Jacob Chase Reflects On “Compassionate” Approach To Crafting ‘Come Play’

Jacob Chase makes his feature writing and directing debut with Come Play. The gripping and surprisingly resonant tale, which continues the events that transpired in his short Larry, boasts a standout performance from lead Azhy Robertson. In our brief interview, Chase discusses his admiration for several iconic filmmakers (Steven Spielberg, Mike Nichols, Orson Welles) and elaborates why compassion is a big element of Come Play.

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Azhy Robertson stars as ‘Oliver’ in writer/director Jacob Chase’s COME PLAY.
Credit : Jasper Savage / Amblin Partners / Focus Features

Come Play centers on Oliver (Azhy Robertson), an eight-year-old on the autism spectrum who discovers Larry, a mysterious and seemingly malevolent monster who lives in the electronic devices (tablets, cell phones) in his home. Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr. co-star as his parents Sarah and Marty, a couple whose relationship problems only adds to Oliver’s stress (he’s also being bullied in school).

Filmmaker Jacob Chase’s editing background is one reason why Come Play’s tension building and pacing is on point, but he also proves to be an interesting storyteller. Amblin Partners is one of the film’s producers, and one can see how Steven Spielberg has influenced his storytelling approach. If you’re looking for an effective horror film that doesn’t mind showing a bit of heart in the process, then Come Play should work for you.

(L to R) John Gallagher Jr. as “Marty”, Azhy Robertson as “Oliver” and Gillian Jacobs as “Sarah” in writer/director Jacob Chase’s COME PLAY. Credit : Jasper Savage / Amblin Partners / Focus Features

I love how your film is actually two stories for the price of one. There is a big thriller and horror element to your story, but a big part of your film centers on the inner workings of a family who are trying to persevere through a rough patch. You mentioned Mike Nichols (The Graduate) as a director you admire, and he approached his stories in a similar, multi-layered fashion.

Well thank you. Mike Nichols was long a hero of mine. He’s a filmmaker I very much look up to. I think what you talked about the film being very scary and visceral but also having a lot of heart . . . for me a lot of movies I grew up with do that.

Especially the (Steven) Spielberg movies E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial and Jaws. These are films that scare you, they entertain you. They’re filled with thrills. Flying bikes, right? When you think about them, what you think about is the emotion. You think about the characters and who you care about. For me, when I was writing it, the horror was the icing on top, but for me it was about the characters first and foremost.

(L to R) Gavin Maciver-Wright as “Zach”, Winslow Fegley as “Byron”, Azhy Robertson as “Oliver”, and Jayden Marine as “Mateo” in writer/director Jacob Chase’s COME PLAY.
Credit : Jasper Savage / Amblin Partners / Focus Features

This is one of the rare movies where almost all of the characters take accountability for their actions. I found that very fascinating.

I’m glad you noticed that kind of thing. I think having characters that are people who take responsibility for their actions and accountability and that ultimately are good, well-meaning people . . . I know it’s hard thinking this way because of the internet and the news.

But I do think generally people want to do good and people want to care about each other and people love one another. So I think bringing something into the world that is warm and loving and compassionate, that’s important to me. I think the more of that you see in films, the more that does rub off on people. 

You cut your teeth in editing, and you also mentioned Orson Welles as another director you love. A lot of people don’t talk about his editing style when it comes to his movies, and is that one of the reasons why you love Orson Welles’ filmmaking?

Well Orson Welles, what he does so well – everything felt very choreographed and planned. Every edit felt always pre-determined. Of course in filmmaking that’s not always the case. We can’t talk about things in the past (and say) “Oh it was always meant to be that way.”

But it really does feel precise. A lot of filmmakers do that but certainly Orson Welles’ work was a huge influence on me and same with Alfred Hitchcock as well. I do think having been an editor for many years, it does play a huge part on how you write a script it and how you direct it because you know the type of pacing you are trying to get. 

But at the same time you find things in the edit. We had an amazing editor in Greg Plotkin. Some of it is exactly as I planned but a lot of it is stuff we found in the edit and we learned as we went.

Jacob thank you for your time and not so much thank you for making me cry at the end of your film!

(laughs) Thank you very much. I appreciate you saying that.

Come Play hits theaters Friday, October 30.

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