The way this came about was this. In 1996. I was approached by two young writers and aspiring filmmakers who were from Phoenix to act in a film they wanted to produce and direct. They made a monetary offer to my agents which they really should not have done as they did not actually have financing. Nonetheless it did get me to read the screenplay which I found to be interesting. This screenplay was not What Is It? I found interesting things about the screenplay and was interested in the project, but I thought there were things about the screenplay that did not work.
I came up with solutions that needed reworking of the screenplay and I told them I would be interested in acting in the film if I directed it. They came to LA and met with me and wanted to know my thoughts. There were quite a few things, but the main thing was that most of the characters were to be played by actors with Down's Syndrome. They were fine with this concept and I set about to re writing the screenplay. David Lynch then agreed to executive produce the film for me to direct. This was very helpful and I went to one of the larger corporate entities in Los Angeles that finances films and met with them. They were interested in the project but after a number of meetings and conversations they let me know that the were concerned about financing a project wherein most of the characters were played by actors with Down's Syndrome. The title of this screenplay at this point had become IT IS MINE. And will become part three of the IT trilogy. It was not known yet at this time that there would be a trilogy, but it was decided that I should write a short screenplay to promote that the concept of having a majority of the characters played by actors with Down's Syndrome was a viable things to do for corporate entities to invest in.
This is when I wrote a short screenplay entitled What Is It? We shot this short screenplay in four days. I edited that over a period of six months and the first edit came in at 84 minutes. The final feature length film of What Is It? is 72 minutes. So the first version of the short film is longer than the final version of the feature film, and it was too long for the material I had at the time, but I could see with more work and more material I could turn it in to a feature film. Over approximately the next two years I shot eight more days and edited this in to what is now the final version of the film. I locked the edit of the film about three years after the first day of shooting what was supposed to be a short film. Then there were a number of years of very frustrating technical problems that mainly had to do with SMPTE time code. Originally I was going to make the film the now old fashioned way of a complete photochemical process and not digital intermediate. An optical house in New York that did not give me enough information to let me know that the SMPTE time code had not been properly put on when the film was telecined. During this time I worked patiently on the final sound edit of the film with a number of interns. Finally that sound edit was finished and it became apparent that the film optical house was not telling me the truth and prices had fallen during this time so I was able to make the film using a digital intermediate to ultimately go out to a 35 mm print of the film. So from the first day of shooting what was to be a short film to having a 35 mm print for the film took 9.5 years.
, Crispin Glover, Brattle Theatre, Big Slide Show