There are many stories of independent filmmakers, but none quite like Aaron Fisher’s. Aaron wrote, directed and stars in the new drama Inside the Rain, which is loosely based on his own life as someone with bipolar disorder.
Aaron took several of his own life experiences and used them to create the film where he portrays Ben Glass, a college student whose life takes a sharp turn when he’s expelled. In an attempt to prove his innocence, he sets out to show what really happened by making a movie. Though the story depicted in Inside the Rain is fictional, Aaron took the last ten years of his own life and infused them into the film.
You can watch Inside the Rain now on Amazon Video, and read on for Aaron’s account of how the movie came together.
Brittany Frederick: What sparked your initial interest in filmmaking?
Aaron Fisher: When I was 11 or 12, I saw my first Stanley Kubrick movie; it was 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I was so blown away by the film. t was the first time I watched a movie where I realized there was a director who is doing all this…and then I begged my parents for a mini DV camera.
I shot anything – just walked around with a camera on the block, walked around at night filming – and I would edit the video, the music. Or I would do some things with friends; we would take turns passing the mini DV camera around and then we would have to act in it, do our own filming, and really goofy stuff. That’s how I got started.
Also, my father is a movie producer; I think that could have had an influence on me. But I feel like if I had been adopted into another family that I would have gravitated toward filmmaking, just maybe not as early.
BF: It’s one thing to make a film, but another to make one based on your own experiences. What was making Inside the Rain like for you just personally, to put so much of yourself in the movie?
AF: It was an emotional roller coaster. It started from day one. I was like, I’m writing a script [like] The Graduate, because I’m feeling like Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate right now, and I’m a big fan of the movie and I had graduated from college. I was like, I’m making a movie. So that’s a lot of pressure on yourself, in good ways and bad ways.
After three or four months of writing, I felt that all my story ideas were really bad and everything I wrote was cliche. The characters were one-dimensional [and] really just bad writing. I got so depressed that I wasn’t talking or moving, and they said they had to put me in a psych ward to get [electroconvulsive thera[y] treatment. It’s basically where they shock your brain into being less depressed, but you have to do it like three times a week as an inpatient, and you have to do it somewhere between 12 and 20 times for it to have a therapeutic effect, supposedly.
I was in a psych ward for a couple of months doing ECT. I was really miserable. It’s not fun being trapped in a psych ward. You don’t have anything, you’re just bored as hell, and it’s terrible…But when I got out of the hospital, then I started working on the script again, the basic idea, hazy idea of a school hearing that Ben Glass has to prove his innocence. I didn’t know who the love interest was; I didn’t know how he was going to prove his innocence at the hearing. And I didn’t know that I was writing a film that was going to be loosely autobiographical.
If anything, I tried my hardest not to write something autobiographical. I think it started unconsciously where it was like, okay, this is a good idea, and then it quickly became a conscious effort to make an autobiographical story. What happened was that I didn’t feel like I could write a good story and unless it was about my past. I didn’t want to talk about the most embarrassing, painful, traumatic moments of my life, put [them] out there for everyone to see; that was very scary. But once I made a conscious effort to make it autobiographical, it started getting much, much better.
BF: How long was the process of making Inside the Rain?
AF: It took four and a half years to make from start to finish – writing it, directing it, being the lead actor in it, and editing it. And then showing it to audiences at film festivals was actually very therapeutic, because here I’m taking [what] feels like skeletons in my closet and I’m putting them on the big screen, and then people are applauding me. It just felt really great. Those memories don’t really haunt me anymore, because I’ve shown everyone everything and they’re applauding me.
BF: Since the film is loosely based on your life, you’re playing a character who is going through things similar to your own experiences. Was that surreal or what did it mean for you from an acting standpoint?
AF: It didn’t feel trippy at all. I was working for weeks before the film with an acting coach, trying to get myself ready for the role…It wasn’t playing me, but with Benjamin Glass, I saw him as me in an alternate universe, He said things that I wouldn’t say, does things I wouldn’t do, but he’s like in a parallel universe.
The glue that holds Ben and I together is this need for validation, of being validated [about] being both a good filmmaker and also someone who is innocent. I suffered what I felt were terrible injustices and making this movie, I was doing essentially what Ben was doing in the movie. I was making a movie to prove that I’m a filmmaker and I’m innocent, so me and Ben were joined at the hip at that desire. That I can relate to completely.
BF: Is there anything in particular you want audiences to take away from Inside the Rain?
AF: This image of being inside the rain I want to be open to interpretation, because I believe all art is open to interpretation. If it’s not open to interpretation, then it’s not art. But for me, the rain image was a metaphor for bipolar depression. I was trying to show how I associate rain with [a] dark day, it’s cloudy, it’s a tough thing when you get stuck in the rain without an umbrella. You can get soaked to your clothing and it could be really uncomfortable and it makes you feel miserable, or you could be in the rain and soaked to the bone in your clothes and you could actually be really happy.
And so I thought that that image of being stuck in the rain and being soaked was, for me personally, a metaphor. In any given circumstances I could be really depressed, or in the same circumstances I could be really happy, and that just has something to do with my brain chemistry. The only way I’ve been able to make myself happy and functioning is by taking the medication that [my] psychiatrist prescribed and doing psychotherapy, talk therapy, and then everything else that makes me happy, like exercising and making a movie.
Happiness doesn’t come in [pill] form, but I do need the medication to be functioning at a high enough level where I can actually accomplish things. So I want the rain image to be open to interpretation.
BF: Is there any advice that you’d give to people who see this movie based on your experiences?
AF: I want to say to those people who want to do the same thing that I’ve done that at every level, every stage of the process, every day there are people who are going to keep telling you no…I was told by one acting teacher that I can’t direct and star in a movie, so if I listened to her I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I had another acting teacher, a different one, who said I can only play a villain. I said to him, but I’m in the middle of writing a romantic comedy and I’m starring in it, and he goes no, you can only play the villain.
I can’t stress enough how many people are trying to drag you down, because they give their advice based on their limited perspective. They’re not taking in your perspective; they’re giving you the advice they would give themselves. So the teacher who said I can’t act and direct at the same time, what she’s really saying is that she can’t, because she can’t picture it. And to make things possible, you have to envision that there’s no way that you’re not going to do it.
You have to be determined, but not in a way where you turn people off because you’re self-righteous; you want to sound like a real person. But you have to balance that with the idea that you cannot let people say no to you. It doesn’t mean argue with them; it means you just do it.
Inside the Rain is now available on Amazon Video.