Erik Reese is an independent filmmaker whose rare talent for the medium matches his passion, intelligence, and ability. He is intensely creative and thoughtful in his work, and searches for deeper meanings in relationships, subtle truths about life, and in the process enjoys exploring existentialism through his art form. A young and talented filmmaker in his own right, he joined Sabi when he was almost done with film school. We hired Erik as a part-time production intern after Kester Krueger (our A.D.) brought him in for our feature film Heart of Now (directed by Zak Forsman). Erik was very quiet and unassuming and just wanted to be a part of what we were trying to do with both improvisation and art films. Likewise, we were incredibly impressed with a dramatic short he produced long ago in Las Vegas, a beautiful and poignant little story he made with few resources.
We were so impressed by Erik (who is the definition of humble) that when he shyly presented us with a new short he wanted to make called ‘Moments’, we wanted to help him make it happen immediately. He was co-writing the story (which are 2 stories in one) with Daniel Carmody (Producer), and after a few drafts – we collectively green-lit the project and set a very small budget and schedule to make it happen. Like Heart of Now, Erik incorporated both scripted material and improvisation and the short became the critically acclaimed ‘A Short Film About Letting Go’ – starring Aqua Yost, Christopher Sowers and Mark and Malcolm Ridley. Produced by Daniel and shot and edited by Joshua Nitschke — the film was an honest, raw and powerful story about a father and estranged son, and a relationship between close friends that needs to come to a conclusion. The Sabi Company served as a mentor and creative support throughout the whole exploratory process, which is documented in a web-series called Making Moments online (and on the DVD).
After the success of A Short Film About Letting Go, Erik set his sights on a program in Sweden, as he wanted to travel and expand his horizons as an artist and a human being (and meet new people along the way). Before he left us, I asked Erik if he’d want to take a camera package with him, to shoot anything while he was there. He very politely declined (Erik’s manner is nothing but polite) but I secretly wondered if the landscape would inspire him. He is after all, imho – born to make movies.
A few weeks later, Erik emailed me with a rough outline of a series of shorts he wanted to make with a friend he met in his program in Sweden named Mikael Ayele. In fact, what Erik was working on what looked like 10 films that would be in the style of Keislowski’s Decalogue (Note: Keislowksi is just one of the many masters that are Erik’s teachers). As Erik was considering shooting the film himself, he was going to cast it with people he knew and crew it with friends in Sweden — so we temporarily dubbed it “Svenskalogue” until it had the working title Sverige.
As Erik developed the story both with Mikael (who would play the lead character Jonas) and Daniel Carmody (who was stateside) — I budgeted out a brand new camera package, extra batteries, a tripod, a boom mic, XLR, lenses, converters, and anything else I could think of and put it in a care package headed for Sweden. This was the easy part, once Erik got the package — he was left with the challenging part. What to make?
Erik spend the next 6 months quietly shooting his story, which we would catch glimpses of on Skype, or through podcasts Erik was making with Mikael (using the working title). We couldn’t tell what he was creating, but Erik is gifted so we knew whatever it was, no matter how small, it was going to be honest, provocative, truthful. When Erik came back from his travels, he began to work on the footage he captured – and we encouraged him and supported him however he could. But it was time that Erik needed with the material, and as he relentlessly explored it – he initially generated a short from the first ‘chapter’ of the footage he shot. We screened the short for audiences, but Erik had a larger story to tell. Eventually, after about a typical year in post on a Sabi film – Erik astonished us with a beautiful feature called Train to Stockholm. (see quote for description).
Now it is 2013 and we are incredibly proud to say that writer/producer/director J. Erik Reese will debut his new film Sahara Drifters – and in the process return to his dramatic roots in Las Vegas (both for the premiere of the film & and the primarily location of the film).
Sahara Drifters is a subtle but powerful drama that stars Aqua Yost (A Short Film About Letting Go) and Mikael Ayele (Train to Stockholm) and is in a lot of ways a full circle for J. Erik Reese and The Sabi Company (and of course we will be in attendance to support him!). For now, keep and eye on this incredibly talented Producer, Writer, Director and follow him @erikreese. Everyone at Sabi is eagerly anticipating his next feature project.
RE: TRAIN TO STOCKHOLM:
“Train to Stockholm has a feeling of simplicity and authenticity from start to finish that begins with its setting in the actual Swedish cities of Stockholm and Uppsala and ends with its origins within the personal experiences of Reese. Reese, working through the increasingly impressive Sabi Company, has created a film that exudes the lessons he’s learned in his own life communicated in a way that is universal. Train to Stockholm speaks to anyone who has ever tried to gain a sense of belonging without compromising their identity.”
–The Independent Critic