In Jason Ruscio‘s “Laura Smiles“, Laura (Petra Wright) seems like she should have something to smile about. Nine years after her fiance is killed in a car accident, she’s been able to rebound, marrying and having a son. But dormant emotions from her tragic past are working their way to the surface and begin to disrupt every aspect of her life. Emerging Pictures opened “Laura Smiles” in NY on July 27th. This week it continues to LA, opening August 3rd.
What attracted you to filmmaking? How has your style developed?
Filmmaking has been the central focus in my life since I first arrived at NYU film school at the age of 21. From the very start, it was for me a creative way to explore my emotional universe, and this remains my principal reason for making films. I am 37 now, and living in Los Angeles.
Early on, mood and setting were what interested me most, but I have come to focus more energy on performance. These days, close-ups excite me more than landscapes.
How did the initial idea for this film came about?
The idea for “Laura Smiles” came about when my marriage started to fall apart. The quiet, suburban existence felt inauthentic, and left me desiring more passionate, spontaneous times. This initial catalyst then allowed for examination of more complex questions and emotions that I was experiencing at the time.
Elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film. Who are your influences?
My approach to making this, or any film, is to first and foremost have a good time. The process should be enjoyable and make everyone involved want to come back and do it again.
Admittedly, my influences include Bergman and Cassavetes, both of which were married to their leads, as I was. But the list of visionary filmmakers that have influenced me is very long.
What are your goals for the film?
Thankfully, my goals for the film have very much been achieved. Granted, it’s taken longer than I ever imagined it would, but we’ve arrived… and all that’s left is our release this weekend.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing “Laura Smiles”?
The film’s journey was certainly a challenging one. The production was shot in two stages, several months apart, and the road to distribution had many potholes along the way. But fortunately we landed in the hands of Emerging Pictures, and they have handled the release wonderfully.
How did the financing for the film come together?
I had a great team of producers that found the money and cast. But I principally credit Ric Arthur for bringing the financing together. He is a marvelous producer, who stands by his projects all the way to the finish-line.
What is your next project?
There are many stories I would like to tell. I have several yet produced screenplays, all of which I hope to make someday. Would love to do a Civil War film. It’s likely my next production will be an earlier script of mine entitled “Bear Lake Run“, but I am also half-way through a new script, which will again feature Petra Wright in the lead.
What are some of your all-time favorite films?
So many favorite films, but here’s a few – “Letter From An Unknown Woman“, “Scenes From A Marriage“, “Casablanca“, “Vertigo“, “Close-up” (by Kiarostami), “A Matter of Life and Death“. Hard to come up with these lists, because of all that’s left out.
Recent film I liked? – “Cache“.
What are your interests outside of film?
6am coffee and croissant at the Tropical Cafe, with the daily newspaper and my journal.
What general advice would you impart to emerging filmmakers?
Everything you do in your life means absolutely nothing… and it is very important that you do it.
What’s an achievement from your career that you are most proud of?
There are many achievements I’m proud of… but not giving up on “Laura Smiles” until she made it to the big screen might top them all.