Jayme Karales is the author of the novel Disorderly, the director of Practice Makes Perfect, the host of Shootin’ It, and the founder of ThatLitSite. His work has been published by Thought Catalog, Before Sunrise Press, Underground Books, The Horror Zine, and others.
Loren Kleinman (LK): Do you consider yourself indie? If so, how would you define the term and your relationship with it?
Jayme Karales (JK): It’s not something I consciously label myself but I would say it fits. You have to be in order to build opportunities for yourself. I would define ‘indie’ as simply being outside of the mainstream infrastructure. Everything I’ve done, I’ve done on my own using my own resources, associates, and capital. It’s not easy, but if you want to do something bad enough you’ll figure out a way.
LK: How did you get into screenwriting? Was there always a book first?
JK: I’ve been writing screenplays since the age of 11 or 12. It’s pretty embarrassing but if you look hard enough, there are probably a few poorly written Batman fan fiction scripts out there that I scribed. To answer your question, though, yes, the idea of writing a book predated my interest in writing for the screen. When I eventually started taking my passion seriously, I wound up with my first novel, Disorderly (published in 2013 by Before Sunrise Press), and the following year I decided to get back into screenwriting.
LK: Practice Makes Perfect is about Paul Brokovich (Michael Malkiewicz), an English teacher by day and a stand-up comedian by night. He tests his comedy on his students before his acts. However, his desire to be a comic distracts him from his full-time job. First, I can relate. Second, truth on your behalf? How did you come up with the idea? What’s the film’s message?
JK: Truth on my behalf? Sure, absolutely. I think that struggle applies to anyone in pursuit of creative freedom, both in terms of art and how someone chooses to live their life. The idea originated a few years back as a concept for a short film in the style of a really bad sitcom. I shelved it in favor of working on another film, which fortunately or unfortunately got scrapped in pre-production, and only decided to revisit it last year.
The film’s message is that you shouldn’t half-ass your dream. If you want something, either go out and get it or give up and learn to be content with the life you have. When it comes to some of the more ambitious careers, like filmmaking or comedy for example, the odds of ‘making it’ are particularly low. But I’d argue that they’re low because people believe they’re impossible to achieve. You get saddled with failures, one after another, and you lose confidence. You don’t trust your own abilities. People can only take so much. What they fail to recognize is that with each plummet, you’re picking up new knowledge that you can apply to future endeavors. Now granted, I’m sitting on the second-to-last step right now talking like I’m king of the staircase, but I think there’s something to this idea. And I wanted to get that across in the movie, that you are your own worst enemy when it comes to reaching your goals.
LK: What makes this film special? How do you think audiences will relate?
JK: I think it’s special because it’s unloading a lot of new talent, particularly Michael Malkiewicz who plays Paul in the film. By trade, Mike is a hilarious stand up comic. I think audiences will relate to Paul’s struggle, his desire to succeed and his fear of falling flat on his face.
LK: Was Practice Makes Perfect a book first? Or did it always want to be a screenplay?
JK: With Practice Makes Perfect, it was somewhat of an unusual circumstance. I had told Mike about my idea, he loved it and said he’d be interested in starring as Paul Brokovich if I ever put the thing in motion. So, prior to writing the screenplay, I decided to come up with a story to help me get an idea of who this character was and what the angle might be. That became a 120-something page manuscript and ultimately turned out to be wildly different from the movie.
LK: Talk about adapting a book for the screen? What’s the process?
JK: I’m of the Jodorowsky school of thought when it comes to adaptation, that you can’t really put too much faith into the source material when bringing a book to the screen. You see it all the time, what works on the page doesn’t necessarily work on film. So rather than trying to conceive another version of the book, I opted to take a different approach. I looked at the manuscript, thought about what the most important elements were and put them into the script.
LK: How is the structure of a novel the same or different from a screen play?
JK: It’s vastly different. The novella is written from the perspective of a character that’s not even in the movie. He’s basically the Nick Carraway to Paul’s Gatsby, documenting Paul in the hours leading up to his first paid gig. In that regard, it’s almost like a ‘found footage’ film that has been repurposed for literature. The movie on the other hand, is structured like a novel. It’s broken up into chapters. Narratives shift, there are jumps in time… In the book, the entire story unfolds over a single day. In the movie, it’s a twelve-year span.
JK: Oh, boy… Well, crowd-funding didn’t go exactly as I had hoped. It was actually pretty rushed and because of that, we only reached $5,800 of the needed $8,000 for post-production and re-shoots. It was a matter of having exhausted our resources after coming off of a successful Kickstarter campaign for my comic book series The Extractor and also the fact that we already had the movie in the can. It’s fairly difficult to get your movie (further) financed, when you’ve already shot the entire thing. In hindsight, our strategy could have and should have been a lot better. Luckily we managed to raise those funds outside of Kickstarter and finished the film as we intended.
LK: What kind of feedback have you gotten from fans about the movie? When can audiences expect to see it?
JK: Feedback has been resoundingly positive. It probably sounds lame, but I was in awe of the response the trailer got when it went live. To see everyone showing interest and thinking it’s funny, it was like a big ‘Holy Shit’ moment. My phone and e-mail were blowing up that entire weekend with messages from friends and colleagues. The trailer actually helped land me future work, as well — which is crazy.
LK: What’s the indie film scene like now? How hard is it to sell a movie? What’s involved?
JK: I can’t really speak on behalf of how difficult it may be to sell the film because we haven’t reached that point yet. We’re going to be touring the festival circuit later this year, once we’re done with filming on my next movie Man Kills, Jesus Saves, and hopefully then we’ll find a distributor.
LK: Talk about the cast. Who are they and what was it like organizing the film?
JK: The star, Michael Malkiewicz, is a standup comedian and podcaster. With the exception of some comedy skits and shorts, this was essentially his acting debut. And honestly, he knocked it out of the park. Alex Hand is Wesley Marbo, who is the antagonist of the film. Alex is a great deadpan performer – I was really fortunate to have him involved. We also have LeVar Burton (Roots, Reading Rainbow), who has kind of a unique, weird cameo that I won’t spoil here – but we were lucky enough to have him lend us his talents for a minor role.
LK: Would you advise all authors to write a coordinating screenplay to their novels? Why or why not?
JK: I think it’s definitely a smart move. Couldn’t hurt any. Worst case scenario you have a neat counter-piece to your book, best case scenario you’re looking at a multi-million dollar summer blockbuster. You can’t go wrong.
LK: Can you give aspiring screenwriters any advice on adapting a book for the screen? Funding and promotion?
JK: Have fun with it and don’t stick to your original concept too much. Be open to new ideas, both while writing and shooting. Social media is the best tool around when it comes to promotion, but only if you use it properly. You need to know how to sell your movie and not simply tweet out “HEY WATCH THIS” with a link over and over again. Nobody’s going to respond to that. It’s important to engage. In terms of funding… if you want to make it look good, you better whip out some credit cards or start buddying up to some wealthy, terminally ill relatives.
LK: How has your experience with podcasting prepared you for making a movie?
JK: Podcasting has fundamentally helped me communicate better with people I don’t know personally, both on and off the set. It also requires a lot of organization both before and during the show. Communication and organization are what being a director is all about. You can have style, you can have flair, and a lot of good ideas – but if you can’t talk to your cast and crew and help them understand where you’re coming from, or allow them to open up to you and share their perspectives, then you’re going to fail.
LK: Would you write and produce another film again?
JK: Absolutely, I’m in the middle of pre-production on my next movie Man Kills, Jesus Saves and I’m also serving as screenwriter on a UK production with the very talented filmmaker DJ Devereux.
LK: Are there any indie books you’re reading that you predict might hit the big screen?
JK: I’m in the middle of Preparation for the Next Life and I could see the author getting a movie deal from this. It’s starting to get some positive attention, too, which is great – so yeah, that wouldn’t surprise me. On the flip side, if Ben Brooks randomly feels like lending me the rights to Grow Up (or Lolito) – I’d gladly direct the shit out of that.
LK: What’s next for Jayme K.?
JK: Probably reclaiming my last name. I’ve been putting myself out there as ‘Jayme K.’ for two or three years now instead of Jayme Karales, to avoid association with a few really awful self-published books I released during high school. Now that I have some legitimate work under my belt, it might be time to ditch the moniker.