Recently we got to connect with Jacob Morrison, filmmaker of 2021 Jury Award winner and People’s Choice winner, River’s End. If you haven’t seen River’s End yet you can click here to watch the trailer. We hope you enjoy this interview with Jacob:
Who are you? (where are you from, where do you live, why did you get into film, whatever you want to tell us really)
- I grew up in Southern California and went to film school at USC. Until my senior year, I had never bothered to learn where my water came from. But during the height of California’s last big drought, I decided to make a short film about California water, with my cousin Sam Furie as producer. We went out naively with cameras to interview farmers and water managers about what we assumed was a fairly simple, yet unfortunate situation. I assumed there’s usually plenty of rain and snow, but right now there isn’t, so farmers are suffering, and hopefully soon this will improve. We learned that the actual story was much darker, so much more fascinating, and so much more important than we could have imagined. But it was a huge story, and it would need to be a feature film. Fortunately, shortly after graduation, I met a producer named Kurt Kittleson—a mutual friend of my former boss Bret Easton Ellis—who agreed to finance the film. He patiently allowed me to follow the facts wherever they lead. I am confident this film would never have been made without his dedication and courage.
How many films have you had in the festival? When was your first Wild & Scenic? How many times have you attended?
- River’s End was my first feature, and my first film at Wild & Scenic. It had its World Premiere at the festival in 2021, where it played virtually due to COVID restrictions. Since SYRCL—the festival’s parent organization—works hard to protect and restore CA’s rivers, there was no better festival to unveil River’s End. Despite the unusual nature of virtual premieres, I was thrilled to see the film find a large and enthusiastic audience. So many viewers reached out or posted on social media about the film and the impact it had on them. And it was an incredible honor to receive the Audience Award and a Jury Award. It was a very rewarding festival experience, and I’m so grateful to the Wild & Scenic staff for making the virtual festival feel so special.
What is your favorite Wild & Scenic memory?
- At the suggestion of Jess Swigonski and Ashley Overhouse, we put on a panel to accompany the film’s virtual premiere. They let me reach out to my dream list of participants, and amazingly, everyone was available! (Certainly one of the benefits of a virtual festival is that anyone can easily attend.) Bettina Boxall, the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and pre-eminent water reporter in California moderated the conversation. We were joined by US Congressman Jared Huffman, Chief Caleen Sisk of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, and fish biologist Dr. Jon Rosenfield. It was a fun and enlightening conversation, and my favorite Wild & Scenic memory (so far!).
What is a new experience you had at WSFF (something you learned, someone you met, something you did, etc)
- I learned so much about falconry viewing the film Overland, a documentary made by two talented directors I met during the filmmaker mixer. I was inspired by the visual inventiveness of 2040, and I was very moved by Scott Ressler’s The Last Ice. It was a blast to view the many great films at the festival.
What makes Wild & Scenic Film Festival special or unique?
- At Wild & Scenic, the audience comes energized to receive the themes and information explored in the shorts and features and apply what they’ve learned to their daily lives. It’s rare to find an audience as passionate about the issues as the filmmakers, and I think Wild & Scenic has cultivated this unique and inspiring dynamic.
What inspires you to make films?
- A deep curiosity about how things work. And a love of stories and characters—the two things that dictate every part of the filmmaking process.
What are your favorite stories to tell?
- If I have an idea for a movie and it’s a story that nobody has told before, then I like to figure out if it can be done. River’s End is a good example. I had never seen a film that explored the systems behind California’s water mismanagement, or how our water problems reflect global problems. And so I had to see if it was possible to do this, and if so, if it could be done in a really entertaining way. I also wanted to watch a movie on the subject, and it seemed the only way to do so was to make it myself.
Do you have any projects you are currently working on?
- I’m preparing my next movie now, which will be my first narrative feature (so, not a documentary). I can’t say too much about it yet,
- but it is exciting to rely on my imagination alone and let that guide my process, as opposed to having to learn as much as possible about a topic and follow the facts wherever they lead. That said, I look forward to directing more documentaries in the future.
How has COVID impacted your filmmaking?
- I’ve had plenty of time to write and edit other projects. That has been nice, but I can’t wait to get back to filming.
What is something you learned in 2021 and how will you be applying it in 2022?
- I’ve been going on a lot of hikes since COVID restrictions went into effect. I now realize that I don’t have to go far to connect with nature and experience it’s many benefits. I plan to get outside as much in 2022 as I have in the past year, even as movie theaters and concerts and my other favorite activities reopen and become more safe.
What is on the horizon for you in 2022?
- By 2022, I will have released my first movie and will be working on my second one. I’m so grateful to Wild & Scenic for being River’s End’s amazing launching pad, and I can’t wait to return soon as a member of the audience!
Follow on Social Media @RiversEndFilm