Interview with “A Christmas Story” star Zack Ward

Ever since his debut as Scut Farkus in “A Christmas Story” over three decades ago, Zack Ward has steadily carved out a career both in front of and behind the camera.  But there is a lot more to Cleveland Street’s best known bully.

Zack and co-star Scott Schwartz will be appearing in Omaha this Friday, November 10, where they will host a charity screening of “A Christmas Story.” I had the opportunity to speak with Zack this week and he shared his thoughts about the film and his career.

Mike Smith:  Why do you think, more than 30 years after its release, “A Christmas Story” is still so popular?

Zack Ward:  I’ve been asked that question many times over the years and I’ve been able to give the answer a lot of thought.  It has something to do with the combination of many things.  The writing.  The story is the same story structure of Homer’s “The Iliad.”  A young boy goes on a mythical adventure.  He fights all of these different demons.  And he does this to finally earn the respect of his father.  That’s what the B.B. gun is about.  It’s not that it’s a toy.  It could have been anything.  If you remember what happens at the very end of the film, when the father says to Ralphie, “What’s that behind the tree?”  The mom doesn’t even know what’s there.  And he finds the B.B. gun and the mom is upset.  But he tells her that he had one when he was that age.  What the whole statement of the B.B. gun is is a coming of age.  It’s the father’s acceptance of the son being responsible and becoming a man.  Transitioning from being a child.  And getting that respect from the parents that you adore means everything.  It doesn’t matter what the toy is.  What matters is what it represents.

MS:  That is the greatest answer to that question that I’ve ever gotten.

ZW:  (laughs)  Thank you.  I’ve had many years to ponder this.  The other thing is the direction.  If you look at the film again, and I’m sure you will now, you’ll notice that it is shot from the child’s view.  Bob Clark had the camera lowered so that the camera was always shooting from Ralphie’s point of view.  That never happens.  Usually adults are looking down on children.  In this situation, it’s always from the child’s perspective.  At a certain point, Bob Clark had them remove the floor from part of the set to ensure they could get the camera dolly low enough in order to have the right perspective.  He fought for that tooth and nail.  Also, the film is multi-generational.  It’s what they call in the industry “co-viewership.”  It’s like “Modern Family.”  You can watch “Modern Family” if you’re a grandpa, if you’re a mom, if you’re a dad, if you’re a teenager or if you’re a kid.  And “A Christmas Story” captivates all of those life moments.  You can see it as a child.  Understand it as a parent.  And reflect on it as an adult, thinking about your own childhood.  I’ve been amazed to watch 70-year old men with their 50-year old sons and 25-year old grandsons and 5-year old great-great grandsons walk up to me because they all want to meet the kid from “A Christmas Story.”  And they’re all surprised it’s me because they actually think it was shot in the 1940s.  That’s the thing that’s incredible.  How multi-generational it is.  How inclusive it is.  There’s no CGI.  There’s no special effects.  It’s just a great story that connects with people.

MS:  Do you have a favorite memory from the shoot?

ZW:  Yes I do.  My favorite memory from the shoot was when I came to the set one day.  We were shooting in Cleveland and there was no snow.  It was the middle of winter and all of the lawns were dark brown.  Cleveland at that time was not a city you really wanted to be in.  It was going through a very severe economic crisis.

MS:  I was born in Cleveland so I know what you’re talking about.

ZW:  So you know.  We were not allowed to go outside of the hotel after 6:00 pm for good reason.  It was a scary place at night.  We walked down to the set, to the house which is now a museum, and we turned the corner.  And every other street is just brown grass and ugly lawns.  But in the middle of the street is a house covered in snow.  With a big tree in the yard full of icicles glistening in the sun.  And it was all man-made.  That for me was a “wow” moment.  It took my breath away and still today I remember that feeling…that anything is possible.

MS:  You have worked steadily since “A Christmas Story,” which is very rare for someone whose career started when they were a child.  What’s your secret?

ZW:  (laughs)  I think it’s because I’ve got this face that people look at and want to punch!  It’s not my fault.  I’m a sweetheart of a guy.  I just happen to have slanty eyes and red hair.  And I really think people want to punch me in the face.  Definitely it’s helped.  (laughs)

MS:  You’ve written and directed in the past.  Do you see yourself doing more of that in the future?

ZW:  I’m actually in the process of doing that now.  I’m writing a series called “Fracture” and we go into pre-production in December.  It’s a series I co-created with a friend of mine and I’m the single writer on it.  I won’t be directing this one but I will be executive-producing and writing.  But I do love directing.  I’m actually getting ready to direct a commercial being shot in Akron, Ohio in about a week.  I love working on both sides of the camera.  The one job I hate is producing.  It sucks!  It’s such a horrible job.  Everybody blames you for everything and nobody thanks you for anything.  No matter what you pay them!

MS:  Anything else coming up soon?

ZW:  Yes.  Onscreen I have a T.V. show called “Swedish Dicks,” as in detectives.  The old, 1940s style term.  He’s a flatfoot.  I appear with Peter Stormare and a little fella named Keanu Reeves.  I tell you, I don’t know but I think he’s got a career ahead of him.  I’m also working on something I’m very excited about outside the entertainment environment.  It’s called “All Sports Market” and it is the world’s first stock market for sports team.  We’ve been working on it for the past 15 years and we’ve had a data model up for the last 3.  The whole concept is that you can buy shares in your favorite sports team.  And you can sell or trade them like you would stocks.  It’s something that goes back to the Roman times, when at the Coliseum people would place their bets.  And the sport always suffers because someone always takes a dive.  Even if there is a suspicion of collusion towards throwing the game, gambling sours sports.  It poisons it like a cancer.  This takes that element out of the game.  And it allows parents to bond with their children over their favorite sports teams.  Do you have any children?

MS:  One

ZW:  How old is he?

MS:  33

ZW:  If you said to your 10-year son, “hey buddy, let’s talk about market fluctuation and dividends and stock prices because you need to learn how to be an investor so you won’t be homeless when you’re 33,” I can pretty much guarantee you that he would fall asleep or start crying.  But if you find out his favorite team, you can tell him that together you’re going to buy 10 shares in his favorite team and you can watch what happens over the season.  It’s something you can do together.  And by the end of the season you’re son or daughter is now financially literate.  They know how to make investments.  Because you took the moment and educated them on something important while to them they were just talking with dad about their favorite team.

You can learn more by going to www.AllSportsMarket.com.  And if you sign up you get $2500.00 of play currency, what we call “learning capital.”  The whole thing now is a learning market.

MS:  Last question.  You run into Peter Billingsley (Ralphie) in an alley.  Who wins the fight this time?

ZW:  (laughs)  Is there any doubt in your mind that Scut Farkus took a dive?  Another point against sports gambling.  You KNEW I took a dive.  I was bought out.  I went down harder than a sack of potatoes.  I’ve got a couple of black belts and was in “Black Belt” magazine so I think I’d do well.  On the flip side, Peter did produce “Iron Man” so he’s probably got more bodyguards!

 

 

 

Bobby Roe and Zack Andrews talk about “The Houses October Built”

For me, as well as many across the United States, October is a very special month. Traditionally, this is the time of year where the leaves on the trees die, landscapes become awash with gray and brown, and nature’s dying elements suddenly spring to life. It is also the time of year where millions upon millions flock to the haunted house attractions scattered across the country, seeking their fix for scares, creeps and downright nasty set-pieces. The film “The Houses October Built” chronicles one group’s journey across the United States in search of the greatest haunt in America, found footage style. Unfortunately, they find that not all participants are eager to be part of their documentary, and the trip of a lifetime turns into the stuff that nightmares are made of. I had the opportunity to speak with Writer/ Director/ Co-Star Bobby Roe and Writer/ Star Zack Andrews about the origins of the film and what they felt sets their found footage film apart from all the others.

Eric Schmitt: The Houses October Built is a Media Mikes favorite of 2014; brilliantly done and really innovative. What was the driving force behind making the film in the first place?
Zack Andrews: We wanted to do a found footage film about the haunts across America, but we were weary at first because the genre has become so watered down. We wanted to do it a different way – A first person view of haunted houses, which is something people hadn’t touched on yet.
Bobby Roe: We found that approximately 30 million people per year visit haunted houses in the United States and felt that if we could hit the right audience, especially in the Mid-West and South, where we all grew up, we could do something original. These are all real actors and real places in the haunts. It’s very organic.

ES: So all of the interviews and haunt scenes in the film were legit?
ZA: Yes, all interviews conducted and haunts were legit.
BR: We wanted to use real places and people, give credit to the craft. Think about it- we had every filmmaker’s dream; We got to shoot on million dollar sets for free! We used all of the real actors from the haunts, all of the real sets – it’s a realism that you can’t fake.

ES: What do you feel will attract people to your film, say over the next found footage film that they lay eyes on?
ZA: People are intrigued by the haunted house aspect and we really looked to appeal to the Halloween world. We’re hoping that audiences find it very intense, because it does take you on a ride. It’s a ride that’s a dream for a lot of people, to be able to road trip and visit all of these different haunts.
BR: And we tried to show different ways in how the haunts were done, like the Zombie Paintball. That was incredible!
ZA: That was a lot of fun! I’ve never seen anything like it before.
BR: Exactly! We’d never seen anything like it and to experience it, man it was great! After we ran the shoot with the regular actors, we had the entire crew go through it just so they could experience it.

ES: Did you receive any resistance from the haunts while you were shooting?
ZA: Not at all – the haunts were one big supportive family.
BR: And it was essentially a free commercial for them.

ES: So which one (of the haunts) was the most effective, in your opinion?
ZA: Each haunt really had something super effective, something that was its own specialty. Ever haunt we visited had something that would stick out. We’d visit a haunt and two weeks later still be talking about that one thing. Like there was one haunt that had a white-out room. We’ve all experienced a completely black room, but this room was completely white, filled with smoke and had one flood light. All of a sudden you would see this white mask appear from no where. It was intense.
BR: This one haunt had a kid, maybe 12-13 years old. He was the best scare actor we had ever seen. He never came out of character and it was amazing. We talked to the owner of the haunt and found out that when he had joined he was failing school, came from a really bad background. After a few weeks of working at the haunt, the kid had completely turned it around. The haunt, this family, gave him purpose. His teachers even called the owners of the haunt to tell them what a positive impact it obviously had on him. The haunt family created a sense of pride in him.

As a fan of the film, it was really great to hear the level of passion that Bobby and Zack had to express about the filmmaking process and the haunts themselves. For many of us, they most certainly lived the dream – traveling the country and visiting the best haunted houses around, all while filming a horror movie. Although the majority of people who read this article and/or see The Houses October Built will never be presented with the opportunity to make such a film, we can still engage these haunts across the U.S. and experience first hand what this group documented. We can see, hear and feel first hand what the masters of this craft have to offer, all the while knowing that the terror that grips our senses is authentic, much like the footage in The Houses October Built.

All Time Low’s Zack Merrick talks about clothing line “Amerrickan”

Zack Merrick is best known as the bassist for the pop/punk band All Time Low. However in his down time away from the band he designs limited addition clothing for his company Amerrickan. Zack took time out of his busy schedule recently to discuss the clothing line his partnership with Killbrand and gave us an update on All Time Low’s upcoming album.

Adam Lawton: What can you tell us about the new run from Amerrickan?
Zack Merrick: Right now we have pulled everything off of our website because we are trying to push the designs that are on hottopic.com. So anyone wanting to pick up some of our designs can get them directly through Hot Topic.

AL: What was that initially interested you in doing a clothing line?
ZM: It was a great way to keep myself creative while I wasn’t playing music. I started taking photos and Jonny from Killbrand really liked them. We saw that there was a great response so we teamed up together and started Americkan.

AL: Can you tell us a little more about your partnership with Jonny and Kill Brand?
ZM: We have a lot of “joint meetings” and “joint files”. (Laughs) Jonny is like my big brother. He takes care of me and is always looking out for me and worrying about me. He is just as worried about me as my mom is sometimes. Jonny is super easy to work with and it’s really a lot of fun. When I head to California to work on designs with him I usually end up staying on his couch

AL: Most of the line is done as limited edition runs. Can you tell us a little bit about that decision?
ZM: It’s easier for me to make designs and think of things in a limited run. It’s also a unique way of doing things so that only 50-100 fans can get a shirt instead of everyone having the same shirt. This way you don’t over saturate the market.

AL: Can you give us an update on All Time Low and what the band has planned for the coming year?
ZM: I just finished recording my bass tracks the other day. Alex is in the studio currently working on vocals and guitar tracks. As a whole we are all gearing up to start press for the new album along with some doing some new photo shoots. We start touring in February over in UK with You and Me at Six and then we bounce around the planet to Australia then back to the States and so forth. With the new record coming out in 2015 it should be a good year and a long touring run.

 

A Christmas Story Star Zack Ward Fights Bullying with “Go Fark urself & get Bullyproof” Campaign


“A Christmas Story” is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this Christmas and Zack Ward, who played Scut Farkus in the film is looking to show my appreciation by giving back. “Fark-O-Vision!” is an app that raises money for Bully Prevention programs around the country! Click here to support the campaign and spread the word before November 30th, 2013.

Here is Zack’s pitch from indiegogo.com:
“We’re creating a free app that will allow people to “Fark-i-Fy” their photos. Ya know, you can take your face and mess it up…in a good way. You can then send your photos via text, email, Facebook, Twitter, or hard copy postcard to your friends, family, enemies, or random strangers. The postcard will cost about $1-$2 and that’s where we’ll raise money for Bully Prevention programs. So when it comes to sending out your personalized holiday greetings, you’re all set…and you help some kids at the same time.

The idea of Bullying has changed. Society has gotten smarter and more aware of the short term and long term damage it causes. It effects all races, sexes, religions and ages. It’s time for us to end it. And we can.

You can help us create programs for kids in underserved schools and communities. We can show them, in person, that there is a choice for both the victim AND the bully, to change and enrich their lives, and then pay it forward. We envision a world of young, kind hearted mentors, that find inner strength and gain confidence by helping their peers succeed. A true synergy for our children and our country.”

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Blu-ray Review “Zack Parker’s Scalene”

Directed by: Zack Parker
Starring: Margo Martindale, Hanna Hall, Adam Scarimbolo
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Distributed by: Breaking Glass Pictures
Release Date: July 31, 2012
Running Time: 97 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

“Scalene” is one of those hidden gems that you find once a year. The film is very unique and original. If you are looking for a very interesting psychological thriller that will having you discussing the film long after it has ended…then this is your film. The film is also jam packed with very strong performances. Margo Martindale is just so amazing in this film, who also recently won an Emmy for her work on “Justified”. Hanna Hall also branches out and gets to shine, some might know her work from playing Young Jenny in “Forrest Gump” and from “Rob Zombie’s Halloween”. I would also like to point about the amazing job by Zack Parker, who definitely aims to add an aspect of Hitchcock in his approach. I look forward to his future efforts. Overall, this film was a real surprise and should definitely not be missed.

The story follows around around a young man named Jacob (Scarimbolo) and his mother (Martindale). Jacob was became mental disabled at age of 12 due to experimenting with drugs resulting in severe brain damage and leaving him in a childlike stage and unable to speak. His mother hires a young college student named Paige (Hall) in order to help with Jacob. Told from three points-of-view revolving around our characters and starting at the end of the story, the story revolves around rape and a mother’s subsequent revenge.

The Blu-ray presentation both looks and sounds great, which is good for the low-budget film.  Breaking Glass films definitely delivered a great release here! Hopefully this will give them the jump to release more films on Blu-ray. The special features are very impressive even though there is basically only one really extra. “PERCEIVING REALITY: The Making of SCALENE” is a very long and in-depth 3.5 hour featurette on the production. It is exclusive to the Blu-ray release and is a must watch if you enjoyed the film. Perfect companion to this great film. There is also a short featurette from Dances With Films featuring footage from the World Premiere, Q&A and Awards Ceremony. Lastly there is a two trailers including the teaser and theatrical on the disc.

Interview with Zack Ward

Zack Ward is known best for playing the role of Scut Farkus in the timeless holiday classic “A Christmas Story”. Zack has also appeared is various projects including “Transformers”, “Bloodrayne: Deliverance” and TV shows like “Dollhouse”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Zack about his experience on “A Christmas Story” and revisiting it every holiday season.

Mike Gencarelli: You are known best for your role of Scut Farkus in “A Christmas Story”, which is obviously how we met, do you every look back on that role and say “what if”?
Zack Ward: No. Not with ACS or any other project or any other part of life. I think I used to when I was younger; wishing things were different, kind of like wishing for “mutant powers” when I was the new kid in school. But as my dad says, “you can wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up first”. So I stopped wishing for things and just started doing. It’s a lot more fun and you don’t waste time complaining.

MG: Working on that film, what is your most fondest memory looking back?
ZW: When Bob Clark directed me and pretty much taught me how to act, not only artistically but as a respectful professional. He was a father figure to me and has shaped the way I live my life.

MG: How do you feel about them making “A Christmas Story” into a musical for stage?
ZW: Ecstatic! I love the show and love watching people enjoy it. I think they should make the bully more important, but that’s just me.

MG: You have worked quite a bit with Uwe Boll, tell us how that relationship start?
ZW:  I auditioned for “Postal” and got the job. While we were shooting he offered me the bad guy role in “Bloodrayne: Deliverance”. I learned a lot about film making from Uwe. Specifically what NOT to do, and honestly that’s just as valuable an education. Do I wish “Postal” was a good movie that had a nation wide launch with rave reviews? Absolutely. But you know my thoughts on wasting my time “wishing”.

MG: Partly due to that you have starred in 4 video game adaptations, are you generally a gamer? Where you familiar with the games prior to working on the films?
ZW: I like video game (just finished “Portal 2”) but it has nothing to do with it. That’s kind of like asking if I’m into books because the film is an adaptation. It doesn’t matter what the source material comes from as long as their is a character I can pursue and play with. As to the specific games; I played “Resident Evil”, loved the story but hated the controller. I thought “Postal” was a boring game. “Bloodrayne” was cool and the avatar was sexy. The other I never tried.

MG: Tell us about appearing on the show “Breakout Kings”?
ZW: Good fun. Shot in my hometown of Toronto. The director was the steadicam operator on “Titus”, so we knew each other. The cast is great. Got to do the big explosion scene, every guys wet dream. Script was intriguing and then got dumbed down in the edit. I like the show and hope they keep pushing envelopes.

MG: You also appeared this year in the TV film “Accidentally in Love”, tell us about working on that?
ZW: I got an offer from the Hallmark Channel to do a comedy and thought, “why not”. Silly fun stuff wearing a giant bunny suit? What’s not to like.

MG: You starred in two of the best episodes of the show “Dollhouse”, what can you tell us about that experience?
ZW: Just a big pile of AWESOME! And then they made comics for the DVD release so I’m in a comic books which pretty much makes all my adolescent fantasies come true. Guns, zombies, lesbians, saving the world….what more do you want?

MG: Are you planning on producing more in the future?
ZW: Yup. Just finishing off “Last Stop” (themovielaststop.com). We haven’t sold it yet but have a bunch of distributors lined up and asking. Not surprised as we’ve got Mena Suvari, Brian Austin Green, Joanne Kelly and Bob Picardo in it. And honestly they are amazing. If you check out the site you’ll see some cool pics and posters. The trailer is a temp done by one of our interns, but still pretty cool for what it is.

MG: What other projects are you currently working on and have planned upcoming?
ZW: I’m producing and directing my next film which is called “Experimental”. That sucker is gonna blow your mind.