Interview with Tim Kazurinsky

It’s one of those moments you always hear about but never think it could happen to you. You offer to take someone to breakfast, show up at the restaurant and discover that your wallet is nowhere to be found. Such began my interview with the multi-talented Tim Kazurinsky. While he was in Kansas City recently appearing in a production of “The Odd Couple,” the Emmy and BAFTA nominated writer and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member agreed to take some time out of his busy schedule to sit down and talk about his career. Imagine my embarrassment when I turned up, tape recorder in hand, with the image of my wallet sitting safely on my sofa floating in my head. Thankfully Mr. Kazurinsky had remembered HIS wallet, so he was able to eat his breakfast.

Born in Pennsylvania but raised in Australia, Tim Kazurinsky literally stumbled into his show business career. While working in advertising he realized that he had a fear of talking in front of people, which is pretty hampering when you go to present an idea. On a whim he enrolled in a class at Chicago’s famed Second City Improv Theater. He was such a good student that he was offered a place in the troupe as both performer and writer and he hasn’t looked back. While at Second City Mr. Kazurinsky had small roles in two films shot locally: “My Bodyguard” and “Somewhere in Time.” He then co-wrote and co-starred in the television program “Big City Comedy.” He eventually earned a spot as a writer and cast member on “Saturday Night Live.” At the time the program had switched producers, with the reigns being taken from creator Lorne Michaels and passed on the Dick Ebersol. After leaving the show in 1984, he co-wrote the hit film “About Last Night” and starred in several of the “Police Academy” films.

Mr. Kazurinsky was very close to the late John Belushi. Almost three decades after Belushi’s death, the pain of that memory is still fresh. I mention that I have visited Belushi’s grave on Martha’s Vineyard while on a “Jaws” vacation. This revelation causes him to relate his tale about seeing the film for the first time:

“I saw it in Chicago. I’d heard so much about it that I knew I had to see this movie. I get to the theatre and it’s packed. And I am the only white guy in the theatre. It was a revelation to me. I had no idea movie watching was a participation sport. I had never experienced anything like it. Everybody was talking to the screen. And there was a guy behind me who had obviously seen the film before. The movie starts and the girl swims out and you hear the music…dum dum, dum dum, dum dum. The gentleman behind me says, “Get out of the water, bitch.” Dum dum, dum dum, dum dum. “Get out of the water, bitch.” The music gets louder…DUM DUM, DUM DUM, DUM DUM…and the guy stands up and screams, “GET OUT OF THE WATER…CAN’T YOU HEAR THE MUSIC, BITCH?!” I thought my head was going to explode.”

Mike Smith: Though you were born in the states you grew up in Australia. What guided you towards a career in show business?
Tim Kazurinsky: It was because I was in the advertising business. I was afraid to present my commercial ideas. That’s why I ended up at Second City…to get over my fear of talking in front of people. I got to Second City and saw everyone in their silly hats and robes and costumes and I felt like I was six years old again.

MS: Rumor has it that you were the final cast member added to “SNL” at the end of the 1981 season and that you had to beat out Paul Reubens. True? Also, your very first show was the last show of the season and didn’t have a guest host. Why was that?
TK: I actually just heard that. I can’t believe that anybody would pick me over Paul Reubens, who to me is one of the funniest men on this planet. If that was the case it’s news to me. Although I do remember a few years later I was up for a job and I couldn’t do it because I had a screenwriting commitment so my agent told me they decided to go for their next choice, F. Murray Abraham! I went “what planet…what universe….do you call me before F. Murray Abraham?” And my agent told me it was because of my “TVQ.” I was on television so I was more recognizable because of “SNL” and the three “Police Academy” movies. And I told him that was just wrong. Cosmically wrong. (My cell phone rings – it’s my wife, Juanita, asking me if I knew that my wallet was on the couch. I did.) As for the last show, I think it may have been that a lot of the hosts candidates were being loyal to Lorne. Or maybe they just wanted to showcase the new people on the show. There’s probably a “public” reason and a “real” reason. (laughs)

MS: What do you recall about your 1980 television show “Big City Comedy?” Was this an off-shoot of your work at Second City?
TK: I had just left Second City, had worked on “My Bodyguard” and was finishing the first draft of what was then called “Sexual Perversity in Chicago,” written by an unknown David Mamet. When I met David he was the dishwasher at Second City. He would watch John Belushi on stage and that is where he developed the character of Bernie Litko. Anyway, after I left I wrote a pilot that NBC picked up as a vehicle for John Candy. We shot the show in Orem, Utah at the Osmond’s studio. The studio cost $93 million. And this was back when a million was a million. It had an ice skating rink in it. And it was paid for in cash. Because the elders of the Mormon Church will not bless anything that is purchased on “time.” Merrill Osmond was the point man for us…very helpful. Because after a few days the crew and I realized we might not survive. We needed coffee. We needed Coca Cola. And we needed beer and ashtrays. And he was able to provide it. I remember going to a store…I had to drive about 30 miles before I was out of a dry county. So I bought my beer and the girl at the checkout wouldn’t touch it. I had to bag it myself. I was just supposed to be a writer on the production but because it was a Can/Am production they needed some Canadians for the cast and some Americans for the cast. So I was picked to be a part of the American cast. And what a show. It only lasted a season. But it was John Candy…before he became JOHN CANDY. I can remember hanging out with him and his lovely wife Rose and holding his beautiful baby daughter Jennifer in my arms. We just had a reunion at Second City and Jennifer showed up. She’s 28 years old now and I used to hold her in my arms. But what a great opportunity to hang out with John. I mean we’d walk into a hockey game in Toronto and the whole stadium would be “Johnny! Johnny!” He was Johnny Toronto. He owned that town. The show only lasted a season but I loved every minute doing it.

MS: Speaking of talent taken way too soon, you worked with the late John Belushi in “Neighbors” and “Continental Divide,” which were both very different roles than Belushi fans were used to? What are your memories of working with him and how do you think his career would have played out had he lived? (NOTE: A visible sadness comes over Mr. Kazurinsky’s face and his voice lowers)
TK: One of the great tragedies of my life was losing John. John got me hired at “SNL.” I never auditioned. He just told Dick Ebersol “you should go to Chicago and see this guy. He should be the den mother of the next troupe.” That’s what got me hired. Ebersol came…saw the show…and hired me on the spot. I wasn’t even aware I had gotten hired for the cast. I thought I was being hired as a writer. He asked me for my AFTRA card (NOTE: the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists is the union for television actors and radio broadcasters). I asked him why and he said I needed an AFTRA card to be in the cast. I said, “What do you mean be in the cast. I thought you just hired me as a writer.” He looked at me and said, “You write?” I loved John dearly. He and his wife, Judy, were so kind to me when I got to New York. They looked after me. They were my guardian angels. (Mr. Kazurinsky’s voice gets even quieter). My birthday is March 3. The three of us were going to have dinner but Judy called me up and told me we’d have to cancel dinner on my birthday because John was still in Los Angeles. I could tell she was crying and I asked her what was going on. “I think he’s in trouble out there.” John had a bodyguard named Smokey, who had been a body guard for Elvis Presley. That week it was also his daughter’s birthday so Smokey went back to Tennessee. And of course a horrible confluence of things happened. (NOTE: On March 5, 1982, John Belushi died from an accidental drug overdose. He was 33.) And now, as of March 5th next year, John will have been dead 30 years. Where did it go? 30 years? He was such a totally misunderstood artist and man. That awful book by Bob Woodward did not serve him well. (NOTE: known for helping break the story that inspired his book “All the President’s Men,” in 1984 Woodward released the book “Wired.” The book, and the film later made of it, were critically slammed. In 1991, Judith Jacklin Belushi released the book “Samurai Widow,” a book that gave John Belushi the respect and honor he certainly earned). That book was nothing but character assassination. John felt he was being “labled” as a performer. It’s like when the Rolling Stones, influenced by the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” and “Sgt Peppers,” did “Their Satanic Majesties Request” album. It was full of psychedelic music and their fans went, “No! John felt his fans were thinking, “you can’t do Mike Royko in “Continental Divide”…you can’t do “Neighbors”…you’re Bluto with the mashed potatoes.” But John was really smart. He was a great improviser. And he kept asking “do I have to be THAT guy for the rest of my life?” I think it really depressed him. Billy Murray was having success with “Stripes” and…I don’t really know what was going on inside John’s head but I know he wasn’t happy. He was self medicating himself and….I look at that book “Wired” and I ask “where’s the man I know…he’s not here.”

MS: You obviously wrote a lot on “SNL,” even earning an Emmy nomination for your work. But whatever prompted you to attempt to adapt David Mamet for “About Last Night?”
TK: I never went to the Emmy’s because we had to pay our own way! But we had a great writing staff. And the writing staff for the first five years of the show was incredible! And they had a great cast…John, Danny…best cast EVER, of course. But when Dick Ebersol took over most of the writers stayed away out of respect for Lorne. After Ebersol left then they came back and worked again. And I certainly had my battles with Dick Ebersol creatively but I have to say that he kept the show alive through his years. He kept the heart beating. Again, you have to remember he wasn’t DAVID MAMET yet…he was just another unknown Chicago playwright. If you go back to the original play you’ll see a world of differences. Seven years I wrote and re-wrote that thing. Thirteen full drafts. For those that think screenwriting is an easy thing….it ain’t. As David’s work became more and more famous, the fact that I was on “SNL” kept that script going. We got into doors that normally we wouldn’t have gotten into, just because I was on “SNL.” Thank God for that. It was only a one act play. And you have to remember that I started to write it in 1979. And it took seven years to get it made. I think Ed Zwick (the director of “About Last Night”) did a terrific job. But because of the title “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” the networks wouldn’t run ads for it. They refused to run any ads because it was such a salacious title. You have to understand this was pre-cable. They weren’t going to run the ads. So after seven years of living with that title, a month before the movie opened they had to find a new title. We sat for days trying to pick a new title and they picked probably the worst title in Hollywood. (As Mr. Kazurinsky relates this story I produce (2) studio stills of Rob Lowe and Demi Moore – on one, in large black letters, is the film’s title, “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.” On the other, it reads “About Last Night”) I mean the film was in the can ready to be released. I mean, looking back, it was almost Victorian how things were back then.

MS: How did you get involved with the “Police Academy” films?
TK: I get married. I’m on honeymoon in Greece. Nobody knows where I am. But my sister found me. She called around to all of the touristy places and tracked me down. She told me that a couple of my pals from “Saturday Night Live” had written “Police Academy 2” and they wanted me to be in it. I got ahold of them and they told me that they wanted me to be in this little scene and I told them o.k. Well my wife thought I was crazy. “Why would you take one day’s work?” Because they were my friends. They asked me to do it. And I’m not going to say “no” to my friends. So I go out…we shoot for a day. Later they fire the original director and they hired Jerry Paris. Jerry looks at the footage and says, “I hate it all except the old guy in the shop.” So, he kept me around. And he loved Bobcat Goldthwait. He let Bobcat and I screw around and come up with bits. I ended up staying six weeks. Bobcat and I ended up improvising all kinds of stuff. Jerry loves us. They screen the movie and the word is that kids love Bobcat and the old guy in the shop. So they bring us back for “Police Academy 3” as members of the police force. This can only happen in Hollywood. So we end up doing three movies. And I said to my wife, “That’s why you take the one day of work!”

The interview over I sheepishly ask Mr. K if he would autograph an “About Last Night” poster, which he does. The inscription: “Michael, thanks for breakfast!” Next time I’ll be prepared.


Related Content

Interview with Kevin Meaney

Kevin Meaney started his career in the entertainment business as a stand-up comedian in 1979. Since then he has branched out and appeared in such film and television series as “Big” and “Uncle Buck”. Kevin has also appeared on Broadway and has also lent his voice to a variety of cartoons. Movie Mikes had a chance to catch up with Kevin to talk about some of his previous projects and what he currently is working on.

Adam Lawton: You started your career doing stand-up comedy. What made you decide to try acting?
Kevin Meaney: I was doing stand up and got an audition. Once you start doing stand up people start to want to see you for other things and you begin to branch out into different areas of show business such as television, movies, commercials and radio. It wasn’t a conscious decision where I said I am going to go out and do movies. It’s more you get a call from your agent and they tell you that some people would like to see you for a particular part and would you come in and read for them? If it’s something up my alley I will go in and do it. I will go in for just about anything even if it might not be the right role. I do this because there might be another role that is the right one for me.

AL: The first film you appeared in was “Big” with Tom Hanks. Can you tell us about that experience?
KM: That was a terrific experience to be cast in that movie. That film is still being aired all over the world and it was great meeting Tom. He is such a great guy and he is very down to earth. About 10 years later I was covering the Oscar’s for HBO and Tom who I hadn’t seen since the shooting came up and told me it was great to see me again. You wouldn’t expect that from anybody you worked with 10 years ago to remember you. It was a real pleasure working with him and Penny Marshall, Elizabeth Perkins and Jon Lovitz. We had a ball on the set. I had just moved to New York from Boston and it was great to be on the set even though I had no idea what I was doing after being thrown into this new world. Everyone coached me along and showed me the ropes which was wonderful.

AL: You played Buck Russell in the television series of “Uncle Buck”. What do you think was the hardest challenge in recreating the character John Candy who played Uncle Buck in the movie version?
KM: The funny. You really have to keep things funny. I always wanted to make sure I was telling the story as well because that’s what a show is. Each episode had its own story to be told and you had to really stay to that. I had to stay focused even if I had memorized my lines and the writers decided to change something last minute which happens often.

AL: I assume the writers wanted the “Uncle Buck” character similar to the film version however were you allowed to add anything of your own to that role?
KM: No. I came into it as just an actor so I had zero input on anything about the story or casting. I had no experience in that at the time so there was no real reason to have any input in that regard. I come from the world of stand up so what did I know about creating a television show? Now I have a little bit more experience and value than I think I did then but at that time in my career I just did what I was told and hoped for the best.

AL: Can you tell us about the “Pulp Fiction” spoof you appeared in titled “Plump Fiction”?
KM: That was something that was just offered to me and I played the chocolate dealer which took the place of the heroin dealer. They let me do whatever I wanted to do! It was a one day shoot somewhere in Los Angeles and I came in and they dressed me up like a total fucking lunatic. I created this character that was just insane. I think it’s one of my favorite things that I have done.

AL: Can you tell us about working on the Broadway play “Hairspray”?
KM: There is no better feeling than to do a show like “Hairspray” every night. I would always get asked if I got bored doing the same show every night which I never did. I would get tired but never bored. The minute you let your guard down that’s when things would go wrong. Then you’re on the stage forgetting lines and where you’re supposed to be. You always have to be totally ready to go out on that stage every night. Everyone in the cast hast to be because if someone messes up there has to be someone there to pick up the pieces. I remember onetime the person playing the Wilber character never made his entrance. Thankfully I understudied that part and picked up the pieces. The audience didn’t even know but the cast did. I guess the guy was in the back talking to one of the stage hands. He did finally come out though and I told him he was all done and to leave. (Laughs) I would love to get back and do another show it’s just fascinating.

AL: Can you tell us about any other upcoming projects?
KM: I just got back from San Francisco where I did a show with 3 other stand-up comics about repealing proposition 8 in California. There were 2 straight parents played by Dan St. Paul and Mary Ellen Hooper and 2 gay parents played by myself and Vickie Shaw. The show was based around parenting being the same whether you are straight or gay. I did a film called “Heterosexuals” that was done by Robert Spencer who is a great actor. He had an actor drop out at the last minute and asked me if I could play the role of a lawyer? I told him I would love to. It was a little bit frustrating though because I had only gotten the script the night before and didn’t really know my lines but, we got through it. I also have some stand-up dates around the country and I am up for a play in Louisiana but I can’t tell you the name of it just yet.

Interview with Gabrielle Wortman

With training in blues guitar, classical piano, and gospel singing, Gabrielle Wortman’s extensive musical education is nothing short of a unique combination. This unique combination, however, has earned her a 2009 Los Angeles Music Award nomination for her debut album, provided her with thousands of fans across the country, and allows her to continue recording and performing. Described as “haunting and captivating”, Gabrielle Wortman is one that “stands out in the LA music scene.”  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Gabrielle about her music and her upcoming third album.

Mike Gencarelli: How you always wanted to pursue a career in music?
Gabrielle Wortman: Actually I have been always pressing a career in music.  I have been a classically trained pianist from the age of kindergarten.  If it wasn’t song writing, it was classical piano.  There was some gospel singing in there and some blues guitar as well.  I have a heavy background in musical education.  It wasn’t until middle school and high school that I really started writing songs.  I found that my own music and song writing career was really where my passion lied.

MG: What is your process when you sit down to write a song?
GW: Usually, the best songs are born in five minutes.  I kind of hear music in my head all the time.  For example, right now as we speak there is a construction site behind my apartment and when I hear the jack hammer, I can start to hear a beat.  I either have the emotion already or I have the melody and then I try to make the other sound like what you already have.  If I want to write a song about heartbreak then I want my piano to sound like its heart is breaking.  You try and keep everything really pure and in the same veins so it is a coherent song.

MG: What is your main inspiration for your music? Favorite artists?
GW: I really have an eclectic taste in music and combined with my music background is what creates my sound.  It is like an original fusion of different genres.  I have been really influenced by my classical piano background.  There is elements of Tori Amos in the way I play the piano.  Then I was also influenced by gospel singing and that shows in my vocal training.  All of my voice lines are very soulful and sensual and they have that southern kind of blues feel.  Then I grew up addicted to Radiohead and I love the way they do their drum tracks.  I have been very experimental with percussion.  I think the fusion with those three types of genres is really where I get my sound from.

MG: Tell us about your latest EP, “The Voodoo”?
I wrote it inspired by New Orleans.  It is so hard not to walk down the streets of New Orleans and soak up the flavor and the music.  It feels so haunted and heavy.  I wanted to release a two song EP, so that my fans could see the direction that my style was going in.  That is really what drew the two songs that I did.  The rest of my next album is going to be in the same vein.  The Voodoo EP kind of ended up being like a sneak peek on what is to come.

MG: Did you enjoy doing the music video for “Don’t Let Me Lose Control”?
GW: Oh my God, yes!  I did it with a really good friend of mine, who is also a great filmmaker.  I told him I had a deadline and needed to make a music video.  I think he saw it as a very pretty music video and we would go in the singer/songwriter vein where the girl looks really beautiful.  I told him “No, no, no”.  I wanted to it be kind of creepy and dark.  The whole song is about the dark side of love.  Everybody always writes about the happy side of falling in love.  There is a darker side, it is called angst, worry and unrequitedness.  I wanted that tension captured in the video too.  So we actually broke into an abandon insane asylum out here in LA.  There was no way for that music video shoot to be less glamorous.  I had glass embedded in my feet for a week after we shot that thing [laughs].  Honestly, it was so much fun and we pushed all of the limits.  It was a visual masterpiece.

MG: What do you like most about signing to a crowd?
GW: I actually just had a debate with my friend who is a musician.  For me playing live is literally the most important thing about my music career.  I can write a song, record it and put it on a album and sell it to a fan.  That fan is going to take that song, listen to it and experience by themselves.  But when I can play in front of a crowd.   I am actually experiencing my songs with my fans.  That is why I think it is such a precious bond between the artist and their fans.   That is the most powerful way to connect to somebody through music.  Honestly it is what I live for and it is definitely my favorite part of being a musician.  I have pretty have high standards for our live shows.  We are perfectionists and we rehearse and work so hard to deliver a good live show.  I think that live shows tend to get neglected nowadays but it should because it is the most important part in anyone’s music career.

MG: What can we expect might? Are you working on a full album?
GW: Yes actually all of the song for the next album are completely done.  We just need to record them.  So expect a new album in the next six months, I would say.  We are really excited about the new material, it is the best I have ever written.  We have been hearing some wonderful things about it.  So, expect a tour in the next year and then the new album in the next six months.

Interview with J. Teddy Garces

J. Teddy Garces is best known for his portrayal of Bruiser in the web series “The Guild” and Julian in “Ted Sampon: Househusband”. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with J. Teddy about his roles and what he has planned next.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you meet Felicia Day and end up working on “The Guild” as Bruiser?
JTG: “The Guild” was a great experience from beginning to end. I received a call from my agent about an audition for a series that was pretty popular on the web. I read the audition material and researched the show. I loved it. When I went in to read for the role of Bruiser, Felicia was there with Sean (the director) and Kim (the Producer). Jenni Powell was also there, she was the one I read with. They all generated such great energy during the audition that it became very easy to feel comfortable. I remember there was a lot of laughter from everyone in the room and the next day I received a call that I had gotten the part.

MG: What can we expect from season five of the show?
JTG: To be honest I don’t really know what season five holds in store. The show changes from season to season and with Felicia, although you know its going to be great, you still don’t know what to expect.

MG: Tell us about your latest film “Surrogate”?
JTG: “Surrogate” is the remarkable story about the life of poet and journalist Mark O’Brien. Ben Lewin wrote and directed the piece. It was such a refreshing script to read and even more rewarding to work on. Mark O’Brien lived in an Iron Lung due to polio.

MG: How was it working with such a great cast including, John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and Moon Bloodgood?
JTG: I had a brief but very nice role in the film. I spent my time with Moon Bloodgood and John Hawkes. My interaction in the film was with them. They were very welcoming during filming from the moment I arrived until I left. Its always a positive when you have the opportunity to experience someone else’s work process. John and Moon worked very well together, and as a result, I felt completely at ease in communicating with them during the work and between takes.

MG: Tell us about working on the online series, “Dragon Age” due this Summer?
JTG: “Dragon Age’ was a phenomenal time from beginning to end for me. It provided a new experiences for me as an actor. I play a Qunari Warrior and was in a make up chair for 5 hours getting the prosthetics  glued on to me. Wow! It was exciting and exhausting, but when I arrived on set to shoot, I knew from everyone’s reaction that something great was happening.

MG: You are also producing your own New Media series called “Sound Advice”, tell us about it?
JTG: Yes, “Sound Advice”! “He doesn’t mean to be rude … He just is”. That’s the tagline! It’s my five episode rude creation about a dysfunctional therapist who is completely ruthless in his methods. Its an intelligent show that forces you to leave your hangups at the door. The promo clips are already online now but the episodes don’t premiere till July 2011. I wrote, produced and starred in it because as an actor, I’m a strong believer in doing the things that can springboard your advancement. Sean Becker directed it. There is a website: and I am also hosting it on www.Blip.Tv/soundadvice.

Interview with McKenzie Westmore

McKenzie Westmore is the beautiful host of Syfy’s hit show “Face Off”.  She grew up in the field since her father is Michael Westmore who has been in the make-up special effects business for many years.  This makes McKenzie perfect to host the show since she has some great experience in the make-up special effects field.  McKenzie is also well known for her role in the soap opera “Passions”.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with McKenzie about working on “Face Off” and well as in the business.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you come to host Syfy’s hit show “Face Off”?
McKenzie Westmore: Some people may or may not know but my father is Michael Westmore who has won multiple Emmys, an Oscar, he has star on the walk of fame and so on. My family has a real rich history in the make-up world starting with my great grandfather which kind of revolves around “Face Off”. When I was a kid I was always in the lab with my dad working on various projects and learning all the ins and outs of the industry. I decided that I wanted to move more towards acting and being in front of the camera. However I still have that love and respect for the behind the scenes work. When “Face off” came along I never really saw myself doing reality television but it was such a perfect tie in that for me if I was going to host anything it would be this type of show. There are certain hosts out there that really don’t make sense on the shows they host but on “Face Off” all the pieces fit perfectly and I just couldn’t say no.

MG: Since you have always been exposed to special makeup effects, was it like second nature to you watching the contestants work?
MW: When I first walked into the lab of “Face Off” all the smells of the chemicals reminded me of home and it really brought me back to when I was a kid on the set of “Star Trek” or wherever my dad was working. For a long time my dad’s lab was attached to our house so I could go in there and see all these great creations my dad had done and that I was part of. The show really was second nature. I am definitely not on the level as our judges but I could give a certain perspective since I grew up in this industry and saw things firsthand.

MG: What would you say was the most rewarding part of working on the show?
MW: I would have to say that all the guys at mission control were really great and a pleasure to work for. They really made my job easy and it was fun to go into work every day. On the creative side it was really great to see what the artists could turn out within a couple hours. Even from my dad’s perspective some of the things were almost impossible. It was a pleasure and joy to see the creations come to life.

MG: They are currently auditioning for season two; do you have a process with that?
MW: No, I do not. I think there might be some things coming up but I don’t want to give away too much. I think casting is winding down as we are starting shooting in the Fall.

MG: What can we expect from the show in season two?
MW: I really don’t know anything right now as everything is kept under lock and key. I do know that it’s going to be twice the creativity and the challenges will be a little harder. Some challenges will remain the same for however long we do the show but, I think the ante will be upped this season. We are also adding two episodes which in turn adds more contestants.

MG: Having worked on soap operas for nearly 10 years, tell us about your experience on those shows?
MW: I have an appreciation for reality television but soap operas really aren’t too far off from that. Both are go, go, go type of shooting and the hours can be very long. It was a bit different though with soap operas because you’re playing a scripted character that needs to have a motivation. With the reality series it’s just me giving challenges praying to God that I give the instructions correctly. It was a lot of fun getting to experience reality television hosting and I look forward to doing more.

MG: You father, Michael Westmore, worked on “Star Trek” franchise, how was it getting to work with him on projects from “Insurrection” to “Voyager” to “The Next Generation”?
MW: It was amazing! When he was working in the lab I was always helping him out there. I remember he was sculpting an alien and there was clay everywhere. I came along and started sticking pieces of clay around the ears and on the neck and my dad really liked it and left them in. I think it was a Cardesian that he was working on. As an actor, the different times I got to be on “Star Trek” were fantastic from being a kid on “Star Trek: Next Generation” then being 20 years old doing “Star Trek: Voyager” was amazing.  “Star Trek: Voyager” was really fun because it was a guest starring role that had the potential of becoming a regular character that was going to be the love interest for Ensign Kim. However the offer for “Passions” had come along and I was only given a maybe from “Star Trek” and “Passions” was offering me a 3 year contract.

MG: Tell us about your upcoming films “Dose of Reality” & “Vile”?
MW: Those are two totally different films. For some reason lately I keep being cast as the puppet master [Laughs]. We just finished shooting  “Dose of Reality” the other day. We did all outdoor night shoots on that project from about 6pm till 6am. Fairuza Baulk stars in the film and she has been someone I have been dreaming of working with since I saw her in “The Craft”. It’s a well done script and is one of those drama/thriller type films. I think once it hits the festival circuit people are going to want to see it a couple times. The twist in the end just blew my mind. I actually had to re-read the script because I thought I had missed something. It’s a fantastic mind bender. “Vile” is about a car full of college kids on their way home from a weekend getaway. My character is in need of help and approaches the kids. After being helped I gas the entire car and take the kids to a house where they are held hostage. In order for them to get free they must torture each other which releases chemicals into a vile inserted in to each of their necks. Once the vile is full they are released. It’s a pretty amazing story line.

Interview with Dieter Laser

Dieter Laser is known best for his role of Dr. Heiter in “The Human Centipede”.  Dieter portrayal of that characters ranks as one of the best/creepiest villains that I have ever seen.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Dieter about his role and what else he has planned.

Mike Gencarelli: What did you like most about playing Dr. Heiter in “The Human Centipede”?
Dieter Laser: I loved the pitch black humor in it – funny and scary at the same time. I loved the downfall from an insane German “Demigod” with a spotless white doctor’s coat to a bloody snakelike “Subhuman” crawling across the tiles like a centipede.

MG: How did you prepare for such a demented & dark character?
DL: When you read a novel you gradually start to “see” and even “feel” the characters on your mind’s screen – same thing with a script. I’m reading a script every day, very early in the morning and very slowly up to a hundred times, thereby enhancing this common effect of visualization. Discovering under the entertaining surface the different layers of diverse combinations and rich possibilities to interpret the stuff. Trusting my guts, waiting patiently for the character to come alive on my mind’s “silver screen”. Watching “Him” carefully when He shyly shows up… and finally, when He seems to feel quite comfortable I slowly start to mimic what He’s doing.

MG: How was it working with Tom Six, did he give you creative freedom for the role?
DL: Tom Six and his sister, the wonderful producer Ilona Six, gave me every thinkable creative freedom, support and trust, and if you are treated like this, you only can try to pay back, and that explains the splendid chemistry we had every day at the set. Tom knows precisely what he wants to do and has the rare talent to provide you with generous freedom and leadership at the same time.

MG: We interviewed Akihiro Kitamura and his first impression of the script was that it was hilarious, what was your first impression?
DL: I got my first impression through a meeting with Tom and Ilona. Tom told me very defined and detailed the whole movie in real time. After 90 minutes I was so fascinated by his vision, precision and obsession that we came to a deal even during this meeting. Later on when the script arrived I got scared. I hadn’t in fact realized the whole consequences of the premise (“Feed her!”) – and I was afraid. Then in my early morning sessions with the script I discovered under the plain surface “The Nazi-Doctor”! – and that led me to the “Angel of Death”, to the Nazi concentration camp physician Dr. Josef Mengele, who gruesomely experimented with twins. Therefore Tom and I decided to baptize Dr. Heiter with his first name “Joseph”. – Now I had found my “vehicle” and how to drive my character through the whole story no matter how disgusting things would become. So I got a lot of fun out of it, to kick my criminal German ancestors in their balls, making dark jokes about their twisted anal retentive Nazi-Psyche! Assholes like Dr. Heiter, who divided mankind in “Supermen” (themselves) and “Subhumans” (all the others) treating Human Beings like insects, like poor centipedes.

MG: You played villians in both the TV series “Lexx” and “The Human Centipede”, Do you enjoying playing the bad guy?
DL: Despite of these villains I always have preferred to be a “character actor” playing complicated and broken guys. If I can choose between a part with a candy bar or a part with a gun, I always will take the gun.

MG: How can you reflect on the banning of “The Human Centipede II (The Full Sequence) in the UK?
DL: It’s a pity for the UK audience and a big advertisement for the world market. I had the privilege to see some stills, they looked absolutely fascinating.

MG: Are you generally a fan of the horror genre?
DL: Not generally, but I love movies like “The Silence of the Lambs” or “The Shining” for example.

MG: What do you have planned next?
DL: I’m on stage tour with Shakespeare and Samuel Beckett – and I’m waiting for the right part in the right script for the right movie. I already had to turn down eight offers this year, so “The Right Movie” should be pretty close by now – hopefully taking place in the beloved United States of America! – Anyway there are new plans with Tom and Ilona Six for December/January – so let’s just wait and let us see!

Interview with Ashley C. Williams

Ashley C. Williams is one of the stars of the horror film “The Human Centipede”. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Ashley about working on that film as well as what is has planned next.

Mike Gencarelli: What did you think when you first read the script for “The Human Centipede”?
Ashley C. Williams: I was shocked but I was pretending not to be since I knew that wasn’t what they wanted to see. There wasn’t really script though when I first went in. It was more like a premise, but was also very interesting to me.

MG: At what point did you get to read the script then?
AW: In one of my call backs, I think it was the third. They had a breakdown of each scene and what each scene would consist of. At that point is when I really found out more in detail what the film was going to be about.


MG: Was it uncomfortable for you staying in that position throughout shooting?
AW: It definitely was uncomfortable for me to be in that position to shoot scenes. It was difficult at first and I wasn’t sure how I was going to have to approach it from an acting perspective. I figured I would just wing it, especially for those insane moments, like anyone would. Overall though, it was exhausting and definitely mentally and physically intense.

MG: What was the longest duration you were in that position?
AW: Actually we were never in that position for longer than five minutes. We would go in shoot a scene and then we were able to get out of it very easily. Whenever they would yell cut they would then throw blankets on us. It wasn’t that difficult in that sense. Althoughafter five minutes our knees would start hurting, our backs would get strained from being pulled forward by Aki. Whenever he would walk Ashylee and my back would be pulled forward. That part was a bit harsh on us.

MG: How was it working with Dieter Laser, was he really as creepy in real life?
AW: On the set we never got to know him because he kept to himself and stood in character the whole time. Until the last day on the set we had a cast party. He was all smiles and wanted to get to know us and we just asking “Who is this man?” He was amazing to work with and gave us so much to feed off of. Even when he wasn’t on the set he would be there behind the camera for us to see to work off. That was great. He was really great to work with.

MG: Tell us about the film, “Empty” which you also star in?
AW: It is about the worldwide gas crisis. It focuses on a couple who come out from a camping trip for a week and find that the roads are deserted and there is this major gas issue. Then from there try have to survive. It resolves around their relationship and how work with each other. It is a thriller/sci-fi/drama. It comes out on DVD, July 26, 2011.

MG: You will also be starring in “Hallow Pointe”, are you excited to be working on this film with such a great genre cast?
AW: I am honored to be working with all of those people. We haven’t started shooting yet and we are currently in pre-production. I am really excited. It is a werewolf film and I have never been a part of that type of film before. It is going to be really fun. I had met Thomas Churchhill at a convention, the director, and we met he said offered me a part of his film. So I am really excited.

MG: What are you currently working on?
AW: I am currently shooting a drama/comedy/coming of age film called “Leaving Circadia”, in which I have a supporting role. We are shooting that right now in New York City. It has a really great cast. Christian Coulson, who played Tom Riddle in “Harry Potter” series. Also Michael Cerveris is in it…he is a Tony award winner. So I am really glad to be apart of it.

Interview with Femke Wolting

Femke Wolting is co-founder and head of Submarine, an Amsterdam based production studio that develops and produces documentaries and cross media programs for broadcasters and media companies. Femke is one of the producers, along with Bruno Felix, of the recently released “Forget the Film, Watch the Titles!”  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Femke about the film and her company.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you come on board the film “Forget the Film, Watch the Titles!”?
Femke Wolting: A couple of years ago I curated a program for the Internatioanal Film Festival Rotterdam about the art of opening titles for movies. People loved to see the most amazing titles from around the world in movie theatre. After that. In 2005 I started with my company Submarinechannel the website Forget the Film watch the Titles, where we collect the best titles from around the world. We also started to make short documentaries about the designers of these titles, such as Karin Fong, Jarson Yu and of cours Kyle Cooper. We got very inspired by the work and personality of Kyle Cooper and started to develop a feature length documentary about opening titles for films.

MG: I find the concept for the documentary fascinating, how did you come up with ideas on what was going to be covered in the film?
FW: The documentary, “The Obsessions of Kyle Cooper” zooms in on the world of title sequence design, taking the viewer on an inspiring journey of discovery peppered with titillating images from the present and the past with the headstrong, distinctive, and somewhat obsessive title creator Kyle Cooper in the lead role. With Cooper as our guide, we explore the history of the modern title sequence. We look back on a selection of legendary and often groundbreaking title sequences from the present and the past.

MG: What I like about the documentary is that it is not limited to just film, you also cover shorts, TV and even video games. Tell us about some of the titles feature in the film?
FW: We will focus on film titles for movies mainly but will show that for some tv series and video games too there are also great titles being made, such as for example True Blood.

MG: Do you personally have an all-time favorite opening title?
FW: I love Kyle Coopers film title for Seven because it was such a groundbreaking work , In one fell swoop, Cooper set a new precedent in title design, in terms of both content and creative approach
I also love the classiscs, of course the work of Saul bass for Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese. In Europe the titles of Guan Gatti who works with Pedro Almodavar

MG: Do you feel that titles are ever looked passed and even skipped with some audiences?
FW: I feel that people are more aware of titles then before. Studios use them to promote movies, people like to go to our the internet to watch the newest titles. Filmmakers, musicvideo and commercial directors follow closely what I going on in film titles as source of inspiration and to see new techniques being tried out. And in certain cases the titles even get more critical acclaim then the feature films that follows, this happened for example with the film Watchmen. But of course there are still a lot of people who are not aware that titles are something to look out for..

MG: What would you say is your main goal to have watchers take away when seeing the film?
FW: Officially, the title sequence should introduce the movie’s title, the most important actors, and the director in no more than two or three minutes. A good title sequence however, communicates a lot more than just the credits – offering atmosphere, story, and feeling. It takes viewers right to the heart of where the director wants them to be: breathless and on the edge of their seats. It is the viewer’s first impression of the film and sets the tone for what will follow. As a filmmaker, this is the moment you either grab viewers – or lose them. The title sequence is an essential part of the film. By the same token, the title sequence genre offers more creative freedom and room for visual innovation, than any other in Hollywood. That is why the most commercial blockbusters, particularly superhero movies, often have the most mind-boggling, creatively edgy, and surprising title sequences of all. While the rest of the film industry is increasingly constrained by conservative production values, the title designer enjoys almost total freedom. His position in Hollywood’s film industry is thus unique. So we would like that viewers after watching the film will take a better look at movie titles.

MG: Tell us about the website, Submarine Channel, which has recently launched,
FW: In order to give these usually unsung jewels the continuing attention they deserve, we’ve launched and continue to frequently update the website This much-visited favorite of web-surfing film and motion graphic fans has since accrued a collection of over 150 title sequences, including those from “Juno”, “The Pink Panther”, “True Blood”, and “God of War III”, and video interviews with notables like Prologue Film’s Kyle Cooper and Imaginary Forces’ Karin Fong.

MG: What do you have planned upcoming?
FW: We are working on a feature film to be directed by Peter Greenaway (“The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lovers”) about the Russian film director Eisenstein. Also we are producing a feature doc directed by Tommy Pallotta (producer of “Waking Life” and “A Scanner Darkly”), a hybrid live action/animation film about the pirates in Somalia.

Click here to visit the website for “Forget The Film, Watch the Titles!”

Interview with Richard Morrison

You probably know title designer Richard Morrison’s work for movies such as “Batman”, “Brazil”, “Enemy at the Gates”, and “Sweeney Todd”. Richard is one of the 9 interviewed title designers from the DVD “Forget the Film, Watch the Titles!” Movie Mikes had a chance to ask Richard a few quick questions about his work.

Mike Gencarelli: When you are working on a title design, what is your first process?
Richard Morrison: Scribble and doodle out my first impressions – fast

MG: Do you have a lot of influence from the film’s score when working on a title?
RM: No, because I start with no music.

MG: “Brazil” is one of my favorite films. Tell us about working with Terry Gilliams on this film?
RM: Terry has passion and is very engaging – as do I, so we all jump on the same ride

MG: You worked with Tim Burton on “Batman”, tell us about your collaboration?
RM: In short, it is the same as working with Terry, since we all share the same vision. I will be working with Tim again later this year on “Dark Shadows”.

MG: You have worked on two of my favorite horror films, “Hellraiser” & “Event Horizon”, tell us about working on these?
RM: Horror films, in general, my approach is to show less in visual terms and more in sound because the less you see, can be more disturbing than what you think you can see.

MG: The titles on “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” are just amazing, they blend so well with music, tell us about working on this film and your inspiration?
RM: I decided to set the narrative up as a metaphor for what was going to happen when Johnny Depp arrives back to London after his exile.

MG: I love the end credits of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”, tell us about your process for creating them?
RM: In one word RUSH…with lots of late nights on the phone to Universal in LA.

MG: How do you feel working in your field has changed since you started in the late 70’s?
RM: From analog to digital is the same for me because my hard drive is in my head not in machines.

MG: What do you have planned next?
RM: Working on “Day of the Flowers” and then like I said “Dark Shadows” with Tim Burton”.
Click here to visit the website for “Forget The Film, Watch the Titles!”

Interview with Bruce McGill

Bruce McGill is known best for his role of Daniel Simpson Day, “D-Day”, in “Animal House”. After that role he has appear in over 65 other films and various TV series ranging from “MacGyver” to “The Cleveland Show”. Bruce is currently co-starring in TNT”s hit show “Rizzoli & Isles” playing Sergeant Vince Korsak. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Bruce about his show and also what else he has planned upcoming.

Mike Gencarelli: What do you like most about playing Detective Vince Korsak in “Rizzoli & Isles”?
Bruce McGill: Outside of the obvious, which is steady work in a tough time. The fact that I am working with such sharp aware people is great. Everybody likes the show and everybody wants to do the best we can to realize the good writing. There is nobody slowing down the process. It is an impossible amount of work but we all try and do the best we can.

MG: How is it working on the show with two female leads?
BM: I will say this. They are hard not to look at…so pretty good. [laughs] You know what I mean. They are just great. Most of my stuff is with Angie (Harmon). I have known her along time and she is just remarkable. She is so sharp and with it. When we have time to prepare and know it well enough, it is like playing music with a good musician. She sees everything I do and I see everything she does and we toss it back and forth. Sometimes when you work this fast, you are lucky if each actor knows there own lines, much less pays attention to what the other character is saying. That is the only way it is really vital and alive when it is that connection and the characters are paying attention to what each other does and responds to it.

MG: What can we expect from Korsak in season two?
BM: In this season starting around the third or fourth episode you start to see a lot of him. They suddenly realized “Hey that guy learns all his lines, give it to him”. So my work load increased and I was promoted to Sergeant, so Detective Frost and Detective Rizzoli and I can work as a three man team. So Frost and I are interchangeable in our Detective work. Although I am the superior officer to the two of them, but I do not like to pull rank…put I could [laughs].

MG: Tell us about your “Animal House” reference in the first season?
BM: [laughs] Well they were making fun of me because my character is the blue collared guy in an episode. He didn’t go to college. They are all college educated and smart, so they said something to me about it in the show. I said “Well I did see “Animal House” [laughs]. Janet (Tamaro), the executive producer asked me first if I would have a problem making the reference to the movie. I said “Are you kidding?” Being in that movie is something that never looks bad on your permanent record. I never mind when people bring that up.

MG: The film was big on the 80’s and still to today, What would you say is the “Animal House” of this generation?
BM: I think you will have to give it to “The Hangover”. It makes sense. If I was a young guy again, I would think that would be the movie that I would like to be in, as much as I liked being in “Animal House”. Although compared to what we were doing which we thought was so racy and crazy, there are off the charts now. We can even say things now on cable TV, like on TNT in “Rizzoli & Isles” that you could never say when I was doing “MacGyver” for example. You couldn’t even think about it.

MG: How does working on a show like this differ for you then working on a show like “MacGyver”?
BM: Obviously, the huge difference is there used to be three networks and PBS. Now it has fractured and splintered and there is literally hundreds. To distinguish yourself in a crowd is now much more difficult. You get flushed down the toilet much quicker if you do not find an audience right away. On the other side, there is a lot more pieces of the pie about the same size. It is just tougher to get a big chunk of it.

MG: How did you get involved with Seth MacFarlane and voicing characters on “Family Guy” & “The Cleveland Show”?
BM: I was doing Mr. Waterman on “The Cleveland Show” and as I was walking out I was singing some song. One of the casting directors ask “Do you sing?”. I said “Well, I am singing aren’t I” [laughs]. She asked me to play the role of Santa Clause in the Christmas episode of “Family Guy” and of course I said yes. They sent me the sheet music. I thought it was going to be an easy three cords of Silent Night. It was really challenging and I am musician. I sat at my piano, worked it out and sang it. So I went down and recorded it. I think the last time I broke a sweat singing when was I was on Broadway in the 80’s. I broke a sweat singing this stuff for Seth MacFarlane. I think everyone thinks that Seth is back in some Captain Kirk like console running the world, but he actually came out to see who this guy was doing this big vocal production for two hours. Seth was very impressed. Work gets work and I have always felt that way.

MG: Tell us about working on the film “FDR: American Badass” and its great cast?
BM: Oh that was counter culture programming [laughs]. It was to help out out young filmmakers who cannot afford to pay me. It is pretty radical. I haven’t seen it fully yet. Once I even had to leave the set, I thought it was too gross for me. At the same time though, the guys were really great and hard working, everyday I laughed at something. I mean actually laughed. So I do not know if it will translate but it was a whirlwind 10 or 11 days.

MG: Tell us about your involved with Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”?
BM: I am playing the Secretary of War, Secretary Stanton. I will be shooting that in two chucks as soon as I finish “Rizzoli & Isles”. I haven’t read the whole script because it is double secret probation, as I use an “Animal House” reference. They will not even give me the whole screenplay. I have the scenes I am in though. It is an examination, as I understand it, of the friction in the presidency and the legalities of the war. I know we will carry it through until Lincoln has been shot. That is literally all I know of it. I know it is going to be shot in the Fall and be done in Virginia.

Interview with Alfred Rubin Thompson

Alfred Rubin Thompson started out his entertainment career as Hip-Hop artist “The Icon”. During this time an offer came his way which led his career into a new direction that has proved very successful for Alfred. Movie Mikes had a chance to catch up with Alfred to talk about his career and some of his upcoming projects.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us what made you want to start acting?
Alfred Rubin Thompson: I grew up in Hollis, Queens during the same time as Russell Simmons and Run DMC, who were very much into business. I had started out in music first. After a few years of being in the entertainment business, I was in church one Sunday and was asked to play the voice of God in a play. That same day I was asked by another woman to play the same role in her play which was being put on at the Macauley Theater. I kind of took that as my sign to move into the direction of acting. During the second play, I was approached to try out for a commercial. From there I got my first feature film on BET, “Winner Takes All” and it has just taken off since.

AL: Can you tell us about the film “Decisions”?
ART: “Decisions” was released this Spring in select theaters across the country. I play the character of Oakland Nate, who is a crooked music producer. We shot the movie last year and this is the last film to feature Corey Haim. “Decisions” is about four guys who are trying to figure out a way to get out of their normal everyday lives. During the characters search they get caught up in a bank robbery which leads to some other problems for them. The thought behind the movie is to encourage proper decision making in your life. Often time one decision will impact other upcoming decisions later on in life. I had a great time working on the film. I think audiences are really going to enjoy it.

AL: Can you tell us what it was like working with Corey Haim?
ART: Corey was just a good guy. He was very outgoing and giving. He worked very hard on every scene to make sure the director had what they needed. We all were very shocked and sad when he passed away. It would have been great to see him in more projects as he got older. His work as a child actor was phenomenal. Corey was a really great guy and we all miss him.

AL: Can you tell us what it was like working with Will Farrell on Steve Carrell’s last episode of “The Office”?
ART: Oh my goodness! That was one of the most fun and extreme episodes. It’s one of those episodes where even if I wasn’t in it I would still sit back and just laugh. Working with Will was just hilarious. He’s such a comedic genius and his timing is perfect. Will is great person at heart and if you need him for something he’s there. Working on “The Office” in general was just great! NBC welcomed me with open arms. I thank God for that opportunity. That episode is going to go down as one of the best in history for NBC.

AL: Has there been any talk of your character being on the show again?
ART: There might be a possibility of my character coming back to kind of stir up something’s with the company. We will see. There have been talks about it but right now NBC is really focusing on the transition between Will Farrell’s character and some others that they are going to be bringing in. I think once they get that area of the show set you will see my character more.

AL: From your work in music, acting and voice over. Do you have a preference for one over the other?
ART: I enjoy all the talented crafts of the arts. You get to bring something different for each one. Acting allows me to convey emotion through movement, dialogue and facial expressions. Voice over work allows me to use just my voice to act out what the character is saying or doing. Music allows me to expression myself emotionally and let people know what I am thinking about different issues. I really enjoy the art of entertainment as a whole.

AL: Can you tell us about one of your other upcoming projects “Hemmingway and Gellhorn”?
ART: That is a project being done by HBO, who doesn’t do anything small! (Laughs) The project stars Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen and is based on Earnest Hemmingway’s memoirs from between 1936-1946. Getting to work with such a great group of actors and actress is really a pleasure. Most of my scenes in the film are with Clive Owen, as I play the character of Skinner. Clive is a witty and clever guy and it was great! HBO really believes in their projects as well as you as an actor. We just completed shooting the other day and I think the project is slated for release sometime in 2012. It’s a very interesting story that I think people will enjoy.

AL: Do you have any other upcoming projects?
ART: I was shooting a project the other day for Nickelodeon, which I can’t say too much about but I do have another shoot with them next month as well. I am up for a few more films which I hope will keep me busy throughout the summer which is really great.

Interview with LaMonte Edwards

LaMonte Edwards is the writer/director of the new film “King of Paper Chasin’”. The film is currently airing on The Movie Channel and is available to purchase in stores and rent on Redbox and Netflix. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with LaMonte about the movie and he has planned next.

Mike Gencarelli: Can you tell us about your new film “King of Paper Chasin’”?
LaMonte Edwards: “King of Paper Chasin’” is about a character named Carter Blanche, who is like an American nightmare.  He is the guy who will do pretty much whatever he needs to do to make money, in the vein of Tony Soprano.  He takes advantage of all different aspects of capitalism, some legal and some illegal, to make money.  He is the lead character and that is basically the core of the story.

MG: What inspired the idea for the film?
LE: Actually I did the film with a gentlemen by the name of Dwayne “D.L.” Clark, who actually had the idea based on some of his own life experiences.  He called me up one day and said he had this idea for a movie.  He wanted to take a look at the script and make it more of an entertaining vehicle.  We sat down and he had some great ideas and I just ran with it.

MG: Can you describe the experience of working on your first full length film?
LE: It was very interesting.  I was able to surround myself with good talent and natured people.  The movie has some pretty dark subject matter.  The beauty of that is your able to balance it with some really great people on set.  We had to shoot it relatively fast because we had a very limited budget.  We shot it in 28 days and maybe in that time we took 4 days off.  It was brutal.  He had a lot of locations and characters also.  The good things is my cameraman and I have been friends since pre-school.  We created like a family-aspect on the set which made it easier to do a film like that in such a short period of time.

MG: In your opinion what was harder: writing , producing or directing?
LE: I would say that producing is the hardest.  The thing with producing, especially independent films, is you are really trying to make impossible things happen.  You are dealing with all the talent and trying to get them to perform on your schedule.  So that is definitely the toughest part.

MG: Can you tell us when and where people can see the film?
LE: The movie is currently on DVD.  It is in Walmart in stores and it is also online.  It is currently also in Redbox as of May 31st.  It is going to screen on The Movie Channel (TMC) July 1st at 8pm, which is a Friday.  There will be subsequent screenings all through the month on TMC and Showtime after that.

MG: Can you tell us about any other upcoming projects?
LE: I am working on my next project titled “Melvin the Magnificent”.  It is a fantasy drama.  It is currently shopping right now.  We trying to get a cast involved.  So that is next and we are actively doing it right now.

Interview with Matt Taylor & Jim Beller

June 2005. On the island of Martha’s Vineyard I meet Jim Beller at JAWSFest. As a fellow “Jaws” fan I have been well aware of the man they call Jimmy Jaws for the better part of a decade. But we hadn’t met face to face until that summer. During our conversation Jim tells me an idea he has. A coffee table book consisting of behind the scene photos telling the story of the making of our favorite film. “Good idea,” I say.

June 2007. Back on the Vineyard and moments after I propose to my future wife in a room filled with “Jaws” fans, I am introduced to Matt Taylor, who Jim has told me will be writing the coffee table book.

April 2011. I am as giddy as a school boy as I am given the first look at the new book, “Jaws: Memories From Martha’s Vineyard.” Did I mention that I thought it was a good idea?

Over this past 4th of July weekend I had the unique opportunity to shadow book author Matt Taylor and conceptualist Jim Beller on Martha’s Vineyard as they met with film fans and discussed their new project. During some rare down time in their whirlwind schedule, as fans gathered for a screening of the film, they took a few moments to sit down with MovieMikes and talk about the book.

Mike Smith: Why “Jaws?”
Jim Beller: Why not “Jaws?” (laughs)

MS: What is it about that film that, 36 years later, you and I and all of the people standing in line behind us still love it?
JB: I think it’s because it’s a movie that still holds up today and will still hold up 20 or 30 years from now. People will always have that fear of not knowing what’s under them when they’re swimming in the ocean. It’s a movie that has everything: great directing, great acting…editing, score, art direction, great writing…it’s a film that has everything. It’s a comedy, it’s a drama, it’s a horror movie, it’s a thriller. It’s a movie that will go on and on. Like (“Jaws” production designer) Joe Alves says, it’s like “The Wizard of Oz.” Years from now other generations are going to watch it and love it.

MS: Matt, you spent three years traveling across Martha’s Vineyard and discovering stories that even serious “Jaws” fans had not heard. Was it an easy task tracking down people?
Matt Taylor: It was an easy task tracking down the people I knew. Islanders are very set in their ways. They may not do things the same way that off-Islanders would. Often times it was very difficult to lock them down for a time to talk or to show up. They might say “yes” to something then keep you waiting for five months. It was either very easy or extremely difficult.

MS: Did the fact that you yourself are an Islander…you’re family has lived here for 15 generations…did that give you an advantage that another author might not have had?
MT: I think so. I didn’t think Hershel West was even going to answer the door. So I dropped my grandfather’s name and after about 20 seconds I heard him undoing the latch. (NOTE: Mr. West played Quint’s first mate early in the film) It helped that I could drop the name of a family member that they were familiar with. Lynn and Susan Murphy have been friends with various family members from way, way back. Susan told me that as soon as Lynn realized who my relatives were he really opened up. So yes, it definitely worked to my advantage.

MS: Is the book your first writing project?
MT: Actually I’ve written a lot. I’ve had three screenplays read by major studios, though nothing yet has seen the light of day. But the book is the first thing that’s been published.

MS: Jim, what is your rarest “Jaws” item?
JB: I have a “Bruce” tooth. It’s not really rare but it’s up there as far as collectibles go. I really have two very rare items. The first is a standee that stood in theatre lobbies in 1975. For years I had no idea it even existed…I had never seen one. But then I saw a photo of another fans collection and I was like, “what is THAT…where did you get THAT?” (I should note here Jim was talking about MY collection and finally did track down the standee in question). The other item is a hard back copy of the novel, “Jaws,” which spent the summer of 1974 on board the U.S.S. Loreno, which was the name of one of the sea sleds that carried the sharks used by the crew during filming. The crew member that had it would have everyone that came aboard sign it. There are probably close to 75 autographs in it, including Bob Mattey, who created “Bruce.”

MS: Matt, what are you working on now?
MT: I have a film that I have to go back and finish. I shot it in 2007 and was assembling a rough cut when I decided to drop everything and concentrate on the book full tilt. I put it on the back burner but now I’m going to go back and finish it up. It’s a documentary on the history of agriculture on Martha’s Vineyard.

MS: I know that the book was a roller coaster ride for you both, with lots of ups and downs. Now that you’ve climbed that last hill it should be all fun on the way down. What do you hope for next?
MT: Money.
JB: [Laughs]
JB: For me it’s knowing that I can finally talk with fellow fans about stuff I’ve known for years but couldn’t talk about because of the book. It’s great to finally have this book out…with over 1,000 never-before-seen photos and probably as many unheard stories…that “Jaws” fans will be completely blown away by. It will be great to talk with fellow “Jaws” fans about their favorite new stories. [Laughs] And money.

MS: Any chance you two will collaborate on another project?
JB: We’ve talked about a couple things. There are still many photos…and stories…that the fans haven’t seen or heard.
MT: I had to cut about 50 pages out of the book. Two months before we turned it over to the publisher it was 50 pages longer. I had to trim a lot of it and find a way to rearrange the photos after all of the cuts had been made. There are still completely edited stories and photos that were once part of the book that we didn’t use because we had to get it down to 300 pages. And they were great stories!


Related Content
  • Book Review: “Access All Areas: Stories from a Hard Rock Life” by Scott Ian
  • Reading a Book vs Watching a Movie
  • Interview with Steve Alten
  • Interview with D.J. Qualls

    D.J. Qualls is known best for his roles in the films like “Road Trip” and “The New Guy”. D.J. is currently starring opposite Jason Lee in TNT’s hit show “Memphis Beat”. Movie Mikes had a chance to attend a conference call to chat about the show with D.J. and how his character, Davey Sutton, is stepping up in season two.

    Mike Smith: In the recent episode “Flesh and Blood”, you find an abandoned baby in your car, how does that shape Sutton for the future of this show? Will the baby experience stick with him?
    D.J. Qualls: It definitely does. I mean it changes who he is as a man. Sutton has some realizations about himself and about what he wants for his future based on this experience with the baby. Actually, it kind of changed me a little bit as well. It changed how I feel about myself. I started making me think maybe it’s the time to start thinking about moving in a different direction in my life and settling down. So maybe that’s something that I’m going to start looking at soon.

    MS: How has it been working with Jason Lee?
    DJQ: Well, I think it helps a lot, the fact that this is the third job I’ve had with Jason.  I think it was my second or third movie with Jason, and then I was on “Earl” for a few episodes, and then, now, this show.  So I’ve known him a long time.  He was a friend before I did the show, which I think it makes chemistry easier. What I like about working with him most is that he keeps the mood on the set light.  We work very long hours.  We shoot in a lot of our show on location outside in New Orleans in the summer time and that’s brutal.  You’re pretty gnarly and he still always has a smile on his face.  He’s number 1 on the call sheet.  He’s you know our hero, essentially, on the show.  So working with him and when he’s in a good mood, we can’t help but be infected by that.

    Q: What challenges you about playing as a police officer on “Memphis Beat”?
    A: Well, this year the show has totally changed. We shifted more to a more serious, procedural kind of show. We’re still trying to fix the quirks that we had last season but this year we are focusing more on the crime, a little less on the quirk of being in the south.  Also last year my character was sort of, finding his footing, you know as a brand new cop.  So this year, I’m actually getting to do more cop work. I find that more interesting because I don’t often get to play a lot of serious roles.   Especially with the episode “Flesh and Blood”, which is, every year, I get one episode that’s a Sutton episode on my character. So in episode four you see I find a baby.  It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but it was beautiful. I have seen it and I’m so excited for the audience to see it.

    Q: Why do you think people keep tuning in to watch Memphis Beat?
    A: Well, I think that we have become more of a standard procedural this year, but also we have maintained that character focus kind of show.  We really try to create a show where people just want to tune in an hour with these people. I think that there is a lot of heart in our show.  I read the message boards.  Some people don’t but if you don’t read your message boards, I think you’re stupid because you want to know what’s working and what’s not working about your show.  People just seem to respond to the heart of it.

    Q: Can you talk about filming the shooting range scenes with Whitehead and are we going to see more Sutton helping them out in the future?
    A: Those were really fun to shoot. Those shooting range scenes were awesome. Yes, this year, you see Sutton and Whitehead – because last year, Sutton and White Head really didn’t have a lot of interaction. Whitehead just sort of didn’t like how green he was. This year, Sutton really starts to prove himself and Whitehead responds to it. The actual shooting of the scenes were great. We had several days of prep. I don’t know why they were so nervous about me shooting a gun. I’m from the South and I got a gun when I was 12 years old. But we got to shoot in an actual police shooting range where all of the New Orleans Police Department trained.  It took about, maybe 6 hours and I shot probably 150 rounds during the filming of that. I’ve got to say, personally, I don’t really like guns. But it made me think, maybe I could own a gun. But then I walk away from it going, “You do not need a gun in your house.”

    Q: I wanted to ask about the music on this show. It’s such a big part of creating the feeling. I’m wondering if you could just talk a little bit about how that fits in and your feelings about the music?
    A: Yes, it definitely is a component. The music is a big component to this show because Memphis, if you’ve ever been there, the city is all music, all the time. You have these people who have been performing for 30 years on Beal Street in these barbecue joints and blues clubs. They are doing it for the pure love of it.  They aren’t doing it thinking cause they are going to get famous for doing it. That is a big difference from what you see in cities like L.A., where you come here and if you’re good at something, you want to be famous for it. These people just do it for the love of it.  I think that’s been a Memphis tradition you know from the birth. We actually don’t do the show in Memphis – we shoot it in New Orleans – I think that that music is a really important component to the show to make it have a more authentic feel.

    Q: I was wondering if your character would see any romance on the show any time soon.
    A: I do have a little bit of a romantic interest this season. We have a crime later in the season where somebody is doing identity theft and the person from the bank who’s brought on to help us solve the crime and I have a little bit of a romantic situation. It is sort of left open, but it was really sweet to play. The actress, Jennifer Masala, who plays the lady from the bank, was wonderful and sweet and cute. It was really fun.

    Q: So you have been involved in a lot of different projects. What would you say you’ve learned and taken away from Sutton and “Memphis Beat”, in particular?
    A: Well, when I first got the script sent to me, I was like, “There’s no way I can pull this off. There’s no way I can play a cop.” So much so that – and I’ve spoken about this before – but so much so that I didn’t even – I turned down the initial audition for this show. I just walked away from it. I had a crisis of confidence and said, “No.”  But luckily, the producers pursued me.  So I went in and I did my initial reading and they offered the show to me because they believed that I could do it. So what I’m taking away from this is keeping myself open and that I’m only limited by my own imagination. And we all are. So that’s what I’ll take away from this show. I have great relationships from this show as well.  I get to work with Alfre Woodard, who I have known for 10 years.  Jason, who like I said have known for about the same amount of time.  It is the best show I have ever had. It’s a feeling of a family like I have never known professionally. When you do a movie, you know there is an end. The show is open-ended and going for a very long time.  So you let your guard down in a different way than you do in a film. People really do become very close to you; I mean, your crew, also. I think that I’m going to take away from this experience just how wonderful it was to have that feeling of belonging.

    Interview with Mateo Messina

    Mateo Messina is the composer behind the film “Juno” and the TV series “Fairly Legal”. His score can also recently be heard in the film “Life Happens”. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Mateo on his scores and what he has planned upcoming.

    Mike Gencarelli: What is the first process you take as composer when coming on a project?
    Mateo Messina: I like to before we even look at the picture to discuss the story and the emotional content and what they want to get across.  It is really just trying to find out what they want to say with their movie, without even talking about the context of the picture.  Basically its what they want people to come in feeling and what they want them to be leaving feeling.  From there we would move into a spotting session.  I always tell them my job is just to help you tell your story.  We then discuss style, instrumentation and whether we are using an orchestra…things like that.  I am big on discussing the emotion of each scene.  Once I understand that story, the characters that is kind of our starting point.

    MG: Do you have a genre that you like to work most in?
    MM: I have done drama, I have done comedy but the three things I look forward to is it smart, is it funny and does it have a heart.  That is like my three points of criteria for doing a film.  If a film has that, I am in.  I sadly just had to turn down a horror film due to another film which I couldn’t turn down.  But I know when people are going to walk out of that theaters, they are going to feel really good.

    MG: You composed for two TV series this year “Fairly Legal” & Perfect Couples”, tell us about working on those?
    MM: “Fairly Legal” was simply a blast.  It has really smart writers.  Setting the tone for that show was really fun because here is this character who they want to show as the rebel of the group.  But you don’t just want to play rebellious music, that is too on the nose.  The character is very smart and sexy.  So the approach for her was how do I innovatively get across something that is sexy, fun and sometimes raunchy. What does that sound like?  So setting the tone for that so, I swear, took just as long as writing every episode.  It was really fun too, there is another character named Leo and he is super nerdy.  He was a “Dungeons and Dragons” kind of guy, so I took an old Casio 8-bit and sampled the crap out of that.  I also always made sure to include some really 8-bit sounds especially in the rhythm structure.  With “Perfect Couples”, that was another really fun show, just America did not like it as much [laughs].  The show was a little more buttoned up.  They wanted it to feel more loose.  One of the things I did was went out and got a drum set.  I put it in my studio in this room that has like 25-30 foot high ceiling and wood floors.  It is like you are just sitting in the room listening to someone play.  It felt like a garage band that had experience but were still in the garage playing.  I gave it a real human feel and that is what I like doing most with my scores.

    MG: How do you find that working on TV differs from movies, if at all?
    MM: The timelines are sure different [laughs].  Honestly I think there used to be this big difference between TV and film. There is a different feel in the act structure with films you work in three and TV you work in five.  They are definitely differences in the arc for the shows and stuff like that.  In film, you don’t really have that much time to flush something out.  There might be a character in television that you write a theme for them, you may be only able to catch that motif for like 10-15 seconds an episode.  It doesn’t matter though because you have 13 episodes to flush it out.  Then you will start relating the motif to the character when you watch each episode.  Like Lauren from “Fairly Legal” is a good example of that.  She was this drop dead sexy but also domineering boss, her stuff is more hip hop.  It didn’t really fit the rest of the score per se but it worked.  So whenever we get into her the music gets swanky, in a good way though [laughs].  I just doing love both mediums.

    MG: You have also done a lot of short films, is it more challenging to create a score for a short film?
    MM: Yes and no, it is more challenging that people do not have as much experience.  If someone is doing their third feature, they already know the drill.  Sometimes when people are just doing their first film, they want their score to be more on the nose and hit all these different points that don’t really need to be hit.  I have done some shorts that were so awe inspiring.  I just did one earlier this year called “Starsucker”, it won some festival awards.  The director, Nathan Skulnik, did an incredible job telling a story.  It is compelling and captures you and you just want more.  We even recorded with an orchestra for it.  People think that that doesn’t happen with shorts but it definitely can.  From a creative stand point, I love doing shorts.

    MG: What was your inspiration for the score to “Juno”?
    MM: There was a few things, one I was just blown away by the script.  My oldest brother and his wife were adopting their second child, I knew that side of it from the Lorings characters.  It was such a fun process.  I remember meeting with Ellen Page and we asked her what does Juno listen to and she said “Oh, The Moldy Peaches”.  Then I found myself on a plane going to meet Kimya Dawson while she was out on tour.  We went into the studio and we were recording stuff.  Actually a really funny story about Kimya, when she was younger she didn’t want her mom to know what she was doing playing guitar and writing songs.  So she would take a bed sheet hold it over her head and play the guitar and she had a cheap Radio Shack microphone.  She would sing very quietly into this microphone and that became her style.  So when we were recording her she ended up being so quite, I had to set up, no joke, the death-star array of mics in front of her.  It was a little intimating, so we turned off all the lights and it was pitch black and just started recording.   Then I did a ton of recording back in my studio and we were just playing guitar and we never let it go to the click.  We were working really hard to make it sound really simple.  I had a real emotional investment with the story.  I loved the idea of doing something that wasn’t a typical Hollywood score.

    MG: You are actually working with Diablo Cody again, in her latest film “Young Adults”, tell us about that?
    MM: Basically I got a call to do some very interesting tracks that I probably can’t share much about.  I basically did additional music on there, probably about a half a dozen samples for it that fit really well in the story.  All I can say is I have been given the gift of taking really great rock hits of the 90’s and turning them on their eyes and it will hurt a little when you hear it [laughs].  That is all I can say.

    MG: Tell us about composing the upcoming film “Butter”
    MM: What I can say so far is that it is a great story.  It has been so much fun.  It has an incredible cast.  We went with a full orchestral for it and also have been exploring some Motown sound.  This is being recorded some in New York, some in Detroit.  It is a really good project and it is really strong.  Musically it has been a challenge but also very fun as well.  It is really about capturing nuance in this one.  Such a great team and I am happy to be on board.

    MG: Any other projects you currently working on?
    MM: We just released a film called “Life Happens”.  We just premiered it at the LA Film Festival and I sat through two screenings with audiences.  I love listening to people laugh, I think it is so fun.  I watched it 85 times and still forget where you are suppose to laugh at.  It is a really good film.  I did another called “Frankie Goes Boom” with Charlie Hunnam and Ron Perlman, that is a really good raunchy comedy.  I just signed another project as well that I cannot talk about yet and I start working on that in about a month.  So yeah keeping really busy.