By Rachel Ambelang
The Austin Film Festival offers Texan filmmakers a chance to shine. This year, Austin resident Jeremiah Jones made his directing debut with his film “Restive.”
“Restive” is a story about Jeva, a mom who wants the best for her son, Hooper, which requires escaping a violently abusive relationship with her husband Lott.
She escapes from Lott only to be constantly hunted by his two friends. Jeva must decide how far she will go to protect her child and herself.
Jones said of the film, “It’s rooted in domestic violence. [The audience] is thrown in the middle of this abusive relationship.”
The story follows Jeva’s daily life, giving viewers a sense of what it is like to be in a violent domestic environment.
“It’s just glimpses of everyday violence,” Jones said.
Jones made a conscious decision to shy away from using to blood or gore depict the physical abuse. Instead, Jones left the portrayal of the emotional conflicts up to the actors.
Jones wrote, directed, produced, and edited “Restive” with no prior experience in the film industry. Jones said he wrote the script knowing that he wanted to make the film himself and not sell it.
“I only did two drafts, and in the second draft all did was add more back story,” he wrote.
It took him less than a year to finish the script, and after that Jones admits that he begged private equity investors to help him fund the film.
Jones explained the process of finding everything they needed for the film.
“Movie making is a contact sport,” he said.
Jones said if he were asked where or how he met his cinematographer, he probably would not be able to say, because he was constantly trying to make connections with people who could help make the film.
After finishing the painstaking process of finding funds, Jones turned to family and friends that live in Crawford, his hometown, for support.
“I grew up in Crawford”, he said, “and everyone in my family helped make the movie.”
Two of those friends were Baylor students at the time. Sarah Rogers and Kimberly Garth were working at Common Grounds and got the owner’s permission to use the Common Grounds’ furniture to fill a house that Jones was using as a set. Jones was extremely grateful for the girls’ help.
“There are only two locations in the film, the woods and the house, and you don’t need to decorate the woods. Without their help we wouldn’t have the most important set-up,” he said.
Jones and his team got creative and took all the help they could from outside sources simply because they did not have the money to pay for everything.
Common Grounds manager Blake Baston remembers when the coffee shop gave furniture to Jones.
“I think I actually even gave them a shirt,” Baston said.
“Restive” premiered in the US at the Cinquest Film Festival in March of this year. It was entered into the New Visions Category, which screens films with inventive plots and twists on conventional storylines.
The film premiered internationally at the Raindance Film Festival in London on Oct. 4. It was submitted into the Best Debut Feature competition.
Jones got to work with an incredibly talented actress during the film, Marianna Palka. Palka, who plays Jeva, wrote, directed, and starred in the film “Good Dick” which was accepted into the Sun Dance Film Festival in 2008. Like Jones, Palka made this movie without any previous experience in film.
It was after seeing “Good Dick” that Jones believed Palka would be perfect for the role of Jeva, and he began to try and contact her.
Getting past Palka’s agent was the hardest part, but once Palka read the script she was on-board.
“If you’re persistent and have a little luck,” Jones said, “you can get through.”
Working with her and all of the other actors was the best part of making the film, he said.
“Making the film was fun, but the relationships that you make with people during it is the best part,” Jones said.
“Restive” has played at several film festivals across the United States and Europe. Jones hopes that it will continue to play the festival circuit until next spring.
The main problem for independent filmmakers like Jones is, that today, anyone can make a movie, so festivals are more competitive than ever simply because they receive thousands of submissions and can only pick the top few.
The fact that “Restive” got into festivals as prestigious as the Raindance Film Festival is a tribute to how well Jones can tell a story.