These are some of the movies and television shows that have influenced me; particularly with the first feature I co-wrote/directed, “Jerry.”
“Freaks & Geeks” 1999
Created by Paul Feig & Produced by Judd Apatow
Hands down one of my favorite shows of all time. The characters are complex, funny, unforgettable and relatable. It’s a perfect combination of awkward and hilarious with a healthy dose of heart. I didn’t understand how television bureaucracy worked when I first discovered Freaks and Geeks on TV Saturday nights and so was unaware of it being cancelled after one season. I searched and searched for more episodes but never found any and didn’t know why. Regardless, it ended in a way that felt complete.
I watch it over and over on DVD and Netflix streaming. The realistic portrayal of the teenagers on the show and the complexities of their lives with each other and in high school inspired me to write stories about kids growing up and portraying their points of view in an honest way.
“Stand By Me” 1986
Directed by Rob Reiner
“Stand By Me” is one of my favorite stories about friendship. It breaks my heart when Gordy talks about the boys all going their separate ways at the end of the movie. I want them to be together as kids forever, but eventually they have to grow up and walk their own paths. I’m drawn to the idea that not all relationships in life last, whether romantic or otherwise, but that some people only connect with each other for a short time. It’s a hopeful way to look at the nature of life – not everyone can be together forever but the time you do have is meaningful and worthwhile, even if only for a short time. These themes were influential on the nature of Jerry’s relationships in “Jerry.”
“Punch-Drunk Love” 2002
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
When I saw it in the theater for the first time in October of 2002, I regretted going to the last show of the night because I wanted to watch it again immediately. The emotion of the characters is completely in sync with the emotion of the camera and it makes it all feel alive and full of adrenaline. Barry, played by Adam Sandler, is an awkward guy that gets thrown into a situation that he doesn’t want to be in – always a fun premise. Barry doesn’t want to meet his sister’s friend and get “set up,” but she forces her will on him and ends up introducing them anyhow. Despite Barry’s hesitancy, he ends up going to great lengths to take a trip to Hawaii to “run in” to the woman there. Punch-Drunk Love is a deeply affecting movie because it is so wrought with passion and emotion.
“Before Sunrise” 1995
Directed by Richard Linklater
This is an intensely thought provoking, emotional and in the moment story. I didn’t see it until years after it was released when a friend recommended it. I remember watching it before making “Jerry” for inspiration with Jerry and Rachel — their connection, their first kiss and how they go their separate ways. It’s a movie with a bittersweet ending full of hope.
Directed by Alexander Payne
The ending of “Sideways” was a big influence for “Jerry.”The tension and ambiguity when Miles goes back to Maya’s apartment – not knowing what was going to happen but imagining what could be. It’s an exciting way to end the movie. The ambiguous ending allows the audience to come away from the movie with their own interpretation; for the character’s lives and even their own.
Directed by Steven Brill
We quote this movie all the time. “Jerry” was named after the main character in “Heavyweights”, Gerald ‘Gerry’ Garner. It’s a heartfelt story about kids growing up and coming into their own. Jerry and Steven’s relationship was inspired by the relationship between Gerry and his counselor Pat in Heavyweights. Pat gives advice to Gerry and encourages him, but when Pat was down, Gerry was able to cheer him up and inspire him. Jerry and Steven have a similar give and take relationship in “Jerry,” albeit somewhat more contentious.
“The Simpsons” 1989
Created by Matt Groening
I’ve watched “The Simpsons” since they were on Tracy Ullman in the 80s. I like to say “The Simpsons” taught me everything I know. I never missed an episode growing up and would race down to the TV to make sure I didn’t miss the opening to see what Bart was going to write on the chalkboard and what the new couch gag would be. The Simpsons was considered racy back in the day (the 90s) and I knew kids growing up who weren’t allowed to watch it. It’s hard to believe that “The Simpsons” was considered a bad show to watch back then. Rewatching it now has only made that sentiment seem even crazier; the show is sweet, hilarious, full of heart and most of all, about a family who sticks together through all of life’s ups and downs.