Born Guilty: An Interview

BORN GUILTY directed by Max Heller is a story about a Judith Weiss Rosanna Arquette and her son, Marty Weiss Jay Devore. The story goes that Judith is a long time single mom who tries to date guys but has just about given up on love, so her son Marty sets her up with a friend of his to cheer her up. Of course, things don't always go as planned and that's just the start of it. 


Who are you and what do you do?

Max Heller - Director

Max Heller - Director

I’m a New Yorker who edits TV shows and creates independent films as a producer, writer and director. 

Why did the end shot have Marty the protagonist grabbing a water? Was there significance?

Marty makes a confident and satisfying decision to grab a water bottle from among the multitude of drink options in the cooler. This is in direct contrast to the struggle Marty faced in act 1 when he froze unable to decide which beverage to purchase as others grabbed drinks around him without much care. The significance is that Marty has changed, now he has confidence and clarity in place of indecision and fear. I could explain how he made the transformation, but I don’t want to rob viewers of a robust filmic experience —you gotta see the flick.

What was the origin of this story? Why make a story about a mother/son relationship?

We all have our mothers to thank for our existence, and it usually doesn’t stop just there, they feed and house us, giving all their knowledge and emotional support whenever we ask or not. So we owe them I lot, especially single Moms and I was raised by one. My mom never found a successful long-term relationship after her divorce, this film is about an anxious single Mom whose son tries to ease her condition by delivering her a man suited to calm her nerves. I know a lot of adults of divorced parents wish their Mom had a good man in their life and also wish they could make it happen, so I followed that thread and created a script around that concept filled with humor and love.

David Coussins and Rosanna Arquette

David Coussins and Rosanna Arquette

Any funny moments on set to share?

Lots! The kids in the Ms. Gonzales scene never wanted to say their lines as written so I hired one on set to rewrite the scene and paid him in Cheetos.

What was the most challenging thing about shooting the film?

Working within an ultra-low budget.

What did preproduction look like for you? Did you have time to do a table read before you got into shooting?

Unfortunately not.

Were there any locations you really wanted but couldn't get?

Yes, we were supposed to shoot in Washington Square Park, but the permits from the parks department were never obtained in time, so we circumvented it by quickly getting a city permit and shooting on the sidewalk around the perimeter of the park and which enabled us to have the park as a beautiful backdrop. 

The opening animation was clever. What made you want to create opening titles in the way that you did?

I always wanted a cool opening credit sequence that harked back to the opening credit sequences of the 50’s and 60’s. I also wanted to tell the mother/son history in a quick concise way so I combined the two and thus the animated open sequence was born!

I love the color direction you chose. The mother seemed to have more of a blue tone, versus the son seemed to always have a warm tone. Was this intentional?

Yes, those were very intentional, I spent a lot of time in color correction at Nice Shoes, a fantastic post house.

What is one character from your script you identify most with?

Marty Weiss the son.

How important is the actor/director relationship on set?

Extremely important, the actors have to trust that you are watching their performance and giving agile feedback.

Fun Questions

If you were stuck on an abandoned island what five items would you have with you?

A pen, paper, sunscreen, rum and no phone.

If you could have lunch with any film director or writer who would you meet?

Paul Mazursky.

If you could travel in history where would you go?

NYC in 1974

If you had a superpower what would it be?

Flight, it’s what I dream about.

Which do you prefer to shoot films on 35mm or digital?

Digital, baby! I know it’s not what a director should say, but you can shoot a lot without cost concerns, on set its fast compared to putting a film in the camera, get a highly manipulatable image, and if you color it correctly it looks amazing.