Interview: Samuel Fischer, director of Memorial Day

Samuel Fischer, a jack-of-all-trades production veteran who’s worked on more than two dozen studio projects and TV shows as a grip, electrician, gaffer, best boy and lighting technician,  took it to the next level by directing and co-producing the 2012 independent film Memorial Day (Image, Blu-ray $29.97, DVD $24.97, available now).

Part family drama and part war film, Fischer’s directorial debut revolves around a soldier (Jonathan Bennett) recovering in an Iraq field hospital and reflecting upon how, as a 13-year-old boy (Jackson Bond), he discovered the World War II footlocker that belonged to his grandfather, Bud (James Cromwell, Secretariat). This ultimately prompts Bud, who has never talked about the war, to open up to his grandson about his wartime experiences. Interestingly, in flashback sequences, young Bud is portrayed by John Cromwell, the real-life son of actor James Cromwell.

Disc Dish recently spoke to Fischer about the making of Memorial Day, which won the Best Narrative Feature Award at the 2012 GI Film Festival on May 20, 2012.

 

Disc Dish: How exactly did Memorial Day come about?

Samuel Fischer: I was on a job filming something in Minnesota and I met this gentleman who owns a hunting preserve. I worked with him on shooting archival-style footage of World War II and it looked really good. So then we talked about putting a script to it—we thought it would be great to do something with it.

DD: And this gentleman became one of the film’s producers?

SF: Jeff Traxler, yes, the owner of Traxler Hunting Preserve. Then, only a few days later, his brother, who owns a construction company in Minnesota, is demolishing a house and he uncovers this footlocker from World War II. There was nobody left in the owner’s family, so it was just left behind. And the idea came out of that–a boy discovering the World War II footlocker belonging to his grandfather and that leading to the boy learning about his family’s involvement in during times of war. Mark Conklin wrote the screenplay, [Traxler and our other co-producer] raised the upfront development money and then we brought in others to help produce it.

DD: And how did James Cromwell get involved?

Memorial Day

James Cromwell (l.) and Jackson Bond star in Memorial Day.

SF: I was talking to a friend who’s an actress and she told me that James’s son, John Cromwell, lived in Minnesota. We got the script to John and he liked what he read and he really wanted to do something with his dad.  We shot it in Minnesota in twenty-nine days.

DD: Memorial Day represents your directorial debut following twenty years of working in the industry as a key grip, a best boy, an electrician and a gaffer. What was the toughest part about sitting in the director’s chair?

SF: To tell you the truth, once the production began, nothing went wrong for me. Nothing  got in my face out there. I’ve seen so many directors and DPs do their thing over the years, that I’ve learned how to adapt and overcome. I think I really thrive on the challenges that are put before me. So I just dove in, grabbed what I needed, and got it done. And I have to say that everybody that came to the table gave one-hundred-and-ten percent—I think it’s the best fun they’ve had working in the industry.

DD: And how about the editing process?

SF: Well, maybe you could say that the post-production was the “tough” part. It just isn’t for me. I started my own production company in Minnesota years ago and I know how it works, but I like to be out and moving around, not working in an editing suite. Post-production–I’m not cut out for that shit!

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.