time doing “Fierce Friend,” which was a learning experience for me coming right out of film school…and an even better time doing “The Frolic”, which is based on a short story by horror writer Tom Ligotti. We have been discussing potential projects since then… even had a few that looked like they might be a go… but nothing really took off.

During that same time, I’ve done a few more films, some commercials and some music videos, which have boosted my career. Most recently I directed the film “Blue Line” starring Tom Sizemore, Jordan Ladd and Kevin Nash, which brings me to Jane giving me a call about “Pitching Tents.”

I had been looking to do a smaller, more personal film… even thought about writing about my summers hanging out with my friends on the family dairy… and when Jane brought up “Pitching Tents” I was definitely interested. While reading the script I was transported back to those time and really fell in love with the story and characters.

After the initial call, Jane set up another call between me and the other producer/writers, which went really well. After a little back and forth between the group, Jane called me back and asked if I’d direct… and of course I said, “Hell yeah!”

FilmCourage:   Where do you plan to shoot the film?

Jacob:   We will be shooting “Pitching Tents” in Connecticut… in and around the Middletown and Cromwell areas. It’s the perfect place to set “Pitching Tents” and the community there is very welcoming.

FilmCourage:  Did you have that one weekend or summer that changed everything for you?

Jacob:   Oh yes, I do. My ultimate summer took place between my freshman and sophomore years of high school. It was the first summer where my friends and I experienced the feeling of true independence. We spent our days driving to, and working at, all the local farms and our nights hanging out doing fun teenage things. It was also the first time we REALLY saw girls for girls and found ourselves involved in all those “first time” experiences that surround it.

FilmCourage:   If you could have been one 80’s icon or movie character who would it have been and why?

Jacob:   Jake Ryan from “Sixteen Candles.”  He was just way too cool.

FilmCourage:   Favorite line from an 80’s movie?

Samantha: “Donger’s here for five hours, and he’s got somebody. I live here my whole life, and I’m like a disease.” (Sixteen Candles)

FilmCourage:   How do you create positive morale on set?

Jacob:  I like to keep the set as light as possible. Lots of joking around in between the serious business and I really enjoy playing music in between set-ups when time allows. Doing that really lightens the mood or loosens people up… especially on the longer days. You also need to let cast and crew have their input. If they have a killer idea for how to make something feel more real or look better, take it. If everyone’s involved in the process it makes everyone work that much harder to make a great end product. And most importantly, filmmaking is supposed to be fun… if you’re not enjoying it, then something’s wrong.

FilmCourage:   Do you miss living in a small town versus LA?  What is the difference?

Jacob:   I currently live in Greenwich, CT actually. My wife and I were in LA (Santa Monica specifically) for the past ten years and made the move out east a little under two years ago. Living in Greenwich is in many ways the same as living in Santa Monica… well, minus the crazy winters and humid summers… but we still have the suburban feel, great neighbors and a backyard, which is nice.

When I moved from Ferndale to Monterey, then from Monterey to LA I thought there’d be a big culture shock for me… and thank go there wasn’t. Moving from LA to NY however, was a big change for me and after working in Manhattan for a bit I found myself wanting to find a quiet place to escape to. I do love going in to the city for weekend trips, shows, dinners, drinks, meetings, etc… but I really don’t see myself moving there any time soon. Although my wife may say differently… ha!

FilmCourage:   Who are the actors attached in PITCHING TENTS?  Were you involved in the casting?

Jacob:   Since coming onboard “Pitching Tents” I have been heavily involved in the casting of the film. Prior to my involvement the two leads were already cast in the project and I must say Nick Krause (The Descendants, Grimm) and Bailey Noble (True Blood) are perfect for the roles of “Danny” and “Alison”. As a director, I couldn’t be happier.

Along with Nick and Bailey, so far we’ve assembled some really great actors that include Jonathan Lipnicki (Jerry Maguire) in the role of “Scott”, Marco James (The Vampire Diaries) in the role of “Phil” and both John and Kevin Farley (The Waterboy) in the roles of “Neal” and “Jack”.

I’m really excited to see who else comes on board the project!

FilmCourage:   How did Jane/Jayme get the script to you?

Jacob:   After Jane and I had our initial phone call about “Pitching Tents,” she sent the script over to me to read.

Jane Kelly Kosek – Producer
FilmCourage:  Why are you and the team crowdfunding?

Jacob:   As we all know, making independent films is a hard, tough road and in order to make a film come into fruition you need to explore every avenue for funding. With “Pitching Tents,” crowdfunding is one of the many tools we’re using to make this film come to life… and it’s also a great way to spread the word and gain a fan base prior to production.

Jayme Petrille – Writer/Producer
 

.
As they say, “it takes a village”… and without that village nothing can happen. It’s the fans who support the film when it’s released, and if they can be a part of making it as well that’s even better.

FilmCourage:   How much time did you/the team spend planning the campaign?  What did you learn that you think would be the most helpful for another filmmaker planning to crowdfund?

Jacob:   The producers, writers and I spent a good amount of time going over successful campaigns and seeing what worked and what didn’t. Compiling all that research, we then set out to plan the “Pitching Tents” campaign, which is kind of an amalgamation of a lot of things we saw.

The biggest thing for filmmakers looking to start a campaign is to prime your connections, get them jazzed about the project and really have a plan for how you’re going to spread the word. With crowdfunding, you need the crowd to show up. Hit up the blogs, hit up filmmaking websites, hit up your friends and family… Yes, even your creepy third cousin Jasper who you’d prefer not to talk to. You never know who’s going to contribute.

 


FilmCourage:   Of the numerous productions you worked on, which taught you the most?

Jacob:   Every film I’ve done, every film and TV series I’ve worked on as a crew member has taught me something different. I can’t really pinpoint one project that has taught me the most. For me, it’s really been the overall experience being in the entertainment industry, meeting people, learning while doing and learning while watching that has kind of taught me the things I know at the moment. Filmmaking is something that keeps changing… either it be the technology, the people, the story… so there’s always something new to learn.

FilmCourage:   What will you bring to the production to give the movie an 80’s feel and sound?

Jacob:   Production design, wardrobe and most importantly music are the focus for recreating the 80’s in “Pitching Tents”. For all of us, it’s really important to make sure we’re being authentic with bringing the 80’s back to life so everything from set dressing, to picture cars, to wardrobe, to the soundtrack have to be perfect. There will definitely be a lot of thrift shop trips, Ebay and Amazon purchases in our future.

.

.
On the music side, the soundtrack to film is like a character so we’re planning to reach out to a number of 80’s bands, record labels and rights owners to see about getting permissions to use their tracks. This part of the filmmaking process is very expensive so that’s one reason why we’re reaching out and doing the crowdfunding campaign. Every penny counts… especially when it comes to securing the rights to amazing and recognizable 80’s tracks.

FilmCourage:   What did you learn from your project ALPHA HOUSE that you can share with readers?

Jacob:   “Alpha House” was an interesting project to be involved with. The film itself was in development for over a year and then received a fast track greenlight from the producers. When I say “fast track,” I should really be saying “laser track” as my co-writer Brandon Trenz and I had to write the script in 7 days. Immediately after turning the script in I was officially hired to direct the film and found myself back in LA two days later after just moving to NY. 5 days of prep and 11 days of production later, we had the film in the can and were moving into post-production. 4 months after that, the film was ready to roll and was released worldwide in March of 2014.

That experience was a whirlwind to say the least… but was a great exercise in how to hammer out a project quickly and efficiently. The end result came out really well and harkens back to teen sex and college comedies like “Porky’s,” “Animal House,”  and “American Pie.” If anyone wants to check it out, “Alpha House” is currently available on Netflix Streaming, iTunes, Google Play and is on DVD everywhere.

FilmCourage:   When you think of the 80’s, what are your first memories?

Jacob:   Hmm… I was born in 1981, so a good amount of the 80’s I don’t fully remember. However, I remember running around with my friends in the backyard, eating Spaghetti-O’s and going to pre-school towards the end of the decade. Fun times!

FilmCourage:   How are times different today? Can we ever go back to a more playful innocence or has the current Western culture been jaded by the last 30 years?

Jacob:  Getting deep here… I think a lot has changed over the last 30 years for sure. The way parents raise their kids, the technological advancements, etc. The innocence is still present, but nowadays it’s tinged with a little paranoia because of everything that’s going on in the world. I wouldn’t say that what’s happening today wasn’t going on back in the 80’s, but in today’s society every bad thing that happens around the world is televised or blasted around the Internet for all to see which lends to the kind of protective, paranoid attitude that many people have today. 30 years ago, although the news was televising the headlines, the access to information on any topic at any time wasn’t there… so back in the 80’s you were solely focused on what was going on locally in your community and with your family and friends.

Artistically, you can find elements of the 80’s buried in everything… from filmmaking style, to comedy style, to musical style, the elements created in the 80’s that kind of created what we know today are definitely present.

FilmCourage:   Why was the 80’s the best decade ever?

Jacob:  The 80’s, specifically 1984 where “Pitching Tents” is set, was a time of change and in a way a gateway that shaped everything we know today. From the iconic films that were released, to the music that set the tone for the decade and to the new wave fashion trends that shifted the way people dressed compared to the 60’s and 70’s, the 80’s as a decade was a huge game changer.

FilmCourage:   Biggest ‘John Hughes’ movie high point of your life where you felt you’d arrived (cue a Journey power ballad)?

Jacob:  I would have to say when I graduated from college and moved to LA. Coming from a very small town, even after moving to the bay area after high school, I considered LA the ultimate place to be and when I moved there having already locked in a job as a dolly grip on an independent feature I was feeling pretty good. That was a big moment for me as a young, wide-eyed 21 year-old.

Since then I’ve had many more moments (getting married, finding out I’m going to be a dad, etc.) but I remember driving to LA, my car packed to gills with all my stuff, feeling like I was making the right move and focusing on the future I wanted.

FilmCourage:   What’s next for you creatively?

Jacob:  Oh man… good question. I have a number of projects in different stages both as a writer and director, so it’s really seeing where they all land at the moment. Right now, I’m slated to direct a zombie film right after “Pitching Tents” that’ll be released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. I’m also still in post on my last film “Blue Line,” which will be finished this coming August and released in early 2016.

Lots going on, so the hope is to keep the projects rolling and to stay creative.

 

 

BIO:

As a writer/director Jacob Cooney has produced projects ranging from features, television, music videos, commercials and new media content. Most recently, Jacob directed the feature film BLUE LINE starring Tom Sizemore, Jordan Ladd and Kevin Nash – which is currently in post-production and being distributed through Taylor & Dodge – as well as the television pilot HARRIES WAY for Lawrence/Long Productions. Along with those projects, he also recently directed the feature film ALPHA HOUSE for Broken Films – which was released worldwide on March 11th, 2014 – as well as a series of commercials for Australian based company Bogi Australia.

Previously, Jacob directed the feature film FIERCE FRIEND – which played worldwide throughout the festival circuit and is currently available on DVD and VOD – as well as the short film THE FROLIC – which screened at the Cannes Film Festival and was distributed by Ouat Media in Canada. Along with those projects, Jacob directed the short film ROCCO, which has garnered much praise from the horror community and won best short film at the Dreadit/Film This! Horror Festival.  Additional directing credits include the web series BEDLAM for Gossypium Media and the television comedy pilot REHAB FOR REJECTS – which won best television pilot at both the Las Vegas Film Festival and the California Film Awards.

Writing credits include the films THE BANISHING for Haven Entertainment, APOCALYPSE POMPEII, AGE OF TOMORROW, FLIGHT 42 and BITTEN for the Syfy Channel, BLUE LINE for Switzer Entertainment, ALPHA HOUSE for Broken Films, WANT for State Street Pictures, ILLUMINATING PRESTON for Telefilm Canada and Zeeworks Entertainment, as well as the television pilot THE LAKES for Lionsgate Television.

Along with PITCHING TENTS, Jacob is also in talks to write and direct the films ISLAND OF MADNESS for Nine/8 Entertainment, THE TAKEAWAY for Switzer Entertainment and ISLE OF THE DEAD for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. On the television side, his pilot THE GREY ZONE, which he co-wrote with Matt Sagona, is in development with The Hollywood Gang.

For more information and updates, please visit: JacobCooney.com
.

ABOUT THE FILM:

Pitching Tents is a hilarious coming-of-age teen comedy set in 1984, when lives were simpler and the hair was bigger. Like the films of the ’80s, family, relationships and friendships are at the core of the story, with its heart centered around the pursuit of one’s dreams and personal happiness.

 

.

CONNECT WITH JACOB COONEY: