Condensed and edited by Clay Barbour
Virginia Beach native Derrick Borte is an artist, ad man and auteur. In September he will release his fifth Hollywood motion picture, American Dreamer, a dark morality tale of a desperate man driven to extreme measures. Filmed in Norfolk, it stars comedian Jim Gaffigan in a twisted turn that has some in the industry seeing shades of Philip Seymour Hoffman in the performance. But the movie is notable beyond its star. It is also opening doors for Borte in much the same way his first film, The Joneses, launched him – an ad agency owner and former TV reporter – into the world of feature film and television.
How did you get into filmmaking?
I have always been a serious film junkie, but it wasn’t until I saw Wings of Desire at The Naro in the late ’80s that I realized making them was actually a thing. After that I was there as much as I could be, getting an education from all the great writer/directors of all those indies through the ’90s that really shaped who I am and still influence me today.
Your latest movie, American Dreamer, is intense. How would you describe it?
It’s a reflection of the time, a look at the new levels of darkness we were seeing throughout American society when we wrote it.
In a departure of sorts, affable comedian Jim Gaffigan plays the lead. How did you convince him to do it? How did you get him in the right headspace to do it?
He begged us … and it was the best decision we’ve ever made to cast him. Jim is a special guy. He wanted to go there (regarding the darkness in his character) and it was absolutely scary and thrilling every step of the way. Hearing people say he is like the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in this film is high praise and I think he should win the Spirit Award for it.
That movie helped you get your next movie, Unhinged. It’s a big-budget affair with Russell Crowe in the lead. What ran through your mind after they tapped you to direct that one?
Time to pack my lunch and go to work. It’s a challenging project (like all the rest) and I just have to take it one day at a time, facilitate a great collaborative environment, and do what I’ve done every day for my entire career.
What can you tell us about it?
It’s a dark thrill ride that makes you think about just how close we’ve all been to a run-of-the-mill traffic incident escalating to road rage and becoming your worst nightmare.
What’s next for you?
We have a couple projects lining up for next year, and in the meantime I’ve got quite a bit of family time to catch up on.