Interviews: Writer & Actor Guy J. Jackson Talks About The Neo-Noir Film Los Angeles Overnight

Guy J. Jackson talks Los Angeles Overnight

In Los Angeles Overnight, broke actress Priscilla (Arielle Brachfeld) overhears a bizarre riddle about hidden loot, she recruits lovelorn mechanic Benny (Azim Rizk) to help crack the code and fund her Hollywood dreams.

It was written by Guy J. Jackson, directed by first timer Michael Chrisoulakis, and stars Arielle Brachfeld, Azim Rizk, Peter Bogdanovich, Lin Shaye, Ashley Park, Camilla Jackson and Julian Bane. It was produced by Camilla Jackson, Michael Chrisoulakis, Guy J. Jackson, Kimmie Yan, Kate Rees Davies, and Guy J. Jackson. Freestyle Digital Media acquired the North American distribution rights.  

"We're very happy to have the opportunity to work with Michael Chrisoulakis to bring Los Angeles Overnight to audiences across the US," said Dan Fisher, VP of Acquisitions of Freestyle. "He has told a very LA-centric story that will captivate audiences all over the country." "We're thrilled to be working with the incredible team at Freestyle Digital Media on the US release of Los Angeles Overnight," said producer Camila Jackson. "Moviegoers are sure to be on the edge of their seats throughout the film."

It is currently in select theaters and on digital platforms. You can read our review here.

We had the opportunity to speak with writer and actor Guy J. Jackson about the film.

TMSFirst off, can you provide us with a little bit of background information. Did you always want to be involved in filmmaking? What type of training or schooling did you have?

GJJ: According to family legend, I've been into movies since I was two, in bunny pajamas, when I quietly sucked my bottle and watched engrossed and without protest the entirety of THE HOSPITAL, a completely adult Paddy Chayefsky movie not at all suitable for 2 year olds. From there, according to family legend, I would only cry in movies if you tried to remove me from them, which sometimes, swear to God and I don't know what she was thinking, resulted in my mother just sitting and waiting out another showing of the same feature. This was the one area in which I was somehow spoiled rotten. I couldn't get any other drug, but I had plenty of access to movies. My grandmother, too, was movie crazy. As a very tiny child I sat through JULIA (Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave) about 5 times, when my grandmother fell for it and kept seeing it with different aunts.

I took a side journey from movies, though, and went to college for Theater in Ashland, so my training (if you can call it that) was all in plays and playwriting and then I moved into writing short-short-short stories for open mics and started handmaking movies in my 30s, 2 decades too late as usual.

TMSDid you have a lot of support when you decided to get into filmmaking? 

GJJNot really, but I took that as part of being an artist. If I had it to do over again the first thing I'd do is become a professional editor, so I could at least make a living editing JERSEY SHORE or whatever by the time I was 25. That would've avoided a whole lot of rambling bohemianism.

TMSWhat do you want people to know about the movie?

GJJIt was made for $80,000 and took 5 years from script to screen and we somehow managed to keep our neo-noir genre intact, and deliver it with both me and Chrisoulakis' unique stamp, with a stalwart producer who came along during filming, Camilla Jackson--no relation! (She hates being pegged as related to me for obvious reasons. No relation!) But Camilla Jackson was a firecracking godsend of a producer. Then we lucked out through mostly Camilla and her own contacts of contacts of contacts to get the three stars we had, but otherwise this was all blood sweat and tears. So we hope the audience will enjoy the result of all this dogged determination and passion. Luckily, an actual movie came out at the end of it all, and its a unique view fer sure. Hope everyone digs it.

TMSWhat was the inspiration behind this story?

GJJMichael wanted to do a story about an struggling actress stealing some money to fund her Hollywood career, but he really wanted something even simpler, a simple Hitchcock-ian premise of "someone overhears something they shouldn't". He's a very thriller-inclined director, that Michael. So he gave me some boundaries and reminded me that "everyone has a dream" and away the script went down my rabbit holes.

TMSWhere there any films or books that you drew inspiration from or were influenced in the film?

GJJI had actually taken a screenplay seminar that went into Noir a few years before so I just kept in mind that NOBODY WINS IN NOIR. Then I watched scads of noir films and my very favorite became a movie called HEAT LIGHTNING, which I got to see on the big screen at the Noir City Film Festival. The dialogue in that movie is so achingly terrific and stylized and the premise of suspense so simple that I leaped from my seat at the end and shouted at the screen: "Gadzooks! Now that's what I call NOIR! I'm sold!"

What's so lovingly dark about Noir is it originated in a film age of disillusionment, and the thing about neo-noir is it can now work, like Horror Movies, in any age of disillusionment. So here we are...

TMSThere is a great selection of eclectic characters in the film. Was there any real life inspirations that you drew from in developing them?

GJJMichael was kind enough to let all the supporting characters have the wacky life goals I assigned them, but in their way each character is only a very twisted version of someones I've met, of course, someones we've all met. The always-disappointing boss, the bad guy who thinks he's so good, the disgusting eater, and so on. What is really cool if you give someone something unique to work with, then when a unique actor comes along the character is all that more unique. Lin Shaye, for example, decided on her own costume, and so you see her and you instantly know she's a lady who runs a club and parties all night every night. That was Lin building on what was said in the script with gorgeous results.

TMSHow long did it take to get out that initial draft?

GJJ6 months-ish.

TMSHow much did the script change over the course of the next few drafts?

GJJA lot. Once you latch into riffing on a story and its characters you get all these permutations you have to sort through, of course. And you can keep imagining outward, once you're "latched". At one point I had a crazily epic 160 page draft there was so much room to explore.

TMSIs there anything you found more challenging when penning the screenplay?

GJJKeeping my addictive personality off of the f*cking Facebook.

TMSDid you have any of the actors in mind when penning the script?

GJJNope. Just me as Smalls.

TMSDid you adjust any of the script after the actors were there?

GJJYes, the great thing about our slow shooting processs (on weekends only, for 9 months-ish) was that I could be like: "Ooo! Maria Olsen is going to play a cop this weekend. Now what cool lines would come out of a Maria Olsen As Cop's mouth?" So I very often tailored as the actors came along. Jamie Lee Ackerman was a big example of that, because she was so striking and we eyed her for awhile wondering how to fit her in, until I cobbled together 3 different parts in the screenplay to create a character based on her vast ability with villainy.

It was great because Michael allowed me some rein, and so I was adding lines here and there and creating what I hope are some Preston Sturges-type bits, where you get characters on the periphery showing up with complete stories and lives for just a few moments before the protagonists come on and do their stuff. Love doing that. As many characters as you can possibly come up with for whatever "world" your movie is in, that's what I love, even if some of them only have glimpsed universes, on the very outer edge of the scene.

TMSWere you always going to play Smalls?

GJJYup, and I was so sick of memorizing lines for things that I wrote him with no lines and wrote him to just be this quiet thug with nothing to do. He was meant to disappear entirely into the background, in fact, but somehow, even without dialogue, he kept getting bigger until his journey matches Priscilla's (the protagonist). Really, I didn't mean for the part to turn out that big but the themes we were working in pushed up his bra. Also it was key that I played Smalls because the thinking was: "What poor bastard is going to cheerily run a lot for a whole day of shooting for no pay for the big chase?" We didn't want any mutiny, haha.

TMSHow was the shoot?

GJJAlmost always quite fun, as long as we surrendered to its guerrilla nature. There was only one scary time when we almost got a big ticket. We had terrific, ultra-healthy craft service done by a great cook of a buddy named Sarah Steffens, and so we quickly figured out to just feed every one Sarah's delicious meals in the days that were long. Indie filmmakers just need to be SUPER SAFE in all caps, as well as being overly ultra appreciative of everyone but everyone but everyone showing up to take part on their sets, and then you just feed those people some delicious snacks and give them a part to play, and you can get a surprising amount of dedication and love.

TMSLow budget film productions have been historically known for being difficult and demanding. How was this production on the cast and crew? Any challenges or funny stories?

GJJINSURANCE is above all vital, but permits were sometimes left aside, so many of our shoots were exciting for wondering when we were going to get a ticket. A ticket that we never ever ever ever got, because our crew was always so mobile. It's not like we ever had cables uncoiled up and down sidewalks or nothin'. So yeah, we were lugging everything around, but it wasn't "demanding" in any negative way. Oh, except for being The Third Hottest Summer In The History Of The Universe or whatever it was. Hot.

TMSIs there anything you learned from writing and working on Los Angeles Overnight

GJJDon't write too many scenes outlying the story, even if you are trying to be Preston Sturges-y. We had to cut a few good ones. I sure hope Oscar Nominee Sally Kirkland's knife-swinging scene gets on a Blu-Ray someday so people can find out where Priscilla gets her big giant knife.

TMSIf the movie was playing as one-half of a double feature at a Drive-in theatre what would be the perfect support feature? 

GJJActually...TARGETS would, if TARGETS played first. And then everyone in the drive-in would see Boris Karlov passing a blessed appearance to Peter Bogdanovich and Peter passing a blessed appearance to us, which we hope means something in terms of the movie gods and movie eternity.

TMSIf you had a choice write a remake for a genre movie, what movie would you like to remake?

GJJI actually did a rewrite/reboot script for a producer for a remake of a horror movie called HOUSE, starring William Katt. It's an 80s classic. I would love to see that script get made cuz I had the Roger Cormon-esque coolest idea how to make it for supercheap, and deeply profound, simultaneously.

TMSCan you tell us anything about the other projects that you are working on or planning on working on? Or, anything else that you would like to plug?

GJJTHE HEADLESS is going to shoot this year by hook or crook, directed by first-timer Gloria Iseli, the best storyteller I know in Hollywood. It's a horror script that has been optioned by 2 directors in the past, and after 6 years of Development, as they call it, I'm of course eager to see it get made. It's high-end horror, a sort of arthouse horror couture pic, so that's why its been hard to gather funding for, but me and Gloria are really excited to totally mess with the minds of horror fans everywhere.