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Filmmaker Interview with Jason D. Morris

Filmmaker Interview by Chris Olson.

Recently, we caught up with the director of new documentary: Millenium Afte the Millenium.

Filmmaker Interview with Jason D. Morris

Your documentary has an interesting premise. How would you describe it to a new audience?

It’s tough to describe actually, but I would start by asking you if you were a fan of Hannibal? Millennium was such a fascinating analytical show that was on the cutting edge of dark television in fact far ahead of its time that it paved the way for shows like Hannibal.

Millennium was cancelled prematurely and you can find out the real reasons why, which is never what people think, it had nothing to do with ratings, and here we are twenty years later with a thriving fanbase for that show that has only intensified due to Chris getting The X-Files limited series off the ground. Not to mention the ever-present Lance Henriksen fans that show up to every convention he does asking about a Millennium movie or limited series.

The best part about this, it’s not a fan film or about the fans, it’s a celebration of extremely hard work from some of the top names in the industry, the fact they enjoyed what they had created so much and recognized the enduring love and excitement from the fans still after 20 years it was amazing to us how quickly they all jumped on board to talk about this. I’m rambling but if I had the ability to SHOW people that have never heard of Millennium the pilot I would just do that instead of trying to explain it. It’s like trying to explain Citizen Kane, there is now way you can do it justice just by telling someone what it’s about.

Why did you want to make this documentary?

Well you can probably consider it a swan dive of sorts.

Troy, my producing partner was a major piece of the puzzle to a campaign to try and bring the show back in some capacity (Back To Frank Black), they even wrote a masterful, intelligent and thought provoking book exploring the themes and characters of the show that was massively well received, and this isn’t easy lite reading, it was as complex and carried a level of depth equal to the show itself.

Troy, Lance, Joe and I have discussed this a lot and we looked at doing something that was a sorta final farewell, the hope was that the studio would take notice and want to get behind a limited series or a film and that was a part of our push to do this but ultimately we felt that like any film a filmmaker creates, it is a story that needs to be told. We think the stories that could be told in the world of Millennium are so much more relevant than anything that would be on TV today, it really is the perfect timing, it took 20 years for this show to catch up to actual darkness of the world and now we are in a place in time that we can actually relate to that theme of growing darkness and needing a hero that’s flawed but ultimately pure of heart.

Today's television has a certain vapid shinny gloss to it, even in the world of Criminal Minds and Hannibal. Frank Spotnitz said something interesting about entertainers having a responsibility to not make safe television, that it needs to make you feel uneasy, I am paraphrasing here but basically there is a responsibility to show the darkness of the world and make it uncomfortable or people will become used to it and I think a lot of people have gotten used to it, I personally don’t want to watch Criminal Minds every week watching women getting raped and people getting murdered and it being gross and gory but also feeling like it's safe and that can’t actually happen…because it does happen, all the time, every day, and because a TV show presents it to us with Hollywood production values and a pretty FBI agent we say oh it’s just a TV show. Well Millennium was the opposite of that, it was dark and gritty and grounded in reality no matter how supernatural it might have gotten it still felt real.

Were there any particular documentaries that you looked to for inspiration?

We did look at a few, right now it's pretty difficult to not have a documentary shoved down your throat, and I do applaud them though they are digging up some fascinating topics, but it's that nagging feeling I always get with true crime type doc’s, is this really true? And we will never really know and I find if I am asking myself that question then they really are not doing a great job.

However, specifically we looked at a Firefly documentary, and we looked at a great doc from a friend of ours called FANomenon directed by Lynne Carter, a Star Trek doc, the problem was that these all felt like fans making docs (with the exception of FANomenon, great doc) and we didn’t want this to be that, this isn’t a fan crush, this is a serious look at a topic, at least we feel like it is.

All of that aside it helped tremendously to have the amazing Joseph Maddrey writing the script. A major influence on us was Joe’s documentary Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film. It is a brilliant doc that explores horror from its roots up to present day including all of the greats, Craven, Carpenter, Garris, Dante, Romero, Corman, I mean this thing has everybody! We wanted that, we wanted to get everyone we possibly could to come in and talk about the Millennium.

We did for the most part, there were ultimately scheduling conflicts and travel barriers so there a few missed opportunities but over all we are very pleased with what we have been able to accomplish.

One of the big things I noticed in a lot of current doc’s is the music. Filmmakers have really stepped up their game with something that was once probably an afterthought. We kept that in mind throughout this process and we ended up with an amazing score to the film that was composed by Matthew Gatsos. It’s good that we have gone out, pressed it to CD, and even have a new limited edition double CD sets coming out that is limited only 100 copied that will be signed by the composer, we even have plans to put it out on vinyl. It’s that good! I urge anyone that is a fan of OST’s to go pick up a copy.

Were there any struggles in getting this movie made?

Well money is always the devil in the room, lack of funds can be a hard thing and we self-financed this along with Shoni Cook through out company Resurrection Films. Other than the financial struggles really the most difficult thing was scheduling, Tory is in the Washington D.C. area and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and most of the cast and crew are either in Canada or in Los Angeles so we dealt with a lot of flying, motels, hotels, AirBnB’s, taxies, Ubers, Lyfts, Car2Go’s, I mean it was like living in that film Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Troy is amazing with the talent and he has this amazing ability to get everyone excited and get them scheduled and I think had he not been involved, well this would never have happened, this was his idea to begin with but if he had not had that skill set this would have been a far tougher experience.

I would say there were far more disappointments than there were struggles. Disappointments came at us in many different shapes and forms, from people being available then suddenly having to go shoot Game of Thrones or American Horror Story or Ray Donovan, I mean in the scheme of things they were doing us a massive favor and there was no way we could just up and fly to the UK or Spain or where ever Homeland might be shooting that week so sometimes we unfortunately lost an interviewee and that was disappointing but just knowing that it wasn’t because they didn’t want to do was a pretty nice consolation prize.

What advice would you give to new filmmakers?

I know the common thing to say is “just go out and shoot your film” and I understand that advice, I used to give that advice but I have since changed my stance on, and I have changed my stance because of the product I have been seeing coming out of the current generation, I am not saying they aren’t talented but, and I don’t want to offend anyone but sloppy I think is the appropriate word. It appears film theory is becoming a bit of a lost art and I think that “just go out and shoot” is sort of to blame for that.

So what I tell people now is read. Read as much as you can, don’t pay for film school it’s the same shit they are going to teach you that you can find in a book. Buy every book you can and read. Then go out and make mistakes. Make as many mistakes as you can cause that’s really the only way you will learn. While you are making these mistakes you save every damn penny you can cause you will need it. Don’t give yourself that easy out of an excuse that you don’t have any money, and don’t run up your credit cards, that’s all bad news. Read and make mistakes, there is no secret recipe but whatever you do don’t just pretend you want to make films, you do actually have to be proactive and do something so start with learning.

What's the hardest thing about making a film in 2018?

This makes me laugh because there are really only two factors that have changed for me, getting old is the major one, I’m not old yet but I am pushing 40 and trying to do things I could do with flying colours in my 20’s is proving to be challenging but it just means I have to keep up on my physical health, which I swear I am going to start going to the gym on Monday!

The other factor is something I really hate discussing it’s like politics there is no winning situation bringing this up and my opinion is 100% based only on my experiences and strictly limited to that so I am not trying to put all into one category but the (funny enough) Millennial generation has a completely different mindset than I was taught. I grew up with the ethic that the hard you work the further you get, and it's served me pretty well.

I have done far more free work than paid work but part of that is because I absolutely LOVE making movies, this isn’t a hobby and never has been. But I cannot fathom how someone just starting out that has no money but needs to build that experience is going to find people to help them get their film made, Millennials seem to be all about the money and look I am not against artists being paid for their work that’s not what I am saying at all but you have to start somewhere and it just feels like these younger people coming out of film schools have a much higher sense of self worth without having actually paid any dues.

I know this is a sensitive topic and I want to reiterate I am not trying to put all Millennials in a single category but this has been my experience with almost every Millennial I have hired and it really doesn’t matter what they taught you in film school if you haven’t experienced on the job training and been through the ropes and earned your stripes you are not on the top of the hiring heap, not by a long shot, there are far too many people in this industry that are out of work that have been around for years and have been in the trenches, my advice: take your time move up the ladder by doing good work and proving yourself, just because you got yourself into student loan debt doesn’t mean anyone owes you anything, you gotta earn it and prove your worth like the rest of us, I don’t say that lightly, I am still paying my dues.

What's next for you?

We have several projects in the works right now and it’s always hard to say which one will sort of hit that tipping point first and take off but we just finished shooting a horror featured called Dark Winter, starring Shoni Alysse Cook and Wade Thalburg, so we are currently in post-production for that and we are in the casting phase of an amazing project entitled Room Nineteen, starring Joe Flannigan and Lance Henriksen.

I am really excited about R19 because I have always wanted to direct a neo-noir film and this script is so beautifully written by Carly Street that it’s just the perfect project for me to be involved in. We are working with the amazing Hollywood concept artist Paul Gerrard on a film he is gearing up to shoot and on the table recently we have been discussing another pop culture type documentary, this time though it will have a massive audience appeal, kind of a something for everyone documentary, we are trying to keep the documentary projects on the positive side of things since there is so much dark stuff out there and I know that’s irony to the fullest with our first doc covering one of the darkest shows to have ever been on television but the audience will see what I mean when I say Millennium after the Millennium is a true celebration if art.

What would you say if you were a dolphin?

“This is who we are…”


Watch the official movie trailer for Millennium After The Millennium below...



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