Updated: 5 days ago
Jake & Jack barely had a budget. Only $600. That's it. There are fewer than 20 people as credited crew members (the average film list of credits on a feature film averages about 600). And they spent every weekend over the course of five months shooting their first feature film.
With passion and determination though, filmmakers Josh Gribble and Christian Plescow (Jay and Chris, respectively) wrote and directed a movie currently available on Tubi, Prime, and other streaming services.
Oh, and they did this before they were old enough to legally drink.
Jay and Chris grew up together in Detroit. They were neighbors who were introduced through their dogs. Much like a parent becomes friends with their child’s friend’s parents, they too found common ground and built their friendship. Both had a love for movies and desire to share their stories. When it came to learning the process, they had few options. They made their film school from YouTube tutorials and DVD bonus features, taught themselves how to edit and started shooting short films on their iPad.
Although their entrance into the film industry is unconventional, their process for writing sounds familiar.
“We put papers on the wall,” says Gribble, “and bullet point everything. We have a line through our story from A-B-C.”
Writing sessions were always together with one typing away on a laptop while the other scribbled on a notepad. If there was a disagreement on the direction of a scene or dialogue, they did their best to cut the idea in half and see what works. It’s an ability to work together that stems from their decades of being close friends and sharing similar experiences.
When the advice is often ‘write what you know,’ Gribble and Plescow did just that. The story has comparisons to their troubled youths, they admit. While it’s not based on a true story, it takes us into the world of two kids trying to survive amid the trials of growing up in Detroit.
“It was an outlet to tell the story, and what better story to tell than on our own?” Says Plescow.
Each character was inspired by someone in their life, including those like the liquor store owner in the film who had been a father figure in their life.
What turned into a 90-page screenplay was met with the reality of trying to get people to work for free.
“If you read the script and watch the movie, they are completely different,” Gribble admits. “We had to come up with things on the spot and expand on subplots on the fly.”
Plescow adds, “People didn’t show up. Lots of characters were replacements because someone may quit or not show up to rehearsal.”
These complications that arose while shooting meant that some days they couldn’t follow the script. There were times they would take pencil to paper and rewrite as they were going.”
How could they get the actors that did show up to perform under these conditions?
“We told them that everything should be natural and real,” Plescow says. “Don’t shy away from improv.”
Both Gribble and Plescow felt that it was better to have an authentic approach when changes were needed then to try to have their actors remember ever-changing lines.
What the small group of actors and crew saw was how seriously these young filmmakers were taking the process.
“The people on board have to know you take it seriously,” Plescow states. “This isn’t for fun. It’s for real. We were 19- and 21–years old, two kids directing. People were probably deterred.”
Once completed, they uploaded the movie onto YouTube and gave it away for free while also creating DVDs and trying to sell them. It wasn’t until a distributor came across the film that they were able to strike a deal and get Jake & Jack onto several streaming services.
The duo are currently working on a web-series titled Running with Wolves where they are testing the limits on what they can do.
“The series is one big test,” Plescow explains. “How can we improve our filmmaking? What gets people out of their comfort zone?”
Both offer the same advice for anyone trying to turn their script into a produced piece of work: Go do it and don’t let anyone stop you.
They discovered that if they put in enough work and you see rewards.
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