David Mickey Evans reflects on the 20th Anniversary of “The Sandlot”

Even if I had never seen 1993’s “The Sandlot” I could have quoted it line by line for you. I coached youth baseball for 15 years and it was, by far, the most quoted baseball film on the field. “You’re killing me, Smalls!” “You’re an L7 weenie.” And, of course, “you play ball like a girl!” Nothing like enjoying the good sportsmanship of 13 and 14 year olds. But if you’re going to be a ballplayer you need to talk like a ballplayer. And at one time, writer/director David Mickey Evans was a ballplayer.

Now touring the country in conjunction with the 20th Anniversary of “The Sandlot,” Mr. Evans has behind him an impressive resume of filmmaking. I first discovered his work when I took in 1992’s “Radio Flyer.” Inspired by his own turbulent childhood, the film was a moving look at the bond between two brothers dealing with a brutal step-father. (NOTE: I met Adam Baldwin, who played the step-father in the film, this past summer and I told him the same thing I told Mary Tyler Moore when I met her after seeing “Ordinary People” – – -“I HATED you in this film.” He thanked me.) The next year saw the release of his most popular film, “The Sandlot.” Since then he has written and/or directed popular sequels to both “The Sandlot” as well as in the “Beethoven” series. During our pre-interview conversation I discover we both not only played baseball as kids but were huge fans of the popular sports books of the 1960s and 70s written by Matt Christopher. We also talked about the game of baseball and our love for it. That’s where the interview begins.

Mike Smith: I know you’re a big baseball fan. Did you play when you were younger?
David Mickey Evans: Oh yeah. We occasionally played organized Little League but you had to pay money and we were really poor. So most of the time we’d play in park leagues. You’d have the dude that owned the local bar getting you T-shirts…kind of like “The Bad News Bears.” I was really good. I played in quite a few local leagues near Pacoima (California) in the San Fernando Valley. I was on the Cardinals…the Giants…I was on the Indians, which was a big team, when I was about eleven. If memory serves…I wonder if you can find this on the Internet…I think I hit .560.

MS: Was “The Sandlot” inspired by any of your childhood baseball memories?
DME: Here’s the thing. The “A-Ha” moment for me was an incident I remembered from when I was a kid. The kids on the block didn’t like my friends and I. They would beat the crap out of us all the time. There were playing baseball one day and they hit their ball over the fence. They told my little brother to go get it. They said if he did then we could play with them. Of course, they had no intention of that. They just wanted their ball back. And there was a big dog on the other side of the fence named Hercules that went after my brother and bit him…ripped his leg to shreds. It was a bad memory. But one day I was in my car and I thought, “wait a minute…what if these guys were all buddies? What if that ball was worth $3 million?” I’ve got a movie. None of the kids in the film are any kid I knew. All of the kids are an amalgam of EVERY kid I knew. But what I like to say most about the film is this. When Walt Disney finished Disneyland in a year and a day and he’s walking down Main Street U.S.A…and still, today, of all the parks Disneyland is still the best…and he has some dignitaries with him. Now Main Street U.S.A. is modeled after the way Walt Disney remembered growing up in Marceline, Missouri. It wasn’t actually his boyhood home but it was the one he identified with. The dignitaries say to him “Walt, you did it. This is exactly the way it was back then.” Disney tells them that it’s not. It’s the way it should have been. “The Sandlot” is the way I wanted my childhood to have been. That’s not how it was. Luckily God has given writers a time machine…a pencil on paper. (My work phone rings) Is that a flip phone?
MS: Yeah, it’s my work phone.
DME: Where did you get that? (laughs) I didn’t know they still exist!

MS: One of the questions my son asked me to ask you was if any of the boys you played with went on to play professional baseball. Was there a real life Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez?
DME: You know there’s always that kid. I remember one or two kids from grade school…when you get to about third or fourth grade you start recognizing them…they’re just BETTER athletes. Or students. You just start noticing them and you want to be like them. You wish you could kick that kickball as far as they can. And that kind of kid is specifically on whom I built Benny “the Jet.” And here’s something else. The “Jet” nickname didn’t just come because he was fast. When I was a kid I took karate lessons for a little while and I studied with the Urquidez brothers. The most famous of them is Benny. They called him “the Jet” because his hands and feet were so fast. I saw him a few years ago. He’s got to be 60 and he could still clear a bar! He’s an incredibly fit and ridiculously athletic man. (NOTE: Now age 61, Benny “the Jet” Urquidez amassed an incredible professional fighting record of 49-1. He trained Patrick Swayze for his role in “Roadhouse” and can be seen in the film in the scene where the monster truck gets driven through the auto dealership). I always admired him when I was a kid. He was like a super hero to me. That’s why Benny got “the Jet” in the middle of his name.

MS: Are you surprised at the response “The Sandlot” still gets 20 years later? How many memories it triggers in a person. I mean, 20 years before it came out I was the kid riding with my friends over to the next town to play baseball all day. In the neighborhood we’d play all day until our moms called us in for dinner. In 1993 it was my son doing the same thing. And I’m sure 20 years from now my grandson will be doing it.
DME: I don’t know if I’m surprised. Obviously you can’t predict that kind of reaction. You just have to go for it as a filmmaker and if it stands the test of time….what else is there? It still stands the test of time and I’m incredibly grateful for that. That means I did my job. And I’m satisfied that I did my job right. This is also the only one of my films where the studio left me alone…they let me do it the way I wanted to do it. It wasn’t committee filmmaking, it was me. My crew. My cast. But you can never predict that. I wish I could. I would bottle it, I would sell it and you would never see me again (laughs). I had a guy come up to me in Springdale, Arkansas and he had (12) copies of “The Sandlot” on DVD and he asked me to sign them. While I was signing them he’d say, “this one is for me, this one is for my wife, this one is for my kids, this is for my grandkids and this is for my great-grandkids.” Four generations right there. I gave that guy the biggest hug. That was better to me than winning an Oscar. I was in Utah earlier this year at the location where we shot the film. The Utah Film Commission had re-built the backstop, cleaned up the field and made it look exactly like it did on the original field. They could only seat 1300 people for the event and they sold out in 11 minutes! They dedicated a historical marker to me and the film. I’m serious, they can keep the Oscar!

MMA Fighter “Suga” Rashad Evans talks about training for upcoming UFC 161

Rashad Evans better known as “Suga” is a former UFC Light Heavy Weight Champion who on June 15th will return to the ring after a three-month break to fight Dan Henderson for a chance at the #1 contender position in the Light Heavy Weight bracket. Media Mikes caught up with Rashad recently to discuss his preparation for the fight and to see if he has any plans to appear in more feature films and television series.

Adam Lawton: What initially interested you in trying out for season 2 of “The Ultimate Fighter”?
Rashad Evans: I watched the first season of the show and thought it was something that I needed to try. I knew Josh Koschek from wrestling and through his work at the University of Buffalo. He told me he was getting into and after seeing him on the show I knew it was something I had to do. The real opportunity came when Dan Severn was inducted into the Hall of Fame. I was affiliated with Dan at the time and he told me that the UFC was looking at one of his guys as they wanted a heavy weight. Dan told me he thought I would never be a heavy weight but I asked them to still let me try. He said that he would give them a heads up about me but I would still have to do the video and all that stuff. I did all that and I guess they liked what they saw so I went to Las Vegas and did the try out.

AL: You have been one of the few coaches on the show that have been on both sides of things. What was it like going back to a show you won but this time as a coach?
RE: Going back as a coach was a little bit of a look at how far I have come along in my career. When you are riding a roller coaster you very rarely get a chance to look and see what is going on. Prior to being on the show initially I didn’t have any sort of perspective. Going back as a coach I was able to see where I came from and look in to the eyes of the guys competing and see their mind set. It was really cool to experience all those emotions again and quite refreshing actually.

AL: Have you been trying any new training techniques to physically get ready for your fight with Dan Henderson on June 15th?
RE: I actually haven’t tried anything new. I have more so gone back to the old way of doing things. I have gotten out of my grinding mode which is more of a mindset than actually grinding my body down. I am doing those extra little things that I have to do to make sure that I am ready for the fight. Everybody has different things they do to get ready but I have to make sure I am doing what I need to do. It may be getting up at 5am to get my running in or to be at the gym hitting the heavy bag after practice. Those are the things I have to do and the sacrifices I need to make to ensure I am ready for the fight.

AL: How have you been preparing mentally knowing that this could be one of your last shots to contend for the title?
RE: I haven’t tried to put a lot pressure on myself or putting myself in the “do or die” mode. I know I don’t want to go out losing 3 matches in a row. I don’t want to back myself in to a corner where I am afraid to try and do things. However I do know there is a sense of urgency to go out there and put on a good show. I also am putting a sense of urgency on my performances to come. Once you see behind the curtain things can be a little bit disheartening. Having been in the UFC for awhile now and seeing how things happen it can kind of not motivate you as your going through the motions of things. You have to be able to find something within yourself that allows you to challenge yourself independently from any chance to fight for a title. You have to have the will to go in that ring in fight. When I first started it wasn’t about television or people reading about things I have done it was about me going out there and having fun. Somewhere along the line I had gotten out of that.

AL: Do you find taking extended time off between fights makes it harder to want to get back in the ring?
RE: Yes, It does challenge you more after taking an extended break. When I came back prior to the Tito Ortiz fight I was really pumped up and didn’t have a lot of down time or distractions. When I came back for the Jones fight I had a lot of stuff going on at that time. I was going through a divorce and all the things that come with that. It was a really difficult time in my life. The last 2-3 years of my life have been hard and I have been tested both emotionally and spiritually. In order to get past that stuff I have had to put myself in the right frame of life and competing.

AL: When you’re not in the ring you have ventured in to both television and movies. Do you see yourself wanting to do more of that after your career in fighting is over?
RE: I would be very happy if that is what I am able to do after my career in fighting is over. I would love to do television and be able to give the fans my perspective on fights. That is something that is fun to do. It is also a challenge. It is a fun challenge and I love this sport. It has saved my life and to be able to stay close to it in some capacity would be really amazing.

Luke Evans talks about his roles in “No One Lives” and “Fast & Furious 6”

Luke Evans is a name that might sound familiar but you may not be able to put a face to the name…yet. This guy was the star of last years “Immortals”, which he played the role of Zeus. Since then he has taken on the lead villain role in “Fast & Furious 6”, worked with Peter Jackson on “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and “The Hobbit: There and Back Again” and recently become attached to the remake of “The Crow”. But before all those films, he did a gritty horror film called “No One Lives from WWE Studios. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Luke about his role in that film and comparing it to his upcoming larger scale projects.

Mike Gencarelli: What was the drawing factor for you to play “Driver” in “No One Lives”?
Luke Evans: When I read the script, I couldn’t help but really get behind this character. He had such a great switch from being the typical guy to this crazy psycho. I thought it would be fun to be able to tackle both of those aspects of him. He really does some sick things in the film but was real blast to play.

MG: How did you prepare for the role to get into mind of the crazy son-bitch?
LE: Well to be honest, I tried more not to stay in the mind of this “crazy son-bitch”, as you say. I am an actor, so I would get into the character and do my scenes and then flipped the switch back. Some of the things he does in this film are pretty crazy like hiding inside of a body. So I didn’t want to spent too much time inside Driver’s head [laughs].

MG: What was you biggest challenge working on the film?
LE: I would have to say it would have to be some of physical things that Driver has to do in the film. I was literally covered in blood throughout. I even remember that my fingernails had a permanent red coating for the entire shoot. So that took some getting used to.

MG: I’m a big fan of “Versus”.. How was it working with the director Ryuhei Kitamura on his only second U.S. film?
LE: It was great actually. When we met we really hit it off and we really understood each other. I liked his ideas for the character and he liked the way I was planned to execute it. We had a very symbotic relationship and it made things easier during the shoot.

MG: Sticking with playing the bad guy, we go to your role of Owen Shaw in “Fast & Furious 6”. What do you enjoy most about taking on these villanious roles?
LE: It is great to play the bad guy. Owen Shaw in this film is just such a great villain. This guy never wants to go down and fights really hard. Also there is a lot that you can do with roles like this that gives you as an actor a lot of room to grow and develop.

MG: How was it going from going from a low budget film like “No One Lives” to two gigantic epic films like “Fast & Furious 6” and the two upcoming “The Hobbit” films?
LE: It is quite different. But I really enjoyed doing both kinds of film. When we were shooting “No One Lives”, it was in the middle of the blistering Summer in Louisiana and it was extremely hot. Literally when I finished that shoot I went straight to New Zealand to start working on “The Hobbit” films, so it was a real transition. I do not mind if I do not have a large trailer with catering service while working on a film. I just enjoyed though the change and being able to switch between the two very different types of production.

MG: You have been on every news page I’ve seen this week about you becoming attached to the remake of “The Crow”; are you excited about taking on this role?
LE: Yes, I am very excited for this film. It is going to be great and I can’t wait to start shooting. I hope the fans of the original are going to enjoy it as well.

Justin Eugene Evans Talks About His Film "A Lonely Place for Dying"

Former NYU student Justin Evans has been making movies since his school days, his latest inarguably his biggest feature to date. His latest film, “A Lonely Place for Dying,” stars Oscar nominee James Cromwell and “Hitchcock’s” Michael Wincott and will be released in the U.S. via iTunes on February 12, 2013. While preparing for this interview I learned that the film, a cold-war era thriller set in the 1970’s, has recently been banned from playing in Russia. Though Evans, who both wrote and directed the film, has received no official reason for the ban he assumes it’s because of his film’s controversial storyline. While preparing for the film’s release Evans took the time to answer some questions for Media Mikes.

Mike Smith: You co-wrote the script for “A Lonely Place for Dying.” What was your inspiration for the story?
Justin Evans: I’ve always been fascinated by the Cold War. It was a dirty, grimy, ethically confused game of global chess that somehow has a sense of romance and nostalgia for me. I have a particular affinity to the subject because I’m a Volga German. Our family immigrated to Russia in the 18th century and turned the Steppes into farm land. Russia made us two promises; the land would be ours forever and since we were not Russian we could not be forced to serve in their military. The Bolsheviks broke both promises with our people and my great-grandfather immigrated to the US in 1918. With a personal history of that scope I think it’s obvious why I’m obsessed with the Cold War.

MS: Not only does James Cromwell appear in the film he’s also a producer. How did that come about?
JE: We asked Jamie to be one of our producers. He said it was contingent upon our craftsmanship; if he liked the movie he’d give it his stamp of approval and be one of our executive producers. I guess he liked the movie!

MS: Even though the film was modestly budgeted it is well crafted, especially the special effects. How were you able to achieve this?
JE: Old fashioned hard work. I’d served as a visual effects supervisor on other projects. I found two VFX artists on the Internet and the three of us worked together for about four months. They completed about 250 visual effects shots. Most of them are hidden; the sky replacements, the sub-frame editing, digitally enhancing fake blood that was used on set..all of that work disappears into the background but provides a level of polish that is absolutely necessary in professional filmmaking. The glitzy stuff is the B-52 bombers and Washington DC street traffic. However, some of the invisible stuff was far more complicated. We did the work remotely. Occasionally, one of the artists would come to my house and we’d polish a shot on our Macbooks. We’d just hang out in my living room, drink some Red Bull and power through some shots while leaning over my ottoman. The tools are cheap. Its simply a question of how hard you’re willing to work. I’m lucky that I found two guys, Daniel Broadway and Marc Leonard, who have old-school work ethics and truly love their craft.

MS: In your opinion, does the continued quest for studios to have the all important opening weekend high gross make it hard for someone like yourself to get your stories told?
JE: That’s not what’s stopping us. Its more subtle and more pervasive than that. Its an intellectual laziness that says “I’ve never heard of you therefore you can’t possibly be talented.” We were told by a VP at Warner Brothers that he wouldn’t look at the movie “because if it were hot someone else would have looked at the movie and I’d have heard about it.” I released 22 minutes online and it was downloaded over 1.5 million times…and agents at Endeavor said “If this mattered it would be reported in Variety.” An ex-executive from Universal told us “I don’t understand your film. It’s a mainstream movie. It’s smart and its a popcorn film. But you don’t have big stars in it. You should have made something weird or cast Tom Cruise. Right now, you got nothing.” We were in 46 film festivals, nominated for 53 awards, won 29 including 18 for Best Picture. No one in the industry cared. Our trailer was downloaded 2.5 million times from iTunes Movie Trailers. No one in the industry cared. And no one ever said “I saw your movie and I don’t like it.” They said “I’m not willing to watch your movie because you’re not famous.” You can’t catch a break because the intellectual laziness creates a negative feedback loop.

MS: You did pretty much everything on this film except run the catering truck! Do you eventually want to narrow your career to one vocation, be it directing or writing, or are you happy having a hand in pretty much everything?
JE: I don’t know how to not be involved in everything. I know Photoshop so well that I can do the graphic design myself faster than if I had to explain my ideas to someone else. I’ve designed lighting and lenses and projectors so unless I can afford the world’s most expensive cinematographers I might as well do it myself. I interviewed a cinematographer for “A Lonely Place For Dying” and as I showed some of my storyboards the person wanted to know the mood of a particular shot. I said we’d have huge beams of god light coming in through these basement windows. The cinematographer blanches and says “That can’t be done unless you have 10K HMI’s.” I said “That’s not true; volumetric lighting is a matter of particle density, not light intensity. I can make a volumetric light with a flashlight if I have enough smoke in the air.” The cinematographer insists I don’t know what I’m talking about…and after awhile you get tired of those kinds of debates. Its just easier to do it yourself. I’m not trying to. Part of it is that I’m an Aspie and I really struggle with rephrasing things with the social lubrication people need so the truth can slip past their defenses. Its even worse if you can’t here my vocal tone or see my facial expressions. My communication style, when stripped of these nonverbal queues, makes me sound like an asshole to a certain type of person. I’m just stating facts; I willingly give up control when I find competent people. If I can’t…then I might as well do it myself. Hopefully I don’t sound like too much of a jackass saying that out loud. That being said, there is plenty I didn’t do. Brent Daniels did all the sound. Alone. By himself. He built the 5.1 mixing facility in his home and he put close to 1,500 hours into the dialogue, sound effects, music and mixing of this film. Ginger Ravencroft is a dear friend and a hell of a still photographer. She’s the reason we have 12 gorgeous theatrical posters. Daniel Broadway and Marc Leonard did 250 visual effects shots for the film. Without those people the movie would not be as good. So, I think the most accurate thing to say is while I wear many, many hats so do the people I trust the most.

MS: Are you planning anything currently?
JE: I’m the president of BryteWerks. We’re about to release our flagship digital motion picture projector. We have about 5 employees and an additional 25 contractors working on various engineering projects. I can’t go into the details of everything we’re doing but we’ve got some really cool products coming down the pipe. And I will get back to directing…but not until we finish our motion picture projector. We have pre-order customers to satisfy and this is a chance to really shake up the world. I’m already writing my next project. The rest is a secret.


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Film Composer Evan Evans talks about new film “The Gauntlet”

Evan Evans is the composer of the upcoming films “The Gauntlet” and “Night at the Templar”.  Evan is the son of the late legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat music with Evan and his process when scoring a film.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your work composing the film “The Gauntlet”?
Evan Evans: First let me say how excited I was to become involved in this film. When I read about this movie on my hotsheet, it just jumped out at me, and I immediately developed a strong bond for the concept. Based on what I had read in the listing, I imagined a film filled with spaces for the thematic, the atmospheric, the intellectual, and the visceral, all rolled into one.

After a conference call with Director Matt Eskandari, Producer Jonathan Shih and Film Editor Ryan Cooper where I expressed my enthusiasm for the project, I put together a two minute demo track overnight, to submit under the pretext that I had of course not yet seen the film. However, I felt I understood the tenets of the story deeply enough that I could show them, in music, that I was thinking in the right vein. My biggest heros in this art are Bernard Herrmann (“Psycho”, “Taxi Driver”, “Citizen Kane”, “Vertigo”) and Jerry Goldsmith (“The Omen”, “Poltergeist”, “Basic Instinct”, ”Papillon”), both of whom were pioneers in understanding the psychology of film and communicating drama through music, and I’m doing my best to follow in their example, and try to be one of the more considerate film composers out there… so, I was anxious to hear back if they agreed I hit the bullseye, blind. Eskandari called later to mention that “no other composer came as close to your passion and sound”, and I was hired…and felt thrilled.

Once I recieved the film, it turned out to be better than I had imagined. There was a surprising new element threaded throughout the story that I did not originally anticipate, that of a Political Thriller, in the same vein as a film like “The Da Vinci Code”. Also there are several sequences lending themselves brilliantly to powerful score, and those moments are going to be very rewarding, as they offer the opportunity to really move people and get them excited about, and relating to, what they’re watching.

The Director and I spoke a lot about musical approaches. Something that came up was the possibility of using “screaming voices” recordings, recorded from a site in Russia where supposedly you can hear “hell” down a massive hole in the earth that goes straight down to an undisclosed depth. Indeed, there will be some choir in the score, but it remains to be seen if I’ll be able to use the “voices of hell” sounds, specifically. In the end, music score is meant to be felt and rarely heard, so the exact sound is less important than the practical use.

Academy Award winning sound designer, Bruce Stambler (“The Fugitive”, “The Fast and the Furious”, “The Mummy 3”, “xXx”), is working on the film and I don’t want to step on his toes, so I’m going to try and stay pretty traditional with the score and let organic sounds and sound design lay on top of music as it’s own supplemental layer. Because we’re working at the same time, I can only take my best guess based on my fifteen years and sixty films of experience, as to what frequency ranges he’ll be putting sounds in during each moment, and if I have music during those moments, I will try and write a “hole” in that area for his brilliant sound work.

There’s nothing I enjoy more than going to see one of my films, as an audience member, and letting go of everything, and sitting back and enjoying it like one of the guys. If I hear any ego coming from my score, I have failed myself. So I’m very careful to always make the decisions the movie-goer would want, not the music-lover. That said, I’m going to give my fans some very enjoyable music to listen to as an aside. I do my best to try and make each and every cue a work of art in and of itself, and as well, together as an entire score. Those are some of the major goals I must balance when creating score, in addition to highlighting plot points, character development, philosophical reflection, and audience enjoyment.

After going over the film more extensively, one thing Eskandari and I settled on, is that this is a film more about humanity, society, and compassion above all else, and that it should always be told through that point of view. We experimented with other approaches like you’d see in a film like “300”, or “Kick Ass”, but those films were eventually thought of as taking enjoyment and fun in violence, and that is not where we wanted the audience to be at all. We want the audience to be plunged into a world of dark corners and steamy corridors, where they’ll feel pushed beyond their will to do things they would find repulsive, horrific, traumatic, and will test their moral fibers. So coming across as fun, cool, or taking any delight in any of what we’re showing the audience, is not going to be part of the plan that makes this film speak the Director’s vision. In that sense, it’s not a genre horror film. It’s more of a thriller. However, that said, there is some serious blood shed in this film. But we are going to try to make it come from a philosophical perspective rather than have it play out like a blood filled romp.

As far as approach for the score, after exhausting many creative channels, we’ve decided on a more traditional approach. The reasoning being that the audience will already be most familiar with a traditional straight emotional sound, and we’ll instantly win over their trust for our guidance throughout the film. And that will be crucial in communicating ideas in a way that every member of the audience will understand equally in unity. Music score done masterfully can be the strongest force unifying the audience’s experience and all the thought-provoking and manipulating that must occur. I’ll get everyone thinking when they need to be thinking, paying attention to things together that they should be noticing, glossing over things that are not important, and getting excited and terrified at the same levels at the same moments. In my observations, the more those around you share in the exact same experience, the more it amplifies everyone’s experiences and it grows beyond the personal into a mass experience as it should…something I dub in the psychology of this art, “resonance”. There is a new frontier here, that I am attempting to carve out, describing the psychology of dramatic music. No one, I know of, is currently developing any new theories in this area of film scoring, and yet I feel it is the most important aspect of this art and craft. That is, to use music and sound to manipulate thought and feeling, as opposed to just stimulating thoughts or feelings, or for some degree of artistic statement. In The Gauntlet, I am going to be pushing my craft to it’s extremes and I hope it’s going to create a strong experience for everyone. This is one film that can really be at it’s best if it’s extreme.

There is a religious and supernatural element in the film. And for that I’m using Trumpets and Choir, and twisted metallic sounds. Those colors will help convey a sense of the ethereal, the dark, and something Biblical. For the political backdrop, I’ll be using a stirring section of orchestral strings trembling and percolating mysteriously. Each character has their own musical theme, what’s called Leitmotif in musical terms, but what I prefer to call a “primer“ to borrow a term from psychology and give it practical purpose. Occasionally character themes intertwine, and new derivative themes are born…connections between characters such as the bonds of friendship, trust, affection, attraction, and the dark clouds of dislike, fear, suspicion, jealousy, and hate.

Bai Ling (“The Crow”, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”) plays Kim, a sexy enigma discovered hiding, and in shock, covered in blood, inside one of The Gauntlet’s many rooms. Her interactions with the others run the gamut of those bonds and dark clouds I’ve mentioned. She is the biggest wildcard amidst the group.

There is a lot of deception and confusion inside The Gauntlet. Each person has a past that is going to catch up with them. No one knows where they are, or how they got there, or who to trust. And getting out alive is going to be a test of their life. Stay tuned to my Twitter for updates throughout the scoring process: @OriginalScoreBy

MG: How did you get involved with the film “Night of the Templar”?
EE: I also found that film on one of my hotsheets. I remember the first call to Director, Producer, Paul Sampson. We talked for a good while. He was very energetic and engaging. I felt he was very dedicated to his art and craft and those are the kinds of people I really like working with. He also mentioned the film was not ready yet. So, over the course of a few months I tried back a few times, until the film was finally ready, at which time I arranged for a meeting at my studio in Calabasas. When he walked in the door, I was surprised at how young he was, and I said “Wow, you look so young for your age” (read later why I made this mistake). His reaction was something akin to “Well, thank you?” It had to be one of the most awkward Composer-Director openers in history. But the man has a way of attracting the unusual. It wasn’t until we got talking that I realized I had confused him with another medieval film I was also tracking, directed by an older gentleman. There aren’t too many medieval films out there.

The thing that cemented the deal was, he had to go to New York City, and while he was gone, he left me with a copy of the film, and after watching it I was left with some opinions I wanted to share with him. I called him, but I got his voicemail. I left a message, saying I thought the film was great, but wouldn’t it be great if such and such happened in the film, and I proceeded to describe a scene that is actually now in the film but at that time was not in the film. Well, he called back later sounding like he called his long lost brother after seeing a ghost, and with every ounce of excitement in his body, he left me the following voicemail: “Evan, I can’t believe you said that. I shot it. I shot that scene. And we’re putting it back in. Call me.” So I think it impressed him that I understood the movie enough to know not only what it was, but also what it was missing, and that if I understood what was missing, which turned out to be a part of his original vision, than he felt I was more aligned with his vision than the film could even provide. And with that, I was hired, and I additionally became Associate Producer of Post Production, and we brought the film back to one of my powerful workstations at my studio, and we hooked up Final Cut Pro, and we proceeded to make a new roughcut of the film into approximately the way you see it now. Somewhere towards the end of the post production process, we finally plunked down and created the score.

So that’s how my involvement with Paul and that film played out. It became personal for me, very important, that we made the film the best it could be, because it’s destined to become an instant classic, a favorite, a potential cult film. I could settle for nothing less than the absolute highest standards. And we owed that much to David Carradine (b.1936 – d.2009), who sadly won’t ever be able to see his last film.

MG: What do you enjoy most from working in the Horror genre?
EE: When I was younger, or perhaps it was simply before I had children, I experienced Horror films very differently than I do now. They always put a smile on my face and gave me something cool to talk about. But I had nothing to relate to. It was like going to see a freak show at the circus, to see something weird and imaginative. As I grew more mature, I realized that the horrors you see in those films, stem from capabilities we all have inside of us, held back only by whatever morals we have instilled inside us from how we were raised and what we believe is right and wrong. But each person committing an atrocity in the world is the same as you and I…a human being, whether you are at the maturity level to be able to admit that, or not. We are one and the same. And in that respect, a horrific act, to me, is a philosophical statement about society and what we allow, what we don’t allow, what we enforce, what we punish, and the evils we create inside people around us by what we do or what we don’t do.

My approach to a horror film is in trying to communicate a moral reflection. I like to get people shaken up morally so they question themselves, so that they will begin to question others, and share their ideas for change. Because most people are only compassionate about things that align with what they believe in. And if they don’t believe they can be pushed to the limits of human horror, than they can never understand how to prevent it and our world will continue to diminish in morality. But if I can show them that inside them is something inside everyone, and that they too could be driven to the point of any horrific situation, than that should get them to understand how important it is to play an active role in society and be both an advocate for good and an enforcer of bad behavior.

As far as I know, all modern societies work on punishing bad behaviour and allowing you to be free with good behaviour. But personally, I don’t think that’s enough. I think as populations grow so large, that, the more “free” unpunished people there are, the greater the “laziness divide”. The social dynamics are that large groups of communities form, where complacency works for them. And nothing really atrocious happens to them on a whole. If something does happen, they cast that person out, pointing fingers, and completely reject any responsibility for what happened. But that attitude is not good enough anymore, as these large communities hit critical mass. Their children are growing up with little moral guidance other than not to do the worst things, the things that they’ve learned on TV are bad, and they’re turning into spoiled apathetic narcissistic materialists, nurtured that way into adulthood by people just like themselves. They are clueless as to what the punishment might be like for terrible behaviour. How many of them have visited a prison, seen an execution, or know someone close to them in that situation, or on the other side, a victim? The answer is fewer and fewer of them as these communities expand. And the ones who are aware, get broken off, cast out, a shellshocked rejection of the community. But this apathetic zombie society loves to veg out and watch movies. They’re the same people that are the hardest ones to get off their asses to vote. Because why should they, The Kardashians come on at 7pm.

Well, a lot of filmmakers care about the condition of humanity. It’s a massive endeavor to make a film, and you have to be a person with incredibly deep beliefs to do it. It isn’t for someone who doesn’t understand how life works and who hasn’t seen the world. And it turns out, Horror movies are a great way to get through to these popcorn communities in mass … to show them what happens to those around them when they don’t play an active supporting role in society. That’s why, in my opinion, the best formula for this kind of movie, is your everyday middle of america community being attacked by some kind of socially rejected force. Anytime you can set the backdrop to an ordinarily complacent unwitting set of people in a community of like minded people, and you push some of them to come to startling realizations about what they need to do to course correct the evils around them, you’ve got a top notch relatable story which challenges everyone watching to loftier goals, more valiant thinking. That’s what “The Gauntlet” offers, and films I’ve scored like “Hoboken Hollow”, a true story about some Texan ranchers who were abducting migrants around the border, enslaving them, and turning them into human beef jerky. True story. Life is stranger fiction.

I think one of the reasons filmmakers love working with me is I’m so much more interested in telling a moving story than taking their paycheck, punching a time card, and spewing out my latest ego lovechild. I hear a lot of soundtrack fans say “the movie was god awful, but I bought the CD, and I love the score.” Well that composer failed. Though in their defense, I have been there, and there are some movies that are nearly unsavable. And you butter them up with a great score so it feels like other great movies, but in the end you still have failed to properly help. I believe there is a good score that makes every movie great if you just dig deep enough. Unfortunately, the truth is we don’t always get enough time to dig that deep. And if it’s not Stanley Kubrick or Sam Raimi it’s going to need some time for strategizing. But just because the music is good, does not make it a good soundtrack. The music must make the movie good, and that’s the only good soundtrack in my opinion.

MG: Do you direct any influence from your father, the legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans?
EE: I can remember very well from when I was a young child. In particular, I remember sitting at my father’s upright piano at his highrise apartment in New York City when I was around 3 years old, banging on the low keys, making booming rumbling sounds with the keyboard, and commenting “King Kong is coming…King Kong is coming.” Even at that young age, I was interested in using musical instruments to communicate drama. My father passed away when I was only 5 years old, and it wasn’t until I was 11 that I even understood he was anything more than just my father, that he was a musician. Anything more just never occurred to me, despite all that was going on around me. Maybe I was tuned out, but it just never clicked. However, on my own accord, I was passionately drawn to the piano in the house that early on. Just after he passed and we moved to Southern California from the East
Coast, I started the infamous piano lessons every parent tries give their children. My reaction was total excitement, and by six I had decided I was going to become a concert pianist. It wasn’t long before my curiosities took over however. I was constantly questioning my teachers about why the composers chose the notes they did. And so I started private lessons for music theory at 7. Around that age I also picked up the trumpet. By 8 I was enjoying three lessons a week, one on piano, one on theory, and one on trumpet, and I wanted them to continue during vacations. I couldn’t get enough.

One day, when I was 9, I was watching a black and white Alfred Hitchcock film, and in one particular scene, a car was driving around a cliff at night and it slipped off the road and fell off the cliff. The camera did not move with the tumbling car, instead it remained pointed at the cliff as the car fell off the bottom of the screen, disappearing from sight. After a moment, loud music banged a low calamitous note of great tension, to show that the car had fallen to it’s peril. It was at that point that I realized there was music in movies to describe things that you see and feel (and sometimes don’t see). I really loved movies, but I had never before realized there was music in them. And music was previously what I wanted to do with my life. And so it was from that moment, combined with my natural instinct in communicating the dramatic with music (recall King Kong piano story in New York city apartment above), that I knew I was destined to become a film composer.

Although I was going to events regarding my father’s music, and meeting great musicians and friends of my father’s, I never really gained any benefit in my field. Despite meeting Michel Legrand, Vladimar Cosma, and studying with Lalo Shifrin and Clare Fischer, and being around Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, David Benoit, and other greats who crossed over into film, I had to make my own way entirely. And I’ve never had a single door open to me and come to any fruition because of who my father is. Everyone making films are truly interested in quality, and hiring the son of someone to create the music for your film is not something they do lightly. In that sense, they have a built in acknowledgement that music score is very important to them. A filmmaker has spent months, if not years, cultivating their project. It’s their baby. Would you let the daughter of a nanny take care of your newborn baby sight unseen? No, you would want to know if she could take care of babies too, or if she rebelled against her parents and hates doing it, or if she does a half-assed job just to fulfill her duty. I’m fortunate in that respect, in that Film Music is quite a different animal and field, than concert jazz music, and I have had to earn every ounce of what I’ve achieved.

Before my father died in 1980, in a late interview in his life, he was asked, almost prophetically: “If you could do anything else besides Jazz what would you like to do?”. His answer, was “I would like to write music for cinema.” I did not learn of this interview until I was 24, having already chosen this path when I was 9, and having already scored numerous projects since age 12, and several films since age 21. But as you can imagine, it was shocking to my core to hear that I had naturally chosen the path that would have been in my father’s next footsteps. I am very proud of him and his accomplishments and his dedication to his art, and I am similarly proud of my career. I am enjoying doing what I’ve always wanted to, what I was designed to do, and apparently what he would have wanted me to do. So I feel very complete and at peace with him, despite that he passed when I was only 5.

MG: What has been your most difficult film to compose to date?
EE: Well, on the film “Tripfall”, Directed by Serge Rodnunsky, and starring Eric Roberts and the late John Ritter (“Three’s Company”, “Slingblade”), I had to write 70 minutes of music in less than 10 days. Composing more than 2 minutes of music per day is very difficult, very demanding, and composing 3 minutes at high quality is pushing the physical capabilities of man. So to compose 7 minutes per day, I had to really streamline my process. At the time, I was composing in Opcode’s StudioVision Pro, the most advanced computer based sequencer for composing music ever created. Gibson unfortunately killed this company by buying them out and then killing the product, an anti-trust move that still to this day haunts the big league composers of my industry. So, with the help of that superior software and some other shortcut techniques, I was ableto pull it off. Nowadays, using leading softwares like Logic, Cubase or Digital Performer, you could never approach that kind of speed and quality, so that was a one time historical event.

Also, the film “Killers”, directed and produced by the guys at the infamous The Asylum, now known for doing quite well in a niche they’ve carved out, creating mock-offs like “Transmorphers”, “Battle of Los Angeles” and “Paranormal Entity”, as well as cult originals like “Megashark vs. Giant Octopus” and “Supercroc”. Long before their success in direct-to-video mock-offs, David Rimawi and David Michael Latt attempted to be auteur filmmakers. “Killers” was their first picture. As was on “Tripfall”, the situation here was music had to be written in a very short amount of time, 8 days. So I was working round the clock, with a 4 hour sleep schedule. And on the final days, 1 hour of sleep at best. It was gnarly. I used the latest virtual acoustic physical modeling synthesis technology by Yamaha on that film, coupled with 24 tracks of live percussion, as well as screaming voices, chanting, and other live vocalizations to create the unusual tapestry requested for the film which takes place in an abandoned industrial complex.

And if I may, some of the most satisfying films I’ve worked on, quickly, have been “The Poker Club” (Johnathon Schaech, Judy Reyes), “The Kid: Chamaco” (Martin Sheen, Michael Madsen), “Skeletons in the Desert” (dir: Gregory J. Martin), “Hunting Humans”, “Hoboken Hollow” (Dennis Hopper), “Future Murder”, and two films that sadly never got released, “Miss Wonton” and “Joe Joe Angel and The Dead Guy”.

MG: What do you have planned next?
EE: I continue to try and select excellent films that could suffer without a great score and offer my helping hand, because I’ll be completely honest with you, I don’t have a lot of faith in the other film composers out there. Other than Howard Shore and Elliot Goldenthal and a maturing Marco Beltrami, I am a little scared of the quality in my field as the real masters have died off around me, such as Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, John Barry and others. We’re left with decent enough get-it-done composers, and shallow composers composing on instinct, plunking notes out and watching the screen to see if it seems to work and who are unfortunately being rewarded for their fare since they are the best of the worst, which only reinforces it and does not challenge them to do better. It scares me.

To heal this deepening abyss, I have started to develop some web courses for this art, the psychology of dramatic scoring, to teach the new up and coming talents how to properly wield this power. I was taught privately by Lalo Schifrin (“Mission Impossible”, “Rush Hour”, “Cool Hand Luke”), Jerry Goldsmith, and Scott Smalley (Orchestrator for “Batman”,”Conan The Barbarian”,”Robocop”), and I studied deeply the works of Bernard Herrmann, Sergei Prokofiev, Alan Silvestri (“Back to the Future”,”Predator”,”What Lies Beneath”), Howard Shore (“The Fly”,”Lord of the Rings”,”Silence of the Lambs”), and others. I enjoy teaching and it gives me great pleasure to give back. So, for those interested composers reading, they can currently go to: http://secretsoffilmscoring.blogspot.com The feedback has been incredible, “I learned more about film scoring here, than I had in the last 10 years”, “No one out there today will teach you what Evan does”, “god bless him for his commitment to improving the condition of the film music industry”, “a genius at what he does”, “incredibly well informed with a lot of experience”. Together we can continue to break down new barriers in this art. In 1000 years I expect great things.

Chris Evans’ “Puncture” DVD Giveaway [ENDED]


“Puncture” is available to purchase on Blu-ray and DVD on January 3rd, 2012

To celebrate the DVD release of “Puncture” starring Chris Evans (“Captain America: The First Avenger”), Media Mikes would like to giveaway THREE copies of the DVD. If you would like to win one of these great prizes, please leave us a comment below or send us an email and let us know your favorite Chris Evans film. This giveaway will be open until Tuesday January 10th at Noon, Eastern Time and is only open to residents of the United States. Only one entry per person, per household; all other entries will be considered invalid. Once the giveaway ends, Media Mikes will randomly pick out winners and alert the winners via email.


Mike Weiss (Chris Evans) is a talented young Houston lawyer and a functioning drug addict. Paul Danziger (co-director Mark Kassen), his longtime friend and partner, is the straight-laced and responsible yin to Mike’s yang. Their mom-and-pop personal injury law firm is getting by, but things really get interesting when they decide to take on a case involving Vicky (Vinessa Shaw), a local ER nurse, who is pricked by a contaminated needle on the job. As Weiss and Danziger dig deeper into the case, a health care and pharmaceutical conspiracy teeters on exposure and heavyweight attorneys move in on the defense. Out of their league but invested in their own principles, the mounting pressure of the case pushes the two underdog lawyers and their business to the breaking point.


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