After suffering a near fatal overdose, Kyle Richardson’s secret is revealed to those closest to him: he’s a drug addict. With this secret now revealed, Kyle decides it's time to quit and must find a way to overcome his addiction before it takes him over.
A passionate and talented filmmaker, Jacob Harding discovered his love for film at the age of thirteen and hasn’t stopped pursuing it since. While being a proficient writer and producer, Jacob’s goal has always been fixated on directing. “Directing is one of the few places where I truly feel like myself, when I’m directing it just feels right. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget and a feeling I’m always excited to return too”. While Withdrawal is Jacob’s most professional film to date, he has had the honor of directing multiple short films over his career; such as Meet The McCrory’s, Good Ol’ Trevor, and Rose; and one feature film, XYZ, which he shot right out of highschool in his home town of Kansas City, Missouri. Filmmaking is more than a job to him, it’s a lifestyle and its who he is at his very core.
Jacob hopes that Withdrawal speaks to people in all walks of life, not just those that have suffered with addictions. “While I hope that those that have suffered through addictions find something in this film, there is really so much in this film that people can relate to. Trying to be someone for someone else, believing the lies you tell yourself, thinking you can do things on your own, and so much more. I hope people see this film and walk away with the confidence to conquer these issues.”
What was the inspiration behind the making of " Withdrawal? “Withdrawal” was inspired by two particular things. It’s first inspiration was actually a small scene I had to write as an assignment in school. I think we were given the writing prompt of writing a 3-5 page short film about someone having to make a choice and then making the wrong choice. I basically wrote the final scene with Kyle and Lauren where she catches him about to relapse, just without Eddie there. I only had about an hour or two to write it, but I loved what I had put together and others I showed it to just talked about how intense and dramatic it was. At the time I was struggling with coming up with my thesis film, which originally was gonna be a horror/thriller, but this little scene just kept sticking with me. Additionally, I got such a good reception from everyone who read it that I decided this was gonna be my thesis, and I started turning this one scene into a full short film. I’d have to say my main inspiration though was insecurities and feelings I experienced while going through highschool and even from time to time in my college career. I’ve never had any kind of drug or substance addiction or struggle, but I understood the feelings of worthlessness, depression, anxiety, and the things that can result with those struggles. So, I really pulled from those feelings and put them front and center in the film. I think that was a great choice because it allows many people to relate to the film, not just former or current addicts, which greatly widens the audience and the outreach of this film. What is the most challenging aspect of working in this genre? I think the most challenging aspect of this film had to be making sure that it was accurate and stayed true to those who have struggled with addiction in the past and didn’t make light of their situation. I did lots of research while writing the film to make sure it was a genuine account and was even able to have a former cocaine addict read my script and give me further insight into their personal struggles. While it remains to be seen how well I recounted their journeys, the reception so far has been great and I have seemingly captured their struggles very well.
When did you realize that you wanted to work in media and make films and what was the first film project that you created as a director? Well, I actually started my journey a little over 10 years ago when I was 12 and started my first YouTube channel. I mostly just made little shorts with my friends, primarily superhero parodies. About a year into this, I was showing my mom my latest short film, “Red Flashlight”, and she said something along the lines of, “Wow Jake! This is so good! You know you could do this for the rest of your life!”. At that moment it all made sense so I quit almost every other extra curricular activity I was doing and put my sole focus into film. Most of these short films I “directed”, but I think it truly wasn’t until 2016 that I began to really take directing seriously after directing my fantasy/comedy short film, “Legend of the Gnomes,” which fully cemented my journey as a film director.
How did you choose the cast and the crew of the film and what was the most challenging aspect of production? Making this while still in film school, I had so many incredible filmmakers around me, so I quickly gathered a few keys that I knew I needed right away, beginning with our on set sound mixer Josiah Knuth, then our 1st AD Bryce Burckart, and then Judah Justine our Key Grip and Gaffer. For the longest time, though, I really struggled with finding a DP. All the great DPs I went to school with either were shooting their films at the same time as mine, or had already been picked up for different projects. I cut it really close, but a little over two weeks before production was supposed to begin, I brought on Nathan Andrukonis to DP the film. As stressful as it was waiting that long, I’m glad I got Nathan in the end because he was incredible and I truly couldn’t have made as good of a film without him. I also had a small army of underclassmen come and work on the film, to the point where I had to send some to other sets going on because the other productions had no extra hands. Fortunately, everyone worked together seamlessly and it was just such a blessing. It was the first time in my career where I truly only had to worry about directing, and I really owe that to my hard working keys and the rest of my wonderful crew. Casting was also, surprisingly, fairly difficult. I cast Eddie really early on because my brother, Sam Harding, played the role. I wasn’t sure at first if he could play the role, because when I was writing it he was still just 17, and I thought he would look too young. Luckily, we didn’t shoot for another year and his face matured a bit and while he was still younger than I originally imagined, he was perfect for the part so I confirmed him first. Kyle and Lauren though were a different story. I had a hard time finding the right people to play Kyle and Lauren. I got tons of auditions, but just none of them seemed right or they couldn’t make the shooting dates work. I actually received Judah and Megan's auditions around the same time, and I knew I had found my leads. I was able to have one on one meeting with both of them, talked about the film and their characters, and cast them both later that day. Ironically, they lived in the same duplex building and had played love interests three other times, so they were very familiar with each other and I think that really shows in the film. Production surprisingly ran so well that we had very few problems or challenges. I think the only thing that was challenging were the long days and the long takes I like to get, but even that wasn’t that bad. It was such a great feeling too, because it was one of the most stressful pre-productions I had ever had, just to have principal photography go so extremely well and so smoothly. The stars were truly aligned, and I owe that to my amazing cast and crew.
What genre of filmmaking fascinates you as a director and which genres do you prefer to work on? I’m not sure if there’s a certain genre that fascinates me most, I think there are certain stories that for sure fascinate me, which are personal human stories. Stories that comment on the human experience and these shared experiences that so many of us go through in our lives. The beauty of that is that it can work almost in every genre, and that’s truly the beauty of storytelling. Which I guess leads into which genre I prefer to work in, and it’s a similar answer. It’s more what kind of stories I want to tell, than what genres I want to work in. Right now I’m primarily drawn towards dramas based on real life experiences and feelings. The filmmaking phase I’m currently working and writing in I like to call my “self therapy” phase. The majority of the ideas for future projects I have stem from some emotion, feeling, or insecurity I’ve struggled with in my past. I’m bringing them forward into my modern life, reflecting on them and putting them into films. My goal essentially is to let people know that they aren’t alone in these struggles and these feelings, and that they can overcome them in the end. While I love drama, I would like to work outside of that genre in the future, it’s just what I’m drawn to right now and what makes the most sense to me. I’d love to make a Sci-Fi film someday, because that’s really the only genre I haven’t been able to mess around with too much, but I currently have no plans or any ideas as to what that might be. Something in space though, something VFX heavy, just to say I’ve done it.
How can cinema change the world and have an impact on society? Gosh what a wonderful question to ask, and probably the hardest to answer. I think the beautiful thing about film is its, in my opinion, the highest form of art out there, because it combines pretty much every basic artform (theatre, music, fashion, art, decoration, etc.) into one beautiful form. Because of that, films can speak in so many different ways to so many different people. Someone might watch a film and the performance of some actor might change everything they believe about something, but then someone might watch the same film and the score might make them feel something they thought they’d never feel again. As important as it is for a film to have an impact on a group or the world, I feel like it's even more important as to how it can impact the individual. I’ve had so many films that just impacted me in one way, that it didn’t have the same impact on anyone else I’ve ever met. That’s beautiful, that’s what art is supposed to do, and that’s what I hope to do with my films. That might not necessarily answer the question properly, but I think that’s more how I want to go about filmmaking. As amazing as it would be for my film to change the world or leave a lasting impact on society, I just hope my films can mean something to just one person, change their viewpoint on something, encourage them, and then send them out as a better person and someone who can overall move society or the world in a positive direction. What is your next film project as a director? As of writing this, I’m actually a week out from shooting my newest short film, “Scene 25R”, which is inspired by my brother and I’s working relationship as a director/actor duo. So that’s gonna be a lot of fun not just because it's inspired by our own lives, but it’s also a film about filmmaking, which is something I’ve never worked on before and it’s been a fun challenge figuring out the best way to shoot and light it, while also trying to capture the chaotic beauty of a film set. Besides that, I’ve been writing a new feature in my “self therapeutic” way of writing, which is a romantic drama, exploring love in the modern age and the struggles that come from that and the struggles I’ve had with that, primarily focusing on how our culture and our world almost makes it bad to be single. I also have been working on a pilot script for a show based off my short film, “Meet the McCrorys”, which is a sit-com about a family of serial killers, so it’s a very dark comedy and a nice change of pace from my usual dramas. I hope to shoot that romantic drama or another feature I plan on writing soon, which is a boxing drama, within the next three to five years, so here’s hoping that someone reads this article and wants to help me get one of these many projects to production.