Indie Spotlight: "Maggie's Farm"

Director Jacob Viness' latest feature-length film, Maggie's Farm, was recently released on Amazon and iTunes. The black-and-white film, shot locally in Woodstock, is a mixture of a workplace and caper comedy.

During a long, mundane night shift at the ice cream store, discussing films, girls, their generation's problems and their hate-filled bosses, Michael (Justin McEver), Todd (Kyle Korzonowski) and Bradley (Shaquille Wharton) decide that the only way that they can get back at their bosses is by staging a robbery at their own store in a scheme to get worker's comp. It's been described as "Clerks gone wrong."

Jacob was kind enough to answer a few questions about the film.

CinemATL: Tell us a bit about your background... how did you get into filmmaking?

Jacob: I grew up obsessed with movies and started making videos early in high school during video productions class. That eventually graduated to a little more mature filmmaking process early in my college years. I went to community college to study TV Production and then transferred to Georgia State's film program. I dropped out after three semesters because I hated school and saw that most of my favorite filmmakers didn't go to school, so I figured I could save some money and learn on my own. I began learning on my own by reading about filmmaking (online and in textbooks), watching an enormous amount of films and often watching them again with director commentary or "behind the scenes features," and, most importantly, making my own films. I mostly learned by just doing it. I wrote, directed, produced and edited roughly 10 short films over the course of about four years. This was basically my film school. 

CinemATL: Who are your influences?

Jacob: My influences for Maggie's Farm particularly were the early works of Jim Jarmusch, Richard Linklater's Slacker and the French New Wave films of the '60s. I also studied the tone of Tarantino films. I wanted the serious moments to be just as important as the jokes and I felt he does that better than anyone.

My overall biggest influences are Paul Thomas Anderson, Martin Scorsese, The Coen Brothers, Stanley Kubrick, Quentin Tarantino, Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, Jim Jarmusch, Richard Linklater, Steven Spielberg, Wes Anderson, Classic Hollywood Noirs, The French New Wave and the American New Wave.

CinemATL: Why did you decide to shoot this film?

Jacob: Like any artist, I just had to. I had made ten short films and was desperate to make a feature. I was sick of my mundane day job and had built up a lot of anger about it towards my bosses and my situation in general. My friends Kyle Korzonowski and Shaquille Wharton (who play Todd and Bradley in the film) came up with an idea for a film that I kind of liked, so I re-shaped it with my creative voice and channeled my work frustrations into the story.  We had a friend, Josh Barrett, who let us shoot at his Bruster's. We had a location and script, so we decided to take the jump and, luckily, late in pre-production, executive producer Carl A. Pitts came on board and ended up funding half the film.

CinemATL: Where did you shoot your film?

Jacob: We shot at a Bruster's in the Woodstock area, the Atlanta suburbs, in April of 2016.  We shot when they were closed, so like midnight to 6 a.m. every night/morning for eight nights. The shooting schedule was absolutely brutal and we had to physically move all the ice cream to outside coolers every night for sound issues and then move them back after wrap. Fun stuff.

CinemATL: In your opinion, why should our readers watch your film?

Jacob: If someone is following CinemATL they are probably a creative type. I think most creative types have gone through the phase (or are currently in it) when you are stuck paying the bills in a non-creative day job and you wake up every morning feeling like you can offer something so much more to the world. That's what this film is about. Our characters deal with it in a violent, wrong, playful, hilarious way, but the emotions are truthful.  I've also had a lot of people who worked in any kind of retail job or fast food job tell me that the film is very relatable, so non-creative types can enjoy it, too.

CinemATL: Anything else unique/cool about your film that you'd like the audience to know?

Jacob: Going back to my high school video productions days, this film is almost like a compilation of the creative relationship I've had with my friend Justin McEver. He and I were both anchors on the school news together back then and he has acted in all of my films. Maggie's Farm allowed Justin a new way to collaborate with me. Along with acting, Justin produced the film with me. Fifteen years of friendship, and roughly 10 years of working together created the two-headed monster that steered the ship of Maggie's Farm. Not sure how cool or unique that story is, but 10 years of collaboration seems somewhat long and unique for a couple of 26 year old dudes. When it comes to art, don't follow the "don't do business with your friends" rule. You have to make movies with your friends.

You can watch Maggie's Farm now on Amazon or iTunes!  For updates on the film, follow Jacob Viness on twitter @JacobiWanKenobi

If you are a local indie filmmaker and would like your work highlighted on, please tweet us @CinemATL