The Miseducation of Cameron Post Red Carpet Interviews

Desiree Ahkavan’s new film, The Miseducation of Cameron Post hits theaters this week after both winning the Grand Jury prize for drama at Sundance Film Fest and screening at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. The film, an adaptation of Emily Danforth’s 2012 novel, stars Chloe Grace Moretz as Cameron Post, a high school girl who is caught making out with another girl on prom night. Cameron is subsequently sent to a religious gay “conversion therapy” camp called God’s Promise by her conservative American family. From there, Ahkavan’s touching and honest film follows Cameron as she encounters her fellow campers coping with their sexualities and the camp counselors (Jennifer Ehle and John Gallagher Jr.) who may have their own inner reservations about the work that they do. It is a challenging film for its young stars that’s deftly led by Moretz with support from Sasha Lane, and Forrest Goodluck.
I got to speak with some of this talented cast at their Tribeca red carpet premiere about how they came to be in the film and the message believers in these controversial camps could take away from Cameron’s story.

Tony winner John Gallagher Jr. plays Reverend Rick, himself a former camper turned youth counselor who outwardly is a God’s Promise “success” story but clearly deals with suppressing his true emotions.

Lauren Damon: Your character has so much going on under the surface, how did you work on playing him?

John Gallagher Jr: Yeah! A lot of it was just trusting the script and trusting Desiree. You know it was a very complicated role who’s living right on the edge of something. And I just really looked to [Desiree] to kind of be the leader and to be my guide throughout all of it. And to just try and kind of tell the truth as we had deemed it fit for the film.

LD: What was the most difficult part of working on this?

JGJ: I think, you know living on that edge…of like really preaching something that, I think you start seeing throughout the film, that the character may or may not actually even believe. And that kind of crisis of faith, and that doubt and that second guessing. And really like the guilt that comes with that…I think he’s a guy that really is struggling to do what he believes is the right thing. And I think that his awakening in the film is that he doesn’t know what the right thing is.

LD: I watched this in an admittedly liberal NYC screening room and I think the reactions to a lot of what happens in the camp was that it was ridiculous, but both in the film, and in these real places, it’s really not…

JGJ: It’s not. There is no spin on it, that is their earnest belief. And as I can’t even fathom having that kind of opinion on matters of sexuality, that’s a very real thing. And people do have those exact kind of beliefs.

LD: What would you tell someone with these kinds of beliefs if you could speak to them?

JGJ: Gosh. I would tell them to watch this film and think it over a second time, you know?

Quinn Shephard plays the small but crucial role of Coley Taylor, the girlfriend who Moretz’s Cameron is caught with before she is sent for conversion.

LD: Your role isn’t big in terms of screentime, but it’s so pivotal to the film, how was it to know that going in?

Quinn Shephard: It was great! I was very happy to be a part of the film in any way possible. I keep saying, I just wanted to be a part of the movie because I really believed in it. I think it’s one of the best scripts I’ve ever read and I wanted to be in it. And I’m excited that I got to play this role.

LD: As in actress in this film, if you could get a message to people who believe these camps are effective, what would it be?

QS: Oh man. I think it’s like…I mean, look–Some people I think have a lot of fears and they justify things like conversion camps out of fears. But I think that if you come at something from a place of love, it’s impossible to justify. I think if you’re really someone who feels love in your heart and you challenge yourself to love someone who’s gay and imagine…putting that person through that and telling them that they’re not okay, I think it’s impossible to justify. I think people get caught up in their rhetoric and they get up in religious justification. But when it’s human and it’s in front of you, it’s very hard to agree with, you know? And I think that if somebody sits through this movie who believes in it, they’ll change their mind.

LD: How did you go about preparing for the intimate scenes between Coley and Cameron?

QS: I read the book, I read about my character…I’m somebody who’s very comfortable with who I am and it was just about creating a place in myself where I was very happy for what was happening, but at the same time very ashamed of it. I think that’s who [COLEY] is, she’s that duality and that was a difficult place for me to go. It was a very sad place. But it was something that was very important to her. There was a fragility to the relationship because she is not okay with it yet. And then I think as far as the actual intimacy of the scene, we just went into it was a sense of humor. And Desiree was very accommodating and she made us very comfortable and we had fun.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post opens in New York on August 3rd and expands to LA and other cities on August 10th.

“Cargo” Creators Discuss Their Australian Zombie Drama

The Australian-based zombie drama Cargo was released on cinemas down under this month and is currently streaming internationally on Netflix. It follows Andy (Martin Freeman, read his interview here) a father facing down a viral plague outbreak and journeying across the Australian wild to get his baby somewhere safe. Along the way he encounters both natural and human foes and joins forces with Thoomi (Simone Landers), a young indigenous girl who saw her own father taken by the virus. The film was based on a short that debuted at Australia’s Tropfest in 2013. I sat down with directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke as well as producer Kristina Ceyton (The Babadook) to discuss expanding their unique zombie take to a feature.

Lauren Damon: What made you approach a zombie film from this father-daughter angle?

Yolanda Ramke: I guess, I mean for us that really was sort of the heart of the short film— was this relationship between the father and the child. And I think we felt like with the response that the short got that that was the theme, like the vibe that was really resonating with people. So we knew that that was something that we wanted to hold on to in sort of a longer form story. And then it was just a case of you know, fleshing that out. And how do you expand that from a seven minute thing to a hundred minute thing? And then also yeah, how do you bring something kind of that you feel might at least have some element of freshness to it within that genre. For us, it was going Aussie and thinking about our culture.

LD: With such a populated genre, you know, “The Walking Dead” would have already been on a couple seasons when you made the short—do you watch other content out there or try to avoid it?

Ramke: Well I think when the short kind of came out, it was maybe the “Walking Dead” was in season 2?

Ben Howling: End of season two.

Ramke: So it was still sort of like at its zenith and it was—but yeah, we were keeping tabs definitely. I think it’s good to know what other projects are doing and just to make sure that you’re conscious of that. And pushing away from it where you can.

LD: Do any of you have small children that influenced this story at all?

Ramke: We don’t, no.
Howling:No. We have fathers though!
Ramke: We have parents!

LD: Parents who would combat zombies for you?

Ramke: [laughing] Yeah, exactly. That’s it. I think they would.

Kristina Ceyton: ‘Dad, can you carry me on your back?’
Howling: We’ve actually both got fathers who are kind of like engineers, mechanic engineer types, so I guess that kind—the ingenuity of that, we’d be fine—
Ramke: Yeah, I think we both think they probably could do something like that.

Cargo Directors Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke and producer, Kristina Ceyton

LD: Kristina, you also produced The Bababook which had that heavy mother-son theme front and center, was this project like a funny coincidence to go to a father-daughter?

Ceyton: It is. It’s funny, like initially I didn’t make that connection at all on that level because I just gravitated to the story and you know, was really moved by it. I think it is a genre movie that is surprisingly emotional and has a lot of deep layers about exactly the, you know, parent to child dynamic…but yeah, I suppose there’s parallels, but it’s a very different beast in this instance. I think it’s a lot less psychological and this is about survival and about transcending death. And I think what you would do, you know, the length you would go to to sacrifice yourself for love and family and also community on a more broader level. Yeah. I think it’s those things that really resonated.

LD: When expanding from short to feature, what was the decision making process like on how much more to reveal about the nature of this virus? Because the short was obviously very sparse on details.

Ramke: I think we were really interested in the idea of just throwing the audience in the middle of it. And just personally because we love films that do that. And that make the audience work a little bit to kind of put things together. And I think we just also felt within this genres, we’ve seen a lot of stories that were about finding the cure or that sort of thing and we just thought, ‘well that’s been done really well by other films.’ It just didn’t interest us to go there. I think we just thought, how can we carefully deal out bread crumbs and details for people to put the world together and work out what’s going on. And then just let them go on this journey with this father and this baby and this indigenous girl.

LD: Yeah, that indigenous element is very unique to this film, did you outreach to people in those communities to get their perspective?

Howling: Yeah, in script development, we brought a script consultant on, Jon Bell—who is an indigenous writer from back home and he was able to kind of walk us through. We had some ideas which we’d researched but then we’d discuss with him—‘is this feasible? Is this practical?’ Indigenous culture is very sensitive back home because you could never make a blanket statement like ‘everyone would behave like this.’ There’s all these micro-communities that have these different cultures and values and practices. So he was able to help us navigate those waters in terms of what would be the appropriate response. And then on top of that, just with his own experience. Talking about ways that you can use indigenous hunting techniques and things like that.

Ramke: And then from there, once we knew where we were shooting, which was South Australia, it was a case of conversing with local elders in those communities as well. Just to make sure that we were sort of tailoring things to that region. And giving them the script and making sure that they were comfortable with what was happening. Seeking formal permission to use language in the film. And just trying to basically approach it as respectfully as possible.

LD: How did you go about casting Thoomi?

Ramke: She was a find. Our casting director Nikki Barrett had put a call out. So that had gone to a load of very regional communities across Australia and we had kids filming themselves on their phones, having their parents like read the lines off camera in these very monotone voices. It was just super cute. And yeah, we got down to four girls who we did sort of a workshop with and we just felt like Simone from day one was sort of the standout. And yeah, she really killed it.

LD: How did you get in touch for casting Martin Freeman? Had he seen the short?

Ceyton: No he didn’t so we approached his agent. It was just basically the traditional way of approaching his agent and the initial response was ‘I don’t think that Martin likes genre films’ [laughs] But luckily he read the script and really loved it and fell in love also with the story of this dual kind of father-daughter relationship and survival. And I think for him, it was never really a ‘genre film.’ So luckily he was available at that time and just all the pieces fell into place.

LD: Did his casting change anything within the film seeing as he is basically THE whole film?

Ramke: It would have been just very small things. I think at the point that he had come on we were in the process of doing another draft anyway. So just subconsciously as a writer once you know who the actor is going to be and you’re familiar with their work, you can kind of hear their voice a little bit. So when you’re writing dialogue, there’s an element of writing it with that person in mind. But I think also once we knew that we were going to be casting a British actor, which is something we had hoped to do from quite an early on—that also informs some of the more thematic threads of the story, in terms of Australia’s colonial history. And that just absolutely put more meat on the bones I guess.

LD: Can you talk more about Australia’s past in terms of this story?

Ramke: Absolutely. Just in terms of Australia obviously being, a long way back, colonized by the British and there were a lot of ramifications that kind of linger. In terms of social issues and Australia has some work to do, I think, in terms of acknowledging that past. And you know, it hasn’t been handled in a way that some other nations like, I believe, Canada and New Zealand, where there are treaties with their indigenous people. It’s all been quite overlooked. So I think there is still a lot of collective pain that exists in indigenous Australia. And we just didn’t want to ignore that, I suppose. But we also didn’t want to get too preachy about it either. So it was something we could just let sit in the story, just by nature of being English and coming into contact with this indigenous—

LD: And him requiring their assistance.

Ramke: That’s right. That’s sort of like the reversal of the sort of historical context, I guess in a way.

LD: How did you go about developing the other Australians in the film? The human villains, who weren’t present in the short.

Howling: I think in early drafts we just explored a variety of like different antagonists. And then we just kind of blended them together into one kind of more fleshed-out three dimensional kind of person…It was nice to have somebody as a bit of a contrast to the indigenous response which was to go back to the land and traditional ways. And this is somebody who is very attached to western living and can’t let go of it. So it was just in terms of creating that, that split between the two of them and learning his motivation and fleshing it out from there.

LD: When you make a zombie-apocalypse film like this, do you find yourself considering what you would do in this worst-case scenario?

Ramke: Ohhhh…have you ever thought about what you’d actually do?
[laughter]
Howling: That makes you cocky…
Ramke: No, but I think ultimately it would always come back to family though. It would always be about ‘Are my family safe? How do I re-connect with my family?’ and make sure that we’re together if this was to go down.
Howling: But what if they’re already infected??
Ramke: [Gasps] Oh! Well I just can’t even deal with that idea, that would be heartbreaking.

LD: Your zombies are unique in that they’ve got a different design, this orange slime rather than regular blood and gore, what was the thought behind that?

Ramke: Yeah, we didn’t want to do the gory bloody thing. And I think that that just came from this approach that we tried to take to the whole film which was to just to try and keep it as sort of grounded as we could. And as subtle as we could. And that idea of that design aesthetic coming out of the natural environment. The idea that this sort of toxicity in the environment and that it sort of literally affecting the land and that is spreading to the people. So the influence for that was like tree sap was like a visual reference. That more organic kind of reference.

LD: Are you excited that this film with be hitting the Netflix audience?

Ramke: Yeah we are!

LD: Are you guys the Netflix binge-watch types, do you have favorites?

Howling: Yeah, definitely.
Ramke: I loved “The OA”. “The OA”, “Stranger Things”, I feel like there’s some other really great shows that I’m completely neglecting!
Howling: There’s really not much that I don’t binge on.
Ramke: Yeah, you’re a really good binge-er.
Howling: “Dark”, “Requiem”.
Ramke: “Requiem’s” cool, yeah.
Howling: Just recently, actually just the other day I smashed out “Lost in Space.”

LD: Do you have personal favorite zombie or horror films?

Ramke: Shaun of the Dead is my favorite zombie film, actually. But I think in terms of reference points for this film, oh my goodness, we were looking at more sci-fi stuff. So like Children of Men, District 9 and I guess The Road as well is sort of comparable.

Howling: And also Frank Darabont’s “The Walking Dead” season one was out. That’s what really kind of like ignited us back into the zombie thing…he only did season one. That was like a six-part, it’s very different to the rest.

You can watch Cargo now on Netflix.

 

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Martin Freeman on Carrying Netflix’s CARGO

Martin Freeman was last seen on screen this year providing comic support to Wakandans in the blockbuster Marvel smash, Black Panther but this Friday on Netflix, he jumps to the forefront of a very different sci-fi landscape in Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke’s Cargo. This fantastic zombie plague story sees Freeman playing Andy, the father of adorable baby Rosie, who is unfortunately bitten by zombies and is racing against the clock to carry Rosie to safety across the Australian outback.

Cargo made its stateside premiere last month at the Tribeca Film Festival, after which I got to speak with Martin by phone about working in the horror genre, and of course what tech he’d like to lift from Shuri’s lab!

Lauren Damon: Before the Tribeca premiere had you seen the film?

Martin Freeman: I had, yeah. But only a long time ago on a laptop.

LD: I imagine it was more effective with other people around…

MF: [laughs] Yeah, it went down very well actually, yeah. It was very well received. It was late and people need not hang around for questions but they did. I think it seemed very positive, yeah.

LD: With the film going to Netflix next, are you excited? Are you a big Netflix user yourself?

MF: I am a frequent Netflix user, yes, very much so. I think when you make a film initially, you always envision it having a theatrical release. But maybe generations now don’t envision that. But my generation envisions a theatrical release and it’s gets that in Australia. The rest of [the world] is on Netfilx, that platform, and you think ‘ok, well fair enough.’ But then you actually think it’s more than fair enough because way more people are going to see it on Netflix eventually than would do in a theatrical setting. Just the accessibility of it, the ease with which you could see the amount of things you could see, yeah, I’m more than happy about it.

LD: With Cargo filming mainly being outdoors and with your character carrying the baby everywhere, what was the hardest part about shooting?

MF: Probably just getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. That was pretty challenging. Holding babies on my back was kind of alright. Sort of felt like free gym work, really.

LD: So you lost weight by shooting the film?

MF: I probably did. I probably did. I ate sort of reasonably healthily…but yeah I was constantly carrying a backpack.

LD: I assume there were multiple babies to rotate through?

MF: Yeah, two sets of twins. One pair of twins turned out, quite quickly, to be the more amenable pair. And the other pair was used more for in sort of wide shots.

LD: When you’re acting in an apocalyptic film or a zombie film, do you start thinking about the choices your character is making and whether you’d agree with Andy?

MF: Yeah, I think he did everything he could really. Part of what makes it relatable for me is that his actions seem very human.

LD: Do you think about if a zombie plague broke out what you—as Martin—would do?

MF: I haven’t thought about that a lot, no. No, not a lot. I don’t really fear zombies…but when the shit really hits the fan, whatever form that’s gonna come in…No, I guess like everybody else I’d panic [laughs]. Most people just hole up…

LD: Meanwhile, you’ve also just appeared in Andy Nyman’s Ghost Stories. If you don’t fear zombies, what about ghosts and the supernatural?

MF: Not really. I mean I kind of…I’m open to belief in the supernatural if it can’t be empirically disproved or proved. But no, I haven’t ever seen a ghost. I’ve had, you know, the occasional spooky night. Once you hear something that goes bump or bang and you start making up your own narrative for it. And I’ve been rooted to the spot a few times on my stairs thinking ‘is that a ghost or is it a burglar?’ And fortunately it was neither.

LD: Do you have any favorite horror films or ghost stories?

MF: I don’t know if they count it as horror…The first one I saw as a young child was Psycho. So that was when I was about seven and that was—it really affected me a lot. That first experienced of being very very frightened.

LD: In some sequences of Ghost Stories you get to play sinister, which I’m not used to seeing you in that way, was it fun to go there?

MF: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. I loved it. It’s just always nice to lean into another part of your personality and be able to perform in a different way. Because I think as the film goes on and what I’m doing goes on, it was allowed to get a little more heightened and theatrical. You don’t always, in front of the camera, get the license to be that theatrical and that slightly camp. Your job in front of the camera is usually to be very real and not do any acting at all. Or at least that’s the job I give myself. But to do something a little bit more arch—you know, he becomes a function of the story then, as opposed to a three dimensional character. He becomes the function of the story to do something to Professor Goodman he has to have an effect on [him]. And I really enjoyed, yeah, just having to fuck with Andy Nyman. That was really good fun, yeah.

LD: Between Ghost Stories and Cargo, you undergo some pretty heavy makeup prosthetics, is that fun to get more into it? Or something more challenging?

MF: It is a bit of both, really. It is fun, because I’ve not done loads of it so it’s still—it doesn’t feel too much like the day job for me. It isn’t boring yet to do prosthetics. But yeah, the challenges are just the time it takes and the relative discomfort of it. Just there is a layer between you and the outside world that you’re not used to. There’s a layer between you and the other actors that you’re not used to. I guess with Cargo it was meant to be uncomfortable. And as I say, where we were filming at that time was quite hot…

LD: Yeah and then I imagine being under a bunch of zombie makeup in the hot sun…

MF: Yeah, just getting eaten by mosquitoes and I didn’t get on very well with the contact lenses. I didn’t get on very well with those [laughs]

LD: It looked good!

MF: Good. Yeah, then it’s for a good cause.

LD: Between Cargo and Ghost Stories, which order did you shoot them in? Was it close together?

MF: They were quite close together actually. Yeah, I shot Cargo first and then about a month later I shot Ghost Stories. The month after I came back from Australia, I went up to northern England and shot Ghost Stories.

LD: So you were in like horror genre mode.

MF: Kind of yeah, it sort of worked out like that. And of course it, you know, as far as the actor’s concerned, that’s never The Plan. Because you very rarely have any plan at all other than, you know, be able to pay the rent. It’s just what comes to you that you respond to for whatever reason and I’ve got pretty poor taste in what I like—what I like as a viewer. And what I like doing as an artist….I guess there’s more genre around now than there was twenty years ago. There’s more genre around now. And I’m still from the old school of ‘hey it’s the story’. It has be as story that I like. That I would like to participate in totally regardless of genre. I never give a single second thought to genre.

LD: Speaking of being able to pay the rent—congratulations on being in Black Panther, only the highest US grossing movie ever right now, that’s pretty exciting!

MF: Yeah. Yeah, very exciting.

LD: I am just a giant Marvel nerd, so I’m also wondering, if you could have any of the tech from Shuri’s lab in real life, what would you pick?

MF: Hmmm. Well…anything involving the black sand so it could move around and make shit. If you can picture it, if you can envision it, then the black sand would make it to be like that, that would be very helpful.

LD: What would you use it for?

MF: I’m not sure. Probably just furniture. I like the idea of that. Furniture and shoes.

LD: Just have a nice chair to sit on when you need it…

MF: Yeah, exactly. [laughs] A very nice chair.

Cargo starts streaming on Netflix on Friday May 18th

Black Panther was just released on digital and blu-ray

Interview with SUPERCON director Zak Knutson

 

Fans of Kevin Smith’s View Askew Universe may be quite familiar with Zak Knutson.  The co-writer and director of the new comedy “Supercon” worked for a decade for Smith, often producing and directing Smith’s independent video projects.  To honor his friend, he named Seth Rogen’s character “Zack” in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.”  And his face will be familiar to anyone that saw “Clerks II.”  He was “the Sexy Stud,” the purveyor of “Inter-species Erotica” – better known as “the Donkey Show,” at the end of the film.

Promoting his first feature film as director, Zak took some time out to chat with me about being in charge and why Clancy Brown is actually a funny guy.

 

Mike Smith:  I’ve worked behind the scenes at enough conventions to know that you have too!  What was your inspiration to make “Supercon?”

Zak Knutson:  I worked for Kevin Smith for about 10 years so naturally I was exposed to the con culture.  And then I started going to them with my friend Dana Snyder, who does the voice of Master Shake on “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,.”  I went with him down to Florida to the actual SUPERCON and I really got see all of the people and the different things going on.  I realized we hand’t seen a movie set in that place before.  In that kind of culture.

MS:  A brilliant stroke of genius in casting Clancy Brown as Adam King.  Most people wouldn’t think of him when doing a comedy.  How did you settle on him for the role?

ZK:  I have always been a huge fan of Clancy Brown, going all the way back to “Bad Boys.”

MS:  Viking!

ZK:  Exactly…Viking.  But if you notice, the one thing that Clancy does in almost every single one of his performances, even though they weren’t comedic, he was funny in them.   He would find that humility, that human side of the character, even if he was being the most evil of guys.  He could just have a delivery on a line that could be funny.  And I just thought, “this guy would be funny in a comedy.”  He knew when somebody else was being funny to sit back.    He just had everything.  I was so excited to be able to ask him.  And he said, ‘I’m not really a comedy guy,’ and I said, “but you are.  You are.”  And it worked out.  He is one of the best things in the movie.

 

Clancy Brown as Adam King in SUPERCON

MS:  The same with Malkovich?  How were you able to get him?

ZK:  Malkovich was a strange one.  He actually ended up getting a hold of a script.  I thought he was going to be Adam King, because he hadn’t been cast yet, or he was going to be Gil Bartell (the convention promoter, played in the film by Mike Epps).  But he had read Sid and he wanted to play Sid.  We got a call that said ‘John Malkovich wants to play a part.’  How do you say no?  So we went back and scaled the character down to his age, because it was originally written for a Stan Lee-95-year old kind of guy.  We scaled it down.  But the hair and the bow tie, those are all John.  He came ready to have a good time.

 

Zak Knutson, the “Sexy Stud” of CLERKS II

MS:  Any plans on showing the film at conventions?

ZK:  I think we’re going to take it to Florida in July, to the actual SUPERCON.  Clancy’s coming with me.  We’re all going down for a big SUPERCON to-do.

MS:  What do you have coming up next?

ZK:  Next up is a documentary that we’re getting ready to announce that is pretty awesome.  And I sold a script to a couple of people and it looks like later on this summer we’ll be able to shoot it.  Time is going to tell with the money on that one.  But next up is the doc.

MS:  On the script you sold, will you be attached as director?

ZK:  Yes, I am.  But again, it’s kind of all up in the air right now.

Dean Devlin talks about directing David Tennant in “Bad Samaritan”

Dean Devlin went from starting out chauffeuring for Al Pacino in the early 80’s to writing/producing some one of the biggest films including “Stargate”, “Independence Day” and “Godzilla (1998)”.  Dean stepped into the director’s chair for the first time last year with the big-budget “Geostorm”. He is back again directing and producing a new film starring David Tennant and Robert Sheehan called “Bad Samaritan”. We had a chance to chat with Dean about this new movie and how was it shifting in scale from big studio to independent.

Mike Gencarelli: “Bad Samaritan” has been in development since at least 2013, can you tell us how about you became involved with it?

Dean Devlin: What happened is, back then I got a call from writer Brandon Boyce, who I have been a fan of since “Apt Pupil” and “Wicker Park”, and he said he just finished a new script but before he sent it out to the world he asked if I would make some notes. I read the script and I only had one note for him…and that was not to show it to anyone else because I was going to make this movie. I was in love with it and bought it immediately. Right after, I went on did two other projects, so I had to wait till I was done with those to get back to it, but I was desperate to make the picture from the moment I read the script.

MG: You directed, produced and wrote “Geostorm” and with “Bad Samaritan”, you produced and directed; how was your experience differ between the two?

DD: Well, the experiences were night and day. The difference is doing a movie in a studio or independently. All of my best work has been from projects where it was independent or we had the creative freedom we needed. This was night and day, the best experience that I have ever had making a picture.

MG: Yeah I would agree, the scale is very different; what was your biggest challenge on this film?

DD: It is so out of what I have ever done before. I have never done this dark tone before. For me it was top to bottom, I had to rethink everything I would do like framing a shot for example or approach music. It was a terrifying task to take on but at the same time, it was thrilling. I have an amazing team of people. We spent a lot of time doing our homework and making sure the thrill and tone were set effectively. It was so exciting to do.

MG: How did David Tennant and Robert Sheehan come on board?

DD: Again, because this was an independent movie I didn’t need anybody’s permission to cast the film. If you do a studio film, that the process can be ridiculous. This was the case were I could just cast simply best actors we could get. My dream cast was to get Robert Sheehan and David Tennant in these roles. I felt like so blessed when they both said “yes”, because I really didn’t have a second choice for either part [laughs]. You get somebody in your head and it’s really hard to rethink it. When I did “Independence Day”, we wrote that part for Jeff Goldblum. If he had said “no”, we would have had to rethink the entire part.

MG: Tell me one film that is your “go-to” film to watch? …for me it’s “The Shining”.

DD: It really depends. I would have to say there are three and if they are on television I can’t turn them off. It doesn’t matter if I catch one scene…the first is “Enter the Dragon”. Another is “Tombstone”. I have to at least stay on until he says “I’m your Huckleberry” [laughs]. The last one has to be “E.T”. Those films are the ones that I can’t get enough of.

MG: What would be a dream project for you to direct?

DD: Listen, I have been so blessed in my life that once I have a dream project in mind, it becomes my next film. I approach this whole business like a fan. I never try and figure out what is going to be a success, I think that is a mistake. For me, it is like a fan boy, what do I want to see? And if no one else is making it then I try and go make it. I have been blessed from being able to make “Independence Day” and that I got the script of “Bad Samaritan” from Brandon Boyce. Each time out has been a dream come true.

MG: I am impressed to see that an independent film like this is getting a decent theatrical release.

DD: Well you know, the new Avengers saw that we were on their date…and they knew…they knew they needed to get out of our way. Run Avengers! [laughs]. I am going to throw this out for your readers: What is the thing that is in both in the new “Avengers” and “Bad Samaritan”? Let us see if readers can figure this out. (Leave comment below!)

All Photo Credit: Courtesy of Electric Entertainment

Film Interview: Director Susan Walter talks about her debut feature, “All I Wish”

 

After almost three decades working behind the scenes on other people’s films, Susan Walter has finally gotten to sit in the big chair.  As writer and director of the new film “All I Wish,” she called the shots and achieved a dream.

 

While promoting the film, which is now in theatres and also available on Video on Demand, she took time out to talk with me about finally being in charge.

 

Mike Smith:  Please tell me that Tony Goldwyn isn’t really that bad of a singer. (NOTE:  In the film, Goldwyn tries his hand at karaoke, much to the chagrin of anyone in earshot.)

 

Susan Walter:  (laughs) Tony Goldwyn is a brilliant singer!  The first time I talked to him about that scene, he said to me “you know I can sing, right?”  He wanted everyone to know that he could sing.

 

MS:  Where did you get the idea for the film?

 

SW:  I’m a huge fan of “When Harry Met Sally.”  It’s one of my favorite films of any genre’.  And what I love about it is that it takes these two characters and looks at how the spend time together over a long period of time.  So I thought what would happen if I showed characters that not only got to know each other but got to know themselves over a long period of time.  And I picked each period beginning on a birthday because your birthday is a time when you look at your life.  The stakes are super high on your birthday.

 

MS:  Most people, when they think of romantic comedy, don’t readily think of Sharon Stone, who is more known for tougher roles.  What made you cast her?

 

SW:  Sharon cast herself.  (laughs)  Literally.  She got the script originally when it was written for her character to be in her 20s, and I wanted somebody tough and vibrant to play the mother.  I sent her the script and offered her the mother and she called me and said, “I’m not playing the mother…I’m playing the lead!”  And I got chills all over my body because I knew that she was right.  She felt really connected to the character and she really spoke passionately about why she had to do it.  So that’s the version of the movie that got made.

 

MS:  Which also became a bonus because you got to work with Ellen Burstyn.

 

SW:  We were so lucky that Ellen responded so well to the script.  Sharon was so passionate about having her and when we sent it to her she responded right away.  Though Ellen’s character appears tough as nails in the film she also has a vulnerability that you can feel.  You can feel the love that she has for her daughter and it was something beautiful for me to watch.

 

MS:  You’ve spent decades working behind the scenes until you finally got the opportunity to direct a feature.  Was the experience everything you thought it would be?

 

SW:  I have to tell you, I was totally nervous into the lead-up of the movie.  I was worried.  Could I do the job?  Did I have the energy?  It takes an incredible amount of stamina to direct a feature film.  You’re on your feet all day and you need every corner of your brain to do the job.  I got so much incredible support from my cast, especially Sharon.  They made it effortless.  It was like being weightless.  I entrusted them with their characters.  I was just there as a sounding board if they had a question about a line or a moment.  The experience of directing was almost effortless.

 

MS:  You’ve worked with several name directors in the past, including the late Garry Marshall.  Did you learn anything from them that you used on your set?

 

SW:  The one thing I learned from Garry in regards to actors is to just let them play.  Make them feel safe and let them play.  And when they had an idea, it was always “yes.”  He may not have agreed with it, but he would always say, “let’s try it.”  That was the way he worked and I think some of it rubbed off on me.  I said “yes” a lot to my actors.  We played a lot.  And I think you can feel how free they felt when you watched the film.

 

MS:  What are you working on next?

 

SW:  I wrote a movie with a friend of mine who is an actress and an extremely hilarious human being.  It’s an “R” rated ensemble comedy that we’re putting together now.  Hopefully we can start it soon.  I hope it doesn’t take another fourteen years.

Actor Jimmy Bellinger Talks About His Role In The Film “Blockers”

Jimmy Bellinger is an actor who has appeared in a variety of commercials, films and, television series including “The Middle” and “Parks and Recreation”. In the newly released film “Blockers” starring Leslie Mann and John Cena, Jimmy plays the role of Chad a nerdy yet confident high school student. Media Mikes had the chance to talk with Jimmy recently about his character and the film and also about his widely popular Skittles commercial.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us a little bit about the film “Blockers” and your character Chad?

Jimmy Bellinger: “Blockers” is a fun, raunchy sort of coming of age story that follows three parents and their daughters. We first see the girls as young children and then as teenagers getting ready to attend the prom. The girls decide they want to lose their virginity and make a pact to do so. The girl’s dates are not aware that this is set to happen and it turns into this crazy thing when the parents find out and attempt to stop them. My character Chad is sort of a dorky guy but he is very confident. He loves to dance and be a showman. Chad also loves a good fedora!

AL: How did this role come about for you?

JB: It was actually quite a long process. I auditioned a few times over the course of two months before officially getting the offer. Originally I read for a character that’s not in the story anymore. I then went back and read for the role of Chad. I actually did two auditions that day as they brought me back in the afternoon to read with a group of girls auditioning for the Sam role. None of those girls ended up in the film and I didn’t hear anything for a couple weeks until they brought me back to read with a different group of girls. This whole time I was never really sure if I was going to get the role or not because they could have been seeing other people that I didn’t know about. A week or so later I found out I got the part and also that they recast all three girls and the other two guys. I was lucky that I made it and am very happen that things worked out for me the way that they did.

AL: Over that time did the script change in any way?

JB: Yes it did. Originally there was this completely different character in the script and that role had been cut out so there were definitely a lot of changes made from the time I first read the script to what ended up being in the film. Things were added and locations changed but the film is still just as funny as when I first read for it and, that was what interested me in the project from the start.

AL: Were you allowed creative freedom with the character or were you asked to stay to the scripted material?

JB: There was certainly creative freedom. Yes there was a script for the character they wrote but I feel like unless you are playing a real person that existed somewhere in time you bring in pieces of yourself to each role you pay. I feel like most people want you to bring your own traits as an actor to their character. That’s essentially your job. You have ideas and there are scripted pieces so you start there and once you get going you might come up with some other things that help the character and story. The film’s director Kay Cannon is an extremely talented writer so if we weren’t pitching ideas she was coming up with things to try or add. We shot a lot of different versions of each scene so you really didn’t know what will be in the final film until you see it.

AL: The film has a very comedic cast. What was it like on set between takes?

JB: It was fun! Sets are all very similar because the days are long and when you are not shooting you are hanging out with the other cast and crew joking and having a good time. You get to talk with and meet a lot of different people. The cast was great as were the crew and, being that we were shooting a comedy and not a drama or something really serious everyone was just very relaxed and the mood was light.

AL: You also are currently the face of Skittles and appear in the hilarious Skittles-pocks commercial. How did that opportunity come about and, will you be reprising that role in upcoming ads?

JB: That came about much like this film through a regular audition. I went in to read for the part and they paired us up randomly with the girls who were their reading for the other part. I ended up being with the girl who also ended up in the commercial. After the first audition I got a call back and I could tell that they liked me because I read with the first girl again as well as a couple others. When we shot it even though it was such a short spot we tried a bunch of different things. The lines were there but I got to have a lot of fun playing within the confines of them. I had no idea what made it into the commercial until it came out. The ad started on the internet and then they started airing it and then they stopped. That usually happens after some time with commercials but then they decided to renew it and it has been playing non-stop. I am completely fine with it. Some people think it’s funny; some people think its gross or a combination of the two. I think that they are probably all right but I think that’s kind of the appeal of it as it’s weird but quick and easy. It’s just crazy how big it has become and seeing how excited people get amazes me. In terms of reprising the role that really on them however I will happily be paid to wear more skittles on my face. I am fine with that.

AL: Are there any other projects you have been working on that you would like to mention?

JB: There are some things in the works but I can’t really talk too much about those right now however, I did do an episode of the Nickelodeon show “Night Squad”. My episode won’t air until Halloween time but I do want to let people know it will be coming out and when they can look for it.

For more info on Jimmy Bellinger you can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @JimmyBellinger

 

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Interview with “Survivors Guide to Prison” filmmaker Matthew Cooke

Actor/filmmaker/activist Matthew Cooke has long taken in an interest in looking out for the little guy.  His last film, the tongue-in-cheek documentary “How to Make Money Selling Drugs,” was well reviewed and opened a lot of eyes to the drug problem facing this country.    His newest documentary, “Survivors Guide to Prison,” looks at the current state of the judicial system and how it failed two very different men.  As the film begins it’s run across the country (it’s both in theatres and available on Video on Demand), Mr. Cooke took some time to speak with me about his goals and what he hopes to achieve with his work.

 

 

Mike Smith:   What inspired you to do this film?

Matthew Cooke:  I think we have a very large problem.  It’s like when you see a bad car crash or someone has fallen down a well.  You can’t ignore it.  You have to stop and try to do something.

MS:  Was there any one thing that made you tackle this subject?

MC:  Human beings are funny things.  We can walk by homeless people and ignore them.  We have a tendency to become numb.  But sometimes you look into a topic enough that you go, “Oh my God!”  You begin caring about it.  I really don’t think there’s another explanation I can give other than I finally became aware that human beings are being held in solitary confinement FOR YEARS and they don’t need to be there.  In a way it’s like being tortured.   I became aware that, the system that we have in place now, has an 80% failure rate.  That means that 80% of the inmates that are released from prison end up returning within 5 years.  Yet here we are, spending millions of dollars, putting more people into prison.  The U.S. has more people in prison than any other country in the world.  And it’s not effective.  We don’t help the victims of crime heal.  We don’t create more harmony.  We don’t create well-being.  To what master does this monstrosity serve.  And it’s money.  And when you finally learn about something it becomes personal.  “There but by the grace of God go I.”  I could be in this film.  I’m not trying to be overly dramatic but I couch-surfed for a while when I was out on my own.  That could have easily been the road for me.  That could have been me.

MS:  How did you come upon Bruce and Reggie’s cases? (NOTE:  The film follows two men, Bruce Lisker and Reggie Cole, who were imprisoned for murders they did not commit.  Lisker was 17 when he was arrested for the death of his mother.  Cole 23 when he was accused of a neighborhood killing).

MC:  I met Bruce when he was speaking at a fundraising dinner.  I heard his story and thought, “this guy’s story is incredible.  It would make a hell of a movie.”  Reggie Cole I met through the California Innocence Project.  And I just thought that these two stories were so heart wrenching.  And they are both poets.  I think Reggie is one of the most articulate, poetical people around and no one could describe the horrors he endured the way he has.  Between he and Bruce, I just decided that these two guys’ stories are it.    I mean, there can really be nothing more horrifying than being put in prison for something you didn’t do.  This is a fear we all have.

MS:  One thing I noticed in the film is that you shot all of your narrators close up and make-up free.  Every blemish visible.  Was that intentional?

MC:  Yes.  I wanted them to be raw.  I tell people it’s not really a movie.  It’s a film because of the media used but it’s really a public service announcement.  A bunch of us coming together to tell you what’s going on.  I didn’t want it to be polished.  I adore every aspect of film making but I didn’t want to make anything that was purposely beautiful that would take away anything from the informational aspect.  I wanted it to be very, very raw and very up-close.  Really almost claustrophobic.  I didn’t want audiences to enjoy it as if it was exploitative.  Sometimes we make films that are so pretty that we enjoy them too much.  I really wanted this film to be visceral…in your face.   I want the film to be memorable.   It’s my hope that it delivers an educational and raw, unbridled education and that it achieves it’s goal.   Where we no longer think of prison anymore as the answer.

MS:  Have Bruce and Reggie received any compensation?

MC:  Yes they have.  I don’t have the exact figures off the top of my head.  And I’m also of the opinion that financial compensation is no substitution for time.  (NOTE:  Bruce Lisker received $7.6 million after spending 26 years in prison.  Reggie Cole received $5.3 million for his nearly 15 years behind bars, the last 10 in solitary confinement.)

MS:  What’s next on your plate?

MC:  What’s next?  I want everyone to see “Survivors Guide to Prison.”  We worked five years to construct something that is really worth 100 minutes of peoples’ time.  Getting the word out.  I’m all about that right now.

Serge Levin talks about his new film Alterscape and Superstrata and talks about new Re-Animator

Last month, I was sitting reading the latest issue of Horrorhound Magazine and I came across their list for the horror films of 2018 and within that listed was a film, I had no idea even existed called ReAnimator: Evolution. The film was said to be a reboot of the franchise and directed by Serge Levin and starring Johnathon Schaech. I knew I had to seek out more information about the film and the director. I found out that it is true; he is working on a new branding of the franchise and the film has been re-titled to Herbert West: Reanimator…but before we get to that, I found out that Serge has been VERY busy with other films!

Turns out Serge is working on finishing two new films before he enters the world of Herbert West. His first film, Alterscape: is a sci-fi/drama that takes a man on a journey that transcends both physical and perceived reality. It is a real trip to watch and it also co-stars Michael Ironside (Scanners). His second film is Superstrata has Paz de la Huerta (Enter the Void) and is currently being edited by Eric Strand, the man behind Donnie Darko and Tomb Raider. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Serge about his two upcoming movies and also got the scoop on the new re-branding for the Reanimator franchise.

Mike Gencarelli: You wrote and directed the film “Alterscape”; tell us the origin of this project?
Serge Levin: The idea behind Alterscape originated from my fascination with emotions. Due to the nature of my prior work in corporate finance, I was lucky to have traveled, lived, and worked in a few different countries. Through observation and interaction with people of various cultures, I pondered on the stark differences of how emotions are expressed, interpreted, and understood.
I also wanted to explore the relationship between emotions, feelings, and memory. Coincidentally, while waiting for a flight at an airport I came across an intriguing book by Victor S. Johnston Why We Feel: The Science of Human Emotions. Although it was a fairly short flight, I remember devouring the whole book before I landed at my destination. My hunger for the subject matter and the author’s brilliant writing structure made it an easy read, but most importantly connected many dots in the underlying study of emotions and nervous system as a whole.

Thinking back to some stories that my stepfather, Sam Hollis a Vietnam War veteran, has told me when I was younger, and inspired by more literature about Affective Science, the first draft of Alterscape was born.

MG: How was the opening falling from the building scene shot?
SL:  Indeed, the slow motion falling sequence is one of the most important story beats in the film, so I wanted it to really stand out.

Being a huge fan of 80s film era, I loved how the director John McTiernen portrayed the falling sequence with the character named Ponytail, played by Héctor Mercado, in the film Nomads 1986. It was both creepy and surreal. I needed my falling shot to have that abstract and symbolic feel, so I was definitely inspired by what I saw in Nomads.

I wanted to take it even further and actually follow our hero as he plummets from a high-rise, which required more ingenuity and technical assembly. For the sake of art I can’t get into details as to the exact process of how we shot it, although our final execution of the sequence was as close to a real fall as you can make it.

MG: I loved the whole setting of the film. The logo and parts of the score has a cool 80’s vibe. The wormhole was rad with retro feel. I also love old tech like the ancient computers mixed with the new tech; was this all planned?
SL: I appreciate you picking up on these aesthetics because it was definitely intentional. As I already mentioned, I’m inspired by many great films from the 80s and had the urge to bring back some of those vibes, analog tech, and even colors. The story does not take place in the 80s however. We keep it vague although a few visual and dialogue references do imply a more specific time period. Amalgamating retro-tech with very advanced science was also planned from the start. David Cronenberg fans, being one myself, will definitely appreciate our set designs.

MG: Tell us about the film’s visual effects? What was your most challenging task?
SL: The script called for more than 800 visual effect shots of varied complexity. My objective was to do most in-camera with real makeup, physics, and lighting. This old-school method to me seems to convey action with more realism and depth. Obviously, certain sequences required harnessing some of the digital creative tools and applying them in a very neat way. It’s thanks to my very experienced and talented cinematographer, Richard Clabaugh (Prophecy 1 and 2, Phantoms), the process of filming always took into account what and how we would need to tackle the post-production visuals.

You referred to the vortex sequence as being one of the cool-looking visuals. I’d like to add that after we travel through it, we end up in a realm that seems to span to infinity. Actually close to 90% of that composition is actually practical, not digital.

MG: What was it like working with a legend like Michael Ironside?
SL: It was a dream come true. Michael Ironside and Charles Baker, were introduced to me by our producer Jon Keeyes, who had previously worked with both. I’m extremely grateful and honored that my story resonated with such talent.

Michael was an absolute joy to work with and simply be around. It felt like working with a close family member – that’s the kind of energy Michael projected on set. He commands such strong presence, both on screen and off. Growing up watching him, in what are now cult classics of the genre that I am most passionate about, and get to actually work with Michael Ironside, was a real treat.

Overall, I was lucky to have such a talented cast. Everyone was extremely hard working and talented.

MG: I felt a Scanners vibe within the film; was this coincidence or planned with Ironside on board?
SL: Scanners is one of my favorite horror films but I did not expect to have Michael on board until we actually signed. I was overwhelmed with joy when I found out we had a solid confirm. As far as similarities to Scanners I can see where the parallels can be drawn, however the theme, premise, and motivations are very different.

We just had our world premiere at The Philip K. Dick Film Festival in New York, where we won first place (Best Feature), and one of the viewers made a reference to Liquid Sky as well. I am thrilled that our film carries those vibes and homage to the work I consider inspirational.

One day I asked Michael Ironside what he thought of our set design for the lab interiors. Right away he brought up Altered States, yet another film from the 80s.

MG: Your next film, Superstrata, is already in the books; give us a sneak preview?
SL: Superstrata is currently in post-production and I expect to have solid first assembly in a few months. I’m extremely happy with the footage that we shot and with great excitement now focusing on making the best edit.

The story revolves around a man whose psychological condition yields an unexpected side-effect enabling him to experience various quantum realities. Quantum physics and quantum mechanics are a big part of the story, but so is spirituality and the concept of interconnection through love.

Superstrata shall have many neat twists and turns, including an epic passenger jet sequence. With its many layers, stunning cinematography and big production value, it will be an impactful feature. We have awesome cast including: Robert F. Lyons, Jim Meskimen, Paz de la Huerta, and Alex Veadov.

MG: Tell me about about working with the man behind Donnie Darko and Tomb Raider, Eric Strand, and how he got involved to edit this film?
SL: Eric Strand is a veteran of his art. Working with an editor of such experience and caliber is an eye opening learning experience. Eric’s approach is very old-school, using techniques that were bullet-proof for cutting film. Our digital workflow, in my view, adds to Eric’s creative freedom and leverages his proven know-how. Eric and I connected in many ways, including the type of genres we like and the study of Martial Arts.

MG: Alex Veadov appears in both of your upcoming films Alterscape and Superstrata?; tell us about this collaboration?
SL: The first time I saw Alex in a film, it was We Own The Night directed by James Gray. I was blown away by his ability to convey so much emotion simply with his eyes. I believe Alex is one of the most talented actors of our time and have been blessed to work with him on several projects.

Our collaboration started with Alterscape when I reached out to him directly with the script and then bringing him onboard via his agent. When I started working on the Superstrata script, I already had Alex in mind for one of the roles. I’m grateful that he has been receptive to my material and his schedule worked out.

MG: What can you tell me about the planned reboot “Herbert West: Reanimator”
SL: We will be announcing exciting news regarding the Reanimator rebrand very soon. I wouldn’t call it a reboot of the original Re-Animator film, which I love and have tremendous respect for. Our adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s original story shall stay true to the underlying material yet accentuate more of its scientific and dark undertones.

MG: Is Johnathon Schaech still involved? When can we expect it?
SL: Johnathon Schaech is a co-writer together with Jon Keeyes. Johnathon is also a very talented actor and I expect to have a full cast confirmed in the near future.

It’s important to note that we are not only producing a new adaptation of a well-known literary work but also incorporating innovative high-tech applications to make this an unprecedented viewing spectacle with ancillary interactive content.

B. Harrison Smith talks about working with horror legends in his new film “Death House”

Photo by KGE

Harrison Smith is the writer and director of the new horror film “Death House”, which is being called the Expendables of the horror genre! This film is jam packed with dozens of icons including Kane Hodder, Dee Wallace, Tony Todd, Bill Moseley and many more! B. Harrison took out some time to chat with Media Mikes about the film and what we can expect for the future!

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you first got involved with “Death House”?
B. Harrison Smith: All of that can be found here. It’s my personal blog called Cynema. It has four articles called “The Road To Death House” series which answers everything you need to know.

MG: How much did Gunner Hansen complete before his passing?
BHS: Gunnar did the original script. That’s covered in the “Road to Death House” series on my blog. The script that’s shot is 90% mine. I kept his concept of the Five Evils and the issue of good and evil’s dependency on each other. However Gunnar’s original script was about a team of filmmakers going into an abandoned asylum where they were killed off. So it’s pretty different. He gave the script his blessing before he died. He was happy with what I did. He was such a good person.

MG: What was it like to work with so many horror legends?
BHS: Educational. They know so much. They’ve seen so much and how the industry has evolved and changed for the better and worse. I loved the fact that I grew up watching them in theaters and late night cable and video and now I work with them. That’s the best thing.

MG: Were there any talent that you reach out to that turned you down or that you weren’t able to get for this film?
BHS: Sure and it was due to scheduling. When the money finally moved it didn’t jive with everyone’s schedule. Robert Englund was in the middle of three projects and flying to Scotland. Bruce Campbell was smack dab in the middle of the Evil Dead tv show but they were really nice about it and supportive. What can you do? The project had been on and off again for years. They had to work. Hopefully the next one we will get them!

MG: What was one of the coolest moments you had on set during production?
BHS: There were a few but one that comes to mind was watching the interaction between Kane, Bill, Michael. They’ve known each other so long. They’re icons and they fuck with each other like high school kids. They did this three stooges “hello, hello, hello” bit and it was classic.

I also got to eat lunch with Sid Haig who just told me so much about the industry over the last 50 years. He’s a wealth of information and stories and I was so privileged to have him share them with me.

MG: On the flip side, what was the hardest part of the production?
BHS: Having a low budget and 24 day shoot schedule. I think most indie filmmakers will cite money and time as the biggest issues. There were no divas. No “creative differences.” The people part and crew part was easy. Time and money…they’re the hurdles.

MG: According to IMDB I see there is a prequel in the cards, “Dawn of 5 Evils”, is this next for you? Give us a tease on what we can expect?
BHS: Producer Rick Finkelstein wants it and I’ll oblige. It’s a prequel and that title will change. That’s just a working title for now but It will examine the backgrounds of the Five Evils and their origins.

MG: What is your wishlist cast for the next film in the franchise?
BHS: Ah hell, if I do that and leave anyone off then I piss off potential cast. I hope everyone for the sequel returns and I look forward to new faces as well.

MG: Fun question, if you could remake/reboot one horror film, what would it be?
BHS: I’m not against remakes when they’re warranted. There have been some great ones: “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” ‘78, “The Blob”, “Night of the Living Dead”. So if I had my choice, I’d love to get a crack at remaking “Let’s Scare Jessica To Death.” I love the original but I think there were things limited by budget and time. The original sits on my DVD shelf and it scared me since a kid.

MG: Favorite childhood horror film that inspired you to your current role today and why?
BHS: I always say the original “Jaws” is the movie that made me want to make movies. But I’m not sure I classify Jaws as a horror film. But that’s the one. I was 8 when I saw it in 1975 in theaters and I told my mom afterward that I want to make movies when I grew up. I wish she’d lived to see that happen.

Horror legend Dee Wallace talks about the new film “Death House”

Photo by Joe Bryant

Dee Wallace is a name that needs little introduction. She is a legend in the business and is known best for her roles on films like “The Hills Have Eyes”, “The Howling”, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Cujo”. This year Dee is co-starring in the new film, “Death House” among over a dozen of other horror icons. She took out some time to chat with Media Mikes (again) to discuss the film and her role!

Mike Gencarelli: This project was born from the late Gunnar Hansen. How did you get involved and did you have any involvement with him before he passed?
Dee Wallace: I knew Gunnar. He was with my agent and also we saw each other on the circuit. I got involved because he and my agent developed the original concept together. Gunnar was a dear, sweet,  kind, talented man. He is missed.

MG: As a scream queen yourself, this film is jam packed with horror legends, but you have alot of screen time with Cortney Palm, who I feel is really breaking out in the business, tell us about working with her?
DW: I loved working with Cortney. She is very professional. I love her intensity.

MG: There has to be fun behind-the-scenes stories from working with this cast? Anything come to mind quick from the production?
DW: We alternated between freezing and feeling sorry for those who were more naked than we were!

MG: Tell us what drew you in about your character, Dr. Eileen Fletcher, and did you give her any cool unmentioned backstory to get into character?
DW: I loved her because I don’t get to play many characters like her…hard and unfeeling. Interestingly, that was a real challenge for me. I am used to playing with a full heart. I don’t know if you picked it up, but Barbara and I had a whole lesbian vibe going on.

MG: I like the idea that “Death House” is like “The Expendables” of the horror genre! Do you think that this will be expanded into more films?
Well, since I died, it’s doubtful I will return! But my daughter, Gabrielle Stone, is slated for the next one so yes!, I definitely want there to be more!

MG: From working in the genre over the years with “E.T.”, “The Howling” and “Cujo”,
how do you feel the genre has changed over the years?
DW: I think people get confused between horror and slasher. A good horror film develops characters, takes time to build, and usually has some kind of message about the human situation.

MG: Tell us what you are currently working on now and what’s upcoming?
DW: I have a great Christmas horror film on Netflix called “Red Christmas”, my series, “Just Add Magic”, is showing on Amazon Prime, and I am currently shooting a wonderful film called “Every Other Holiday”. I also am slated to film in March but cannot disclose any info yet!

Cortney Palm talks about working with horror icons in “Death House”

Cortney Palm has been making her mark in Hollywood and securing her role as a scream queen with roles in films like “Silent Night” (2012), “Zombeavers” and “The Dark Tapes”. She also co-starred in the film “Sushi Girl” alongside Mark Hamill in 2012. Recently she is starring in the film “Death House” alongside about a dozen of horror icons including Kane Hodder, Tony Todd and Dee Wallace. Cortney took out some time to chat with Media Mikes (again) to discuss the film and her love for the genre.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with the film “Death House”?
CP: I had received message from director Harrison Smith via Twitter saying that some things had developed and he was interested in sending me a script. The script was “Death House”, and after I read it I thought I HAD to be a part of it. My managers got involved and literally a few days later I flew out to Pennsylvania to film.

MG: You are no stranger to ensemble casts after working on films like “Sushi Girl”, but tell us what was it like working with so many horror icons?
CP: Each actor brought something unique to set. An embodiment of their work and who they are as people. It’s always a joy to work with actors who have had long careers because you can learn so much from them. Kane (Hodder) and I did some improv that added depth to our characters and Barbara (Crampton) was so great in that we would work the scene before we filmed, which helped a lot.

MG: What drew you to your character Agent Toria Boon?
CP: I love her character arc. She clearly has a distinct past and simultaneously a past that is unfamiliar to her. Was it a part of a scientific test? Or something she’s trying to bury? But throughout the film she begins to unravel and question reality and her mission. I’ve always been drawn to strong female characters and agent Toria Boon is a badass, so that helps.

MG: Give us a fun behind-the-scenes story from the production?
CP: There was this one room in the prison, it was the freezer room, that we had to film in. It felt like bad juju. the camera crew had burned incense and wore crystals, but for some reason that room really took a toll on a few of us actors. Was it supernatural play? Bad energy? Or something that wanted to drain us. Whatever it was, it was a very difficult room to film in.

MG: I can see “Death House” being a great franchise, what horror icon would you like to see on board for future films if they happened?
CP: Honestly, Jamie Lee Curtis or Sigourney Weaver.

MG: How does it feel to be earning the status of scream queen in the horror genre?
CP: Am I? *Blushes* Horror films are so much fun to make. They take a lot of work, more than what people think. Buy they’re some of my favorite movies to work on, so I appreciate the fans who like to watch my work!

MG: Do you have any other projects upcoming that you would like to shout out to?
CP: “Hooker Assassin”
“Your Own Road”
“Sunflower”
“Dead Ant”

James Furlong and I also are co-producing an action/drama called “Savvy Strong”, where I play an ex-marine out for vengeance. We having a production team on board and are looking to secure more financing.

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!

 

 

 

Animator Rick Farmiloe Talks About His Amazing Career

I hate to sound like Grandpa Simpson here, but “back in my day,” Saturday morning cartoons were…well they were cartoons. They weren’t 30 minute advertisements for toys (I’m looking at YOU, Transformers). Animator Rick Farmiloe remembers that time, and how his work then led him to a stint working on some of the greatest and best loved animated films in recent history.

Beginning on such shows as “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” and “The New Adventures of Tom and Jerry,” Mr. Farmiloe worked his way to the Disney Studios, where he helped with the animation of such early 1980 films as “The Great Mouse Detective” and “The Black Cauldron.” He continued working in television, including multiple episodes of “Ghostbusters” and “She Ra- Princess of Power.”

Back at Disney, he worked on “Oliver and Company,” then helped take Disney into an all new world of animation success, designing some of the most popular characters of all time, including Scuttle in “The Little Mermaid,” LeFou in “Beauty and the Beast” and Abu in “Aladdin.” He has also animated for Dreamworks (“The Prince of Egypt,” “Shrek”) and added his touch to “The Simpson’s Movie.”

To help spread the word that “Frozen” actresses Eva Bella, who played young Bella and Livvy Stubenrauch, who played young Anna will be appearing at the upcoming Kansas City Comic Con (Nov. 10th-12th), Mr. Farmiloe took some time out from his schedule to talk with me about his career.

Mike Smith: You began your career in what was, to me, the golden age of Saturday morning cartoons. How has the process and style of television animation changed since you started?

Rick Farmiloe: When I started in the late 1970’s all animation was still done in the US. Most of it now is sent overseas to keep down costs. Storyboarding is still done here, but the actual animation is done out of the country. TV animation was a good way for a young animator to get started. A lot of veterans were around to help with advice and drawing tips. These days there are a LOT more outlets and styles of animation. There were no ‘adult’ cartoons back then. It was all very safe and by the book. “The Simpsons” changed all that, and now TV animation runs the scale from pre-school to ‘R’ rated style shows.

MS: You’ve animated some of the true classic Disney characters of the past three decades. How are the characters assigned?

RF: At Disney we were cast just as actors would be cast. Those with very strong draftsmanship, or a bent towards more realistic characters would be cast on the leads. I always had a knack for doing more comical animation, so I was always cast to do funny sidekick characters. Those characters were always attractive to me because of the freedom to come up with funny things for my characters to do. I always wanted to ‘plus’ my animation, and if I could come up with an even funnier idea or gag, I was given the freedom to pitch it to the director. If he liked it, I gave it a shot. ALL animators were encouraged to improve upon ideas that were in the script or in storyboard form. A friend of mine once compared my animation to that of Ward Kimball, one of Disney’s famed ‘Nine Old Men’ because Ward pretty much only animated sidekicks as well. That was a huge compliment of course, but that was a role that I felt very comfortable with. I was never one of the best draftsmen at Disney, but I feel I had a talent at doing some funny animation. People still remember a lot of my scenes. I am very proud of that role.

MS: You’ve also worked on some non-Disney animated features. Are there different rules for animating for Disney as opposed to a studio like Dreamworks?

RF: At Dreamworks, Jeffrey Katzenberg made a decision to NOT be ‘Disney’. He was largely responsible for helping to create a style at Disney during the 80’s and early 90’s. He knew trying to be another Disney was the wrong way to go. The character designs and overall feel of the Dreamworks Films were much different from what was done at Disney, even though a lot of us came from Disney. He wanted the films to be for more mature audiences, not for small children but more like teens. “Prince of Egypt” was the first film in that style. It was a really bold choice in subject and style. I had to adjust my animation style to fit the subject matter. I animated the camel. I wanted to still make him funny, but without the usual broad animation and really cartoony style I was used to doing. I think the film holds up really well. I’ve always respected Jeffrey so much for wanting to come up with a new and unique style of filmmaking.

MS: Best show, in your opinion, between “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “South Park?”

RF: You forgot “Ren and Stimpy!” (laughs). I like all of those shows a lot! The writing on all of them is just so smart and never obvious. They are all more of an adult nature, but completely unique in style and content. They all have their copycats of course, especially “Ren and Stimpy!” But since you are FORCING me to pick only one, I’m going to have to go with “The Simpsons.” It was the first and still the most consistent. Matt Groening is an absolute genius. The show has been on the air since 1962 or something and still has that great quality. The reason it’s still on, if you ask me….and I think you did….is because people LOVE that family! They seem 100% real. And beneath the sarcasm and cynicism, there is a real love between all the family members. I was lucky enough to work on “The Simpsons Movie,” and got to see first hand how that franchise works so successfully! INCREDIBLE writing! It will probably be on long after we are all gone!

MS: What are you working on next?

RF: I am always doing freelance on one project or another! I just finished animating on a live action Chinese feature that has some sections of hand drawn animation. We are in the planning stages of doing some animation for a documentary/celebration film on the legendary band, Cheap Trick! My girlfriend Christi Haydon and I have teamed up on a fun project called “Full Moon Cartoons.” It is a one panel cartoon that deals with us as cartoon characters who have moved to a town called Full Moon Springs. It is inhabited solely by monsters! It has a very mid-century modern style to it. It deals with us just trying to fit into the monster world as comfortably as we can, with funny results. It comes out every Friday, which we call ‘Full Moon Friday.’ You can find it on a site called HorrorBuzz.com, and our Facebook page called Rick+Christi’s Full Moon Cartoons. It’s so much fun for us because we have EXACTLY the same sense of humor. I have loved drawing classic monsters my entire life. Christi is a writer and production designer who loves stylistic details, and is great with color choices. We also love traveling around the country appearing at numerous comic conventions, meeting fans and making lots of new friends! It’s a very exciting time.

You can also see more of Mr. Farmiloe’s work here.

The Cast and Director of Netflix’s Okja

Have you met Okja? The titular “super pig” is at the heart of Director Bong Joon Ho’s newest feature which is currently streaming on Netflix. The imaginative film follows Okja, a creature genetically engineered by the shady Mirando Corporation (headed by a boundlessly enthusiastic Tilda Swinton) as a source of new consumable meat product. In a longterm PR move, this super pig is farm-raised by a young girl in Korea named Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn) until, unbeknownst to Mija, she is scheduled to make her big trip to NYC where Mirando aims to cash in on their investment. What follows is a wild journey to the city where Mija encounters a radical PETA-like eco-group, the ALF, as well as some harsh realities of this film’s version of the terrifying food industry.

Last month, cast members Tilda Swinton, Seo-Hyun Ahn, Lily Collins, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun and Giancarlo Esposito gathered in New York along with Director Bong to give their insight on making the film and its message.

Some minor spoilers

Seo-Hyun Ahn carries the film as Mija, an acting and physical feat, her and Director Bong spoke via translators about developing her performance:

Ahn: [I] was always thinking how Mija would perceive all of the things that are happening and [I] would say [I] was there as an intermediate state and Director Bong helped [me] constantly think about why would Mija do this? And what would Mija think? That sort of helped [me] in maximizing how Mija would think in the story.

Director Bong: Ahn is very experienced and she’s very energetic and focused. So She has enough energy to confront Tilda or Paul. And because of this high energy whenever we were shooting the scenic mountain scenes, [I] tried to distract Mija as best as [I] could. Whenever [Ahn] was focusing on the script, [I] would distract her by talking about catering and talking about snacks in the snack corner. [I] did [my] best to distract her as best as possible because if you try too hard then there are times that the performance doesn’t come out right. And because there are so many great actors and actresses around, she might have been pressured into giving a poor performance. [I] did [my] best to try to relax her as much as possible.

As Lucy Mirando, and later Nancy Mirando, Tilda Swinton enjoyed working with her Snowpiercer Director Bong:

Swinton: It’s a very simple and relaxed business when working with someone like Director Bong who invites a kind of playfulness and as he just described , a kind of relaxedness in all his company, not just the performers, but in all departments. What he knows…is he wants people to be relaxed and really bring something fresh and creative. And that’s an environment that I love. It’s like a kind of playpen, it’s like a sandbox to me, it’s like kindergarten. Especially working with him, he’s my playmate.

The Mirando sisters are reminiscent in their emphatic, almost cult-leader like energy of Swinton’s Snowpiercer character Mason, she discussed their similarities:

Swinton: Yes we worked on Snowpiercer together, Director Bong and I, and we kind of whipped up this insane burlesque, Mason, who is supposed to be beyond any reality but as it happens, it seems that we were behind the curve [laughs] With this one we wanted to come at the idea of a fool-clown-villain in a slightly different way. We wanted to find different ways—the different faces of high capitalism and exploitation. And so we decided in fact to split it in fact, either into a schizophrenic—I mean I sometimes wonder whether there are two people here, whether actually there isn’t one. You know because let’s face it when Lucy fades away, Nancy appears and vice-versa. So we wanted to look at two different ways of messing the world up. So we have Nancy, who is the—she doesn’t fall far from the tree of their toxic, horrendous father. And then Lucy, who is so determined to be different. She’s driving 180 degrees away from Nancy and trying to be all user-friendly and “woke” and squeaky clean. And lovable. So it was an opportunity to look at these two different faces. But I suppose you know, especially when you’re working together and your collaboration over projects, the conversation is kind of the same conversation that just evolves and goes into a whole new area. All sorts of conversations we had about Mason just sort of moved into conversations about the Mirandos. So yeah, they are cousins of a sort. And they ALL have teeth. [Laughs]

Director Bong is no stranger to centralizing creatures as metaphors in his stories, after his successful feature The Host, and he spoke about using them in that way:

Director Bong: [I’m] always drawn into creature films and creatures. However in The Host, the creature was a monster who attacked people and in Okja the creature is a very intimate friend of the protagonist Mija. They sleep together, they have a lot of interaction, they hug each other and because of this interaction, it required a lot of cutting edge visual effects work which was [my] first challenge. So it’s a pig and now in retrospect [I’m] wondering when [I contemplate why I] chose a pig as the animal. [I think] there’s no better animal than the pig that humans associate with food. Ham, sausage, jerky, etc etc. But in reality, pigs are very delicate, sophisticated and smart and obviously clean. [I think] that the way the two perspectives we have when we look at animals are all coalesced inside a pig. Through the one perspective, we look at animals as family and friends, as pets. And the other perspective is when we look at animals as food. And [I believe] these two perspectives co-exist inside a pig. In our every day lives, people try to separate these two universes apart. We play with our pets in the day and at night, we have a steak dinner. But in this film, we try to merge those two universes together and try to create this sense of discomfort…A creature film is a very effective tool to create special commentary and to get commentary in the world that we live in.

Lily Collins and Steven Yeun are both play part of the fictional eco-group led by Paul Dano and they talked about their views of such groups and animal rights activism in light of doing the film:

Collins: I’ve always been weirdly interested in food documentaries so during the prep of this movie, I watched more and Director Bong gave us all this ALF handbook. We saw lots of really difficult images of animals and treatment and the facilities…And I’m not a red-meat eater anyway, so it wasn’t that I changed my food habits or my eating habits but I definitely became more of a conscious consumer in many other types of products. I think the great thing about this film though is that it speaks to so many different types of themes—you know, nutrition and environment, politics, love, innocence lost. There’s just so many different things to be taken from this film that I think are dealt with in a way that never tutorialized [sic], but always just prompts conversations…I think what Director Bong is amazing at is taking so many different things and presenting them to you. Never telling you how to think, but if you leave the theater thinking something, we’ve done our job right.

Yeun: …I really enjoyed working with director Bong. Mostly because he likes to just tell it to you how it is, with all the gray. And so, when you get to dive into [something] like the ALF, I know that we were playing a characterization of people that are really doing stuff like this, but I feel like one thing it sheds a light on–at least for myself–was why does an individual sign up for something like this? And they’re all different. Especially in our little subgroup of the ALF. Every single character had a different reason for being there. Or had different ethics that were willing to go far or less than the other person next to them. And I think it an interesting study in that regard because sometimes you see the ALF, as they intend, to just be this giant glob organization, or anything in that way. But when you pick apart the specific individuals that take part in something like this it’s interesting to see that not all the interests necessarily align.

Animal rights groups in real life sometimes draw criticism for their tactics and in this film we see the ALF arguing for non-violence while taking part in it, Director Bong on that contradiction:

Director Bong: There’s definitely a level of contradiction within the group ALF. Even in the film, the ALF shout that they hate violence but you can see throughout the film that they constantly inflict it. They have a very noble cause and you can understand the cause. But the film also portrays them to at times [to] look foolish and portray them making very human mistakes. Simply put, [I think] they’re humans just like us. Even Lucy Mirando. She doesn’t feel like she’s a pure villain or villainess in the pure sense. She also has flaws and a fragility. There’s a moment in the dressing room scene where Lucy talks to Frank and she raises the super pig jerky and says ‘its a shame that we have to tell these little white lies’… That was an honest moment on her part. Whether that be the Mirando Corporation or the ALF members, [I want] to embrace them within the boundaries of humanity where they have flaws or they make mistakes. Actually every character in this movie is pathetic except Mija and Okja.

Dano: And how complicated it is to put a beautiful young girl in the middle of all that contradiction, you know? it’s really one of the special things about the story….I like that the film to me, even though it has many topical issues, I don’t think it’s overly preaching. It’s too complicated for that. Even Mija eats chicken stew, or catches the fish and throws the little fish back in. That’s such an important detail for this film to be true. And even though it has a fantasy animation-comic-book-graphic-novel sort of level to it, I like the truth in the contradictions.

Finally the cast gave their initial response to this project:

Collins:…You know, you sit down with Director Bong–my first meeting with director Bong was at 11am and he orders ice cream and starts talking about this pig, and I go ‘OK, I think I know what I’m signing on for!?’ [Laughs] And I fell in love with the idea that he could see me as this character and I don’t think a lot of people would have been able to see me as someone like this. But it’s so much. It’s a love story, it’s a drama, it’s a comedy, it’s an action movie, it’s a fantasy movie. It’s kind of everything you’ve ever wanted to see in one movie. And yeah…It was a moment of enlightenment really, when you read it.

Giancarlo Esposito: For me it was in many ways a return to innocence. Odd for me to say after having played [Mirando corporation lackey] Frank Dawson, but this story is so absolutely beautiful in its very connected relationship message. It doesn’t matter what that relationship is. It could be a child with their goldfish in the tank who is their best friend, or it could be Okja. But that warmth, that sensitivity and that understanding that’s developed in that relationship, for me, guided me back to thinking about my loss of innocence. When did I grow up? And how could I unlearn that growing up and see the world in a new light? Many times we are so smart, that we are ignorant and they say that education is learned ignorance. We, as performers who fantasize about telling our stories, that will make a comment on our–a social comment, a political comment, an artistic comment– through our creativity, are gifted with our ultimate gift to still remain somewhere in our heart and soul, that beautiful child that Mija is.

Swinton: I didn’t read the script for a long time because I was privileged to be a part of the cloud of the idea before it ever came to script stage. I remember very clearly Director Bong, when we went to Seoul for the premiere of Snowpiercer, he drove us to the airport the following day and leaned over the back of the seat of the car and showed me this drawing of the pig and the girl and that was it. That was three years before there was a script. But even before that moment, I have to say that one of the bonds we share is a great love of the master Hayao Miyazaki, in particular My Neighbor Totoro, and in fact we regularly sing the Totoro theme tune. It’s a thing we do. And so, the second I saw this drawing, I saw that. I this as an opportunity to fill to that homage. But also we talked about the twin sisters in Spirited Away, which I think was the seed of the Mirando sisters. Yeah, so I was, you know, I was in before it existed. Put it that way.

Conference has been edited for length and clarity. Okja is available to stream now on Netflix.

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