Kevin Cooper talks about directing “I Heart Shakey”

Kevin Cooper has worked various jobs in Hollywood and has lent his talents to such films as “Armageddon” and “Secondhand Lions.” A Midwest boy at heart, after graduating from NYU Cooper made his way west, working his way through the ranks of both independent film making and the studio system. Cooper recently got behind the camera, writing and directing the new family film, “I Heart Shakey.” The film is currently available via Video on Demand and will open in theatres nationwide later this month. Kevin took a few moments out of his schedule to talk about his new film with Media Mikes:

Michael Smith: You’ve worked on many films in many various roles yet this is the first time you’ve added writer and director to your resume’. What made you decide to take on this film at this time?
Kevin Cooper: I’ve been in this business for a long time and I’m always looking for something “new” to attempt. My wife, who ended up producing the film, and I were talking one night and we said to ourselves, “we know how to make movies…we have relationships with distributors and talent…what’s stopping US?” And we decided that if we were going to go into the battle we should focus on a subject that means something to us. And this film is ultimately about loyalty…about family. So we chose to pursue this project. It had been sitting around for a long time. In a way it’s loosely based on my life. I graduated from NYU film school, which is where I met Steve Lemme. I moved to L.A. When I got there I rented an apartment. And only after I had been there for a week did I learn that I would be able to keep my dog. So the film brought up a real challenge. What do you do when you have to get rid of your dog…to in a way tear your family apart? Of course I had just got to Hollywood so I thought, “Shit, I’ll just give away the dog!” But every time I gave the dog away to a prospective owner….basically the next day they were calling me and saying “come get your dog…he’s way too rambunctious for me!” He was such a fun and crazy dog. And ultimately, after about three or four months, I realized that the dog wants to stay with ME. And it was really one of those life lessons about loyalty. So that inspired a really early first draft. But the project just sat there. I wasn’t really a development guy, I was a studio guy. I was constantly working on other peoples projects. So when I got back to the Midwest I decided to find a project that’s personal…one we could dive into. My directing work had been in comedy. When I lived in New York I directed and produced all of Broken Lizards early sketches. They had a live show in New York City and between sketches, when they had to set up different props or change wardrobe, my video sketches would play while they did their changes. And the film is also a great way to come back together with friends. With dear friends, actually. I mean they came up with “Super Troopers” on the way to my wedding! We go way back, those guys and I.

MS: Why did you decide to add the extra burden of shooting in 3D to your first feature?
KC: (laughs) That’s a great question. One of the things we knew early on was that, for the film to succeed, we had to give ourselves every advantage. It was less about how the audience would receive it and more about our perception of where 3D was headed. I ran James Cameron’s company for six years and some of my best friends are technologists and industry leaders. Now for 100 years the industry has really kept people like you and me out. You really had to be a wealthy guy or come from money…you had to have some kind of connection generally speaking. Nepotism ran rampant in this industry for many, many years. But our production budget was $235,000. And we asked how much it would cost to use 3D. We found a camera house here in Chicago that was willing to foot the bill for it so it didn’t really cost us a ton more…at least not in production. In post it did end up costing us a little bit more money. I explored what it meant, artistically, to make a film in 3D. And it really opens up new worlds and frontiers. Hollywood is such a competitive place. We thought why just do a regular film…why not give yourself every advantage you can? It was important for us to know that we were out front like that. Some of our best friends are indie filmmakers. And I would say that seven or eight out of ten of them don’t get their feature films distributed. So our idea was to do everything we could to make this film appealing. That was our thinking. And once you’ve committed to that you really have no choice. When you grasp onto technology there is really no backing out. Our distributor is very committed to the film. They’d put it out in 2D. But they’re very committed to putting it out in 3D. And you ask about the difficulty of working with 3D…you can say the same thing about working with dogs…working with kids. I teach film at Columbia and I was sort of breaking all of the rules (laughs).

MS: Ironically my next question was: was it difficult to work with the animals?
KC: It was hard! (laughs) There’s a great supplemental bit on the DVD for “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” where they talk about how they rescued all the dogs. It seemed very logical and possible that we could do the same thing here in Chicago with one dog. So we found a rescue dog and trained with him for months. And it just didn’t work. We ended up having to call all over the United States. And eventually we ended up with a dog that was pretty good. Most films use a purebreed dog because it’s easier to find a double. But I wanted to use a mutt. We found a double but he was hard to work with. I would say that animals in general take a lot more time. In some cases we didn’t get all the things we wanted the dog to do. One thing I’m proud of is we came up with ways to further some of the sequences in the film with animation…almost like a representation of the girl’s imagination. Originally it was just a crutch but when we tested the film we found that our target audience loved the animation! It’s interesting how what appeared to be one of our problems turned into one of our strengths.

MS: You have a very solid cast, including Steve Lemme, Steve Guttenberg and Beverly D’Angelo. How did you get them interested in the project?
KC: Hollywood is a funny business. My first job out of college was working at CAA (the Creative Artist Agency). One of my best friends is now running the Motion Picture Talent Department at CAA. Not that he helped me get the cast…it’s just that Hollywood is a very small place. You know everybody one person removed if you’ve been there a few years. And it’s important to understand the mentality behind the talent agent. So a guy like Guttenberg…he wants to get paid. He wasn’t paid a lot but he got paid. Three days of work for several thousand bucks. You make him an offer. “Hey, do you want to come out here for three days?” And he’s also a big fan of Steve Lemme and Broken Lizard, so that helped. And having Steve involved…he doesn’t have a huge fan base but the fan base he does have is very loyal to him. In certain circles he’s a major rock star! If you’re a 45 year old lady you’ve probably never heard of him. But if you’re a 22 year old guy, you’ve probably memorized all of his lines from his films. So having Steve on board was definitely an asset to the project. And then we got Alfonso Arau. Now maybe he doesn’t have a lot of fans but he lent a certain level of legitimacy to the project. He directed films like “Like Water for Chocolate.” And his comic role in “The Three Amigos”…El Guapo…you won’t find a comedian who doesn’t consider that performance one of the top five or top ten…everybody loves that role. We didn’t get a “Prometheus” size push with the talent involved but, like a said, for under a half-million bucks…it was enough to get the investors to support the film. So it certainly helps to know the psychology behind a Hollywood talent agent.

MS: So, in a sense, making this film was your own El Guapo?”
KC: (laughing) Exactly! You know it, man. It was a plethora of fun and problems all at the same time.

MS: Finally, once the film is released and behind you, what are you working on next?
KC: I’m working on a project with Steve Lemme called “My Sky.” It’s a script written by Alex Torres and it’s about a guy with Tourette Syndrome. It’s a very different tone…in the vein of “Awakenings.” It’s something that we can really control the tone of…we can dig in deep and roll up our sleeves. I don’t know if you were suggesting this earlier or not but, if you were, you were right on the money. Making a film with all these attributes…3D and kids and dogs…are definitely harder for sure. Unless I have a lot more money I’m not going to be doing that kind of film for a long time. Not so much that I needed money…it’s just that you need more shooting days…you can acquire more takes. “My Sky” is such a gem of a script that we want to do it justice. A lot of people have said to Steve, “you’re sort of this generation’s ‘Cheech and Chong, what with his films with “Broken Lizard.” But it will give us a chance to make a film that’s really cool.

MS: Thank you for your time.
KC: It was a pleasure to talk with you. I should also add you have a very neat site. I think it’s awesome. You guys do a really great job of working in and outside of the systems. Keep up the good work!

 

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Steve Lemme talks Broken Lizard, new film “I Heart Shakey” and comedy tour with Kevin Heffernan

Steve Lemme is known best for being a member of the comedy troupe Broken Lizard.  He has co-star in “Super Troopers”, “Beerfest” and “Club Dread”.  He is taking the lead role in the upcoming 3D family film “I Heart Shakey”.  Steve is also currently touring comedy clubs with Broken Lizard co-member Kevin Heffernan.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Steve about his new film and also his current comedy tour.

Mike Gencarelli: “I Heart Shakey” looks like sweet family film and a sharp right turn from your work with Broken Lizard, what did you enjoy most about it?
Steve Lemme: Actually, I can honestly say it was the best acting experience I have had. When we made the Broken Lizard films, it’s been an ensemble. Right off the bat, we got to the set and I got to rehearsals and realized I had 90 pages of disalogue to learn. Suddenly I had a much greater responsible because I was “the guy”. It then became aware to me that I would be acting with only a 9-year old girl and a dog. The conversation I had with the director was that I was going to have to be pillar of strength and experience here. In someway, I think I grew up a little bit. With the Broken Lizard movies, you always have to be improving and acting on your toes. I think you have to be more so with this film. You find yourself right in the middle of your lines and all of the sudden the dog pulls you off in a different direction. You have to put a greater amount of focus into this. It is also harder not to do comedy certain times. Overall it was just a great experience.

MG: As a new parent yourself, did that contribute to your playing J.T. O’Neil?
SL: The truth is we did the movie before my baby was born or my wife was pregnant. So some people have said that this experience gave me the desire to be a dad…and I wouldn’t deny it. The girl that play my daughter in the film, Riley, after a week or two I became very naturally protective of her. We were spending 14 hours a day together and we bonded. So the running joke is she made me want to be a dad.

MG: You’ve known director Kevin Cooper since college and collaborated with Broken Lizard, how was it reuniting?
SL: We met when he was in NYU film school and Broken Lizard has just started. I acted in his first two student films. He went to Hollywood then and worked for Michael Bay and Jim Cameron. He then moved back to Chicago and became a professor of film production at Columbia College. When we were kids we always talked about making our careers about working together and makings tons of movies together. We just bonded in that way. He called me up a few years ago and sent me the script for “Shakey” and asked me to play the lead. It is a kids movie and so far from the stuff I have done. Overall it was a great experience for me and also a challenge. It was a low-budget feature being shot in 3D and with a dog.

MG: How was it shooting your first film in 3D?
SL: I had mixed feeling about it honestly. In terms of the distribution of the film, since 3Dmovies are so popular right now. But what we are finding it is actually hindering our distribution. Then people are thinking to themselves it was going to cost much more to market and cost the audience more as well. You are then going to be competing with the Pixar movies for 3D screens and be bumped in a heartbeat. On a shoestring budget, shooting 3D is such a time constraint. You are really at the mercy of the 3D cameras.

MG: Was it exciting to work 80’s legends Steven Guttenberg and Beverly D’Angelo?
SL: Well I only got to work with Beverly for one day. In the film her character and my character don’t get along, she doesn’t like me. So I think she was a method actor…so in between takes she would just sort of glare at me [laughs]. So I didn’t enjoy my day with Beverly very much. But Guttenberg and I, we had a great time shooting together. We are both very immature guys. He was in “Police Academy” movies and I was in “Super Troopers”. We really had a blast working together.

MG: You also reunite in this film with Philippe Brenninkmeyer from “Super Troopers”; planned or not?
SL: They were looking for local German actor, who has a good sense of humor. I told them I knew a guy but they were going to have to bring him down from Los Angeles. He showed up on set and just nailed it. He is one of the best characters in the movie. Of course awesome to work with again.

MG: Tell us about your currently comedy tour with Kevin Heffernan?
SL: Broken Lizard started off as a stand-up comedy group. We wanted to do more of that with sketches and that culminated a few years ago with a Comedy Central special. Kevin and I decided afterwards that we liked it so much that we wanted to do more. The problem with the Broken Lizard tour is that we each only got like ten minutes of time. I felt I had a lot more to say and Kevin felt the same. Jay wanted to get back to directing TV. Paul was going off to direct a script he did. Eric was focusing on doing motivation speaking. Kevin and I decided to put together this show and have been touring for the last year and a half. We are going to shooting this show as well for a special during our stop in San Francisco. We are having a blast.

MG: What do you have planned next either solo or with Broken Lizard?
SL: Kevin and I have been writing a lot together. We just sold a show to NBC for us to act/write in. On the side, when the group is not together, Kevin and I have taken it up to write a new Broken Lizard script. Our agent is telling us we are going to hit every comedy club in the country. So after a year and a half, we still haven’t been to the same place twice. So we are just building our stand up reputation and really enjoying it.

Book Review “Every Night the Trees Disappear: Werner Herzog and the Making of Heart of Glass”

Author: Alan Greenberg
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Release Date: May 1, 2012

Our Score: 4 out 5 stars

Werner Herzog is easily one of the world’s greatest filmmakers. His films include “Aguirre, the Wrath of God”, “Nosferatu the Vampyre”, “Grizzly Man”, “Rescue Dawn”, “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” and of course “Heart of Glass”. This book is an up-close and rare look into the making of “Heart of Glass”, courtesy of friend and collaborator to Herzog, Alan Greenberg. Herzog is known for his unique approach to filmmaking and it is shown throughout all of his films. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book but it is one of those rare books that you honestly can’t put down. Page after page this book is extremely interesting and informative.

Alan Greenberg and Warner Herzog have known each other for almost 40 years and there is no better person to cover this material. If you have seen “Heart of Glass”, you know it is a very dark and haunting film but easily one of Herzog’s best. In this book you will find out many interesting facts that many have never known. Greenberg revealed that Herzog, in an attempt to control his actors, hypnotized them before shooting their scenes. I wouldn’t give it a second thought when it comes to Herzog’s style.  That is only the tip of the iceberg reveled about the production, I want to say more but I don’t want to spoil it.  Read for yourself.

This book is fully backed by Herzog as he provides both the foreword and the afterword. I have read many “making-of” books and none of them have felt as real as this one does. It feels more like a novel spilling insider secrets that have been hidden for years. I also need to point out that the book also has very personal and crisp color photos lying within the middle of the book, very nice touch to complement the book. I recommend this book highly to all fans of Werner Herzog, but I warn you expect to finish the book in one sitting.

Rod Stewart & Stevie Nicks “The Heart & Soul Tour” Heads to Orlando, FL on on August 3rd, 2012

ROD STEWART & STEVIE NICKS | HEART & SOUL TOUR
FRIDAY, AUGUST 3, 2012 | 7:30PM
AMWAY CENTER | ORLANDO, FLORIDA
ON SALE:     SATURDAY, MARCH 17, 2012 | 10:00AM

ORLANDO, FLORIDA [February 23, 2012] – Legendary rockers Rod Stewart & Stevie Nicks today announced plans to reunite this summer and reprise their highly acclaimed, co-headlining “Heart & Soul Tour.”

“I couldn’t be happier to be back on board with Stevie this summer,” Rod Stewart said. “We had fantastic fun on the road together last spring and I’m thrilled at the chance to bring it to new cities and fans this summer.”

Celebrated by both fans and critics alike, Rod and Stevie first joined forces in the spring of 2011 for their acclaimed “Heart & Soul Tour.”  The 18-concert arena tour was highlighted by two sold-out shows at both New York’s Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.  The 3+ hour show featured individual heart-pumping sets loaded with all of their biggest hits – opening with Stevie’s and closing with Rod’s – with a few rousing duets in the middle. US Weekly called the show “magical,” with a set list that “sparked non-stop cheers from the sold-out masses,” and the Boston Globe declared “Stewart & Nicks make a classic combination” delivering sold-out audiences a “hits-packed night of crystal visions and reasons to believe.”

In a career spanning five decades, Rod Stewart has amassed an estimated 250 million in album and single sales and an incredible 16 Grammy nominations.  In April, he will join the elite list of artists who are 2x Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees (as a solo artist and soon as a member of the seminal 60s rock band, the Faces). On March 24, he will return to Las Vegas for an 8-concert-run of “The Hits” – part of his immensely popular first residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace.

Stevie Nicks is a multi-Grammy Award Winner as a solo artist and member of the legendary Fleetwood Mac and a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee.  Her new CD “In Your Dreams” debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart and has received glowing reviews from numerous outlets, including US Magazine who declared it “the best album of Nicks’ four decade career.”

TICKETS$45, $85 & $145.  Buy tickets at amwaycenter.com, Amway Center box office, Ticketmaster retail locations, charge-by-phone at 800.745.3000 or at Ticketmaster.com.  All dates, act(s) and ticket prices are subject to change without notice.  All tickets are subject to applicable taxes, service, handling and facility fee charges.  For Amway Center box office and ticket information, visit amwaycenter.com (phone purchases are not available through the Amway Center box office).  The Amway Center is located at 400 West Church Street and the box office is located on the north side of the Amway Center, near the intersection of Church Street and Hughey Avenue. 

ABOUT AMWAY CENTER

The Orlando Magic served as the developer of the Amway Center, which hosts major national events, concerts and family shows.  Opened in the fall of 2010, the facility is owned and operated by the City of Orlando on behalf of the Central Florida community. The Amway Center was designed to reflect the character of the community, meet the goals of the users and build on the legacy of sports and entertainment in Orlando. The building’s exterior features a modern blend of glass and metal materials, along with ever-changing graphics via a monumental wall along one facade. A 180-foot tall tower serves as a beacon amid the downtown skyline. At 875,000 square feet, the new arena is almost triple the size of the old Amway Arena (367,000 square feet). The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certified building features a sustainable, environmentally-friendly design and unmatched technology, featuring 1,100 digital monitors, the tallest high-definition video board in an NBA venue and multiple premium amenities available to all patrons in the building.  For more information about the Amway Center, visit www.amwaycenter.com.

CD Review: Black Label Society “Glorious Christmas Songs That Will Make Your Black Label Heart Feel Good” EP

Black Label Society
“Glorious Christmas Songs That Will Make Your Black Label Heart Feel Good” EP
eOne Music
Tracks: 3

Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars

“Glorious Christmas Songs That Will Make Your Black Label Heart Feel Good” is the Newest EP by the Zakk Wylde fronted group Black Label Society. The EP consists of 3 classic Christmas songs performed by Zakk and his band. The album is being released via eOne Music and available today via iTunes.

I found this CD to be somewhat of a letdown. The tracks feature minimal performances of 3 Christmas Classics by Zakk Wylde and company. I really struggled to find something that stood out and was different. I am a huge Zakk Wylde fan and have quite a collection of his material however the only thing that was somewhat interesting about this EP was the ridiculously long title.

Black Label Society’s “Glorious Christmas Songs That Will Make Your Black Label Heart Feel Good” is nothing that hasn’t been done before. However for those BLS chapter members looking for something to listen to during the holiday season the 3 tracks contained on “Glorious Christmas Songs That Will Make Your Black Label Heart Feel Good” should help get you in the Christmas mood.

Track Listing:
•    I’ll Be Home For Christmas
•    Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
•    It’s A Wonderful World