Morris from America- An Interview with Director Chad Hartigan

Morris from America is a very entertaining movie. It explores universal elements of everyone's childhoods through the eyes of Morris (Markees Christmas), after he and his father (Craig Robinson) relocate to Germany. The film tackles all the highs and lows of being a young adult; crushes, temptations, and discovering who you are. It's a really good coming-of-age tale, and one that I really enjoyed. The performances are the best part, with Christmas delivering an excellent performance, considering this is his big screen debut. And Robinson was the highlight of the movie for me. Morris from America is a comedy, but not a slapstick yuck fest. Rather, it's funny because it's pointing out universal truths, and exploring things everyone can identify with. You can read our full review for the movie here. It's a really well-done movie, and one that I rather enjoyed it. I had the privilege to talk with the director of the film, Chad Hartigan, and ask him some questions about this time working on the film. You can read my interview with him below:

You've done some shorts and smaller movies in the past, but this was really your first foray into making a more mainstream movie. What was it like overall working on Morris from America?
"It was just fun. I try to make sure my sets are an enjoyable place as much as I try to make sure the product is good, and we have a great group of young, hungry people on the crew. We all stayed in the same hotel outside of Heidelberg [Germany] and really bonded. Coming from no-budget indies, you are used to working only with friends, so it was important to me to try and recreate that family atmosphere as much as possible, even though I was meeting many of the crew the day before we started shooting." 
You wrote and directed the film. How did the idea come about? How much control over the entirety of the production did you have? Was it hard to get it made?
"The idea came from an autobiographical place originally. A lot of the things that happen to Morris happened to me, and the dynamic between him and Katrin is the exact dynamic I had with the first girl I fell in love with. But during development, I added or changed other things to make sure it wasn't just a movie strictly recreating my life. I had a great team of producers who were drawn to me and the script, so I didn't face much outside pressure creatively, just support." 
Markees Christmas and Lina Keller

Markees Christmas and Craig Robinson were fantastic in the movie! What approach did you take in directing them?
"I just stood back and let them do their thing. I cast Craig partly because I knew he would bring out the best in Markees, who had never acted before, and that's exactly what happened. He just naturally loosened up around Craig and their chemistry was completely natural."
The use of rap music was very skillfully and organically woven into the fabric of the film. Was that always an element of the movie, and what conscious decisions did you make to ensure that the use of rap music wouldn't distract from the overall narrative?
"Yeah, that was in the script and was important. What most people don't realize is that aside from the opening scene, the pillow humping and the closing credits, all the rap was original music done by our composer Keegan DeWitt and an Oakland rapper named Jay Stone. So our challenge was to create something that felt authentic and timeless. And I think they did a great job of doing that because most people assume the tracks are hidden 90's rap classics or something."
Are you working on any new projects at the moment?
"Yeah, a few different ones but not sure which, if any, will make it out of development. It's a tough, long process. We'll see." 
Markees Christmas and Craig Robinson

My thanks to Chad Hartigan to doing this interview. Go check out Morris from America. It's currently out on Blu-Ray and Digital, or available for streaming on Amazon Prime. You can find Chad on Twitter @chadhartigan, and you can view his film credentials on IMDb.

What do you think? What did you think of my interview with Chad Hartigan? Is there anything you would ask him? Have you seen Morris from America? What did you think of the film? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Written by: Nate
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