A film focused on point-of-view and missed connections, Jake Honig’s Black Swell is a tense drama set to leave viewers reeling at its gut-punch conclusion. Centred around a desperate man (Richard Kind) looking to end his life in a motel room, in just under 9-minutes Honig presents a thought-provoking narrative that examines the effect suicide can have on the people (in this case literally) around you.
“Three months later I dreamed he was about to kill himself”
Written by David Rysdahl (who also stars in the film as Mr. Fennimore’s motel neighbour Jordan), Black Swell’s story originated after an “animated yet depressing” conversation with a High School friend one Christmas.
“Three months later I dreamed he was about to kill himself”, Rysdahl reveals. “I woke up at 3 in the morning and went on Facebook where I wrote him a long message about how I knew this might sound weird and I knew we hadn’t talked much but that he’s a good person and shouldn’t kill himself, if that’s what he was about to do. He wrote back the next day with the single line, “stop doing drugs Dave.” Anyway, he was the impetus for my character in the script – the guy next door”.
With their film essentially a two-hander between the suicidal Mr. Fennimore and his ex-student, motel-neighbour Jordan, and with writer Rysdahl playing the latter, all that was needed was someone to fill the role of their downbeat lead. And who better than Curb Your Enthusiasm star Richard Kind?
“When someone as experienced as Richard steps in front of the camera they nail the first take”
“We were originally hesitant to work with a bigger actor like Richard”, says Honig “because just making a movie is hard enough. Throw in having to worry about looking stupid in front of someone you really respect and all of a sudden the entire ordeal becomes much more daunting.
In terms of what he brought to the table, nothing can even compare. The usual process from take to take is crafting a performance with your actors that simply works. But when someone as experienced as Richard steps in front of the camera they nail the first take, letting you spend the rest of the time finding different and more interesting ways to approach a scene or moment.
Shot in just one marathon day in Montauk, the director and his crew filmed scenes out of order to minimise lighting changes and save time. With the focus very much on performance, Honig, Rysdahl and Kind rehearsed the entire film in the motel room at the start of the day, while thier Assistant Director and Director of Photography were “locked outside banging on the door and demanding that we start shooting”.
Despite limited time shooting, due to the film’s immersive nature and some strong performances, Black Swell is a powerful watch and its hard to imagine that strong end not resonating with all that watch it
With their film now finished its festival tour (where it played Slamdance and Palm Springs Shortfest), Honig and Rysdahl are already working on new projects. With Jake working on a short whimsical comedy about the post office and David busy acting and finalising his feature Shelter.