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Meet the 2015 Tribeca Filmmakers #34: Carleton Ranney Tackles Our Relationship with Technology in ‘Jackrabbit’

Meet the 2015 Tribeca Filmmakers #34: Carleton Ranney Tackles Our Relationship with Technology in 'Jackrabbit'

READ MORE: Meet the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival Filmmakers

When a friend’s suicide leaves behind a mysterious computer drive, a fringe hacker and accomplished computer technician come together to decipher the message left in his wake. First-time filmmaker Carleton Ranney effortlessly combines a low-fi aesthetic with an intensely ambitious sci-fi story, creating a work that manages to satisfy as both a retro throwback and a forward-thinking indie drama. [Synopsis Courtesy of Tribeca]

READ MORE: George Lucas, Christopher Nolan, Stephen Colbert and More Set for Tribeca Film Festival Panels

What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?

A fringe hacker and an accomplished computer technician attempt to solve a mystery surrounding their friend’s suicide.

Now what’s it REALLY about?

“Jackrabbit” is about humanity’s relationship with information and technology’s ever-evolving role in the way we access and share that information. It is also about human being’s natural desire to connect with one another and how technology can be manipulated to both aid and hinder that process. While it takes place in a fictitious world, “Jackrabbit” tries to address current social and technological topics in a way that is cinematic and engaging while paying homage to the type of films that first inspired my love for movies.

Tell us briefly about yourself.

I am native to Austin, Texas. The first thing people usually notice about me is that my right side is paralyzed. I had suffered a spinal cord injury when I was ten. I spent the better half of a year in the hospital re-learning how to do, well, pretty much everything. This event really defined me and my entire approach to life. It was also during this experience that I discovered my connection to movies. I accumulated around 200 VHS tapes in my hospital room and I would watch them over and over. I found that great films can be a real inspiration so, when it comes to creating my own work, I’m really just attempting to return the favor. 
I will say that, despite my injury, I’m a pretty damn good bowler.

Biggest challenge in completing this film?

Our biggest challenge was the need to create a very specific and convincing story-world with the limited resources of an independent film. This challenge ended up significantly informing our stylistic approach to making the movie and eventually became an integral part of the film’s visual look and the way we presented the world to the viewer. In addition to a lot of old-fashioned movie-magic, I relied heavily on my filmmaking team, both creatively and logistically, to turn suburban garages into supercomputers and transform the bustling streets of Austin, Texas into the dilapidated cityscape of City VI. In the end, the movie was forged from our ability to adapt and problem solve as a team and find new and creative ways to compensate for our shortcomings. I feel this process of constant problem-solving and collaboration really shows on screen and helped make the movie what it is.

What do you want the Tribeca audience to take away from your film?

It’s my hope that the audience is taken on an engrossing and immersive ride that is both entertaining and thought provoking.

Any films inspire you?

Where to begin… I could probably write a list the length of “War and Peace,” so I’ll just stick to what inspired “Jackrabbit.” I was specifically inspired by the spirit and form of the VHS Blockbusters and Art Films that lined the shelves of my favorite video stores growing up in Austin. These were the movies that first introduced me to film and the ones I find myself going back to time and time again. In the end, “Jackrabbit” owes as much of its existence to “War Games” and “The Terminator” as it does to Kieslowski’s “Decalogue: 1” and Polanski’s “Knife in the Water.” There’s some early Michael Mann and John Carpenter peppered in there for good measure.

What’s next?

I’m writing my next film. It’s set in the late nineties, it’s about four strangers who are inexplicably drawn together with the belief that they will board a UFO, and travel to outer space. The film is in the vain of Speilberg’s “Close Encounter’s of The Third Kind,” but there is a subversive element to it.

What cameras did you shoot on?

Most of “Jackrabbit” was shot on the ARRI ALEXA but we shot all of the surveillance footage on consumer hi-8 and VHS camcorders. We then recorded that footage off of old CRT monitors with the Blackmagic camera to give us freedom to crop and zoom when needed.
While I find it funny and a little ironic, I’m pleased to say that, on my first feature film, I was able to shoot on the same cameras that I used to make movies as a kid.

Did you crowdfund?
If so, via what platform. If not, why?

We did not crowdfund for “Jackrabbit.”

Did you go to film school? If so, which one? 

I went to SVA (School of Visual Arts) in NYC. I met some wonderful peers there, people I still work with to this day. Richard Pepperman and Chris Newman were two professors who really influenced the way I think about storytelling and life in general.

READ MORE: ‘Goodfellas’ 25th Anniversary Reunion to Close 2015 Tribeca Film Festival

Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. For profiles go HERE.

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