Zach Oschin, Director/Producer/Co-Writer of Chris: 2014 Heartland Film Festival Interview

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Zach Oschin is a politician, filmmaker, attorney, entrepreneur, sports enthusiast and astronaut hailing from Calabasas, CA.

HFF: What is your film about, and how did the project come to be?

ZO: Our film, Chris, is about the pressures that teenagers face as we go through the high school and discover who we are. The film follows Jenn, a senior, who must deal with the constant social pressure from everyone around her to go with the right guy to prom. Sarah and I came up with this idea when we were in our film class, and we realized how much thought people were putting into their prom night. While prom is just a big dance, the anxiety and tension it was causing in our school mates was something that we wanted to address in a film.

HFF: What was your role in the production?

ZO: I was the co-writer, director and cinematographer on the project. I partnered on this project with Sarah Evans, the lead in the film, who also co-wrote it with me. Since it was a high school film with no budget, and I was only a sophomore, I ended up doing just about every job, except acting. While that added to the stress, now that it’s over, I can say that I believe the demands helped me make something that I really feel connected to.

HFF: Why did you submit to the Heartland Film Festival? Have you been to the Festival before?

ZO: We were inspired to submit to Heartland when Julian Higgins, the director of the short film, Thief, came and visited our school. He spoke about how winning Heartland gave him a giant shot of confidence, and he added that the entire festival was a great experience for him. When we realized that you had a high school category, we immediately wanted to submit there too because of how much we admire Julian and his work. Neither of us has not been to the festival, but I am very, very excited to be able to attend this year.

HFF: This years tagline is Shift Your Perspective what lasting effect will your film have on moviegoers?

ZO: I believe that people will walk away rethinking their assumptions about prom and how important that one dance can be to the rest of a person’s life. I believe it can leave a huge impact on kids because it is such an “event”, and I hope that shines through in the film.

HFF: What has inspired you to become a filmmaker?

ZO: I am inspired by the important moments in every day life that often get overlooked as trivial. Stanley Kubrick was able to turn those moments into madness and grief and life and death, especially in Lolita, A Clockwork Orange, and 2001.  Wim Wenders was able to do it in Alice in the Cities and Wings of Desire. Great filmmakers have the ability and privilege to affect audiences around the world and hopefully shift their perspectives, or at least contribute to a dialog about an issue the filmmaker believes in. The films and filmmakers that have affected me are the ones that have inspired me.

HFF: What is something that you know about filmmaking now, but you werent told when you started your career?

ZO: I now know how much hard works it takes to make something that resonates with audiences. I made lots of small films when I was young, but they had no real story to them, which is the most important part of a really great movie. I always thought that as long as it looked good and had some actors it would be great, but over the years I have learned the importance of story, and how story drives every decision. I also understand how the film is made in pre-production; the work we do there is essential to creating a well crafted film.

HFF: What are some of your favorite movies? Whats your favorite worst movie (you know its bad, but still love it)?

ZO: I am a huge Stanley Kubrick fan and his movies dominate my top 10 list, but my favorite film is Harold and Maude. The idea that love can exist in any form is and idea that has always resonated with me as an audience member. My favorite worst movie would have to be Blades of Glory. Yes, some people think it is a terrible film, but I don’t know if I have ever laughed so hard in a theatre.

HFF: How many film festivals has your film been a part of? What do you like the most about the festival experience?

ZO: So far, Chris has been accepted into nine festivals around the country, but only one of them has happened so far. I helped co-produce one of the senior movies at my school last year, and that played in three festivals. My favorite part of the festival experience is getting to see the incredible work of other filmmakers, and then getting to connect with them and share ideas after the screenings. It’s also a lot of fun to talk with audience members about things they liked and didn’t like. I learn so many things from the audience; things that will help me grow and, hopefully, make better films in the future.

HFF: Heartland Film Festival moviegoers love filmmaker Q&As. Lets say a Festival attendee wants to earn some brownie pointswhat is a question that youd love to answer, but havent yet been asked?

ZO: My favorite shot of the film is the slider shot at the end of act two, so I would love to be asked about that and the motivation behind it.  I would also like to be asked about the staging of the lead character throughout the film, and the challenges we had filming both the first and the last scene.


See Chris in the High School Film Competition program the 2014 Heartland Film Festival:

  • Friday, Oct. 17 – 6:45 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14
  • Sunday, Oct. 19 – 2:30 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14
  • Tuesday, Oct. 21 – 6:45 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14
  • Friday, Oct. 24 – 6:15 p.m. at AMC Traders Point Showplace 12
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