Jon Gries is one of Hollywood’s more experienced character actors. his career began in 1968, at the young age of 9, alongside Charlton Heston in ‘Will Penny’ – directed by none other than Tom Gries; his father. You are also likely to know him from ABC’s ‘Lost’, ‘Taken 1 & 2’ and for his role as Uncle Rico in the independent classic ‘Napoleon Dynamite’.
Now, Jon has teamed up with writer Derek Walker to produce ‘Another Man’s Gun’; A western motion picture that he will be directing. The pair are trying to raise funds & awareness through a Kickstarter Campaign, and various other promotional avenues. Here is the film’s website – AnotherMan’sGun
Adam: So, I understand your directing a new film called ‘Another Man’s Gun’…
Jon: Yeah! We started a Kickstarter campaign, but I have a couple of meetings with some people who are possibly looking to fund the film completely. There are a lot of people who like Westerns..and they can often afford to fund films directly. It wouldn’t be the first on the studios list to do, because of the limited international opportunities.
Adam: Where did the idea come from? I have been talking with Derek Walker who I believe was the writer of the film?
Jon: That’s right, Derek wrote the script, then contacted me and sent it over. We had worked together on a music video before, I directed a video for a band…Derek actually replaced the guitarist at the end of the video, so I met him as I was editing and we began talking. He had seen a film I directed, so he contacted me and asked if I could read his script…and I immediately loved it. It needed a little bit of work though, so over the course of about a year, a year and half, we got together about once a week and tackled it.
Adam: I wanted to ask you about your creative process. I know you have done a lot of acting over your career, and now your moving to direction. How do you think they will compare?
Jon: Well, there are certain methods you employ when you act, I think if you stick to your routine, for me personally, I found I was relying on the fact that I had my routine down. I was recently co-teaching a class with director James Savoca, and I found that I was more or less backtracking and going through my routine, and I realised that I am not as methodical as I once was. So now with directing, obviously it is a broader endevour, you have to answer questions to everybody, with every aspect, in every department. Which I personally love.
Adam: I wanted to ask you about the production of the film, do you have any ideas where you’re going to shoot it?
Jon: One of the things that happens with this kind of situation, particularly with investors, is finding a place that gives you a tax credit. Lets say you have a place with 35% tax credit, then basically your good exposure ultimately ends up being 65%, which is appealing to investors. The film is set in Texas and Louisiana, so ideally it would be in one of those states. Derek grew up in Nebraska, but the story is much more a Texas story.
Adam: So lets talk about the characters, the main character is called Buck…
Jon: Well, basically, his character has a mother and two younger sisters. In the back-story his father was killed in a barn fire when they had their own farm, so now they are essentially servants for a rancher, who is…not a kind person. He’s a very mean tough guy; he has designs on Buck’s mother and mistreats Buck. So, the story is – Buck bids for a job to pick up a teacher in Louisiana because it pays 100 dollars. A very good sum of money in 1844. He wants to use the money to buy a small parcel of land to farm with his family and get free of the mean landlord Greguson. The trip could take as long as 6-8 months. He gets the job because he still has his fathers horse and wagon to use for the journey. He is living in the unorganized territory of Nebraska. The teacher would be the first brought in to the area.
Adam: Do you have any ideas on casting?
Jon: Well, the main character would defiantly be played by one of these new up and comers. There are so many of them, and there are a lot of kids that I have worked with. Patrick Warburton has just signed up, and Val Kilmer is a great friend of mine, whether or not he will be available we don’t know, there are a lot of great roles to play and really we didn’t want to start reaching out to anybody when we have people that are interested in coming aboard. My main priority is obviously ‘Another Man’s Gun’, but there is actually another film called ‘Big Life’ that I am directing, so which ever comes first we will start the casting process – but I have grown so fond of ‘Another Man’s Gun’ and the process.
Adam: Who are you aiming the film at? Are we to expect a gun’s blazing western, or a more family orientated picture?
Jon: I think that it would most defiantly be a PG film, particularly in violence. There is actually a side story that happens along the journey, where Buck’s guide, who is a really wild, cantankerous character for the time, knows about some robbers who are held up in a hotel. When he ‘robs the robbers’ they of course begin to chase Buck, because unknown to him, his guide has hidden the money underneath Buck’s wagon.
Adam: How far into the production are you? When do you think the film will be released?
Jon: I would say we are in the pre-production stage, we probably won’t start shooting until sometime in late summer or early fall, that way we would get the season change, or at least some of it, so we can get a scope for how incredibly long the journey is. I mean, it is a eight month long journey!
Adam: I have to ask as well, because obviously you where in ‘Taken’, what was it like working with Liam Neeson?
Jon: Oh, he is such a wonderful guy. He is very giving, he loves to sit and have a conversation, he is a great conversationalist and one of those really really curious people, he always listens and is interested in what you have to say, a really very engaging person. Very generous. When I got the call to do the first one, I really didn’t think it would be much of a movie, I thought maybe it would be a European release because I didn’t think people would believe the character could take on all these people, but you know, it really attracted audiences – and also, Liam being so good in the movie, was such a draw, he was so likeable.
Adam: Excellent! Well thank you for talking to me Jon.