Spenser Fritz – Referential Filmmaker

ImageSpenser Fritz is a writer, producer and director based in Nashville, TN. He is currently in post-production for his latest feature film, A Matter of Time.

I think Spenser would take his coffee black. No cream, no sugar. He seems like the type of artist who stays up all night creating and would just need the coffee to keep the burning oil going.

DP: How did you get into filmmaking?

SF: I actually fell into it in a sense. I had always excelled at creative writing. Even in elementary school random teachers would come up and tell me how much they loved my writing. When I got to high school I was going to study architecture, but then in my junior year I decided to make a big shift. I got in a TV production class and started making little films and right away everybody was impressed with what I was doing. So I thought I must have a knack for this.

DP: Did you start off as a writer?

SF: During my senior year I had to decide whether I was going to go to a University to write books or go to a film school to write movies. My Dad had instilled a passion in me for film because of his love for cult classics like Tremors and Reservoir Dogs. So I already loved movies, was really good at writing and so decided to go in film direction

DP: What film did you want to make early on?

SF: My earliest big idea was to do something about the damaging effects of meth. I wanted to write the first big meth film and expose people to the world that I had seen in my small town. But then Breaking Bad and Cook County came out. So I moved on from that pretty quickly.

DP: When did you go from wanting to be a writer to becoming a director?

SF: In my first movie I made in film school I decided I wanted to be a writer and director. The process went really well and I could communicate the vision and what I wanted really well. I decided that I could direct what I wrote better than anyone else.

DP: So which part of the film process are you most confident in?

SF: I can really get in the zone when I write dialogue. Then I love communicating with actors as a director. No matter who the actor is or what their background is, they seem to trust me and the vision I am communicating. I just listen and give feedback.

DP: How do you prepare for a film?

SF: A lot of pre-production. I look up to Alfred Hitchcock. He would prepare so much that I think if he didn’t come to set things would still go as planned. I imitate that preparation of planning shots, reading and critiquing the script over and over again.I direct the movie in my head before anything starts. I go through every beat and think through how it needs to be done and why. I picture myself acting each individual part and try to see what small nuances need to be brought to the scene. So with the actors I can clearly communicate what I want and why. I also storyboard every single shot and would never make a feature without doing that. 

DP: How do you balance that preparation with the constant changes of an independent film set?

SF: When it comes to storyboarding, you always want to storyboard with the DP. It will minimize the amount of changes you have to do later. I like to collaborate and trust my DP. If he finds a shot that he loves then I trust his/her instincts. But there is always at least one shot within each scene that I feel that we have to get.

DP: How do you approach assembling a team for an individual project?

SF: I always search for the best person for the job. There are those that I will always have creatively alongside me for any project. But I like finding the best person for a specific job and that changes every time. I look for the person that will add the most to that story.

DP: Which filmmakers are you most influenced by?

SF: I am such a referential filmmaker that I feel like I am always pulling from other directors. But the top four would be: Hitchcock, Fassbinder, Tarantino and the Coen brothers.

DP: How have these directors influenced you?

SF: Hitchcock revolutionized so many aspects of filmmaking. I want to be innovative and remembered for doing new things. Fassbinder because of his track record and the way he does his beats. He was also so prolific and made so many films in such a short amount of time. I would like to have that same drive to create so many films consecutively. Everybody is going to make good and bad movies, but I would love to crank out feature, feature, feature. Just make a lot of films. The Coen brothers because they show such a beauty of emotion and also can do any genre. They can do horror and they can do comedy. I too want to tell stories in all genres of film. Tarantino because he is also such a referential filmmaker.

DP: What film has influenced your style most?

SFNorth by Northwest. Its Hitchcock, which most people associate with horror films like Psycho. But it’s a film that fits everything. Its Hitchcock in his prime and it shows the sense of humor that he had that most people don’t know about. I feel like a director who has a great sense of humor in my films that isn’t so easily seen.

DP: What would you consider your style?

SF: If I could sum up my desired style I would say a referential filmmaker with a knack for comedy. Even films that are meant to be totally dramatic should have an element where it makes people laugh. Like It’s a Wonderful Life.

DP: What is your style of comedy?

SF: The unexpected. Tina Fey is one of my comedic idols. She hits you at the perfect moment.

DP: How do you take your coffee?

SF: Regular coffee with extra cream. I think if I went with anything else it would get me all wired up.