‘The Christmas Light Killer’ dir. James P. Gannon

A visceral, stunning insight into the lives of freelance news reporters in the Cambodian city, who spend their nights chasing grisly scenes in the car-crash capital of the world.

A Film By: James P. Gannon
Key Cast: James D. Cochran

C8: How did you discover James D. Cochran and why did you want to make a documentary about his story?

JG: I discovered James back in the late 80′s when we fought each other after elementary school one day. The fight was considered “a draw” by both of us but we walked home together after and became best friends. In 2009 I made a narrative short with James called Cochran, it went on to screen at many festival including SXSW that year and I have wanted to make something with him again ever since. When I found out what his job was I decided to follow him around with a camera turning off the lights to see what happened and naturally his opinions on Christmas came out.

C8: What challenges did you face during production and how did you overcome them?

JG: My main problem was that I filmed everything in mid-December and wanted to have it finished by Christmas Eve so I could premiere it online. That gave me only 14 days to have a final cut which I had to do work on nights and early morning while I was on a freelance gig.

C8: What did you shoot on and what was the reasoning behind this choice?

JG: I shot on the Canon C300 with a Zeiss 50mm 1.4 lens. I knew it would be dark and that camera with that lens seemed like the best combo for low light. Also it’s the gear I own and I had no budget for this project. It literally cost $0.00 to make.

C8: If you could go back and change anything what would you do differently?

JG: I would try to get some more stable shots of the light show. Some of those shots are really shaky and drive me nuts.

C8: What had you done in your career up until this point and what have you done since?

JG: Up until this point I have made a bunch of short films. Some that did better than others. Cochran, as I mentioned before had a good festival run and most recently my short film Smoke Bomb Boys was featured on Short of the Week and has almost 25k in Vimeo views.

C8: You also work as a Cinematographer and Editor. How does this inform your work as a Director? 

JG: I started off freelancing as an editor and have now moved into mostly freelance directing and cinematography. I don’t have a degree in filmmaking and am for the most part self-taught. Which is nice because I have learned to take the whole process into account when making a film. Working the field has provided me with the benefit of practice and testing out new ideas and seeing those results play out quickly. When I direct and shoot something I am constantly thinking about the edit and how shots would cut and how the story can be told visually. I suppose the short answer is that it has helped me hone my vision for projects.

C8: What, in your opinion, makes for a good collaboration? 

JG: I think trust makes for a good collaboration but also personality is key, you need people that you would get along with if you were stuck on a boat together out to sea and needing to survive. All of my collaborators have been friends before we were ever making movies together.

C8. What’s next for James P. Gannon? Any exciting projects on the horizon?

JG: My brother and I shot a feature length doc a couple of years back that we are editing and I am also finishing up a feature length script with Matt Ferrin, who shot Smoke Bomb Boys and color corrected The Christmas Light Killer.