Jamesy Boy Director, Trevor White, Talks on the Challenges of Making a Coming of Age Street Film

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Trevor White, director of the coming of age street film “Jamesy Boy,” recently took some time from his busy schedule to promote the upcoming January release and discuss some of the finer points of the filmmaking process.

“Jamesy Boy,” from Phase4films and XLrator Media, stars Mary Louise Parker, Ving Rhames, James Woods, Taissa Farmiga, Michael Trotter, Rosa Salazar, Ben Rosenfield, Taboo and introducing Spencer Lofranco as James Burns.

Trevor White readily admits “Jamesy Boy” is the first full length feature he has made. The film, already receiving rave reviews, is based on the real life experiences of, a long time family friend, James Burns.

Throughout our phone conversation I found him accommodating, pleasant, humble and awed at the response of the film. The following is an excerpt of our Interview:

Trevor White:  Hi Janet. How are you?

Janet Walker: Hey Trevor, fine thanks. Congratulations on the film. I thought it was really great. I really enjoyed it.

TW: Thank you so much.

JW: So tell me a little about how you got involved with the project?

TW: So the project came about . . . James, the real James Burns, his story and his life has been a part of my family’s history for some time. My mother is a documentarian and filmmaker as well. She did a story in the 1980’s about a program James’ mother had been through at 13. And so there has been a long history between our two families and a long friendship.

When James got out prison, he came out to Los Angeles and he was staying with us. And that was kind of the first time in maybe seven years I had spoken to him.  And we were reconnecting and getting to know each other again and he just opened up to me about his life and his experiences and it just, I’ll never forget the impact it made on me and how inspiring his life was and from that point on me, James, and my brother Tim, all explored the idea of turning this into a script and trying to make a movie.

JW: So how long did that process from concept, or when you began talking to James, how long from that point until you got the greenlight or completion?

TW: Until now. I mean up to now. Maybe we started talking four years ago. It took us a long time to get the script right and feel comfortable before showing it to anyone and then it took a long time to get the attachments on it and then the financing and get it to where we should get that greenlight.

Then, you know, and then you make the movie and there is a whole other process getting the movie distributed so it’s been a long process and we learned so much along the way and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience.

JW:  So during the time you were writing this script did any of it become . .  were some of experiences toned down or some cut out or were too graphic for what you were looking for?

TW: We always wrestled a little bit with what should be in the movie and what shouldn’t and this idea that you’ve only got a very limited amount of real estate and you’re covering six seven years of a life.

So there are always stories that don’t make it into the scripts or stories you feel have a ton of weight but just don’t quite weave into the story as well as you had hoped. And at the end of the day, this is a movie that needs an engine. So things have to be a little bit massaged and moved around but as long as we had that mindset and were true to the character and to James. Then we would make it the way we needed to make it.

JW:  Can you discuss some of the challenges you faced during the making of the film?

TW: The biggest challenge from the actual filmmaking process – we had a limited budget and a big scope of film in a sense.

We had the prison scenes with maybe 100 extras and some action set pieces and trying to do that on a budget and at the same some things I had never done in any of my short films. Just trying to kind of figure out how to pull this off given our resources, that was typically the biggest challenge.

And the next biggest challenge was time and I think that was the biggest thing I learned in the filmmaking process and how to make compromises and how to make those compromises things that you’ll hopefully end up loving.  

JW: So what was your most memorable moment from the entire process of “Jamesy Boy”?

TW: Oh that’s a hard one. One of my most memorable moments?  I’ll give you two. One was my drive to set the first day of shooting in the morning. It was just me and Mary Louise [Parker] in the car.  And we drove from the hotel to set, it was about a 20minute drive, it was 4am and we didn’t say anything to each other. It was just pure silence.  I could see her getting into character already.

I just had this feeling, I had hardly slept the night before, I was too anxious. I had this feelings I was driving to base camp, and seeing all the trailers and trucks, and realized it was one of these pinch me moments something I had dreamed about for a long time.

That was one of them and then I would say the moment we wrapped and heard “that’s a wrap.” That was a very similar feeling. It was pretty neat moments.

JW: Trevor thanks so much. Thanks for spending some time with me. I enjoyed the movie very much and continued success.

TW: Thank you so much.

“Jamesy Boy,” presents a gritty, realistic and graphic portrayal of a lost society and resurrects a coming of age street gang prison film.

"Jamesy Boy" opens January 17, 2014 in select cities and on VOD January 3, 2014. See this film.


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