Linkin Park’s Joe Hahn talks about directing the film “Mall”

Photo Credit: Brandon Cox

Joe Hahn is probably best known as member of the multi-platinum selling rock group Linkin Park. However Joe is an accomplished music video director who recently made the jump to feature film directing. Hahn’s first full length film titled “Mall” is an adaption of the Eric Bogosian book of the same name. The film stars Vincent D’Onofrio, Gina Gershon and Cameron Monaghan and is currently available via Netflix. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Joe recently about the film and his move to directing full lengths.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on how you got involved with this project?
Joe Hahn: I had come across the script through a mutual friend who was a producer on the film. They worked with Vincent who was working on this project with Eric Bogosian who wrote the book the film is based on. He also was the writer on one of Oliver Stone’s early films titled “Talk Radio” and a bunch of other great things. I think Eric has a very punk rock perspective of Americana. When I read the script I loved it and really thought it was great. I then went and read the book and loved that as well. I liked how the screenplay made since of what was going on in the book without being a carbon copy. I couldn’t put it down and I had all these ideas running through my head. I called my friend up and told him this was perfect and that I knew how to do the film and that it would be very easy for me to do.

AL: Were you able to be free with your direction or did you stay more to the original script?
JH: I definitely stuck to the essence of the script. I think the visual interpretation was my thing. Every person you meet and work with on a film project acts as collaboration. Everyone who touches it is part of the process. There is always added development that each person brings to the table. We all worked together from day one. The templates were all there in screenplay. We did however have to make some tweaks along the way just to have things make a little more sense. It’s all about fine tuning the process.

AL: What do you feel is the defining characteristic of this film that showcases you as the director?
JH: Film is a great way to get someone’s attention for 90 minutes or so. With a full length film you can really get into the details of the story and its characters. With a lot of the music videos and short form things I have done you have to get in and get out as quickly as possible. There is something that is exciting about full length film experience where people can unwind and enjoy themselves. I am a fan of films and the experience so that’s something I want to try and carry over with these long form projects.

AL: Did you notice any major differences when you first started working on this film having come from working mostly on shorts?
JH: I think on the creative side a full length is just a longer version of everything that goes in to a short or music video. With a full length you often have multiple story lines happening and a variety character dynamics. You have to figure out how to make all of that fit in with how the film is written. I think when something is really well written you can use that as your master template and then the details come along to help make sense of everything. The biggest difficult I think in all of this is the logistics portion of things. The creative stuff is the fun part and something that comes naturally for me. The business side of things is where it becomes difficult for me. There’s just so much going on and so many different people involved on that front that it can be hard at times.

AL: When it came time to edit the film how did that process work for you?
JH: We did do some rearranging during the editing process. We also did a bit of voice over work as well. We actually came back later and did a majority of that after shooting was completed. After seeing the first cut of the film I felt that the films main character was Jeff played by Cameron Monaghan. We see his experiences as the film progresses and you start to wonder if what’s happening could or could not be in Jeff’s imagination. As you watch this character you sort of see how he reacts in certain situations and it makes you wonder.

AL: Looking back on the finished product. What are your feelings towards it and is directing something you would do again?
JH: There are certain moments where things feel perfect. Being creative through music, art and film has a very Zen like feeling for me. I can totally dive into projects and enjoy myself while working with people I can challenge. The whole process is very enjoyable. I am fortunate enough to where I can do different things and I hope to be able to keep doing the things I love as time goes on.

James Keach talks about directing “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me”

It would be fair to say that the Smith family has a great admiration for the Keach family.  As a child, I enjoyed the many roles that Stacy Keach, Sr. played in most of the classic television westerns.  Then, in 1980, Mr. Keach’s children, James and Stacy, co-wrote and co-starred in the movie The Long Riders.  What makes that film so popular in our house is that James Keach played Jesse James.  My son, Phillip, is related to Jesse James on his mother’s side of the family, though thankfully he has never robbed a bank.

James Keach is probably best known on-screen as the motorcycle cop who pulls Chevy Chase over after the family dog is unwittingly tied to the back of the car in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”  He has also appeared in such films as “The Razor’s Edge,” “Wildcats” and “The Experts,” a film that deserved a much better marketing effort (shame on you Paramount).  He also played the role of the Warden in the Johnny Cash bio-pic “Walk the Line,” which he also helped produce.  Cash was the godfather of Mr. Keach’s son, John.

Turning his attention behind the camera, Mr. Keach is the director of the recent documentary “Glen Campbell:  I’ll Be Me,” which recently earned an Academy Award nomination for Original Song.  Mr. Keach and I spoke about the film and its impact before the nominations were announced.

Mike Smith:  How did you get involved in the project?
James Keach:  Julian Raymond, who had produced Glen’s last two projects, “Meet Glen Campbell” and “Ghost on the Canvas,” was producing my 18 year old son Johnny’s band.  He would come over to our editing room, which is also a rehearsal area, and would ask if I wanted to work on a project on Glen because he knew I had worked on “Walk the Line” several years ago.  We were very reluctant at first but we gave in to him.  He wanted us to make a documentary rather than a narrative film.  When we found out that Glen had Alzheimer’s it made me and Trevor (co-producer Trevor Albert) even more reluctant.  We thought, “oh my gosh, how can we make a movie that’s uplifting about THIS?”  And then we met Glen.  Once we met Glen and his family we realized that this man really wanted to make a difference in the world.

MS:  Is it difficult as a filmmaker, especially considering Glen Campbell’s situation, to not let your emotions dictate your approach to the material?
JK:  The big thing was…everything we had ever seen about Alzheimer’s, both in the documentary format and the narrative format, was very, very dark.  So the emotional resistance occurred prior to making the film.  Once we got to know Glen and we got to see his willingness to reveal the truth about what he was going through, it was like we were on the journey with him.  We were suffering it with him.  Emotionally we felt more for the family then we did for Glen because, when you’re going through it, you don’t realize what it’s doing to your family all the time.  Glen was very cognizant of what was happening and you see in the film that there is some remorse.  He knew things were getting weird and messed up but he really didn’t understand it, especially towards the end.  The real emotional impact came from watching his kids and his wife…the people that had known him for thirty or forty years…watch him going through the downward spiral.  And as an objective filmmaker you kind of had to stand back and observe everything and not become…you really just had to stand back.  And to reflect Glen’s personality, which has a lot of humor in it, and love, we could have easily gone on one track in the film and just shown one side of it.  But that wouldn’t have been Glen.  We also thought it was going to be a short journey.  We thought we’d be with him for five and a half weeks and we ended up spending two and a half years.  We kind of went down the rabbit hole with him.  Slowly but surely.  And even now, looking back at the film, it’s so courageous what he did and it’s a legacy for me as a filmmaker that I feel so proud that I was able to be a part of it.  To be at the helm, with my partner, Trevor, and to share this story.

MS:  Have you kept in touch with Glen?  How is he doing?
JK:  Yeah.  I saw Glen six weeks ago and the family sends pictures of him.  And I talk to Kim (Campbell’s wife).  He’s in good physical health.  He’s in good spiritual health.  He’s happy where he is.  He still has Alzheimer’s…it’s not going away.  But he’s not suffering.  He’s being well taken care of.  And I think that’s the most you can ask.  He has a lot of love around him.  He’s still full of love and full of laughter and full of faith.  Every once in a while he’ll lift his hands up and say “thank you, Lord.”  It’s kind of amazing.  I heard the other day…Kim said he played a little bit.

MS:  You’ve spent most of the past two decades behind the camera instead of in front of it.  Is that something you want to concentrate on?  Are you still open to acting jobs?
JK:  Have you got a job?  (laughs)
MS:  While I was curious if maybe they’ve talked to you about doing a cameo in the “Vacation” reboot.  Maybe you could be the cop that pulls Rusty over.
JK:  (laughing) That would be really funny.  Man, I had such a good time doing that.  That’s where my partner Trevor and I met.  He was Harold Ramis’ producer.

MS:  What do you have coming up next?
JK:  We have a lot of different films that are in various stages of development.  What we’re really trying to do is to make sure this film finishes correctly.  To make sure it gets in the right place in the digital realm because I think that is where most people are going to see it.  We’re chugging along and getting a lot of requests for screenings.  The most important thing is to school as many people as possible to see the film.  I think it will help change the conversation about Alzheimer’s.  It will certainly help leave a great legacy for Glen.  I think Glen’s intentions were to try and make a difference in the world…to create an awareness of how dire the situation is.  We did a screening for about 4,000 people in Nashville.  I went up on the stage…the Band Perry was there and we had a concert and a screening.  And during the concert, while they were setting up for their next song, I asked how many people in the audience had been affected by Alzheimer’s.  About 3,800 people stood up.  I think that there is a connection there with everybody.  People have to become more aware of this and do something about it before it really takes its toll on our country and each one of our families.

Peter and Michael Spierig talk about directing “Predestination”

Peter and Michael Spierig, also know as The Spierig Brothers, are known for directing horror/sci-fi genre films like “Undead” and “Daybreakers”. Their most recent film, “Predestination”, based on the science fiction short story “—All You Zombies—” by Robert A. Heinlein stars Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook (also interviewed here). Media Mikes had a chance to chat with the directing duo about their latest film and what we can expect.

Eric Schmitt: What was it you felt about the Robert A. Heinlein story “-All You Zombies-” would translate well into a film?
Peter Spierig: I’ve read the short story several times, read it first many years ago, and it stuck with me. I’ve never read a time travel story quite like that. You have to remember that it was written in 1958, so it’s still very original and different. Michael read it too and he had the same reaction.
Michael Spierig: My first reaction was “I don’t get it.” I read it again, still didn’t get it. Then I read it again and said “there it is, I get it!” [Laughter] What we loved about it is that it’s a completely original and new spin on the time travel story. It’s old and in the grand scheme of things it would make for a really good mind bender with heart and soul in it. We liked the idea of doing a genre that’s been done before and putting a different spin on it.

ES: With Daybreakers, you took the vampire genre and made it grandiose as far as how widespread it was. A very “maximum” take on vampirism. Then you go to Time Travel and it seems like a very minimalist approach to the subject. Was that by design?
MS: Yes! (Laughs) Peter and I wanted to test ourselves and see if we could do a more low tech approach to science fiction. The assumption today is that science fiction is all robots and space ships, and we kind of liked the idea of trying to tell a more intimate story of fate and identity without having to make it so grandiose. We really wanted to do an actor’s piece. We said when we first started that we wanted to dumb down the special effects where when people see it, they don’t even know there are special effects. A transgender character in a time travel movie seemed so out there, I think it’s so interesting, that it didn’t warrant massive battle sequences. It was a story about a person looking for their identity, and we just loved that. It was a bit of an experiment for us to do this, a more intimate film.

ES: Did you feel that there would be certain challenges in explaining the story’s revelations without the audience feeling rushed?
PS & MS: YES!!!
PS: It’s a very tricky thing; as a filmmaker, there’s no revelations for you when you’re cutting the film because you know it so intimately. So to place the beats in the film, it’s very tricky. So that’s where you rely on showing other people and testing. Do people get enough information at this point? Do we need to add more? What we discovered was that some people get it, some were ahead of the story, others don’t get it at all. I guess there’s a nice balance in the middle, but it’s very tricky to find that (middle). We hope that there are people who don’t get it, who are intrigued enough to go back and watch it again.
MS: I like how there will be people who are ahead of the game, ahead of the story. So we threw in a few jokes to kind of say “Okay, those of you who are ahead of us, here you go!” (This response had to be heavily edited to keep from spoiling some of the film’s reveals!)

ES: There’s definitely a point in the film having to do with the bar, where a light just goes on in your head and you have a complete “Oh shit!” moment. Even with Sarah, it took me a little while to realize that this man, well, it really isn’t a man. How did you go about casting Sarah for the role of John?
MS: We went back and forth on whether we should even attempt it – one actor playing both parts. We talked about casting two separate people, and got very serious about it. But then we thought “God, it would be so good if we could pull off an actor playing both of these roles. It would make the characters more interesting and I think you would care about the characters more.” We started auditioning people, and we saw every actress in Australia. People started touting this actress called Sarah Snook. She had done that Ryan Kwanten film “Not Suitable for Children,” so we had known of her. She came in and auditioned and really just blew us away. We did several auditions with her, actually; an initial audition, one in make-up, a test shot of her acting both female and male. This is also when we rely on our FX artist, Steven Boyle, who’s been with us since we did short films. I showed Steve Sarah’s audition videos and asked him “Can we really do this? Can we turn her into a man? Can we pull this off?” Steve looked at us and said “Yes I can do it. I promise we can do it.”
PS: With that being said, we wanted it to be a blend of male and female. We didn’t want it to be to masculine so you couldn’t see the feminine side. It’s a delicate balance, because if we put Sarah under a tremendous amount of make-up, it would have either looked silly or taken away from the performance.

ES: Did anyone mention on set that when she was made up as John that she looked like a young Leonardo DiCaprio?
MS & PS: Oh Yeah! Everyone!
PS: We all said it! It’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Jodie Foster’s love child. We also got a lot of Edward Furlong as well.

ES: Since you guys have worked with Ethan in the past, was he immediately at forefront of your minds when casting for Predestination?
PS: We didn’t really have an actor in mind until we finished the script. When we finished we said “You know who would like this material? Ethan.” It’s along the lines of what his genre tastes are, so we sent it to him. I think within one or two days, he said “Just tell me where and when – I’m in.”
MS: The thing he also asked us was what part he was playing. We told that we were still trying to figure that out and we’d get back to him.
PS: The amazing thing about Ethan is that he’s brave in a sense that he completely trusted us with the casting. He didn’t know who Sarah was initially, but he had faith that we were making the right decision. He’s fearless and he likes taking risks. We’ll forever be indebted to him for having the courage to say “Yes” to us.

ES: One of the things I noticed watching the film was that Ethan and Sarah had a very “organic” relationship in the bar scenes. From your perspectives, how did that develop over the course of filming?
MS: We had a lot of rehearsal time with them talking about the scenes. Our rehearsal time is not primarily about lines, it’s about why the scene has to exist in the movie. They spent a lot of time together working on their (respective) character’s mannerisms and that sort of thing. Sarah and Ethan are both incredibly intelligent, and I think they connected on that level. They’re both really smart actors and they ask the right questions. They wanted their collaboration to be very much intertwined.
PS: We spent a lot of time on the bar dialogue. There isn’t a single line that isn’t essential to the movie. Some of the lines have double meanings, even the joke that Ethan tells is critical to the film. We’re huge fans of the Science Fiction genre, so we really wanted to do this film with meaning.

Steven Quale talks about directing tornado action film “Into the Storm”

Steven Quale is best known for directing “Final Destination 5”. He was also second unit director with James Cameron on “Avatar” and “Titanic”. His latest film is the tornado action film “Into the Storm”. Steven Quale took out some time to chat about the film and the challenges he faced.

What interested you in this story and joining as Director?
Steven Quale: What attracted me to “Into the Storm” is being able to take the audience right into the center of a tornado. To experience what it is like to see and hear the unimaginable power that a tornado can unleash. I also wanted to explore how different people react to such an extreme event.

What is it like directing actors with the added distraction of extreme weather elements?
SQ: It was a real challenge to get a performance with all the distracting noises of the wind machines and rain towers. The loud noise of the equipment made communication very difficult and I had to rely on hand signals. One advantage to all the wind and rain is that it gave the actors something real to play against when shooting with green screens.

How is “Into the Storm” different from previous tornado movies?
SQ: “Into the Storm” benefits from the advances in visual effects over the years so the tornados look much more realistic. It also differs from other tornado movies in that we are not just following storm-chasers – we have a diverse group of unrelated people who are thrust together during the adversity of the storm and we get to experience how each of the different people react under the pressure of the storm.

You have an extensive background in visual effects. Tell us about what went into making this film look and feel real.
SQ: The most important thing to make this film look real was weeks and weeks of extensive research. I studied every single video of any severe weather and tornado footage I could find. Every major type of tornado was based on actual footage of real tornados. In addition to the visuals I insisted on having the sound feel as real as possible and that is where academy award winning sound supervisor Par Hallberg shined with his amazing soundscape. You really feel like you are in a tornado with the rumbling sound.

Did the film require practical effects in addition to visual effects?
SQ: The films visual effects work so effective because they are a mix of practical physical effects such as wind machines and rain towers combined with the digital tornados and debris. For the last half of the film, almost every shot required rain and wind machines. We dropped a real truck in close proximity with Richard Armitage.

What special features can we expect to see on the Blu-ray / DVD?
SQ: The Blu-ray/DVD for “Into the Storm” will have several behind the scenes features showing how we were able to realistically recreate the weather conditions of a tornado. It also has a segment where world famous storm chaser Reed Timmer explains all of the types of tornados in or film and how they compare to the real ones that he has chased.

Kevin Greutert talks about directing and editing horror film “Jessabelle”

Kevin Greutert is the director of the films “Saw VI”, Saw 3D: The Final Chapter” as well on editor on the entire “Saw” franchise. His latest film is called “Jessabelle” and is a ghost story set in Louisiana. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Kevin about the film and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: How was it going from directing “Saw 3D” to a film like “Jessabelle”?
Kevin Greutert: I was very eager to step away from the “Saw” franchise. I loved doing those movies but I wanted to get on with something different and really work with characters that are more developed and have more dramatic texture going on. When this script crossed my desk, I was super excited. It felt like a real breath of fresh air. We made it for a lot less money and a lot less time than most of the “Saw” movies. So in that regard, there was some different challenges as well. There are times when you what to put a camera or lights somewhere but it just isn’t possible. But It was absolutely worth it since the story is so good and the actors and crew were such a pleasure to work with. They made it so easy.

MG: Did you enjoy working in a more slow burn type of horror?
KG: The “Saw” movies were so energy fueled. I love making movies that are as physically engaging as possible. You say slow burn but I hope it isn’t too slow [laughs]. I have been told that this movie has a really amazing pace to it. It is not a movie that is throwing stuff at the screen the entire time. I think the most fun scenes in the film are the really quiet scenes that rely on the tiniest sound to trigger a scare or you see a shadow move in the background. To get to play with that kind of aspect instead of arms getting chopped off felt great and it felt really great on the set. There were no sets for this film, it was all shot in an isolated plantation. You can hear the night birds and there were alligators everywhere. So it was great to do a quiet ghost story.

MG: Like with the “Saw” franchise, you also edited “Jessabelle”; tell us about that aspect?
KG: It is interesting, I enjoy editing a lot but there are challenges to doing both. Directing a film is like climbing Mount Everest. It is really hard and takes all of your resources. By the time you finish, you really just want to go to the Caribbean and spent a month decompressing. By editing the film myself as well, I am climbing Everest and once I reach base camp, I have to turn around and do it again. It is that hard. There is no time to waste and you need to get right back into it. If there is any problem with the footage, it is on you. If I am editing someone else’s film and if something didn’t come out right or they failed to shoot a scene or get a shot, I can say “Man, those guys screwed up” [laughs]. That being said, I still felt pretty good when we got this film in the can. There were no reshoots needed or anything. So the hardest part of editing this film was actually all the stuff that I had to leave on the cutting room floor. Sarah Snook does every take different and they were all great. I am only person in the world who will see how these scenes could have been. These are tough decisions to see something so good and not be able to use it because something else was slightly more appropriate. That is a challenge but it is still very exciting as a filmmaker.

MG: That tub scene is quite effective; tell us about shooting that?
KG: Yeah, the bathtub scene was a tough one. Basically, we had to figure out how to create the sensation that the tub was filling up with swampy, oily, disgusting water. We had to find a place to shoot it. We were in this abandoned three story mansion. The only room we could do it was on the second floor, so in the dining room underneath, we had to build a giant 4×4 super structure to keep the tub from failing through the floor. It was probably our biggest shoot day. We had to have condor cranes at the windows with different lights and rain effects. We had a hot filled with water ready to make sure the girls didn’t freeze to death. Then on the very last day of shooting I had wanted to get a few more shots in the bath tub, so we had to set it all back up again. I thank the crew because it was a tough thing to do.

MG: Did you ever feel limited by the PG-13 rating?
KG: I always wanted this movie to actually be PG-13. When you put an R rating on a horror movie, people have expectations that this movie is going to deliver gore and blood etc. This is a very scary movie but not scary because of violence. It is scary due to its psychological situations. With that said, when we did submit the film to the MPAA, we did get back an R rating several times and we had to make a few adjustments. But for most people, if you would see both versions side by you probably wouldn’t be able to notice anything major missing.

MG: I liked the locations which created a lot of atmosphere in the film; tell us about where it was shot?
KG: From the day that I first read the script to the day that we started shooting, it was not a long time. First order of business was to cast it and simultaneously with that was to find a place to shoot it. Originally we drove all over Louisiana trying to find the right place. We would up in North Carolina and thought it looked more like Louisiana than Louisiana [laughs]. We originally found a great house and shortly after we were told that this guy James Wan was using it for a film called “The Conjuring” [laughs]. James is good friend of mine though and we found another place and ended up working in the same town at the same time as them. In the plantation we found, no one has ever made a movie there before and no one had lived there for decades. The last inhabitant was an old schizophrenic man. The walls were completely covered with strange drawings. It felt like a true haunted house. When you see the film it looks like a very derelict building but we cleaned it up a lot [laughs]. It was really a great place. When they go through the swamps, it was all the real thing. We had alligators following us around. It was wonderful.

MG: What can you tell us about your next film, “Visions”?
KG: That film is also produced by Jason Blum. I am currently editing it. It is a wife that buys a winery to overcome a tragedy. Her husband is also trying to sustain an agricultural business during a drought and the wife is pregnant. She starts to experience some very mysterious hauntings in the house. I don’t want to say too much but it has one of the best third acts that I have ever seen. I read the script for the first time back in 2008 and called everyone to get this film made. It took a while but it is great and I can’t wait for it to be released.

Frank Pavich talks about directing documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune”

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Classics

Frank Pavich is the director of the new fantastic documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune”, which chronicles about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s never made film version of Frank Herbet’s “Dune”. He has also worked as a production manager on TV shows like “Paranormal State”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat “Dune” with Frank and find out about how he got involved with Jodorowsky and his passion for what he does.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with the documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune”?
Frank Pavich: You just hear and read about these things like “The Top 50 Greatest Movies Never Made”. I was a fan of Jodorowsky and his movies like “Holy Mountain” and “El Topo” going back to even when you couldn’t get it except on like crazy VHS bootlegs. There was a small segment about his unfinished “Dune” in a documentary called “Jodorowsky Constellation”, but it only ran like five minutes. But during it you see his screenplay book and I thought to myself “What the hell is that book?” Once you see that book, you feel the need to just learn more and more about it. So I searched and search until one day, there was no more information out there that I hadn’t seen. So I decided to just find the guy himself and speak with him.

MG: How did you end up tracking him down and convincing him to do this?
FP: I wish I could tell you what made him do it. I think the only thing I can say was from my obvious unbridled enthusiasm. I was searching for him and I found that he has an agent in Spain for acting. I didn’t even know he acted in movies other than his own but obviously he does because he has this agent. I just sent her an email and explained my situation. She took my email and just forwarded it to him. So then a couple of weeks later, I just happen to wake up to an email from Alejandro Jodorowsky. It was awesome. If I remember correctly, I didn’t even open it for like a week. I was afraid if he wrote “Dear Frank….NO!” It would have crushed my dreams. So when I opened it included was a very short message saying “I hear you are looking for me? I live in Paris and if you would like to discuss doing a project like this we would need to meet face to face”. I was like “GREAT! You don’t have to twist my arm”. I made an appointment and went to his house to discuss. I gave him the short pitch and either he just thought I was crazy or deep down that we weren’t going to finish it but he agreed to do a few interviews. So we started and went back a few times to shoot more and more interviews over time. Overall, I think it worked out really well.

MG: What I loved about this documentary is that there wasn’t like a million interviews…
FP: Oh, I hate those.
MG: Right! You had the key 10 people involved and that is all.
FP: That is what I always wanted to do. I hate those documentaries where it is only 90 minutes long and features 90 people. I can’t follow who is who and I can’t follow what is going on. Each person comes on for a half a sentence and I just get lost. I wanted to keep it to a minimum number of people. We had the greatest storyteller in the world.
MG: I agree, most importantly you kept Jodorowsky in the spotlight…
FP: Thanks for picking up on that man!

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Classics

MG: What was it liked getting to review Jodorowsky’s screenplay book during your meetings?
FP: It’s funny because the first time I met him to pitch him the idea; we sat on these two chairs facing each other and in between us what this ottoman with books on it. He had actually placed THE “Dune” book on there but he never let me look at it and I didn’t ask. It was like he was teasing me with it [laughs]. It was so cruel but also hilarious. But the book was amazing. Once you get to go inside of it, you get to see that is in fact a complete film. It has every scene from the first to the very last. It also has every bit of dialogue and character details. It is something that I do not think was ever done before. It was ready to go and be filmed. What was also very interesting is that the screenplay was totally different than the book of storyboards, since it evolved over time. As he got all his “spiritual warriors”, it started to change. Just like if he would have gotten to shoot it, I am sure it would have evolved again. It is really interesting to see the process of his creativity.

MG: Tell us about the animation in the film and how was it getting to bring parts of Jodorowsky’s “Dune” come to life?
FP: We had this great animator, his name was Syd Garon. I met him through another friend and I thought that his work was perfect. He had that perfect light touch. I didn’t want to overdue the animation because it is not my vision of “Dune”, it is his vision. I just wanted to take those storyboards, which are primarily pencil on paper and breath enough life into them to elevate it off the page a little and hopefully then the viewer’s imagination will fill in the rest. It straddles the that middle ground between the storyboard and what the actual completed feature film would have been like. It was so much fun to do. We went through the book and literally got to pick out the scenes that we wanted to bring to life.

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Classics

MG: What was his reaction when he saw these animated sequences?
FP: He has this philosophy when he directs his movie for everyone to leave him alone and he doesn’t want to hear from anyone since he is the artist. That is great and that is why we get the kind of movies that he makes. So I was afraid that he was going to be over my shoulder the whole time but he was definitely not a hypocrite. He believes that for himself and believed that for me as well. He let me do what I wanted and didn’t bother me at all. The first time he saw it was at the premiere at Cannes. It was a really cool experience and a really great place for him to see it. Him and his wife were next to me watching it and kept trying to peak over at them to see if they were laughing, interested or sleeping [laughs]. I could see that they were really enthralled and into it. They were also both wiping away tears at the end, which is great because you always want to make an 85 year old man cry [laughs].

MG: Having seen the film a few times now and I agree the film is quite dramatic.
FP: It is so interesting. It all comes down to his world view. This story for somebody else could be a very depressing story or it could be a winy story or angry story. “Oh, look what I didn’t get to do”. For him though, he thought it was great. He didn’t get to make the movie but he made my movie and he also had a great career and a lot of other movies were influenced by his work. Even I get choked up watching the end of the film, where he says that you have to try and that it is all about ambition. It is great. He is such an amazing and powerful guy. I am very lucky to have had a chance to work with him.

MG: Tell us about the score in the film?
FP: Our composers name is Kurt Stenzel. It is his first film and he was just great. He has never done a score before. He is this electronic musician and does all this great synthesized music. But he and I go way back actually and we grew up in Queens, New York together. I first knew of him when he was part of the New York hardcore scene. His old band was the very first New York hardcore tape that I ever bought back in 1987 or something. It is totally crazy. So he has gone from the New York hardcore world to a career scoring films. He can be like the new Mark Mothersbaugh. We are also hoping to release the score down the line for the fans.

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Classics

MG: How did the relationships between other films like “Raiders of the Lost Ark’s “Masters of the Universe”, “Prometheus” and others get recognized?
FP: It is weird. Some of them are obvious. When we were making the documentary “Prometheus” came out, so that was an easy one. I remember seeing the commercial and thinking “What the hell?”, since that was the Giger mountain. It was crazy. It was totally lifted from the “Dune” artwork. Then some of them we really had to search for and some we couldn’t even include. After he attempted to make “Dune”, he spoke about how he started his career in comics, he did “The Incal” and “The Metabarons” series and a bunch others. If you look at the “The Metabarons” comic, you can see images in there that ended up in the movie “The Avengers”. There was no way to put that into the movie because it would be an entirely different chapter showing how his work influenced this and that etc. But his stuff is everywhere. Even Kanye West’s last tour/album was inspired by “Holy Mountain”. So we can say that he touches everything from “The Avengers” to Kanye West. How can someone do that? So we just be searching around and looking at the storyboards and trying to see anything that resembled them. They think that there were about twenty of those books made and only two exist today. So where are the other eighteen? You see so many similarities in other films that somebody else has had to have seen this book over the years.

MG: Do you think the world will ever see Jodorowsky’s take on Dune?
FP: I think this is his take on the film. I do not think he has that burning desire to do it anymore. I think he feels that “You want to see the movie? Then it is here, watch the documentary”. I think in his mind he feels like it is done. I think he has moved on also since it has been so many years. Also can anyone make a “Dune” movie anymore? Lynch had a hard time. Syfy did a one over a decade ago. So many people have taken from the “Dune” source material, the book, which in turn has influenced so many other films. Maybe if a true representation of “Dune” came out people would think, “Oh, I have seen all this before”. They have seen in various films that maybe it wouldn’t be as exciting for them. Jodo is happy and he has no regrets. He is also very happy to have been able to tell his version of the story now in this film.

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Classics

MG:  What can we expect from the Blu-ray release in terms of special features?
FP: There is a ton of great material that we are passing off to our distributor, Sony Pictures Classics. I am not sure what is going to end up on the Blu-ray but I would think that they would want to include it all on there. We shot hours of interviews footage. So, we have hours and hours of interviews with Jodorowsky and all these people that couldn’t fit into the story we told. But it is still valuable stuff that I want to share with the world. If I was a betting man, I would say that it will be included on the Blu-ray release. It is too great not to have it.

MG: What do you have planned next after this film?
FP: I have a couple of ideas and projects in my head stirring around. But man, it is a challenge because this movie came out really good and I am really proud of it. It premiered at Cannes and went to Telluride and all these great film festivals. Sony Pictures Classics is releasing it. How much better can this be? What do you do to top this or complement this? That is the challenge for me. It takes so long to make these movies anyway. As far as I learned with this, if you are not totally in love with the movie you are making you are never going to finish it. Hopefully, I can find a subject that is as interesting as Alejandro Jodorowsky and his version of “Dune”. If you hear of anything left me know [laughs].

Yusry Kru talks about directing “Vikingdom”

Yusry Kru may not be a name you recognize but he is making a name for himself not only working as a director but also producer and visual effects supervisor. He recently directed the action film “Vikingdom”. Media Mikes had a chance to as Yusry a few questions about the film and what’s next.

Mike Gencarelli: What was the most challenging aspect for you on “Vikingdom”?
Yusry Kru: Obviously, when we made the decision to film everything in Malaysia, I knew it was going to take massive planning to get it right. I remember, 20th Century Fox coming over to film in Malaysia for ‘Anna and the King’. This is the equivalent of them filming that whole movie in California (but with less money, of course). So, you could say that pre-production was the most challenging. I broke down the script to every single location, person and prop, and made a list, down to the spoon on the dinner table. From there, I called in a few illustrators and had them draw every single thing/person on that list. By the end of it, we probably had hundreds of illustrations before we even started with pre-production. We then scouted for locations in Malaysia that we could possibly use, that actually matched the illustrations. If there were none, we would then know these had to be built. It is the same process for every little detail on the pre-viz. Overcoming it was really by doing a thing at a time, without letting the whole production overwhelm you. Having said this, the filming was no walk in the park either… But if you’re asking about the most challenging aspect, that would definitely be the pre-pro. It was really extensive.

MG: Tell us about how the character Eirick was created?
YK: I discussed with Dom (Purcell) on how the character should be portrayed in the film. Imagine someone who was brought back from the dead… someone who has lost every reason for living… primarily driven by the fact that he is no longer able to be with his immortal lover, Frejya. To make matters worse, he is asked to go head on against the God of Thunder, Thor! How’s that for motivation? So he is a reluctant hero and his character is subdued until he fights against Thor at the final battle.

MG: Tell us about what you have in the cards for 2014?
YK: I am currently smack in the middle of directing my sixth feature film entitled “Cicakman 3” (or in English “Geckoman” – a successful Malaysian comedy super hero franchise I created in 2005), which is the 2nd sequel to my debut as a director in the film industry. KRU is also in the midst of completing our first 3D animation movie entitled ‘Ribbit’, about a frog with an identity crisis. Ribbit, with the voices of Sean Astin, Tim Curry & Russell Peters will be screening at EFM in February 2014. KRU is also in the midst of pre-production of various other projects, which we anticipate to announce at Cannes Film du Marche.

Anton King talks about directing his feature debut “Lust for Love”

Anton King is an Australian writer-director, who made his started in the business by premiering short films to the film festival circuit. One of those short films, “Lust for Love”, was just turned into a feature film which packs a fantastic cast including Fran Kranz (“Dollhouse”) and Dichen Lachman (“Dollhouse”) and Beau Garrett (“Tron Legacy”). Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Anton about the film and how fans can see it.

Mike Gencarelli: “Lust for Love” was originally a short film you did back in 2007; what made you turn it into a feature?
Anton King: The “Lust for Love” short was one of the first films I made, it’s a sex comedy that played at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival a long time ago. I just always liked the title so I decided to reuse it.

MG: Tell us about how you financed the entire film from your Kickstarter campaign?
AK: We were blessed with the support of our Kickstarter backers and many volunteers who contributed to the production, however like most independent films Lust for Love took longer and cost more than anticipated. After shooting the film we obtained other investment necessary to complete and deliver it, although we’re still very proud of what we were able to achieve given our limited budget.

MG: Tell us how you got Fran Kranz and Dichen Lachman and many others from the “Whedonverse” involved with the film including Enver Gjokaj, Miracle Laurie, Maurissa Tancharoen and Felicia Day?
AK: I think the performances in Lust for Love are definitely one of its best attributes, and we were certainly lucky to get such a great cast. I’ve known Dichen and Caitlin since they played sisters together on the Australian show “Neighbours”, and I got to know the “Dollhouse” cast through Dichen. I was even fortunate enough to shadow the director Félix Alcalá for one of the episodes of “Dollhouse”. Maurissa asked me if I wanted to direct the music video for her song “Remains” and we cast Fran in that too. When Dichen and I were casting “Lust for Love” we just chose great actors we knew that were available, so the cast is a mix of people she’d worked with on “Dollhouse”, and some Australian actors we knew. We also cast Karim Saleh who’s just an endlessly entertaining close friend of ours and Beau Garrett who Fran recommended.

MG: Honestly, I am not a big romantic comedy fan but you blend the two so well; tell us about this achievement?
AK: With both I just tried to keep it organic and not to overplay anything, but of course it’s difficult when you’re working in a genre that has no real darkness. It’s no coincidence that two of the most respected romantic comedies “Annie Hall” and “(500) Days of Summer” are actually about couples that aren’t supposed to be together and that don’t end up together. I also think that Lust for Love is helped by the fact that it’s about one guy chasing lots of girls rather than just one girl.

MG: Love the music in the film for example Jed Whedon and Jack Savoretti; tell us about that aspect of the film?
AK: The music supervisor Brienne Rose and I worked really hard to find the right songs for the film and Dichen came up with quite a number of selections too. While our composer Darren Morze created many wonderful pieces. It was a long process of trial and error, but for a film like this the music’s really important. Jed and his wife Maurissa were really supportive of the film and let us use both “Tricks On Me” and “Heat Of A Match” which are two of my favorites from Jed’s album “History of Forgotten Things”. We were also contacted through Kickstarter by Ryan Darton who allowed us to use songs from his album “I Am A Moth”.

MG: You juggled quite a few hats with this film; what was your biggest challenge?
AK: Perhaps the biggest challenge in making “Lust for Love” has been dealing with the sheer volume of work and the fact that it continues for so long. With such a small team and budget there’s been a lot we’ve had to do ourselves. Creatively, screenwriting is of course endlessly challenging, and we spent quite a bit of time in the edit making sure the non-linear narrative was clear.

Tell us how and where can fans see this film and what do you have planned next?
AK: “Lust for Love” is available on VOD and iTunes from Feb 7 in the US and Canada with DVD and foreign releases coming soon.

Jim Towns talks about directing the film “House of Bad”

If you walk away from December’s rather tense House of Bad a little shaken and stirred, the man to send your letters of complaint to is Jim Towns. Media Mikes had a chance to talk to the talented up-and-coming filmmaker about one of the most daunting films you’ll see this year. Be sure to check out “House of Bad” when it hits DVD on December 3.

Mike Gencarelli: How far back does the story of House of Bad’s conception go?
Jim Towns: All the way back in college I’d had a vague idea for a story about three sisters on the run with a stolen suitcase of drugs. I thought I’d someday do it as a graphic novel or a prose story, and at one point I wanted to do it as a black box theatre play, but I’m glad I held onto it for a while until it could be realized on film.

MG: Were you a horror/thriller fan growing up? Is that what stemmed the interest in doing a genre film? Or is it because horror seems to be an easier sell these days?
JT: No, I’m an old-school, dyed-in-the-wool horror fan. Scooby-Doo, The Munsters, and Abbott & Costello meet Frankenstein pretty much sealed my fate at an early age. I think it’s pretty apparent when “mainstream” filmmakers try to exploit the horror genre in order to get a film made and sold and bolster their reputation. I’ve been sent a few of those scripts and I think those films – and we’ve all seen them- come across as very hollow and half-hearted. Horror fans are smart, and they know when someone’s trying to exploit the genre. Also, I’m not sure horror is actually that easy of a sell these days either, because there’s a helluva lot of people making a helluva lot of horror films right now. It’s pretty hard to rise above the white noise of all that and land a good distribution deal, it takes something unique.

MG: You co-wrote the script. We picture two guys on computers, side-by-side, madly writing something by moonlight. Is that how it worked?
JT: Not really. I had a rough draft done before Scott [Frazelle]came on. We never actually sat together in a room with duelling laptops or anything, it was mostly emailing each other scenes and revisions and working in tandem to hone in on the best structure and the most compelling character moments to give the film the most impact for the viewer. Scott’s a great writer with a natural instinct for what makes a story work, and that was a huge benefit for the movie.

MG: Are the people involved in the film – particularly behind-the-scenes – all friends? Or was this a case of ’rounding up’ the best for the job?
JT: Scott and I have each worked in just about every capacity on films and TV at some point over the years, so it really was a matter of tapping our combined talent pool. Luckily we knew just about everyone we needed for the crew, and the jobs we didn’t have anyone for, someone we knew would know someone who was perfect. When you basically have no time for pre-production, you have to find people you know aren’t going to let you down, because lost time is lost money and that’ll sink you, so you simply cannot afford to pick the wrong person. I look at the finished film now and I see the amazing look our DP Chad Courtney and art director Nikki Nemzer gave it. The great makeup by Jennifer Jackson. The seamless blend between Anthony Eikner’s SFX and Gregg Deitrich’s VFX work on many of the blood gags. Nina Lucia’s razor-sharp editing. The incredible score by Terry Huud, and on and on. So yes, they were all friends, and yes we got the best for the job. It’s nice when that works out.

MG: Who is the audience for the film, in your opinion?
JT: House of Bad has all the signature moments of a good horror film- building suspense, big scares, great gory effects, so I’m not too surprised that horror fans have responded so favorably to it. What has surprised me is how well it’s connected to non-horror viewers. I think the dramatic setup of the movie, the dynamic of the three sisters dealing with the ghosts of their past, connects with a much larger demographic beyond the horror fanbase– so to answer your question, I think the film is for anyone who enjoys a good story, but can handle a few scares, too.

MG: Complete the sentence. ‘You’ll love House of Bad, if you liked…’
JT: Indie films, ghost stories, and films that don’t suck.

MG: The movie seems to be getting a lot of publicity online. How important is the internet in terms of marketing a film like this?
JT: It’s absolutely critical when you can’t afford to buy ad space or billboards. Online critics, reviewers and bloggers are a vital component in getting the word out about your movie, and I’m really thankful for everyone who’s taken the time to watch and review HoB and for the interviews, especially since the reaction has been so overwhelmingly positive. I’ve never had any of my films get such good press across the board and it’s been a pretty awesome few months, I can tell you. To my peers out there with a film project in the works I’d say put aside a few bucks aside and try to hire a good PR company like ours (October Coast) to raise your film’s awareness. Social media is great but it can only reach so far.

MG: What’s your next movie?
JT: There’s a few things coming up for me right now, which is exciting. There’s a supernatural western called A Man with a Gun, which is about this gunfighter with a dark past who travels through Purgatory to rescue the souls of his murdered wife and son. I wrote and am producing it, and it will feature Dani Lennon (Bite Me) and Tony Todd. Getting a call on your cell from the Candyman is a pretty cool thing, I gotta say. I’m also set to shoot 13 Girls next year, which is sort of a cross between Rosemary’s Baby and Law & Order. Sadie Katz and I will be reuniting on that one, as well as another little film we’re developing called Invasive, which will be really scary and really really sexy, too. Maybe even more sexy than scary, I don’t know. But it’ll be a lot of fun to watch, without doubt.

Matt Thompson talks about writing, directing and starring in “Bloodline”

It worked for Sylvester Stallone. It worked for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. And, if things go well, it’s going to work for Matt Thompson. An actor who does so much more, Thompson found himself in a quandary. You can’t get noticed in Hollywood unless you’re in something but unless you’re in something you can’t get noticed. So he took it upon himself to write and direct the new film, “Bloodline,” which opens today (9/27). He then cast himself in the lead. Take that, Hollywood! While taking time off from his next project Thompson took time out to talk with Media Mikes about his current one.

Mike Smith: Can you give us a quick introduction to “Bloodline?:
Matt Thompson: “Bloodline” is about a seminary student named Brett Ethos, who I play. He falls away from the church only to find out that his bloodline has been cursed, ironically, a couple of hundred years earlier.

MS: What inspired you to write the script?
MT: It was about 10 years ago when I was just starting out. I had talked to a producer and had told him how frustrating it was sometimes. How you have to have something to be in something yet you have to be in something to have something in this industry. It’s truly a Catch 22. I was taking an acting class at the time. He told me that I should write myself into something so I did exactly that. I looked at the horror/thriller genre’ and found it to be incredibly fascinating. It’s one of my favorite genres…it can grip you like no other can. Being from Northern California I had a great interest in Native American legends…I mean you can literally walk out into your back yard and find a grinding stone. It was really a natural fit, to piece together the Native Americans and the settlers and piece together the “Bloodline” idea…to tie in with the Native American legends.

MS: Did you write the film with the intention of both appearing in it and directing as well?
MT: Exactly! You have to have something to be in something. The whole idea was to basically create a vehicle that I could put myself in. In the interim I had written a short film called “Fallen Soldier,” which I also directed. When it was completed friends would encourage me to direct and explore that side of my creativity more.

MS: Is it hard wearing two hats on the set? To concentrate on your performance as an actor while concentrating on everything else as a director?
MT: Oh my God, it’s an incredible task! You kind of have to be schizophrenic in a sense, jumping in and out of, a., being an actor and, b., being a director. In one frame you have to be completely emotionally invested with your co-stars while in another you’re out of the shot and worrying if the lighting is right…if the camera is in the right place. Are the actors delivering? And on top of all that you have to deal with all of these people. You’re not only their co-star and friend but you’re also their boss. There are a hundred different facets in acting and directing at the same time.

MS: You recently completed a run on stage as Stanley Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” a role considered one of the most iconic ever on the American stage. Is there pressure as an actor to take on a role that well known and so well associated with another actor? And do you take a look at the way other actors have done the role in previous performances?
MT: I knew how big the role was but I didn’t watch the movie. In fact, I didn’t watch the movie until I finished my last performance because I wanted to give Stanley my own spin. He was much more devious…more of a maniacal character. I actually prefer that version at the end of the day, more so then the movie. I mean, of course, hats off. In the movie Brando gives one of the best performances on film of all time, in my opinion. And I did the part because I really wanted to put myself out of my comfort zone and do something that was just really, really hard before going into production on “Bloodline.” I have so much respect for stage actors. Once you’re in that role…in that character….you’re there for two straight hours. There are no cuts…no one is laughing with you at the outtakes. You’re invested. And that’s the kind of discipline I wanted to have when I went after that role.

MS: Great answer. I played Moss in “Glengarry Glen Ross” several years ago..
MT: Nice!
MS:..and I purposely didn’t watch the film until the run was over. And when I watched it there was so much stuff I wish I had done…I could have stole that bit, I could have done that…but then I realized that if I had I would have just been doing an imitation of Ed Harris instead of making the role my own.
MT: (laughs) Exactly!

MS: What are you currently working on?
MT: I’m working on a few things. I have a couple of pilots right now that I’m getting ready to shoot. The biggest project I’m working on now is a crime drama that fits in the realm of “Blow,” “The Departed,” “The Town” and some other movies. It’s about a sheriff’s deputy that goes undercover in a multi-million dollar drug ring, becoming the right hand man to the guy that’s importing all of the cocaine from South America to California. He basically starts out as the shiny penny hero and becomes corrupt in the process. There’s instance after instance and decision after decision where you think “I’ll follow this guy all the way to the dark side.” I’m a big “Breaking Bad” fan and the film is akin to it, I think.

MS: Is this something you would also direct or do you just plan to appear in it?
MT: Right now I’m just concentrating on getting it green lit. I’m not opposed to having someone else direct it as long as they have great credits and a really great vision for the film. This is a project where I’d really like to concentrate on the acting portion so I probably won’t end up directing it. But there’s always the chance.

Denis Villenueve talks about directing “Prisoners”

If you’re familiar with director Denis Villenueve’s name it’s probably for his Academy Award and BAFTA nominated film, “Incendies.” The film also earned him two Genie Awards (the Canadian equivalent of the Oscars) for best screenplay and director as well as taking home the award as the Best Picture of 2011. I mention this because, trust me, once his new film, “Prisoners,” opens EVERYONE is going to know his name.
On Friday, September 20, the Canadian-born filmmaker unveils his first Hollywood film, the crime-thriller “Prisoners,” starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. To call it the best film of its kind in a decade is…well, it’s pretty damn accurate. While promoting his new film Mr. Villenueve took the time to talk to Media Mikes about his new film, the power of Jake Gyllenhaal and his upcoming plans to relax.

Mike Smith: What attracted you to “Prisoners?”
Denis Villenueve: I think if you asked all the actors and producers the same question they would give you my answer. It was an incredibly strong screenplay. It has a strong, dramatic structure that was really compelling and entertaining from a thriller point of view. It said so many sad, yet accurate, things about our society and I felt those topics…the violence…the torture…I was inspired by them. It told about things that I felt were meaningful. I hope that as a director I was able to bring about a film to be inspired by.

MS: Both Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal reveal a dark side that we, as an audience, have never really seen them expose before. Hugh’s been “Wolverine-angry” but NEVER like this. How were you able to get them to dig so deep for these performances?
DV: First of all, it all starts with the actors. I think Hugh agreed to do the part because ….sometimes artists find that they are confined to a bubble. Everyone either thinks you’re a nice guy or the Wolverine! (laughs) He was confined to this bubble but I felt he was a very powerful actor. An actor that is often underused…that doesn’t get to reach his full potential. And I felt that he was ready to get out of that bubble. He really wanted to explore the really dark spectrum of his art. And he was willing to go there. I didn’t have to push him there. He was very committed. He read the screenplay and knew where he needed to go. He trusted me to take him there. Hugh was very easy to direct. I felt he needed a friend to work with him in that darkness and that’s how I felt.

MS: You earned an Oscar and a BAFTA nomination for your film “Incendies.” I’m sure it was a proud moment for you, personally but was it made even better because your film had been the one chosen to represent your country?
DV: I really tried to not let that effect me. What I try to keep in mind is my relationship to the cinema. As a filmmaker I try to concentrate on what I learned on my last project and what I will learn on my next project. I took the Academy Awards as a very nice compliment. It was a very nice experience but I knew that the next day I had to return to my humility and return both feet to the ground.

MS: You first worked with Jake Gyllenhaal on the film “Enemy,” which will open later this year. Was the rapport you built with him on this film one of the reasons you cast him in “Prisoners?”
DV: “Enemy” was an art-house experiment that allowed me to spend a lot of time with an actor. I wanted to build a relationship with an actor. I had built creative relationships with cinematographers…with production designers and screenwriters…but I had never felt like I was sharing cinema with an actor. The actors I had worked with before were like comets. They were like shooting stars that came in front of the camera and then went away just as quickly. I never really had the chance to explore…to spend time with an actor. I felt that the story of “Enemy”…about a man seeing himself…was perfect. I wanted to explore some things about reality. It was the perfect opportunity to have this experience with an actor. Jake agreed to come on board for that experience and we spent months working together…sharing cinema together. We became very close friends. As I was doing “Enemy” I was casting “Prisoners” and I told Jake that I would like to work with him again and I thought he would be perfect for the cop. He knew about the script and immediately said yes. That’s the one thing I love about cinema…the relationships. The creative relationships that you can build over time. It’s a big privilege for me to have built that relationship with Jake.

MS: It’s obvious that he trusts you as a director. I’m an admirer of his but I NEVER expected a performance like this out of Jake Gyllenhaal.
DV: Jake is a strong actor. He was born in cinema. He began as a kid…then a teenager and now he’s a man. And I think as a man…as an adult…he is going to surprise us in the upcoming years. I think his best performances are in front of him. I was deeply inspired by Jake.

MS: Are you working on anything new?
DV: (laughs) I made two movies in a row. I have not been home in eighteen months. I need to go back to Montreal…I need to be with my family for a few weeks. I have two movies on the table right now and I have to choose which one I want to do first. But first I need to sleep for a week! (laughs)

Leland Orser talks about his feature film writing and directing debut “Morning”

Like any great character actor, you know you KNOW Leland Orser. From early television work in shows like “The Golden Girls,” “Cheers,” “L.A. Law” and “The X-Files” to roles in films like “Se7en,” “Saving Private Ryan” and “Pearl Harbor,” Orser has carved out an impressive notch in the Hollywood tree. Now he’s taking his considerable talents to the other side of the camera with his feature film writing and directing debut, “Morning.” Based on a short film he made in 2007, “Morning” stars Jeanne Tripplehorn (Orser’s real life wife) and Academy Award nominees Laura Linney and Elliot Gould and is scheduled to open in selected theatres on September 27.

To help spread the word about his new film, Mr. Orser took the time to talk with me about his new career move, the power of Steven Soderbergh and how dinner with Blake Edwards changed his life.

Mike Smith: “Morning” began as a short film which you’ve now expanded into a feature. Was that always your intention?
Leland Orser: It was never my intention. Even making the short was never an intention. It was just something that kind of happened. I went to the Sundance Institute a couple summers back. I went there as an actor and was very, very inspired by the experience. As I was flying back on Southwest this story just popped into my head and began telling itself to me. I asked the stewardess if she had anything to write on and she brought me a pile of airline cocktail napkins and I basically wrote out the (14) page treatment for the short film. When I got back to L.A. I showed it to some friends and they all said “let’s do this.” I shot the film in my own home and banged it out over a weekend. I came back from dropping all of the equipment off on a Monday – I had sent my wife and son to a hotel for two nights – I came back to a big, old empty house with everybody gone and realized I had no idea what to do next. All I had was a pile of Mini-DV tapes on the table in front of me. I had just finished working with Steven Soderbergh (NOTE: Mr. Orser appears in Soderbergh’s 2006 film “The Good German”)and I thought “well, he’ll know what to do.” (laughs) I picked up the phone and called his office. He had come in early and actually answered the phone himself and I said, “I just shot a short film and I don’t know what to do next.” He told me to keep the tapes away from anything warm and that I needed an editor. I told him I didn’t know any editors. He asked me where I was and I told him at home. He told me not to go anywhere. Fifteen minutes later my phone rang and it was one of his assistant editors. He said, “Steven told me to call you,” and I said, “Oh, cool. I just did this film.” He told me that he had a couple of weeks off between working on Steven’s films and came over. He ended up editing the short in the room above my garage. We took it out on the film festival circuit and had a very lovely time. It was very successful and we had a great run with it. When we returned I went and spoke with Michelle Satter, who runs the Sundance Institute for Robert Redford. She asked me what was next and I asked her what did she mean what next? What were my options? She said I could continue to tour the festival circuit and hang out with..discuss, socialize and collaborate with…other short film makers or you can use this as a calling card if you have any interest in continuing your career as a director. Or, she suggested, maybe this is a smaller part of a larger story that you want to tell. Boom! There it was. I told her that it was and she told me to go write it. And I did. Even when you’re telling a small story you need to know the big story around it. You need to know what happened before, during and after in the world you’re telling about. And you have all of those details in your mind as you’re writing the specifics of the tale you’re telling. So there it is. That’s what happened.

MS: You’ve been able to work with some great filmmakers – Steven Soderbergh, Steven Spielberg, David Fincher…did you have the opportunity to observe them at work once you realized you wanted to direct?
LO: I was doing the first part of that but not for the second part of that. I never really had aspirations or ever thought that I would want to or could do that. But I’ve always been fascinated with filmmaking and filmmakers. I’ve been so lucky to have worked with the ones I’ve worked with. I’m a question asker and an observer. You can learn a lot just by being on set as an actor. You can go back to your trailer and get on line or on the phone or you can stick around and watch…see what everybody else is doing. That’s always been my way.
MS: You’ve worked pretty steadily in both television and film. Do you have a preference as an actor?
LO: I really think the lines are blurring between the two. I think the great renaissance – the Golden Age of Film right now – is taking place on television. Filmmakers, film actors…everybody is doing something on the medium of television. And that medium is not necessarily TELEVISION anymore. It’s really the world of computers and iPads and Apple TV. I don’t have a preference. I go now where I’m wanted, for one. Where I’m asked to be. And I go where the good work is and the good people are. Sometimes you go to make money and sometimes you go to make art. There are now so many outlets and choices. There is so much happening.

MS: You not only wrote and directed “Morning,” but you also co-star. Is it hard pulling double-duty…having to concentrate on your performance as an actor and then everything else as a director?
LO: I think it’s impossible….I think it’s impossible! I did the very best that I could but I probably could have been better doing either of those two things if that was all that I was doing. I worked at length on my acting role in the film. I spent a great deal of time and I worked with people to put it into place mentally and on paper for any given day and any give scene. I could open up my acting script, which was separate from my director script, and say to myself, “I know on this day and in this scene I have been through THESE events…I’m this far into the progression of the story. I’ve ingested THIS alcohol and THIS pharmaceutical or I’ve had THIS amount of sleep. I was very, very, very specific with the goals I needed to achieve as an actor. I left some things open for those happy accidents and improvisation in the moment but I was regimented and disciplined about what I needed to bring to the day as an actor. One of my best friends was by my side basically the entire time I was making the film and he was my double as well. When I was directing a scene he would go in and stand in for me and do all of my actions so I could see where the scene worked or where it didn’t work. I could direct him and then I’d know physically what I had to do to accomplish the scene. It’s very hard to be objective and subjective at the same time.

MS: You’re leading lady in the film (Jeanne Tripplehorn) is also your leading lady in life. How was your relationship on set? Actor/director? Husband and wife?
LO: (laughs) We made rules for ourselves. Number one was that any discussions of the work would never enter the house. We have a guest room above our garage and when we began production I went up to that room and I lived there. My hours were very different from hers. We also both thought it would be a very good way of dividing the world. We would have meals together at the house when I was able to get home. We actually had a lot of discussion between us as to whether we should even do this together or not. She said that I could get any actress in Hollywood…that any actress would be crazy not to want to do this part. So I asked her if this was something she wanted to do…something she should do and something we should do together. Jeanne had traveled to New York to do some press for “Big Love” (NOTE: Ms. Tripplehorn starred for six years on the popular HBO series) and she had taken the day off to go to the Whitney Biennial Art Exhibit. She finds it very inspiring to be surrounded by new and young artists and their works. Afterwards she called me. She was very moved…very emotional…and she told me she was surrounded by art. She wondered what we were questioning because what are we if we’re not artist? It’s what we are and what we do. How can we not recognize that this film is something we are meant to do and what we should do together? That was a major turning point and we never looked back. It was a dangerous choice because the subject matter is so, so heavy. But we’ve always managed to keep our work separate from each other…to help each other and support each other through thick and through thin. To work together, in hindsight, was a very risky choice. But I know her as an actor. And what I experienced and what I witnessed on set, as you now know, took my breath away and I realized that not only is she a great actor she’s one of THE great actors. Better than most actors out there. She has such access to range and emotional depth that she can draw on and she’s so directable. She’s a director’s dream. She gets it. She understands it. And she submits herself to the process. She trusted me. She was the very first person to trust me in this role and I was very thankful that I was able to return that trust in kind.

MS: Besides Jeanne you’ve assembled an incredible cast, including a couple of Oscar nominees. Was it daunting to cast such prominent actors in your first feature?
LO: Maybe I was an idiot but I never questioned any of it when I asked. To me Laura was the doctor and I had to find her and ask her and surely she’ll understand how important she is. And it was the same thing with Elliot Gould and Jason Ritter and Kyle Chandler…those were the faces and personalities that I saw in the film and I was just so freakishly lucky that they all agreed to come aboard. But so many people did. We got help from so many different places. Kodak and Panavision and Technicolor. Steven Soderbergh introduced me to yet another film editor who agreed to come and work at a fraction of his rate. We were so very lucky. Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman at Playtone gave us their editing suites for the entire time we were editing. They didn’t allow anyone else to use the editing bays in the Playtone Offices. They gave them to us. They told us to go edit your film, make it great and then show it to us.

MS: What do you have coming up next?
LO: Once I finished the final mix on “Morning” and once we got back from all the festivals I retreated to the guest house where I had written “Morning” and sat down and had a little discussion with myself. I knew that when this movie comes out people are going to ask me what I’m doing next (laughs) so I knew I had to be ready to do something next. A story I like to tell is that many years ago Jeanne had just gotten back from doing a film with Julie Andrews (“Relative Values”)on the Isle of Man. We got a call from Julie’s assistant saying Julie would like to have you to a dinner…can we come to the beach house at 5:30 in Santa Monica and then we’ll go to the restaurant. We fully expected it to be something for the cast but when we walked into the restaurant it was empty. We were escorted to a booth in the back in which sat Julie Andrews and Blake Edwards (NOTE: Blake Edwards, whose career included such classic films as “Days of Wine and Roses,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Victor/Victoria” and the “Pink Panther” series passed away in December 2010. He and Julie Andrews were married for over four decades). And it wasn’t a big booth. Jeanne scooted in opposite Julie and the two of them set off together on catching up and giggling and telling stories and I was left sitting opposite Blake Edwards. My mouth went dry, my heart rate went up and I thought “are you f***ing kidding me?” How was I going to manage to get through even two minutes of the evening. He immediately put me at ease. We found out we had things in common. He had been born in Tulsa, where Jeanne is from. He had grown up in Laguna Beach, where my father is from. He had been an abalone fisherman like my father had been. He was just a normal, regular Joe and so easy to talk to. And at one point of the conversation he asked me, “do you write? Are you a writer?” I told him I wasn’t. I write in a journal, that’s it. He told me that I spoke like a writer. I hear like a writer. “You should try it some time.” I told him that I wouldn’t have the slightest idea where to start. And he said, “that’s exactly all you have to do. You just need to start.” I asked him how he wrote…if he had a process. He said he did. He said he would go off to a quiet place that was clear of all clutter. He would sit down and get very quiet. He would have his writing implements with him…I don’t know if it was a typewriter or if it was yellow pads and pencils. He said he just gets very, very quiet. He waits. And he waits. And he listens. And he said that at some point the story will begin to tell itself to him. And it was after that dinner that I had gone to Sundance to the Institute and it was on that flight back, when I was super quiet because I was probably tired and hung over, when the story of “Morning” told itself to me. So I went up to the guest house after I finished “Morning” and I said, “ok…let’s see if it happens again.” I told my very, very intense family drama…I’ve told that story. I don’t want to tell it again and that’s not the type of story I want to tell again. So I had in my mind the type of idea of the story I wanted to tell, it was just a question of is it going to come. And boom, there it was. It’s a thriller. It’s a witness to a murder and it’s a mystery which gets solved in the last couple of pages. And it really told itself to me in a pure way. I’ve worked with a couple friends of mine in the business who have helped me nip it and tuck it and deal with the industry expectations of a script of its type. It’s clean. It’s tight. It’s crackerjack…it’s ready to go. Jeanne was one of the first people I showed it to and she loved it. She’s a good judge so keep your fingers crossed!

Richard Raaphorst talks about directing “Frankenstein’s Army”

Photo Credit: Lukas Zentel

Richard Raaphorst is the director for the crazy new film “Frankenstein’s Army”, which is also his directorial debut. The film takes place during WWII and we find out that a member of the Frankenstein bloodline is turning dead soldiers in zombots, half-human/half-creatures. The film uses all practical effects and is a must for horror fans. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Richard about the film and about working in the horror genre.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about the origin story behind “Frankenstein’s Army”?
Richard Raaphorst: I had several different ideas that inspired me swirling around in my head, like stories about Russian armies and scenes about biomechanical drones. I had just bought an illustrated version of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein accompanied with gorgeous pictures by Berni Wrighton. I was driving in my car listening to movie soundtracks and realized that I could mix all those elements together. When that happened, I felt like I was struck by lighting and the concept was born. Inspiration took over and turned into passion and I couldn’t escape from it until my ideas were realized.

MG: What do you enjoy most about working in the horror genre?
RR: I like the idea of escaping from the ‘conventional’ worlds and going complete out of the box. There are no limits in horror, so I can be extremely inventive. I create totally unique and weird visuals, scenes or characters that would never fit in a romantic comedy or straight action movie. It allows me to bring visual concepts to life that I have developed since my childhood.

MG: “Frankenstein’s Army” is your first feature film directing, what was your biggest challenging?
RR: I wanted to make the movie as authentic as possible so that can make viewers very scared and vulnerable. My biggest challenge was to holding on tightly to my vision. At a certain point, I realized that everything

happening on set was a direct result of my plan, and is therefore, my responsibility. However, a lot of people involved in projects like this have other ideas and sometimes try to influence the director’s decisions, especially when the director is trying to do something new or original. They will say things like, “Why don’t you do it like that other movie?” or “That doesn’t work because I’ve never seen it like that before.” Then, you have to keep faith in your original idea and become stronger in your resolve, but understand how to navigate around these people. The good thing is that the people who DO believe in what you’re doing will be your strongest allies.

MG: How these the idea of flesh-and-metal “zombots” come about?
RR: I always had a deep fascination with industrial stuff. My father worked at a nuclear power station and as a mechanic in the petrol chemical industry for a while. He once took me to work with him in Saudi Arabia and showed me the machine room of a HUUUUUUGGGGGEEE oil tanker. I was blown away by its gigantic proportions and by the industrial beauty. It was the same feeling that other people would have in a beautiful Medieval cathedral. I wanted to create creatures that would inhabit such an environment. I started experimenting with dressing myself up as industrial monster. I named them Transers at the time. I dug up some very old pictures of this for this interview. The quality of the pictures isn’t good because I developed them myself, but it’s possible to see some elements of the zombot designs. In retrospect, I can say that the seeds for the zombots were already growing in my head when I was a teenager.

MG: Tell us about the practical effects in the film and why you chose that route?
RR: It is not that I’m against the use of CGI, but I do have something against to misuse it. In Frankenstein’s Army, I wanted to stay as authentic as possible to that time period. We only used CGI to add some sparks and flashes here and there, but anything more and the atmosphere would not feel realistic anymore. It would feel like a cheat. With CGI everything is possible, but it often looks too perfect, and with that, you lose charisma. In my opinion, CGI lacks charisma, so I use it as a kind of “background music.” WW2 CGI monsters would be a real nightmare to watch and would have destroy all the fun.

MG:  What is the status right now with “Paris I’ll Kill You”? Is that going to be next for you?
RR: I changed the title into FEAR PARIS because it doesn’t relate to Paris, I Love You. It’s a world all its own and needs a unique title. We are now doing a online campaign to complete the budget and get ready to shoot (fearparis.com). So far, I spent a year designing the whole city, including all kinds of weird and strange character and monsters. This new apocalyptic Paris is a fantastic joy to create. I love it.

Jeffrey Hornaday talks about directing Disney Channel’s “Teen Beach Movie”

Jeffrey Hornaday has work choreography with tons of great talent including Madonna and Michael Jackson, as well as tons of films including “Dick Tracy”, “Flashdance”, “A Chorus Line”. His latest film is  the Disney Channel film “Teen Beach Movie”, which he is toke on the role of both director and choreographer.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Jeffrey about “Teen Beach Movie” and its impact on pop culture this summer.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you became attached to the Disney Channel film “Teen Beach Movie”?
Jeffrey Hornaday: I had worked with Disney Channel before on a film called “Geek Charming”. It wasn’t a musical but it was a romantic comedy. It got really good ratings and I got nominated for a Director’s Guild Award. So we all came away very happy with how it went. So when this came up given Disney’s background and mine also with musicals, it was a natural fit.

MG: Tell us about your approach to making this a true summer film?
JH: When you look back at the old beach party movies from the 60’s, you think about those and get this sort of nostalgia and warmth. If you go back and look at them now, they are kind of flat [laughs]. The choreography is kids basically dancing a little at the beach. They are not full blown production numbers. We decided instead of trying to clone what those used to be, let’s do something that makes you feel like when you think about that nostalgia feeling. We sort of took the gloves off and gave ourself the right to go past what the original genre was. We really tried to tap into what it is feels like to think about those movies.

MG: Tell us about your approach to the music in the film?
JH: The music department was really great and wanted to approach it like a Broadway show. Rather than giving them a laundry list of catalog songs, we got together with the composers on number and really talked about it and work-shopped the ideas. It was really like we were putting on a Broadway show and that was really fun.

MG:  How was it taking on the role of both director and choreographer on this project?
JH: Because my background is in choreography in Los Angeles not Broadway, I learned about design choreography for camera, which is a very different world. I was lucky that I got to work with really good directors in the past. So it is kind of coming full circle and having more control it actually made the process easier to translate to someone who doesn’t have the choreography experience. I also had help with the choreography from a brilliant young guy, Christopher Scott, he was just incredible to work with. It was a great collaboration and we had this unspoken connection. He came into the project with a lot of ideas. That made it really fun and easier to share the load.

MG: What was your most challenging song to film?
JH: The physical aspect of just shooting on the beach was first a big challenge. Working with sand is not easy. It is hard enough to walk or even run on the beach yet alone dance. There is a number called “Crusin’ for a Brusin'”, which was challenging but in a fun way. There is a song from “West Side Story” called “Cool” and I had that as a prototype in my mind. You could really feel the cinematographer’s hand in the song and it was an homage to that. It was very carefully designed and quite the challenge.

MG: Let’s talk about the success of the film since it has aired on Disney Channel?
JH: It is hard to predict that type of success, especially in pop culture. I remember when I choreographed “Flashdance” at the time and we just thought we were doing this little movie but had no idea that it was going to touch a nerve on pop culture. The thing that was interesting to me was the connection of the old school American musical. You wonder about if the younger audience was going to be able to connect to this, especially since this film deals with aspects from the 60’s. But they have been really able to connect to it.

MG: Any plans to for a follow up to “Teen Beach Movie”?
JH: There has been no confirmation yet. I know that they are certainly thinking about it and their story department has it in development. It would be a no-brainer for me. So I am on-board. I am also currently writing a screenplay for Disney right now. It will have music but is also a contemporary piece. So I am hard at work right now.

Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg talk about directing of “Kon-Tiki” and plans for “Pirates of the Caribbean 5”

In 1951 the film “Kon-Tiki,” a film detailing the voyage of famed Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, won the Academy Award as the year’s best documentary feature.

Six decades later a pair of Norwegian filmmakers decided to tell the story of Heyerdahl’s incredible 4,300 mile journey across the ocean on a balsa wood raft. The film became the first in the country’s history to receive both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe nomination as the year’s Best Foreign Film.

To celebrate the Blu-Ray release of “Kon-Tiki,” I sat down with directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg. I mention that it’s been Scandinavian Directors week for me, having just spoken to Renny Harlin a few days earlier. Hearing this they question me on Harlin and what he’s working on. Finally the interview begins and the pair talk about honoring Thor Heyerdahl, their national pride and how things are going on their next project, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”

Mike Smith: This has been my week for Scandinavian filmmakers. I just spoke with Renny Harlin the other day.
Joachim Rønning/Espen Sandberg: (both laugh).
JR: How did that go?
MS: Very well. He’s really high on the “Hercules” movie he’s finishing up.
ES: Right, right.

MS: “Kon-Tiki” received an Academy Award nomination as Best Foreign Film. Obviously that’s a great honor personally but did it have extra meaning to you because it was a representative of your country?
JR: it was (pauses)…one of the best moments in our lives. (they both laugh). That’s all we can say. That morning, when we got the announcement. Because it is, in so many ways, the biggest reward you can get as a filmmaker. To be recognized in the US…to be recognized in the world…that meant so much for the film. For “Kon-Tiki” to have that when it goes traveling around the world, it really means everything for the film. And for us as filmmakers. We wouldn’t be sitting here in our production offices speaking with you if it wasn’t for that. Everything comes together.
ES: As for representing the country, absolutely. But that’s not really the first thing you think about (laughs) when you get that news. It was the first Norwegian film to be nominated both by the Oscars and the Golden Globes and that is a huge deal for our country.

MS: How did you get involved with “Kon-Tiki?”
JR: It was a story we’d grown up with. Espen and I began making films together when we were about 10 years old. We grew up in a small town. Thor Heyerdahl grew up in a neighboring town so he always had a presence in our lives. And he is the only Norwegian to win an Academy Award so as a filmmaker he was a huge inspiration.
ES: We always wanted to bring that story…the story of Kon-Tiki…to the big screen. But of course, it was such a huge endeavor. It took four years to finance. It was the biggest film production ever in Scandinavia.

MS: Thor Heyerdahl is probably your country’s best known figure internationally. Did you have any reservations in taking on his story?
ES: We always wanted to tell his story. It was just very hard to finance it. That was the big hurdle. We always wanted to do it.

MS: You’ve worked together for over two decades…(they both laugh)…do you split up the duties of directing? Do you direct together or do you each handle certain scenes?
ES: We basically do everything together, especially in pre-production and post production.
JR: It’s a very collaborative process and it’s the only way we know how to make movies. On the set it is divided somewhat. Espen concentrates more with the actors and I work more with the visuals. And that’s basically not to confuse the actors too much. We try to have one voice in accordance with them. It’s a very collaborative process and it’s how we’ve always done it.

MS: Have you ever had an instance where maybe one of you has yelled “cut” and the other one looks over and shakes his head? (they both laugh)
ES: No! You’d be surprised. Of course we both have different tastes but I think at the end of the day we both find common ground…what’s best for the scene and for the film.
JR: I think it’s actually an advantage to have two heads working. It’s a big deal for us to be unanimous. In front of everybody at least (laughs)

MS: You both are slated to direct the next “Pirates of the Caribbean” film. Can you give an update as to where that project is?
JR: Yeah! We’re in pre-production. We’ve been in pre-production for a couple of months and it’s inching along every day. It’s a dream come true, really, to be able to work with Jerry Bruckheimer and the Disney camp…with these actors and the rest of the crew. They’re the best in the world. It’s coming together. We have a fantastic script by Jeff Nathonson (“Catch Me If You Can,” “Rush Hour 2 and 3”). It’s really funny. And touching. It’s a true adventure movie and, in that sense, it reminds us of the kinds of movies we grew up with…the Indiana Jones films and stuff like that. Those films made us want to become filmmakers.

MS: That’s so cool. That’s almost exactly the same answer that Renny gave me when we talked about “Hercules.” He had grown up enjoying these films so much and finally getting the chance to make one is the ultimate honor. (they both laugh)
ES: That’s it exactly. We really feel great!