Random Reality – Josh Clinton Interviews Jess Brillhart of On the Lot

Josh Clinton: Hey Jess. How are you doing?

Jess Brillhart: I’m doing good. Thanks.

JC: Great. So how did you get interested in filmmaking?

JB: I started watching films when I was very young. I was also pretty creative as a kid. I would play around with my stuffed animals and direct them and stuff. I wasn’t quite sure that filmmaking could be a career until I went to NYU, though. But up until that point I did it for fun, and it gave me something to do and was a way for me to be creative.

JC: Cool. How did you hear about the show then?

JB: It was over the course of a year, because I had heard about the show. But I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to do a reality show or not, because it wasn’t really the way I wanted to break in. Once I realized that Steven Spielberg was attached to it, I was like okay, this could be something. My mom also was one of the primary people to tell me to go ahead and do it. She doesn’t necessarily understand filmmaking, but she told me that it was an opportunity and for me to do it. So after she told me to do it, I was like clearly everyone is hearing about this show, so I might as well do it.

JC: That’s cool. What did you think of the format of the show? Some people are saying that the show doesn’t really allow for much explanation from the directors about their films before they are judged.

JB: Yeah, the format of the show doesn’t really allow for a conversation, which I think is vital for a filmmaker. The show has the opportunity to show a television audience, which usually wants one thing or another anyways, a different array of films and create a conversation. But the show doesn’t really give anyone enough time to respond to what’s being said about their films. And if they do, it’s usually taken the wrong way and they are considered arrogant. But who wouldn’t stand up for their work when they are on stage in front of people. It’s a little weird like that, but the producers want to show one thing and we all signed the papers. **laughing** So we just have to deal with it.

JC: **laughing** Right. What was your inspiration for “The Orchard”, the tree horror film?

JB: I grew up on a farm and I wanted to create a feeling. I don’t know if you are aware or not, but we got loglines before we made our films and what I got said “end of a relationship”. And I thought that losing a family member like a brother or sister or loved one was too obvious. So since I grew up on a farm and had an orchard, I thought what would be worse than a farmer losing his tree. So it was different perspective as it was a tree’s perspective of a horror film. I just wanted to recreate a tree going through the stages of death.

JC: Carrie Fisher had some harsh comments about the film afterwards. What were your thoughts on that?

JB: I respect all the judges, but I think her comments were ridiculous. They just didn’t make any sense. I knew my film was experimental and different, so a lot of people wouldn’t get it. But her comments about the only thing worse would be “my husband leaving me for another man” didn’t make sense at all. It didn’t help people understand the film at all. So I think her comments failed in that respect and I didn’t get it at all. I really didn’t think my film was as bad as she was making it out to be.

JC: Yeah, her comments seemed a little odd to me as well. Did you know that Wes Craven was going to be a judge that week?

JB: I had no idea until we started filming that day. So needless to say I was really nervous. This was a horror film from the tree’s perspective. Like he said people want blood and guts. I knew he would probably be a little weirded out about. But it was cool to talk to him and have a conversation with him for a minute.

JC: Would you go back and redo the film?

JB: When you are doing a film, you have a time limit. You get a concept and you make it. But once you make it, it’s done. It’s already been shown. It’s kinda like being asked if you could go back in your life and change something. I wouldn’t change it now, because I can’t. But even if I got the chance to go back and change it, I wouldn’t change it. Even if I knew that this was the film that would get me eliminated from the show, because when you are making it you can’t think of it like that. But I think I have a good feel of what types of films people like and don’t like since I live in New York City and all. I understand not everyone got my film, but I’m happy with it.

JC: That’s good. Who are the best filmmakers left in the competiton?

JB: I think all of the contestants are great. It’s hard to judge them really since they are doing different genres of films. Some are doing comedy, while some are doing horror. So I can’t really judge them individually. This is a tough show to judge. But on a personal level, I like Zach’s work a lot. I think a lot of people like Zach’s work actually. I think he taps into something that a lot of people like with his special effects. I love Will’s sense of humor. I think all of his stories are funny. I also think Shalini’s films are beautiful. I wish she would relax a little bit more. But she does have a vision and I see something in her films. Sam’s films are hilarious as well. He has this hokey sensibility about him, and his work matches his personality. I really like how he doesn’t try too hard.

JC: What do you plan to do now?

JB: I started a production company. I really am going to try and showcase the films I made before I got on the show. So I created a YouTube account and will be showing a bunch of them on YouTube. Hopefully, I will get the money to do a short film really soon as well. But I’m just going to keep directing. You have to keep going. This show has given me at least some confidence in my ability as a filmmaker, because there had to have been something in my films for me to advance as far as I did. So I’m just going to keep going.

JC: That’s sound good. Well that’s all I have for you. Thanks for your time.

JB: Yeah, no problem. It was nice talking to you.


On the Lot airs on FOX on Tuesday nights at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT time all summer long.

On the Lot airs on the CTV network in Canada on Tuesday nights at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT time all summer long.

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