Synopsis: Tommy 75, is told by his doctor that he’s so healthy he could live another 15 years. But he’s not interested in living another 15 years, his wife and all his friends are already gone. He asks his son Mike, 45, to put a hefty bag over his head and end it all but Mike refuses. MIke’s son Chris, 17, convinces his father they should help Tommy make his transition. Mike and Chris buy gas masks so they can sit in the car with Tommy as he suffocates on carbon dioxide. Except the plan doesn’t work…
We interviewed first time director, (but film industry. veteran) Suzanne Weinert about this short during SXSW 2019
AMFM Magazine: I wanted to tell you that your short affected me in a different way that you probably expected. This story hit a little close to home. My father-in-law just committed suicide last year. so this story is more real than you know. . He was 92 and he was just done – in his working life he was the CEO of a fortune 100 company, used to being large and in charge. He did not like aging, and feeling as if he were a burden on society. We were trying to dissuade him from doing it, but he did it. His method was to stop eating and drinking until his body shut down. Believe it or not, there’s actually a society of people of a certain age that are trying to leave this world in a dignified manner and they think starving themselves is the answer,
So it took about eight days and he was in touch with us the whole time. It was wrenching. But your short The Good Son had a different, far preferable twist to it. What was the impetus for this? Why did you write it?
Suzanne Weinert: The short itself is really just a small piece of a larger feature that I wrote and it is based on a story that a dear friend of mine told me when we were doing some volunteer work in Nepal. Long days building houses – no one had told me that when you drink at high altitudes you actually get drunker. So we were drinking some Everest beer. And uh, he told me this story about how his father had a hefty bag and said here, put this over my head, that’s it. I’m done. I had a delayed reaction to what he said, about 20 minutes later I thought “ that could be a story.” That was really the jumping off point.
It was kind of a humorous moment, but then I just really started to think about it. And so I wrote a feature script called The Good Son, about a man who spent a year trying to get every member of his family on board with his decision, and how he goes about manipulating them. And of course none of them will. So then he goes out of his way to do these crazy things to get them angry with him.
And then I was looking for something to direct and my manager said to take some of what you’ve already written and create a small little piece out of that, but make it self contained, or stand alone. Other scripts that I’ve written do tend to be kind of dark comedy. So I j thought this was something where I felt very close to the characters. So I carved just a little something out of a much larger piece.
AMFM Magazine: This is your also your directorial debut. And so you did this because your manager suggested it?
Suzanne Weinert: I’ve been thinking about it for a really long time. I’ve been in this business for awhile, but always under writer, or producer.
So I had this time on my hands and thought, let’s just do it then. Let’s just do it. I’ve been producing for 10 years here in Austin, so I know how to get it done.. I reached out to a few people and said, hey, I’m thinking of directing something, could you help me? They were all like – , absolutely. So I was really lucky. I had a wonderful group of people who are all tip top, in their departmentscome in and help me.
AMFM Magazine: It shows too.Let’s talk about the dark humor. Dark humor is a way to deal with things that are really not funny. It’s possibly a human reaction to something that is stressful and awful and terrible.
Suzanne Weinert: If you can laugh about it, then you could overcome it.
AMFM Magazine: Is that your main goal behind writing stories that are like this, that are dark but using humor?
Suzanne Weinert: I think that’s the outcome. The other piece that I wrote that was at SXSW 10 years ago was called Exterminators and it was about women who hurt men for money. When I wrote it I thought I was writing kind of more dramatic pieces and it was really not until we started doing readings of it that I heard people laugh – then I realized there was humor in it. it was not intentional at all. I just think that the way I write characters -, they all seem to be funny.
But I’ve also written things that I thought were funny and then when actors took ahold of it, they were not funny at all. So I don’t, I don’t know I’m nnot intending to write comedy. A lot of the people that I know and I’ve grown up around people that they really don’t mean to be funny. They don’t think they’re funny. It’s just the way they think.
AMFM Magazine: Unintentional humor and possibly to do with the subject matter too. It’s like a nervous laugh, a reaction to something that causes consternation and people laugh until to relieve that feeling. So can you tell me where you’re going to go from here with this now that the short is done?
Suzanne Weinert: In the immediate future, I am just going to go kind of enjoy that and listen to people and hear what they have to say about it. It’s interesting that it is starting a kind of conversation. I’ve had people come up to me and say, “oh yeah, my, my dad said something like that the other night.” I’m going to amount of spend the next few months going to festivals and hearing people’s stories and meeting people and then I’m going away – I live in New Zealand every summer, Ultimately will start to, send it out to different outlets and see what the interest would be in the feature script.
I’m not intersted in directing the feature script. I want to direct a few more shorts. I’ve already written another short I want to direct.
AMFM Magazine: Is it that you want a little more experience directing before you direct a feature? How was that transition? Did you, did you enjoy being a director?
Suzanne Weinert: It was not what was expected, but I really did enjoy it. It’s just very different as a producer, and certainly as the writer – your work is really done by the time someone says “action.” But as a director, that’s where it all starts. So it was a different kind of work flow experienced. But, I felt surrounded, I knew pretty much everyone else in front of the camera and behind the camera and they were all friends of mine, so I felt very supported.
That part was great, but a feature is a huge undertaking. I have tremendous respect for directors and so I would never say “alright, I directed a 10 minutes short. Now I can go do something for 90 minutes.” I think I’d like to do at least one other short.
I also have a pilot script for series set here in Austin, That would be probably 25 minutes. So I want to do one more short in the spring and then in the fall, then shoot this pilot here in Austin,
AMFM Magazine: Will you direct that?
Suzanne Weinert: Yes, that I will direct, but we are still raising money for it.
CREDITS A GOOD SON
Director: Suzanne Weinert
Executive Producer: Brian Hammers, Matt West
Producer: Farah White, Alexandra Chando
Screenwriter: Suzanne Weinert
Cinematographer: Philip Roy
Editor: Philip Roy
Production Designer: Jeanette Scott
Sound Designer: Eric Friend
Music: Jose Cancela, Dave Kushner, Amy Beauchamp
Principal Cast: Marco Perella, Tim Brown, Coleman Scollard
Additional Credits: Costumer: Lily Walker, Hair/MakeUp: Becky Joyce, Visual Effects: Wes Meyers
“A Good Son,” starring Marco Perella (Boyhood), is Suzanne Weinart’s directorial debut and marks her 10 Year Anniversary at SXSW. In 2009, she wrote the feature “ExTerminators” which starred Amber Heard, Heather Graham and Jennifer Coolidge, and also opened SXSW. Once Suzanne went to SXSW in 2009, she basically never left and has been in Austin ever since.