Bottled Up is a new short film that is currently making the film festival circuit. This weekend we got to meet Sam Juergens at the Kingdomwood Christian Film Festival, and even though we arrived after the film had already screened, we heard positive reviews from those who were able to watch it.
First, introduce yourself and your role with Bottled Up.
I am Sam Juergens and I’m the co-writer and director of the award winning film Bottled Up. I also acted in the movie along with being the co-executive producer for this film. It is a faith-based film that screened at 5 film festivals in 2015 and took home Best Short Film at the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival (April 2015).
Bottled Up is a film about a grief-stricken man and his journey across Lake Michigan in search of life’s true meaning.
What was the inspiration for the movie?
The genesis of the idea of this film happened when I was going through my own personal struggle of depression and questioning faith, and where I, myself was going to row across Lake Michigan. Preparing for my trip, I started plotting out my schedule and meal plans, but soon chickened out on the trip. A few months later, I decided I was going to shoot, act, and edit the movie myself with me as the lead actor, but felt this was not the best idea either.
After a year or so of the script on the back burner, my older brother and writing partner, Dave, was interested in the story and we started sending the script back and forth for revisions. After the final screenplay was done, there was no doubt in my mind that he should be the lead actor and I should direct. Dave and I wanted this film to be an inspiration to anyone going through a time of struggle, depression, or addiction.
Tell a little about your cast and crew.
This is my third project with Wherl Productions and second with both of my brothers as actors in the film. In the film, my cousin Steve Schorner has a featured role and my mom and grandmother did some background work. As I get older, and with my family in different locations across the globe, I try to make it a point to do a project together where we have something that lasts forever, and something we can show our kids and grandkids someday. That, and given that I’m the youngest out of the aforementioned group, there have been plenty of times that I’ve been yelled at and disciplined by my older family members. Directing Bottled Up allowed me to direct them. How the tables have turned… I’m kidding.
We shot a scene at a local church near my hometown in Pennsylvania, and we were blessed to have the lead pastor of the church perform one of the scenes and some members of the congregation came out to be extras. The pastor, Jeff, gave a great performance and I had not met him before the day of shooting, but he was so easy to work with. We were also blessed to have Amelia Favata, a New York actress, free during our shooting on Lake Ontario. I worked with the Rochester Film Office searching for a local actress and after watching audition tapes and some phone calls, I knew we were going with Amelia. Music always plays a big part in my films and we were lucky enough to have Brian Clouthier scoring the film.
Working with a small and experienced crew like we had for Bottled Up has great benefits because there is a level of comfortability there and with the third go around with me and Wherl Productions, we shared common goals throughout filming and post. There were two scenes in particular we shot that I thought should definitely be in the film, but everyone else involved in post-production said they should be cut from the final version. They were cut, and I’m humbled to say they were right. If I didn’t have that close relationship with my cast and crew, the quality of the finished product would not be what it is today.
I don’t know if that’s “a little about my cast and crew”, but hey, I’m a writer and I’m really proud of the work they did.
What was the greatest challenge you faced while filming?
Filming on open water. Don’t film on open water. Ever.
Filming on the Great Lakes was an incredible experience and we saw some of the prettiest blue sky one day and encountered the thickest fog I’ve ever seen, but it was also the most frustrating film set I’ve ever been on. One second the water was like glass, with no waves, and then a minute later, we would have 10 mph winds with white caps. Due to the varying weather conditions, we had to adjust our shooting schedule accordingly. We also had long shooting days and a very tight shooting schedule, thanks to me, shooting all of our rowing scenes in four days. Filming outside, especially on water, challenged the editor with ensuring we maintained good continuity between scenes.
What has been the response so far?
Like I mentioned before, we wanted this film to be an inspiration to others that no matter what you’re going through, God is real and he is always watching over you, even though at times it might not feel that way. Even though this is a faith-based film, this movie resonates with non-believers as well on many different levels and many people have said they liked the film. I love hearing the different reasons why people like the film.
In 2015, the film took home “Best Short Film” at the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival and the lead actor in the film, Dave Juergens, was nominated as “Best Actor” at the Peachtree Village International Film Festival. The film also screened at the Great Lakes Christian Film Festival, Harrisburg-Hershey Festival, and the Kingdomwood Christian Film Festival.
The trailer for Bottled Up was a “Top 10 Finalist” at the 2015 FilmMakers Global Trailer Festival.
What is your goal for the film?
Before we shot the film, my brother Dave and I wanted this movie to have some postcard-esque shots on the open water. We also wanted to create a solid spiritual and inspirational story that would be well-received by everyone, whether religious or non-religious. We did this film to help inspire others, no matter what they’re going through. I think at some point in time in life, everyone goes through a time of self-doubt, depression, or questioning God;‘Bottled Up touches on all of these subjects. No matter what you’re going through, as long as you have faith and focus on God’s will, He will guide you through the valley.
We will publically announce where and when you can watch Bottled Up in its entirety soon, and we will share the details on the film’s Facebook page.
Any new projects in the works?
Right now, I’m focused on writing. My brother Dave and I have written a couple scripts and I’m working on a feature screenplay right now on my own with the intent to shoot it in late 2016. Dave and I also plan to shoot our first webisode series based on our sitcom pilot Kings of Podunk in the near future.
Born and raised in Pennsylvania, I graduated from Liberty University with a B.S. in Business and I now live in Georgia with my wife, Nichole. Before moving to Georgia, I worked on power plants all over the country as a Budget Analyst.
Film and Director’s links: