Stellan Skarsgard and Emily Watson on HBO’s “CHERNOBYL”

Chernobyl filmmakers on the red carpet

In April 1986 the most catastrophic man-made incident the planet had ever seen occurred when reactor 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded during what should have been a safety test. The effects of the accident still wreak havoc over the landscape and containing the fallout has become an industry unto itself. It’s a job which will require centuries of human support. Tonight on HBO, Craig Mazin’s five-part miniseries, CHERNOBYL, dives deep into the the accident as it happened and the human cost and bravery it required to ensure that this tragedy did not engulf still millions more.

This past week at the Tribeca Film Festival, Mazin and his talented cast debuted the first two episodes of the series on the accident’s 33rd anniversary. The premiere episode was nothing short of a nightmare as the series delves into, in brutal detail, the accident and the shocking mishandling of both the initial fire and the surrounding population in those crucial first hours and days of fallout. It was a tense first hour and a brilliant setup into the second which saw the introduction of the scientists and politicians who then had to set about handling what was to come. The second episode in particular sees a stellar performance from Stellan Skarsgard as he plays a man coming to grips with his own mortality and entreating fellow countrymen to show selflessness so that millions can be saved. I spoke with Skarsgard, who also offered brief comments on his upcoming work in DUNE, as well as co-star Emily Watson on the red carpet about their own knowledge of the accident as it happened and the timely message this series has to offer in regards to listening to scientists.

“I think it’s a parable for our times. I think you ignore the truth and scientists at your peril. ” – Emily Watson

Emily Watson plays Ulana Khomyuk, a character created for the show as an entry-point into the role of a collection of European scientists in the fallout of Chernobyl.

Lauren Damon: Your character isn’t one specific person, but represents a collection of people involved with the accident, did you speak to people who experienced this?

Emily Watson: No. It’s sort of in tribute to many of the scientists who worked on the discovery of what happened. So I kind of had a bit of a blank sheet really to make up what I wanted to do. But Craig had written the character as coming from Belarus, which is a place that suffered terribly in the second world war. And she would have been a young child at that time, so that gave me a sense of just finding someone who was very very tough. It made her the perfect person really to go after the truth and find out what happened.

Do you remember when you were first aware of the Chernobyl accident in your life?

Watson: Yeah, I was a student at university and I remember there were students at my college who were on a year out, away in Kiev, and they all had to come home pretty quickly, it was very scary.

Did you have any misconceptions about the event going into this project that the script changed for you?

Watson: Oh my god, when I started reading the script, I had no idea that sort of within a few days–sort of 48 hours after the first explosion–there could have been one that was ten times worse. That would have taken out half of Europe.

In theory you could have been in range of those effects?

Watson: Definitely in range of radiation fallout…But yeah, it could have been much much worse. It was due to the heroism of the people on the ground who contained it and prevented it from being much worse.

What’s the biggest take away you’d like viewers to get from this series?

Watson: I think it’s a parable for our times. I think you ignore the truth and scientists at your peril.

Stellan Skarsgard plays Boris Shcherbina, the Deputy Head of the Soviet Government at the time.

What did you find surprising from hearing about Chernobyl originally in 1986 and then from working on this project?

Stellan Skarsgard: What I knew from ’86 was what you got from news media, which gave you a sort of superficial idea of what actually happened. What we learned through working with this material is I know now what technically went wrong, how the reactor works and what the mistakes they made were.

You also learn about it [was] more grave, the sort of the political system–the impact that had on the accident. When you have a system that is supposed to be perfect, you cannot allow any dissent in terms of somebody criticizing anything you do or any flaws cannot be accepted. And that then means that the truth was suppressed. It was all over the Soviet Union at the time. I mean truth is suppressed also for other reasons in the west now. I mean when you talk about Fukushima that was money that suppressed truth and created disaster there. In Boeing, you sent planes that are not fit for flying because you want to make money. So another way of suppressing truth and science. I think it’s important, an important film because it–not only because it talks about what we’re doing to this planet, the environment, which is really scary, but it also talks about how important it is that we listen to people who know what they’re talking about.

Facts are facts. They are not just individual ideas. Some facts you have to deal with and you have to accept and we have to listen to scientists. I mean 98% of the scientists in the world say that we are heading for a catastrophe in terms of global warming. We cannot ignore that. Do not ignore that.

Tell us about your character

Skarsgard: My character I’m playing Boris Shcherbina who was a minister in the government and who got the responsibility for cleaning up the mess. And he’s a man who spent his entire life working within the system and defending the system and he ends up realizing that this accident is a result of the system. And he has to question the system and he also has to decide whether he should keep on defending the system that is flawed. Or if he should start defending the truth.

Skarsgard’s next film role is in the highly anticipated adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic, DUNE, where he’ll play the villainous Baron Harkonnen

Lauren Damon: Have you begun work on DUNE as Baron Harkonnen?

Skarsgard:I haven’t started shooting yet, we’re still doing prosthetics work

That’s what I was wondering! Because the Baron is such a grotesque character but when you were cast I remember looking at a shot of you as Bootstrap Bill [Skarsgard’s heavily barnacled Pirates of the Caribbean role] and thinking ‘This man can handle anything they put on him!’

Skarsgard: [Laughs] That’s very nice of you! Thank you. I will probably spend probably six to eight hours a day in makeup and it will look fantastic.

“I will probably spend probably six to eight hours a day in makeup and it will look fantastic.” -Stellan Skarsgard on his upcoming DUNE role

What are you most excited about in doing that project?

Skarsgard: It’s a great story. It’s a fantastic world and Denis Villeneuve is a director that I’ve always wanted to work with. So I’m really happy, he’s a wonderful man and a great director. So I think–except for the eight hours in makeup–I think I’ll have a fun time.

Chernobyl airs tonight at 9pm on HBO

Interview with Oscar Winner Richard Dreyfuss

With my 15th birthday approaching, my father asked me what I wanted to do.  Having been intrigued by the television commercials for a new film, “Dog Day Afternoon,” I told him I wanted to see that movie.  On Sunday, September 21, 1975, my father dropped me off at the University Square Mall Cinema in Tampa to see the movie.  Sadly, I didn’t know it was rated “R” and was told I couldn’t buy a ticket.  As I began to dejectedly walk away, the girl in the ticket booth called out to me “have you seen JAWS yet?”  I hadn’t.  124 minutes later, my life was changed.

I include this because of what I did after the film.  Like a normal kid, I wrote fan letters to the three stars.  I soon received a letter from Richard Dreyfuss’ cousin, Arlene, who informed me that she ran Richard’s fan club.  If I wanted to join, it would cost me $5.00 (a week’s allowance at that time).  I immediately sent her the money, along with a note saying “if you ever need any help.”  Within a few months, I was helping her with the club – basically I handled the fans east of the Mississippi river.  It was a great time for a teenager.  I’d scour the newspapers for articles about Richard and each month would send out a packet to the fans, which usually consisted of Xeroxed newspaper clippings and the occasional photograph.  Not sure how many members were in the club, but when it disbanded in November 1978, shortly after the release of “The Big Fix,” I was dealing with almost 1,000 fans.

A collection of photographs sent to fans

I’ve been very fortunate to have met Mr. Dreyfuss twice in my life.  Once, in Baltimore, when he was on the set of the film “Tin Men,” and in July 2017 when we were both guests at a Hollywood Celebrity Show.  At that show I was able to stand near his table and listen to him tell the most amazing stories.  I mention this because Mr. Dreyfuss is currently traveling around the country, offering fans the opportunity to take in AN EVENING WITH RICHARD DREYFUSS.  He will be in Kansas City this week (April 4th) and I have been honored to have been chosen the moderator of the event.  Call it practice, but I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Dreyfuss and ask him some questions, a few of which may be included when we’re together Thursday night.

Mike Smith:  What led you to pursue a career in acting?

Richard Dreyfuss:  Wow!  I don’t know….what leads someone to follow what they love?  I don’t think I really had a choice. 

MS:  Was there a film or performer that inspired you?  I acted a lot through my 20s but couldn’t make a living at it, but the inspiration came from wanting to do what YOU did.  I know you’re a fan of actors like Charles Laughton, Irene Dunne and Spencer Tracy, among others.  Were they the catalyst?

RD:  They were, of course.  I have no memory of NOT wanting to be an actor.  I think the first time I got on record was when I was nine years old.  We had just moved to California from New York, and I said to my mother, “I want to be an actor.”  And she said, “Don’t just talk about it.”  So I went down to the local Jewish Community Center and auditioned for a play.  And I really never stopped.  I realistically never had more than ten days when I wasn’t acting in a play, or a scene or a class or a job until I was 27. 

MS:  You made your film debut in two very different films in 1967 – “The Graduate” and “The Valley of the Dolls.”  What do you think is the biggest difference between filmmaking then and today?

RD:  There are so many.  The general level of quality for an actor has plummeted.  When I was younger I never hesitated telling young actors to “go for it”…to pursue it.  And now I don’t say that, because the real rewards are so rare…so few and far between  The quality of scrips, from an acting viewpoint, suck.  The sequel syndrome that we’re in, which we can’t seem to get out of, has really lessoned the level of quality of writing.  Of story.  And it seems more arbitrarily decided upon as an element of chicanery and thievery, even for a business that’s famous for it, it goes on.  Film acting is not something I really recommend.  If you want to be an actor in America you can live a very great and satisfied life if you never think about being a star.  You can have a great life in Kansas City.  Or St. Louis.  Or a million other places.  But if you want to go for that kind of brass ring, which I would question – if you do want to go for it, go to therapy first – you’ve got to go to L.A. or New York.  And those towns are pretty sick.

Mr. Dreyfuss’s break-out role – Curt in “American Graffiti”

MS:  You famously almost turned down your role in “Jaws.”  Are there any roles you turned down and then later regretted your decision?

RD:  Oh yeah.  I was once watching a movie and I kept thinking, gosh, this seems so familiar.”  I thought “oh, shit,” and then I remembered why.  And I didn’t ALMOST turn down “Jaws,” I did turn it down.  I turned it down twice.  And then I changed my mind and begged for the part.  (NOTE:  The story goes like this.  After turning down “Jaws” – twice – Mr. Dreyfuss saw his upcoming film “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” and thought his performance was so terrible that he’d never work again.  He then called director Steven Spielberg and accepted the role.  Of course, when “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” was released, Mr. Dreyfuss received rave reviews for his performance, even being named Runner Up as the Best Actor of 1974 (tied with Gene Hackman for “The Conversation”) by the New York Film Critics Circle.)

I will never tell you the ones I turned down that became hits.  Thank God there aren’t that many of them!

As Matt Hooper in “Jaws”

MS:  What fuels the passion for your work?

RD:  If you asked me a question about my process – how do you do this…what’s your method? – I would completely be unable to answer that.  And I’ve always known I’d never be able to answer those kind of questions.  But I know that, in a business where if you’re a successful actor you want to direct, I’ve never wanted to direct.  So I didn’t.  I wanted to act!  I had made a decision when I was very young, which probably wasn’t the most strategist thing to do in the world, but it was the way I chose to live.  Which is to day, if I do a drama, then I’ll do a comedy.  Then I’ll do a drama.  Then I’ll do a comedy.  That’s basically what I tried to do.  And the mistake in that is that I don’t think I ever did something enough times to establish a kind of signature recognition of what I do.  I did both.  I did lots.  And I thought that was the best way for me to pursue my life.  And that’s what I did for sixty years. 

MS:  Where do you keep your Oscar? (NOTE:  Mr. Dreyfuss received the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Elliot Garfield in “The Goodbye Girl.”  At age 30, he was, at the time, the youngest actor to win that award).

As Elliot Garfield in “The Goodbye Girl”

RD:  For the most part, in the refrigerator.  (laughs).  I always want people to know about it, but I don’t want to brag.  But I figure that sooner or later they’re going to open the refrigerator. 

And I’m also very aware that the list of actors who were ever nominated or won an Oscar is as great a list as the ones who never were.  It’s a wonderful evening, but it’s rarely more than that.  It’s a great evening.  You’re aware of the film work because the audience for film is in the millions.  But I make no distinction between film and theater.  And, of course, the audience for the theater work I’ve done will be 1/100th of that of the film audience.  But to me, it was always – if not equal than more important –so that is something that I travel with.  I have a little bucket list of things that I check off every once in a while.  “OK, you did a Broadway show…check.”  From the time I was nine, into my teenage years, I was always in acting classes.  At acting schools.  I was always with actors.  And they would always talk about a “National” theater.  And I would say, “There’s never going to be a National theater in this country.  However, there could be fifty “State” theaters.  And, as someone who lives in Kansas City, I would say to you that, something that people should not ignore, is the fact that we are from so many different places…so many different cultures…that we come together as Americans only when we’re HERE, and we learn to be Americans.  And each of us, whether you live in Seattle or Mississippi, you have different strains of a culture.  And I have always wanted each state to have its own theater.  And, in a state like California, which is huge, you could have two, anchored North and South.  And, instead of trying to get everyone to agree on A National Theater, we could have one in every state.  It’s silly to think we can’t afford a State theater, to be able to see how Missourians and Floridians and North Dakotans approach theater.  I think that would be a great endeavor and a great thing to do.  Only because we teach so few things that we share. We’ve actually given up on the notion of teaching things that are of shared values.  And that’s causing this terrible breach in the country.  And we should try to find things that we can share.  And one of them could just be the artistic endeavor of a State theater. 

MS:  That makes a lot of sense.

RD:  And they’ll never do it (laughs).

MS:  Quick follow-up to the Oscar question, one of your fellow nominees that year was Richard Burton.  When Sylvester Stallone read the name of the winner, and you heard “Richard” did you think Burton had one?

RD:  My competition was Burton, Marcello Mastroianni, John Travolta and Woody Allen.  There was no easy answer.  But I just knew I was going to win it.  (laughs)  That’s all I cared about. 

Richard Dreyfuss with his Oscar – named Best Actor of 1977 for “The Goodbye Girl”

MS:  Me too, that night.  I always wonder how people sometimes vote.  You were also nominated for “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” but I thought you were most deserving four years earlier for “Once Around.”

RD:  It’s probably the easiest vote to define.  There are two ways people vote in the Academy.  One is, you vote for your friend.  Or, you vote for who you think is best.  In that order.  It’s simple.  You may not be able to predict it, but that’s the way people vote.  And it’s the reason why people do vote.  It’s not a mystery.  The only thing wrong with the Oscars now is that there are too many other awards, and it’s cheapened the whole thing. 

For more information on attending AN EVENING WITH RICHARD DREYFUSS, either in Kansas City or at a later date, click HERE.

NOTE: Mr. Dreyfuss wanted me to stress that, even though his appearance will be followed by a screening of “Jaws,” he will be discussing his entire career. So whether you’re a fan of “American Graffiti,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” or want to know about his fantastic cameo in “Piranha,” come on out and listen to some amazing stories.

Actor Ian Shaw talks about portraying his father in his new “Jaws”-inspired play.

As many of you readers know, both myself and Mike Gencarelli (your favorite “Mikes”) appear in the brilliant “Jaws” documentary entitled “The Shark is Still Working.”  The film tells the story of the making and the impact of the 1975 blockbuster.  But there are stories still to be told.  Ian Shaw, whose father Robert portrayed Quint in “Jaws,” has written a play, based on stories his father told him about the production, entitled “The Shark is Broken.”

Like his parents (his mother was the brilliant actress Mary Ure), Shaw is an accomplished actor with many film and television credits to his name.  In what I call a stroke of irony, Ian portrayed Colonel Paul Tibbets, the pilot who dropped the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan in the television film “Hiroshima.”  “Jaws” fans will remember that Quint was a sailor on board the U.S.S. Indianapolis, the ship that carried the bomb to the island of Tinian, where Tibbets began his mission.  

Mr. Shaw took some time out recently to speak with Media Mikes about his latest project.

Mike Smith:  What can you tell us about “The Shark is Broken?”

Ian Shaw:  It’s 1974. Martha’s Vineyard. Three iconic actors are confined together during the tortuous filming of what will one day be regarded as the greatest blockbuster movie of all time  Forced into close proximity by studio politics, endless delays and foul weather, the three must deal with violent outbursts, squabbles, rampant egos, petty rivalries and the fact that the mechanical shark keeps breaking down.  This causes their insecurities to run riot. Is this film going to ruin their careers? Who is going to want to see a film about sharks with hardly any shark in it? And who is the star of the movie anyway? 

MS:  What inspired you to take on this project?

IS:  Like so many people, I’ve always loved the film, except of course I have the personal connection of being Robert Shaw’s son.  The film is a rare combination of elements combining to maximum effect: the performances, the music, the design, the writing, the direction, the cinematography and editing all combine to create a fantastic amount of tension and emotional reaction from the audience.  That’s really hard to do. When I was a little older, I read Carl Gottlieb’s spellbinding account of how they managed to achieve it, The Jaws Log.  What particularly fascinated me were the problems they had with “Bruce”, the nickname for the shark, named after Steven Spielberg’s lawyer.  Then there’s the sheer audaciousness of filming at sea, the relationships with the locals, and the tensions between my father and Richard Dreyfuss.  Both of whom I admire hugely, I might add.

Ian Shaw sneaks a peek at “Bruce” while visiting his father on the set of “Jaws” in 1974. (Photo used with the kind permission of Ian Shaw)

MS:  You started your professional acting career in your mid-20s.  Was there any reticence on your part to pursue the profession, being th son of two very distinguished actors?

IS:  No.  I had a wonderful drama teacher at my school, Michael Walsh.  From the age of eight, I was performing in school plays, and I fell in love with the process.  And I think if your parents are actors, you think it’s a perfectly normal thing to do. Later on I discovered how hard it was for other actors from different backgrounds to make the leap.  I just made a promise to myself one day that I would pursue the path of an actor. I can remember the exact moment, as if it was yesterday. I was standing outside the school gym, where we used to put on plays. Even though I was very confident, probably with the arrogance of youth, I told myself it might take a long time to become successful! So there was never any question about what I would do. You can’t break a promise to an eight year old!  

Your older brother, Colin, portrayed your father’s character as a young boy in “The Deep.”  You bear a striking resemblance to your father.  Would you consider portraying him in a project?

IS:  Well, here we go – I’m playing him in The Shark Is Broken.  Wish me luck…

MS:  What else are you working on?

IS:  I’m also performing with the actors Duncan Henderson and David Mounfield in our adaptation of three Damon Runyon stories – the show is called Broadway Stories, and it will alternate nightly with The Shark Is Broken at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival, Venue – Assembly Festival, George Square.  Damon Runyon is best known for being the source material for the musical “Guys and Dolls.”  His short stories, which centered around the world of New York’s Broadway, took in what might be seen as the seedier side of life; a place of gamblers, molls, hustlers, dames and gangsters. With an utterly distinctive vernacular he described this hard, and often illicit world, but without the usual judgement or dismissal.   The first story is about a woman who murders her husbands for the life insurance.  The second is a study of the relationship between a half blind cat and a mobster holed out in a derelict hideout. The last is a comedy about an eating contest. 

NOTE:  Readers interested in helping get THE SHARK IS BROKEN to the sage can click HERE

Information about the upcoming performances of THE SHARK IS BROKEN and BROADWAY STORIES will soon be available HEREh

Exploring the Plotaverse with Sascha Scheider

I recently came across an article detailing a new way to present photographs in such a way that the still image came to life.  As I read the piece I was intrigued by the name of one of the co-founders of Team Plotaverse, Sascha Scheider.  Imagine my surprise, and genuine joy, to discover she is granddaughter of the late actor Roy Scheider.  Impressed with what I read I contacted Ms. Scheider, who at age 26, was recently named to the 2019 Forbes magazine Consumer Technology 30 under 30 list.

I contacted Ms. Scheider and she graciously agreed to this interview.  After a few minutes of both of us sharing stories about her grandfather, we got down to business.

Mike Smith:  What exactly IS the Plotaverse?

Sascha Scheider:  The Plotaverse is a digital sharing platform.  I started it with my partner, Christopher Plota, who is a professional fashion, advertising and celebrity photographer.  He’s been in the industry for 30 years and has always been on the cutting edge of technology.  I have a background in painting, business and the arts.  We got together and started talking about what we could do because in the industry a lot of photography is just going straight to video.  And when you become a photographer and are passionate about that, you don’t want to just shoot video.  You want to shoot photos.  They are really two completely different things.  So when we started talking I told him that I was seeing the same thing in the fine-art world.  Artists are trying to stay relevant but aren’t sure how because everyone is moving towards moving images.  How do we help them?  He has been animating still images since the early 2000’s.  He told me about his process and we started talking about it.  When we met we became inseparable.  He’s my partner, he’s my boyfriend.  (laughs)  We’re partners in every way.  So we started developing and creating things.  We started off with Plotagraph, which is our image animation technology.  We started out on desktop and now it’s on mobile – featured in the app store, it’s number one in photo/video.  We had no idea it was going to take off this big. 

While we were creating Plotagraph we also discussed creating a community.  At the time we were living in Florence, Italy, where I studied art for almost four years.  I had an apartment there so we were in Florence taking about creating a community.  So last year, on Valentine’s Day, we launched Plotaverse, which is our mutual sharing platform where you can post high quality digital art.  Plotaverse is the whole community for the entire motion-art movement.  It’s not just Plotagraph.  It’s Cinemagraph, time-lapses, motion graphics…really anything you can think of.  We’ve added Plotaeffects and Plotamorph.  This is a hub which is one big creative tool.  

MS:  What has been the response from people that have used the site?

SS:  It’s been amazing.  They see what can be done with just one photo and they realize they can do the same thing with all of their photos.  Historic photos.  New photos.  You have your photo and you can “move” any part of the image you want to.  Say you had a photo from Jaws and you want the water to move while the shark stays still.  You can do that!  And it’s almost like being on a loop…it never ends.  And it’s very easy today to take photos.  Cameras are everywhere, even in phones.  And the process is eye-catching.  We are seeing that, when used on social media, topics are getting 10 times more engagement using an app from the Plotaverse.  Paris Hilton started using it last July on Instagram and since then she’s gained  5.7 million followers.  And we see it working well with advertising.  They say a picture tells a thousand words.  It already has a story.  It has a dialogue.  It’s just not moving.  When you add some of our technology you’re still telling the same story but you’re getting your message across a lot easier.  

People today have an attention span of about six seconds.  The days of the 30-second spot are going away.  But how can you make a whole video in six seconds?  How are you going to get that message across?  That’s were the Plotaverse really comes in and saves the day.  You already have the story within the image but now it’s moving and looping those six seconds.  

MS:  Last year you held a very successful contest in conjunction with Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday.  Are you planning anything for this year?

SS:  Right now we have nothing planned but I’ll definitely keep you posted. 

MS:  What’s next for the Plotaverse?  Do you have more surprises in the works?

SS:  Absolutely.  We recently launched PlotaTV, which will be a series of interviews covering the world of motion arts.  They will be educating and helping the community understand what motion art is and how they can use it to help monetize their work.  The whole idea is giving these artist a way to bring their art to the next level.  We also have plans for more apps down the line.  

TO DISCOVER THE PLOTAVERSE, CLICK HERE

FOR THE COMPLETE LIST OF FORBES 30 UNDER 30, CLICK HERE

Actor – and Bronson Lookalike – Robert Kovacs talks about his new film “Death Kiss”

If you were walking down the street and passed by actor Robert Kovacs nobody would question if you did a double-take or two.  Ruggedly handsome, the Hungarian-born actor and stuntman bears more than a strong resemblance to one of the greatest icons of action cinema, Charles Bronson.

Capitalizing  on that resemblance, Mr. Kovacs is currently starring in the action-thriller DEATH KISS, currently available ON DEMAND from Uncork’d Entertainment.

Nicknamed “Bronzi” by his friends, Mr. Kovacs took time out from promoting his new film to chat with Media Mikes.

 

When did you come down with the acting bug, Robert?

I have always loved film. Since seeing the Westerns on the movie theatre screens as a boy. This caused me to work as a stunt man and live performer at Wild West shows all across Europe including Almeria, Spain where I was the Sheriff for many years.  Performing in front of tourists at the same locations the epic films of Sergio Leone were filmed.

Did you go to acting school?

Yes, I attended acting school at the Maria Mezey Theatre School in Budapest.

 What was your first project? 

Aside from Live Performances I have also been featured in commercial print ads for many European Brands and featured in a series of commercials for one of Europe’s largest  supermarket chains. They featured me as a Bronson-type character to promote sales in their Grilling Season promos. Much fun and very successful. But my first film was years ago, a Western called American Night.

 Who was the first person to tell you looked like Charles Bronson?

My good friend Peter. We were very young men and worked together in horse breeding. He would always say “ You look like him.” “ You look like Bronson. “ So he begins calling me Bronzi. It kind of stuck.

 And is this the first film where you’ve emulated him?

The first film where I portrayed a character similar to Bronson was From Hell To The Wild West also by Director Rene Perez. (NOTE:  Mr. Perez is also the director of Death Kiss).  The character was a stranger with no name hot on the trail of a serial killer. The stranger was a man of few words who let his pistols do the talking.

 Is there anything you had to do to ‘perfect’ your look for the film?

I grew my hair in a more familiar style and trimmed my mustache just right. Rene had many suggestions and I listened closely and followed them. Much of what you see is naturally how I move but he greatly showed me how he perceived the character.

How different is Death Kiss to Death Wish

I think they are very different films. Similar in tone with a tale of vengeance or retribution but a very different approach. The stranger is more mysterious in nature and less transparent. So his actions may be perceived as darker in intent. Also Death Kiss is a much smaller film so the emphasis on action and gun-play are more at the forefront.

Did you have to do any weapons training?

I train regularly with replica firearms. I do stunt work as well with most of it being firearms related stunts. I also perform often as a costumed reenactor of famous battles in Europe. This also requires the use of period replica powder firing rifles and cannons.

Do you do your own stunts?

I do. I work hard to keep my body in shape. I have been a stunt man in live shows. Everything from saloon brawls to falling off horses. Maybe even a building or two. I have trained as an acrobat and continue to lift weights daily as well as regular conditioning, Judo training and a few nights a week I do Thai Boxing.

How about a sequel?

If the fans would be so kind as wanting a sequel and Rene has something in mind I think the Stranger still has much work to do.

 

 

 

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.

 

Related Content

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 getting 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.

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