Jeremy Ungar

Tellie's The Beat talks with Jeremy Ungar, a director and filmmaker based in Los Angeles, CA.

Check out Jeremy's page for Tellie's The Beat

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

 

Introduction

My name is Jeremy Ungar and I’m a filmmaker. 

Beginnings…

I became interested in film when I was really young. I saw my first Hitchcock film and around the same time, I started doing theater—specifically, doing Shakespeare at this place called Theatricum Botanicum. It was started by the actor Will Geer in the ’50s. When he was blacklisted and couldn’t work in Hollywood anymore, he started this theater out in Topanga Canyon. They had a children’s program that I did when I was growing up. I fell in love with the language of Shakespeare and, at the same time, with the cinema of Alfred Hitchcock and the suspense that he built. That was my jumping-off point into the world of film. I always knew I wanted to be a film director and I started directing plays in high school. From there, I went to college for theater directing. The thing I felt most interested in was working with actors, so that was kind of how my path evolved. 

When did you know you could do this for real?

So, I feel like I’ve been living in perpetual suspense as to whether or not I can craft a career out of my love for film and my desire to be a filmmaker. In 2015, I wrote the script for a film called Ride, which became my first feature. I remember looking at the pages I’d written and being kind of surprised that the dialogue had been written by me. It was an interesting and surreal experience that made me think, Wow, this could really be an actual film. I ended up making a short to prove that I could do the feature. I decided to call in every favor I possibly had and then that ended up becoming my first film. 

“...it’s not a race. A career in the arts is a marathon, and there are going to be a lot of things that happen that are not ideal. A lot of projects that you put all your hopes and dreams into fall apart. I think the thing I would tell myself is, ‘That stuff is good. That stuff is a part of the process...’”

What would you say to young Jeremy? 

When I was young, I was really ambitious and really hungry to be moving quickly. And that’s cool and that’s necessary, but it’s not a race. A career in the arts is a marathon, and there are going to be a lot of things that happen that are not ideal. A lot of projects that you put all your hopes and dreams into fall apart. I think the thing I would tell myself is, “That stuff is good. That stuff is a part of the process. That stuff is something that doesn’t need to be shattering. You should completely invest in every single thing, even knowing that some of them aren’t going to work because I think that’s the only way that you learn.”

What does creativity mean to you? 

For me, creativity is the act of expression. I think it’s specifically the ability—or the ability I’m constantly trying to hone—to express things that I can’t just say. To express ideas that really can’t take form in words for me, things that are just harder to articulate. Whether the thing is an idea or an experience, whatever the thing is, it can’t be described in just a word. You need more than that. And so you make a film or write a song, or write a scene of dialogue about it.

What makes you come alive?

I would say that filmmaking is the thing that makes me come alive. When I think about colleagues of mine who are my favorite filmmakers, I think they all try to make the movies that they would want to watch. And that’s what I try to do. When I was a kid and I would sit in the darkened theater and watch a film, I would feel alive in a way that is special and unique to that specific place. Very fortunately for me, I really do love the experience of being on set and the experience of running a set in a way that feels really positive. When everyone’s working really hard, but they’re all really content with the work that’s happening, I think that’s where I feel most personally fulfilled. That is absolutely why I pursue filmmaking. And hopefully, it lines up with good work down the line.

“For me, creativity is the act of expression. I think it’s specifically the ability—or the ability I’m constantly trying to hone—to express things that I can’t just say.”

This interview was conducted on October 29th, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

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