‘Midwestern miserablism’

Q&A with writer-director C.B. Jacobson, who helmed Twin Cities Film Festival’s “This Loneliness.”

Breann Thorne and Corey Smith in 'This Loneliness. This Loneliness will be featured in the Twin Cities Film Festival which runs at the Showplace ICON from Oct. 21-31

Photo provided by C.B. Jacobson

Breann Thorne and Corey Smith in ‘This Loneliness. This Loneliness will be featured in the Twin Cities Film Festival which runs at the Showplace ICON from Oct. 21-31

Chance Wellnitz

Finding success in filmmaking is a near impossible dream. After months or even years of struggling to find a cast, the time and the money, success is never a guarantee.
 
Minnesota filmmaker C.B. Jacobson is more than ready for the task. Jacobson’s debut feature, “This Loneliness,” screens at this year’s Twin Cities Film Festival in St. Louis Park, and it’s a testament to three years of work with almost no budget.
 
The film follows high school friends Steven, Ben and Russ, who is played by Jacobson, as they transition to their first year of college. Steven has had feelings for their classmate Robin since high school but still can’t manage to tell her how he feels.
 
Jacobson told A&E it’s this relationship between desire for and fear of women that he investigates within the film.
 
Are there themes you like to explore within your work?
 
Both the short film I directed, “Blind Man,” and this feature film, called “This Loneliness,” you could say are about Midwestern miserablism. They’re both films about 20-somethings trying to navigate their way through life in the Midwest, shockingly enough, considering I am a 20-something trying to navigate my way through life in the Midwest.
 
How would you define ‘Midwestern miserablism?’
 
There’s a cliché about the Midwest that I happen to believe in. This whole idea of politeness, a kind of laissez-faire attitude toward life, that whatever life gives you, you kind of accept with a certain equanimity. There’s a real zen aspect to that, but there can also be a potentially depressing aspect to that, where people don’t necessarily talk about the things that are really bothering them and don’t confront the issues that are right in front of them.
 
I guess that’s one of the things that interests me, if that makes any sense. If I’m being too esoteric, just tell me.
 
No, no. What inspired “This Loneliness?”
 
I tend to approach all of the projects I’ve worked on — both the movies I’ve written and other projects that I’ve written — from a kind of therapeutic standpoint. I tend to stand
with the writer-director Paul Schrader, who said that he got into film as a form of self-therapy.
 
At the time that I wrote “This Loneliness,” I was 20 and male, and I didn’t know how to talk to women, so that was what I wrote a movie about (laughs) — not that that’s the least cliche subject in the world, I know. But that’s basically where I’m coming from.
 
That’s not to say the movie is strictly autobiographical, quote-unquote: It’s not necessarily my story. But I’ve certainly thought those thoughts and felt those feelings, and I
certainly know people who have.
 
What was the production process like for the film?
 
It was very drawn out because of the limitations of working on a movie that has no budget, no money and no real schedule. You shoot when you can and when you have the
opportunity.
 
I think [the entire cast and crew] went into it somewhat naively, not quite understanding how long the process was going to take. About 70 
percent of the shooting was completed in March and April of 2012, so I then thought the movie was going to be done that summer, and in fact, it took about another three
years, basically, to finish the movie …
 
Creatively speaking, it was actually probably a good way to work because you really have the time to think through things and to rethink things as well. But it can also be a
very frustrating experience when you think the movie is going to be done in July of 2012 and it gets finished in July of 2015.
 
I can imagine. How did you get your equipment with no budget?
 
At the time that I started shooting the movie, I was still a student at St. Cloud State University, and the film department there [was] very, very generous in letting us use
cameras, letting us use equipment, letting us use sound recording equipment. 
 
After I graduated college, which was at the end of 2012, I had a little bit of money saved up, and I spent basically all of it on the very basics of filmmaking equipment — buying a laptop, buying 
editing software, buying a camera, etc., etc. 
 
The majority of the shooting was done with school-owned equipment, which they were generous enough to let us use, and then most of the reshoots were done with my own
little stockade of stuff.
 
What is it like finally seeing this project to completion?
 
It is a tremendous relief. I guess I have a certain neurotic tendency because there was about a year I was convinced that I was going to die before I finished the movie.
 
It’s a very mixed feeling kind of thing. On a certain level, [after approaching the project like a therapy session], you kind of feel like you worked out your issues already, and the movie’s still not done. At a certain point, you kind of realize that you keep tinkering with it and rewriting and reediting, and you’re not really making the same movie
anymore; you’re trying to make a new movie. You just have to let one project pass.
 
I find the whole creative process very demanding and very exhausting and very difficult on one level, but on another level it’s really wonderful and invigorating. I’ve met so
many wonderful people through the course of this project and formed really important friendships and relationships. That’s been worth most — maybe not all — but most of the pain of getting the movie done.
 
Do you have any advice to film students?
 
Here’s my advice, semi-facetiously, but not really: Don’t do it. Quit. It’s not worth it. It’s not worth the time. It’s not worth the money. You won’t make it. And if you hear me say that, and you still do it, you’re going to be fine.
 
“This Loneliness” at the Twin Cities Film Festival
 
Where ShowPlace ICON Theatre, 1625 West End Blvd., St. Louis Park
When 5:05 p.m. Friday
Cost $12