LMU Graduate Jim Eimmerman completed his thesis film “Force-Full Imagination” in 2013. His short film is one of the 2014 John Paul II International Film Festival Official Selections and will screen on April 5th, 2014 at 4:15PM at the Paragon Grove 13 theater in Coconut Grove, FL with ten other short films.
Frank Brennan (JP2IFF Co-Director): How would you pitch your movie to an audience?
Jim Eimmerman (Director, Force-Full Imagination): Force-full Imagination is an adventurous, supernatural tale about a young girl entangled in the playful schemes of her younger brother, all within an embattled, imaginary world within their apartment. It’s a story that harkens back to the safer, more innocent time of childhood when your house is a home, and your home is the world – with all the good and evil that might go with it. All the trials within the story are a microcosm of what people might face in adulthood but are seen through the imagination of the character Michelle.
Frank: In your opinion, how does your film fit into the 2014 theme? INSPIRATION? This question applies to the film itself as well as its production process.
Jim: In my opinion, Force-full Imagination is a simple story with a positive message about perseverance and fortitude. No matter the obstacles, consequences or setbacks faced by the character of Michelle, she ALWAYS finds a way to move forward and not change for the worst – and I love that. That’s where the faith, hope and love I attempted to sprinkle throughout each part of the film surfaces in hopes of making it an inspiring film.
I’m a product of the JP II Generation, having read a lot of his
Encyclicals and so on. His writing style was pretty dynamic (which could be attributed to his theater background). He had a knack for drawing in the reader by describing theological concepts in a simple, yet grand and epic way. For example, in his 1994 “Letter to Families,” he states, “The history of mankind, the history of salvation, passes by way of the family.” Before I started the production process I reviewed this letter for inspiration, hoping to convey this kind of epic statement about family life and the deeper threats to it as seen through a child’s eyes. In this way, I was inspired to produce a socially conscious film, but as a lighthearted B movie that pokes fun at itself.
Frank: Your daughter is the lead actress, how difficult or easy was it directing her on set?
Jim: I was originally hesitant to cast my daughter because of some of the complexities involved with the shoot as well as her inexperience with acting. However, the majority of classmates involved with the production pushed me to cast Michelle because they have been with her on my other film sets and seen her cameo a few times. My DP especially requested her. I think he thought a redhead would look more cinematic.
The easy part was she took direction well and loved having so many people at the house. It also helped that she literally lived on set. The only difficulties were California’s strict rules regarding the presence of a studio teacher on set and the amount of time a minor could be in front of the camera. My wife and I also had a deeper insight into our daughter’s tolerance threshold, when she was done for the day, and when to switch to shooting B-roll.
Frank: What inspired you to tackle the subject of childhood imagination?
Jim: Ironically, this was not the film I originally set out to produce for my thesis. As the film school at Loyola Marymount University grew larger and more successful, I had to weigh my options regarding time and resources available while simultaneously balancing family commitments. Fortunately, the idea for Force-full Imagination was brewing in my mind since we moved into our apartment in LA and I knew it might be a now or never situation.
Growing up, I lived in a one-story house without stairs, lofts, or balconies. I thought if I were a kid, this apartment would be a fun place to play! The inspiration just grew from there and we ultimately shot the whole film in our apartment. Looking back, I would be kicking myself if I had not taken advantage of the apartment setting and the film would have never been made. I was also inspired to show kids how to create a playful environment with your surroundings as opposed to letting a video game do it for you.
Frank: Your film has many sound cues, what was your sound editing/mixing process like?
Jim: My thesis committee was supportive throughout the production but they did not fully understand what I was trying to accomplish until they heard the temp sound and music accompanying the film. Once they did, they pushed me to lock picture and work on sound as much as possible. I was still careful to continue refining the cut with the timing for visual and sound effects in mind. I was also particular as to how certain effects should sound within some beats of the story, so it was a challenge to do this within a semester. Despite the constraints, it was my favorite part of the whole process.
It was a blessing to find great animation and visual effects people right within the film school that could work on shots while simultaneously completing sound design and color grading. My sound team consisted mostly of graduates from the film school. In retrospect, I believe the sooner you can start on sound and score the better. It’s half the cinematic experience and it’s often taken for granted.
Frank: Which is your favorite Star Wars film and why?
Jim: The Empire Strikes Back! I tend to lean towards the second film of a trilogy because they focus on the chase. Either someone’s chasing someone else or someone’s being chased. This usually speeds up the plot and tells a leaner, faster story. Same for Attack of the Clones, Back to the Future II, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Desolation of Smaug and Two Towers… And they’re all B movies!