Jack Danini talks about his ‘Ode to Passion’
Love is a personal experience and it takes a lot to find the right person. Even if you do, you may find them at the wrong time, and no love doesn’t have its struggles. Filmmaker Jack Danini went on a search around the world for inspiration, but the best work came from a rough breakup.
His debut feature Ode to Passion focuses on a NYC writer whose trust in true love is about to be tested, thanks to a woman struggling with addiction. Debuting at the Queens Film Festival, this is a long time coming for Danini. After many years as a child actor, Danini found himself yearning for a life behind the camera. Directing his first commercial at 15 and starting his production company at 18, Danini has come a long way. Directing his first commercial at 15 and starting his production company at 18, Danini has come a long way.
Starring Broadway giants Giuseppe Bausilio and Julia Nightingale, Ode to Passion shows the good and bad of true love. Before the debut of Ode to Passion on March 21st, we spoke with Danini about his unique journey into filmmaking, and how it was making the film.
Tell us about your history as a filmmaker. How did you start your journey? Who are your current influences?
I started as a child actor at the age of 7 and by 14, I had done 105 episodes of a Sesame-Street-like educational program. It was during this program that I fell in love with being behind the camera. By 15, I was directing my first spot for broadcast tv and followed up with my second a year later.
After film school, I decided to take a bohemian approach and travel the world in search for inspiration while I worked on my scripts. Then after a decade of living across Europe, I moved back to NYC in 2011 and began focusing on my production company. First with commercials for local businesses and then moving to bigger projects, all leading up to being able to produce my first feature film.
In film, I love Baz Lurhmann, he’s absolutely incredible! Also Alejandro Iñarritu and Damien Chazelle. In music, The Airborne Toxic Event has been my favorite band for the last decade.
What five TV shows do you think everyone should watch this year?
Peaky Blinders, Casa de Papel, Fleabag, The Get Down, and The Eddy when it’s released in May.
Cat or dog?
What was the one movie you saw that made you want to go into film?
It’s a draw between Return of the Jedi, The Neverending Story and Back to the Future. They all had such an impact on me as a kid. So many emotions experienced in such a short span of time, it was thrilling and magical!
How was working on Ode to Passion? What did you learn from the experience?
Working on Ode to Passion was extremely challenging given our budget, the overall scale of the film, and all the roles I had to fill. It was truly life changing in so many ways. I got to see what I thought was a farfetched dream turn into a reality. I got to push myself harder than I ever had before, physically, mentally and emotionally.
None of it would have been possible without the incredible team that came on board. I’m so grateful to the cast and crew for their dedication and resilience. I could fill pages, but the most important things I learned from this experience are:
- You’re never as prepared as you think you are.
- Scheduling is everything!
- Trim the fat from your script down as much as possible. Don’t wait to do it in the editing room.
- Reach out to people that you’ll think you’ll need in post during pre-production. Get as many people involved as early on as possible. From sound, to editing, to distribution, the sooner they are all a part of your movie, the smoother things will go. They can also save you from making mistakes that are much more complicated to “fix in post.”
- As an editor, I’ll repeat that, DON’T FIX IN POST! Get it done right when shooting.
Tell us about your career before you found film.
I’ve tried to make sure creativity was a part of any job I took, even when it meant juggling bottles a la “Cocktail” as a bartender and setting bars on fire for many years. I started my own little multimedia production company at the age of 18 to produce my first stage play.
I say multimedia because under it I did anything from Flash animated websites, to graphic design, photography, large scale event production and of course video production. But it wasn’t until I moved back to NYC in 2011 that I started to focus more on the video aspect of things, thanks in part to the DSLR revolution and how accessible and attainable gear became.
Where did the concept come from for Ode to Passion?
I had just gone through a rough breakup and was reading a lot of Rimbaud and Goethe at the time. I wanted to write about love and heartache, so writing it in verse and song felt like the perfect way to do so.
What music inspires you to create?
Mainly Rock & Roll, in all its million forms! But I get inspired by all sorts of music: Classical, Broadway tunes, Hip-Hop and even Country if the mood is right.
Talk us through your creative process.
Whether it’s a song or a script, I need to conjure up inspiration if it’s not already around. So, I’ll do that by diving deep into my past experiences and emotions. Then when I’m all nice and gooey, it all starts to flow.
What tips do you have for new filmmakers?
Be humble, willing to learn and ask for help. This industry is all about connections, so start making them early. Don’t be afraid to take small jobs in the industry to get your feet wet. Don’t give up on your dreams and don’t let others step on them! Cut out negative people early on. Negativity is a disease that spreads like wildfire! Believe in yourself and keep going. It may take a long, long time, but it’s only perseverance that will turn your dreams into reality.
What part of filmmaking do you geek out about the most?
I love all aspects of filmmaking, but I am super geeky when it comes to gear! I go nuts! I’m also pretty geeky when it comes to color grading. Though I’m but a novice, I absolutely love everything about it, it’s an underappreciated art form that really deserves to have its own Oscar category.
You’re very hands-on with your projects. How hard is it wearing all the hats?
Oh, the hats! Yes, though I did intentionally plan to write, direct and compose the songs for my film, I never imagined I would have to produce, cast, edit, color and promote it. Budget constraints forced that on me, and I truly wish I would have had the funds to fill more roles. It would have made my life much easier and postproduction would not have taken so long. It was especially hard having to fund the film and direct it; I had to play good cop/bad cop the whole time in order to stay on budget and that was hard on everyone.
If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The Princess Bride! It’s got all the right elements: true love, comedy, drama, action, adventure, and a fantastic theme song by Willy Deville.
What’s your next project?
I’ve got another musical ready to go, though I think it would be fantastic as an animated film first. Also have an epic script in the style of Baz’s Australia that I hope to get into the right hands with deep pockets. Studios, are you reading this? Let’s chat!
Have you worked with mentors in the past? How would you recommend people go about finding them?
I’ve met some great people that have given me very useful advice over the years, but never a mentor per say. I wish I’d had a great mentor; I’d probably even write a script about it!
What has been your biggest failure?
Self-doubt and not being focused enough earlier on.
What’s your filmmaking mission?
It’s as cheesy as it comes, but since I’m not a doctor, or a scientist, I want to use film and music to contribute to people’s lives. I want my emotions and ideas to come across in an entertaining, profound and inspirational way; to make people feel my passion, and in doing so, inspire them to love harder and live louder!
Name the most important thing you want viewers to experience when watching your movies.
What has been your biggest success?
My two beautiful daughters and my amazingly patient and loving wife.
Can we expect to see any episodic television from you anytime soon?
I hope so! I love everything that’s happening in the streaming world right now, so yes!
What’s your five-year plan?
Get distribution for Ode to Passion. Leverage the film and all the hats I wore to open some doors. Get funding for my next film and ensure it has a wider theatrical or Netflix branded release. I love Netflix and hope that OTP can get me on their radar.
What indie filmmakers should be on our radar?
Neil Triffett is awesome! I discovered him when we were already in post for my film, but wish I had discovered his film, EMO: The Musical much sooner! I was privileged to have Doron Kipen from EMO, do our sound editing and re-recording mix. I was also really impressed by Joseph Kahn’s Bodied and can’t wait to see what he does next!
What’s your favorite film of all time, and what did you learn from it?
Gotta go back to The Princess Bride. It taught me that story matters most and that a good story is timeless.
Who would compose the soundtrack of your life?
If only I could be so lucky; Mikel Jollet from the Airborne Toxic Event given his affinity for tragedy, love and rock & roll!