Living the dream means a lot to Jeremy Ungar. Wanting to become a filmmaker, Jeremy got his start on the stage as both an actor and director. He eventually started making short films such as Sleepers of the City and A Short Film About Kissing. However, he has finally made his first feature film, the thriller Ride, coming to theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on October 5 from RLJE Films.
World Film Geek had the chance to talk to Ungar about his first feature film.
Thank you Jeremy for talking about Ride. I was blown away with this film, such great performances and I really enjoyed the film.
Thank you so much! I’m glad to hear that!
This is your feature film directorial debut. What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I grew up in Los Angeles, so I was around the movie business and movies since I was very young. I really think when I was a kid, I watched a lot of Hitchcock. I loved Strangers on a Train and at the age of ten, I would sit and watch the episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. That was where I got the idea to want to become a filmmaker, so I imagined making a movie and thought about what a movie looked like.
In high school, I actually started doing theater, both acting and directing before going to college for theater directing. I hoped my strength as a director could work. I returned to Los Angeles and started working as a production assistant, you know sat on the side, until I started working on the script for Ride. I decided this would be my first feature.
What was the influence on coming up with the film?
I went into my Uber app. It keeps tabs on everything you’ve done. So, I looked at the first ride I ever took on January 23, 2014. I started writing the script in January 2015. It was so interesting to me that this relatively new action would become so common that it was second nature to me. But, I also found it to be very creepy in the abstract. If you don’t have the knowledge of what Uber is and you explain it to someone, they’re going to think, “That’s insane. I’m not going into some stranger’s car”.
I had a lot of really great places in Uber. I also think it’s a really charged space. With the theater background, I knew I wanted to bring something contained and came up with this charged idea of Uber. So, I started working on an idea and I think it was when I came into Bruno’s dialogue that I thought I can spend three years to get it actually made.
You have three great talents in the film, Jessie T. Usher, Bella Thorne, and Will Brill, who I really thought pulled off a great performance as Bruno. What were they like on the set?
Well, Will and I actually went to school together and I wrote the character of Bruno with him partially in mind. In some ways, it’s kind of a weird imagination with how we were together (laughs). But, we did go to college together, lived together, and became really good friends. When I did the shorts to show proof I can make this film, Will played Bruno.
When it came time to make the feature, I looked at a bunch of actors and the first one that caught my eye was Bella Thorne. I knew with the character Jessica that she would be a character you would want to meet when you’re spending the night in Los Angeles. The kind of person who you would disconnect with but then think about them the rest of the night. And Bella is such a unique person. She would bring part of herself in the role, and have both this natural performance but at the same, bring something very L.A.
Then, I met a lot of actors with James, because I wanted to bring someone who sort of the same qualities that I had when it came to the role. It’s also a tricky balance with this character with both vulnerability and naivety, but can also have a reserved profound strength. When I sat down with Jessie, he possessed both qualities. He has this pureness and innocence to him, and also he’s undeniably a strong man. It became clear from the fact that we both started in theaters, and that we both like the Steelers (laughs). It didn’t matter what the subject was, it was clear he was the guy.
Will Brill as the potentially unhinged Bruno in Ride (RLJE f
Did you face any difficulties in terms of shooting?
Oh yeah! I’m sure every first time director will feel their shoot was hard. I’m fortunate that I did have a lot of fun on the set. I mean if I were to look back at one of the most fun events of my life, it would be this shoot. But, we shot 18 nights, from 6pm to 6am. It was a grueling shoot, but the core work was difficult. We used a flatbed truck, which we put the Prius on top of it, and put the cameras in two positions, and had a police escort.
I felt like I wanted to do something similar to the theater, where you have two cameras and do 5-10 minute takes. And then using a walkie, I would position the cameras again and do another scene. So, it was a fun process but also a tricky one, especially because when you edit, you lose a lot of control. You have to sacrifice some of what the cast does in the edit.
I found that interesting that it was done using a flatbed truck. From how it looked, I thought you might have just positioned the cameras and had the actors actually drive the car for the most part. I mean, back in the day, you can tell when the driving wasn’t real with the backgrounds. Here, it was more convincing so that’s quite an interesting thing to learn about.
That’s great to hear. I mean, it spun a hole. I think driving acting is very challenging because you have to focus on the road but yet stick with the role. And I thought Jessie did a really good job being engaged with the dialogue but make it look like he’s actually driving.
Are you planning to do any more feature films in the future?
Yes I am. I’m writing a film that’s also a technology-driven piece that deals with manipulation and the way we make ourselves vulnerable by using technology and not realize it. I think we’re at this interesting crossroads that our phones are wonderful tools to use, but they are slowly also killing us. And we’re just having too much fun to realize it. I think it’s an important thing to deal with.
Ride comes to theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on October 5. Anyone who wants to enjoy a wild night out in Los Angeles but feel a sense of intensity will want to see this film. Thank you so much Jeremy for talking about the film.
Thank you so much and I hope everyone gets to check it out.
A Special Thank You goes to Katrina Wan PR and Jeremy Ungar for making this interview possible.