Diary of A Nicotine Junkie and Efficiency are not big-time Hollywood films. Odds are few people have ever heard of them, but they are famous in their own respect at GW. Juniors Jon Reiling and Danny Riesser directed them both.
For Reiling and Riesser, film is more than a hobby, it is something they love to do and pour their time and energy into the projects.
“I bought a camera fall of freshman year and started meeting other kids who also were interested and that fueled my interest,” Riesser said.
The pair represents an edgier, new trend in filmmaking that has distanced itself from the formulaic directors of the past decade. When asked about their influences, Reiling and Riesser won’t name directors like Steven Spielberg or Robert Zemeckis. In fact they frown upon the “safety” of their technique. Instead, more risky directors like Wes Anderson and Kevin Smith are the directors Riesser and others will credit as directly affecting their style.
Both Reiling and Riesser made films for projects in high school and when Riesser arrived at college he immediately began to look for an outlet for his ideas.
“I remember running around campus looking for the TV station and people told me there wasn’t one,” said Riesser, who then began writing on his own. Riesser said he realized he loved this part of the process and he would be just as happy writing if he weren’t behind the camera. Now he both writes and works behind the camera for his films.
Reiling most enjoys the editing process of filmmaking.
“Editing is really where the moviemaking is done,” he said. “You can wind up editing a movie so that it is completely different from the way it was shot – it’s just you and the movie.”
Reiling said the editing process can take anywhere from a week to a year, sometimes even longer.
“It depends on how perfect you want to get it before you say that it is done,” he said.
Both Riesser and Reiling said they hope to make a living though filmmaking but know it is a difficult task.
Reiling said the best way to form a film career is to start out at the bottom. “Get an internship or job as a production assistant and get to know people,” he said.
Interning with television stations and post-production houses, where films are edited, are two ways to begin a career in film.
Riesser said he would rather forgo mainstream and instead be someone who was simply appreciated within the industry.
The filmmakers’ collaboration started spring semester 2002 with Diary of Nicotine Junkie, in which they used their friends as actors and shot around campus. The two wrote the film together. The total budget for both movies, Diary of a Nicotine Junkie and Efficiency, came out at a little more than $350, most of which was spent on food.
“It’s tough to feed eight people cheaply,” Reiling said.
Riesser said Diary of a Nicotine Junkie is his favorite type of movie. He said he far more enjoys making the quirky comedy than he does the deeply dramatic piece. It focuses on what he calls an “unpopular loser character that does something crazy.” For him that’s the most interesting type of person to see on the page and screen, one that takes on some of his own eccentrics.
Efficiency on the other hand is a far darker work and perhaps the most daring project the two have taken on. This film tells the story of a man named Norman and his growing obsession with the sounds coming from the apartment above him.
Reisser wrote and filmed the movie while Reiling directed and is currently editing the movie.
They advertised online for auditions and cast local, unpaid actors in the film. However, the filmmaking process begins long before the actors are cast in their roles.
“Making a movie is really all about planning,” Reiling said. “The goal is to be really time-efficient.”
A movie begins with a good script. From there, the pre-production includes storyboarding the scenes, which is the illustration of each individual scene and planning the shots. After the actors are cast, the actual filming process begins. The scenes of the movie are almost never filmed chronologically. The final step is the slow and tedious process of editing the movie.
Freshman Wendy Lazar, who recently attended a screening of Efficiency, said, “it was difficult to watch, almost uncomfortable.”
“It’s uncomfortable because it deals with a sense of voyeurism and what is not socially acceptable,” commented Reilling. He said the character of Norman is a very awkward man and that this awkwardness speaks to people.
This semester Riesser will participate in a program through American University to study film in Prague. He said he was enticed by the opportunity to work with actual film, a rare thing these days, as digital video is usually all that is afforded to amateur filmmakers.
“It’s one of the most amazing programs,” he said.
While Riesser is abroad, Reiling will communicate with him via the Internet about the completion and editing of Efficiency. He will also be working to help out with a few senior independent studies. He hopes to direct two projects in his senior year.
The premier of Efficiency is scheduled for a public screening this February.
-Shannon Derby contributed to this report.