James Schamus makes his first directorial experience with ‘Indignation’


James Schamus has a longtime screenwriting experience, but he had no experience to direct. That has changed with “Indignation”, which is now playing in Los Angeles. James Schamus is the director and screenwriter of the new film “Indignation” which is based on the Philip Roth novel Indignation (2008).

In a recent interview with Schamus revealed that he had always harbored a secret desire to direct, instead pointing out how he had long been able to turn to his friend and colleague Lee, a two-time Oscar winner for best director.

“For many years I was writing screenplays,” said Schamus, who adapted “The Ice Storm” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and produced “Brokeback Mountain” for Lee. “And it never really came up. But it would have been, ‘Should I direct this or, I don’t know, should Ang Lee direct it?’ Not really that difficult of a question to answer.”

Schamus found a big challenge after being fired in 2013 from his job at Focus “I think that’s a reasonably accurate way of putting it,” he said, and with both of his children grown and out of the house, Schamus decided it was time for a new challenge.

“It’s fun at that time in your life to really try something new,” Schamus, now 56, said. “And it’s something new that I at least had a sense of what skills I needed. I didn’t have a sense that I had those skills necessarily, but there was some definition to the challenge.”

“Indignation” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January where the film received largely favorable reviews. The film was shot over 24 days last summer around New York.

“It is the still center of the movie, it’s exactly in the middle of the movie,” said Schamus of the scene.  “And everything hinges on it.”

“Very rarely do I have an audible gasp, and I was pretty much screaming by the end,” said Lerman of his first time encountering that pivotal scene in the script. “I had such a visceral reaction while reading it. I knew I had to be a part of it. ‘Yeah, I’m doing it.’ Then I was immediately flooded with stress and anxiety over how do I do this.”

Letts, a Pulitzer Prize winner as a playwright and Tony Award winner as an actor, agreed to the project.

“James Schamus directing a Philip Roth adaptation? Sign me up,” Letts said. And it was a decision only confirmed by Schamus’ on-set demeanor. “James, for all his experience, was still a first time director.  The truth is he ran a very relaxed set; he seemed to have nothing to prove and he conducted himself like he’d been directing all his life.”

Schamus now has a number of projects in various stages of development and post-production as a producer.

“I regard him as a filmmaker,” Lee said, “not necessarily as a producer or a studio head or a professor or a writer. He’s a filmmaker at heart.”


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