A Journey into the Past: A Conversation with Filmmaker Jason Charnick
Filmmaker Jason Charnick brings what he calls his “passion project” to the public this week, an emotional and revealing filmmaking journey that was years in the making.
“Getting Over,” which will be screened this weekend in Asbury Park, chronicles 17 hours of videotape taken by Charnick’s uncle of his father’s final days.
In 1997, Jason’s father and lifelong heroin addict Ray Charnick, recorded 17 hours of video interviews with his brother, noted New York City artist Arnie Charnick. The topics covered his entire life, from his childhood growing up in the Bronx, up until just a few months before he died of AIDS.
Jersey Shore Vibe spoke with Charnick about how this project of a lifetime came to be.
“When I first moved to Los Angeles from New York City in the fall of 1999, I already had that box of tapes from my uncle, and I was planning on looking at them far earlier than I actually did,” Charnick said. “I would constantly remember that they were there, always wanting to do something with them, but I guess as the human mind is wont to do, I just always found myself with something "more important" than finally busting them out. I wasn't ready.” Although Charnick started viewing the tapes back in 2004, it wasn’t until years later that he was finally able to face the film he knew he had to make.
“It wasn't until 2011 that I finally felt compelled to truly rip that band-aid right off,” he said. “Both my professional and personal lives were at a standstill, I didn't have any personal projects that were inspiring me, I couldn't keep a relationship going for more than a few months at a time and I felt things were really stagnant in my life. I needed a push to move things forward again. I didn't think I'd be ready, but just like I said in the film... once I started watching, I couldn't stop.”
Charnick believes his father was eager to tell his story.
“He knew as well as anyone how an addict's life gets reduced down to stereotypes by society at large - he was keenly aware of how America treats their addicts, and he and he had something to say about that,” said Charnick. “It wasn't always a good and beneficial life, but he also knew that his struggles - not only with drugs, but with his personal relationships as well - could be of some help to others experiencing what he just spent a majority of his adult life living through.”
Charnick calls the crafting of the film out of the many hours of videotape the most challenging of his professional life. He cites editor, Sharon Rutter, as being instrumental in molding the hours of tape into a film.
“There were many, many roads we could have travelled down, but I was so lucky and blessed to find my exceptionally talented editor, Sharon Rutter,” he said. “I was also trained as an editor first and foremost, but I also knew that I was way too close to the subject matter to try and wear all these hats by myself.”
Charnick calls the filmmaking process--from concept to distribution--a “complete eye opener.”
“I had made a few short films in the past, and I had been working in the studio system for a decade, working on marketing and promotional spots,” he said. “I also had my ear to the ground in the independent film community, but it's a very different experience when you're right in the middle of making something on your own. Getting Over was my first feature, and it really gave me the opportunity to see how everything comes together to create a cohesive film.”
“As my father's son, it really gave me a complete picture of him as a man, from young adulthood up until his death,” he said. “I say in the film, and have been saying it for years, that I could count on both hands the number of times I saw my father during his life. I had a wonderful opportunity to spend a few weeks - just the two of us - getting to know him like never before, and I think at the end of the day, that's all any son really wants - to spend time with their dad - and I'm very glad that it wasn't too late for me to finally do that.”
Charnick goes back to one of the underlying themes of the film—the limiting view of addicts and the prevailing idea that they are “disposable.”
“I always connected deeply with the fact that everyone has to forge to their own way in this world, and we're all a product of our upbringing,” he said. “We all have our own stories to tell, and we're all affected by our life experiences in unique ways. I guess it's funny to think of it this way, but for me it's the uniqueness of our personal journeys that binds us together, because the underlying universal themes end up being what's most important. And it's one of the reasons I have always found myself drawn to independent film, because it's these unique stories - the ones that you don't always hear - that demonstrate our commonality, the human condition, if you will.” Charnick says a number of people have reached out to him after seeing the film, many of whom are trying to help a family member struggling with addiction.
“It always touches my heart to see people look to the film for guidance and inspiration,” he said. “Throughout my childhood and well into adulthood actually, I would often wonder why my family was "chosen" to deal with the adversity of addiction, but now it almost feels like it couldn't have gone any other way. And if what I went through, including the experience of making the film, can help other people with their challenges, then it's my extreme honor to do so.”
“Getting Over" will screen at the Collective Art Tank, 529 Bangs Ave., Asbury Park on Friday, April 26th at 7 pm and Saturday, April 27th at 7pm.
The film premiered at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival and won awards at both the 2018 Indigo Moon Film Festival and 2018 Impact Doc Festival. Gravitas Ventures picked up distribution rights to the film as well.