Jason Armstrong – Swerve
By: Krista Ann Freego
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Swerve?
JA: I wanted to write a killer heist story for some of my favorite actor friends. Something we could shoot on the cheap between “real projects,” but it just didn’t quite come out right. So, I scrapped it and started over. I walk about an hour a day and somewhere on one of those walks the opening monologue came to mind. When I typed it out, I knew Elise was someone worth following wherever she might go. And writing, beyond that point, gets hard to explain without sounding foofy.
Q: How long did it take to write the script for Season 1?
JA: Not including false starts, about a week. The real-work is in re-writing and tweaking, but when characters are off on interesting adventures it’s not hard to transcribe it. It’s more about keeping up with them, than anything.
Q: When you wrote Season 1 of Swerve, did you write any of the characters with certain actors in mind? If so, which characters?
JA: Absolutely. From page one Sharon was Elise, Kat was Jen and Emily was Stevie. I guess you never know if things will work out, but I’m so glad it did.
Q: How would you describe Elise in Season 1?
JA: I don’t think we’ll ever know the full depth of who Elise is. She seems timid and maybe unsure as the season plays out, but it all anchors on the early moments of our introduction to her. She literally vandalizes and walks out on her workplace with no plan. She’s brilliant, powerful, sometimes impulsive, sometimes fearful and always guarded. She’s actually really hard to describe, as all of the most interesting people are.
Q: How would you describe Elise in Season 2?
JA: Elise is the same at her core, but she feels empowered by being the object of someone’s (Jen) affection and decides maybe she doesn’t want to drift anymore. But the Swerve is always right there and it doesn’t need much of a push.
Q: Is there a particular character that you are most connected to? If so which one and why?
JA: I feel a strong connection to Elise, for sure, as she is simultaneously self-protective and self-destructive. She sees life as a sort of poetry, even at its most twisted. I also relate to Jen and Cassidy, as a parent and feeling strongly about the well-being of those I care about, as they do about their friends. I definitely need to mention Carly, too. My father and grandfather were alcoholics and her struggle is painfully familiar territory to me, fortunately just observationally.
Q: Is there anything in particular that you learned from Season 1 that helped make Season 2 even better? If so what?
JA: I think the thing with Season 1 is that I didn’t think there would be more. And I was kinda just testing this whole web-series thing. It’s much different than writing a film. I think Season 1 got me thinking about how to convey lots of information in my own style, in just a few pages per episode. That means leaving a lot for the audience to decide and decode on their own and it DEFINITELY means having to find subtle ways to convey a lot of information/feeling. We also realized we’d need a much bigger team the second time around.
Q: What was your favorite monologue from Season 1?
JA: Chapter two – the story about the God dream. That’s such a deep well of story and imagery for me and I love it when Elise talks about her childhood. Sometimes the things she says surprise even me. Now, where did my straightjacket go…
Q: If you had an unlimited budget for Season 1 and Season 2, what if anything would you have done differently or added?
JA: More time to shoot, a few more production toys and about ten more episodes.
Q: How would you describe Swerve to someone who has never seen it?
JA: Swerve is a character driven story of self-discovery and self-exploration with a bit of film-noir thrown in. Where Elise goes, we go. The goal is to discover Elise and maybe discover pieces of ourselves in the process. Also, there are contract killers and stuff.
Q: What was your inspiration to become a writer and a director?
JA: I’ve always written stuff as long as I could remember. I read a lot of books very young, mostly a mix of Stephen King and Psychology textbooks. I loved Stephen King’s detailed descriptions of the things most people don’t even notice. I have also always wondered about/imagined the life story of strangers I pass on the street and the ones I do get to chat with never disappoint with adventures most of us could only HOPE to dream up.
As for directing, I just kind of stumbled into it. I was chasing the rock n’ roll dream and had the chance to direct something I had written on a very small scale and it caught my interest. So, I kept doing it. I’m hoping if I keep at it, I’ll get good at it.
Q: How would you describe your writing process? Do you have everything planned out before you start writing or do you see where your characters take you?
JA: It’s a bit of both. I think about the characters a lot. Once I have a feeling for a character, I’ll drop them into some mayhem and see what happens. After things play out a bit and after a lot of scribbling in a notebook (which is how it always starts for me) I open Celtx and off I go. There’s always an element of surprise until the final draft is locked. And after that, the actors bring a whole new level of identity to the characters. The whole thing is so synergistic it blows me away every time.
Q: How long did it take to write Season 2?
JA: About a month, I think. It’s a bit of a blur.
Q: What fan reaction in Season 1 surprised you the most?
JA: Actually, just how much people liked it and related to the characters. I just had no idea whether anyone would like it. The actors seemed to know, though.
Q: What fan reaction in Season 2 so far, has surprised you most?
JA: Really, just more of the same. There are a lot of new characters, some who only get brief screen-time and it’s been so cool how almost everyone has embraced them. I could write a novel on each one of them.
Q: Season 1 had a very small and intimate cast, what was it like in Season 2, going to a much larger cast with more episodes?
JA: We had such a great team, it was honestly awesome. So much fun, so much new energy. I always worry about working with actors I’m not familiar with, but everyone stepped up and owned their characters. It was excellent.
Q: The community of fans for Swerve aka the Swervers and Swearpers, have really created a loving and supportive community and embraced the series and each other. Did you have any idea that you would find such a passionate and loyal fan base when you created Swerve?
JA: None at all. It’s been a huge blessing and to see everyone treat each other so well, even when they disagree about their rooting interests within the story. In dark times, it’s important to remember that the world is full of awesome humans and I’m so thankful Swerve has allowed me to meet so many of them.
Q: What were the most difficult scenes to film in Seasons 1 and 2?
JA: As far as logistical difficulty, it was all kind of the same. Our team was so great at being ready or navigating tricky situations, we never had much struggle from a technical standpoint. As far as emotional difficulty, seeing Elise breakdown as she read Jen’s note was the tough-spot in Season 1. It was the first time we’d seen Elise like that and Sharon embodies the character so deeply that the heartbreak was palpable.
In Season 2, it was probably when I had to get buff to be Mr. Nobody’s body double… seriously though, it was for sure the last few episodes.
Q: In season 2, do we get to find out what Jen wrote in her letter to Elise?
JA: Sorry, I think I lost you. Going through a tunnel…
Q: For you as both the writer and director of Swerve, what was the most difficult or challenging aspect of creating this series?
JA: Getting the episodes in tip-top shape is a lot of work and very time-consuming and the post-team is VERY tiny. So, that’s been grueling – both from an exhaustion stand-point and a missing-my-family perspective. Otherwise, it’s just the challenge of making sure the characters are honest about who they are and in the case of Season 2 matching actors and locations to those people and their places.
Q: There are only two episodes of Swerve Season 2 left. Any hints for our readers?
JA: If you like fairy tales, stop watching now.
Q: What is next for Swerve? Is there more in store for Swerve? Can we look forward to a Season 3 or a Feature film?
JA: It’s hard to say. For now, we’re just looking forward to a small break. Season 2 will end before the one-year anniversary of Season 1 going online. So, it’s been wall-to-wall Swerve for us. Is there more to tell? Yes. Definitely. Whether we get to tell it isn’t entirely up to us.
Q: What are you hoping that fans and viewers will take away from Swerve?
JA: The importance of connection and introspection. Swerve isn’t necessarily comfort viewing, but I hope that Elise has something to say or show that will come to mind just when we might need it.
Q: Do you have anything you would like to say to the Swervers and Swearpers?
JA: Thank you for journeying with Elise. It’s meant more to those of us on the far side of the creation wall than you guys will ever, EVER know.
Q: Are you working on any other projects you would like our readers to know about?
JA: We will hopefully be releasing our film The Ghost is a Lie (starring Sharon, Kat, Rachel and lots of other cool cats) soon. It’s a weird little ditty and we can’t wait to share it. Also, my films Inspiration and Alison Undone, both starring Emily Alatalo, should be out and on shelves and streaming platforms within the year. And apparently Sharon and Kat have been scheming and dreaming. Heaven help me.
LINK TO THE SWERVE PLAYLIST:
WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE ABOUT SWERVE? SO GLAD YOU ASKED:
INDIEGOGO CAMPAIGN PAGE www.SwerveSeries.com
SKELTON KEY FILMS www.skgfilms.com
TWITTER @SwerveSeries https://mobile.twitter.com/SwerveSeries