Interview With Producer/Director/Writer Runar Berntsen, “Jessica Frost”

By Ruth on July 27, 2016 in movie, science fiction
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Because of my devotion to promoting the works of some actors (in this case, Rick Ravanello), I happened upon a future film of his–Jessica Frost. As it looked like filming was getting closer, I connected with the director, Runar Berntsen, and he was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me about his work in the entertainment business as well as this upcoming feature (and a special announcement–so read to the end!).

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RH: It was actually the upcoming production Jessica Frost that led me to finding you. Rick Ravanello has become a really good friend of mine.

RB: Rick’s a good friend of mine, too. Great guy.

So how did you get started in the entertainment business?

You know, it’s a long story like they always are, but I’ll try to cut it short. I’m originally from Norway–born and raised there. I’ve lived about half of my life here in the U.S. When I was about seven, I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker. Kind of crazy. I started messing around with old equipment back in the day, and my father bought me a camera. When I was about ten, eleven, what happened was–throughout the years, when I came to the U.S., I wanted to make something happen, but of course, things change. I attended film school for a little while in Hollywood till I got angry at my teachers. I don’t know if it’s the arrogance of youth or what it was but I decided it wasn’t the right thing for me. The structure didn’t fit me well. So through the years, I continued dabbling in independent film–helping guys doing commercials and things like that. My friends were making films. I was always at Sundance hanging around with the guys. I started telling myself I had to go back to what I wanted to do. And so I relocated to Norway, where I started a post-production company, Jackfruit, and we did everything–post-production for all kinds of things. It was great. And then we did a lot of commercials, corportate stuff, and it was fun. But then I ended up going back to New York, and that’s when I truly started Jackfruit in the U.S. And this time, we were focusing on production and making things. So that’s how it transitioned.

I know about going back to things you love as I’ve been doing that with writing. 

It’s a lot of fun. It’s fun to go back to what you love.

I was doing some research, but I didn’t see a lot about you online. I didn’t see a lot listed for you on IMDB.

Well, first of all, let me tell you, I spent about three years trying to get off IMDB. (laughs) In my opinion, IMDB has become this avenue for Amazon to sell products. I don’t necessarily believe half of the information there.

Well, there is some truth there as I have found several inconsistencies. I go to IMDB as a starting point, but then I look around and see what I can find elsewhere. So at this point, your company has done how many films?

We have done things that are both released and unreleased. Right now, Jessica Frost is really the big feature film for me personally and my company. My screenwriter and I co-created this story over the course of two years. We just locked in our thirty-seventh draft. (laughs) We went through the ringer with this script. After thirty-seven times, we decided to lock the script.

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Wow, that is unbelievable. I can’t remember when we started hearing about the film. We heard about it some time this year, and then we didn’t hear about it for awhile. But if you guys have been going through that with the script, that makes sense. So who is your screenwriter on this film?

Cristo Sanchez. He lives in Norway. He’s my collaborator. I’m good at certain things, but one of the things I’m bad at is writing scripts. I decided to collaborate with him on this. We created the story together and all the characters together, and he wrote it.  A lot of late nights, I’ll tell you.

What was the inspiration for writing this story? 

I think it grew out of a Viking movie that Cristo and I did together in Norway which never really got anywhere. We never elevated that project–we never sold it. Nothing ever happened with it. The characters grew out of that. I’m massively obsessed with watching films since I was a young kid. And so’s my writing partner. We wanted to create something that… when I go to the theater, I go to escape reality. I don’t want to go there to be depressed. We wanted to create something–I can’t really compare it to anything. We throw in a little bit of {Quentin} Tarantino, David Lynch, sort of a Blade Runner, Mad Max, From Dusk to Dawn kind of feel. So that’s what you got. We pay homage to several filmmakers in the movie and to some movies that we’ve seen. It’s gonna be filmed in Arizona as well. Pretty cool.

So this is your first feature film with the company, is that correct?

Yes, it’s an independent feature and obviously not the budget of a Hollywood blockbuster. We spent a long time casting each and every actor. We’ve been casting over the course of twelve months at least. Hand-picked each and every one. That to me is big. The visual components of this movie is very big to me too. I have a huge passion for film and camera technology as well as the visual techniques. For me, it’s just as much as making art as it is making a film.

When I was looking at the cast, I saw that you not only had Rick, but you have Kristy Swanson. And those two are really good friends. He speaks so highly of her. You really have secured some amazing actors. It’s great that you have been able to find people who are as passionate about it as you are.

Yeah, we have Corbin {Bernsen} and great little character actors throughout the film.  Our main three actors are not announced yet which are Jessica Frost and two villains. But they will be announced fairly, fairly soon. It’s a fun project, and I will say the crew is astounding. We’ve been so lucky to obtain Ele Bardha who is the stunt man for Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool. He’ll do our action and our stunts. Then we have the editor from Deadpool Vashi Nedomansky. And Eduardo Ramirez is my DP. He was on Narcos, a Netflix series that was just fantastic.

And with the way this film sounds, you don’t just need good actors. You need a really outstanding crew. So when do you think you’ll start filming this?

Right now, we’re scheduled for November, and everything’s looking great for that. And also the weather will be better for us. (laughs) It won’t be 118 degrees.

So after it’s filmed, since this is independent, what is your plan for distribution?

We’re in negotiations right now for distribution. Our aim is a limited theatrical release at about three hundred theaters in the U.S. And we hope that gets attention quickly so we can expand from there. We will also be releasing it theatrically in certain segments of Europe and Asia. Doing what we can as the indie makers.

I fully understand. I am very supportive of independent filmmakers. I’m totally impressed and blown away by what you guys do. 

Thank you. It’s sometimes a rough ride, but it’s what we do. We live and breathe it.

So if you film in November, when are you hoping to have it released?

We hope we can release it late spring next year. That’s our goal. At the latest, summer. We need a good indie to balance out the sequels of Hollywood blockbusters. (laughs)

Oh, that has gotten so crazy. It seems like every time you turn around, they’re doing another sequel to–they used to do trilogies, and now they’re doing fourth, fifth, sixth–and it’s like, how many more times can they redo this film? And that’s why it’s always refreshing to have an indie film that is different from all the Hollywood hype stuff.

We look up to great people in the business like Rob Zombie and {Quentin} Tarantino that think outside the box. We’ve been very nonconformist from day one. We’ve turned down two Hollywood deals already. Some of the biggest names in Hollywood wanted to produce. We never sold out. We wanted to keep it with the vision where it is. We’re very excited. And I’ll leak this for you. We are shooting a short film that is kind of connected to Jessica Frost which is shooting very soon here in Arizona. And it does have Rick Ravanello in it. (laughs)

Oh, okay, that’s pretty cool!

That will be released in September.

Well, that is exciting. Thank you for telling me! 

You’re the first one I’ve told.

Well, with what you have told me about the film, I’m even more excited about it.

With this film, we didn’t want to just create an action sci-fi film. We wanted a strong human element to it. Because we feel we get desensitized a lot when we go to the theater and see twenty minutes of action, you kind of get tired.  So we’ve infused this with this really strong, powerful, human element to it that I think is going to bring out the crowds–at least a lot more females. Not just the diehard fans.

Sometimes it’s hard to get females interested in sci-fi. I used to be one of those, so I fully understand that. 

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I cannot tell you just how honored I was that not only did Runar take some time to candidly speak with me about his views and the status of the project, but he saw fit to entrust me with some exclusive information. I am utterly impressed with his approach to this project and the business in general. He is not willing to take the easy way out, nor just do what everybody else is doing. On the contrary. Runar is one who is committed to doing things in his own way, accomplishing them in his own style, and remaining true to who he is as an artist. And I fully salute that as I am the same way in that respect, and I passionately support those who are resolute in their convictions. I can hardly wait to see what Runar and his colossally talented cast and crew create in this upcoming feature of theirs Jessica Frost, and after conversing with Runar, my exhiliration goes far beyond my unconditional support of Rick. Runar is a genuine soul who is committed to excellence, integrity, and purpose. He zealously invests the obligatory time, and he earnestly fights the good fight to fashion something that is of paramount quality despite a meager budget or exhausting days and nights of grueling labor. I invite everyone to check out all the links below and follow both the movie Jessica Frost and Runar on all the links possible–even if you’re not a sci-fi fanatic. If we do not support indie films, we will get nothing but the tenth and eleventh installment of the action film that has been around for decades. So please take a moment and consider throwing your support behind him and the team!

 

Follow Jessica Frost

Website

Twitter

Facebook

IMDB

Follow Runar

Website (Jackfruit Studios)

YouTube (Jackfruit Studios)

Facebook (Jackfruit Studios)

Instagram

Twitter (Jackfruit Studios)

IMDB

 

 

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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth
43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA Entertainment Writer Available For Interviews and Reviews Substitute Teacher

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