James Cullen Bressack is no stranger to the film industry. Like many of us here at Redbox, James always had a sincere admiration for movies and TV ever since he was a kid. With that passion being a driving factor, he went on to become a film director, producer and screenwriter. We recently had a chance to chat (social-distancing style) with James about a variety of topics, such as his upbringing and one of his latest movies — Beyond the Law. Here’s how it all went down:
Redbox: Why were you interested in the film industry and how did you get there?
James Cullen Bressack: At a very young age I became obsessed with film. Movies were my escape. My sanctuary. A way to be a part of other worlds, other stories. I began to really love film even more because of my dad. My dad was a three-time Emmy Award-winning writer who was responsible for shows like Pinky and The Brain and Animaniacs. He taught me everything I needed to know about storytelling. I used to watch him write scripts. When he got sick, all we could do was watch films, and talk about them. He shaped me into a storyteller. And naturally I had a hunger to tell those stories.
RB: You’re under 30 years old and your filmography is already robust. How have you managed to create an impressive amount of movies and short films within a relatively short period of time?
JCB: I am a workaholic. I am obsessed with working. It’s my identity. I wake up everyday and work. I love making films. I haven’t allowed myself to slow down. I make sure I’m always doing something creative. Like a shark, if I stop, I die.
RB: This is a tough question, but what would you say is your favorite movie out of all the ones you directed and/or produced?
JCB: Oh man this is always a tough question because it’s like asking which of your children or pets you love more. I don’t really know how to answer this. Every film I’ve made means something different to me. There’s so many fragments of myself, so many memories in each movie. But experience wise I’ll always love CarGo the best because it’s the film I got to make with my dad.
RB: Who’s your biggest inspiration when it comes to filmmaking? We’re gonna take a wild guess and say Steven Spielberg.
JCB: Steven Spielberg is definitely up there. Robert Rodriguez, Frank Henenlotter, Takashi Miike. My dad.
RB: Your father, Gordon Bressack, was involved in bringing to life classics such as Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain — two of the most cherished cartoons from the 90s. Are there any plans of stepping in his shoes by focusing on animation down the line?
JCB: Honestly I’ve loved animation my entire life. I’ve always joked my movie and TV taste is what I’d imagine a serial killer watches, cartoons and horror movies. I love my dad very much and I miss him every day. After he died he left me a ton of his scripts, many of which are animated TV shows, etc. I promised him before he passed away I would make his stories. So in his honor I will for sure be making something animated at some point, written by him.
RB: Your latest movie, Beyond the Law, is now available to rent at the Box. To those who might not know what it’s about, how would you describe its plot in a sentence or two?
JCB: Beyond the Law is about a man on a mission to avenge the death of his only child. It’s brutal, it’s emotional and it’s violent.
RB: It’s interesting to see how the role of a former criminal transformed into a protagonist with more heroic values. How did you come up with the overall plot and theme?
JCB: The script was written by the amazing Chad Law, who is responsible for so many of the great action movies out there. The script really drew me to the project because it was a human character. Someone trying to hold themselves together while their world was falling apart. Frank had so much self hate and regret that he spiraled into alcoholism. The only thing that could fill the empty void of his soul was revenge. The movie asks, what really makes a good guy and what makes a bad guy. If you do bad things for good reasons, does that make you a good guy? Conversely if you do good things for bad reasons, does that make you a bad guy? Much like life, it’s all a grey area, and we live in that grey area of right and wrong. That was on the page and I’m very grateful for my collaboration with Chad to bring this character to life.
RB: Why did you decide to focus on a father trying to avenge his son’s death? Was this motif influenced by true events encountered in real life?
JCB: It was very interesting and emotional for me to focus on two father-and-son dynamics while making this film, and I actually focused on them more than originally intended because in my personal life that’s what was driving me. Day one of filming, my dad went to the hospital. While we were filming I would go visit him after set or on off days. He passed away shortly after the film was done filming, which was unbelievably devastating for me. I carried a lot of that pain through post. The father-son dynamic was all I could think about and what really brought everything to the foreground because of what I was going through emotionally with my own father.
RB: There are so many characters we’d love to see more of in a potential follow-up. Can we expect to see a sequel or do you prefer to move on to separate storylines?
JCB: The movie for sure leaves the possibility of a sequel. If Chad Law writes it, I’m in.