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Collaborating on the score with filmmaker Jason Headley

Jason Headley

May 10, 2016

Jason HeadleyJason Headley is an independent filmmaker based in San Francisco. We spoke with him about his love of movies, working in advertising and how he got his first feature film off the ground.

I write and direct commercials and films
In December, I shot my first feature film, A Bad Idea Gone Wrong. It represents a long journey for me over a lot of years. I started writing and directing in advertising and still do to pay the bills. But I’ve always been interested in film and made a lot of short films so I could practice and get better at filmmaking. All so I would be ready when it came time to make a feature film.

I only started watching movies seriously in college
I didn’t have much film knowledge, so in college I carried a notepad and asked everyone I met to recommend movies to me. One summer, my local video store offered a deal: seven movies for seven days for seven dollars. Every week I’d stop in and get a new load of movies. They were all older films but that was fine because I hadn’t really seen anything good. So I spent months watching classics like The Godfather, Serpico and Dr. Strangelove. It was a great education.


Making movies wasn’t something I saw as real option for my life
I started writing feature scripts, trying different things. Some early attempts turned out to not be very good, but I learned things from the failures. Now I have six completed scripts I really like and want to make. It took me a while to realize directing was something I could actually do and might even be good at. I didn’t grow up in a world where people were directors. Digital technology certainly made it easier for me to learn and grow and experiment. I don’t know if I would have gotten involved in filmmaking otherwise. The financial investment prior to digital would have spooked me.

I wrote A Bad Idea Gone Wrong specifically to be made
After writing scripts in a vacuum, I decided to specifically engineer a story I knew I could make. I wanted to get a feel for how much it would cost, so I started trying to get my hands on indie film budgets. I asked some guys I knew who had made a couple of small feature films. They read the script then decided they wanted to get involved in helping me finance and produce it.


You can’t manage an entire feature film in your head
A short film is a simple, small thing you can keep in your head. A feature has a lot more pieces and moving parts. Especially during the shoot where it’s tough getting everybody coordinated and focused on the same thing and keeping the tone consistent throughout. However, the post-production process is essentially the same as it is for shorts. There’s just a lot more of it.

Every bit of experience was infinitely helpful
We worked with a casting agent, Charlene Lee, as well as John Domingos from Paradigm Talent Agency to put together our cast, which includes Matt Jones from Breaking Bad, Will Rogers, who was in Bridge of Spies and Eleanore Pienta from Seven Chinese Brothers. The actors were fantastic, especially given how quickly it all came together. We all just had to trust that we were going to make something great and we put every last iota of our experiences to use.


I used Hightail to collaborate on the score
My composer, Alex Cuervo, and I had discussed the broader ideas and themes but once we got into specific scenes and cuts, having the conversations on Hightail was great. It was so useful to be able to comment on specific moments, like a particular drum hit or guitar tone. I’d tag that section and say something like “let’s get rid of this” or “what if we moved this here” or whatever was needed. It was easier to use Hightail than anything else I’ve ever tried.

A Bad Idea Gone Wrong collaboration on Hightail

We started with just the audio
I liked commenting on that with Hightail because you can zoom right into the waveform visualizer and tag specific sounds. After a certain stage, we started adding the score to the visuals and were working in shorter scenes. These comments were focused and really suited to using Hightail. Previously, I would have created a document to capture all my comments and had to write down all the time codes them send the doc by email. It’s much faster and more precise using Hightail.

A Bad Idea Gone Wrong collaboration on Hightail

Getting a film in the can is a thrill
It’s a relief just to get over that hump of completing my first feature film shoot. We’re still in post-production and it’s all coming together really nicely. Distribution is the next step we need to make happen. I’m really proud of this movie and I want people to see it.

To find out more about Jason visit, watch videos on Vimeo and follow him on Twitter. Try Hightail for free at


  1. Alan Petsche

    2 years ago

    I really enjoy Jason’s work. He continues to impress me. My two sons are film majors at SMU and I enjoyed turning them on to his Vimeo posts (BTW A Joke may be the funniest, most clever short film I’ve ever watched). I just finished reading Small Town Odds and I am looking forward to seeing A Bad Idea Gone Wrong. The guy is talented.

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