Interview with Scott Schiaffo

Scott Schiaffo is known best for his role as the The Chewlies Gum Guy in Kevin Smith’s first film “Clerks”.  Since then Scott has worked on various films including “Vulgar” and also besides acting also works as a composer and editor.  Scott can be seen upcoming the following projects “Shoe String Serenade”, Tom Zanca’s “Echoes & Voices” and Michael P. Russin’s new short, “Don’t Shoot”.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Scott about his career to date and also what he currently has in the works.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you originally get involved with working on “Clerks”?
Scott Schiaffo: I auditioned after seeing a casting call in a New Jersey newspaper. Usually I’d get audition notices in papers like Backstage but this was in with the classifieds and it struck me. The wording was something like, “View Askew projects a new cinema topic “Clerks” etc…I am paraphrasing, of course, but it was a very interesting ad. I had saved the original audition notice clipping. I scanned it recently and posted it up on my Facebook.

MG: Tell us about the shoot for your scene?
SS: The Chewlies Gum Guy stuff was shot all in one day from what I remember. The second half of the Gum Guy’s diatribe was shot in one long shot from start to finish. No edits. I believe we had at least three full takes of that second rant. It was great filming that scene in that way because it’s like a little piece of theater. We’d film straight through that entire second rant and really get the momentum going. We did that at least three times and by the end of it I was really drained from all the yelling and histrionics! In the original Miramax theatrical release, a good chunk of the Gum Guy’s rant was edited down, but in the director’s cut and the uncut original the scene is intact in its entirety. I remember getting light-headed after the last take because of the way the scene was written and executed you had to get it up to a fever pitch.

MG: Did/Do you smoke cigarettes after watching that movie [laughs]?
SS: That’s funny I’ve been asked this a lot and the truth is I really do loathe cigarettes. I’ve been addicted to anything and everything out there in my lifetime but I never smoked cigarettes and have always hated them. So it really wasn’t a big stretch for me to rant about the evils of smoking! I think Kevin himself wasn’t a smoker before he played Silent Bob. He started to smoke to give that character more on screen “business” to do. It was basically like a prop for him, but he actually became a cigarette smoker for years after that. He may no longer smoke cigarettes for all I know; I hope for his sake he has quit. It is a nasty, expensive and deadly habit.

MG: How can you reflect on how the film and your character are still popular and highly quoted over 15 years later?
SS: That speaks volumes for the power of film. Clerks has gone from a cult status thing to an iconic film for a generation. I have always been a fan of indie and cult films and, as an actor, it was a dream of mine to appear in the cast of a film that would have that kind of cult-like following. So when I say being cast in Clerks was a dream come true scenario for me I’m not just being “dramatic”. And that’s the thing, too, you can never know when a film is going to generate that kind of success and following. It’s all a crazy twist of fate I believe. It never ceases to amaze me how deep and vast the Clerks fan base has become over the years. And what really blows my mind is how memorable the Chewlies Gum Guy is as a character. I always say that an actor would have had to have been in a coma not to shine and stand out in that role. It was written as a show piece and a bombastic scene. That scene sets the tone for the whole movie. Kevin and I had talked about this back when we were filming. He knew he had to have something big and a little over the top in the first five minutes of the film to set the audience up for the type of ride that they are going to be taking. As a character actor you cut your teeth on these types of roles. You may not be in the entire story, but your scenes are designed to be pivotal and memorable.

MG: You worked with the “Clerks” group again in “Vulgar”, tell us about working on that disturbing little film?
SS: I really love that film; it’s a personal fave of mine. I had been sent the script pretty early on. Bryan Johnson said we’re thinking of you for the Travis Lee role, check it out and see what you think. I knew I didn’t have to read it to say “Hell yeah, I’m in” because it was coming from the View Askew camp. For me it was a familial thing; of course I am down! When I read it I saw some parallels to the Gum Guy character. Two high-energy scenes and both opposite Brian O’Halloran to boot! Again I get to break Brian’s balls on film! Yeah a “man on man” clown rape movie is pretty twisted, but I felt if anyone could pull off a clown rape film it was Kevin and the View Askew clan! LOL. I say this all the time but that film has much more merit than it ever received. It has a wonderfully edgy and bold performance by Brian O’Halloran as Flappy the Clown/Will Carlson. And Kevin’s first post-Silent Bob role, I believe anyway, is flat out awesome. I remember thinking that he’s going to have a career as a character actor if he chose to entertain that route, and sure enough eventually he’d blow us all away with his performance in “Catch & Release” and then later in the last “Die Hard” sequel.

MG: Tell us about your work not only acting in films but also as Composer and Editor?
SS: Yes, music has been in my life from the time I was four or five years old. Music is everything to me, honestly. I have been playing guitar and keyboards since I was a child. I have had a recording studio for the last 15 to 20 years.
I have been very fortunate to have been hired to score and edit many of the films I’ve appeared in over the years! I can do this all in my digital project studio. I am actually working on putting a CD out on Amazon. It’s a collection of music from the past 10 years of film scores and music I’ve done. And I am trying something new with this release. It’s going to be a collection of music that is royalty free. So if another artist, film or TV director, film or TV producer wants to use a piece of this music in their production, they can and are free to do so. All I ask for is credit and the knowledge of what their project is and which track is to be used. So it’s a little different spin on releasing music. The CD is called “Shoe String Serenade.” Being in the cast in many of the films that I have also edited was very challenging. Sometimes it can be just brutal to watch yourself up there, but to hash through all of the takes and edit it all together, that’s really insane when you’re in the cast. I was able to be very objective about the process and I did eventually get used to it. I have a tendency to cut away from myself to give the other actors more face time.

MG: You recently worked on a few indie films recently, tell us about those and where/when can we find them?
SS: Yes, along with “Shoe String Serenade” — which should be up on Amazon by the fall — I have two new DVDs just released through Amazon. Tom Zanca’s “Echoes & Voices” and Michael P. Russin’s new short, “Don’t Shoot”. Both projects are very different in style and nature and I am very fortunate to have been involved in these productions.

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