YOUNG AND INNOCENT is a coming of age story that riffs on the Hitchcock classic PSYCHO. Marion (Casey Kniseley) runs away from her creative writing summer camp and checks into a seedy motel where she meets a young man named Norman (Gideon Shils) where both have an immediate sensation of recognition, though they aren’t sure how they met before. They soon begin a friendship based on this strange familiarity, while Marion begins to have dreams of another young blonde girl who’s recently gone missing in the area. Set in the long, hot days of a southern summer, YOUNG AND INNOCENT is an atmospheric romance of past lives and loves, told through the lens of a cinematic classic.

Bios

JESSE ROBINSON
Writer, Director, Producer

@jesserobinson

Jesse Robinson is a filmmaker from Virginia and a graduate from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. He has worked as Assistant Editor on a number of independent features, including Grandma, All the Wilderness and Bleeding Heart. Young and Innocent is his first feature as writer/director. His next film, Where Teardrops Fall, is slated to begin production in early 2018.

VERONICA FITZPATRICK
Producer, Story Co-Writer

@gutomako

Raised in northern Virginia, Veronica Fitzpatrick is a writer based in Pittsburgh. She is a lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, where she is completing a doctoral dissertation on sexual violence in the modern horror film.

ALEX PARKER
Cinematographer

alexjparker.com

Alex Parker is a cinematographer and photographer based in Los Angeles.  His work ranges from features and shorts to commercials and documentaries.  He recently finished shooting his first feature, Young and Innocent, and wrapped the 3rd season of the webseries The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy.  Many of the shorts he has worked on have played at national and international film festivals, and he has shot a variety of projects for CNN, The Guardian, Logo, MTV and BuzzFeed, among others.

Director’s Statement

The inspiration for Young and Innocent began when my friend Veronica Fitzpatrick (co-story writer, producer) and I were watching Psycho on Turner Classic Movies, analyzing the relationship between the characters of Marion Crane and Norman Bates. They share such a brief yet deep connection in Psycho that we soon wanted to see what would happen if these characters met in a second life.

Hitchcock’s world and Psycho in particular have been mined in excess – from the 1998 remake to “Bates Motel” to the Anthony Perkins sequels – Young and Innocent is less a sequel and more a reappropriation of the characters and their roles in the Hitchcock world, yet setting them squarely within the realm of the coming-of-age story. Young and Innocent is a coming-of-age riff on the characters Marion Crane and Norman Bates, one that builds on their worlds and relationships, reimagining them as teenagers navigating their growing independence and sexuality.

This is a true independent film: We filmed this in and around my hometown of Alexandria, Virginia on a very tight budget of $25,000. The cast was mostly local actors, save for Gideon Shils (Norman), who was a student of Veronica’s at the University of Pittsburgh (where she’s earning her PhD in English), who she felt would be perfect for Norman. Casey Kniseley (Marion) was a local kid with some high school theater experience, and I begged her relentlessly to take off work and participate. I think they’re both incredible in their roles.

Young and Innocent is not only a coming of age film for the character’s, but for me as well: I wanted to make movies since I was 15, and Hitchcock’s films were a formative influence on my development as a filmmaker – even the title is cribbed from Hitchcock’s 1937 film of the same name. The hardest part about the making this film was asking so much of myself – oftentimes I was coming up with shot lists or figuring out locations the day of, and while those improvisations were hell for someone who hates to get out of his bubble. The stress and anxiety I experienced was constant, as was my love for the material and the cast and crew around me.

From the inspiration and production, the daily angst and exhilaration, I see it all every time I view it, look back on it, try to write about it all now – and ultimately I’m so proud of the what my cast and crew accomplished. And for everything I can’t express in words, Young & Innocent speaks for itself: a film about connections and loss, growing up and discovering something familiar, something new that feels like it was always yours, no matter how horrifying it may ultimately be.

Jesse Robinson, June 2017

Frequently Asked Questions

What were some of your influences making Young and Innocent?

Obviously Psycho, but also Vertigo – especially how Marion feels drawn to a person she feels she’s met before, like with the haunting of Kim Novak’s Madeleine/Judy character being haunted from the grave by Carlotta Valdes.

Alex Parker, the Director of Photography, and I are both huge fans of Gus Van Sant, especially his first film Mala Noche, which is very instructive for anyone making their first feature on a budget. One idea I had was to make this the Psycho that Gus Van Sant should have made – in that many of his films deal with alienated youth, (I do really like the remake, though).

Lost in Translation was also a reference for us, since it’s sortof the ultimate “stuck in a hotel” movie. During rehearsals, Casey, Gideon and I watched Strangers in Paradise because I knew I was going to do some long takes, and wanted them to understand the relaxed tone I was going for in those scenes.

How did you cast the film?

I put out ads on backstage, craigslist and hit up my old high school for kids. I think Casey was listed on backstage but didn’t apply for the film, though when I saw her profile I really wanted her to read for the role because I thought she had an intriguing look that was similar to Janet Leigh. I think I booked auditions with her three times, all three she cancelled at the last minute. Eventually I had to write her a long email convincing her this wasn’t some short film by some area noobs and that I had an MFA in Film and kinda knew what I was doing (ha). Finally she agreed to come in and gave an amazing audition, and was gracious enough to use her vacation days on the shoot.

For Norman, Gideon was a student in Veronica’s writing class at Pitt, and he reminded her of Anthony Perkins – they both share a sweet, humble, self-effacing quality that easily comes across when you meet him. He came down and auditioned and we both loved what he brought, and while I had other local actors read for Norman, Gideon felt very natural for the role. Since he was the only actor not from the DC area, he stayed in my mom’s heavily air-conditioned basement for the 2 weeks we shot with him.

Just about everyone else we found on backstage, craigslist, or from asking area high school kids if they wanted to be extras. A couple parts were played by friends of mine: The creepy guy on the bus, Dave, just met us after work (he’s a lawyer), so what he’s wearing on the bus is just his work clothes from that day.

Where’d you find the locations?

Having grown up just off Route 1 in northern Virginia, I’ve seen a lot of rundown motels with lots of character get turned into generic Hampton Inns or whatever giant motel chains there are. I drove around much of the state scouting old motels, and the Virginia Film Office’s location guide was a huge help. Thankfully, I ended up finding something very close: The Anchorage Inn in Fairfax, though I think it’s just been renovated and renamed The Lee High Inn. Veronica and I loved the nautical theme, and though they renovated it, they still kept just enough of it’s vintage charm to keep it interesting. We spent about a week filming there, and the entire staff was very kind and hospitable to us.
For the summer camp, it was impossible to find a camp in the northern Virginia area, so first I went out to private schools that had dorms on campus, but had no luck there. Ultimately we shot the exterior camp scenes at Fort Hunt Park since it was local to many of the high school kids who were cast as extras. For the interior scenes, we ordered some bunk beds from Target, assembled them with some friends (and disassembled them and returned them to Target when we were done with them), and shot those scenes in a vacant skin care salon in Old Town Alexandria we’d also used for auditions and rehearsals. That house was also used for the scenes in Norman’s office (it was already painted pink).
The diner scenes were shot at the Route 29 Diner, which is actually right down the street from the motel. We were given the option of shooting on Monday, which is the day the diner is closed, but opted to shoot when it was still open because I wouldn’t have to cast any extras to fill it that day. It was a little stressful at first but our sound guy John would just yell at the paying customers to be quiet when we were rolling, which they seemed to do grudgingly.

What days were most challenging?

That would vary depending on who you ask. For Alex and John, both would say the day shooting on the bus: Not only was it very hot that day, but the bus was very old and the A/C didn’t work, so add heat, stale air and car sickness and you’ll definitely see some pretty green people. The day shooting by the pond was also very trying, and probably the hardest for me – also we were shooting on top of a beehive that was seemingly underground (?) so John and Veronica both got stung, and Alex and I got chigger bites all up our legs and stomach that lasted about 2-3 weeks.

For Casey and Gideon, they were both dreading the shower scene before production, which is why it was the last thing we filmed in our week at the motel, so they’d have more time to be comfortable with each other. That definitely helped. It was difficult from a production standpoint as well – unlike Psycho, were Hitchcock had a specially built shower set that opened for any angle of filming, we were all kinda cramped in a motel bathroom for a night. John, the sound guy, was resourceful enough to take the bathroom door off the hinges just so we could all fit in there. John was, pretty much every day, the MVP of production.

What advantages did you have shooting in Virginia?

When I went to USC, everything was done by the book because they have strict insurance guidelines and we had to permit every location. Any filming in and around Los Angeles is so commonplace that everyone is not only used to it, but feels inconvenienced by it and wants payment for the location, which is understandable.

It’s so much easier to shoot where you’re most comfortable, and having grown up in the northern Virginia area, the safety I felt producing a film in my hometown is so important, especially when you’re dealing with so many unknowns. Shooting back in VA, I knew places I’d been a thousand times where nobody would hassle us, and oftentimes we’d just show up to a location, ask if we could film something on the spot. That kind of casual approach is much more conducive to independent filmmaking where so much is invented in the moment – it’s a luxury you don’t necessarily have in bigger cities or on films with bigger budgets.

Most important things you learned making Young and Innocent?

Having earned an MFA in film production at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, you’d think for the money I paid that I would’ve learned everything there, but that obviously wasn’t the case. I spent years writing scripts before deciding to go off and try and produce one, so I’d been used to only rely on myself in that regard. Collaborating is essential, but being able to specify my vision as a filmmaker is still something I’m learning, and sometimes it’s hard to get out of my own head and articulate what I want. As a first time director, you’re on your own for a lot of the responsibilities, and I had a hard time communicating a lot of producing duties. Veronica initially wasn’t a producer, but she’s the most smart, supportive and insightful person you’ll ever meet, enough to anticipate a lot of what had to be done, and I couldn’t have made the film without her. So I guess I learned I need help, and hopefully I’m a little better at learning to ask for it.

Why is Marion reading a book about Nazis?

While Marion begins her relationship with Norman, she also starts reading a book on the history of Nazi Germany. I saw in Marion’s character, both in her past life of PSYCHO and this one, she’s both knowingly and unknowingly drawn to evil and susceptible to her own dark impulses. The intention in this Marion was that while she’s becoming immersed in the historical accounting of a murderous regime overtaking a region, at the same time she’s falling in love with a murderer. You can see in the car with her friends she speaks just as glowingly about the German military as she does about Norman. She’s in love with a monster; she’s in a headspace for her where it’s hard to separate romance and horror.

Most important things you learned making Young and Innocent?

Having earned an MFA in film production at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, you’d think for the money I paid that I would’ve learned everything there, but that obviously wasn’t the case. I spent years writing scripts before deciding to go off and try and produce one, so I’d been used to only rely on myself in that regard. Collaborating is essential, but being able to specify my vision as a filmmaker is still something I’m learning, and sometimes it’s hard to get out of my own head and articulate what I want. As a first time director, you’re on your own for a lot of the responsibilities, and I had a hard time communicating a lot of producing duties. Veronica initially wasn’t a producer, but she’s the most smart, supportive and insightful person you’ll ever meet, enough to anticipate a lot of what had to be done, and I couldn’t have made the film without her. So I guess I learned I need help, and hopefully I’m a little better at learning to ask for it.