Interview with NUMB Film Director Jason R. Goode

Late into last summer's sun,
I had the opportunity to sit down
and interview
(by phone)
a budding Canadian film director,
his most recent movie
a feature film called
NUMB.

(Just released in America last week.)

I thought the interview
was going to be
about the making of his project
but it panned out
to be about the making of his
life project:
how he engages with life
and juggles all of the different
characters and elements in it.

And isn't that transparency
for you?

That life is not a lie that says
life is about x (your career)
but instead,
that life is about the personal
which infuses all of life's happenings...

Get a tea,
a coffee,
a scone,
and please
enjoy this interview
with Mr. Jason R. Goode.

(And then go grab yourself
or your lover
and watch the film
for Valentine's Day.)

xo,
Jessie

Part I

The interview first started out, well, about the movie—but soon it became about so much more.  I was interested in the story behind his story: how did he work on something so diligently for four years?  How did he do that while being Mr. Mom?  And what was it like to be a creator continuing to refine his craft—or first, just to muster the courage to start in on that journey?  The hour-long phone interview amalgamated the bits and pieces I had heard over the years from our shared social circles and was a real delight—thank you, Jason.


NUMB came about because a friend and screenwriter of his (Andre Harden) sent him a draft of a story.  Jason and his production partner Dylan Jenkinson had directed and produced short films (such as LATE) and were ready for their first-feature length directorial and producing debuts.  The storyline explored numbness that impairs judgement.  At what cost is something worth pursuing?  In the film, a husband and wife finally accept they are in (and have long been in) a financial crisis even though they continue to cosmetically fix the issue (rather than dive deeper into its existence in the first place to begin "to heal" the debt).  Through a series of events, they're on the road, meet hitchhikers and find themselves in a perfect winter storm with the coordinates of a lost treasure in the mountains.  The four main characters, filled with unease for each other and blinded by a blizzard of greed, go through a series of choices which reveal their deeper motivations, ironically keeping them chained to the treasure they hope will, finally, bring them freedom.)

He and Harden worked collaboratively on it over the course of four years.  They wrote, rewrote, did public readings, and secured financial backing...throughout the four years...and meanwhile, Harden won the competitive (and prestigious) Canadian screenwriting Praxis award in 2011 for the script.  Things always seemed to keep moving forward.

Perhaps patience was the key word here, or simply resilience—or perhaps bare naked Trust—especially when their film was a winter one.  The window to shoot came and went in 2013...and then 2014...but the team finally got their break in 2015 and shot the story in a mere 18 days.

Once through the post-production part, the Jenkinson-Goode team began entering NUMB into festivals...and they got in.  Jason admits they were lucky:

"You need a couple of big festivals to start out a film’s release.  So we didn’t enter the film in that many, to be honest.  Basically Toronto, Busan (we showed them the rough cuts) and Whistler.  And we got into the latter two.  One as the World Premiere in Busan, the biggest Asian film fest.  And then our North American premiere was Whistler, which helped launch our Canadian release 2 months later." 

(They happened to be the closing film at Whistler's 2015 film festival and the midnight screening at Busan's in South Korea.)

NUMB would end up winning the 2016 LEO Award (part of the Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Foundation of British Columbia) for Best Motion picture in Visual Effects as well as picking up a few nominations for Best Motion Picture, Best Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Musical Score, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Make-up, Best Casting, Best Supporting Performance by a Female, Best Lead Performance by a Male.  (Phew.)  And additionally, Aleks (the male lead) won the UBCP-ACTRA award for Best Male Performance (across all media), and NUMB recently got a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Original Score (Canada’s Oscars).  Woot woot.

NUMB would also garner reviews from places like Variety or Rotten Tomatoes and while they weren't always glowing, such as, "Director Jason R. Goode creates a taut mood and gives us plenty of lovely but deadly landscape to ponder. But Numb is likely to leave sensible filmgoers cold" (RT) or "'NUMB' isn’t especially effective at mounting suspense and tension over the long haul" (Variety), the irony is that the reviews seem to miss the point that there is metaphor going on and seem to simply want action as cheap thrill.  (It was lovely to see that the audience (not the critics) perhaps picked up on this and gave it a whopping 77% approval rating.)  For what it's worth, when I saw it last summer, I felt the suspense, fear, and tension and also appreciated that the film wasn't gory, full of sex scenes, or overly intense from quick plot cadence or camera movement.  As I’ve recovered a sensitivity over the years, I now walk out of those movies because they are overly stimulating and invasive to me...ask my husband.

All this to say...NUMB was just released in America and is on all video-on-demand platforms.  If you feel inclined, you may find it on the tech-side of things, such as on iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google Play, and the like.  On the cable side of things, NUMB can be found and watched on Comcast, Cox, Time Warner Cable, Brighthouse, Verizon Fios, Frontier, Suddenlink, Charter, Mediacom, CenturyLink, Google Fiber, Dish, DirecTV, Blockbuster/Sling TV.)  And if you're the hard copy type, a NUMB DVD can found at enterprises such as Amazon, Walmart, and other stores.

While it may not be the obvious choice for a Valentine's date with yourself or another, it may be the perfect choice because of the metaphor which seeks to melt our own numbness:  how far would we go in our blindness to get what we want?

The official trailer.

Part II

I think what I appreciate most about Jason, besides his courage to pursue a calling regardless of the financial return, is his marriage.  He seems to have his identity elsewhere, that is, not rooted in the normal societal pressures of success, especially for a man.  Jason stays at home with his three daughters (10, 7 & 5) while his wife brings home the bacon and wins the bread since his vocation is yet to pay well, or even perhaps pay.  He writes and works on his films (when they're not in production) on average around fifteen hours per week.  Though he knows what he needs to move his "career" forward, those kinds of resources are hard to come by, so his journey is a "slowly moving" one.  I recall a conversation with his wife a few years ago, "He's changing diapers and working on a multi-million dollar budget."

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I asked about the element of play in his life to his creative process.  "It's always there and still there."  Jason started to take risks in the area of acting.   He auditioned for a college play when he coached college volleyball.  "I was the college volleyball coach, so I was staff, which made it a bit awkward...I was the only guy, but I wanted to try out for the play at the college.  It was a real risk to step out publicly. "  The idea was initially mocked by the ladies but they soon backtracked when they realized he was seriously going to audition.  (As it turned out, his courageous move allowed for one of the girls to audition, too, something she had been fearful of, which in turn encouraged him to keep on stepping out in trust.)  It was that situation where he experienced the joy of play in the face of failure (and in this case, humiliation).  From there, he continued to play by taking acting classes, at which point, he and his wife also relocated from the middle of Canada to the west coast.  They both transferred to a graduate school of Christian theology in Vancouver (Regent College), and it was there that he once again found the courage to throw himself into a project with no prior experience.  A bunch of students were making a movie.  He joined the group of friends, though he had "no clue” of what he was doing.  But it turned out wonderful--he learned the language of the camera and how it worked.  One day he realized, "Oh, that's how it's supposed to work."  Without the freedom to play and make mistakes, he would have never gone down this path.  Fear would have gotten in the way.

In fact, there was a prominent moment for him.  Jason had been in a contemplative period for the years prior—reading much by a man named Henri Nouwen—and felt inadequate to be "an artist".  He was an only child of British immigrants to Canada.  He had a right to university and to get a job.  He had always watched films, but "I didn't feel it was a legitimate life pathI didn't grow up near artists.”  While he was in that season of coaching volleyball and studying, he felt God say, "Do it man.  I'm not the one stopping youI'm not the one in the way here."  Perhaps it was this that gave him the courage to defy odds even on the smallest scale and audition, then get involved in an area he had no prior knowledge in, and then...patiently wait years for the right season, metaphorically and literally, to open up, all while being a stay-at-home dad.  

I couldn't help but ask about the rhythm his family had.  He and his wife operate out of the framework that "our marriage comes first".  "Our relationship is at the center of our family.  Everything else revolves around that.  So kids are a clear second.  I think it's crazy when kids comes first.  I don't want to be grocery-shopping at night when Christie is home.  That's our time together.  So we do things—even like working out—on the kids' time.  And the beautiful thing is that now they are learning to take care of themselves from watching me, say, do the grocery shopping.  Now my oldest daughter feels proud when she can do that.  She feels a sense of autonomy and responsibility.”  (I couldn’t help but agree after reading books, such as, by the well-known American child-psychologist Madeline Levine who shares that the new at-risk child is one from affluent backgrounds where there is huge pressure to succeed outside the home with little to zero responsibility to the family life, such as with chores.)

Finances came up a bit along with the reality that his family is always financially vulnerable.  So I also had to ask: why do you still make films?  "Because this is the thing that I do.  I am really luckybecause I married someone who gets it and who sacrifices a lot for it.  I would like to one day financially contribute to my family.  Right now film is not that, but it's what I do.  It's my calling."  

He shared how each and every film made is a miracle, how so many, many things never “go right” on any given day of shooting a film, and that even with all the funding lined up, the journey is one of constant accepting and letting go to find the beauty in what is there.  To be creative with it.  I couldn’t help but see the similarity to children and what he was already doing: being a stay-at-home parent to his children.  Each and every child (and then person) is special regardless of "how they turn out” and every day at home “rarely goes as planned”.  

Have you ever seen what you are doing as preparing you for the film world?  It’s precisely what makes you a great director: agility, understanding, empathy, creativity.”  Jason hadn’t seen that connection of parenting to directing before and seemed to be intrigued.  It was clear as day to me, and I couldn't help but wonder if all of this “slowly moving” process was simply his own school of directing.