UK Film Interview 2019
JASON BAFFA: "I think if anything, my love for placing the audience in an environment and sorta celebrating that space, that connection with nature and their surroundings, all those things were very similar to my previous work."
LOOPERS: THE CADDIE'S LONG WALK | Dir. Jason Baffa
TNC talks to filmmaker Jason Baffa about his latest documentary Loopers: The Caddie's Long Walk ahead of the UK release from 23rd July 2019.
Hi Jason thanks for talking to TNC, how's everything going?
Things are good. I just got back to California from a great trip doing the UK premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival and I was able to sneak in a visit with an old family friend who gave me a tour of the Glenfiddich and Balvenie Distilleries… a bit of a bucket list visit for me!
Does it ever get nervewracking when you have a new film is released?
For sure, these projects are labours of love, like children I suppose. We do our best to raise ‘em up right but in the end, when ready, we let them loose on the world and hope for the best. I’m so happy that we’ve been lucky enough to raise pretty good kids and keep audiences happy.
The attention Loopers has been getting has been amazing, has the reaction to the film surprised you?
You know, I always believed in this idea, so I guess I had faith in the project. That said, the outpouring of support has been a bit overwhelming and I think it’s a true testament to the love and respect so many golf fans have for the history of their sport and the hard work the men and women on the bag have offered.
For an independent filmmaker, it must make you feel really proud that Loopers has gained such a positive response from audiences. What are some of the biggest issues independent filmmakers face in getting their films our in cinemas?
Geez, tough question because every project is very different. In the end, fewer people go to the movies these days… and many, just go to the huge big budget comic book movies. These projects have giant marketing budgets and can really push the message out when a film releases. Independent films don’t have that luxury. A film like “Loopers” is all about the world of mouth. We rely on audiences telling their friends to go check it out. We worked really hard to shoot cinematic images that can play on the big screen, so I’m really happy that the “buzz” has been good. People are connecting with the story, the characters and telling their friends to “go see it” in the theatre. That is the best marketing you can get!
Can you tell me a little bit about Loopers, how did the film come about?
The project started from the top. Our Executive Producer is a lover of golf and his caddie is one of his best friends. He had read Ward Clayton’s book, “Men on the Bag, the caddies of Augusta National” and saw the potential to build a whole film around this unique role. They contacted me about directing and that’s what grabbed my attention, as a life-long athlete, I could not think of any role in all of the sports as unique as what the caddie does. They are inside the ropes, literally in their player’s ear and offering physical help, strategic help, psychological advice, you name it… the caddie supports their player. I loved that then and even more now that we’ve completed the film.
"Think about what you want to say but moreover, who you think will be interested in hearing it."
Where the Caddie's easy to approach with this idea you had for a film?
The caddie motto is “keep up, shut up, put up”, so as a journalist, you can imagine, the shut up part makes it tough to get an interview! Luckily, we had a great producing team who was able to open doors and build trust with our subjects. Moreover, the generosity of legends like Ben Crenshaw, Tom Watson and Nick Faldo gave our project the credit we needed to be able to approach a Fanny Sunesson, Jerry Beard, Steve Williams and Michael Greller. It really all happened very organically… it just took some patience.
Who was the first Caddie you spoke to?
Carl Jackson, the great partner of Ben Crenshaw. That was the trip that started the film and it was an important time as Ben and Carl retired together during that Masters Weekend, so it was an important part of the film.
What is it about their lives, stories and experiences that proved so interesting to you as a filmmaker?
I’m really impressed (just as a person) with the perspective that every caddie had about service. In this day and age of people being very self-absorbed with social media and “selfies”, it’s very “me” “me” “me” but the caddies are the exact opposite. These are people who dedicate themselves to helping others, to making others better and I absolutely love that.
In terms of narration you have gotten Bill Murray, was it an easy sell to get him on board?
Bill Murray was a huge addition to our film, he is the Actor you want to talk about golf and caddies. It definitely took some patience (and a lot of prayers) to get him on board but I think his contribution and willingness to be involved is a great testament to his love affair with golf and respect for the years he spent as a caddie.
Looking back what would you say has been the most challenging part of making Loopers?
Ha, selfishly, carrying a 30lb cinema camera for 12 hours of golf was pretty challenging, especially after day 4 and 5! But hey, that was my nod to the hard work of the caddies who carry a heavy bag every day! But in all honesty, I think just finding the film in the edit was one of the biggest challenges. My close friend and collaborator Carl Cramer was the lead editor on the film and I really threw everything at him. We talked to a lot of people on camera. Carl whittled down the footage and helped our team find a nice character arc where the audience goes on a bit of a journey with all these characters. In the end, you have something that appeals to the core golfer but also reveals very human stories, stories that appeal to golfer and non-golfer alike and that was our goal.
Is there a quote or comment from Loopers that has really stuck with you?
There’s a scene at the end of the film, where a lifelong caddie named Roosevelt is reflecting back, I love the music, the imagery and the tone of the scene but it really works because he is being so honest and he says something like, “look, I’ve had a lot of different jobs… but I’ve always loved being on the golf course. It’s the satisfaction of seeing someone do something very hard that I love… the last thirty years have been great… I don’t have a lot… but it’s been great.” That line kinda sums it all up for me.
How different was your approach to this film compared to your previous films?
Well, I’m known for documentaries about the surfing sub-culture. So for features, this has been a shift from surf to turf. That said, I direct commercials and get to document all sorts of things… so this was just a new world I could explore. I think if anything, my love for placing the audience in an environment and sorta celebrating that space, that connection with nature and their surroundings, all those things were very similar to my previous work. Using the vast amount of archival footage was certainly new territory. This film has more archival assets than any project I’ve done. That part was exciting, it’s a bit of an archaeological dig to find gems, those diamonds in the rough, but it was also frustrating to then deal with the cost and logistics of getting the rights to use them. But this is what I love about being a filmmaker, you are always learning and I learned a ton making this film.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Ha, yeah, I’m one of those odd people who around age 5 said, yep, that’s what I want to do. My cousin, Christopher Baffa, ASC is currently working out of Belfast shooting KRYPTON and he inspired me when I was very young. The rest has been a great, lifelong love affair with the craft of making movies. I’m grateful for all the people, my family, friends, teachers and audiences who’ve been there to support it.
For any emerging filmmaker do you have any advice you could offer them?
The old cliche’ of do something you love and you’ll never work another day is certainly a true one for me. Filmmaking is a TON of work but I love doing it. There are many, much easier ways to make a buck in this life, so make sure you really love it. That said, if you are open to learn and take risks it can be a truly fantastic journey. I think one specific direction that many forget is to know your audience. Think about what you want to say but moreover, who you think will be interested in hearing it. Connect those two things, be a good collaborator, a good person and you can make a career of this.
And finally, what do you want people to take away from Loopers?
As mentioned earlier, the idea that sometimes in life it is a very good thing to be there for someone else. We should all take note of what caddies do and how much pride they have in being there for their player and watching them succeed. I think that’s a great message to share.