Hey Film Fans!
The Independent filmmakers at the Initiative are hard at work securing the locations, actors, and funds needed to make this movie happen!
I was able to track down Josh Potthoff, writer and lead actor of The Umbrella, aside for a quick interview. Read on to see what he had to say about where he comes from, how he got into film, and his thoughts on Jared, the character he’s playing in the film.
Zakk Arnold: So Josh, tell us a little bit about yourself…
Josh Potthoff: Well sir, I am a twin believe it or not, but you should believe it because that is the truth.
Zakk: Alright, It’ll try.
Josh: I was born in Nelson, New Zealand but grew up in the Midwest, now I live here in Australia.
Zakk: Where in the Midwest? That’s kinda cool…
Josh: Wyoming, the least populated but most fantastical state in the U.S.
Zakk: Wow that’s a big claim. Most Fantastical. Is that their state motto?
Josh: Yea it’s the quality state I believe. Funny little fact there is that we were the first state to let women vote.
Josh: Yeah it’s good. Because we had no people, so we let women vote, and it doubled our population so we were able to become a state.
Zakk: That’s crazy!
Josh: Isn’t that amazing?
Zakk: That is quality! So women are a big part of Wyoming…
Josh: They help populate it. Yes.
Zakk: That’s true of everywhere, but particularly Wyoming.
Josh: (Laughs) That’s right
Zakk: So what movies inspire you now, or inspired you growing up?
Josh: Ok. Easy. Growing up Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park scared the living daylights out of me. I thought there was a Velociraptor living under my bed until I was 13. There still might be actually and….The Goonies is still one of my personal favorites. I still watch that all the time.
Zakk: Ah very good.
Josh: Those were my picks growing up. Now I’d say O Brother, Where Art Though?, Wes Anderson flicks; they’re some more serious ones…Hmm (Josh scratches his manly stubble as he thinks). Any golfing movie, I don’t know why but any golfing movies get me pumped up more than football movies or anything ever. I don’t know, I can’t even golf.
Zakk: That’s kinda strange, like what? Caddyshack?
Josh: (Insistently) Ok NOT Caddyshack. I mean The Greatest Game Ever Played.
Zakk: The Legend of Bagger Vance?
Josh: The Legend of Bagger Vance is to me, one of the best movies of all time. I love that movie so much.
Zakk: So how did you come to be the writer of The Umbrella?
Josh: Well basically I think I was…the only option. (Laughs) Well, really, it worked out quite nicely. It was more than that. Jason and I were hanging out; Sunday afternoons we just go to the park and chitchat film, you know, like filmmakers do and talk about dreaming big and stuff like that.
We discuss film ideas, and he was telling me about this idea that he had for a long time, but had never finished. I said ah, that would make a really good feature film. So I went back to Wyoming, didn’t think anything of it, worked the oil fields for a year, absolutely miserable.
Came back here, we won the 48 hour Brisbane Film Festival, and he told me about it again. I was like, “Dude we should make a feature,” and he said, “Yeah I was thinking that.” It almost happened that quick. (Snaps fingers) Once we both decided to.
It seems pretty vague, but it really did go from hanging out and then deciding to do this thing.
Zakk: Zero to sixty…
Zakk: So what were some of the difficulties you faced in writing a screenplay based on Jason’s story germ that he had been working on?
Josh: Yeah, that was pretty crazy. Ever since high school I could take a short story and just go anywhere with it, and the crazier the story the higher the grade. Even some of my short films get that way, just out there. But this one was Jason’s story, and being Jason’s story he already had visuals in his mind, and had certain characters in his head already.
So, I had to make them come alive for him and also still feel good about the story I was writing. Because, if you can’t see or feel good about your writing it’s going to turn out crap. Know what I’m saying?
Josh: So that was hard, and I was also, as a new writer, developing my tough skin. As a writer, I think more than any other person you have to. So I’m still developing it.
Sometimes I’d get pinpricks from Jason’s critiquing when I probably shouldn’t have. (Laughs) So sometimes he’d be giving me feedback like, “I don’t like this, change that,” and I’d come back with “You don’t understand! This is gold!” Because he said ‘Take the story and make it your own,” and I’d say “You’re not letting me!”
When in reality it wasn’t like that at all. I had to step back and realize I was being too sensitive. So it was really a collaborative effort. The back and forth really helped flesh the script out.
Zakk: Were you aware that you’d be playing the lead role of Jared when you were writing the script?
Josh: At first no. I just wrote the script for the character of Jared, but as the script went through its first draft and was going through rewrites, I read through some of the lines just trying to feel them out, I really started to fall in love with the depth of this character because even though he is isolated and sometimes almost dull, there’s so much more going on under the surface.
I thought, wow, if I could get a crack at this it’d be awesome. So basically I begged Jason for the role (Laughs). Eventually I started acting out the script and convinced him we didn’t even need to hold auditions. So in the end I had no competition.
Zakk: That’s the best kind of competition!
Josh: It is!
Zakk: So did you begin to model Jared after aspects of yourself?
Josh: You know what? I did. Yeah. Some of his quirks and actions I kind of tailored to myself. Not major things but I definitely tried to put some of my own insecurities into Jared, but it’s also some of Jason’s stuff as well, and then trying to make it relatable to other people as well.
So, yes after I got the role I tried to throw a lot of myself in there and make it really personal. It’s great because a lot of writers don’t get the chance to do that.
Zakk: So how did you get into acting?
Josh: Well I was always the class clown. I was always hell for my teachers, and didn’t do well in school because I was always writing stories and figuring out what I could do to make the class laugh and get my audience involved. So it was almost like I’d try to be a stand up comic when I was a kid, and not just a kid.
I always had the interest, but I set it aside for a while thinking, “Aw man, everyone wants to be an actor. I’ll be a writer, no one wants to put in the work to do that.” I actually got back in to acting through modeling.
I did my School of Digital Filmmaking and I made some weird films on the school then after you graduate they tell you you’re great and everyone’s coming back and saying oh they said this about me, oh they told me I should do this. They told me to get out of filmmaking and go into modeling.
Zakk: So in the film Jared uses his umbrella to block out and hide from his problems and it gets him into some trouble, but to a lesser degree some escape is healthy. What do you do to escape or unwind?
Josh: Hmm that’s good. Well I listen to music constantly, out loud or in headphones. I’m actually a bit of a beach bum. I love swimming, which is funny because Jared goes swimming all the time in the film. That’s something that’s been a constant in the story even before I got involved.
Oh actually, you know what it is? The best thing I do to escape is I just got a 50 cc moped and I throw on some music and just drive around. No place to go I just drive around and think about nothing, or actually everything, but not work related. I feel like the coolest person in the world.
Zakk: Alright last question. Do you have a favorite moment in the film? Something we can look for when the film comes out?
Josh: Ok, yeah. He goes to this social group, and a lot of them have problems somewhat similar to Jared’s. They are actually quite funny and really very likable characters, and they’re one of my favorite parts of the script.
The conversations Jared has with them and the situations that Jared gets into with them are some of my favorite moments in the story. Jared meets Old Man Glenn, Eddie, Guy…we have some really great characters, watch out for them.
Zakk: Will do! Thanks so much for your time.
Josh: Yeah of course man, thank you.
Zakk: We’re looking forward to getting into it when The Umbrella comes out sometime next year!
That’s it from local legend, Joshua Brent Potthoff! Thanks for reading, and keep checking back for more news from The Umbrella!