Q & A’s
“What’s Your Story?”
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FilmCourage: In a trailer for Olympia, you and other cast/crew speak on the day all realized they were adults? How are today’s adults different or similar to your parents’ generation?
McKenzie: I think the recession changed everything. My generation – a generation that was encouraged strongly to go to college – have paid more to do so than any other generation, and when we graduated we did so with massive amounts of debt. But because of the nosedive that they economy took in 2008, we had few strong job prospects to make up for it. As a result, things like home ownership, marriage, children, and a steady career – things that I think helped define adulthood for my parents generation – were suddenly out of reach.
So we’ve had to adapt. We don’t own things the way our parents did. I don’t even know if we aspire to own things the way they did. Now, thanks to technology, we have access instead (think Zipcar, Spotify, city-wide bike-sharing programs, etc). We’re not getting married and having children in the same numbers as previous generations. And we’re not staying in the same jobs for 20 and 30 years. (Read more here)
Film Courage: Common misconceptions about Misophonia sufferers and how do you dispel those beliefs?
Jeffrey: I’m not sure enough people know about misophonia…since most people who have it, don’t even know the name…but if you’re talking about the reactions of a person who has a sound sensitivity issue, then I would say that a non-sufferer would see us as demanding, difficult, self-centered and even irrational. One way to help change those perceptions is for both parties to realize that they each have different needs and there needs to me compromise. The second way and the one where the film comes in, is awareness and education. If people don’t understand the condition, how could they possibly have empathy or understanding? (Read more here).
Film Courage: Robin, since we last spoke with you in a prior Film Courage Q & A in July 2014, you raised $34,030 via 188 Backers on Kickstarter for your film NOWHERELAND. When you step back and look at the year which has passed, what observations do you have?
Robin Bain: Shooting NOWHERELAND is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to write, direct, produce and act in my own feature film.
When I look back at the journey that brought me to this point, I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve accomplished. It’s been a long road filled with many ups and downs.
Film Courage: Is NOWHERELAND your first feature film?
Film Courage: Advice for writers on how much they should write per day?
Shore Scripts: Personally I feel you just need to write whenever you can. Early morning, late at night. Whenever’s best for you.
Many sites and people say you need to write everyday. I don’t believe this to be true. A sportsman doesn’t train everyday.
Jwoww: After high school I was a nanny and I really wanted to be an animator for Disney. So I moved down to New York City to start my dream. Then I had a choice to mak,e which was finish college for an animation degree or go on a show called the Jersey Shore.
Film Courage: If you met “Vicki” in real life, as a friend, what advice would you give to her?
Jwoww: Parts of me wants to tell her to walk away from her “ex.” The other part of me says keep doing what your doing. Struggles of being a woman.
Film Courage: A book or film you’ve read/watched recently that has instilled hope/happiness?
Jwoww: Dan Millman’s ‘Way of the Peaceful Warrior.’ Obsessed with this book! (Read more here).
Film Courage: Is there anything you haven’t shared yet, that you wish you knew before you made this movie?
Colin: Wish I had known the difficulty involved in getting people to actually watch RENFREE! A problem I’m running into is, nobody wants to watch a 40 minute movie. It’s there, it’s totally free, but it occupies this no man’s land where it’s not a full length movie but it’s also not a 5-minute-or-less quick internet video. If it were full length, I could sell it, and if it were a short video, it could go viral, but its neither, so it takes a lot of pestering and spamming to get anybody to sit down and press play. For some reason I thought I could just post it on my Facebook or whatever and that it would just take off. But it’s a 40 minute film, and there’s just way too many other things to do on the internet to commit to stopping everything else for 40 minutes. If I choose to make a large film like this again, I will make a short companion piece to get them on the hook so they want more. (Read more here).
Film Courage: You say you’re “starting from scratch” with Marigold The Matador? How so?
Kenneth: For 15 years I had had this grand vision that I was going to provide opportunities to Latino actors and tell Latino stories. After 6 films, all of which had gotten distribution, I had found that very few from my own film community cared. I do have a handful of supporters who have been very encouraging and supportive and have been awesome in trying to get the word out about my work. This thing that I had built had become this sort of Frankenstein monster and at the end of the day where I was busting my ass and trying to protect and provide opportunities for people I loved and respected I found myself standing alone with nothing to show for it and no one looking out for me. It was a tough lesson but I needed to remove myself from people who were only interested in validation and there own narcissism. Where I had thought I was being careful and selective and only involving people I could trust, I found that what I had helped built started to rot from the inside out. Marigold was an opportunity to start fresh and surround myself with a much smaller group of people that I could trust and depend on. My DP on this project was my DP on my short film series. I’ve known Scott Daniels for over fifteen years and he has grown so much as a cinematographer. He’s had a tough job on this one and has performed beautifully. My Assistant Director Rachel Cross I knew from the restaurant and who was a big fan of my work. She had just graduated from the Los Angeles Film School when I started this project and I asked her to be involved. The rest of my crew and cast have been so incredibly dedicated and loyal to this project. They inspire me. (Read more here).
Film Courage: What were your plans after high school?
Nina: At 17, I was a foreign exchange student in Idaho (I was just chosen by a family there, that’s how I ended up there. Was a great experience). I promised my parents I would finish German high-school as well before I will move back to the US and pursue my acting career. So I decided to apply at US colleges to get a degree in acting. That seemed like the first possible step to get my way into the industry. And I’m glad I did. I needed those years to just understand what “acting” really meant. I studied at Northern Illinois University and got by BFA there. Then I tried to decide between NYC and LA. My professor at the time introduced me to a manager in NYC and that made my decision. But I always knew my final goal was LA. It only took me 2 years in NYC to finally make it out to LA. (Read more here).
Film Courage: Why does this story need to be told?
Torri: When I was a kid, I wondered why no one who looked like me lived inside the television. It was strange that I would see all of these white people living full lives with careers and loved ones, but I didn’t see characters that reflected my image.
While we see more women of color in film and television, seeing us as fully realized human beings isn’t as common as I would like. The protagonist in No Lies Told Then is a black woman, but her journey could be like any one of us. She knows love. She knows loss. She knows what it’s like to have dreams much bigger than you think you can reach. She knows what happens in that moment when you look in the mirror and wonder, “how did I get here?” She is all of us. This film is necessary because we’re all so busy moving from place to place, thing to thing, just existing. But, how many of us are truly living? That is what this film is about. (Read more here).
Film Courage: You were paralyzed with fear over making AUDITION SECRETS. Fear that kept you from making it for nearly five years, in the end what enabled you to rise to the challenge?
Cole: Location was a hindrance. It’s hard to shoot a movie while you’re living in Asia, or Europe. Money seemed to me to be another, when I graduated in 2008 a job was hard to come by…for a lot of people. Sometimes just making a living and paying the bills is hard enough. But the main fear came out of one small thought, “I’m not good enough.” It had many forms, but that’s pretty much it. Who am I to ask these directors for their time? Even if I could get it together, I’m not good enough at film yet. On and on. After I got back from Korea, I went to visit Los Angeles to see how I liked it. I came back to Minnesota for the holiday season, and thought, “You know, I’ve asked enough people about this, and it’s been brewing long enough. I’ll just ask, and then if they say no, then I have my answer. Everyone I asked said yes, so suddenly, I had to do it.â€¨
It was in the editing and the forming of the film, that the most questions arose. It’s mainly because there’s no manual, really. There are great books and the like on filmmaking and making a film, but there are no instructions for how to make your film. So, you don’t really know how it’s going to turn out in the long run. And that’s where the fear comes in. So, I had a lot of conversations with friends in Los Angeles, and friends and family in Minnesota. I also watched “Hoop Dreams” and “Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” a lot, just to remind myself what I was actually working on and to help put things in perspective, lots of Tony Robbins and episodes of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (Read more here).
Film Courage: Where did you grow up?
Barak Shavit: I grew up in Jerusalem. I’m very thankful and feel lucky to have lived in Jerusalem. It’s hard to describe what it’s like. It has a bit of everything; old and new, urban and nature, holiness and mundaneness, peace and terror, art and falafel:) Because it’s such a popular touristic place, as a kid I met so many tourists and for me it felt like I’m living in the belly button of the world.
My favorite spot was in a forest next to my house. It was an old and deserted British military post overlooking a valley at the entrance to Jerusalem. In the eyes of a kid it was just about the coolest place to go to.
Film Courage: Your opinion on why films about consciousness and the mind are not prevalent in current cinema?
Barak: I think it’s a matter of time until we’ll see more and more “consciousness movies.” People have a strong urge to understand their reality and to that you have to go through the mind. So, to my eyes, it’s just a matter of time. These movies, like we said before are not bound to a certain genre, and can come in all sizes and shapes. and this is why I can easily see them take place in our culture. I haven’t seen it yet but it seems that the pixar animation “Inside Out” is also heading that way. (Read more here).
Sam Lloyd: I grew up in a large town called Hastings in England. I hate Hastings, still do and always will. It’s a filthy town where nothing ever happens. Actually, some of the hatred I have of this town has gone into my new film, but I digress. My up-bringing was unconventional too due to the fact I was bullied relentlessly at school due to my weight and being ginger (why do people hate gingers?!). So for the majority of my childhood I was taught at home by my Mum and by my Nan, Rita. She sadly passed away last year and I miss her greatly. She was a big influence and inspiration to me because she was an incredibly brave woman and always taught me to aim high in my life.
Sam: My plans after college were to go to university, which I did. BIG MISTAKE. I would advise anyone to not go to university. It’ll suck all of the creativity and imagination out of your brain. The thing is, all I wanted to do was make films. I wasn’t interested in theory and studying. The lecturers are just the most single-minded, dull, and frankly evil people I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet. However, I shouldn’t speak for everyone. Some people like it. It wasn’t for me. I left after six months after becoming seriously ill and got a job as a cook in a care home (Read more here).
Nicki: Jump Ship Productions kind of started as a ragtag gang of misfits. We took (in my opinion) the best half of one company and the best half of another company, and we made what I call a magical love baby. In the beginning we were all so excited to start something new and have our opinions heard. All of us felt like we had no voice in our previous companies, so we worked really hard on communication and honesty. We had regular meetings where we all talked about our feelings and desires. Unfortunately, some of us thought we wanted one thing when we really wanted something else. Everyone said that they wanted to take film seriously and eventually do it for a living, but as time went on and the films we made became bigger and more labor intensive, it became very clear that certain people just weren’t that interested in creating films at this capacity. It became very difficult to get everyone together for meetings, and even when we did, most of the team was more interested in getting through the business stuff as quickly as possible so we could get to the hanging out part. The final straw was paying taxes. Jump Ship is an LL. We wanted to legitimize the production company when we started so we made it a business. JP and I were perfectly happy paying to file taxes for our company, but the rest of the team was not so they left (Read more here).
Film Courage: When did you develop the story idea for HIGH COTTON?
Kenneth: The story developed while listening to inmates tell their stories. I was active in a community outreach at our county jail for 3 years. Every Monday night we would lead the men in a 24-week program. The more I taught the more I realized I just need to listen. I was so intimidated to go into a place like that, but I quickly found out how much the men just needed someone to listen and be a good example.
Film Courage: What has been your experience and what feedback do you receive from the men you speak with? What do they frequently comment on about life after incarceration?
Kenneth: This is a first for me. Life after incarceration is a ticking clock, they all know they are coming back inside. It’s tragic. And their children know nothing else. When you ask their kids what they want to be when they grow up, their answers begin with… “After I get out, I want to…” (Read more here).
FilmCourage: How do you create positive morale on set?
Jacob: I like to keep the set as light as possible. Lots of joking around in between the serious business and I really enjoy playing music in between set-ups when time allows. Doing that really lightens the mood or loosens people up… especially on the longer days. You also need to let cast and crew have their input. If they have a killer idea for how to make something feel more real or look better, take it. If everyone’s involved in the process it makes everyone work that much harder to make a great end product. And most importantly, filmmaking is supposed to be fun… if you’re not enjoying it, then something’s wrong (Read more here).
FilmCourage: After a decade past from your Master’s program at film school, what epiphanies, disappointments, hopes or misconceptions had arrived in your mind after these 10 years?
John: I had finished several scripts, that had various degrees of interest from producers who had access to financing. I spent about two years developing a project that had financing loosely committed (that’s never a good description), and then it suddenly went away over night when the producer got into some legal trouble (also never a good sign from your potential financier). It was disheartening to have spent all that time working on something and have it evaporate like it never happened. This was when I decided to just take control over my own career. Of course, even after you make your movie, you’re still at the mercy of so many other things/people, but at least you have more control over your career than if you waited for someone to magically hand over money for you to make your passion project. I know it happens, but it’s rare (read more here).
Jefferson Shimoyama Sanders: I grew up in Newark, New Jersey and West Milford, New Jersey. My home life was good.
Film Courage: Since you’re athletic and into sports/body building, were you ever bullied as a kid or did people stay away because of your strength/sports affiliation? How do you handle any detractors at sporting events/competitions?
Jefferson: I was never bullied as a kid but I had to fight sometimes. As far as sporting events went, I go in with the killer mindset of ‘I’m the best’ and I soak up all the energy in that place and I just explode!
Film Courage: If you could magically have dinner with one deceased celebrity, person of note, musician, etc., who would it be and where would you take them?
Film Courage: Do you think Gen Y has more challenges assimilating into life after college than prior generations, easier than prior generations or each generation has its own challenges formulating life as an adult finished with schooling?
Alex: I think each generation has its own challenges. One of the initial ideas behind the film was to look at the differences between Generation X and Generation Y, and that survives a little bit through the character of Bobby – he’s only a few years older, but he’s light years apart from the others in so many ways. And there are certainly challenges that we’ve had to face that others didn’t. I’ve heard Gen Y referred to as the ‘jilted generation,’ and I think there’s something in that (Read more here).
Film Courage: Where did you grow up?
Harold Jackson III: South Central Los Angeles
Film Courage: Which one of your parents do you resemble most? You are a ‘Third’ – How much are you similar/dissimilar to your grandfather and father?
Harold: I think I look and act more like my Mother, but my mannerism and general way I flow through life may be closer to my Father. I think I am now slowly turning into my grandfather. Lol.
Film Courage: We often hear of actors/filmmakers making a living in LA or New York. How do you make this work in Washington D.C.?
Harold: Film is global now. You just make it work. I have a freedom here. I don’t feel pressured to mimic or keep up. I can say what I want to say and they accept me. I can forge my own path with less of the noise that tries to force you to conform (Read more here).
Film Courage: What did you learn about fame/being a public figure by observing your parents/family members?
Mylo: I learned that fame is transitory and does not always equal wealth. My father provided very well for our family during my childhood but when disco wiped salsa music off the map, we had to adjust our standard of living. And boy was that a wild ride down to reality. He went from headlining the top hotels of the world to playing New Year’s Eve at local VFW’s. But my father never complained about it. He was dedicated to his music, playing all the way up to his death at the age of 77 (Read more here).
Film Courage: Favorite scene from a horror movie?
Film Courage: Biggest lesson from attending film school?
Ana: Collaboration. I think filmmakers have a lot of different egos and opinions (myself included of course!) but film school teaches you to keep these at a reasonable level and learn to collaborate with others so that you all bring the best of yourselves to a project and learn to respect each other’s views. Filmmaking is almost impossible solo so building good working relationships and finding people who complement your strengths and weaknesses in the creative process is crucial. Plus, it is so much more satisfying to be working towards something as a group and have it come to fruition! (Read more here)
Film Courage: Three things most writers fail at when pitching their script?
1. Explaining unnecessary details.
2. Pitching to the wrong audience. (Know what the people you’re pitching are interested in.)
3. Know when to talk, and when to shut up. (Read more here)
Denis: Many of the academics were part of the CIA. This is one of things we bring out in Nelson Algren: The End is Nothing, the Road is All. They were in a Cold War and they claimed these types of things like poverty do not exist. The academic literary magazines were being supported by the CIA, so realism was out and so were writers like Algren. The New Criticism denied history or that the author’s history or point of view mattered. That all had to go. Besides, their existence depended on USIA funding (Read more here).
Film Courage: How many acting classes have you audited in the Los Angeles area? What are things that stand out about great teachers or actors? What are red flags about certain classes that made you pass?
Tino: I have always maintained that training should be on-going. Whilst in L.A. I audited a great many acting classes but the ones that stood out for me was of course The Stella Adler Conservatory and Living the Art Institute with Kimberly Jentzen. I think what stands out with a great acting teacher is trust. If I feel that I am not judged and can express myself in class without any fear then I’m able to learn and evolve as an actor.
Some classes were obviously less organized and the teachers didn’t really have the know how and seemed like they were only trying to make money out of vulnerable actors (Read more here).
Anthony: To pursue a music career. That’s really all I wanted to do at that point. I played a lot of shows (solo acoustic mostly) around NY and some out of state stuff. After awhile it felt like I was just pissing in the wind and stopped playing out all together. I grew to hate playing live. The whole idea of it is a joke to me. I wrote and recorded songs that meant something to me at that moment. To try and dig up those feelings in front of a drunk audience at some dive was just lame. So I just put out releases, and that’s it. A good friend of mine Scott (who was an amazing singer and mentor to me) always tried to help me out. He was rather well known in the music scene and even hooked me up with an ex manager of his. Again, I didn’t want to play live so there wasn’t much he could do for me. I did find some success with the underground CD trading world. I got into some zines and got some good reviews. In reality, that’s where my music fit anyway. It wasn’t some toe tapping type of thing. It was very dark and atmospheric. If I knew then what I know now I think I could have done a whole lot more with it. I have releases on Spotify and itunes under a band name I created for myself, but there’s no need to promote any of that stuff. It was another life (Read more here).
Film Courage: In your opinion, what films are the best depictions of strong women and the worst?
Melanie: Off the top of my head (and I’m sure there’s standouts that I’m missing) the best depictions are: Terminator 2, Aliens, Matrix, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Red, Guardians of the Galaxy, Salt, Best non-action films: Erin Brokovich, Good Wife, Scandal, Thelma and Louise, Madam Secretary. In all scenarios I see women depicted with amazing fortitude, in the action examples, amazing physical power, as well as depicted with a powerful feminine sensibility. I have my ideal of what I think is the ‘best depiction’ of a female. I believe in portraying women as strong because there is an innate power there that has not been tapped in ages. I believe it’s important to tap it because we have no concept of what resource that power can be in shaping a world more beautiful for everyone.
I really do have a huge dislike of films where the only value a women is given is through sex – characters and situations where they only get what they want by leveraging sex. I also dislike films where only the women are the victim or weak or nude (Read more here).
FC: Tell us about MISOGYNIST?
Michael Matteo Rossi: Misogynist is my first solo-directed and produced feature film that really came together in an interesting way. I had just got done with about 6 months of hell trying to raise 1 million dollars for another psychological thriller script I wanted to direct. After many let downs, scams and close calls, I was feeling extremely discouraged and depressed. The low point seemed to end after I took a step back, re-evaluated the situation and really told myself to consider doing a feature on a small more manageable scale. I wrote a script that I felt was highly feasible as well as entertaining and rounded up some of my most trusted colleagues for a review of it. Once the script was looking favorable and doable, I was on my way to making the film. It was one of the greatest few months of my professional career thus far. (Read more here)
Film Courage: What was crucial for your main character to convey?
Jade Courtney Edwards: I think one of the most important things that I wanted Eden to convey was a certain sensitivity, a softness. I find with teenagers, even when they are reactive, it is coming from a genuine place. When we’re young we are incredibly sensitive and malleable, still making sense of the world around us and shaping our own ideology, something that is inevitably lost as we get older. I like the rawness of youth, and that was something I really wanted Eden to convey (Read more here).
Film Courage: What was you first film about and how did you get involved with the subject matter?
Denis Mueller: It was about the VVAW (Vietnam Veterans Against the War) and one of those welcome home parades for Vietnam veterans. I was from the same generation and had remembered the VVAW. I decided to hook up with them. Out of that came my first film. (Read more here)
Bouha Kazmi: My idea stemmed from the desire to reveal the true beauty beneath one’s mask. I’ve always been intrigued by the Confucian values and customs of Geishas, and Japanese culture. I find something bewildering about their temperament. Their physical appearance is extraordinary when explored in its most traditional form. People are constantly consuming them with their eyes. During a trip to Japan, I remember seeing a geisha hand in hand with a very young boy who looked like he had just finished his school day. Later, I started distorting the sight of these two unsuspecting people. Where could they have been going? Why was he with her? What’s she carrying in that case? What if she really were a prostitute? This image stayed with me all of these years. The first step was taking the seed of that memory and both developing its narrative and visual language (Read more here).
Andrew Blackburn: The personal answer…I have previously been in a very similar situation to Jen, seeing someone who already had a partner, and it took a while to get a handle on why things didn’t work out. I was interested in why some people stay in relationships that they’re not happy in – people that just need to have someone, or need someone to love them. For a lot of people, safety in a relationship is the most important thing. The thought of losing an average relationship and ending up with no one can sometimes lead to people not taking chances or risks with life. The ‘grass isn’t always greener’ concept.
The cliché of ‘write what you know’ also came in to play. Inter-office and interpersonal relationships have always fascinated me, and before directing commercials full time, I worked in advertising agencies producing and directing. Not to over-dramatise the industry – but for someone starting out – it’s very intense – and probably much more over the top and out of control than it is usually portrayed. I wanted to make a film which, at its core, is about relationships, but I felt that the advertising industry would provide an interesting canvas to tell a story and show a number of different types of characters. I wanted everything about the film to feel as real as possible and I felt I could do that by setting the story somewhere I know pretty well. It just happened to be shot in the same agency I used to work, and featured a lot of the night spots we used to frequent!
I knew that if we shot in a place I was familiar with, I could persuade my friends who worked there to come and be extras, and appear in small roles in the film. Hopefully, it adds an air of authenticity to the film and also saved a huge amount of time and money, which we obviously we didn’t have. (Read more here)
Will Bangs: Though it’s not a “score” in the traditional sense. Cat Stevens’ music from Harold and Maude left a indelible impression on me. I saw that film when I was probably a freshman in high school. I was depressed and searching for something greater than myself. A lot like Harold in the film. While I didn’t strike up a love affair with an elderly woman, I did find great meaning in that film. It made me feel less alone. It made me feel like it was okay to feel the things I was feeling…that it was a natural part of growing up to feel disenchanted with the world…to dream of a life that is far different than the world you are brought up in. So, it was another one of those films that I watched at just the right time in my life. It buoyed and anchored me. I think the music had a lot to do with that. Those songs became a soundtrack to my life at the time. The songs were guideposts to me growing up. It’s so hard to pin down just one favorite film score…there are so many. I also love the soundtrack to Lost in Translation, Her, Where the Wild Things Are, The Illusionist, Nebraska. (Read more here)
Richie Mitchell: I’ll be dead honest with you. When I made the film I was unemployed and promised my girlfriend (now my wife) that I just need to get this one out of my system, then I’ll get a real job. Which really meant biting the bullet and just doing it.
FC: Did you get filmmaking out of your system? How did you realize one feature was not enough?
Richie Mitchell: Really what it was, was me saying I have to do this because if I don’t I’ll always wonder. And I didn’t want that. I didn’t say this before, but I also knew and communicated, that once the film gets made it’s still going to take a couple years for it to come out through distribution and provide another opportunity, if that ever happens mind you, so I might as well have a steady income during that time. And that’s about where we are now. So once I had the film in the can, I did post work on my own spare time and that’s how I balanced it. And to answer your question (if it got filmmaking out of my system), the answer is more in the vein of it got my excuses out of my system. Now, if I can’t create another opportunity for myself, then that’s on me. And I like that. (Read more here)
You mentioned having a wonderful mother in The Father Effect. However, your friend stopped you and asked ‘but was she a Dad?’ How is having an absent father detrimental?
A father’s absence affect men and women differently when they are children, but there are also some similarities. A father’s absence tells both boys and girls that they don’t matter and they are not important. The way boys and girls react to this is similar in many ways. The difference is that a girl who is not shown love by her dad will go out and find love somewhere, usually through other men using sex, becoming promiscuous, doing anything to get a man’s attention, which most of the times leads to a pattern of dysfunctional and abusive relationships. A boy wants to know from his dad that he has what it takes to be a man. If he doesn’t’ get this from his dad, he will try to attain love through performance – working extremely hard to be successful in business, maybe working to gain attention by building his own physical body in the gym all the time, or conquering women to show that he is a “real man”. Both men and women who grow up with absent fathers struggle with guilt, shame, inadequacy, and unworthiness, never feeling they are good enough for anyone. (Read more here)
FC: How did you learn aerial cinematography? What advice can you provide to others on setting up an aerial shot?
FC: Jaime, we understand you wanted to be a pro-skateboarder while growing up – what was life like for you as a child, what influenced you the most, and what is your strongest memory of childhood?
Jaime Zevallos: I did actually want to be a pro skater! In 7th grade, I had to fill out a ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ assignment and that was my answer. Life as a kid was very fun, I had young parents and they still are; so, it made it really cool because I think they were very empathetic to me. Some parents forget the youthful child spirit but not mine. We always cracked jokes and laughed a lot in my household. They understood me..I was very active. They understood my fascination with the arts and sports: I loved skateboarding, guitar, music and baseball… maybe this was typical of most kids in the early 90’s. I liked playing outside and I still do. My strongest childhood memories are when we would take the train from Queens to Brighton Beach or to Coney Island in Brooklyn during the summers. They were long train rides but I remember stepping out of the train and arriving in Coney Island and being beyond excited. It was like I had just stepped off the plane and arrived somewhere tropical. But all I knew is I wanted to be in the ocean as soon as possible. I remember the feeling of having that expectation that something awesome was around the corner. (Read more here)
FC: How was working on MENSCHEN therapeutic for you both?
Sarah: The initial inspiration for a concept is terribly exciting. As you go through each stage of production your vision will be tested and the reward is the product. All the blood, sweat and tears can be appreciated when you connect with the people who made the film possible and then with the next wave of people who are discovering it for the first time. On Menschen I am most grateful to have seen my working relationship with Anastasia blossom into a beautiful friendship.
Anastasia: Right when Menschen was about to have its world premiere I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Such life-altering news affects your life professionally as well as personally. Working closely with Sarah on the film throughout treatment was a way for me to keep focus. Sarah was with me at almost every chemo session. She would come and we’d have a production meeting of sorts and the time in treatment would go by so quickly. I always joked it was my ‘filmotherapy’. (Read more here)
FilmCourage: What was crucial for casting these characters?
Robin Bain: I was looking for the real deal. Because of the nature of the material I felt it was very important to cast actors that were authentic and naturally great performers.
I was looking for actors who were living in the moment, who were raw and not polished. I found them. (Read more here)
Film Courage: Do you have advice for other artists going into an uncertain landscape to shoot/film, especially if they are unfamiliar with the language/culture?
Tina Gharavi: The best thing is to go in with an open heart… One of the most over-rated thing is the verbal language. We learn a lot more about people from language that is not verbal. A smile and openness goes a long way. And it is important to remember that people are the same everywhere in the world. Treat people with respect and you will get the best film possible. (Read more here)
Film Courage: You played lacrosse in college – how is the game a metaphor for adult life?
Sean Hartofilis: This is probably going to sound trite, but it’s just about working hard with a like-minded group towards a common goal. It’s not very different than a film crew, theater company, or any other team. Preparation and dedication foster success. How much of yourself are you willing to give for this team or this story?
Film Courage: What was one of the lowest points for you in L.A. and how did you turn it around? What was one of the best moments for you here in L.A.?
Elizabeth Sandy: As an actor, I have signed myself up for many highs and many lows. That’s just the nature of the beast. It’s difficult to not take the rejection personally and when the phone doesn’t ring, and the auditions don’t come, it can be crippling. That is why creating your own work (whether it be a funny little You Tube short, a piece of theatre, or just getting together with fellow actors to read aloud a script) is very important mentally and creatively.
When I came to Los Angeles, I was sharing a room, sleeping on an air mattress on the floor unable to work until my visa came through and often wondering – ‘What on earth am I doing?’ An incompetent lawyer caused many problems with my visa application, so I couldn’t physically leave the country for fear of deportation. That was definitely a low point, but because I couldn’t legally work until my visa came through, I spent my time collaborating with fellow actors, creating my own projects and learning about the Los Angeles industry. Those were all high points and rewarding experiences that taught me skills that certainly helped me when it came to producing ‘Starting from Scratch.’ (Read more here)
Film Courage: What does A REASON explore about familial roles and how each family member sees another (i.e., the golden child, rebel, peace maker, ‘pot stirrer’, etc)?
Dominique Schilling:A REASON really explores prejudices, also within families. Nothing is as it seems. We have elderly Aunt Irene, who at first seems heartless and bitter, but might not be. We have Serena, a young lesbian, who has just experienced extreme trauma and is very introverted and quiet, but might be hiding a strength inside of her that is just waiting to break through. We have her brother, Nathan, who seems like the golden child, until money comes into play… Then we have Bianca, the perfect mother and housewife, until we realize, she might be hiding something. We have Chris, her husband, who is the peacemaker, but only with certain people. The mother, Annabelle, is a figure of peace and light, but is seen by Aunt Irene as a big disappointment. People can be very different from each other in families, but it’s about finding family cohesion and loving each other unconditionally. (Read more here)
Karen Black as Faye Greener in ‘The Day of the Locust’ next to Burgess Meredith, playing her father
Film Courage: What choices/decisions seemed like a mistake in your career, but once a few years passed, you realized how wise a choice it was that you stuck by this decision (such as choosing/turning down a particular role, determining an agent or manager, etc)?
Karen Black: Yes, there are a few mistakes, different kinds of mistakes really. The first kind of mistake is not working with some people that I regret just simply not having gotten to know. I was asked on two occasions to do a movie with James Garner, and from everything I can glean, he is one the the nicest, warmest actors walking. I was asked to do a film with George C. Scott. I always figured I looked like his twice married wife and years later, it struck me as possible if not probable that we would have struck up a little something between us. Woody Allen asked me to do a film, and where could my head possibly have been at to turn him down!!? I feel like writing him a note that says, “Dear Woody, I’ve changed my mind.”
I feel that doing Day of The Locust was another kind of mistake: entering into a group which never really respected me and, since I had no way of building that respect, it hurt my standing in the community. I simply couldn’t get them to see me, as they had been gossiped to quite skillfully.
Many of the films I did, I just did as a working person for money with which to live. You know which ones they were. They were pretty much all mistakes. (Read more here)
Film Courage: What was the final moment of realizing you must act? What about acting makes you feel alive?
Dawn Davis: I went to see a play one night because I was bored and it was free. It moved me so much that I cried through the entire show and for pretty much a week straight afterwards. It was like someone held up my heart in front of me so that I couldn’t ignore it any longer. Acting makes me feel alive because it allows me to be used as a vehicle for an expression that is greater than me. It’s a very spiritual experience; I feel that I can be an instrument in service to the energy that connects all of us on a higher level- a level that we’re normally not so conscious or aware of. (Read more here)
“…You may have read a lot of things about former coach Mike Hvizdo who recently lost his job over his acting in a video I wrote and directed back in 2003, entitled “Forbidden Fruit”. A lot of people felt rightfully bad for Mike, as an example of how people can dig up “dirt” on the web about someone’s past and use it to hurt them.” writes filmmaker/actor/musician Steve Moramarco (via his site Moremarkable.blogspot.com) about a film he made years ago and a turn of events that could become a familiar scenario to many people.
Film Courage: When did you find out the film you shot went viral? How long ago was this? What was the film about?
Steve Moramarco: I don’t know if you can say the film went “viral.” I shot the film, entitled “Forbidden Fruit” in 2003 when I lived in NY and was taking improv at Upright Citizens Brigade. YouTube didn’t exist until a few years later, and when I uploaded it in 2006, it received 80,000 views pretty quickly, which I thought was pretty good. The news of actor Mike Hvizdo, who later became a basketball coach and got fired because of this film, started with an article in the local paper, got picked up by Gawker, and then went worldwide with the Mail UK and Good Morning America.
Overall, my film only received 2,000 more views because of the hoopla.
The film is an R-Rated comedy, about an uncomfortable sexual situation. It was prompted by a male friend of mine from my neighborhood in Brooklyn who was always trying to get me to do a threesome with his girlfriend. But it wasn’t a gay thing – in his mind, it was more like two-on-one, and seemed to be an acceptable amongst men on the East Coast – several friends I knew had done this. I imagined what would have happened if I went along with his idea, and came up with the script. (Read more here)
Film Courage: You had been in Corporate America for over 16+ years. How is the world of movie making different from the Corporate structure? Is there a more ‘wait-and-see’ approach with movies, where with Corporate America it is about the bottom line and company policy? Do you miss any parts of Corporate America “cubicle” life?
I don’t miss the Corporate America cubicle life at all. The lack of empowerment to make a difference was too stifling. Today, every production I do will succeed or fail because of me, and I like that! It drives me to focus and to do the best job I can do for every project that I work on. And, it’s always different. No two productions are the same. Each have their own challenges and obstacles to overcome, and I love this about production. It’s always new. (Read more here)
Film Courage: Do you miss LA?
Anne Lundgren: Yes, we miss our friends and the ocean, but we don’t miss the pace of life there. All the driving, the cost of living. There’s a calm, gentle pace to life in Ashland that fits us better. Of course there’s the occasional worry that we’re missing out on opportunities in LA, but luckily the opportunities here in Oregon have kept us busy. Moviemaker Magazine recently ranked Ashland the number #2 place to live and work as a filmmaker. Or moviemaker I should say.
We try to work with as many local crew as possible and have been working with the same team for over ten years. We are fortunate to have talented actors from many local theaters and the world famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival. We usually try to add a few bigger names to our cast list, and those often come from out of town. (Read more here)
Film Courage: You’ve made a few beautiful, award-winning short films while in LA – what made you leave California despite the success of those projects?
Justin Liberman: I think LA is a great place to live when you are young and/or working on a project that you are passionate about but I found it very difficult to live there in-between projects or while I was developing material. In those down times, I would slip down that slippery slope of self doubt and hatred and would start thinking about myself as a cliché and just another filmmaker trying to get a piece of the pie. I would lose inspiration and just start living an unmotivated life. Living in Venice, however, had an appeal to it. It always felt like summer vacation there, so I wouldn’t have the right things motivating me to work and write, instead I would get toasted and walk around the beach and play basketball, which was obviously awesome but…
Film Courage: What was your final budget for the film and what costs were involved?
Evan Kidd: Believe it or not, this film was made for $596. I experimented with crowdfunding for the first time, and managed to raise that money to cover a our basic costs. It really showed me the amount of support people were willing to give towards making a film. The biggest costs were for equipment, such as better lenses for filming in the low light settings, lights, memory cards, batteries, getting good audio recorded, travel expenses for an out of town interview, and some post production fees. After doing this type of “for the people, by the people” fundraising, I knew I had an obligation to deliver the best possible film I could that would remain true to not only Spazz Fest, but the larger Greenville music scene as well. (Read more here)
Film Courage: Where did the story for UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE come from?
Kirsten Russell: Universal Language is a film of opportunity.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I was an actress. And at the beginning of 2013 I was invited by my long-time acting teacher, Robert Castle to partake in a virtuosi Shakespeare workshop that would take place in Weitra castle in Austria. And Frederique, who had recently moved back to Paris, had suggested that I swing by France for a little visit on my way back. Of course, I said no as I had no interest in repeating another lost weekend in Gay Paree. So Frederique came back with another suggestion…why didn’t I finish the workshop, puddle jump over to Paris and shoot a little movie?
I don’t know why exactly I said yes. Maybe because it was so completely out of my comfort zone. Or maybe it was one of those “you only live once” things. But I think the answer lies with the script itself that got me to book that extra ticket.
Many years ago I had read a book called, “The Soul of Sex: Cultivating Life as an Act of Love” by Thomas Moore. It was an interesting read with a lot of cool insights but there was one paragraph that struck me as profound truth.
“It may be tempting at times to imagine sex as purely physical. Then we might not have to deal with feelings, personalities, and repercussions. We may try to avoid the complexities that always appear in relationships and look for liberated sex in “free love”. How pleasant it would be, we may think, to have sex without strings attached, without all he painful emotions and parting and reunions. But the soul has its own life and its own will. It won’t submit to our manipulations. The attempt to have sex without implications may backfire, and though a meaningless sexual fling we may find ourselves in the biggest emotional mess of our lives.” (Read more here)
RS: Well, like a lot of other fans, of course I love Morrison’s work with the Doors and it’s impossible not to see him in the role of the lead singer/rock star. But I truly adore is poetry and writing. It feels very tied to some of the great American writers I love, most specifically Jack Kerouac. There is a deep curiosity about the mystery of being human in Morrison’s work. And as an artist, there seems to be both a need to remove restrictions and break boundaries, but at the same time someone who was interested in form, who was conscious of working his poetry into different ways on the page — like still the need to make sense of the chaos and burst of images, themes, and ideas that were streaming through his head. And of course, this is the core of what we are doing with “The Last Beat,” to make sure people do see someone like Morrison as a true poet and writer with the ability, like all great writers, to show you something about ourselves we don’t see, or keep ourselves from seeing. So, for me, this is really the James Douglas Morrison I’ve come to identify the most with, not the “T-shirt” version of the man. (Read more here)
FC: Why do so few people (2 percent of the U.S. population) know about the Sultana? How did the media of that time present the story?
Mark Marshall: Events that occurred about the same time overshadowed the Sultana tragedy. President Lincoln had been assassinated and his funeral train was making its way across the country. The search was on for his killer. Our country had endured four years of sustained killing and was tired of hearing about death. It was, if you will, a “perfect storm” of events collaborating to force the news about the Sultana disaster off the front pages of the newspapers and into the backwaters of the typical American’s mind.
The media of the day covered the story but relegated it to brief accounts in the back pages of their editions. East Coast newspapers largely ignored the news of the disaster because few of the soldiers were from units east of the Ohio River. With the exception of the Midwest papers, an area of the country claiming most of the prisoners who were on board, papers sans news about the Sultana were the norm within a week of the tragedy. (Read more here)
FC: What was the most defining moment of your childhood?
Helenna Santos: Wow, that’s a huge question. This is kind of depressing, but important. I was about 9 years old or so and my supposed best friend at the time and I were fighting. She was yelling at me and told me I was “brown like poo, and should be in the toilet.” That was the moment that I realized I looked different from everyone around me in my hometown which was mostly Caucasian. I think that’s also the moment that I decided in my child’s brain that I wanted to show people that every single person is significant and important no matter what color your skin is. (Read more here)
Where did you look for your actors? How many did you audition? Where did you hold the audition?
I am currently enrolled at Ivanna Chubbuck’s Studio, so I was able to draw chiefly from a pool of actors I had been watching put up scenes for the past year. Essentially auditioning a hundred or so auditing classes, meeting members of the studio having them read etc. In the end, choosing three of the actors; four including myself from the studio. But I also advertised an open casting call and held it at rented office space at a building on the Avenue of the Stars in Century City. We had a decent turn-out and I found a great actor casting him as both the Reaper and the gunner. (Read more here)
Nathan Alan Bunker: The only role we did a lot of research for was Sasha. IMDB ranking and the amount of Twitter followers was never a factor in the decision-making. We simply watched a lot of YouTube videos and skewered through UCB and other comedy schools. We watched audition tapes from past projects that Andrea worked on. The only factor that played into filling any role was their talent. (Read more here)
Film Courage: What’s the best way to have someone open up on camera, who might be less verbose and better through writing?
Ana Barredo: Since this was my first attempt at documentary filmmaking, I was learning as I went. I think it helped that I used a small prosumer camera throughout the shoot. Because I didn’t come with a huge crew and giant lights, my subjects felt at ease and not too self-conscious as I followed them around. Also, I didn’t want them to feel like I was interviewing them – I wanted it to be more like we were just having a casual conversation. I think that made them feel more comfortable and less like an interrogation. (Read more here)
Film Courage: – So firearms are dangerous?
Dave Brown: Firearms are no more dangerous than any other prop or effect on a motion picture set. When handled properly by experts who know what they are doing and who give them their undivided attention, they can be used safely. When I start the day with an actor, I finish the day with that actor. I never switch people part way through a day, and actors need to know that if they have a concern about their safety or even a question on how to hold the gun to make it look authentic, they can look around and I am always two steps away. (Read more here)