Arizona – Interview with Film Director Jonathan Watson

Arizona - Interview with Director Jonathan Watson
Source for bottom left photo: Ernesto Distefano/Getty
Jonathan Watson has been assistant directing for over 20 years on well-known film and television series such as Bad Boys, The Truman Show, The Green Mile, Bruce Almighty, Eastbound & Down, and most recently La La Land and The Disaster Artist. This time around he's fully in charge, sitting in the director's chair for his debut feature, Arizona. This dark comedy/thriller penned by Luke Del Tredici follows a struggling realtor who is witness to a murder and is thus thrown into chaotic and messy events that never cease to escalate. 
Jonathan took a break from the barren heat to answer some questions about Arizona which is set to hit theaters and On Demand August 24th.

How do you find the best way to balance dark, funny, and thrilling themes in a film like this?

One of the primary reasons that I was drawn to this script was the unpredictability of the story. It was also the primary challenge in directing the movie - the wild tonal shifts. Rosemarie, Danny & I were keenly aware of this challenge. Truth be told - we were also were excited by it.

What are the differences between being a director and an assistant director?

The biggest difference I experienced was the need to relinquish my death grip on my internal clock, and the all-powerful shooting schedule. I still had to manage my time. But more importantly, I had to divorce myself of the logistics and focus solely on the storytelling.

What were some unexpected challenges faced during this production and how did you overcome them?

We needed to create this ghost town subdivision in outer Albuquerque New Mexico. The problem was the subdivision we shot was fully occupied other than a few lots soon to be built. It took a wonderful Production Designer (Richard Wright) and a charming Location Manager (John Lucas) to convince these nice people to let us make their subdivision look like a bombed out and shuttered. I salute them.

What is the Arizona script to you? How does a director pick the right script and know how to maintain or change its contents?

Luke Del Tredici wrote “Arizona”. He wrote a wonderfully crazy script set against the background of the housing market collapse in 2008/2009. Danny McBride put this script on my radar. Danny and I both loved the script and its characters. As far as changing the script, we only revised to solve a few production problems.

What are your thoughts on the direction the industry seems to be heading, and what do you plan to do to take advantage of these changes?

I think the industry is shifting. TV is growing as film divisions are shrinking. There are more outlets than ever for content. People are trying to see where it’s all going to land, but it’s an exciting time. More inclusive, more voices all add to a more vital, exciting medium.

If you had infinite resources and budget, what is a fantasy project you would like to tackle?

If I told you - I fear someone would beat me to the punch. All I can safely say is: it’s a big, wild, funny & action-packed period movie.

What is next for you?

I am the Producing Director on the second season of “Future Man” for Hulu. Produced by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg. We have been shooting in LA since May. Sci -Fi, action comedy that is a blast. It is a wild second season.

Watch Arizona on iTunes or Amazon