Interview: Film Director Jeremy Kruse on the Screening of ‘Flüffenhaus’

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CHICAGO – Jeremy Kruse is a major part of Chicago’s vibrant film scene. The actor and writer has made a big splash with his short films, and now directs Emily Skyle’s “Fluffenhaus: The Comeback of a Pop Icon,” with an screening here September 17th.

Kruse, a Chicago area native, studied acting at New York University and focused primarily on film performance and creation. He came back here after a stint in Los Angeles, to focus on his craft and develop projects of interest in an environment where he has a sense of familiarity.

It was his recent short, ‘Anti Narrative Number 4.’ an award-winning and hilarious meditation on fame and self consciousness, that caught the attention of screenwriter Emily Skyle. She recognized that his directorial sensibility would be perfect for her pop music satire, “Fluffenhaus, The Comeback of a Pop Icon.”

Jeremy Kruse and friend during the filming of ‘Fluffenhaus: The Comeback of a Pop Icon.’
Jeremy Kruse and friend during the filming of ‘Fluffenhaus: The Comeback of a Pop Icon.’
Photo credit: John Abbott for Fluffenhaus.com

HollywoodChicago.com caught up with Jeremy Kruse on the eve of the screening of Flüffenhaus, and talked about the short films, his approach to directing and overall philosophy of filmmaking.

HollywoodChicago.com: Describe the process in which you got involved as director for the film ‘Flüffenhaus: The Comeback of a Pop Culture Icon’?

Jeremy Kruse: Emily [Skyle, the screenwriter] has seen my film ‘Anti Narrative Number 4’ and she acted in my new short, ‘Hat Trick.’ She liked my work and the way that I worked so she decided to entrust me with her baby. We get along very well and have very similar senses of humor, so she thought I’d be a really good fit.

HC: What in Emily Skyle’s screenplay most intrigued you and allowed you to connect to the directing elements that made the film work?

JK: The characters were strong, the tone was funny and the whole thing is offbeat. I was attracted by the opportunity to block and execute long flowing one-take shots. I like working with actors and I knew Emily would give me the freedom and time to focus on the acting.

HC: What in your pop culture experience did you want to convey in the farcical aspects of the Flüffenhaus journey? Is this in the tradition of ‘Spinal Tap?’

JK: We are poking fun at pop icons that have no talent. Flüffenhaus has no talent.

It is a ‘mockumentary’ like Spinal Tap, and I wanted to be careful about how to express that genre. Emily is a big fan of Christopher Guest, as am I, but we didn’t want to directly emulate what he does. It is in the same vein, yet we tried to stay original in the choices we made.

HC: The website for Flüffenhaus is comprehensive and rendered for the precise marketing of today. How important is the web in marketing films today, especially for independent features?

JK: It can’t hurt. The website we have – Fluffenhaus.com – is great, and anyone who is interested in learning about the film can go there and find out more about it.

The web is so saturated with information of all different kinds, and there are so many films that come out, both studio and independent. And there are tons of those independent films just playing the festivals, not getting the attention they should, so if you happen to stumble upon a website or get an email blast with a link, than it can be really helpful.

Screenwriter and actress Emily Skyle as Kaitlyn in ‘Fluffenhaus: The Comeback of a Pop Icon.’
Screenwriter and actress Emily Skyle as Kaitlyn in ‘Fluffenhaus: The Comeback of a Pop Icon.’
Photo credit: John Abbott for Fluffenhaus.com

HC: You recently released your second short film, “Hat Trick,” which involved a much bigger cast. What thematic circumstances are similar in this film from your first short “Anti-Narrative Number 4”?

JK: The two films don’t share much as far as themes are concerned. However, in both films I experiment with storytelling and film techniques. Both explore film in and of itself as a medium.

In Hat Trick, I have three actors play the lead role. I shot the film three times, and I present it three times, with a different actor in the lead role. It is essentially an experiment to see how three different actors can effect a feeling in the film, what three different actors can bring to a part.

HC: Describe the background of piecing together ‘Anti Narrative Number 4.’ What within the film do people who watch it most connect with, and when you won the Director’s Choice Award at the San Francisco International Festival of Shorts, what feedback did you receive from that honor?

JK: After making about 25 short films that ranged from 30 seconds to 7 minutes, one of the hardest aspects of actually making the film was scheduling. And what I’m talking about is ‘no-budget’ filmmaking. People rarely commit or even show up unless they’re getting paid, and I was getting tired of begging people to work for free.

I decided to write a film that I could do completely on my own. I ended up needing my Mom to run the camera for one shot She’s a photographer and she’s qualified, plus she works for cheap so that wasn’t a problem (laughs).

I had just seen a film called ‘’Five Obstructions’ by Lars von Trier. I thought it was hilarous, even though it wasn’t suppose to be funny. Anti Narrative became a parody of that film and out of that I began to develop themes. The biggest theme became fame and our society’s obsession with it. Anti Narrative Number 4 is about a guy making a film about himself in order to obtain fame.

The programmers of the San Francisco Fest loved the film because it’s pompous and it knows it. The narrator of the film, me, is pretentious and the film he’s making is pretentious. But he is likable, funny and honest. And people connected to the film because of that honesty and sincerity.

Jeremy Kruse in ‘Anti Narrative Number 4’
Jeremy Kruse in ‘Anti Narrative Number 4’
Photo credit: Jeremy Kruse

HC: As a younger and more contemporary filmmaker, what do you think your sensibility can most contribute to today’s filmmaking? What subject matters most interest you?

JK: I tried to make films that are funny and have depth. I understand that people want to be entertained and escape, but I also feel an audience feels cheated if a film is just pure silliness or starts funny and ends up sentimental. I strive to make films that have entertainment qualities but also have meaning.

As far as subject matters go, now I’m interested in the theme of entitlement. I just finished an animated TV pilot about a recovering crack addict who has a strong sense of entitlement (laughs).

HC: What in your childhood/secondary education or outside interest development steered you towards becoming a filmmaker? Were you fascinated more with the technique or storytelling elements of making movies?

JK: I grew up taking acting classes and being in plays, and I was always playing with my family’s video camera. I wrote my first play in high school and watched a ton of movies growing up. I didn’t become interested in film technique until I got to college, New York University, where I was an acting major. I was only in one play in college and the rest were film. By the time I was a senior, I was writing films for my friends and made my own films after I graduated.

HC: What familiar directors inspired you, either contemporary or deceased? What about their particular styles are blended in your particular style?

JK: I have many favorite directors and many films that inspired me but my very favorites are Charlie Chaplin and Woody Allen. They made and make films that are funny, smart and poignant.

HC: Speaking of Woody Allen, he once said 80% of show business success is just showing up. What is the fuel that keeps your passion burning in regard to filmmaking and to “keep showing up?”

JK: Well, money of course. I wanna make a lot of money and I want to buy stuff I don’t need. I am entitled (laughs).

HC: Finally, give one sentence promotions for Flüffenhaus, Hat Trick and Anti Narrative that will intrigue a potential audience member to show up and see them.

JK: Flüffenhaus is about a 3 pound dog that is famous.

Hat Trick is not about hockey.

Anti Narrative Number 4 contains some home movie footage of me as a little kid, and I was kind of cute back then.

‘Flüffenhaus: The Comeback of a Pop Culture Icon’ has an advanced screening and fundraiser at 7pm on Thursday, September 17th, at the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee, Chicago. Director Jeremy Kruse and screenwriter Emily Skyle will attend the event. Click here to purchase tickets and for more information.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2009 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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