Friday 3 April 2020

Interview with Josh Itzkowitz - Writer/Producer of "Same Boat"

Writer and producer Josh Itkowitz tells us about “Same Boat”, one of the more unique films on release this year, the story of a time-traveling assassin who falls in love with his target while on the same cruise.

Why movies? Was there a particular film as a kid that made you chase a career in entertainment?

I like stories. I like being moved by them. I like being distracted by them. I like ones that make me think and feel things. As a producer, I enjoy the challenge of making them. I never really had that moment as a kid of watching a film and thinking this is what I wanted to do with my life. When I was growing up I watched mostly the bigger movies that were in theaters, and remember really loving the goofiness of movies like Billy Madison and Dumb and Dumber.

I imagine you’ve had to work other jobs along the way, too?

Absolutely. As far as I know, making an actual living from producing indie features is near impossible. For the most part, I’ve been producing commercials and digital content, but I’ve also taken up odd jobs here in there just to be able to continue working on the films. One of the more interesting producing jobs was producing TV commercials for the 2018 midterms. I enjoyed peeking behind the curtain and learning how political ads got made. One of the more bizarre odd jobs I had, and this was during writing Same Boat, was delivering diapers. I would drive around Brooklyn late at night picking up used cloth diapers and delivering clean ones. My car would stink of formaldehyde and soiled diapers.  I feel like that image sums up nicely how glamorous it is to make an independent film.

How have your films, up until now, been financed?

Each has been different. Same Boat is the fifth film I’ve produced. The first one Jammed, my collaborator on that Yedidya Gorsetman and I saved up money making commercials for a year, and put a little under $20k into the film. Neither of us had gone to film school, and we figured it was cheaper than going for a semester. The films after that got a little bit more outside money from people in extended networks wanting to support a vision.

Same Boat was a little different. We wanted to make the film on a really small scale and have everyone involved be an equity owner. What that ended up meaning was that cast and crew who could afford to, put a little money into the film (to cover costs like a cruise ticket) and in return, received a piece of the investor’s share of equity. Chris Roberti (director, star, co-writer) and I were both interested in having everyone who worked on the project be invested in the film as much as possible.

I imagine you’d have to have a support partner or family -  who equally believe in your vision?

Yes, absolutely. My family has been supportive ever since I showed an interest in high school in making videos. My current partner also does creative work, and she’s been really helpful, giving notes on rough cuts, and traveling to film festivals when possible with me. I think the biggest thing that allows these films to happen are the creative partners on the actual films. Whether it’s Yedidya on Jammed, or Chris on Same Boat, I can’t imagine trying to make a movie alone.

Speaking of vision, tell us about the original vision for “Same Boat”?

The very original vision was to make a madcap heist movie in the same vein as Naked Gun that took place on a cruise ship. Chris had written a script. At that point another frequent collaborator, Mark Leidner was also part of the creative process. The three of us took a “test cruise” to try and figure out if it was possible to make that film, and we quickly realized it wasn’t. The film was too large in scope, and we would need a lot more control over the location. After that, Mark moved on to focus more on Empathy, Inc. (which I produced and Yedidya directed right before Same Boat went into production), and Chris and I started focusing on the new script that ended up being Same Boat.

Does the film hitting our screens in April very closely resemble that original vision?

While the finished film is quite different from the first idea, the genesis of what became Same Boat was the idea of what would happen if you got broken up with on the first night of a cruise. It would be hilarious but also quite tragic. Throw in some time traveling assassins and key lime pie, and the story started shaping out into what we have now.

I can only imagine the issues you might’ve ran into filming a movie on a cruise ship. Tell us!

Audio was one of the hardest issues. There’s music playing 24/7 on every deck on a cruise. At least the one we were on. We had to rework quite a few scenes to accommodate that. We had also scoped out a different cruise ship when we did the test cruise, and only later did we realize that the cruise we had booked for the actual production had swapped in a different boat. For the most part, filming in secret on a cruise ship surrounded by thousands of people on vacation went as smoothly as it could have. We developed a system to slate scenes without an actual camera slate, and would rehearse in our rooms before filming scenes in public. About halfway through filming, our room steward seemed to have caught on to what we were up to, but didn’t seem to care much. It worked out.

What do you hope for for this movie?

Hopefully, Same Boat connects with an audience who enjoys the comedy and themes within it. I’m always afraid that making a movie that’s low budget means it won’t get watched by anyone. Outside of that, when we’ve shown it at festivals, filmmakers in the crowd have been excited about what it means that we live in a time where you can film in almost any location with minimal and inexpensive gear, so it’s been exciting to see that response. I hope this film can be an example of that.

Same Boat is released on digital April 7 from Dark Star Pictures.