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Kevin Asch talks first time film making

Holy Rollers
08 July 2011

There are countless directors and producers churning out films every other year, always adding to their back-catalogue, often (well, sometimes) enhancing their portfolios.  However, ask any director about their first feature film and it will be the one they remember most, which certainly seems to be the case for new kid on the block Kevin Asch.

Director and producer of new release Holy Rollers, starring Oscar nominated Jesse Eisenberg, Asch spoke to The Fan Carpet’s Stefan Pape about his debut production and what it was like working with his talented cast and just how proud and happy he is to have gotten his first film out of the way.



Firstly, congratulations on what is a really compelling and thoroughly enjoyable debut feature, you must be delighted with it as a finished product?

I am extremely proud of it, it is incredibly gratifying. I still watch it again every now and again and get enthralled in it. I love it, it’s like a child who’s now graduated college, travelling Europe, I’m very proud of my kid.


This is your first feature film; it must feel great to have gotten it out of the way.

I remember the moment this time last year after it had been released in the States for a few weeks and I had travelled around with it, and finally the first moment I didn’t spend every day, all day, for 5 years on the movie, and there was nothing more I could do. It was such a wonderful feeling, I felt very proud.


I’m assuming it must still feel wonderful to see your name on the posters, in cinemas and billboards.

It is so awesome, it’s my dream to be a director, and it’s completely surreal every time I see my name in any medium or situation. That’s cool, I get a kick out of it, and I hope that it never ends or gets old.


Being your first film, I can’t imagine it was too easy; did you face many challenges along the way in production?

Yes, the whole time, production, post-production, everything. This film tested me for every second, it was a fight, a battle, and I’m not naturally a fighter in that way but I became someone outside of who I naturally am to make the film what it is and it was rough! But it was a disaster in the best way possible, and I survived and the movie survived and that was my goal.


Do you think following Holy Roller you will go into your next project with more confidence?

Yeah, absolutely. Every stage of Holy Roller my confidence kept building, it had too. I felt such huge victory at every moment, whether it’s in the performance, an amazing edit, finding the right music. It all started with working with Antonio Macia on the script, finding that trust and that voice together, to working with Jesse Eisengberg and the confidence he gave me as director knowing what I was doing and we were on the same page, to all the way to working with the composer or the sound designer, its gratifying and I want to go on that journey again and I’m hoping on the next one that people will question me less and the process and throwing stones and sticks in a process which is already difficult only makes it that much harder, so I’m hoping I don’t face that in my second film, that’s for sure.



Since filming Holy Rollers Jesse Eisenberg has risen to fame quite dramatically due to his performance in the Social Network, just how lucky was it to have him on board in such an early stage in what is due to be a very promising career?

Yeah, so lucky right?  I can’t say that I knew he’d become such a big star and become nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA just months after we finished Holy Rollers, but I did believe in the actors that I’d chosen. I wanted to make a timeless film and a lot of that hangs on the hat of your actors. With Jesse we were very lucky. This was a passion project of his. We finished this movie and the next day he was on a plane to shoot Zombieland for three months. It was only a few months later he was shooting the Social Network, I don’t know whether we would have got him or have been able to hold on to him past that.


Did you envisage that by the time of release he would have made such a name for himself?

You know I probably sound like an asshole, but I did, I really did. I believed in him. I kinda had a sense that he was destined for great things, and he deserves it too, he’s such a nice guy and he is incredibly talented that you really hope the world works that way, and it did in this case.


In addition to Jesse you worked with a host of talented actors such as Justin Bartha of course, but you also managed to get Q-Tip on board. What was it like working with one of the greatest and most influential rap artists of all time?

Thank you for asking about that. Q-Tip man, he is the coolest cat ever, it was a dream of mine, in the 90’s his music was the soundtrack to my life and making a film set in the nineties so I wanted his character to be so cool that Sam (Eisenberg) thought he could talk to him as a friend despite that he actually really dangerous. And For me Q-Tip was that guy that would ooze that coolness, and also someone who comes from New York and who wouldn’t question what the history was. He was so easy to work with, a professional, introverted, a real artist, asks a lot of questions and was a real team player. He was just another actor on set.


The film is based on a true story, how much research did you have to do into the events which took place to correctly portray it, whilst ensuring it worked well on screen?

I had to do absolutely no research on what it was like to take ecstasy in a club in the 90’s, I did that research already. I had hours of video tape footage which I showed my actors as well, and lines in the film were out of my home videos, so that research was good and done! But I knew very little about the Hasidic Jewish lifestyle, so that was so much fun and interesting to explore and research. Once Jesse got attached, he was doing ten times the research I’d been doing; we went to the communities and talked to people. Both Jesse and I being from Jewish heritage they were very open to teaching and bringing us in. All of this made its way into the script and performances in the film, and added to its authenticity.


Did you feel more pressure to ensure the film was factual and correct due to the fact it’s based around religion?

Yeah, I did. It was a lot of pressure, I have to go back to story over logic, it’s a fictional film, not a documentary. But it was important to me to get as many details as I could get right, but unfortunately a lot of the details fell to the way side because of our time frame or our budget or even because, for example, we couldn’t cut Jesse’s hair as short as we wanted to because he had to keep it at a certain length for his next film Zombieland which he was already under contract for. So we went around for weeks asking people with the same length hair as him asking if that made any sense and the reasoning behind it. The people we asked were either waiting for a haircut or rebelling a little bit, and so was Sam.


So, finally – what’s coming up next for you, is there anything in the pipeline?

I’m working on this film called Great Neck which is a coming of age story, inspired by the Great Gatsby, and Great Neck is a town that I grew up in, in Long Island, New York, and it’s where F. Scott Fitzgerald actually lived. So when I was growing up reading the book I had a very personal take on the themes and the characters and I had this story that I wanted to tell. It’s very much about the crack of an American suburban family in the 1980’s.



Holy Rollers Film Page