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Exclusive Interview: Writer-Director Justin D. Hilliard

— by ROBERT DeFEIS —

Justin D. Hilliard is the brains behind “The Other Side of Paradise” and has his own company, Striped Socks Productions.

He was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and has been into film since the early age of 10.

Hilliard attended the University of Texas at Arlington and received his BFA in Film — Cum Laude in 2004.

“The Other Side of Paradise” had its world premiere at the 2009 AFI Dallas International Film Festival and will be released theatrically in New York City on Dec. 18.

What lead you into filmmaking? Has film always been your passion?
Well, I’ve been writing since the first and second grade. Back then, I used to sell short stories, gazettes and fake news articles to my other classmates for their lunch money. Eventually, my parents let me use their camcorder to start shooting my stories. I’ve always loved storytelling and have felt from an early age that film making was such an incredible medium. My mother used to show me old classic films and foreign films when I was a child and really sparked my fascination with cinema and encouraged my exploration of art. I’ve always been passionate about creating, whether through writing, painting, or filmmaking.

Who are some of your influences?
My influences, hmmmm … from a film standpoint, it reaches from the brilliance of [Stanley] Kubrick to the absurdity of Blake Edwards … the meticulousness of craft of Martin Scorsese to the screenwriting idiosyncrasies of Woody Allen. I have several others, including literary influences as well; however, to save time … I’ll narrow it down to a select choice few: Kubrick, Charlie Chaplin and Looney Tunes.

Where did you come up with the concept for “The Other Side of Paradise”?
Most of the film is based on real life events that happened to [my girlfriend Arianne Martin] and me. All of the relationship arc, with the questions, the tension, etc., came directly from our personal story. A lot of the other elements of the plot came from a lot of late night sessions locked away in a room with Arianne Martin and Ryan Hartsell.

How much of a challenge did you find it to direct a dog in the movie?
Larry David took zero direction. His natural instincts are the reason we had to put him in the film.
Our two other dogs couldn’t cut it, but Larry has the perfect intuition and reaction when in front of a camera and nearly steals every scene he’s in! He’s part real boy.

Do you have a favorite scene in the movie, and if so, what made it your favorite?
My favorite scene to write, read, edit and watch is the scene when Rose (Martin) and Alex (John Elliott) confront each other after the bartender scene. That scene just hits me in my core every single time I watch it. Arianne and John are both pitch-perfect and nail it. I could still pull up the raw footage and watch the single take of Arianne’s performance in that scene … it is epic, strong, passionate and soul-shattering. It’s flawless. Now, on the other hand, I do love watching the “dare” scenes too … Jamie (Frank Mosley) shines in his “‘Giant’ James Dean” moment with the waitress behind the country diner.

How have you been marketing the movie?
We’ve been doing everything from all of the online social networking sites, to grassroots campaigning, playing the festival circuit and pushing the soundtrack (which is available through our Web site and iTunes). Check out www.3thumbsupdoc.com (launching soon) for some new information on our marketing efforts.

How did the process of filming your first project, “Wednesday,” differ from the experience of making “The Other Side of Paradise”?
With “Wednesday,” we shot in both the United States and in the United Kingdom. It had a lot less of a budget and the style lent itself to a much more organic process and shoot. That film was constantly evolving from the scriptwriting stage until post-production … much more so than a regular film production. “The Other Side of Paradise” was a little larger of a budget and stylistically required quite a bit more of a pre-production period. But the major difference was shooting “TOSOP” in the heat … in the middle of summer … in Texas. It was so hot! With both projects, we’ve learned invaluable lessons to take on and apply to future projects.

You have done two projects with your wife, Arianne Martin, as the lead actress. Have there been any conflicts in ideas during the writing or filming process?
Well, with “Wednesday,” we were both still in relationships with other people, so that was only one relationship to tackle … actor and director. With “The Other Side of Paradise,” we had to work as co-writers, co-producers, director/actor and finally husband and wife, all simultaneously. There weren’t any conflicts, but we sure did get about a decade’s worth counseling and experience in our first year of marriage and during the shoot. We are better for it and I can’t imagine two other people I’d rather continue to collaborate with then my two best friends, Arianne Martin and Ryan Hartsell.

Do you ever want to do any acting in any movies (or someone else’s for that matter)?
Absolutely not! Don’t have the chops for it … the most you’d ever see out of me would be a blink and you miss it cameo.

How did you come up with the name Striped Socks Productions?
I was in a band when I was in junior high school. We’d practice for about 20 minutes or so and always quit to go make a short film instead. One day, we were trying to decide on our band name and one of the members looked at his socks and said, “Striped Socks.” We all laughed and thought it was the stupidest name possible for a heavy metal band. So, as a joke, I coined that as my production company name and started adding it to the credits before the films. I always kept it, because it represented that complete passion for film making that I had at that age … and today, I still know that the name “Striped Socks” means that, no matter what I’m doing, where I’m at in life … I can take a break and make something I’m passionate about … make a film.

On your imdb page, it says you were making films at the age of 10? That’s pretty young. What were you making at that age?
At the age of 10, it was all zombie, vampires and werewolf films. Occasionally, you’d get the dark comedy thrown in, but only if it included blood and special fx make-up. I’m just glad my parents let me explore my creative side, rather than send me off to military school for all of the bloody films I made.

Will you be directing “Pale Horse,” “Blue Like Isolation” and “Elevators”? Can you tell me a little bit about each one?
All of those have been pushed back to make room for a documentary that we begin shooting on Nov. 8. It’s called “3 Thumbs Up” and you’ll be able to find out more information and see videos soon at www.3thumbsupdoc.com. “Pale Horse” is a revolutionary horror film that would push the boundaries and blur the lines of a somewhat stale genre. “Blue Like Isolation” is a dark, quiet contemplative drama that really delves into issues of abandonment, self-identity and masculinity. “Elevators” is a dark crime comedy that I like to describe as “Clue” meets “Fawlty Towers.” We would actually love to develop that one into a series — it would be such a fun program to watch.

And, finally, is there a question you have never been asked, that you wish someone would ask you?
Well, there are two …

First, “Do you have a major studio pushing and pumping millions into the promotion of you and your films?”
Not yet (laughs). This is true independent film making and is the primary reason why we are hitting the road to shoot our documentary “3 Thumbs Up” this month. The current indie landscape is changing drastically and it’s up to all of us independents to take part in redefining the ways our films could be distributed or seen. We all have to take part in the discussion and search for new, innovative ways to find our audience.

And secondly, “What is your favorite cheese?”
By a landslide … it’s Double Gloucester.

For more information about “The Other Side of Paradise,” visit www.theothersideofparadisemovie.com.

. . .

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9 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Pat #
    1

    This is a great interview. Very informative. I like the question about how he got the Striped Socks Productions name.

  2. Disco #
    2

    Great interview.

  3. Natasha #
    3

    interesting and good interview.well done

  4. Josue #
    4

    Excellent interview Robert! You are very lucky. Justin is very talented. He will be big!

  5. The Fastest Man Alive #
    5

    I always wondered what happened to David Schwimmer after “Friends” ended. 😉

  6. Alexa M. #
    6

    Interesting interview! Good job!

  7. Ladybugger #
    7

    Great Job!

  8. 8

    Excellent interview! I have been very impressed with the marketing of this film; it looks great and I can’t wait to see it.

  9. Warholian #
    9

    Very interesting.


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