American filmmaker Jon Jost is an uncompromising artist whose work stands apart not only from the Hollywood mainstream, but also from the off-Hollywood pseudo-independent sector. Born in 1943, Jost began making movies in the 60s. Although his best known feature film is probably All the Vermeers in New York (1990) Jost has been remarkably prolific since switching from 35mm film to digital video in the late 90s - his website lists 20 feature length works in as many years.
Distribution of this late work has been piecemeal at best, but judging by the two films we are screening this evening it deserves to be widely seen, enjoyed, and discussed. Both are narrative features, and even if Jost employs very different storytelling strategies from those we are used to these remain direct, accessible portraits of the emotional landscape in the American heartlands, distilled and dissected with singular clarity and insight.
Jost’s own account of the making of They Had It Coming is as follows:
"While in Stanberry [Missouri] shooting and acting in Blake’s film Ghosts of Empire Prairie, he told us a handful of local stories, embellished in his story-teller manner, and finding these just too juicy to pass up, I asked if maybe we could spin a film around them and him. Such was the genesis of They Had It Coming. I tossed in a few things that had been lingering in my files for 20 or 30 years, we each wrote a bit more, and bang, we had a film. Frank Mosley, Arianne Martin, Roxanne Rogers and Tyler Messner came in, and in pretty quick order (less than a week?) it was mostly shot, in Blake’s mother, Susan’s, kitchen! Yep, that was the studio space where nearly 2/3rds of it was shot with window light and a black cloth. While I was off on a trip to Europe Blake used my camera to snare shots (above) of locals when they came into Eckard’s Hardware to shop. Roxanne’s sister Sandy let me use one of her songs, I tossed in a few of my own, Stephen Taylor’s dad, Larry, lent his voice for a smooth TV announcer (he used to be anchor in Boise Idaho news program), and after a short bit of editing on CS6, out popped the film."
"Jost…absorbs [local] stories and spins them into fictional tales, purposefully accentuating the grandiose storytelling aspects of small town gossip. The resulting experimental visual poem captures small town middle America with more authenticity than any documentary possibly could.
They Had It Coming enables Jost to dissect a menagerie of classic documentary storytelling devices — such as reenactments, talking head interviews and intertitles — and measure their impact on the audience. All the while, They Had It Coming functions as a cultural time capsule that captures the subtle societal intricacies of small town Midwestern United States." Don Simpson, Smells Like Screen Spirit