Director's Statement

 
I had long been a fan of Jim Lynch’s plays and during the winter of 2018 we met at a diner to talk about doing a new project together. At the time I was on the hunt for something dark, so we threw around a few ideas over breakfast and on the way out the door he handed me a draft of a stage play called Ghostwriter. He told me it’s probably not what I’m looking for but he was curious to know what I thought about it. So I took it home and read it that night.

There was an easy flow with small moments of humanity that pulled me in from the start. A couple of unknown faces in a big city who found ways to overcome great loss and quietly help each other become better versions of themselves. Something I felt was in short supply in the world around me. There was the passion and perseverance of Chicago artists, something I had always wanted to capture on camera, as well as the view of a man who starts a writing career as a promise to a close friend in the military during wartime and how he uses art to shoulder the weight of his own survival against those who didn’t make it. 

I began thinking of noir imagery within dark winter nights, pools of light around a writer at his keyboard, surrounded by ghosts on story pages, inside dreams, ghosts of the people no longer here, ghosts of the people we used to be. I pictured it in black and white each time I read, something I’ve rarely done before. It may have been the distant connections I felt to Marty or Down By Law that got me seeing it this way. Or certain looks I imagined that connected me with Ida and building long, static shots that invite you toward the screen, letting moments linger to feel the pressure of time. 

We spent a year developing a screenplay with a story tailored to fit to a few locations we knew we could get to help keep us within a $40K budget. The primary spot being Thomas’ boyhood home. It was a generous gift to have access to the Ryan family home, a Chicago bungalow on the northwest side that Jim spent many years inside of, growing up only a few doors down. To me it was the first of many gifts to arrive. There was a talented and considerate crew that was led by a terrific producing partner with an eye as a director/writer to advise me. A wonderful cinematographer and gaffer who were always steady, making beautiful images with little time to prepare. A tireless editor with great instincts who put together the entire film with me over zoom calls. A dedicated art director who added important touches to every frame from a truckload of props assembled with barely any cash. An AD who did an incredible job to keep our house of cards intact on a speedy 11 day shoot, guiding us through ass-biting February cold to wrap on March 1, 2020, our stay at home order arriving soon after.

Finally, as an actor who had only directed one short film prior to this project, it was a tremendous gift for me to receive the work delivered by this entire cast. Concentration was at a premium, with every tiny room packed with crew, every scene with only a handful of chances to find some truth and then move on. It was a courageous, unselfish, committed bunch that was led by a trio to whom I am forever grateful. A true craftsman with a great eye for story who has become a most trusted collaborator over the years. A mentor who lit a path for me thirty years ago as my acting teacher and a thrill now to celebrate all she has given me. And a brave artist and Army veteran that provided the inspiration for Ghostwriter, telling Jim during a theater rehearsal years ago about the day in Iraq when he told his close friends, if I ever make it home from here, I’m going to become an actor. It is an honor to have that promise give birth to all the rest. 


 

I had long been a fan of Jim Lynch’s plays and during the winter of 2018 we met at a diner to talk about doing a new project together. At the time I was on the hunt for something dark, so we threw around a few ideas over breakfast and on the way out the door he handed me a draft of a stage play called Ghostwriter. He told me it’s probably not what I’m looking for but he was curious to know what I thought about it. So I took it home and read it that night.

 

There was an easy flow with small moments of humanity that pulled me in from the start. A couple of unknown faces in a big city who found ways to overcome great loss and quietly help each other become better versions of themselves. Something I felt was in short supply in the world around me. There was the passion and perseverance of Chicago artists, something I had always wanted to capture on camera, as well as the view of a man who starts a writing career as a promise to a close friend in the military during wartime and how he uses art to shoulder the weight of his own survival against those who didn’t make it.

 

I began thinking of noir imagery within dark winter nights, pools of light around a writer at his keyboard, surrounded by ghosts on story pages, inside dreams, ghosts of the people no longer here, ghosts of the people we used to be. I pictured it in black and white each time I read, something I’ve rarely done before. It may have been the distant connections I felt to Marty or Down By Law that got me seeing it this way. Or certain looks I imagined that connected me with Ida and building long, static shots that invite you toward the screen, letting moments linger to feel the pressure of time.

 

We spent a year developing a screenplay with a story tailored to fit to a few locations we knew we could get to help keep us within a $40K budget. The primary spot being Thomas’ boyhood home. It was a generous gift to have access to the Ryan family home, a Chicago bungalow on the northwest side that Jim spent many years inside of, growing up only a few doors down. To me it was the first of many gifts to arrive. There was a talented and considerate crew that was led by a terrific producing partner with an eye as a director/writer to advise me. A wonderful cinematographer and gaffer who were always steady, making beautiful images with little time to prepare. An amazing, tireless editor with great instincts who put together the entire film with me over zoom calls. An art director who added important touches to every frame from a truckload of gear and props driven over from Michigan on barely any cash. An AD who did an incredible job to keep the house of cards intact on a speedy 11 day shoot, guiding us through ass-biting February cold to wrap on March 1, 2020, our stay at home order arriving soon after.

 

Finally, as an actor who had only directed one short film prior to this project, it was a tremendous gift to receive the work delivered by this entire cast. Concentration was at a premium, with every tiny room packed with crew, every scene with only a handful of chances to find some truth and then move on. It was a courageous, unselfish, committed bunch that was led by a trio to whom I am forever grateful. A true craftsman with a great eye for story who has become a most trusted collaborator over the years. A mentor who lit a path for me thirty years ago as my acting teacher and a thrill now to celebrate all she has given me. And a brave artist and Army veteran that provided the inspiration for Ghostwriter, telling Jim during a theater rehearsal years ago about the day in Iraq when he told his close friends, if I ever make it home from here, I’m going to become an actor. It is an honor to have that promise give birth to all the rest.

I had long been a fan of Jim Lynch’s plays and during the winter of 2018 we met at a diner to talk about doing a new project together. At the time I was on the hunt for something dark, so we threw around a few ideas over breakfast and on the way out the door he handed me a draft of a stage play called Ghostwriter. He told me it’s probably not what I’m looking for but he was curious to know what I thought about it. So I took it home and read it that night.

 

There was an easy flow with small moments of humanity that pulled me in from the start. A couple of unknown faces in a big city who found ways to overcome great loss and quietly help each other become better versions of themselves. Something I felt was in short supply in the world around me. There was the passion and perseverance of Chicago artists, something I had always wanted to capture on camera, as well as the view of a man who starts a writing career as a promise to a close friend in the military during wartime and how he uses art to shoulder the weight of his own survival against those who didn’t make it.

 

I began thinking of noir imagery within dark winter nights, pools of light around a writer at his keyboard, surrounded by ghosts on story pages, inside dreams, ghosts of the people no longer here, ghosts of the people we used to be. I pictured it in black and white each time I read, something I’ve rarely done before. It may have been the distant connections I felt to Marty or Down By Law that got me seeing it this way. Or certain looks I imagined that connected me with Ida and building long, static shots that invite you toward the screen, letting moments linger to feel the pressure of time.

 

We spent a year developing a screenplay with a story tailored to fit to a few locations we knew we could get to help keep us within a $40K budget. The primary spot being Thomas’ boyhood home. It was a generous gift to have access to the Ryan family home, a Chicago bungalow on the northwest side that Jim spent many years inside of, growing up only a few doors down. To me it was the first of many gifts to arrive. There was a talented and considerate crew that was led by a terrific producing partner with an eye as a director/writer to advise me. A wonderful cinematographer and gaffer who were always steady, making beautiful images with little time to prepare. An amazing, tireless editor with great instincts who put together the entire film with me over zoom calls. An art director who added important touches to every frame from a truckload of gear and props driven over from Michigan on barely any cash. An AD who did an incredible job to keep the house of cards intact on a speedy 11 day shoot, guiding us through ass-biting February cold to wrap on March 1, 2020, our stay at home order arriving soon after.

 

Finally, as an actor who had only directed one short film prior to this project, it was a tremendous gift to receive the work delivered by this entire cast. Concentration was at a premium, with every tiny room packed with crew, every scene with only a handful of chances to find some truth and then move on. It was a courageous, unselfish, committed bunch that was led by a trio to whom I am forever grateful. A true craftsman with a great eye for story who has become a most trusted collaborator over the years. A mentor who lit a path for me thirty years ago as my acting teacher and a thrill now to celebrate all she has given me. And a brave artist and Army veteran that provided the inspiration for Ghostwriter, telling Jim during a theater rehearsal years ago about the day in Iraq when he told his close friends, if I ever make it home from here, I’m going to become an actor. It is an honor to have that promise give birth to all the rest.