With a movie set for release and a book on the way, Jason Cook has a lot to celebrate this year
In his latest movie, The Creatress, Director/Writer/Producer Jason Cook blends his love of books and films. The story follows author Eryn Bellow, played by Lindy Booth, whose debut novel is a huge success and faces critical backlash. A zealous critic, played by Peter Bogdanovich, publishes a faux memoir to mock her work. In retaliation, Eryn writes a faux memoir of her own to rewrite the course of her life. “The journey is her trying to follow up her debut with something that’s worthwhile,” explains Cook. “And her agent, who’s played by Fran Drescher, is asking for something fast: ‘Just give me something ’cause I can sell it. It doesn’t have to be wonderful, just get it done.’ And so she’s kind of struggling with the, ‘How do I follow up this huge success with something worthwhile to say?’ And the movie is about going on that journey with her. A lot of people always ask, ‘What does it feel like to write a book? Where do your ideas come from?’ I wanted to try and speak to that curiosity, and I thought it would be fun to show and not tell.”
Cook admits he had Lifetime on the brain when he came up with the concept. “My mom was a really big Lifetime fan, as are a lot of women who are in her group,” says the actor. “So I would catch it when I would go over to the house and they were completely preposterous reproductions of one another, of just formulaic tropes. And thinking about that as a writer, it’s really interesting how this can be interesting over and over and over again. The more I started to think about it, wouldn’t it be interesting to pick a writer that’s trying to write romance, write a Lifetime-type story, but is really like a Donna Tartt? How would that person try and tackle it? There’s a quote in the movie that Peter Bogdanovich’s character has: ‘Movies are different than books, and both are different than real life.’ So I started to look at that.”
Cook also did his research in the bestseller/romance category. “I wasn’t totally well-versed in this genre,” he admits. “Truly, can I just say, I was really impressed with these books. Honest to God, I was reading Hollywood Wives by Jackie Collins and had to look up words! I’m like, ‘I thought these books were supposed to be stupid!’ And then here I am and I’m learning things. I really enjoyed that research process. I can only imagine what it looked like when people would see me with Danielle Steel’s latest novel in my hand. But I love reading everything. I enjoyed this, too. It was a lot of stuff that I hadn’t been exposed to before.”
Everything came to-gether after Cook finished the concept. “We got a lot of response from actors amazingly quickly,” he marvels. “I don’t even know how Fran found out about the script. I didn’t personally know her or anything. But we found out she was interested in being in this movie. We were like, ‘Wait, what?’ It was incredible. Once she was interested, it really kind of changed the concept because we were really going to make this as a pretty small, independent movie. It still is, but having Fran in it raised the profile of it. And then really quickly after that, Peter Bogdanovich was like, ‘These are great words. I want to say these words.’ That’s actually how he put it to me, which was incredibly flattering. He’s also a legend in his own right and an incredible filmmaker. He’s a really funny actor. And so we had to raise a little bit more money to make it because it was just going to be a bigger thing. We shot it in 15 days, 29 locations.”
Cook says his experience in daytime helped the production run more smoothly. “I’ll tell you, having the soap background was the only way I was able to pull it off,” he shares. “A couple of actors were like, ‘Oh, my gosh. How are we gonna do 10 pages today? That’s insane!’ And I was probably in that framework of a bad boss because I was like, ‘Sorry, I don’t sympathize. You have no idea.’ As all of the readers of Digest know, we do 100 pages a day in daytime, no problem. I think it was day two or something when I was working on DAYS. I had two shows to do that day. At that point, I was only working with Peter [Reckell, ex-Bo]. I hadn’t started working with Kristian [Alfonso, Hope] yet. One of the PA’s came to me and they were like, ‘We’re really sorry. We know you have two shows today but we forgot to get you this script and we’re shooting part of this show today, too.’ So there were three scripts that I had to do. This was like my second or third day. I’m already freaking out as it is. And then Peter is like, ‘Nothing like indoctrination by fire, huh?’ Like, literally laughing. And he just walks off. I was like, ‘Thanks a lot, dude.’ He probably played it off perfectly because if he had made a big deal out of it, it would’ve only made me more nervous. We got through it. So when I had actors that were concerned about, ‘Oh, my God, we’re doing 10 pages today?’ I was just like, ‘Oh, it’s gonna be just fine.’ That background played a lot into us being able to get this movie done.”
Cook is happy with the finished product. “I’m really proud of this film,” he enthuses. “I’m proud of it for a lot of different reasons. It’s an improbable story with the way that it got made with the kind of story it is. It’s not conventional. If you want to watch a very conventional romantic comedy, this is not the movie for that night. It’s not like you really have to think hard about it, but it’s just a different kind of movie experience.”
The film has already found success on the festival circuit. “It’s been winning some awards at film festivals,” reports Cook. “We were nominated for a bunch of awards. And then we’re getting a lot of distribution. So far we’re doing a lot of theatrical releases in Spain, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador, to the point where we had so much interest in Latin American markets that we had the movie dubbed. It was really funny when we were dubbing the movie in Spanish. They sent me the audition tapes for the actors and actresses. I’m listening to auditions in Spanish. I’m like, ‘I don’t think I’m qualified to make this decision!’ I have a lot of friends who speak Spanish and the producer of this movie speaks Spanish, too. I was reliant on what they thought and not what I thought.”
Cook is looking forward to the wide release of the movie on August 27. “When you make a movie, I really do compare it to having people over for dinner,” he notes. “You want to enjoy it, except I’m not going to eat because I already had this meal 300 times! I’m really excited to share it. It’s a little nerve-wracking. To be honest, the first time people saw it I was surprised. I was like, ‘Oh, okay, cool. Those ideas did translate, in a way.’ ”
The movie isn’t Cook’s only project in the works. “I have a book coming out on October 1,” he adds. “It’s called Love Life to Death and it’s a 1950s thriller about a scientific cult that, should you become a member, you can predict your death to the day. And I love it. I’ve always loved writing.”
To say the least, it’s been a big year for Cook. “I’m bringing a lot of things to fruition that my mother anticipated 10 years ago,” he reflects. “The dedication in my book is, ‘To my mom, turns out you were right,’ because she always said, ‘Keep writing. Don’t stop writing. You’re gonna get published.’ So with the movie coming out, I’m really proud.”
The Creatress will be released on every digital platform on August 27.
For more, visit http://thecreatressmovie.com.