Echoing the same unsettling technological fears as Hideo Nakata’s The Ring, Director David Bronsgeest and Writer Tim Koomen’s podcast-based thriller Meet Jimmy is similarly about our horrifying inability to unplug. Whereas Nakata’s film confronted fears of the booming digital era. Brongsgeest and Koomen’s film capitalises on contemporary obsessions with the serial killer and true crime content. Twelve Cabins spoke the writer and director about the technical decisions that informed their truly unsettling short film alongside the development of a potential feature version hopefully coming soon.
It feels like a film that brings the folkish mythology of films like The Ring into the modern era, how did you come up with the idea for it?
We came up with the idea for Meet Jimmy because we wanted to create a unique and effective boogeyman that speaks to our generation. Our big inspiration were the serial killers that were starting to be idolised through true crime; how podcasts like Dirty John and the Dr Death are giving us a sick insight into the mind of killers. A part of you despises these guys, but on the other hand: if they didn’t commit as many murders, it would make for a boring documentary series. So as a listener, in some way we want them to kill. That whole idea was how Jimmy Twofingers was born and our protagonist who loves listening to these sick tapes. Add to that our love of podcasts and we combined those elements that made Meet Jimmy.
What comment do you see Meet Jimmy making in reference to the popularity of the serial killer culture?
When we made the short, these serial killers were becoming more and more popular. After we started developing the feature of Meet Jimmy with Paramount Pictures in 2018, we headed to Los Angeles and one night while we were walking on Bundy Avenue, we saw two big billboards of the Ted Bundy Tapes docu-series that Netflix made. One said ‘Charmer’ and the other one ‘Killer’. So we were like: “See! It’s actually happening. Serial killers are going to be our (anti-)hero’s now.” We love adding those kind of layers in our work, to look for that edge where entertainment meets that introspection which makes people rethink what they’re doing.
It’s incredibly visually and sonically affecting. How did you approach shooting the film from a visual perspective to create tension?
We choose to shoot this film completely on a zoom lens. The idea behind that is that everyone listening to True Crime nowadays is putting their focus on a serial killer without the killer even knowing it. By zooming in on Jennifer we wanted to build tension that while her mind is exploring Jimmy, his mind is zooming in on her too. I hoped to achieve a visual bridge between audible attention shifting towards visual awareness that would eventually touch the spine of the audience. David worked together with his DoP Jeroen Kiers and decided that the aspect ration of the film had to be 4:3. We did that because in the beginning of the film the head of Jennifer is square minded. She listens to serial killers not realising yet that she idolises these sick minds by paying them attention. The moment Jimmy visually shows up in the film, we switch to 16:9. Saying that from this moment on, she will never be able to go back ignoring the real pain that’s behind these terrifying stories. This resulted in a raw and scary jump scare that embodied the theme of the film.
Similarly there’s that amazing switch in audio that happens halfway through that is so unsettling! Who’s idea was that? What were you looking to do with the audio to make it as scary as possible?
To be honest, we shot this film in a day but edited sound for over more than a month. Finding the tone for this was extremely difficult because of the information we see on screen and the moment the audience needs to invest in the podcast just like Jennifer does. David worked with his post team which contained Editor Erik Ten Brinke and Cinema Sound Services. Gladly the edit room was next to the sound studio because we had switch a lot between edit and sound for this one. Every day we looked at it and added sound and go back to edit because some shots were no longer serving the narrative because the story of the podcast already gave us the information we needed. The midpoint moment was scripted though. It’s the “High Concept” idea of the short in one scene. We knew that we had to build up towards that epic moment of documentary realism entering your mind and not going anywhere before you realise what you’ve done. Thomas Goralski, our composer, did a great job pushing the soundtrack towards a climax just before that happens. I think the film thought us a lot on how the audience will invest even more when there is an audible storyline combined with the action we visually experience in theaters. We would love to explore this more, not only in the feature of Jimmy but also our upcoming films.
Who voices Jimmy? What were you looking for when casting him and how did you direct him from a voice perspective?
Jord Knotter is probably one of the best actors world wide if it comes to voice acting. Jord is a friend of DJ and when he told him about this plan Jord immediately transformed into Jimmy. He started practicing his breathing which goes very deeply through his nose all the way through his throat (he is a throat seeker). When he did that, it scared the shit out of me, especially from a sound perspective because it feels like he’s inside your skin.
Another direction that was important is that he sounds so vulnerable. I think those are the most scary and dangerous fuckers out there.. The ones acting like victims while they are attacking you. The way he says “My name is Jimmy, stop listening and you’ll see me” it’s the ultimate cry for attention. Wherever this guy is coming from, you don’t want to end up there. We love to work on horror creatures giving them a dramatic spine so you understand where it’s coming from, which makes it not someone you would run away from directly, but in the end… Oh boy, you wish you did.
Lastly, what can we expect from you two next?
We’re currently working on a couple of projects. First of all, Meet Jimmy is still in development to be a feature film. We’re blessed to have the amazing people of Platinum Dunes and The Picture Company on board and we’re really excited to show everyone our vision of this boogeyman. We made another short called Mr Lonely, which we’re developing into a feature film with Spyglass Entertainment and Phantom Four. And there’s an actual horror podcast-series coming that we’re writing right now. In many ways, Meet Jimmy was our calling card, especially coming from a country like The Netherlands where we have to stand our ground when it comes to horror. So to meet all these great people and have our team in LA now, all through this one day shoot for Meet Jimmy is amazing. Hopefully it inspires people as well, that no matter where you’re from, with a creative and creepy idea, you can go a long way.