Interview with @DarkHarvest420 ‘s James Hutson ( @realjameshutson ) from @kleffnotes

James Hutson has worked at the craft of acting his entire life, and he has been a part of such films as Reindeer Games and Insomnia as well as guest starring in the television series Supernatural and Smallville. Hutson has made his debut as a feature film writer with his noir thriller Dark Harvest and I had the pleasure of talking with him about not only writing, but directing and starring in this intriguing production.

How would you describe Dark Harvest in your own words?

“It’s a noir murder mystery that takes place within the marijuana industry, on the eve of legalization. The film tracks two growers trying to figure out how they’re going to fit into a new world where marijuana is completely legal, and while they are doing that the main character’s best friend is murdered.”

How’d you come up with the idea for the movie?

“I used to do an acting gig for the police when I was a young struggling actor. I worked with the police for training new recruits. I’d play a criminal, bank robber, hostage taker, I’d steal a cop car and the whole squad would chase me down and arrest me. Anything that would help train the new cops. While hanging out with all those cops I would ask the veterans if they had any interesting stories. I wanted to write a movie and I was looking for ideas. One of the cops told me about his friend who thought there was a hash dealer in an apartment on Christmas Eve. He woke up the building manager, the sergeant, and the swat team, confident he saw hash in the apartment through binoculars from the building across the street. The officer telling me this story said that he had looked to his friend before they busted the door down and said, “Are you sure there’s hash in there?” and he said, “I know hash when I see it.” It turned out that it was foam for sound insulation, the guy was a sound engineer. That cop ended up with the nickname “I know hash when I see it”. I liked the idea of a guy branded with a nickname for a bust that went sideways, and that was all I needed to base the script on.”

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What’s it like being the writer, director, and star of a movie?

“It’s too many jobs for sure. There’s a reason that nobody else on the planet would do that job. For me, I’ve been an actor my whole life and I wanted to make a movie. It was a necessary evil for my acting career. I couldn’t find a director that would work for free, and I already wrote the script, so that covered the writing job. For production, I think nowadays actors and other artists find themselves in an extremely competitive field and it’s important for them to initiate their own projects. That’s how the movie started, then the actual mechanics of doing the job were very difficult because it’s hard to manage a crew of a hundred people, and then say, “Action”, and be in character and deliver the story. That’s near impossible, but the positive side of it is that those three jobs are extremely interconnected and overlap in an infinite number of ways. While it logistically was hard to manage the movie, direct the actors, and play a part, I also had the real benefit of being at the center of the story creatively.”

Did any of those roles take more time than the others?

“The acting was always the number one focus. When an audience sits down and watches a movie they can forgive a shaky camera or a lack of artistic lighting, but in my opinion they can’t forgive poor acting. Since acting has been my life’s passion, the acting is ten times more important for me. I depended on a lot of people around me to handle the crew and handle the cameras so that I could act. There were unique situations where I would be the character in an emotionally volatile state instructing the director of photography and other producers on how to run the set. Being the character and giving directions at the same time would be a very unique experience for anybody in the movie business.”

Because you were the writer, while you were acting did you have to try and forget what you already knew would happen?

[laughs]

“That’s the secret to good acting. It’s doing a mountain’s worth of preparation and then when the director says “action” it’s time to forget it all and let the story reveal itself. That’s the discipline.”

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What were some of your favorite moments on set?

“That’s hard to narrow down. One of them involved an actor named Bernie Coulson. A friend of mine located him for me because I had named the lead character in Dark Harvest after him. I had auditioned with him once and thought he was one of the best actors I’d ever worked with. He used to live with Brad Pitt, he was Pitt’s inspiration for his character Floyd in True Romance, and he had a huge career in the early ‘90s. He had some major drug problems and then just disappeared. He was a kind of legend to my generation of actors after he played opposite Jodi Foster when she won her Academy Award for The Accused. I had a meeting with him and told him I named the main character after him because he was such a great actor. Through that we became friends and I created a new part for him in the movie. That was probably one of the highlights of the movie for me, helping a new friend who was struggling with drugs and getting him back into something healthy like acting.

Besides that moment, working with AC Peterson, who was my original Method Acting teacher, was a dream. He and I set the tone for the movie in the early stages of my writing, and the relationship between his character and mine became so effortless on set that I could run the camera and just stand beside him and the audience would get the story. It was a real joy. The whole thing was awesome.”

How did Cheech Marin become involved in the project and what was it like working with him?

“I wrote a part specifically for Cheech and then had my casting director send it to his agent. Within 48 hours his agent contacted us and said that Cheech really liked my writing and wanted to do the movie. There wasn’t much back and forth negotiating, the message from Cheech was, “let’s make this deal happen”. I wound up flying down to his house in Los Angeles and we hung out and got to know each other. We talked about our work, and my experiences in Hollywood, and the directors I had worked with. At some point I asked how he felt about me making any adjustments to the script before our shoot, and he said he trusted my writing and that he’d been on Nash Bridges for years and could handle any last minute changes. From the moment I picked him up from the airport in Vancouver, before we started filming, he always carried an attitude with me that he was ready to do whatever I needed to make the movie a success. It was kind of surreal that this actor I had looked up to for so many years, who I’d watched in every Cheech and Chong movie multiple times as a kid, was treating me with such regard as his director. In terms of acting, I’m very serious about the acting craft and so is he. There was great mutual respect and it was a joy to work with such a seasoned actor. It was effortless, that’s normally the case with veteran actors. When I rehearsed with Al Pacino in Insomnia it was just some of the most effortless acting I’ve ever been involved in, and Cheech was no different. On this movie, with Cheech, we had bonded two months prior to filming and there was a cool relationship being built outside of the film that was apparent within it.”

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I saw that this wasn’t the first movie that you had written, directed and acted in.

“I made a documentary in Cuba about Chevy Impala owners in Havana. I also owned an old Chevy Impala, so it was something I was interested in, and I was going to university down there. I was writing about what it was like to own a car in a communist country. I filmed Fidel Castro and juxtaposed his discourse about transportation versus what was actually happening on the street. I uncovered more of the illegal side of Havana. When I filmed Fidel’s speech that was actually the last time that he spoke in public. They let me film him from only 50 feet away because I was foreigner studying at the University of Havana, which garnered some special treatment, so I got his whole speech. Within a month after that he got sick, stepped down as the President, and never spoke in public again. It was a very historical piece.”

What sorts of projects do you have in the works?

“I have a few movies that I’m developing and I’m just trying to squeeze in writing time while I’m doing work to promote Dark Harvest. I’m in a sweet spot right now because I learned a lot about writing from this experience.”

Dark Harvest was a learning experience for you as the first feature that you wrote then?

“Yes, it’s the first feature film that I’ve written. You just learn through your mistakes. Some things I wrote in the original script didn’t work when I filmed them, and other times they worked really well. Sometimes you can see what actors can and can’t give you, what ideas you might have that might be cinematic. All the work on this movie is really steering my writing for the next one.”

What sort of films are you considering in the future?

“I tend to write dark stuff, I don’t know why, part of me would like to write something completely different to mix it up. I don’t know if it will be another murder mystery, but I tend to like crime and gritty street characters. I like noir movies with cool twists. I imagine it will be in the noir genre.”

So, no rom-coms?

“I should ideally be writing a rom-com so maybe I will, but so far I’m at this point where right now they’re all noir or sci-fi. I would write a comedy, but I’m aware that it’s the hardest one to master. Ideally I’d like to show some diversity in my writing by creating something in every genre like Stanley Kubrick.”

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Little bit of an odd question, has anyone ever mistaken you for Jason Statham?

“That’s so funny that you would ask that. At each screening of the movie at least one person has come up and said I look like Jason Statham or I’m a Jason Statham kind of guy.”

If you meet Jason Statham you should totally tell him that you should do a movie together.

“We could be brothers or something.” [laughs]

Where can people find the movie?

“Right now we’re touring at North America film festivals. All the information can be found on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/darkharvestmovie) and on our website, darkharvestmovie.com. We are currently looking for a distributor. Through the festivals the movie has already won awards, including a Best Supporting Actor for Cheech Marin and Best Thriller from the Oregon Independent Film Festival.”

You can check out the trailer for Dark Harvest below:

 

The Nerdy Girl Express will also have a review of the award winning thriller up very soon.

I would like to thank James again for allowing me to interview him and I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.

You can find Dark Harvest on Twitter, @DarkHarvest420, and check their Facebook page for updates on screenings and release dates.

You can find The Nerdy Girl Express on Twitter, @thenerdygirlexp. Find me on Twitter, @kleffnotes, on my blog, kleffnotes.wordpress.com, on my kleffnotes YouTube channel, I run The Nerdy Girl Express Snapchat, thenerdygirlexp, and I post recipes on the iZombie Support Group site.

 

 

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