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– by Joseph Jammer Medina

Everyone is seeking for their own reparation.

In the psychological thriller “Reparation,” a mysterious stranger arrives into town seeking out Bob Stevens, a small town farmer who lost a few years of his memory. His peaceful family life unravels and his daughter, Charlotte, is the key who may unlock his past.

“Reparation” stars Marc Menchaca (“She’s Lost Control,” “Generation Kill”), Jon Huertas (“Castle,”) and Virginia Newcomb (“The Theatre Bizarre,” “Peacock”).

The film is directed by Kyle Ham. It’s written by Ham and Steve Timm.

Latino-Review had an exclusive phone interview last month with director Ham. He told us about the twenty year process of adapting this stage play on to the cinema screen and getting veteran actors for the film. He also talked about the writing process with Timm and utilizing the beautiful Green Castle, Indiana as the backdrop.

“Reparation” made its premieres at the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival and Newport Film Festival last month. Visit www.reparationmovie.com for updates on future film festival showings.

Read the interview transcript below.

Latino-Review: Tell me. Where did the idea for “Reparation” came from?

Kyle Ham: It was based on a stage play. It was written by my writing partner, Steve Timm. He’s a national playwriting award winner. He’s been writing plays for thirty years. He had written this play that was inspired by some of his experiences as a security policeman in the Air Force before he became a playwright.

For several years afterwards, he was trying to process on what he had been through as an investigator and as a policeman. He was seen that question of being a law enforcement officer versus also looking out for your buddies. Watch your buddy’s back. The friendship and the bond would sometimes come into conflict with being a law enforcement officer as well. I know that is what drove him to write the play.

I saw the play performed when I was a junior in college about twenty-two years ago. I thought this would make a fantastic movie. It got all the layers and there’s just so much to it. I approached him and said, “I would like to adapt this into a film. Let’s write this together.” And that was twenty years ago that we started on this journey.

We had written other movies and screenplays together in the meantime. This was our baby. We finally decided to get out and do it ourselves.

Latino-Review: Twenty years is a very long time for any type of project. Why did it take so long?

Kyle Ham: Well, it took us a few years just to learn to write together. I think it took us three or four years struggling to adapt a play. On what we really needed to do was just to throw the play away. We needed to start over and asked ourselves, “What’s the great film in this?” That took us a few years.

Once we let go of the play, we made it into something more cinematic. We changed the whole structure and really changed it quite a bit. That screenplay got a lot of traction back in Hollywood during the early 2000s. We had Wes Craven who wanted to direct it at one point. There were all these great directors and producers who wanted us to do a rewrite. It just ended up on this cycle of endless rewrites. Plenty of people came along, but it just never quite happen.

I always wanted to direct it myself the whole time. I was younger and I wasn’t that confident to pull it off. We just got to the point that we couldn’t do anymore rewrites for anybody. We started to not recognize the story to ourselves. So we pulled it and retained the rights for ourselves. We said, “Someday maybe we can make this.”

Six years after that, I had some life-changing events that made me look at my own mortality. I wanted to take advantage with the time that I’m here. It was something that I always wanted to do. I knew on how powerful the story could be. What would be stopping me from just raising the money and doing the movie myself? And so that’s what we did.

Latino-Review: What are some of the changes from the play that you had to toss out?

Kyle Ham: For example, the play was called, “The Activist.” It was written during the late 80s/early 90s. Obviously, there were a lot of updates along the way.

Structurally, the story was very different. Jon Huerta’s character Jerome, for example, was an eco-terrorist in the play. He was running around sabotaging Air Force bases once he got out of prison. He was exacting his revenge on the Air Force by messing with their tarmacs by blowing things up and then running. He was doing this on his way to find his friend who he believed was the source of his undoing. He believed that his friend turned him in for the crimes that he wasn’t necessarily responsible for.

When we worked on this, I loved that the good guys and the bad guys weren’t really discernable. We had a hero,who was pretty much damaged. We had a bad guy with Jerome, who wasn’t entirely bad. In some ways, it’s similar that musical “Oklahoma,” with the Curly story and Jud as the bad guy. You can say that it’s Jud’s movie and he was in the right all along.

To me, there are lines on who should be the good guy and who should be the bad guy. Really, it should all be in the grey. Everybody is out for something that they need. And that’s why we renamed the film “Reparation.” That’s something that all of our main characters were seeking in this film.

We wanted to get away from making this as an action movie or making Jerome as this pure bad guy who was out for revenge. So we moved it away from all of this eco-terrorism and delve more into the character. Who is this guy really? Why was it so important to track down his old friend? We rewrote his entire backstory. I think that was the most significant change.

Obviously, when you’re making a film versus a play, we were really to open it up time-wise and let it play out over a twelve year period.

Latino-Review: That’s a big change. Were there others?

Charlotte’s character was another major difference from the play. In the play, Bob’s daughter was a little more like a clairvoyant. There wasn’t that much clarity on exactly what she knew. We started to do our research into genetics and into memories. We wanted to have it grounded with something with a little science behind it too.

So the idea that Charlotte had inherited her father’s memories was much more specific with scientific grounding. There is still continued scientific research that male’s life traumas can be passed on to the offspring.

It’s like a father mouse that can transmit to its kids on what a cat would be like although he won’t be around to explain it. The mice would know to be afraid of that cat before it would know on what a cat is.

The idea was with Charlotte had her father’s memories and began to draw them. We wanted a way to visualize that to be more cinematic. Her drawings of her father’s memories helped him recall some of those memories he had lost. That was something emerged once we tried to make it cinematic.

Latino-Review: I have to admit though, there were some clever writing. You threw a lot of curve balls. How did you make it all fit in the end? It was good.

Kyle Ham: Thank you. I think having two writers focused on it for so long certainly helped. It’s the twenty year evolution after on how many rewrites we did. Every time we were rewriting, we were learning something and got a little better. When we decided to do this independently, some of the revelations that we made about Colonel Atreus character to on how that could tie in the very end.

Those are the things we learned and incorporated just a couple of years ago as we were doing our last revisions of the script. The challenge for us was on how it all came together in the end. And how we can make it all still be surprising.

For me, as a first-time director, I was all pleased that it all worked. [Chuckles] It wasn’t until I got into the editing room and got everything going. I didn’t really know if all this tension worked and building up to the right points. It’s flying in your face while on set and everything was constructed in your head. I was pleasantly pleased on how that last half hour played out.

For a lot of it, we had to rely on our actors for everything to come together perfectly. The script is one thing, but we had great actors in this who worked incredibly hard and fully 110 percent committed to their roles. They really paid attention to the details. There were plenty of things that Marc Menchaca brought to it. It was the internalized and attention to details that he brought in. And then there’s Jon Huertas as well. There are signals that queued things along that are non-verbal. Those actors gave really detailed performances for the movie.

Latino-Review: How did you recruit those actors and made them perfect for their roles?

Kyle Ham: We had an amazing casting director, Matt Lessall. He had been a casting director for over a decade. We happened to be fortunate that he and I were studying theater together at DePauw University. Matt happened to be playing the Jerome character at the only stage production that I saw back in 1993. He was a senior in college and originated that Jerome role. So when we approached him and told him that we’re going to make this into an independent film. He called back and said, “Kyle, you can’t let anyone cast this movie. I have to cast this movie.” [Laughter]

We didn’t have a lot of money and it was a challenge for him to find actors of this caliber. There’s not a lot of money and they’ll have to be doing it for the love of the work and script. Hopefully, it can be successful down the road.

So when Jon Huertas read for the role of Jerome, we knew that we were done casting for Jerome when he left the room. It is hard to find that combination of menacing, charming and annoying all in one person. We knew that would be incredibly challenging and it was fortunate that Jon was passionate about the script.

With Virginia Newcomb and Marc Menchaca, they had never worked together and never met. From day one, they arrived on set for their rehearsals—the chemistry was just there. They worked really hard on their relationship on and off set to make sure it really was fleshed out wasn’t just a dysfunctional marriage. But, to make it feel real that there was also love between those two.

A lot of it was the casting and finding the right people. There was a lot of work and from our actors to make sure those chemistries really worked.

Latino-Review: I’m going to be honest with you—I loved Jon in “Castle.” So when you introduced him as Jerome in this movie, I think I hated this movie instantly for a second. It was like I couldn’t watch “Castle” anymore after thinking about this movie. But, you did everything perfectly. I’m fully satisfied.

Kyle Ham: [Laughter] Thank you. It was such a departure from Esposito on “Castle.” I think he enjoyed the challenge to get outside of that. Jon is a warrior. I think it’s great for him to stretch with this role than beyond on what he did with “Generation Kill” and “Castle.” It was great for him to bring out that dark side.

Latino-Review: This is your first movie that you’ve directed. Could you tell me about your overall experience? Who did you consult with along the way?

Kyle Ham: Yeah, this is my first feature. I can’t say that I’ve really directed a proper short film. I’ve directed actors before and studied acting back in college. I knew when we were ramming up for this—I needed more training for myself. I studied under Joan Scheckel, who is a relatively well-known filmmaking coach. She runs this wonderful lab for a lot of actors and directors. I spent some time in her lab to make sure that I had good grounding and good training to keep up with these actors.

The visual side of it and the shot selection were all fun for me. I definitely learned a lot, but it was second nature. Working with the actors on their performances, I was going into it a little nervous. I wasn’t sure if I could keep up with these actors. It was a fairly complex story with layered characters. It was a lot of work to make sure that I could pull it altogether.

My goal was to take this really complex story with a lot of different elements going on—to keep it visually simple as possible and to make it feel like it’s not that complex. Not to tone it down, but to simplify it visually. That became my goal. Simple, simple, simple. I had the actors that could do that. We can set the cameras in one place so that the actors could simply live in that space. Their performances can come through without me having to fabricate cuts and filmmaking tricks. They were the actors who could thrive in that world. There were key moments to let that chemistry play out.

Latino-Review: What do you supposed was the most difficult thing you had to do on this project then?

Kyle Ham: [Chuckles] I think it was both producing it and directing it as incredibly challenging. It was my company effectively produced the company with me. I had a great unit production manager and a lot of help along the way. It was a real challenge and it was something that I don’t want to relive. [Chuckles] I really needed a full-time on set producer to help with things. I did have an amazing team working with me. We also had a great supporting community. As we shot the film, everyone believed in the film.

Personally, I think my biggest challenge was with my moment of crisis on the day before we were filming. That old pickup truck in the film belonged to my father who passed away six months prior to filming. So I really wanted his old truck to be in that film. The day before we started filming, the truck broke down. And so did I.

[Laughter] I just melted down. As a producer, we can’t use this truck, because it’s not reliable anymore. The son in me couldn’t let go of my father and on how much it was going to mean for me. We were fortunate to figure out a way to shift gears on that truck. It was a very complicated thing and we sort of MacGyvering it to make it work. We were able to keep that old truck in the film. It was really another character in the film.

So that was my own personal crisis I had to go through. [Laughter]

Latino-Review: Which community is this? Is this in your hometown, somewhere?

Kyle Ham: It’s not my hometown. It’s the college town where I went to school. It’s Green Castle, Indiana. It’s in Putnam County, which is a rural area in west-central Indiana. It’s beautiful. It got rolling hills and cornfields. We knew that county had everything we needed visually for the film, including the covered bridges.

DePauw University is there. That’s where my writing partner, Steve, is the theater professor for twenty-five years. It’s my alma mater. They were wonderful partners for us. They provided a place for our cast and crew to live while we were there. There were all sorts of logistical support that they were able to offer.

The shoot in the town with all the people had a community that really took us in. They were very supportive and opened their doors at every turn. They could even close off a road and they were happy to have us there. I hope that they could really be proud of this film as well. It shows a really great side of the county. We made it a goal to hit all four corners of the county. We showed the best locations that are iconic like the covered bridges and the town square.

Latino-Review: You haven’t premiered it at the town yet?

Kyle Ham: No, we may not be able to show it publicly for a while since it’s on the festival circuit. We’re just starting this festival circuit. We did do a private screening for our cast and crew. We were really excited for them to see the film.

Some of the cast and crew who were local traveled to the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival in DuBuque, Iowa. We had almost twenty people drove five hours to that festival. That was the first time many saw the film, including our two child actors, Dale Dye Thomas and Brody Behr.

Latino-Review: Excellent. So tell me, would you like to direct again?

Kyle Ham: Absolutely! [Laughter] I don’t know if I could do it the same way to pull this one off. That’s the goal. Steve and I have other screenplays we’re working on together. We got things lined up that we would love to do next. It might be a few month before I could focus on anything else. I’m pretty much working full time on this film getting it publicized, going to film festivals and working with a sale agent to continue to get it off the ground. Now that it’s finished, that becomes its own entire occupation. In the next year or two, we’re looking forward to get the next one off the ground.

Latino-Review: One last question, with the ending of this movie, it’s almost like you could make a sequel with one particular character. Is that even a possibility or is this done?

Kyle Ham: [Laughter] I think anything is possible. We joked about it after it was one of the changes we made to the script and while we were shooting. It was one of the revelations we had as Steve and I joked about it. “Oh, there is our sequel.” We didn’t even give it a thought on what it would look like. We can’t even go there right now. We just want people to receive this film well and just trying to get it out in front of as many people—not just in this country, but all around the world. We know that “Castle” has a lot of international presence and hopefully Jon’s fans can see it.

Sequels—we’ll worry about that later. [Laughter] It would be fun. We’ll be up for the challenge. And we’ll do it if we can do it right. If we want to do it again, then we want that same level of complexity. We’ll see.

Latino-Review: Awesome. I appreciate this conversation. I look forward to some more of your work and hopefully I don’t have to wait for another twenty years.

Kyle Ham: [Laughter] Thank you, Gig. I really appreciate you talking to us.

“Reparation” made its premieres at the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival and Newport Film Festival last month. Visit www.reparationmovie.com for updates on future film festival showings.

Source: Latino-Review

Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.