Jerome Elston Scott
by Del Harvey
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The clichéd image of the young Hollywood filmmaker is often that of a brash outsider, someone trying to wow audiences and critics with fancy camera tricks, edgy material, and bold showmanship. But Jerome Elston Scott has perhaps taken a more bold and startling route – by creating realistic characters and everyday situations that viewers can identify with and cherish.
Jerome Elston Scott currently has one film releasing, “Anderson’s Cross,” and he will be directing “Prep School” in March. “Prep School” stars Charlie McDermott (Hot Tub Time Machine, Frozen River), and Jeremy Sumpter (Friday Night Lights) and it will, in Mr. Scott’s words, be a much bigger film. He begins production on that film at Canada’s Victoria Island in March.
Mr. Scott loves Dead Poet’s Society and he says that everyone is comparing Prep School to it, which makes him very proud. Having re-watched Good Will Hunting recently he realized just how much he loves Robin Williams’ performance and notes that Mr. Willaims was such a gift to both films. “He should have won an Academy Award for Dead Poets Society,” said Mr. Scott.
Anderson’s Cross is his first directing and writing experience. Calling himself the classic overachiever, he admits that the film was, “definitely a lot of fun and a great experience, thanks to the great crew and the veteran actors. I wanted to be the least experienced person on the set or else it would turn into a college experience.” This turned out to be a very smart approach for the first-time director, who said that, “All the actors were just amazing to work with and the great young cast were wonderful and put their all into it. Just a nice group of people… including people like Sam Levine from “Freaks and Geeks” who did a cameo. “
If Mr. Scott has gained anything from this experience, it would be that he “Tried to keep my eyes and ears open to do the best thing I could. It’s opened so many doors. Every time I get into a new situation with financing or whatever I send them that movie [“Anderson’s Cross”] and they say, “Oh! Okay.” You put yourself out there and hope people like your movie… people besides your parents. And it’s truly gratifying when they do. We went through the screenings, focus groups, the whole thing. So we got to see what people really thought of it. It’s very revealing. It’s been a lot of fun and now it seems like my whole plate is full all the way through next summer.”
Mr. Scott has quite the full plate, looking ahead. After “Prep School” he will be shooting “Hostage Diner,” a dark comedy about bank robbers who hide out and take the diners hostage. He promises it has a neat little twist with a dark edge that is still funny and a little silly. And after that is “The Perfect Night” about a group of kids on the night of their prom and all the new discoveries the world has to offer. Then there’s a sci-fi movie with a bigger budget which he says he will do “old school, not much green screen, and we’ll get to be kids and creative, too.”
Mr. Scott said, “I am so looking forward to the Christmas break but I am very pleased to have all of this at this point and I want to do the best movie I can possibly do and give it my all and surround myself with great people. I think when I get to the sci-fi movie I’ll be ready for that bigger budget and outside the box kind of thing But I would like to work from someone else’s script, too, so I am really looking forward to getting into that area of work. I have always worked from my own scripts so having a writer stand over you and state their demands for a change is going to be nice.”
“People have believed in me for so long and it’s great for me and for them to know that they didn’t waste their time and even the landlords who didn’t evict you while you were struggling, it’s all good.”
“I started writing out of frustration as an actor and I thought I had a little bit of something but to have this much positive feedback is really great because I’m not a trained writer. Kids ask me now, “How did you get into this?” and I just say watch movies and do your best. I really don’t know what to say other than to love story and know your beginning, middle and end. I love the writing and directing more than I love the acting. The thing is you have to go out and live and the movie business is so 24/7 and if you don’t get out there and away from that you have to find a way to get away and just go through those experiences. I have one friend who is a wealth of information from his personality and I’m keeping him in reserve for that time when I’m searching for something. “
“The first script that I wrote, I gave it to Bob Williams, a director on Felicity and he sent it back with all his notes and things and I loved that. You need that feedback from people and sometimes I read and watch stuff and feel like I can never do that good, but I want to so badly. I loved Inception and The Dark Knight and I want to get to that point someday. But watching that kind of work brings me back to reality. “
“The transition to director was fairly easy for me but I did learn on set and I had worked with so many directors it made it easier for me and I knew the actor’s mind set and that made it easier for me. I tried to pick out the crew and cast from that kind of approach. I like everything to be prettier and my actors to be brighter – sort of the escape aspect of movies, where you’re transported. Right now everybody is into the reality of everything and, enough! I think the hardest thing was getting into the post-production aspect where you love everything but you have to cut things down and that was the hardest thing.”
“I like everything to be organic and I’m supposed to grab it. I live to give my actors freedom. The only thing I don’t particularly care for is when they can’t drop the character after I yell, “Cut!” I want them to turn it on and turn it off. That’s my particular thing. That was my only rule. But as long as its not a disruption to the entire set then it’s not a bad thing. But I love the collaborative process, all these artists in one room. Like Joanna Cassidy added all these elements which I get credit for as the writer! Why wouldn’t I say, ‘Okay!’”
“It was definitely a learning experience and it was definitely not an ego thing because every day I meet people 10 times more talented than me. It’s a lot of hard work and perseverance and a lot of luck. When I first said I was going to L.A. everybody had their doubts, but now it feels so good and it’s been a lot of fun. Sticking with it – that’s the biggest advice I can give up to other actors and directors and writers. “
“I’ll never forget I had some friends visit and I did not want to go to my job as an extra in two different shows and I only had a couple hours of sleep and I ended up going. The director was someone who told me, “I know you,” and years ago he spoke at my school and I accosted him after the talk and he remembered me! So the day I was going to quit was a great day for me. “
When asked about the film currently opening, Mr. Scott said, “I’m so proud of “Anderson’s Cross” and that it’s getting positive word of mouth and that people can see the film and I feel like there’s a lot of talent attached to it and it’s a wonderful coming of age story with a great cast and I’m just very happy with it. It’s based on some personal experiences and we’re getting so much positive response on every character aspect and it’s really a film about family and love and I’m hoping that the audiences do just love it. I’m so proud that people do embrace it. I know for me it’s been a long journey, but if someone else watches it and says, “I can do it, too,” then I’m really happy with that.”
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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