Destroying the Perfect Family – Fletcher Crossman discusses his film ‘Heavy Objects’
A seemingly perfect family deals with an unexpected event that could destroy everything they worked for, in Fletcher Crossman’s familial thriller, Heavy Objects. See the NYC Premiere of the film on February 24th at the 2017 Winter Film Awards Indie Film Festival.
Crossman describes his influences and all he’s learned as a first time feature film director in a conversation with Winter Film Awards’ Karl Schleider.
Q: First of all I’d like to say how timely a film like this is. It deals with important ideological and political views that are especially relevant in today’s political climate. Can you tell me about any significant event going on in your life or in the world that influenced the making of this film?
Yes, I first started writing the script when there was a lot of concern about the growing divide between the wealthy and poor in America, and various incidents of privileged people feeling that the rules didn’t apply to them. This was around the time of Occupy Wall Street and talk about the one percenters. It wasn’t directly related to all these political things, but that was the backdrop that triggered the story in my mind. It seemed interesting to take a family who felt they embodied the American Dream, and ask what would happen if they were pushed out of their comfort zone.
Q: With such dark material, I was surprised that you were still able to incorporate some dark humor. How do you balance different tones when writing and directing a film such as this?
I think at every stage – writing, making, and watching, there comes a point where you have to allow a little humor in. Otherwise it becomes a slog for everyone, and I actually enjoy some of those lighter moments breaking the mood, on set and off. It also makes the characters more relatable, and that’s important to keep the audience on board.
Q: There are an abundance of ethical quandaries brought up throughout this film. Without giving away any spoilers, did the thought ever cross your mind to end Heavy Objects in a different way?
Yes, in fact I went through a few different ideas for how to end it. There was an early draft when things worked out better for the family in the final scene, but it didn’t feel satisfying. There is an element of Heavy Objects being a morality play, I think, and there’s some primitive need in all of us, when we are presented with clear moral questions, to feel that justice was done. Even if it happens in unexpected ways.
Q: With regards to doing what’s right versus what’s best for your family, is there anything you hope viewers will take away from this film?
I think my over-riding feeling was that none of can afford to be smug about our moral rightness. Is it morally wrong to steal? Of course. If your family’s starving to death, is it still wrong to steal? Then the moral question becomes a lot more blurry, and in the right circumstances we would all shift our moral positions. I actually like the McGuy family, but I don’t like their sense of smugness at the start of the film. I think the lesson is not to be too quick to judge our moral correctness, or other people’s moral failings: the truth is, we never know how we’d act until we’re standing in those shoes.
Q: This is such an impressive first feature film. I’d love to hear more about what you’re working on next and if you’d like to dig deeper into the themes you presented here in your future work.
Yes, I’m actually in Los Angeles at the moment, working on my second feature. It’s entitled The Poison of Grapefruit, and it’s another moral maze kind of storyline. This time it features a very likeable Sheriff and a very unlikeable psychiatrist, and a tussle between the two that springs a number of dramatic twists. The screenplay just had a very positive review on Blacklist which has elicited some trade interest, and we’re putting together a crew as we speak. But I very much appreciate your comments about Heavy Objects – I owe an amazing amount to the cast and crew of that film. As a new filmmaker I had a tremendous amount to learn from their knowledge and experience, and the nicest part of the whole process for me was some of the really positive reactions they had after first seeing it. It made me feel as if I hadn’t just wasted their time and effort!
Q: Lastly, do you have any advice for those who want to create their own film, after being inspired by yours?
Yes: absolutely go for it. It’s an incredibly exhausting process, and it can feel as if everything is against you when you start walking down that road. But I think sometimes you have to bend the universe to your will, and certainly there were days when I felt as if I was pulling a juggernaut down a highway to get this thing made. The responses have been wonderful, and it has opened so many doors. So I’d tell anybody who wants to make a film, just do it. Ignore all the other voices, trample over the obstacles, and when you get to the other end you will have learnt a lot, you’ll be a better artist, and you’ll hopefully create a movie that gets shown at a forum like the Winter Film Awards!
Karl Schleider studied television and film at the University of Georgia. He currently works full-time at Viacom and spends most of his free time in various movie theaters throughout New York City.