Director Jake Goldberger Talks Don Mckay

The first time director discusses his film, which stars Oscar Nominee Thomas Haden Church and is now available on DVD and Blu-ray

It's very unusual that a first time director would be fortunate enough to cast not one but three former Oscar Nominees, two Emmy winners and an honest to God screen legend in his or her debut film but for director Jake Goldberger ... that's exactly what he was able to do. In his film, Don Mckay, which is available on DVD and Blu-ray beginning June 19th, Goldberger brought together an amazing cast of accomplished actors, which included one time Oscar nominees Thomas Haden Church (Sideways) Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas) and Melissa Leo (Frozen River), Emmy winners Keith David (They Live) and Pruitt Taylor Vince (Identity) and even acting legend M. Emmet Walsh (Blood Simple, Fletch).

In the film, Thomas Haden Church plays Don McKay, a man haunted by the demons of his past but yet journeys home to see his high school sweetheart, Sonny (Shue), who may not be exactly who he remembers. We recently had an opportunity to speak with filmmaker Jake Goldberger about the experience of directing his first film now that the theatrical release is finished, how Thomas Haden Church was able to help promote the film, working with Keith David and which deleted scenes can be found on the DVD. Here is what he had to say:

To begin with, now that the theatrical release of the film is over and it is about to become available on DVD and Blu-ray, as a first time film director, what has this process been like for you and looking back what have you learned from the entire experience?

Jake Goldberger: The one thing I learned, and I will not make that same mistake again, is to be very careful with the press. That is the one thing that I really learned through the theatrical release of the movie. I think I made some statements that were misunderstood and that I should not have made. So that's the lesson but I'll tell you it was a great experience to have the opportunity to get out there, you know?

Do you mean that you regret comments that you made or just some of the information that was in the press notes that may have given some of the plot points of the film away?

Jake Goldberger: No, well that is always going to be an issue but for me it is my own personal comments. I would make comparisons to certain movies that I regret having done because you don't want to set up expectations for the movie to be something tonally or in any other way that can prevent people from enjoying it for what it is. I think I might have made some comparisons that were not felt favorable to some of the critics that I think would have enjoyed the movie otherwise.

In regards to the general audience's reaction to the film, were you pleased with the way that it performed?

Jake Goldberger: Well I love the movie and it was really cool to see that the people who "got it," really, really got it and that was great to see. I think a lot of the people that actually saw it were really into it and liked going on the bizarre adventure that it is. So it was really awesome to see people respond favorably, the people that saw it.

What is your hope for the movie now that it will be available on DVD and Blu-ray, do you think a wider audience will now be able to discover your film?

Jake Goldberger: Honestly, my main hope for it is it finds its way into people's laps who would not have otherwise scene it, that is who it was made for. I think it's for a person who wants to watch something that is hopefully more original than what they are used to watching. Maybe original is the wrong word but just coming from a different angle than the narratives that they are use to seeing. I would hope that we just get as many eyes on it as possible.

We first spoke when the film was originally coming out and you mentioned that there were a few scenes that you had to cut from the film, will those scenes be available on the DVD and Blu-ray?

Jake Goldberger: Yes. Well the deleted scenes on the DVD are the sections of the movie, the beginning and the middle, where Don actually leaves his position at the high school, where he is a janitor, and also when he returns to get his job back. I thought those were really fun scenes and I loved the performances but they just didn't work for the movie. Also the commentary, Jim Young, my producer and I recorded a commentary, which hopefully people find entertaining and involving.

As a first time director, what was the experience of recording the commentary for the DVD like for you?

Jake Goldberger: That was really fun. You know, we went in there and Jim had dragged me out of bed really early in the morning to do it and I did not want to be up that early. We had to drive to the distributors, which is like an hour away and I didn't have a lot of time to think about it so I just went with my gut on the things that I wanted to talk about. I think this can be said about a lot of releases but so much of the battle is actually getting the movie made. So we go through that whole story, or most of it and try to weave that in and out of the production stories and the post-production stories that we thought were interesting enough to talk about. From what I understand, people really like the commentary so I hope that it is informative to film school students and others that are into listening to commentaries.

Can you talk about the importance of Thomas Hayden Church to the film, not just with his performance but with how he really championed the movie and helped promote it? Can you talk about your friendship with him and how he really helped get the film the attention that it did?

Jake Goldberger: He's great. You know, we have a great relationship. I feel that for Thomas to do for me what he did, is really just an amazing thing, it really is. You know, for these guys, they are the ones who are famous. So it's them that are putting their faces out there and careers out there for somebody in my position and I just give Thomas all the credit in the world. I really mean that genuinely for having the balls to step up to the plate for me. The truth is that it is a great performance from him in the movie. It really is an interesting, nuanced performance and it will probably take people a few times seeing the movie to realize just how incredible his performance is. So I think he's very proud of the movie and he and I have a great relationship. You know we really hit it off and I consider him a close friend at this point. He just put himself into the movie and into the character one hundred percent. When it came time to promote it, obviously you only have so much reach when it is a small movie but he really went out there, went for it and I so appreciate that.

Can you see yourself collaborating with him again in the future on another project?

Jake Goldberger: Oh definitely. If we can figure out the right thing to do I would definitely make another movie with him and it would be my pleasure to do so. He and I have talked about some things but nothing is set in stone yet but I think it is safe to say that he would do another one with me.

You also mentioned once that while you don't normally create your characters with a certain actor in mind, you did write the parts that M. Emmet Walsh and Keith David played in the film specifically for them. Keith David is such a journeyman as an actor and has been in so much, can you talk about what he was like to work with on the set and how you were able to get him to agree to do the film?

Jake Goldberger: Yeah Keith David, I have been a fan of his ever since I was a little kid. The main performance, I mean there's a couple of amazing ones including Men at Work, but They Live is the big one for me. I also recently, when writing the script I had seen Requiem for a Dream, which Keith David is so good in it and the movie is just so fucking awesome. But Keith David was the first actor that I met with for this movie. The casting director sent him the script and told him that I had written the part for him, which I did and much to my surprise he read the script. That week and he and I went out for drinks and just hung out all night.

We totally hit it off and he told me that he would love to do the movie. Then I guess it was five years later when we actually were financed and ready to go. I called him again and said, "Hey do you remember me, do you remember this movie?" He was like, "Absolutely, lets go do this." Then he flew out there and we shot the role. He's one of these guys that has a certain quality of both warmth and coldness and that's a really hard thing to pull off and he nails it, I think better than anyone else that I can think of. Which is why I think there is a lot of humor that comes out of his delivery as well. He really is the best when it comes to the emotion/action of set up. He does set up better than anyone I can think of. I wrote it with him one hundred percent in mind and I was hearing his voice in my head the whole time.

Did you just say that the film took you five years to make?

Jake Goldberger: It was longer than that, it was like seven years but it was five from the time that I first met with Keith to when we were shooting his scene. From the time that I had the idea to the time we got into the Tribeca Film Festival it had been seven years. We attached Thomas right after Sideways, which was 2004 and we started shooting in 2008 so it was four years from the time that I first got him to agree to do it. I had already written the script before that and was trying to get it off the ground. You know, I wanted to make the movie that I made. Granted we shot the movie in nineteen days, which I don't know if people understand how short a schedule that really is. That's only like eight or nine days longer than it took for them to shoot In the Company of Men. It's really not a long shooting schedule especially when you are working with these types of actors.

What is a day on the set like, do you have time to work with the actors or do you have to do all of that before hand and just hit the ground running on the day you're shooting?

Jake Goldberger: With actors like this, they are so good and they do their homework so most of our rehearsals were phone conversations that we had before we got to set. Now that's not to say that all of (our work) was, but a lot of it was just character analysis and discussing the possibilities over the phone. You know, Thomas and I had a long time to do that together but when it comes down to a schedule like this, you rehearse and then you shoot it. If you get it, that's great and if you don't then re-write the movie right then and there because there is no time. There is no time, you know? We had half a second unit day to get every possible exterior and pick-up we could and it was raining that day anyways so a lot of the exteriors we wanted we couldn't even get.

Finally, what's next for you? Do you have any new projects lined up for the future?

Jake Goldberger: Yeah, I'm taking a lot of meetings. I've written another script that we're trying to get made right now and then there are a couple other projects that we are interested in or are interested in us. So hopefully we'll be able to get something off the ground in the near future.