Design By Humans
Published On: Tue, Feb 19th, 2013

An Interview with Jules Stewart – Director of K-11

Jules StewartK-11 is a gritty new film directed and written by experienced script supervisor and first time director Jules Stewart. The film is set in the county jail’s specialized gay and trans-gender unit, and follows Raymond Saxx Jr. (Goran Visnjic), a record producer waking from a drug-induced blackout to find himself locked up in K-11.

When you picked this subject matter, what was it’s appeal to you?

I just thought it was unique, original. In today’s world how many times can you find something that someone has never heard of? That in itself made me want to do the project. This is a real place… it’s been around since the 50’s. I went to K-11 and did some research and created characters and put them in this environment.

It was created as a protection unit…if you put gay and trans-gender prisoners in with the general population, that’s dangerous. One thing that’s interesting about K-ll is that unlike the jail system itself that’s segregated by race, there’s no segregation in K-11. The common thread is gay or trans-gender for these inmates.

I know your overall goal was to write rather than direct, so how did you find the directorial experience?  Easier, harder than you thought?

I have to admit I loved it. It’s really fun to work with the actors,  and having been a script supervisor for so many years I’ve always been on the periphery of it, so it was comfortable. To make decisions and tell the story,  and to tell the actors how to respond to things…it’s the ultimate story telling vehicle. I  would do it again in a heart beat if I had the right cast.

Speaking of the cast, your daughter Kristen Stewart has an off-screen cameo in your film, and your son Cameron has a substantial part. Was this Cameron’s film debut?

Yes, in regard to performing. He’s a grip in the motion picture business, and I wrote the part with him in mind. When you write, you steal things from people you know. I stole from him to create the character of Sledgehammer. When I asked him to play the role, I wasn’t sure he’d do it, but ultimately he agreed and did a great job. I would cast him again absolutely.

Would you ever want to step in front of the camera?

Never! I like telling people what to do, I don’t like being photographed. I’m one of those geeks who acts funny in front of the camera.

You had a budget of around $3 million for this picture. Was there ever a time when you wished the budget was larger and why?

I think every film-maker  – and I’ve worked on big films  –  the director would always want more money and more time …it allows you to spend more time with the actors, relax, think about what’s going on, so that it’s more than just pedal to the metal..there’s no room for error on a low budget film. We shot in just 22 days.

You filmed on location?

Yes, we filmed in the county jail at Sybil Brand, the women’s jail that’s closed in downtown LA. It mirrors the actual floor plan of men’s county where this is set.

We walked around there, and it was a dream come true because it was real and bare…it has that sterile, over-lit atmosphere, cold, no windows, no clocks, no soft edges in there…just solid concrete and linoleum floors, buzzing lights…it was very institutional-feeling. I don’t know that we could’ve really created that from a set. Everything we shot was real.

Speaking of real, you used cast members that had once been incarcerated in K-11, correct?

Yes, some of the transvestites that we used, were actually in K-11.They were really helpful too, most of them had no acting experience, but they provided so much information. They brought a sense of comraderie to the dorm scenes, and they were so knowledge about the way things looked, the way prisoners walked down the hall, that sort of thing.

How important were the music selections for you in the film, the scoring?

Very. I had Phil Marshall as composer, an extremely talented composer. We made a concentrated effort to use sound rather than a musical score in the film. When you walk through a place like the Sybil Brand, there’s a lot of echoing sounds, like moaning and groaning,  it has a sound of its own. We chose to use the environmental sounds of actual jail as our score. He said it was one of the most difficult scores he’d ever done, because he had to figure out how to do that musically. He did some amazing things. He even climbed into the belly of a grand piano and started plucking the strings. To watch him thinking outside the box and capturing those emotions and sounds in musical terms was amazing.

Ms Stewart has two new projects currently in development: On Gossamer Wings, in which the United States government finds a body on Mars – with a driver’s license that expired in 1961; and Locked House, a supernatural thriller set in the Puget Sound, in which an ancient, unearthed Chinese castle is reconstructed. She picks films to make that she wants to see.

K-11 will be screening in major markets including Los Angeles and New York March 15th.

About the Author

- Genie Davis is a multi-published novelist and produced screen and television writer. New books include the romantic suspense of Executive Impulse (Crimson); more romance and mystery with Between the Sheets (Entangled), co-written with Linda Marr; and the mystery thriller Marathon (Five Star/Cenage). Her previous titles include the award winning romantic suspense of The Model Man and Five O’Clock Shadow (Kensington); the literary fiction of Dreamtown (FictionWorks), and the erotic novella Rodeo Man (as Nikki Alton) in The Cowboy anthology (Aphrodisia). In film, her work spans a variety of genres from supernatural thriller to romantic drama, family, teen, and comedy with an emphasis on independent film. A member of the Writer’s Guild of America, she’s written on staff for ABC-TV’s Port Charles; written, produced, and directed reality programming and documentaries for TLC, Lifetime, PBS, and HGTV, as well as numerous television commercials and corporate videos. She’s also written hundreds of articles on travel, love, the arts, writing, tech, food, parenting, and more.

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An Interview with Jules Stewart – Director of K-11