10 Directors to Watch

Taking on the true story of a hero to millions is pressure enough for a first-time director. Getting inside the head of the man who killed him is a whole other story. But that’s the challenge Jarrett Schafer took on with his first feature, “Chapter 27,” a story of the days leading up to the 1980 assassination of John Lennon, told from the perspective of his killer, Mark David Chapman.

Born on an Air Force base in Germany but raised in the U.S., Schaefer studied filmic writing at USC. After graduating, he worked as an editor at Fade In magazine and as a videostore clerk while writing scripts and poetry in his spare time.

Like Chapman, Schaefer is an ardent fan of both the Beatles and J.D. Salinger’s novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” and says he began the script to try to understand “how someone could be inspired to kill anyone as a result of being exposed to this kind of beautiful art. It really bothered me, because Lennon and Salinger have always made me feel so much better, and so much less alone.”

The script took Schaefer four years to write, but once it was finished, the film came together quickly. With the help of producers Alexandra Milchan and Bob Salerno, Schaefer cast Jared Leto as Chapman and Lindsay Lohan as Jude, a fellow Lennon fanatic who befriends Chapman.

Says Salerno, “Writing the script and researching the events extensively gave Jarrett a deeper understanding of the material, and a comfort as a first time director to take more risks in the way he wanted to shoot this story.”

Pic was shot on location in New York last year. “I don’t have much to compare it to, but the challenges were daunting,” says Schaefer, who directed several sequences outside the Dakota, the site of Lennon’s assassination. “I had to go into a place that was very sensitive to our story, with trucks, a crew, and a limited amount of time. It wasn’t easy.”

“It was important to Jarrett that we didn’t glorify this event,” says Salerno. “He didn’t want to shoot any of the scenes with John Lennon at the Dakota out of respect for the residents that were there at the time John was killed, so all of that footage was shot separately at another location that we were able keep closed and controlled.”

Schaefer is currently developing several new feature ideas. His USC thesis script, “The Hidden Alice,” will be directed by helmer Bronwen Hughes (“Stander”).

“Jarrett is someone that I am sure will be most content to take on difficult subject matter in the future and find his own original way in,” adds Salerno.

VITAL STATS
Age: 27
Provenance: Landstuhl, Germany
Inspired by: “D.A. Pennebaker, because he makes great films about rock ‘n’ roll; ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ because it captured Beatlemania better than anything else; and ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ ”
Reps: Agent, Craig Kestel, William Morris; manager, Brand Mendelsohn, Industry Entertainment; attorney, Adam Kaller, Behr Abramson Kaller

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more