Digging Deep: With Filmmaker James Cullen Bressack

Digging Deep: With Filmmaker James Cullen Bressack

Dec 11, 2016

James Cullen Bressack


Growing up a child of parents in the entertainment industry, (His father is the Emmy award-winning writer and director, Gordon Bressack, and his mom, Ellen Gerstell is an actress.) James Cullen Bressack has always had the desire to create. It started with short films that he would often attempt to hand into his teachers in lieu of written assignments, and turned to feature length films into adulthood. With each endeavor, James grows, learns and attempts something new. Each film is artistically different, but all have a social commentary, intensity and sense of diligence that has become his characteristic.



James Cullen Bressack on Evolution of his Vision for a Film:



James Cullen BressackI like to visualize a blank canvas. I take my ideas about the character, and the actor takes their ideas about the character and whatever works for both of us is what we use to paint the picture of who this person is, and determine subtext. The goal is to always come up with something really palpable. I take ordinary people and put them in extraordinary circumstances, so it’s really just a drama with horror elements. It’s the same tension and the mood that you’re putting in there. Whether I write a film or not, it doesn’t mean I am any less dedicated.


I was inspired by REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (2000) and SPUN (2002), which was reflected while directing WHITE CRACK BASTARD (2013). In the past, it was very much my style to have a super intense, relentless punch to the face like you see in HATE CRIME (2012). As time goes by there has been a bit more reservation, like with PERNICIOUS (2014) or BETHANY (2016) as opposed to constant intensity. (Some of James Cullen Bressack’s biggest influencers are Park Chan-Wook, Frank Henenlotter, Abel Ferrara and Quentin Tarantino.) I also think music is very important when making a film. The music used in WHITE CRACK BASTARD was created by Alibe, who worked with Earth, Wind and Fire, and the Chicago Kid, who worked on STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (2015).



James Cullen Bressack on the Importance of Funding to a Film:



James Cullen BressackI consider myself someone who just loves making films and hopes people enjoy watching them. I believe that the biggest part of being a director is being a problem solver. You’re constantly doing the best with the tools you have. You just make things work and move forward.


The important lessons in business and keeping your head up, I learned from my dad. He told me one thing that always kind of stuck with me. In negotiations, you’re going to get screwed, so you’re basically determining the amount of lubricant that will be used. Of course lubricant is analogous to money. The more money you have, the less it will hurt. The less you have, the more difficult the filmmaking process will be.


I’ve worked with a very bare bones budget, where the whole thing was guerrilla filmmaking. It was me, a DP and a sound person as the entire crew. I’ve also worked on films with a 120 person crew. Such was the case during the PERNICIOUS shoot.



James Cullen Bressack on Digital Filming:



TO JENNIFERJames Cullen Bressack (2013) was a special project shot using an iPhone 5, and was supposed to be released as an app in conjunction with Apple. But the designer never created the app, so that was frustrating to say the least.


Sometimes I use DSLR instead of Red, because the camera allows us to get into tight spaces and really position to get crazier angles and achieve a disorienting feel.


I would love to shoot on film to some point, but it’s just not in the cards for me right now. It seems like film isn’t really a viable option at an indie level because of the expense.



James Cullen Bressack on why Anthologies are near and dear to his Heart:



James Cullen BressackThe great thing about anthologies is that they’re the perfect background movies. I always love to have a movie on in the background when I’m working. Because you’re watching a short series of different stories, if you happen to miss something, you can just go back and re-watch it without losing the plot of a whole movie. Plus I enjoy watching the short stories over and over again.


(In the anthology film VIRUS OF THE DEAD (2017), Gordon Bressack wrote and directed THE CHANGES and James Cullen Bressack wrote and directed ROUTINE STOP.) My Dad has always worked with cartoons, but he’s a storyteller in his own right. He’s been at this craft a lot longer than I have. He has won three Emmys. I think his work in horror is because of me, though. Of course I also learned story structure from my Dad too, because he’s an amazing writer.


Keep up with James on his IMDb, his official website or follow him on Facebook.