A man discovers a box of interviews with his father, a heroin addict who died of AIDS in 1997. What he finds will uncover generations of family secrets, forcing him to redefine his own past, doubt his present, and question his future.
Over five years in the making, Getting Over is the passion project of a lifetime from filmmaker Jason Charnick. Given a box of video tapes by his uncle that chronicled his father’s final days, it took him well over a decade to even face the image of his father again.
In 1997, Jason’s father and lifelong heroin addict Ray Charnick recorded 17 hours of video interviews with his brother, noted New York City artist Arnie Charnick. The topics covered his entire life, from his childhood growing up in the Bronx, up until just a few months before his death. When Jason finally felt ready to watch these tapes, what he saw would redefine many of the childhood memories he held so dear. It would also take him on an unexpected emotional journey, not only back home to New York, but into the past as well.
Come along with Jason as he gets to know his dad again, accepts the man he was, and confronts the addiction that took his life.
“I can count on both hands the number of times I saw my father when he was alive.” Going back almost 20 years before the actual production of GETTING OVER, this was a common refrain whenever someone asked me about my dad. I have fond memories of him, of those rare times, but I really couldn’t say I knew him very well. In May of 1997, I got a call from his brother, my uncle Arnie, who invited me to see my dad in the hospital to show him my college diploma. It had been a few years since I had seen him, and of course I wanted to share my greatest accomplishment to date.
Arnie told me that he was videotaping my dad, interviewing him about his life, since he was pretty sick at the time. He had acquired AIDS about a decade prior, a side effect of being a lifelong heroin addict. My uncle, although not famous by any means, had carved out a nice niche for himself as an artist in New York, and he wanted to document my father’s life for the future. He thought it might make an intriguing project someday. A couple of years later, Arnie gave me the tapes and into a box they went.
That box would sit at the back of closets in six different apartments across two coasts over the course of the next 15 years. I never forgot they were there, and I always knew I would do something with them, but never had the nerve to actually sit down and watch anything. It took a low point in my life to finally get me to dive into the deep end. My life was a bit shiftless at the time – this was 2011 – both my work and personal lives were shaky to say the least, so I finally opened that closet door and pulled out that box.
The box must have been Pandora’s in a former life, because once I opened it, everything started to change. It was one revelation after another after another. I learned the whole story behind things I only vaguely knew about, found out much more I never knew, and had my own memories completely redefined by the truth. Words cannot adequately express the sensation when you hear the full story about a moment in your own childhood that you held dear for 30 years, only to discover that everything you know is wrong.
As I continued watching the tapes, as I learned more about my father, his life, his friends, even my own mother, something started changing inside me. What initially started out as a means of getting to know my father, turned into something far greater. I wanted the world to get to know him too. He was affable, intelligent, funny, and incredibly self-aware, but unfortunately to the world around him, he was simply branded an addict.
In the ensuing 6 years, while I spoke with the people who knew him best, GETTING OVER became less a film about just my father and his addiction, but more a film about relationships. The relationship between him and my uncle, the relationship between us, but most importantly, the relationship I have with myself. I grew up in a pretty stable household without him in my life, and I never really gave much thought to how I might actually be like him. The question then became, what I can learn about myself from learning about him?
That, I think, is what makes GETTING OVER so unique. I had set out to make a particular film, and over the course of production, it became much, much more. And I wasn’t just watching someone else’s life through the lens, I was living it and experiencing it all myself. It gives a new depth and dimension to a story you might think you already know. It’s this point of view that I hope draws the viewer in, giving them an opportunity to think more personally about addiction, and how their own lives might have been affected by it.
I also couldn’t do this by myself. It’s quite a tall task to be on both sides of the camera, especially when you don’t really know what’s going to happen! My producing partner Nathan Oliver played a pivotal role. His expertise in production helped keep things on track during the early stages, and when we needed to fine-tune the structure of the film one last time, Nathan came in with his uncanny storytelling ability and helped solve that puzzle. I’d also be hard pressed to find anyone else willing to take a week away from their friends and family to crash with me on my uncle’s floor in New York while we shot the majority of footage together, just the two of us.
After we shot that footage, I first needed help to craft the story of the film in such a way to make it compelling and relatable to a general audience. I was blessed and honored to find my editor, Sharon Rutter, through a simple online ad. Not only is she a talented filmmaker in her own right, she was also touched by addiction, and really helped find the right tone for the film and helped me find my voice as a filmmaker. Of the many special moments that occurred while making GETTING OVER, finding her was truly one of the highlights.
Most importantly, I have to thank my wife, Paige. I met her during the early days of our crowdfunding, and what started as a casual dating situation, turned into her becoming a Kickstarter backer, which in turn led her role as a co-producer. She got to see my personal transformation first-hand, and was still willing to marry me! This film certainly wouldn’t be what it is without her influence and patience.
Through this entire experience, I have learned more about my father than I ever imagined. I have reconnected with my extended family and will soon be starting my own as well. I’ve come in contact with many amazing people I would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. It has been such a magical experience already, and has brought me a peace and understanding that working on any other project couldn’t hope to match.
About The Filmmakers
Jason Charnick, Director/Producer
Starting at Wilshire Court Productions in 1999, Jason cut his teeth in the post department on the early James Franco film, At Any Cost. While there, he partnered up with writer/director Peter Sullivan (Jersey Shore Shark Attack, High School Possession) to produce the wildly successful short film, Stephen King’s Night Surf, one in a long line of King’s Dollar Baby film projects.
Following a brief departure to Silicon Valley to work for Apple Computer’s renowned Pro Apps Division, Jason returned to Los Angeles to work for Technicolor, one of the entertainment industry’s largest purveyors of post-production services. In 2004, with his independent spirit getting the better of him, Jason struck out on his own, editing various projects for many of Hollywood’s elite, as well as creating workflows for the popular show, Robot Chicken.
He returned to feature films in 2006, working on such blockbusters as The A-Team, Cabin In The Woods, and Ted, as well as highly-rated TV shows Dollhouse & The Voice. Never to stray far from his roots, he spent time during these projects to write and direct his own independent shorts 5:19 To Molina and Close, But No Cigar. After working on so many projects for others, he is finally ready to face his family’s past and his own future by presenting to you… Getting Over.
Nathan Oliver, Producer
In between pulling cable and fetching lunches, Nathan Oliver was fortunate enough to learn filmmaking from studying Academy Award-winning director, Spike Jonze, on a number of music videos, commercials and the feature film Adaptation.
Afterwards, he produced and directed the short film, Angie’s Delight, which premiered at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival. Other festivals followed, and the film was nominated for Best Dramatic Short at the Melbourne International Film Festival and for Best Crime Drama at the Hollywood DV Film Festival.
In 2006, Ashton Kutcher hired Nathan to produce and direct several projects, including the half-hour pilot Getting Punk’d and commercials for Dell, Burger King, and Electronic Arts. Nathan has also directed commercials for Hollywood Park Casino and AMP Energy Drink. His writing credits include the Lionsgate horror feature film, The Last Resort.
Sharon Rutter, Editor
Sharon Rutter is an Emmy and Telly award-winning director/editor who is known for her ability to sculpt rich, engaging stories both in feature films and documentaries. In addition to editing Getting Over, she also recently cut the indie horror film, Young Coconut which will be released this year. Her other editing projects include Space Station 76, starring Liv Tyler and Patrick Wilson, which premiered at SXSW 2014.
Other recent projects include Remains, a documentary short that she also directed, Undrafted, a feature film directed by Joe Mazello which celebrates baseball and stars Tyler Hoechlin and Chace Crawford. In 2015, she directed and edited an exposé on the charter school movement, Stand Alone Crazy, as well as Brave, a documentary short which received the Silver Award from the Atlanta Documentary International. Film Festival.
In 2001, Sharon directed and edited Demon of the Derby: The Ann Calvello Story, a celebrated feature-length documentary portrait of roller derby’s meanest mama on skates. In 2002, she cut the provocative and critically-acclaimed The Rules of Attraction, directed by Roger Avary (Pulp Fiction, Killing Zoe). She also cut the offbeat comedy Love Comes to the Executioner, starring Jeremy Renner and Ginnifer Goodwin as well as Tanner Hall, a coming of age feature film starring Rooney Mara and Brie Larson. And in 2012, she finished Three Days of Hamlet for Alex Hyde-White, which won Best Documentary at the International Family Film Festival, as well as Best Documentary at the L-Dub Film Festival.
Having worked in post-production for almost 20 years prior to GETTING OVER, I’m used to having to put out fires on a daily basis. And lots can go wrong on a documentary production, no doubt about it. We certainly had our share of minor mishaps, whether it be a piece of tape that wouldn’t stay in place, a shot that fell out of focus, or my propensity to over-pronounce my plosives which perturbed my persnickety sound editor to no end. I could regale you for hours with that sort of minutia, but I’d rather tell you about the day that absolutely threatened to change the course of the film for good – and by good, I mean really bad.
My producing partner Nathan Oliver and I, along with my uncle Arnie, took the train into the Bronx one day to return to Arnie’s childhood home where he grew up with my grandparents and my dad. This was the home where probably the most pivotal event in their early development occurred, and while we had no inclination as to what might happen next, we were excited when the current occupant not only was there, but was happy to let us in, and ended up becoming just as enthralled as I always am to hear Arnie tell the story of what happened in that house.
During the course of shooting, Nathan, who was wielding a Sony EX1 video camera as a one-man-behind-the-scenes-band, had to switch out batteries. We paused for a moment to let him do his thing, and moments later when he fired up the camera again, he was greeted to a message on the screen asking if he’d like to format the memory card. Excuse me camera?!?!? Did we just lose some of the best footage a documentary like ours could ever hope to capture? We freaked out for a moment, and Nate immediately turned the camera off. We certainly weren’t going to hit any more buttons!
I handed Nate my iPhone 4s, the first one to shoot full 1080p, and we pushed forward with him filming on a consumer-level mobile phone. The rest of our time went smoothly, we finished the scene, chatted a bit more with the two guys who let us in, and we were on our way. When Nate handed me back my phone, there was a nice, long 21-minute clip in my camera roll, no room left for anything else, and only about 12% left on my battery. It was so perfectly timed; we were right at that edge. And we wouldn’t know what was up with the other memory card until we got back to Arnie’s apartment in the East Village, but at least we knew we had this.
We stopped at McDonald’s for a bite to eat before we jumped on the subway back downtown. I tried to upload it to Google Drive before my phone died, because I really wanted to get that clip onto a second location before the battery went dead. No luck, it conked out after a few minutes of choking on the 3G data transfer. I guess we’re just going to have to wait another hour or two before we see what, if anything, the day amounted to.
Getting back to Arnie’s apartment, we did a quick search and found that it was a common EX1 bug to give this phony format warning. All we had to do was hit cancel instead of OK, and all would have been well. Popped the card into the reader attached to my laptop, and a few minutes later, I had all the footage on three separate drives. Back in the camera, we hit “cancel” and there were our clips on the card and indeed all was well. Whew.
Oh, my iPhone is finally recharged! Just let me go and grab it and we’ll get the rest of the day’s footage copied and we can relax until tomorrow. Fire it up, and… where did our mega 21-minute clip go?!?1?! It wasn’t in the camera roll, and the upload to Google Drive never finished! I’m a tinkerer and a techie, so I know it just has to be on there somewhere, but classic Apple, no way to navigate the file structure easily.
After a few more anxious moments and frantic googling, I discovered a third-party Mac app called PhoneView that lets you get under the hood and tinker just a little. At least just enough for me to get in there somehow and fetch out that clip. Who knows why it decided to disappear from the camera roll, but at the end of the day we managed to lose not a single frame of footage. And the scene as it appears in the film is more vital than we could have hoped to imagine. Most importantly, though, I’m just glad my uncle had the chance to return to his childhood home and that I was there to experience it with him. And as the fates have allowed, I am honored to share that experience with you as well.
“We’re always looking to discover fresh voices and are so grateful you gave us this wrenching, soulful examination of your family’s demons. What you’ve produced and captured here is a heartfelt, uncompromising look at addiction, family and confronting the ghosts each family has – but are seldom confronted so candidly.” – Jordan Inman, True/False Film Festival
“[The] film is unique and fascinating, and really captured our attention.” – Janet Pierson, Director of Film, SXSW
Getting Over is “thoroughly cinematic,” and “more than delivers.” – Chris Reed, Hammer To Nail
“This was a very enlightening up and close documentary on Jason’s father’s life of addiction. So well visualized and present. Every part of this story could be about anyone who has lived through this family and leaves a true life experience for others to witness. A lesson for our young adults and teens to experience this story and maybe make a difference in someone’s life.” – Sharon Leibl
“Your film was a little masterpiece, as it was touching and heartfelt. Not many would be so open about their lives. I cried and laughed but most of all it touched my soul.” – Kathleen Rarewala
“The movie had me gripped the whole time. I related to a lot of the emotions and experiences you shared throughout this journey and I thank you for sharing it.” – Manny Cortez
“A fantastic job. The film is powerful and emotional. Bravo.” – Daniel DeRosa
“A moving story and a powerful film. Well done!” – Charlene Rachel
Press Links & Articles
UPSTART FILM COLLECTIVE
in association with
Written & Directed by
JASON DAVID WHITE
Sound Editor & Designer
Archival Footage Director
Archival Footage Interviewer
CHRISTOPHER W. JONES
FROM THE HEART PRODUCTIONS
Details & Tech Specs
Total Running Time: 79 minutes
Rating: NR – Not Rated
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Resolution: 1080p HD
Frame Rate: 29.97fps (theatrical projection at 30fps)
Country of Origin: United States of America
GETTING OVER will be making its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX in March 2018.
(click on image for full size in a new tab – you can also download a zip file of all stills and one sheets here.)
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For all press or distribution inquiries, please contact:
Upstart Film Collective
3838 Brayton Avenue
Long Beach, CA 90807