Thursday, June 02, 2011

Black Sheep interviews Jacob Tierney

How Well Do You Know your Neighbours?
An interview with Jacob Tierney

If you’ve ever lived in an apartment building, you know how it feels. It’s basically you and dozens of other people stacked one on top of the other and you might actually know a handful of them by name, if that. You pass them in the halls or see them in the elevator but you don’t really know them and you certainly have no idea what happens in the little boxes they call home.

“I’ve lived next to some weird people in my life,” filmmaker, Jacob Tierney tells me when we speak about his new film, GOOD NEIGHBOURS. Who hasn’t? Still, I would choose most of the freaks I’ve lived in buildings with over the characters in his third feature and I’m not alone in that. Tierney continues, “I hope I never end up living next to any of the people in this movie.”

GOOD NEIGHBOURS is a black comedy with film noire elements that is based on the Chrystine Brouillet novel, “Chere voisine”. Tierney first read it when he was still in high school (the Montreal native is now 31) and has been itching to adapt it ever since. “As soon as I read it, I wanted to turn it into a movie,” he says. “It was actually the first script I ever tried to write.”

It would not be the first movie he would ever direct though. Instead he chose the challenge of adapting the Charles Dickens classic, “Oliver Twist” into a queer retelling entitled, TWIST, in 2003. It would be six years before he would release his second film, THE TROTSKY, in 2009, after a couple of potential projects simply fell apart. “Yeah, those six years, I drank a lot,” Tierney quips. Luck and timing would provide him the opportunity to shoot his two latest projects back to back, which Tierney calls “a strain on my very small brain.”

Tierney wrote all the principal parts in GOOD NEIGHBOURS with specific actors in mind. Fellow Montrealers and Tierney film regulars, Jay Baruchel, Emily Hampshire and Anne-Marie Cadieux, play three of the four neighbours, with Scott Speedman filling the last slot. “My father accuses me of casting the way other people have dinner parties,” Tierney admits. “If I like you and I want to hang out with you, I will ask you to be in my movie.” Tierney’s logic behind this is pretty sound. “I don’t work with people I don’t like. We work really long hours and we’re not curing cancer so you might as well enjoy yourself.”

To watch GOOD NIGHBOURS, it is clear that Tierney is definitely enjoying himself. It is a twisted affair but it is also undeniably playful, just as any black comedy should be. This is a balance Tierney is very happy to have finally struck. “I’ll never make another movie as depressing as TWIST and I’ll never make another movie as optimistic as THE TROTSKY. GOOD NEIGHBOURS is more to my taste than anything else I’ve done before.”

In that case, I can safely say that Jacob Tierney has some very good taste.

Tierney is currently adapting Doris Lessing’s book, “The Good Terrorist” into a screenplay and will appear as an actor in this summer’s FRENCH IMMERSION, his father, producer, Kevin Tierney’s directorial debut. GOOD NEIGHBOURS is in Canadian theatres on June 3 and American screens on July 29.

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