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'One Please' (2014): Interview with Jesse Burks

Poster for 'One Please' (2014)
Jesse Burks

I think you're really on to something when you're able to creep me out without really saying anything. That's what happened when I watched "One Please". The film was written and directed by Jesse Burks and stars '70s genre icon Michael Berryman.

Mini Review:

Before watching "One Please", I attempted to find a synopsis online. I wanted to know a little more about the story surrounding the stills (presented on the Facebook page) of Berryman as the Ice Cream Man. What did the tagline ("Mommy and daddy love you...very, very much") mean? Why was this film listed as a horror? My curious thirst was fully satisfied after gaining the answer to my question. This simple family (played brilliantly by Alan Rackley, Catherine Burks, Sailor Holland, and Langston Thompson) set a wonderful picture that made every mysterious detail surrounding this film that much more impactful.

The wonderful cadences, the perfectly designed pace, and the twist that you'll never see coming makes "One Please" the film that sets the bar for the short film circuit into the stratosphere very early in the year. This was, quite possibly, the best six minutes of of 2014.

Little Rock Movie Examiner's rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Interview with Jesse Burks

Jess Carson: This was a very unique idea. How did it come about?

Jesse Burks: Although I absolutely love to laugh and am a huge fan of comedies, I think that movies that lean more towards the horror genre have a wonderful ability to toy with the viewers' emotions. When I think back on classic horror movies I've enjoyed ("The Shining", "Pet Sematary", "The Children of the Corn", etc.), almost all of them had children in them. A kid can be hilarious in the right setting but, in an entirely different setting, a kid can be very, very disturbing character.

Although I've done a few short films entirely on my own (filming, editing, etc.), I sort of had this idea rolling around in my head for a few months. I discussed it with Josh and Miles Miller,just to see if they saw any merit in it. Luckily they did! Josh and Miles, two absolutely fantastic filmmakers, were incredibly encouraging when I threw the idea out there!

I didn't want to make a simply gory movie. I didn't want to make a ghost story. Don't get me wrong, I love those films, but from the first moment the idea sprouted in my head, I pictured two people walking out of a theater: One turns to the other and says, "I love that little film, but there was something really wrong about it."
I've been so thankful that the few people that have had the chance to view it, primarily during festival submissions, have really given me some fantastic quotes:
"adorable and disturbing"
"wonderfully unsettling"
"beautiful but horrible"

After getting those first few responses I was thrilled!! Those were the exact types of descriptions I had hoped for - a horror story that stirred together a sticky pot of things that shouldn't be mixed.

JC: That's amazing! I'm so glad you've been getting the responses you hoped for. Seems like this process was extremely eventful for you. What was the best part about production?

JB: There were so many great parts about production. This was the first time I had ever really worked with a "crew". My earlier work, and I use the term "work" very loosely, I did everything on my own. The crew that came together for this project was simply phenomenal. Definitely having people like Gabe Mayhan, Kathryn Tucker, Mitchell Crisp, Dwight Chalmers, Russ and Les Galusha, and the Miller Brothers involved made this odd little film what it is. We had a crew of 42 and each and every one of them played such a huge role in this production. We shot for roughly 31 hours over a single weekend. They were all amazing and I can never tell them thank you enough.

But you did ask me about the "best" part of production. I would have to say working with the legendary horror movie icon, Michael Berryman. Being a new director and having someone of his experience willing to work with me was simply incredible. He is so talented, kind, and easy to work with - just made an intense project like "One Please" a fantastic experience. Although his on screen time is minimal, I think most people will agree that he adds something invaluable to the film. I can never thank him enough for giving me a chance!

JC: This film says a lot with no dialogue. What were the challenges of this?

JB: A film with no dialogue, on the surface, may seem like it would be easier to film. But you rely entirely on facial expressions, body movement, scene set-up etc. to tell the story. It was definitely a bigger challenge than I originally anticipated - but the cast did an amazing job of making adjustments here and there to allow me to tell the story well. On top of that, a film with now dialogue and with children? That was even more challenging! But my 7- and 3-year-old actresses were amazingly responsive to direction!

JC: What was the casting process like?

JB: Michael Berryman was definitely at the top of my list! I remember showing a photo of him to my wife one Saturday night and then texting it to Josh and Miles. We all agreed, within about 3 seconds, that he would add something to this story that couldn't be captured with anyone else. In short, I went for the moon! If someone had told me a month before I finished the script that he would be in my film, I would have thought they were crazy!

Alan Rackley (Dad) came by way of recommendation of the Millers. He sent me a photo of himself in a recliner smoking a pipe - with Alan's experience and the look he was a no-brainer. The other roles were a little selfish on my part. The Mom is my wife Catherine and Little Girl and Littler Girl - Sailor Holland and Langston Thompson - are my nieces. The reason I say "selfish" is not because I had delusions of making them famous from a six minute short film. It was "selfish" because, as a new and inexperienced director, I thought that having an established relationship with those three characters would make me more comfortable (and a little more confident) in the performance we could get. When I started fashioning this disturbing little idea into an actual script, I specifically wrote it with those three in mind. Alan and Michael are professionals with acting experience. I knew they could definitely do a great job despite a "newbie" director. Catherine, Sailor, and Langston have no formal training, but I just felt in my gut that with the right direction/motivation/encouragement we could pull it off (pretty scary when I think back about all the things that might not have worked out). They exceeded everything I hoped for!! The performances they gave, with no training, was out of this world!

JC: How did you get Michael Berryman to sign on?

JB: Well, I found Michael's agent and sent an email. Honestly, I never thought he'd respond but, about two days later, he did! [We exchanged] a series of back and forth emails...and about 2 months later he was here!

I really love this story, but when I found out Michael would be in it, I was floored. Just with his talent, experience, and iconic status I knew it was going to raise everything to a whole new level!

JC: Anything else you'd like to share?

JB: Michael Berryman has read my second script - which is a wee bit of a darker story and has given me the "thumbs up" and says that it's even creepier than the first script. I've also completed a third script, but have it safely tucked away at this point. Michael and I both envision this being a series of disturbing little shorts.

I have two other short scripts that are progressing slowly: a grindhouse story set in rural Arkansas entitled "Mother Snuff and The Maxes" and another, which I'm not sure I can categorize, "The Beating of Margaret Pudge".

JC: Thank you so much for taking the time out for this interview!

You can keep up with "One Please" via Facebook.

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