Exclusive: Director John Patton Ford talks new film ‘Emily the Criminal’

Photo credits to EPK.TV

Emily The Criminal – The latest coming-of-age thriller of a millennial women who goes to extreme lengths to pay off lingering student debts. 

The film follows a woman who becomes a criminal, Emily, played by Aubrey Plaza, in order to pay off her student debt. With a limited job search, Emily finds herself struggling to obtain a job in the market due to a minor criminal record she possesses. Desperate for income, she decides to take a shady gig as a “dummy shopper” where she buys goods with stolen credit cards that are supplied by her accomplice Youcef, who is played by Theo Rossi. Throughout the film, both Emily and Youcef go on a continuous journey of their illegal practices and hatch a plan on how to bring their businesses to higher heights in the city to Los Angeles. Unlike any other criminal, Emily discovers that she truly loves what she does, due to the quick cash flows, and creating a promising and consistent stable income for herself, while navigating and enjoying the illegal thrills of black-market capitalism.

In this lighthearted interview, I spoke with director John Patton Ford who talked about the production of the film, what he’s learned, and shared some ‘Godfather’ references that have enhanced his director experience.

The Knockturnal: What would you say is different about the production of the ‘Emily The Criminal’ from other films that you’ve worked on?

John Patton Ford: It’s my first feature film. I don’t have a ton to compare it to. But I can tell you that I’ve made a lot of short films and a lot of little commercial things and stuff like that, and the big difference is just — time. Like you shoot, it takes a while to shoot a feature. You’re there for weeks. You’re living in it for weeks and it just takes over your life and you completely lose track of time and what’s going on and you really kind of disappear into it! So that was the big adjustment for sure. I think it was a year ago and I’ve only now like coming back to coming back to earth, you know? 

The Knockturnal: What would you say was your favorite part about the creation of the movie?

John Patton Ford: My favorite part was definitely collaborating with everybody involved, especially the actors, you know, collaborating with Aubrey Plaza who started it and Theo Rossi, and co-leads, as well as all the other actors and then collaborating with just the other people who helped me do it like, the cinematographer, Jeff Bierman, and the production designer. When you write something it’s just you in a coffee shop imagining, you know? And then one day you find yourself on set and there are these people who are just bending over backwards to make your vision a reality. And it’s really touching. It’s incredibly moving and that’s by and far the best part for me.

The Knockturnal: Moving forward in your career, what are some things that you’ve learned that you feel you would take with you in future productions?

John Patton Ford: I think the biggest thing is the script. I mean — its all about the script. A movie’s never gonna be better than what is on the page. So the biggest thing I’m taking forward is to focus on the script for as long as it takes to get it right. And then the other thing, you know, drink water, drink a lot of water, get some sleep, um, stay calm. Don’t freak out. Yeah. I mean, don’t lose your mind! keep your voice down. Someone told me recently, “Be a Michael, not a Sonny” which is from The Godfather. So Michael Corleone — Calm, patient, cool. Sonny is impatient and ends up getting killed halfway through. So, you know, be a Mike!

The Knockturnal: What would you say was your favorite part in ‘Emily The Criminal’

John Patton Ford: Towards the end of the production, We all went to Mexico for a couple days. We went to Puerto Vallarta to shoot a certain part of the movie. And that was by and far the most fun part of the production. I mean, it just turned into just a throw down party in the jungle! And it was –man, it was like a crazy fever dream that didn’t feel like reality. And now I see that part in the movie and I’m like, “Oh, that was real we were really there!”

The Knockturnal: Wow. Two in one! So partying, having fun and you know, doing some work, and getting the film done! 

John Patton Ford: Right! I don’t know how it happened, but we pulled it off!

“Emily the Criminal” will premiere on Friday, August 12th, exclusively in select theaters. 

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