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New Orleans Film Festival, 2022: A Q&A with Jason Foster
Director of "In Search of...Pregame"
The 2022 New Orleans Film Festival ran from November 3 - 13 (with both in-person and virtual showings).
The following is a Q&A with filmmaker Jason Foster, on his short film In Search of…Pregame - a personal docu-essay piece that moves through home videos, past movie projects, present anxieties, and potential tomorrows, all told through a gaze of Basketball. For sure, it was among my favorite flicks at this year’s fest. I’m uncertain as to when and how Pregame will screen again but do follow Jason on his website.
1) Not a Cool Runnings fan?
Jason Foster: I can't tell you the last time I watched that movie. But when it came out in '93 (I was nine), I saw it in the theaters, and I was excited that my Jamaican culture was being represented and reflected on the big screen. Not to mention, at the time, I knew nothing of Jamaica having had a bobsled team. "It's educational and about Jamaica; you gotta take me, mom!" I might re-watch it soon. So...when the movie became a hit, and I would tell folks that I was from Jamaica, the first thing that would come out of most people's mouths was either asking if I had seen Cool Runnings (yes), a quote from the movie (how original), can you do a Jamaican accent (yes but not for you) or you don't have an accent (I'm sorry?) or some other uninformed question or notion about the country (There's electricity in Jamaica? One boy asked me in the third grade after I played a Bob Marley song for show and tell).
Eventually, a mere mention of the film would elicit a vitriolic Pavolian response from me. The question of whether or not I had seen Cool Runnings or known of its existence became an indicator, right or wrong, of the asker's ignorance which would be followed by a glib comment, no matter what I said in response. If you wanted to get a rise out of Marty McFly, you'd call him yellow. Back in the day, to get a rise out of me, all you had to do was ask if I saw Cool Runnings.
2) Pregame feels like an amalgamation or reconciliation of various personal projects and feelings of yours, from an unfinished Jamaican piece that’s brought up to various family concerns expressed through photographs and audio, drawn up in a collage of sorts. How did all of it come about in this movie?
Jason Foster: Thanks, and I promise I'm not trying to dodge this question or be truculent. I just made what I wanted to see. All the things that you see on the screen are me and from my mind. If I got excited by an idea during the edit, I would try it, and if I liked it, it stays in the picture, kid.
3) You and Zac Manuel made some striking visuals, my favorite of which was at the end, of the line on the basketball court floor, during the conversation with your mother. Was there much planning for the cinematography, or was it improvised?
Jason Foster: Zac Manuel and I are frequent collaborators. He's easily one of my favorite people to be around, film set or not, and his work and ethics are second to none. When I make the feature version of Pregame, which will be named In Search Of...He's shooting it! For Pregame, the only piece Zac filmed was the segment with my son and me back in 2016.
I filmed the basketball court "scene" during the spring of 2020. It was not too long after the NBA shutdown, which, if memory serves correctly, caused the rest of the nation to take it seriously. I still think some folks look at Rudy Gobert sideways for his microphone mishap.
At any rate, I thought the footage looked nice and used it in a very short film called Requiem for a Season. The city took most hoops off the backboards at that same court because of Covid. I thought footage of the lines was the perfect backdrop for my mother's interview. I have some thoughts on what the lines mean, but I'll keep that to myself.
4) The long sequence of you shooting hoops by yourself, with audio from a Jamaican trip playing in the background, stunned me for various reasons. One reason, in particular, was the use of text-based commentary throughout, which showed both a sense of humor and some strong self-reflection. What did using the text mean for you, and why the home video-ish font?
Jason Foster: Ultimately, it was a way for me to interact with the viewer and not have their experience be passive. As I'm bricking free throws left and right, perhaps deep down, I wanted the audience to be working as well. I didn't want to do a narration for various reasons, one being it lets the audience off the hook just a tad. So either you're engaged with the free throws, text, or audio. All three give you different perspectives, but it's all a piece of the same pie.
It wasn't a home-video font, but if you thought it was, we'll keep it at that. Can't give you everything, Bill!
5) Few films I’ve seen have used reality and emotional memory as well as Pregame. What was the editing process like, and how would you compare making this film to other works that you’ve done?
Jason Foster: Before Pregame was a proper film, I uploaded four out of the five segments to Instagram in August 2021. It was a self-imposed exercise/challenge to post a basketball video from August 23-August 27. For those who don't remember, Hurricane Ida hit on August 29, 2021, so my family evacuated, and I never uploaded the last segment, which most likely would've been vastly different than what ended up in the film. But the response to the videos was so positive that I strung together the four segments, did some additional editing, and ultimately completed the fifth segment. Overall, the process was easy because I made it for myself, had much of the footage already digitized, and had fun with it. On the flip side, I'm also dredging up these latent and not so latent, emotions around my father's passing, my mortality, and my family history. I'm also asking my mother questions about my father she probably hasn't answered in years. There would be some days when I would feel drained, and I'm thinking, "Damn, did I catch Covid?" Then I remind myself that I just spent a couple of hours thinking, writing, and editing things that I've kept buried for so long. I haven't made a film this personal, so nothing compares (2 U!) to this other than the nuts and bolts of filmmaking.
6) What movies would you recommend to audiences that want to see or have already seen In Search of…Pregame?
Jason Foster: That's a great question. I didn't consciously try to emulate any particular film(s). That said, you can't go wrong with Hoop Dreams. I would also say watch your home movies, old VHSs, Mini-DVs, Hi-8s, etc. Digitizing my family tapes is how this film came into shape.
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