Interview with James Wan & Leigh Whannell

James Wan & Leigh Whannell are the director and the writer of “Insidious” (respectively).  The started their career by creating the “Saw” franchise.  Since then the guys have worked together on various other projects including “Death Sentence” and “Dead Silence”.  James and Leigh took aside some time during their very busy press day for “Insidious” to chat with Movie Mikes about the new film and working together again on this project.

Mike Gencarelli: James, Tell us about how you became attached to “Insidious”?
James Wan: This is a project that happened when I met with one of the producers of “Paranormal Activity”, we hit it off.   I met with the rest of the gang and introduced them to my partner in crime Leigh Whannell.  We said “Guys we want to do a project together”. We all got along so well, we decided to go out there and work on a film together.  That marriage became “Insidious”.

MG: Leigh, Tell us about coming up with this idea for the script?
Leigh Whannell: This idea, like all, James and I came up with it together, even before we came up with “Saw”.  We were trying to find something that we could shot in a really low budget way.  We had a goal for a $5,000 budget for a film and we were trying to come up with idea that would suit that budget.  The core idea at the heart of “Insidious” is what we came up with.  I don’t want to give anything away to the readers but the end is what we essentially came up with.  We thought it was pretty good and almost went with it.  But one day James called me and said he had the idea of two guys chained up in a public toilet.  I thought that was a better idea and I am glad we went with that.  So we filed the idea for “Insidious” in the file cabinet in the back of your brain. When James had the meeting with Steven Schneider, one of the producers of “Paranormal” that he was just talking about… we came to the belief that we would be pretty foolish by not making this film.

MG: You guys have worked together on every project now, would you consider this project to be you’re most difficult?
JW: I think this actually has been the most fun project that Leigh and I have working together on.
LW: I agree, but not easiest in terms of coming up with the idea, writing the film and directing it.  That stuff is hard…and it is definitely hard to do those things on a small budget. But the ease came from great people.  The cast and crew were just so easy to get along with.  The producers were so great and stayed true to there word by letting us make a film we wanted to make, while also giving us great ideas and thoughts.  They were true collaborators. Everything was just so great.  I definitely have had the most fun working on this, the same as James.

MG: Since the film was low budget, did you feel still feel you were able to achieve everything you wanted?
JW: Oddly, this film actually cost less to make than “Saw” and “Saw” was very low budget.  Yet the ironic thing is I managed to pretty much make the movie I wanted to make.  I think this is the reason why, “Saw” was my first film and  I didn’t have a filmmaking infrastructure around me.  I didn’t have the support or a crew that I knew.  Fast forward to four films later… “Insidious” is my fourth movie, even though it is less money, I have brought in a really great team of people and crew.  I got a cinematographer that I love…an AD that is brilliant…costume and production design…hair and makeup…everyone came to work on this film because they wanted to work with me again. I managed to get an A quality film for basically a no-budget movie.

MG: James, Why did you take on the task of editing as well as directing?
JW: Purely because I love editing [laughs].  It is a simple as that.  I love editing just as much as directing.  I have always edited my own stuff back in film school.  When you get to Hollywood people do not want you to wear yourself too thin.  So usually you have to give up the editing aspect of it.  Due to this being such a small movie and in some way real garage filmmaking for me, it was very experimental.  I got to shoot digital for the first time, which I loved.  It allowed me to do a lot of things that I couldn’t do with film.  I cut it myself in my bedroom on my little Macintosh Apple computer.  It was very liberating.  I thought only I would be able to crop the scare sequences because I shot it knowing how I planned to edit it.  That is the only way I would be able to get around shooting a film in only 22 days. I had a very strong specific way on how I was going to cut.  For me, I felt the scare scenes needed to be very effective and that all comes from how the film is edited and how the sound interacts with that footage.  If you are one second off, then your whole scare sequence is thrown off the curve.

MG: This film looks quite scary especially for PG-13, tell about working within that rating?
JW: Particularly, I know for Leigh he was just setup to write the script and it just so happened to fall into the PG-13 world.  For me it was definitely more conscious.  I didn’t want swearing, I didn’t want blood and guts.  I honestly believe that a lot of it has gotten lost in the last few years.  I think in a big part thanks to the franchise that Leigh and I have created.  People have forgotten that you can make a very scary movie without blood and guts.  You can make a very suspenseful with out throwing buckets of blood at the screen and you can do it this creepy atmosphere that gets into your head.

MG: How was it working with horror genre favorite, Lin Shayne?
JW: I have known Lin Shayne for a while now and there was only one person I wanted to cast for the role.  Most people know here for some of the over the top stuff that she has done but for me I know her and she is more than capable of doing the drama.  She is really great at it.  I really I wanted to give her the chance to do that on this film. Since she comes from a comedic background there is a great quirkiness to the role, which I think is fantastic.

MG: Leigh, did you right the part with Lin in mind?
LW: James told me very early on that he wanted that character set for Lin Shayne to play.  I have worked with her and I was able to write the character for her, which is awesome.  It is always easier to write a character for somebody you know.  You can take years of life experiences, quirks and habits and put it into the character.  That is actually how I build from the ground up. I always like to base characters on people I know because it is the easiest access point.  It was great writing the character having her in mind.  I also wrote the ghost hunters characters for myself and Angus Sampson.  With Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson’s characters, I didn’t know them so I based the characters on people I know in my life.

MG: Leigh, you not only started the “Saw” franchise but also starred in it, were you always planned to take on both roles?
LW: Yeah, that was our plan! As I said before we were trying to make a film for $5,000 dollars. That was our post film school plan. James wanted to direct something and I wanted to act in something. We were frustrated, so we came up with the idea and went out and did it.  I love acting.  I just enjoy it as much as I do writing.  I am not afraid to say that if I write a film I love to put myself in it, that way I can still be involved in the filmmaking process after the writing is done. The writing is where it all starts.  These are the plans for the house and you can’t build anything without the blueprints. Once I start I want to be there on the building site.  I want to be hammering some nails and helping out.  So the best way to do that is to be acting.

MG: What do you guys have planned next together?
JW: We have separate things we have been working on that we always check with each other about.
LW: Together as the team the Wan/Whannell brand…we are talking about doing a Sci-Fi.  We have come up with an idea and we really like it.  We ran the idea past some investors and they really liked it.  So that is definitely upcoming.

MG: Do you feel nervous going up against this weeks new films?
LW: Yeah for sure! We are always nervous about going against big films.
JW: Our film is a small little film and it is hard to compete with big studio films, “Hop” and “The Source Code”.  Those are big studio films, with huge marketing behind them.  We are here to nip at the hills.

Interview with Eden Sher

Eden Sher plays the awkward yet lovable Sue Heck on Fox’s new hit series “The Middle”.  Movie Mikes had a chance to speak with Eden about the show as well as some of her other projects, which include working with Jay Leno.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about how your role on “The Middle” came about?
Eden Sher: I had auditioned for the original pilot a few years earlier but the show was never picked up. I got a call about going to the audition a second time and said ok. When I showed up at the audition there were two other girls who were much younger than I was. I figured that they would want one of those girls for sure. I decided I would give it a shot anyways and went in with my fake braces on and did the audition. After a few more auditions and phone calls, I got the part.

AL: What did you think the first time you saw the yellow sweat shirt?
ES: When I saw the sweatshirt the first day, it wasn’t really a big deal. I figured it was only going to be for one episode. Well it turned into this joke with the cast and crew that they started putting it in my trailer each day. Eventually what started as a joke turned into it being used in more scenes. The fans of the show really liked it as well and now I wear it almost all of the time. (Laughs)

AL: What is it you like about playing the Sue Character?
ES: Do I have to pick just one? (Laughs) It’s just a fun character to play and I kind of sympathies with the character as I am the middle child in my family.

AL: Do you have a favorite episode?
ES: Up until a few weeks ago I really liked the Kung Fu fighting episode from season one or the jeans episode. That episode Sue got to throw a tantrum which was great! However we just shot an episode which Sue has some really great moments.

AL: How was your experience working on “Weeds”?
ES: That was a really great experience and I loved working on that show. “Weeds” was a very different vibe than “The Middle”. It was a much more serious show. That was my first experience with a fully scripted show. I learned quite a bit by just watching some of the other actors work. A lot of what I learned working on “Weeds” has been very crucial in developing my acting skills.

AL: Can you tell us what it was like doing skits for Jay Leno?
ES: I had done that before I even knew that I wanted to act. Jay had come to my elementary school to film a bit for the show where he asked various kids questions. I happened to be one of the kids he talked to. He must have thought I was funny because they kept all of the parts I did in the show. I guess the bit ended up being successful and Jay came back to my school to do another one for Christmas. After that the producers of the show contacted my mom and told her that Jay really liked me and wanted me to do a recurring bit on the show. It was awesome! I got to be on the show with my brother and do a bit called “Just ask Eden and Cosmo.” Audience members would send in questions asking advice and we would get to answer them. At the time I was 8 and my brother was 10 (Laughs). We actually got to do that bit a couple times.

AL: Did you get to meet any of the guests from the show?
ES: I got to meet Michelle Branch and Pamela Anderson! Pamela is like the nicest person ever. She was great. My brother actually got to sit on her lap while she did her interview. It was really awesome!

AL: Do you have any other upcoming projects?
ES: I haven’t had time to audition for anything because of the shooting schedule on “The Middle”. I am attached to be in a film but there are still somethings that have to be taken care of before that gets started. Hopefully that will start in the spring time. We shoot like 15 hour days, so when I have some time off…I want to just relax. I do have a list of things I want to do in the near future like travel to Israel and a few other countries.

ES:

Interview with Brian Yunza

Brian Yunza is a Director/Screenwriter/Producer known best for his work on the “Re-Animator” and “The Dentist” series. Most of his film work falls into the horror genre. Brian has also started production company, Fantastic Factory. He has worked quite a bit with Stuart Gordon and they are both big fans of H.P. Lovecraft and together they have developed several of his stories into films. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Brian about his films and what he has planned upcoming.

Mike Gencarelli: Can you reflect your favorite film in the “Re-Animator” series?
Brian Yunza: My favorite of the “Re-Animator” films is the first one because that not only invented the thing but it was also the first movie I had produced. Not to mention that it was the most successful. When you make a movie for the first time everything is new, every situation is unique, each challenge is fresh. Just like a first love, a first film is a process of discovery that can’t be repeated. If “Re-Animator” had turned out badly perhaps I would have buried the memory and moved on to another movie for my fond reminiscences. The sequels have a place in my heart, of course, but I am well aware that each of them had the goal of fulfilling certain expectations created by the first film.

MG:Tell us about working on “The Dentist” series? Would love to see that series continue?
BY: The first film in the series originated as an idea by the head of Trimark Pictures, Mark Amin. I agreed to develop and direct his idea and at that time my company would have also produced it for him. Mark didn’t insist on a particular story, only that the film should focus on the fear of sitting in the dentist chair, not on some fantastical or sci fi type of twist. We listened to pitches from over two dozen writers before settling on the story, and even then the script didn’t give us what we wanted. The process of working with Trimark was a very supportive and congenial one, and when I went off to Canada to produce Crying Freeman I was happy for them to make the movie without me if that worked out better for their schedule. When I returned and new writer had made some interesting improvements in the script and Pierre David had come on board to produce. I rejoined the project even though the budget had been slashed and worked on the script with on of Pierre’s executives while we were in pre production. Trimark did a great job of helping us find an appropriate and talented cast for the movie, and I can’t say enough about Corbin Bersen and his contribution to the film. He was more than just a lead actor, he was always there to help solve problems with creative solutions. I was insecure about The Dentist- I just didn’t know if it was going to work. I had never had such a minimalist situation for a story which led me to design the shooting of the movie more than I ever had before. It also had something I was not experienced in which was a ‘body count’. I was concerned that the killings be stylish and visual. All the sound and music was done by Alan Howarth in his studio in a very short time. Finally, when it was all over and I had seen it with a few audiences my fears were allayed and I realized that it did work and Corbin’s dentist character was truly memorable. The sequel was more difficult in many ways, not just because the budget was even smaller, but because I was unable to work with the script until the weekend before we began shooting. So, Corbin (and leading actress Julian McWhirter) would have dinner each evening after work to review and amend the scenes for the next day. The sequel is less successful than the original, but a lot of fun in its own way- mainly because the Dentist character is so much fun to watch. Corbin and I have discussed often our desire to continue the series. But we can’t because we don’t control the rights. Corbin is determined to revive the character. It was the character that introduced him to genre films and he now he loves the genre.

MG: When making “Return of the Living Dead III”, how much did you lean on the prior films in the series?
BY: I don’t think I “leaned” on the previous “Return” films at all. I admire the first one greatly, and was very aware that it was an unofficial sequel to “Night of the Living Dead”- so I wanted to respect both of those movies while doing something original. The straight forward horror of Romero’s film and the EC Comics style of O’Bannon’s film both influence “Return 3″”, but I think that the film that screenwriter John Penney and I fashioned goes its own way. Some fans were not happy that “Return 3” wasn’t as comedic as the first, but as a fan myself I find “Return 3” to be a very satisfying, fun horror film. I changed interpreted the underlying mythology of the living dead in a way that I felt did justice to both Romero and O’Bannon- the Trioxin gas remains as the reanimating agent, but the saliva of the living dead was able to turn victims into zombies. The studio, Trimark, insisted on only one requirement- that the movie contain “brain eating”- so I decided that the living dead ate flesh, not for the meat, but for the nerves in it, and the biggest bundle of nerves was the brain. So, you can see that I wanted to take the story a little more seriously that “Return 1”.
I didn’t draw on “Return 2” for inspiration as I thought it had been burdened by the requirement to carry on characters from the first film and to be wildly comedic. I was actually more inclined toward an ironic humor and especially the character of Julie as a living dead heroine. After making “Bride of Re-Animator” I realized that I was most interested in the character of the “Bride” and she only showed up in the third act. So with “Return 3” I was able to make that kind of character the core of the movie.

MM: Going from working in the horror genre, how did you get involved with Disney and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” as co-producer and writer?
BY: After making “Re-Animater”, Stuart Gordon (director of “Re-Animator”) and I were having a BBQ at my house and decided that we should make a movie for our young children. I recalled imagining myself to be smaller than a blade of grass as a kid, riding on an ant, and how exciting that would be. Stuart immediately saw it as a Disney movie and we quickly came up with the idea of an inventor who shrinks his kids. We were able to get a meeting with a development executive at Disney and on a plane ride back from Rome (where we were shooting “From Beyond and Dolls”) Stuart and I wrote out the whole story on a legal pad and pitched it upon arriving in LA. Surprisingly Disney loved the idea and immediately and put it into development. For the next year we worked on the project making set designs and storyboards, casting and special FX. We built all the sets in Mexico (full sized since there were no digital FX back then). Unfortunately, a few weeks before shooting Stuart had health problems and had to bow out.

MG: What was the most challenging film you have worked on?
BY: That’s almost impossible to say because there have been so many difficult ones. But, I would say that the first film I did in Spain, the one that kick off the Fantastic Factory and demonstrated whether the idea of producing genre films in Spain using Spanish crew and talent would work, is one of the candidates for most challenging. That was “Faust: Love of the Damned”. One that would top “Faust” is the one I just finished, “Amphibious 3D”. Shooting in Indonesia with Indonesian crew and some Dutch key personnel, doing it in 3D and having lots of creature FX and CGI- well that was incredibly challenging. The guys who built the 30 foot long sea scorpion lived in the middle of the island of Bali, worked on the floor and had never been on a movie set before. But the main thing that made the production difficult was the collapse of the financing in the middle of the production. This is one of the main reasons for disorganization and insanity on a movie set: the lack of a solid financing structure. Everything is in flux. It is like building a house with a faulty foundation. However, maybe by challenging you don’t mean difficult, but, well, “challenging”. In that case certainly “Re-Animator” qualifies because it was the first movie I produced, and it was immensely challenging to try to do something one has never done before. Or “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”. Designing a movie for a mass audience with the Disney tradition to live up to is pretty challenging. Or how about “Beyond Re-Animator”? Making a “Re-Animator” movie that isn’t a complete failure when the only other person on the set that has an inkling of what we are trying to achieve is Jeffrey Combs. Shooting with a completely Spanish crew with mostly Spanish actors and trying to live up to the expectations of the fans was seriously challenging. You know all the movie productions have been involved with been very challenging, and a lot of that has to do with the goals we set for ourselves. One each one I try to raise the bar as high as I possibly can – and that’s the challenge.

MG: Do you think you will ever continue the “Re-Animator” franchise?
BY: I have been doing my best to continue it. After my years doing the Fantastic Factory I came to LA with the plan to get financing for a trilogy of “Re-Animator” sequels that would continue and bring the saga to a close. It was kind of shocking to be to not find a strong desire to participate at places like Lionsgate and New Line. Well, even then the business was changing. I continued developing the stories for the three films, and at one time thought that we had the financing in place for the first of the trilogy, “House of Re-Animator”. That was to be Herbert West in the White House. Stuart Gordon was going to direct and William Macy agreed to play the re-animated president. I wanted to have Dan Cain come back so we could have a good confrontation between him and West. But, the financing fell through. Then Obama got elected and Stuart lost his enthusiasm because he enjoyed the idea of using some of the irony in the film in political satire. The political angle to me was less interesting because I am of the opinion that politics works fine in sci-fi, but horror is more the domain of psychology and religion. At present I am actively developing a script for “Re-Animator Unbound”! It is the story of what happens after Herbert West’s adventures in the White House and he has gotten black ops funding for an experimental project. For the first time he has a fully equipped laboratory. Once I get the script in order I will try to get Jeffrey Combs to agree to do it and, one way or another, get the financing for it.
By the way, Stuart Gordon is presently presenting his adaptation of “Re-Animator” into a musical comedy- entitled, believe it or not…”Re-Animator :The Musical”. It is really entertaining and should be a big hit.

MG: Tell us what other upcoming projects are you woking on?
BY: I am currently working with The Little Film Company’s Robbie Little on the financing plan for “The Men”, a sci-fi thriller by Dan O’Bannon (“Alien”, “Total Recall”) which Stuart Gordon will direct. The script is really great, about a woman who discovers that all men are aliens – so you can see that even though it is a thriller it will have a good dose of irony. It is a project that I worked with Dan on way back twenty years ago so I am really thrilled to be seeing it finally get going. Of course, I am working on “Re-Animator Unbound!” I am developing a 3D immersion film called “Necronauts” based on the short story of the same name. And I just finished co-writing with John Penney a pretty wild script called “The Pope”. Mainly I am working on arranging for a financing facility for making another label, or line, of films.

Interview with Page Kennedy

Page Kennedy has done a lot with his career in a short amount of time. Page started his acting career on stage and quickly moved on to television and movies along big name actors like Samuel L. Jackson and Collin Farrell. Movie Mikes’ Adam Lawton caught with Page to talk about his character Radon Randell from the Spike TV’s “Blue Mountain State”.

Click here to purchase “Blue Mountain State” DVD or Blu-Ray

Adam Lawton: You have quit an extensive acting background and have been on quit a few different television shows, but how did the role for “Blue Mountain State” come about?
Page Kennedy: “Blue Mountain State” came at a difficult time in my life. It was a role that I thought was a long shot for me to play. So I went in there kind of pessimistic about it but prepared and I gave them what I thought this character was. I thought I knew this character. I just didn’t think I looked like him, but again I gave them what I thought this character was and apparently they thought so too.

AL: I think it takes guts to go out there in an American flag Speedo.
PK: Yeah it does a little bit. It takes guts.

AL: Can you tell us a little bit about who your character Radon Randell is on the show?
PK: Radon is a cat from Detroit who has always been the best everywhere he went, but you know he’s from Detroit so his life circumstances are a little different. He is able to get away with a lot of stuff that he does, since he’s an awesome football player. They let him do whatever he wanted to do. It comes to happen that he chooses to go to Blue Mountain State after receiving all these offers from other schools. He’s bringing Detroit to this school along with all his antics and his awesomeness on the football field. So you have to deal with an extra arrogant, crazy, and wild personality.

AL: Did the cast, who were part the first season, give you any type of hazing with you being the new guy on set?
PK: I didn’t really get hazed much. I fitted right in because my personality is as big and crazy as theirs are. It felt like I was never the new guy because I just gelled so well with them immediately.

AL: Did you have any previous football experience prior to the show?
PK: I played a football character once before on the show “Six Feet Under”, which is ironic because that was the first time I was on TV. Here I am again playing a football character. I also played for my division 1 college, so I had some experience.

AL: You were in the movie “S.W.A.T.” with Collin Farrell and Samuel L. Jackson, can you tell us a little about that experience?
PK: I was relatively new to the movie game as that was only my second movie. It was surreal. I remember one time we had rehearsal for the 6th St. Bridge scene. It was a closed rehearsal, which was the first time for me being a part of a closed rehearsal.  They put me in a van with Samuel L. Jackson, Collin Farrell, LL Cool L and Michelle Rodriguez. All I kept thinking to myself was I made it. I’m sitting in a van going to rehearsals with movie stars, I made it. I worked on that movie a long time, so I got to be close with Olivia Martinez and Collin Farrell and really everyone. It was a fun time.

AL: Can you tell me about the time you snuck into Sony Studio?
PK: Oh ya, well I had just gotten to LA from graduate school and was sleeping on a friend’s couch. I had done a Shakespeare festival the summer before and one of the actors lived in LA and told me about the audition. I didn’t have a car. I didn’t have an agent. I didn’t have anything but a head shot and a dream. So I was like, “How am I going to get to this audition?” and “how am I actually going to audition?”  I had never actually had an audition in LA. So I had a friend take me to Sony Studios and I told them I was a courier making a delivery to the casting director which I was…I was delivering myself! This was pre-9/11, so they let me in. I got there and I said “Hey I’m here let’s do this!” They were like “We are not even auditioning yet and are you representing yourself?”  I said “Sure am” and they basically kicked me out. About a week later, the actual casting director saw that I had like twenty theater credits on my resume and they called me in for an actual audition. I nailed that and then they called me again and I nailed it again. Then they wanted me to test for the network at which time I thought I had the part (laughs) but I didn’t. So I went back to an agent, who had previously turned down my offer to represent me, and I asked that they negotiate my deal. They said “Sure”, not really thinking anything would come of it. But then CBS called them and asked if they knew a Page Kennedy and they were like “Yes why? What did he do?” And the person calling said that they wanted me to network test for CBS. And they still represent me today.

AL: Do you have any other projects coming up that you would like our readers to know about?
PK: Well I’m a rapper and I do music. I have a song that will be played on one of the upcoming episodes of “Blue Mountain State”. I have a mix tape that’s out on my website www.pagekennedy.com called “The Chronicles of U-Turn” which was based off my character on “Weeds”. I’m heavily on twitter @PageKennedy, where you can hear some of my jokes, as well as compete against me daily at 9:30 PST on “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader”.

AL: I would like to see a Radon soundboard app, which featured all his catch phrases.
PK: (Laughs) that would be dope.

Click here to purchase “Blue Mountain State” DVD or Blu-Ray

Interview with Darin Brooks

Darin Brooks who won a Daytime Emmy for his role as Max Brady on the day time series “Days of Our Lives” and is currently starring in the Spike TV’s original series “Blue Mountain State” took a moment to talk with Movie Mikes’ Adam Lawton about season two of the hit television show “Blue Mountain State”.

Click here to purchase “Blue Mountain State” DVD or Blu-Ray

Adam Lawton: Being back for the second season of “Blue Mountain State” were you allowed any input or direction for your character Alex Moran?
Darin Brooks: This season of shooting went by so fast for me and the other actors who returned to the show.  We shot for three months and before we knew it it was over. We had already developed who our characters were, so we didn’t have to start at ground zero for season two.  We able to just coming back and have fun.

AL: There are a lot of big sports names attached to this seasons episodes, was there one in particular that you were looking forward to meeting and working with?
DB: This year we have a whole bunch of really fun people. We have Boomer Esiason, Craig Carton, Bill Romanowski, Bill Parcells, Brian Bosworth as well as Chuck Liddell and Denise Richards of course. I was excited to work with everybody.

AL: Was it hard for you going from a more serious role on “Days of Our Lives” to a more comedic role on “Blue Mountain State”, where you’re shooting scenes like the “cookie race” from season one?
DB: “Days of Our Lives” was a great training ground for me and I think any actor. The people who work on those shows are some of the hardest working people in the business. On “Days of Our Lives”, we would shoot six episodes in five days with each hour episode being around 80-90 pages per script. On “BMS” we shoot around ten pages at the most a day.  I learned a lot of technical aspects of acting that you might not learn in an acting class.  Like working with the lights and focusing on where your mics are and memorization skills. It was again a great training ground for me.  It was fun but it can be a little dramatic, so I tried to put some comedy into that character.  Now I’m kind of doing the opposite because we are shooting less pages.  We get to explore and make different choices.  With “BMS”, we can get more takes and can choose your best performance and concentrate on your character. Spike kind of let’s us do what we want, which is a lot of fun.

AL: Speaking of “Days of our Lives” you won a Daytime Emmy for your performance on that show, can you tell us a little bit about what that was like for you?
DB: To be honest with you, I was shocked. I know we had submitted all the tapes but I didn’t expect to win. I was just going to go to hang out with everybody. I think my Emmy speech is on YouTube and you can see how shocked I was. I think I stood up and mouthed “Oh Fuck” and as soon as I got on stage I said “Oh Shit” and they beeped me and started playing music to get me of stage. I was very surprised.

AL: Do you have any projects coming up that you would like to tell our readers about, maybe season three of “BMS”?
DB: Right now we are not sure if there is going to be a season three but it’s looking good. Everyone has to keep tuning in and do their part to help keep the ratings up, but hopefully we will find out by the end of the year. I have a guess spot on “CSI Miami” coming up.  I’m also doing some writing and trying to produce a film, along with a bunch of other stuff.  Just getting out there and doing my thing.

Click here to purchase “Blue Mountain State” DVD or Blu-Ray

Interview with Skyline's Colin & Greg Strause

Colin & Greg Strause have worked on many high profile films under their company Hydraulx. Some of them range from “The Day After Tomorrow” to “300” to “2012” to “Avatar”. Together they have only previously directed one film, “AVPR: Aliens vs Predator – Requiem” back in 2007. They decided to create their latest film “Skyline”, completely independent from studios in order to make it under their own terms. “Skyline” looks like $100 million movie but was shot for less than $1 million dollars, according to the brothers.  Movie Mikes got a chance to chat with the brothers about “Skyline” and how they got it made in under a year.

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Mike Gencarelli: How did Hydraulx originally come about?
Greg Strause: Hydraulx came to be in 2002.  Colin and I moved to LA in 1995 and had another company called Pixel Envy with some partners.  We couldn’t all get along, so we split that up.  Colin and I decided to just go at it on our own and do it just the two of us, that is when Hydraulx came to be.  We started off pretty small, it was like ten guys in an apartment in Santa Monica.  It has grown now into a big office with like a hundred and twenty people.  It has turned into this little monster.

MG: Tell us why you decided to make “Skyline” completely independent from studios?
GS: There were a few things, we thought a lot of things could have gone better on “AVPR”.  In the three years that has gone by since it came out, we have been developing scripts.  We were meeting with producers and trying to get things going at other studios.  It is a very frustrating process of trying to get a movie off the ground.  If we had an idea that we thought was cool, a person at the studio would say “If there was a comic book that sold 250 copies of it, then I could show my boss”.  Colin and I thought that was absolutely ridiculous.  That is honestly the dumbest thing I have ever heard.  I have to make a comic book in order to get a movie made?  That is really lame that you can’t show your boss unless it is based on an existing property.
Colin Strause: It doesn’t even matter if the existing property only sold like ten copies either.
GS: Yeah, it is such a studio mentality that everyone is just trying to protect their jobs.  It is very difficult to get original sci-fi and stuff like that off the ground.  You have to take a risk, like what we did by just financing your own film.  We did it independently, just rolled the dice and see what happens.

MG: How were you able to complete “Skyline” from script to screen in under a year?
CS: It was like 11 and a half months. It was insane.
GS: I think the important thing is that we had our writers, Liam (O’ Donnell) and Josh (Cordes) and they stayed on it until the last day it was delivered.
CS: We had a strong outline and that was real key.  You can spend years on the development process and writing the script.  Just because you spent three years on it doesn’t mean the script is going to be any better than if you spent two months on it.  Sometimes you get these ideas that sounds great in a room and once they are implemented you say “Oh my God, it got worse”.  That is why things get stuck in development hell.  We had a very detailed outline written out right off the bat.  From that outline Josh and Liam stuck to it when they wrote the script.  That aloud the script to get finished in what is considered a short order from what the business is used to.

MG: “Skyline” was shot on a low budget, what was the hardest part of making it looking like a $100 million dollar movie?
GS: The first thing was getting everyone on board in the beginning and making them believe we could pull this off.  They would read the script and it reads big.  Colin and I said told them we can do this for $10 million. The physical live action budget was only a million bucks.
CS: Yeah, it was like $980,000.
GS: The agents and managers were flipping.  They thought we were smoking crack.  That is them though doing their job, it didn’t make sense.  You have this script it reads really big.  So convincing people we weren’t smoking crack was one of the hard parts.  The other part was after we finished shooting, we were cutting the movie this past summer and Universal tells us they want to release the movie on November 12th.  So probably the hardest thing really was getting it done in that amount of time.

MG: How does working on visual effects for “Skyline” differ from you working on a film like “Avatar”?
GS: The actual process is very similar.  Again, the time compression on “Skyline” was rough.
CS: We had to do a thousand FX shots in just under four months which is insane.  It is the most shots Hydraulx has ever done on a movie.  The actual process, the software and the way things are put together, is identical to how we did stuff on “Avatar”.
GS: The biggest difference is that since we were our own client, we were  able to eliminate a significant amount of bureaucracy between supervisors, director, producers and the studios.  There are all these levels of people that need to sign off on things.  As directors, we are also visual effects supervisors, we knew what we were going to do from day one.  We just stuck to the plan.  Usually what happens on movies, they are trying to race through pre-production.  They do not always work out the visual effects until after the movie is shot.  They are like “Ok, now let’s get into it afterwards.  We knew this wasn’t going to be a two year process, so we didn’t have that luxury.  We had to come up with our plan up front, stick to our guns and ride it out.
CS: It is a different way of doing movies and that is how we pulled it off.  I do not think that anyone else could have ever done it the way we did.

MG: When I watching the film, I thought to myself you guys probably had this all planned out.  It felt very well thought out, like the visual effect were already there when it is was shot.
GS: One of our camera operators on the movie was Josh Cordes, who is also one of the writers.  Having your writer be your camera guy really helps.  You have someone who knows why the camera is being pointed somewhere.  That is a huge positive in trying to streamline the process.

MG: What has been the most difficult film that you have worked on?
GS: This film definitely ranks up there for me and probably another would be…
CS: “2012”, it was huge.
GS: Yeah it was, but I think it might be “The Day After Tomorrow” actually.  We came in after another company had a problem on the movie.  We only had a couple of months to do, what this other company had a year to work on.  “Skyline” definitely takes the cake though overall in that realm.
CS: We were also wearing a lot of hats in “Skyline”.  It is our first movie as producers as well.  You have involvement of making sure it doesn’t go over budget.  We had to get it done on time.  We were dealing with the marketing materials.  The color grading and final assembly of the film was done at Hydraulx.  It was the first movie we have ever done that on.  We were learning all the ins and outs of managing the sound department also.  It was a huge undertaking.
GS: Even though it is a small indie.  There is still an incredible amount of man hours that goes into the film.  Staying above all of the departments is a lot of work.  Collin and I were running on pure adrenaline the whole film.

MG: I liked the ending of the movie, I thought it fit well.
GS: It was ballsy.  It is not a studio ending.  We wanted to do something really interesting with the ending.

MG: When was the ending shot? Was it a pick-up shot?
GS: It was literally shot the last day of principal photography.  The whole things was shot in one day on green screen.  It was intense.

MG: Any hints you can give us for what’s to come in “Skyline 2”?
GS: [MINOR SPOILER] We already have a forty page treatment that we did.  I hope people take away when they watch the movie is that “Skyline” is the prequel.  We basically shot what we wanted to do with this trilogy in order.  Normally you do the big movie first, then the sequel, then come back and do the prequel.  With this one we had the story mapped out in what we wanted to do.  Now seeing where the movie ends, it leaves it open for a chance for us to fight back.  We got our asses kicked and we find out first resistance fighter.  I think it takes us to a really cool place for the next one.
CS: It gives us hope for the human race.

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MovieMikes’ “Skyline” Interview Series

In case you haven’t heard of “Skyline”, it is a new alien invasion movie and is in theaters now. The film was completely financed by Colin and Greg Strause without the assistance of any major studio. The film has a budget around only $10 million dollars and was almost entirely filmed at co-director Greg Strause’s condo building in Marina Del Rey, CA. It looks like a $100+ million dollar movie, taking a page from films like “Cloverfield” and ” District 9″. The film started off as a test trailer which was shot Thanksgiving 2009, and it is already hitting the screen less than a year later. There is about 1,000 VFX shots in the film, which more than most big budget franchise tent poles.

Here is the premise for the film:
Strange lights descend on the city of Los Angeles, drawing people outside like moths to a flame where an extraterrestrial force threatens to swallow the entire human population off the face of the Earth.
Movie Mikes was able to score some interview with the cast and crew from “Skyline”.

Interview with Tanya Newbould

When Tanya Newbould tried out for her first film you could say she had beginner’s luck. Originally cast as an extra in “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey,” she ended up scoring not one but two parts in the film. After a few minor roles she began a long association with director Brett Ratner, appearing in the Nicolas Cage comedy “Family Man.” She also worked with the director on “Rush Hour 2,” “Red Dragon” and “X-Men: The Last Stand”.  Her next role is in the Strause brother’s new film “Skyline”. Movie Mikes had the chance to talk with Tanya about from her start in the business to her latest role in “Skyline”.

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Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your role in the upcoming sci-fi film “Skyline”?
Tanya Newbould: It’s pretty intense. My character’s name is Jen, she’s married. And what’s really neat is that the first time you see the Alien it’s through my eyes. It’s a very pivotal role…very intense to do…very high energy. All kinds of you know what is going down so it was very high octane stuff the entire time I worked.

MG: How do you think this film will compare to similarly related film like “Cloverfield”?
TN: I actually liked “Cloverfield.” When I watched it I was drawn in because I didn’t know exactly what it was about. I think “Skyline” has a similar feel only in that sense but everything else is entirely different. When I read the script I couldn’t stop turning the pages. It was a really good script. I’m not surprised it’s gone to the level it’s gone to. Working with the Strause Brothers…they’re an incredible team of co-directors. They really complement each other. It really was an honor to work with both of them. The writers were great…the producers…everyone was really, really awesome.

MG: What was the most difficult part of working on that film?
TN: Probably the twelve hour days. And my character, because of what she goes through, it’s not one that you can act or pretend or be low key. I was doing heavy emotion the entire time and that’s not something you can fake because we know when people are being real and when they’re not and as an actor you can’t fake that because in order for the audience to believe it you’ve got to believe it. It was very interesting. We shot in a parking garage, where people live, and we’d get ready to roll. I’m getting ready to run screaming through the parking garage, crying hysterically and I’d hear “hold please…someone is coming through.” And we’d have to stop, wait for them to come through, get in their car, back out, drive off. OK, perfect! So all day you’re constantly going through this where you’re ready to go but you have to stop everything and wait.

MG: The Strause Brothers are best known for visual effects work but here they return to the directing chair (the brothers also directed “Aliens vs Predators: Requiem”). How was it working with them?
TN: For working on a film with a low budget I never felt like I WAS working on a film with a low budget. I’ve worked on big studio films, I’ve done four of Brett Ratner’s movies. I’m used to doing bigger budget movies. But I really felt that since Colin and Greg have been in the industry so long they knew what they were doing. They were great. The entire cast and crew…everyone who worked on the film….they knew what was going on. They had it together. It was very well done.

MG: You started your career in “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey,” whose co-star Alex Winter we just interviewed. How was your experience on the film?
TN: I love Alex! I would love to talk to him, he’s amazing. And I love Keanu too. He was such a sweetheart. They were so much fun to work with. It was a really, really cool shoot. What’s interesting is that I had just started out acting and was actually an extra in the opening scene…I’m one of the college students. And from there I ended up playing Marilyn Monroe in the “heaven” sequence and then the director hired me to play the rock and roll reporter Kate Axelrod. So I actually have three parts in that movie.

MG: What do you have planned next?
TN: I just wrapped a movie I shot a few weeks ago called “The Victim” with Jennifer Blanc and Danielle Harris. Michael Bien not only stars in it but he also directed my sequence. I play a reporter. Now that one was a low budget movie, but it was very well done. Danielle is my best friend. In fact, she’s Godmother to my baby.

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Interview with Liam O’Donnell & Phet Mahathongdy

Phet Mahathongdy has not one but two roles in the upcoming sci-fi film “Skyline”. She also is married to Liam O’Donnell, one of the writers and producers of “Skyline”. Movie Mikes’ Adam Lawton got a chance to talk with both Phet (pronounced Pat) and Liam to discuss their new movie, “Skyline”, which opens in theaters Friday, November 12.

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Adam Lawton: Phet, what are your roles in the movie?
Phet Mahathongdy: I have two small cameos. The original script had a different role for me but that never made it to the cut. So I ended up doing a mother and baby scene and a bartender scene.
Liam O’Donnell: When we first started shooting Phet did the bartender scene and played the character Mandy. Then we started editing and thinking about doing re-shoots. We weren’t sure if we were going to keep that scene or not. It was a big pool sequence with all the characters hanging out and kind of enjoying the California life style. So when we started the re-shoots, we wanted to do a scene in an airplane which showed the characters arriving to LA. Originally due to the initial budget, we just had the characters arriving in a limo but when we got the re-shoots approved and we had a budget for an airplane set.  We wanted to  have a little “save the cat moment” where Jared played by Eric Balfore helps a single woman with a baby in her arms with her luggage. This is kind of a little screenwriting trick to make his character more likable. I said I know a good looking lady and cute kid. So Phet and our six month old played that as well. Later on however we didn’t know that the pool scene which had originally been cut came back. So Phet ends up having two scenes as two different characters in the movie. You really have to be looking closely in the pool scene to realize it’s the same woman.

AL: Phet How was it working on your first feature film?
PM: The film started of independently with a really small cast and crew maybe no more than twenty people. I have done independent films before so it was basically the same feel where everyone knows everyone else. We didn’t have trailers so everyone was hanging out together between takes and talking so it was very intimate.

AL: Are you and Liam fans of the sci-fi Genre?
PM: We are huge sci-fi nuts!
LO: She’s a very cool wife to be with because she only really likes action, horror and sci-fi. So if there’s a drama I kind of want to watch, she’s usually not interested.

AL: Phet, do you have any other upcoming projects?
PM: We actually just had a baby and he recently turned one year old. I have barely been auditioning for much of anything the last year or so. Lately I have just been trying to get back into it. When I filmed the scenes for “Skyline”, our son was about only about six months old so. We were still trying to get back into the swing of things.  Right now I’m just starting to get back into it and retrain and go back out there. It’s been a real life adjusting moment having a child and being in LA trying to pursue a career. It makes things a lot tougher. You have to be a lot stronger and without family here it’s hard to find a good sitter.

AL: Liam, can you tell me how you got into the business of writing scripts and treatments?
LO: I went to school for political science. I had wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, but it was one of those things that I wasn’t sure if I could. I originally came out to LA to do entertainment law. So I had gotten to know some people at some of the smaller production companies and I started writing treatments for local cable commercials. At one point I ended up directing one of these cable commercials and started figuring out the whole treatment game. One of the guys at the company knew Greg Strauss (co-director of “Skyline”). So I kind of met the brothers within six months of moving out to LA. After I met them, we hit it off as friends. We would go out and hit the town. One day Greg needed someone to write a treatment for a presentation, so myself and a friend of mine who was in graphic design did a few style frames and a few treatments. The second one I did for them was for a Fresca ad and the company got the job. Then we did the Gatorade ad where Michael Jordan misses the shot. After that I started developing features. I always loved movies. I loved sci-fi and I loved big ideas. I always had this kind of love for playing with the big epic story and then whittle it down into a small human intimate moment. I wrote a big disaster movie with the Strauss brothers a few years ago and we took that out on the town. I also wrote a period epic. “Skyline” is the third script I wrote. When we came up with the idea, I had been collaborating with the Strauss brother’s animation supervisor Joshua Cordes, who I had worked with before on “AVP 2”. He wrote a really brutal horror movie script called “Toxicity” that I thought did a good job with the contained kind of character story with teenagers trapped in a drug tenement house. “Skyline” was never anything but people trapped in a high rise. I wanted to play with the more epic aspects of “Skyline” and Josh would help keep me grounded. So we each wrote a treatment the first day. We had the idea and we put them together the next day and a lot of the beefs lined up. So we took the best parts of each and we almost immediately had a story. Within a week we had people who wanted to finance the movie because it had these awesome concepts of spaceships over cities and people getting sucked up in the air. It was a really big story set within the parameters of a small production.

AL: Is it true that the whole movie came together in less than a year?
LO: Yes, November of 2009 is when we had the first meeting. We had about thirty five pages in the first couple weeks,then we had a script about mid December. We started casting in late December/early January.
PM: It happened really fast. They were all really hungry. The teaser was shot Thanksgiving Day, it was pretty wild.
LO: The process has been great and I have been able to share it with my family and have them involved in some capacity. Phet has been my script reader since we have been together and it was great getting that feedback. She actually had input on the “Skyline” script in a few places.
PM: I was watching out for that woman character.
LO: In one scene we had Eric Belfour’s character tell Britney Daniels character to “shut up” and Phet said “No”. So when we were on set for that scene I told Eric that I had a female friend of mine read the script and that she hated the shut-up scene. Eric was like “I Love It” and he got really pissed and was complaining about the scene not being liked. Then I told him it was my wife (laughs) and he felt super bad. The next time he saw Phet, he apologized to her.
PM: From a woman’s perspective when a man tells them to shut up you do not like that man. They were like “Come on, he’s going to be a really likable character” and I was like “Um, No”.
LO: It was good insight

AL: Liam, you have done everything from commercials to music videos and now movies. Do you have one you prefer over the others?
LO: Movies, any day of the week! I was getting frustrated with videos and commercials. We would start writing the treatment in almost script form. There would be seven pages for a music videos, which would make it look very theatrical. It would get frustrating because we would do all this work only to be passed off for a more simpler low budget idea.  Also when you’re doing pitches for studios, the scripts get sent out to directors like Greg and Colin. Then they want meetings and when you do meetings you have to come in with a really well thought out idea of how you are going to approach that script. You are doing a lot of visual development and other things. I literally spent a year doing that and all I have from it are a bunch of really well written twenty page treatments of movies that someone else went on to make or that never got made. It’s just a frustrating use of your time and your passion.  I really immersed myself into each one of those projects and tried to make them as good as it could be. At times it can came down to things being political as to who gets the job. All those type of things just contributed to us saying we are going to do “Skyline” independently and by ourselves.

AL: You have another title in the works titled “Offline”, can you tell us about that?
LO: “Offline” was something I worked on with the guy I moved out to California with Mathew Santoro. He is a really talented director. We actually lived in the building where “Skyline” was filmed at. We were shooting this short film that kind of turned into a sizzle reel/trailer. It just kept evolving into so many different things. I helped come up with the story for that with Matt and helped shoot it for about a year. Matt put it out in Vimeo which got him attached to a few other productions. Right now, he is working on “The Dark Tower” with Ron Howard. The film is still being developed as a feature, so hopefully it comes out soon.

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Interview with J. Paul Boehmer

You may not know J. Paul Boehmer’s face but you certainly know his voice. When he’s not appearing on Broadway (he co-starred in Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband”), he may show up on your television. The confirmed Trekkie first hit the small screen on “Star Trek: Voyager.” He later appeared on both “Deep Space Nine” and “Enterprise,” as well as voiced characters on two “Star Trek” video games. Other roles in shows like “Frasier,” “Lost” and “Nip/Tuck” keep him busy when he’s not at his day job, recording books for both Books on Tape and Listening Library titles. Paul took some time to talk with Movie Mikes about his upcoming film, “Skyline”.

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Mike Gencarelli: Talk about your role as Colin in the upcoming sci-fi feature “Skyline”?
J. Paul Boehmer: Well, basically the plot is “aliens invade Los Angeles.” (laughs) That’s really all you need to know. They wreak a lot of havoc and it’s going to be pretty exciting. I just finished doing some additional dialogue work the other day and what I saw was incredible.

MG: Even though the film would be classified “low budget” I understand it has a big budget feel. Do you agree?
JPB: The main thing about this project is that these guys (co-directors Colin and Greg Strause) know what they’re doing. They’ve been doing special effects for years…they run their own special effects house. They knew what they wanted when they came to the table. They shot it the way they wanted to. And the great thing is, they can make a movie on a really low budget and make it look fantastic. You don’t need to spend the entire national budget of a small country to make a fantastic movie.

MG: What was the hardest part of working on the film?
JPB: For me, it was that I have a very bad end. I was hung from ropes for an entire day and was dropped six feet onto a pad all day long. It was really fun…I loved doing my own stunts. I had a headache at the end of the day but I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to do it again. It was really great.

MG: How was it working with the Strause Brothers?
JPB: They were incredible. They’re so together, they had everything ready to go. It was one of the nicest sets I’ve ever worked on. We actually filmed in one of their apartment buildings and in their parking structure. But let me also say that it wasn’t just any apartment building, it was one on Santa Monica Beach!

MG: You have done some work in the “Star Trek” world, tell us about it and would you consider yourself a “Trekkie”?
JPB: I grew up on “Star Trek.” I used to race home from school every day to see the episodes when they first put them into syndication. And that was the first big syndication “thing.” I grew up on it. I dreamed about it, made my own model ships. I did all the boy things. So to get to be on the show was a huge dream come true for me. And to be on the show as often as I was, and to play the great characters I got to play, was really exciting. I actually played a Nazi SS officer on both “Voyager” and “Enterprise.” For all I know it was the same costume! I have no shame about being a Trekkie. I speak a little Klingon…a little Vulcan…I’ve been known to watch all of the movies over and over.

MG: What else are you working on?
JPB: Nothing at the moment. I’ve had a couple of auditions but nothing back on those yet. I do narrate books on tape for my day job. I have more than 100 titles that I’ve recorded, including “Moby Dick.” I just did a recording of “The Jungle,” as well as Michael Scott’s “Necromancer.

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Interview with Norman Reedus

Norman Reedus is known most for his role of Murphy MacManus in “The Boondock Saints” series. He is currently appearing in AMC’s new TV series “The Walking Dead”, playing the role of Daryl Dixon. The character as described by Norman is “a guy who is ready to break down and kill everyone at any moment”. Movie Mikes had the chance again to talk with Norman about his role in the show and how it differs from his other projects.

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Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your role of Daryl Dixon in “The Walking Dead”?
Norman Reedus: Daryl is an ex-con that lives alone with his brother. When the apocalypse happens, he fends for himself. He is a hunter. He hunts with a crossbow. He is quite the hot head. He is also efficient in his killing. He is a no-bullshit kind of a kind. My character comes in on the third episode. My brother, who is played by Michael Rooker, is in trouble. I go looking for my brother with the rest of the crew behind me. They do not know whether to trust me and I do not know whether to trust them. I am not too particularly happy with the situation. I come in just like a tornado and just reek havoc. Slowly through all the situations that happen to us while looking for my brother, they find out that I am good guy to have around. I sort of start of a family with these more “normal” type people. In this show the zombie are not the only enemies. The enemy could be the guy standing right next to you. It is this weird see-saw of who you can trust. It makes for super interesting television. It is such an interesting character. I am really exciting to be apart of it. There is a rumor that Robert (Kirkman) might be putting me in the comic book. That would be really fun to see myself drawn in one of Robert’s comic books.

MG: How did you become involved with this project?
NR: I remember reading the pilot. I had never really done the whole pilot season thing in LA. I was reading them all and I said that this was the best pilot. I got to LA late and I originally really liked the Rick Grimes role. They told me that Frank knows my stuff and they wanted me to read for one of the brothers. I went in and actually read Merle Dixon lines in front of Frank. I do not think my character was even written yet. It was just an idea at the time. Next thing I know I am on-board.

MG: Tell us about working with Michael Rooker, who plays your brother in the show?
NR: I remember seeing “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” was back when and I remember thinking this guy is one of my favorite people ever. Michael was such a cool guy and such a blast to work with. He is such a good actor. He brings so much to the table. He is such a force just to be around. As far as Daryl Dixon goes, you have a brother like Merle as your older sibling and you are always trying to live up to your brother.  You are definitely going have some issues. I went into it with a major chip on my character’s shoulder and I think it plays off really nicely.

MG: Your character is not in the comic series, did you find that difficult to prepare?
NR: Frank (Darabont) wrote my part specifically for the show. It is really well written, so I got a good sense of what the character is like from the beginning. As far as being in the comic book, I know some of the other cast members mentioned how easy for was them to see how there character was like from the comic book.  Though none of them wanted to get too far into it though because they wanted to make it their own. I understand their point of view. For me going into it without having anything of my character written actually opened me up. I was able to make Daryl who I wanted to make him. Then again the writing was so good that I got a great sense of who he was very easily.

MG: You are no stranger to the genre but did this project differ in any way for you?
NR: I have done some horror things. I have worked with John Carpenter and Guillermo del Toro. I have also done a lot of serious drama. This definitely falls under serious drama. We are playing it for real. There are no zombies walking up shouting “BRAIIIINNNNSSSS”. It is not corny at all. There is one zombie in particular that Rick goes back to and puts out of its misery. It is one of the most sentimental parts of the whole pilot. I can say horror because it is zombies but it feels more like a large scale dramatic film. It really treats the zombification more like a disease than some surreal monster thing. It feels like there is an epidemic and real people are turning into zombie and not like people are coming back from the grave. You really get the human aspect of the zombies as well as how grotesque they look.

MG: Hopefully we will be seeing a Season 2, would you be returning if we do?
NR: Fuck yeah man, I am ready to fly to Atlanta right now and just wait on them. I am so into this. It is my favorite project I have ever done. I hope it goes on for ten years.

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Interview with Greg Nicotero

Greg Nicotero is the creator of some of the Hollywood’s most memorable make-up and monsters of the last 25 years. Greg has worked on projects ranging from “Day of the Dead” to “Sin City” to “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” to “Piranha 3D”. Greg even took a shot at directing with his new short “The United Monster Talent Agency” (view short here), which is an eight-minute faux newsreel for a fictional Hollywood agency representing monsters from Universal Studios circa the 1950s. The short includes cameos by Frank Darabont, Robert Rodriguez, Eli Roth, Cerina Vincent, Dana Gould, Jeffery Combs and Derek Mears. So with AMC working on their first zombie television show, “The Walking Dead”, who else is better to bring on than Greg and his team. Movie Mikes has been long time friends with Greg and finally got him to sit down and chat about his recent work on “The Walking Dead” and his fantastic short film.

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Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your most recent project, “The Walking Dead”?
Greg Nicotero: Frank Darabont and I had been talking about the show for quite a while.  I had met Robert Kirkman at ComicCon with Frank one year and Frank had always said that he was really, really dedicated to doing a zombie show but never found a story that he really thought could carry through…could make sense to him.  And this was years ago.  So lo and behold we’re having dinner in San Diego one night and he introduces me to Robert Kirkman.  He then whispers to me that he’s in negotiation to option the graphic novel to make a series out of it.  So needless to say I was very excited.  Frank and I have been fantastic friends and great collaborators even before “The Shawshank Redemption.”  We were friends long before he directed that.  I had actually recommended some make up artists on the East Coast to do the make up on “Shawshank.”  Then it looked like a small movie and he thought he might need to do a little aging on the guys.  And after that I did all of his films.  I worked on “The Green Mile” with him, as well as “The Majestic” and “The Mist.”  We’re kind of partners in crime so to speak.

MG: What was the biggest challenge of working on this show?
GN: I wanted the zombies to feel fresh.  I wanted them to feel new.  There are so many zombie movies out there.  75% of them are made for under a million dollars.  And they look like they’re made for under a million dollars!  This whole thing about pouring black ooze into their mouths and having them run ninety miles an hour…there’s nothing scary or interesting or compelling to me about that.  The whole issue of zombies that George Romero established…they’re just another version of society.  But instead of eating hamburgers or cheeseburgers or pizza they just happen to eat human flesh.  They’re not that tremendously different from the hundreds of thousands of people that walk through the streets texting on their phones and never looking up.  Except the zombies are not texting on their phones, they’re just shambling around.  And I think that people often get confused by why there are fast moving zombies and why are there slow moving zombies.  Fast moving zombies are purely a factor of people trying to reinvigorate a genre’.  By stealing the idea from “28 Days” and “Dawn of the Dead” they suddenly did that.  The way we portray our zombies on the show is that, yeah they’re kind of shambling and they are a little slow moving but they certainly can’t accelerate when food is around or when it’s necessary for them to feed.  Because these zombies can starve just like human beings can starve when they don’t get food.  And if they haven’t eaten they’re going to be weak.  And the idea of getting food is going to whip them up into a bit of a frenzy.  So Frank and I always referred to the sequence in the cemetery in the original “Night of the Living Dead.”  Bill Heintzman comes out from behind the mortuary…see’s Johnny and Barbara at the grave stone…he kind of shambles up to them.  But then he grabs Johnny and then it’s a wrestling match.  Then he chases Barbara when she gets in the car.  He chases her down the street to the farmhouse.  There is certainly more menace in that movie than people seem to remember.  Not just zombies walking really slowly.  And I think that’s really critical.  I’ve done dozens of zombie movies and I’ve worked with some of the best make up artists and some of the best directors in the world in regards to zombie stuff.  I’ve worked with George Romero.  Joe Dante.  Even Robert Rodriguez when he did “Planet Terror.”  Those were “zombie-ish” kinds of characters.  But every project that you do…every movie that you do…you think “oh man, I wish I would have tried this.  Next time I do a zombie movie I’m going to try THIS idea.”  Special effects make up and filmmaking…the process is so organic that it just grows.  There are times when you’re on set and you’re thinking on the fly “oh man, next time I want to do a prosthetic with dentures this way and teeth this way and give things a different look.”  A lot of it is casting, a lot of it was the artists’ sculptures, a lot of it was dental pieces and a lot of it was contact lenses.  It really was critical that we give these zombies a little bit of a different look…a little bit of a fresh look.  And having had the experience that I’ve had on all of these other movies really benefited the show.  Frank and I talked quite a bit about what the zombies would look like and what we could potentially do to make them feel a little original and a little bit different.  And when you get into “cattle call” days when there are 150 zombies and you’ve got seven different make up people and you’re blasting everybody through…those days it’s a little harder to get into your hero specific make ups but what we would do is pick and choose our battles.  On days when there were only 20 zombies we would do 20 hero zombie make ups on those guys.  But on the days when we had 150 zombies then we would break it up into hero make ups, mid ground make ups and background masks.

MG: What is your mind set when creating zombies for different projects?
GN: What excited me about “Walking Dead” was that Frank had…Frank is a classic director.  Frank is as “old” Hollywood as you can get.  It’s all character driven.  It’s all story driven.  There are issues and situations that will arise that we have seen in other zombie movies but they’re handled differently.  His treatment of his actors is just so spot on.  So few people really understand that, for real horror to work, you have to care about these people.  If you don’t care about them then it doesn’t matter what happens to them.  It’s the difference between walking down the street and seeing someone you went to high school with hurt versus seeing someone you don’t know hurt.  There’s a connection you need to make.  You want people to be sympathetic.  When you deal with the horror genre’ you invest in these characters.  It’s Janet Leigh in “Psycho.”  That’s probably the best example I can think of.  You go 25-30 minutes into the movie thinking she’s the lead character and then she gets killed off.  I always thought that was such a powerful moment and that is why that sequence still resonates fifty years later.  The audience didn’t see it coming and when it happened they were upset.

MG: How did the cast deal with all of the different make ups?
GN: The cast was just absolutely fascinating to watch work.  For us, the quality of the zombie make ups we were able to do for the show helped their performances.  It was one of those situations where they acted better because they were horrified by what we were doing.  Some of them literally had nightmares about zombies.  They spent a lot of time wanting to understand the process…wondering how they should react if someone they see is bitten and are going to potentially “come back.”  How do I gage that?  So I was really the resident zombie expert on set for the entire show.  That’s why Frank and Gale Anne Hurd gave me a consulting producer credit.  I was the resident zombie nerd that knew everything about zombies.

MG: Tell us about your new short film “United Monster Talent Agency”?
GN: I had been on the road for literally almost two years.  I was in Berlin on “Inglorious Basterds” and then from there I went on to “Book of Eli” and from “Book of Eli” I went on to “Piranha.”  And then from “Piranha” to “Predators.”  I had been jumping around all over the place and it got to the point where I finally got back to L.A. after having been with some of the most influential and important filmmakers in the world.  I looked at my schedule and realized I had about six weeks before I was due to start on “Walking Dead.”  So I told myself if I ever want to do this I’ve got to do it now.  So I called a bunch of my friends and told them I was going to direct this short.  I wrote it in about three hours.  I called Eli Roth, called Frank…I called my friends.  And I told them that I’d never asked a favor of anybody.  That’s not my style.  But I told them that this is my opportunity to do this…would you help me out?  And they were all on board.  I had originally talked to Tom Savini about playing Dracula and he was excited.  It took on a life of its own.

MG: How did you come up with the idea for the short?
GN: The original concept was a goofy idea…what if you see the Creature From the Black Lagoon and he’s running through the jungle…he’s chasing the girl.  The girl falls and puts her arms up.  Very dramatic.  You play up those 1950s “close up” moments.  And all of a sudden these guys run in with a net and in the background you see the Creature struggling and growling.  You pan over to a Rod Serling-type announcer who says “At Universal Studios, we strive for realism, blah blah blah.”  And you find out that Universal actually has all of these monsters living on their lot.  They just take them out occasionally to make movies with.  It was a simple, fun little idea. Then I thought “where do I go with it from here?”  I thought it would be funny to have a shot of King Kong sitting next to the facility and then once you get inside….I had originally imagined a series of holding pens…holding cells where they keep Dracula and Frankenstein and the Wolf Man.  I did a lot of research and watched a lot of news reels from the 50s.  Many of them were trumpeting the future…“Technology is our friend.  It’s here for all of us!  The world is at your fingertips.”  And I thought it would be funny if they had a place where they were developing technology for future movies. “Using science and technology to make bigger and better monsters for your future movies.”  And then it opened up.  And I realized that I could put all of my favorite movies…the ones I watched growing up…”Jaws”…”Dawn of the Dead.”  I could put the “Thing”…I could put Freddy Kruger’s hand in there.  It made complete sense.  So I called my friends and it really began taking shape.  There were a few days where I would think, “Holy shit!  What have I done?”  I had a little mini panic attack one week because I had never done this before.  I was literally entering uncharted territory.  It was terrifying and so exciting at the same moment.  I had one day where I was really nervous but then I thought, you know what, I’ve been doing this stuff for 25 years.  I’ve been on 800 movie sets.  There’s no way I can’t pull this off.  And I got my footing back.  I think everybody in this industry has that one moment where they think “did I really agree to do this?”  I scouted a location in Valencia…an old Borax factory.  I was looking for a place where I could have medical rooms.  This place had a huge lobby and then I thought, “Oh my God, I have another idea.”  Now it was a hustling, bustling agency.  So I took all of the classic movie posters that I own and hung them up on the walls and dressed everybody in period clothes.  And it just exploded.  And the fact that AMC has agreed to distribute the short…you can go on AMC’s web site under “Fear Fest” and “Short Films” and see it.  It’s really exploded on the Internet.  It’s played at film festivals all over the world…it’s played in Ireland…Spain…Australia.  All of a sudden it went from “Hey, I’ve got six weeks free…let’s make a film for shits and giggles.”  Now people all over the world are seeing it.  It’s truly the weirdest.  And to get emails from Guillermo del Toro and Rick Baker telling me how much they loved it…John Landis….guys that I’ve looked up to and admired.  And of course it’s nerd heaven.  Who else can say that they’ve directed a scene from “Creature From the Black Lagoon?”  I had period movie cameras and period clothing with a set we had built at K.N.B….it was the closet any of us could get to being there without really being able to say “we were there.”  We built everything.  Not one shot of the creatures is stock footage.  I licensed four shots of stock footage, but they were just of Hollywood.  When you see Hollywood Boulevard or when you see June Allyson signing autographs…I licensed those clips because I wanted the short to have that “feel.”  Originally I wasn’t going to do it but then I thought “you know, I want it to feel like a newsreel.  I want it to feel like “dateline:  Hollywood…1954.” I wanted it to have that cadence to it.  When you see the “Nosferatu” shot…people are asking me “did you take that from the movie?”  And I say, “no, no, no I shot that here at K.N.B.  And then they ask me “how did you do King Kong?”  King Kong was a miniature we had built and King Kong was the exact same size as the original stop motion armature and we rod-puppeted him to give him that classic, stuttery stop motion feel.  I tried to be as authentic as I could with all the monsters.  Because I felt that if you didn’t think you were watching the real monsters it wouldn’t work.  A lot of the characters were played by my make up artist friends.  Many of them not only played a monster but helped with other make up.  They all did double duty.  I think it was something people didn’t really expect from me  It has charm and character and personality.  It’s not very gory…not a lot of exploitation or a lot of blood.  But I wanted to have fun with it.  I wanted it to have personality.

MG: Any plans for any more directing projects?
GN: I would love to.  I directed 2nd Unit on “The Walking Dead.”  And I’ve also been doing a lot of directing on “Vampire Diaries.”  It’s exciting that I’m getting calls.

MG: What films are upcoming for K.N.B. EFX?
GN: We just did the movie “I Am Number Four”, directed by D.J. Caruso.  We have worked with him on “Eagle Eye”, “Disturbia” and a few others also. There’s a movie called “Priest” coming out that we did all of the make up effects for.  We did “Fright Night” with Colin Farrell.  We’re certainly keeping busy.

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Interview with Robert Kirkman

Robert Kirkman is the creator of the comic book series “The Walking Dead”.  He has also worked on other comic series such as “Invincible” and “Marvel Zombie” series.  “The Walking Dead” is currently heading to the screen screen on AMC, Kirkman is serving as writer on the show.  Movie Mikes had a chance to talk with Robert and discuss his work on “Walking Dead” and his find out what his favorite comic series is.

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Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about the process of bringing “The Walking Dead” from comic book to the small screen?
Robert Kirkman: From my point of view it’s really quite simple.  You find a great network like AMC and an excellent director like Frank Darabont, a great producer like Gale Anne Hurd, add a great writing team and go from there.  To be honest I really haven’t had to do all that much, which is awesome because everybody involved are top of the line. Knowing that it’s going to be on TV. is pretty crazy, because there is some cool stuff that happens that you wouldn’t expect to see on television.  I’m pretty excited about that.  It’s been an amazing experience.

MG: Do you feel that because it is on television, and not a feature film, that it is better or worse?
RK: It’s better because with a movie you’re not trying to cram 77 issues of a comic book into a two hour movie.  I think that everyone involved….Frank, the actors, AMC…are thinking that this project is going to be very long term.  They plan for the show to run for a good long time.  Because of that the first six episodes really doesn’t cover all that much.  We’re allowed to take our time with it, not cram too much in, and that’s great.  Another thing I’m excited about is that the show isn’t following the comic too closely.  I mean, there are a lot of big moments in the comic that people will expect to make it to the TV show, but you don’t want the show to be boring.  Part of the joy to fans of the comic book is that they never know what to expect.  Anyone can die at any moment.  There is really a shock value to the whole thing where you really don’t expect certain things to happen.  I think for the television show to run along the same story line as the comic, for the fans of the comic I think that would really be boring.  Because they would know what happens next. I think it’s great that the writers have taken liberties with the story line and followed some new paths that I may have glossed over.  Frank and the writers have gone in and expected things that I covered very quickly.  They’ve added new characters and, therefore, new story lines for those characters.  There is going to be a lot of stuff that the comic book fans
aren’t going to expect.  I think it will be a real cool experience for all involved.

MG: Do you ever see an end for the comic series in sight?
RK: Every story has to end at some point…I don’t plan on living forever (laughs).  I won’t be writing this book until the day I die so I will have to end it sometime.  But not in the near future….not in the far future….if I have my way.  It’s the zombie movie that never ends, so to fulfill that I think it needs to go on for a long time.  I’m still as excited writing issue #80 as I was writing issue #1.  And as long as it’s like that I’m going to keep going forever and ever!  I can see it reaching issue #300…I can see it reaching issue #400.  I definitely plan for it to go for a good long time.

MG: Do you have any other comics that you would like to adapt as well?
RK: I would love to see ALL of my comics adapted to this format.  Television is a perfect format for comic books.  Comics tell a long form narrative that continues from month to month.  And I think more people will be by passing movies and turning comics into television shows because it’s a much more natural fit.  You get the same kind of experience from a television series as you do from a comic book.  I think “The Walking Dead” will show people how well that translates.

MG: Besides, “The Walking Dead”, what is your favorite comic series you have worked on?
RK: I have a superhero series called “Invincible” that I have a lot of fun with.  It’s been running as long as “The Walking Dead.”  I’d love to see that turned into a television series.

MG: Now for a hard one: what is your favorite comic series of all time?
RK: That’s surprisingly an easy one.  My favorite comic book of all time is “The Savage Dragon.”  A series that started publishing in 1992.  It was my favorite comic when I was younger and it’s really everything you could ever want out of a comic book.  There’s a lot of drama…a lot of emotional stories…great character bits.  And on top of that there’s the kind
of action you can only get out of a comic.  There are things that really can’t exist in any other art form in that comic. I highly recommend to anyone to go out there and pick it up.  They won’t be disappointed.

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Interview with Reggie Bannister

Bannister is known for his four barrel shotgun and his Hemi Cuda from the Phantasm series in which he starred alongside A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury and Angus Scrimm. Reggie is a talented musician and has released two albums, he has a track in “Phantasm IV: Oblivion”

I was able to get a chance to ask Reggie a few questions about his career, what he is up to now and what’s happening in the future:

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Mike Gencarelli: I know you have released two albums, “Fool’s Paradise” & “The Naked Truth”. Have you always been involved with music?

Reggie Bannister: From the time I could talk intelligently, about 3yrs old I think, if asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I would say, “I wanna’ be a singer, an actor and a politician.” I sang and practiced an instrument first (actually it was a trumpet since my brother also played) and then I was in my Thanksgiving school play at about 8yrs old in the fourth grade I think. I sang in school choruses, choirs and special groups like barbershop, gospel choruses, Madrigals etc. from middle school through Jr. College. At the same time I worked in community theater and high school and college theater arts programs. I was really fortunate to have grown up at a time when those excellent programs existed in the public school system with instructors that were or had been professional entertainers free for nothin’. Folk music came along in the early ’60s and I picked up guitar and played in coffee houses in the SoCal scene…what a great time for music. I started off solo and then got together with a friend of my dads’ son by the name of Tom Robbins (actor Tim Robbins uncle) If you’re really interested in musical history Tom’s brother was Gill Robbins, founding member of the “Highwaymen” who already had a big hit with a folk tune called “Them Cotton Fields Back Home.” Tom and I put a trio together that we called the “Port Town Three” since we were all from Long Beach Ca. third largest port in the world. Oh yeah, in between my solo gigs and my thing with Tom I tried out for and became a founding member of the “Young Americans” and was very shortly working with Bing Crosby on one of his network specials. That was the first of numerous appearances on local and network TV as Tom and I became members of a group called “The Greenwood County Singers.” We toured all over the country and appeared on a Red Skeleton special, we appeared on “The Hollywood Palace” hosted by George Burns…we played local TV stuff with Stevie Wonder and did the network show “Hullaballoo” with the “Rolling Stones” and “Sonny And Cher.” The ‘Greewoods” made four albums with a single in the Billboard top ten or twenty with each album.

Mike Gencarelli: What happened to your band, Reggie B & The Jizz Wailin’ Ya’ Doggies? Did they merge into “The Reggie Bannister Band” for your latest album?

Reggie Bannister: There was a guy named Terry Svejda who lived in Plano Illinois who was eager to record me and convinced me to go to Chicago Land and record the album. When I showed up in Chicago in ’95, I had no band and no studio but the first place Terry took me to was a joint called “Riley’s Rock House” in Aurora. It was an open mic night and as I was sipping my gin and tonic I watched a rock trio take the stage minus a singer just instrumental stuff…they blew me away! When they finished their set I went backstage and hired ’em. We had to wait several weeks for Doug Agee (Alpha Sound) to finish putting his studio together in Geneva which gave me time to write some more tunes and rehearse with the band, Doug Hakes (guitar), Joseph Corzine (bass) and Jeff Kissel (drums). We got the album out in early ’96 and I wanted to take the band out on tour but the guys didn’t trust the guy who wanted to book us so I just came back to Ca. and resumed life in film.

The “Reggie Bannister Band” came about because of a phone call from a guy named Mike Scarfo, a great drummer and club owner in Pittsburgh (the Smiling Moose), who asked me to come out and play some music in his club…sounded like fun so I went. I met Paul Miser when I got there, one of the greatest bassists I’ve ever played with and so I hung out, then I went back and we recorded the nine tracks for the album “Naked Truth.”

Mike Gencarelli: Is there a possibility of a tour for “The Reggie Bannister Band”, perhaps on the East Coast? and future albums?

Reggie Bannister: No tour per se but we always offer up the band for my convention appearances around the country so we’ve performed quite a bit over the last couple years.

MG: The question you’ve probably heard a hundred times, how do you feel about coming back for another Phantasm film and what do you think the chances are that it will ever happen?

RB: Feelin’ good about it…keep fingers and everything else you’ve got doubles of crossed, eyes, tits, balls (‘specially balls), etc…..

MG: I read that there was a table reading for a sequel to Phantasm done a while ago with added special effects, do you think that will ever be released in any form?

RB: We did that! It was a lot-o-fun! Got together with everybody and just had a great night of it. It was really kind of just for fun but ‘ya know it’ll find light eventually.

MG: What is your feeling about Hollywood remaking every movie under the sun? If Phantasm was every remade, would you be behind it?

RB: Well, I never understood the remake of “Psycho” for instance. It’s like the master has spoken…isn’t it kind of rude not to sit in awe after that utterance? Guess somebody felt they waited long enough or…maybe it was the just money? Whatever, I can’t think of a remake I liked better than the original picture though I’ve seen some decent ones. I don’t think “Phantasm,” the original story, should ever be remade but I do think that variations on the theme will always be appropriate.

MG: If you had to choose any actor that you would want to work with, who would it be?

RB: Ahh man… I don’t really have space. Nicholson, Walken, Streep, Jeff Bridges, Don Cheadle man I don’t know…already worked with Chris Pine, John Hawkes, Lynn Shey, Robert Pine, Katheryn Keener, Dermot Mulrony, Lance Hendriksen, Ossie Davis, Bruce Campbell, shit!…just love working with pros.

MG: I know you did some assistant directing work on your some of your latest films, such as “The Quiet Ones”, “Carnies” & “Sigma Die!”, Do you ever see yourself taking the director helm?

RB: Directing is a total life commitment. You’d better be willing to give a project 100% of your time for the next 2 to 4 years of your life. I’ve actually known some people who’ve given more time than that to get their project completed…so, yeah, if something comes along that means that much to me I’ll absolutely do it.

MG: Your wife, Gigi Fast Elk Bannister, works with make-up & special effects on many films, have you ever helped her with that work?

RB: Yeah, there have actually been several times I’ve helped out. Gigi’s SFX are awesome and it’s really fun for me to help her put that stuff together. There have been times when a director would shoot my character out and for the rest of the shoot I’d be Gigi’s SFX assistant. Than again since I’ve had a lot of experience with stunt work, I’ve been able to direct the stunts that usually accompanie the SFX gags. She’s got some incredible tricks up her sleeve and it’s always terrific to see the end results.

MG: Do you enjoy doing conventions and getting the chance to meet your fans? What is the strangest fan experience you’ve had?

RB: Conventions are a lot like family reunions. People wouldn’t be talking to you if they didn’t feel like they already know you. We all have the films and music in common. If there’s a strange fan it’s really like dealing with your uncle Ted or cousin Billy. They may be odd but you love ’em anyway. No one has ever gotten really out of control with me…probably afraid I’d kick their ass.

MG: Do you have any exciting new projects that you are working on in the near future that you would like to discuss?

RB: Yeah, but there’s some stuff I can’t really talk about. There are some pictures coming out this year that I think are worthy of attention. One is called “Walking Distance” directed by Mel House, the cast includes Adrienne King and Glenn Mourshower. There’s one called “Satan Hates You” with Angus Scrimm, Larry Fessendon and Debbie Rochon. There’s a picture that we worked very closely with production wise called “Small Town Saturday Night.” Directed by Ryan Craig with one of the most incredible casts I’ve ever had the the pleasure of working with. It stars Chris Pine, his father Robert Pine is in it…Lynn Shey, John Hawkes, Muse Watson…go to the site it’ll blow your mind.

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