Interview With Director Judson Vaughn And Screen Writer Chris Barnes: Burn

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview director Judson Vaughn and screen writer Chris Barnes  about their new film Burn, which sees a young boy born into a world of societal panic and hidden truths. We discuss media representations, nature vs nurture and classic horror. As always I hope you enjoy.

Q: What was the message you wanted this film to send?

A: Chris: In the original story, the setting, in my mind, was a lot more working class and no frills; not the grand, rural landscape it ended up becoming – the idea being psychopathic serial killers didn’t have to be these completely cut-off and detached characters. They could be living right next door, only a thin layer of bricks away. The story evolved as myself and Judson worked on my initial idea and script to something much more grand but that’s how it began.   

Judson: That how everything can seem so normal beneath a veneer, whilst trying to convey a subtle sense of former glory (the house and family) of a bygone era as well as crumbling murderous ways – the end of a murderous bloodline… or is it?? 🙂

Q: The film often comments on the nature of worry and panic what inspired this choice?

A: Chris: I guess it came from how the media (and whom they’re driven by), in the main, thrives on fear to keep control. While an active serial killer is an extreme example, I feel that awful events and ‘stories’ are almost welcomed by certain parties to keep people scared and compliant.

Q: The child in the film is essentially born from the sins of the parents in what way do you think this is reflective of early childhood?

A: Chris: I suppose it’s the old ‘nature versus nurture’ debate. Does Charlie learn this behaviour purely from DVDs? It’s doubtful. External influences and a million other things play their part too, and not knowing exactly what they are is why such dark stories and characters are so fun, I guess. 

Judson: I think it can and does happen, but we have to remind ourselves and remain respectful, mindful of the fact that a child is its own person essentially, certainly even more once grown up of course… and separate of their parents afflictions – they deserve that separatist thought, they can’t’ be blamed for their parents wrong doings. However… I think there’s always the debate that rages on, about being a product of your environment or not, or rather, how much of an influence it might have been. It was fascinating to explore these themes within BURN.

Q: What inspired you to make this film?

A: Chris: Judson did! I had a story and a rough script and was in contact with Judson for something completely different. I happened to mention to him I had these things and being the boundless, creative crackpot he is, he said “Let’s make it!” I didn’t have a clue. So it’s down to him. What a bastard.
Judson: Hahaha! Chris’s story made me do it. I’m glad we turned it into a red hot multi-award winning shock fest!

Q: Do you have any funny on-set stories?

A: Judson: Yeah, some of the actors got to torcher the director in a memorable scene. I think they really enjoyed that part. I’m in that scene obviously, say no more.

Q: Future plans and projects?

A: Judson: As BURN continues to cinder- its last couple of film fests are approaching (probably Frostbiter next in Iceland) I’m putting together a short dark drama that laughs loudly in the dark called ‘Little Terrors’ we’ll be fundraising this one and also currently raising money for a new feature crime-drama/action called TRIGGER.

Q: What is your favourite horror film?
A: Judson: The Shining – all time fave. Class. I’m always up for a re-watch, just brilliant.

Q: Are any of your own experiences influencing the creation and style of the film?
A: Judson: I guess it’s inevitable, along the way somewhere it will happen, whatever type of film I might make, everything around us can be an inspiration of sorts or subtle influence… I mean if… if you let it… if you want it to be. Let it flow.

Q: Do you have any words for future filmmakers who may be influenced by your work?

A: Judson: Get inspired. Find that inspiration. Seek it out, be compelled. Go tell your story. Just go and make it, no matter the budget. We made BURN for £5,390 and it came out pretty cool. Similarly, I’m not afraid to make films with £150!

If you would like to check Burn out for yourselves then you can catch it the above mentioned festivals or as it hits digital.

If you enjoyed this interview, then please head over to my Patreon to support me, I offer personalized shoutouts, the ability for you to pick what I review next and full access to my Patreon exclusive game reviews. Check it out!

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Interview With Writer Director Robbie Walsh: The Letters

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview writer/director Robbie Walsh about his new film The Letters which shows three women from different walks of life be given incorrect cancer diagnosis. We discuss issues of medical failure, injustice

Q:  What inspired you to make this film? 

A:  The film is inspired by actual events happening in Ireland today

Q:  What was the message? 

A:  This happened and continues to.

Q:  How do you think this film reflects on society, health care and the experiences of women? 

A:  I hope we gave a fair and thoughtful representation, and hopefully people who watch will think about change going forward.

Q:  Who were your influences? 

A:  In this film it was, Shane Meadows, Ken Loach, Fredrico Felini, Jean-luc Goddard, Ben Wheatley.

Q:  How did you manage to balance the tone of the film? Bleakness to happier moments and beauty?  

A:  There aren’t too many happy moments in the film and it is a very tough watch, some of the more delicate shots are based on famous paintings I admire.

Q:  Any thoughts for filmmakers looking to get into the industry?  

A:  Just start! but know the art form and be passionate about it, always remember your love for cinema.

Q:  Future projects?   

A:  Just working on this for the time being, self-distribution takes up a lot of time.

If you enjoyed this interview, then please head over to my Patreon to support me, I offer personalized shoutouts, the ability for you to pick what I review next and full access to my Patreon exclusive game reviews. Check it out!

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Interview With Actor/ Director Robert DeSanti: The Epilogue Of Gregory Archambault

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview director/actor/writer Robert DeSanti about his new film The Epilogue Of Gregory Archambault, which sees a writer, also played by DeSanti struggle to write the perfect suicide note. We discuss issues of mental health, the writing process and the classic that is Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Q:  What inspired you to make this film?

A:  I think the inspiration came from a mixture of several things that were happening to me
at once. The main one being I was in a place where I was auditioning all the time but
never quite landing the role. I had a sadness that came from that. I felt like a good actor
with a high level of training (I am good enough) but couldn’t quite land the role(s) (wait,
am I not good enough?). This all-to-common artist juxtaposition caused very dark
thoughts for me. Knowing I couldn’t be the only one going through this, and like the
artist that I am, I decided to pour my heart onto the page.

Q:  What was the message you were trying to get across?

A:  It’s my attempt to address a very taboo subject—the mental health of an artist and
contemplations of suicide.

To me art should make us confront our own vulnerability and contemplate our shared
humanity. With this film I wanted to offer something real. The private moments often
associated with but seldom spoken about in regards to being an artist.

Being an artist means putting your work out there, often to be rejected time and time
again, and the brutal truth is this doesn’t come without a cost. Many of us are rejected
more times in a year than others will face in a lifetime. As artists at some point, we must
confront the duality of rejection (we aren’t good enough) while idealistically clinging to
the hope that we are good enough. The disconnect between artistic aspirations and the
gatekeeper’s system that dictates the marketplace can create a difficult psychological
split that can feel like madness. Life is hard. I feel for everyone’s struggles but I have a
soft spot for the pain an artist goes through because, well… I am an artist.

I wanted to highlight this relationship from an artist’s perspective as taboo as it may be.
It’s told, not as an outsider observer, but from inside the mind of our main character,
Gregory Archambault — it’s his world as he perceives it to be. As right or wrong as that
may feel, or as funny as it might seem from outside looking in, the stakes couldn’t be
higher from Gregory’s perspective.

It’s easy, and even delightful to speak about the successes, awards, and highlights but
what I hope, above all, is that this inspires you to speak about the doubts, dark
thoughts, and pain you also feel, and through that realize that you’re not alone. That
there is a beautiful community of artists around you that has your back, knows your
pain, and is always rooting for you. I hope you laugh. Maybe even cry. But above all, I
hope that you feel seen, and heard, and inspired to have deep dialogue with your fellow
artists.

Satire is comedy about things you care deeply about. It has the ability to express dark
themes in blunt yet relatable ways. I felt this was the best way to confront myself and
the audience with these brutal truths we often carry with us while also making it
digestible and hopefully enjoyable.

Q:  How was the writing process for this film?

A:  Brutal! In many ways it mimicked the film. It was very difficult, and I was full of doubt,
but it was also an amazing process of exploration and learning my craft. It feels weird to
even type this out but if you really watch the film (might take multiple viewings) you will
pick up how layered the film is. There are things in this film that add context and
meaning that no one has picked up on (so far) which really excites me. I’m a big fan of
Chekov and his belief that every element in a story must be necessary, any irrelevant
elements should be removed. I combed over each line of the script time and time again
to make sure that every word had meaning, that no space was wasted, and that I could
justify every single thing that I wrote.

I wrote it to be like Russian literature or a piece of work from Shakespeare. The stakes
had to be high, and it had to be as real as it could be for the character for the comedy to
land. This brought many struggles going back and forth to balance the tone and how far
to go or not to go. I’d act it out in my room and tape it on my phone and make decisions
based on seeing it out loud.

I had two friends whose writing I really respect, Kyle Kolich and Tom Connor, look over
it at certain phases and give honest feedback which really helped me understand how it
was being perceived.

 Q:  Did you find any overlap between the character’s writing experiences and your own?

A:  Absolutely! I think many artists of any discipline can feel imposter syndrome whether
you are talented or not. You have this ideal of yourself and ability but at some point, or
many times, you must be confronted by that inner voice that mocks your very existence.
As an actor and writer, I have dealt with that on many occasions. In writing this film that
was very frustrating but also a very helpful feeling to utilize. I probably found more
genuine, deep truth because of that than if I had not been going through that while
writing this. Now it was nowhere near as bad as Gregory, but it still existed.

Q: If you could go back in time to when you were first starting in the industry what advice would you give to your younger self?

A:  I’m a big believer that life is what it is and learn to roll with the punches. I love who I am
now and although being an up-and-coming artist that is still struggling in many ways to
get his work out there, I do believe it is forcing me to slowly become that much better at
my craft which will pay dividends in the long run. So, I’m pretty content where I am at
and the choices I have made as an artist. With that being said I would have emphasized
the importance of it’s who you know not what you know that often gets you ahead. So,
definitely to put a little more emphasis early on into heavily networking (I solely focused
on the craft for many years).

Q:  How did you strike the balance between comedy and more serious elements?

A:  I love a story I heard about the writing of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I think that is one of
the funniest comedies of all time and I remember an interview where Jason Segal spoke
about the writing process and Judd had told him to write a drama and then fill in the funny moments. So very much that’s what I did. I focused on the more dramatic elements first. Then I slowly layered in more and more comedy. I also had the advantage that I would be acting in this. I know my own voice pretty well and when writing it I could take a few lines of dialogue and act them out. If I couldn’t make it funny while also hitting the more serious tone I’d change it until I felt I could do that.

Q:  Is the ending happy or sad? Or is it bittersweet?

A:  It changes as I change, as I experience more, and have ups and downs in this industry.
And I hope that people who watch it feel the same way. I think it’s up for debate and
dependent on who you ask and where they are at in life.

Q:  Who would you say your influences were for this film?

A:  My biggest inspirations in everything that I do, but very much for this film in the writing
department, were Paul Thomas Anderson and Charlie Kaufman. I think that they both
explore character and the human psyche as good as anyone who does this and also
make it fun and unique while doing so. I hoped that I could maybe touch the surface of
what they do through this film. Directing style was also very much inspired by Paul
Thomas Anderson. This film is not clean and composed. It gets messy and has a very
nice build up and that is very much inspired by PTA’s early work (specifically Magnolia).
And as an actor my north star is and will always be Philip Seymour Hoffman. I just do
my best to make interesting and honest choices no matter the genre and that was as
true as ever with this role.

Q: Upcoming projects?

A: I’m currently auditioning as much as I can. I also have two more short films in the works,
and it just depends on timing which will be made. One revolves around institutional
policing and is based on a true story of a mixed-race couple that I am very close to and
the other is another piece for me to act in that was inspired by a statue I saw at the
Acropolis Museum in Greece outside the Parthenon.

If you want to watch The Epilogue Of Gregory Archambault it is currently doing the festival circuit, and will be available to watch outside of that soon.   

If you enjoyed this interview, then please head over to my Patreon to support me, I offer personalized shoutouts, the ability for you to pick what I review next and full access to my Patreon exclusive game reviews. Check it out!

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Interview With Writer/Director/ Producer Joe Badon: Wheels Of Heaven

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to, virtually, sit down with writer/ producer/ director Joe Badon and discuss his new Kickstarter film Wheel Of Heaven, we talk about the strange characters you meet at parties, choose your own adventure novels and shooting fireworks at model dinosaurs.

Q: What is your film about?


A: The Wheel of Heaven is the story of a young woman named Purity (played by Kali Russell) whose car breaks down on a dark empty street in the middle of the night. After a chance encounter with a mysterious party host (played by Jeff Pearson) and his myriad of strange party guests, Purity is left with the existential decision to either break free of her meaningless existence OR simply just succumb to it’s meaningless-ness.

Q: What inspired you to make it?  

A: This film comes from my love of Choose Your Own Adventure Novels and the simple ideas that our choices in everything make us who we are. And the idea of string theory – where there are endless universes, endlessly different, all existing on top of one another. 

Q: Do you have any funny pre-production stories 

A: Well, we just shot a less financially ambitious short film as a prelude to The Wheel of Heaven entitled “The Blood of the Dinosaurs: A Prologue to the Wheel of Heaven”. 

And we had basically like $2,500 for The Blood of the Dinosaurs. So, because of that, I had a 20 dollar budget to create a mountain landscape for the Dinosaur miniatures to exist in so I went to Dollar Tree and Dollar General and bought a bunch of posterboard, spackle and spray paint and created this mountain landscape (made entirely of paper). 

And then we shoot this scene where we’re shooting fireworks at the miniature dinosaurs and the mountains and of course, the mountains catch fire, LOL! But we quickly put it out with the water from the igloo of drinks sitting nearby LOL.  

Q: If you were to sum it up in a word what would it be?

A: Surreal

Q: What do you find are the benefits to using Kickstarter to fund your films?

A: MUCH more creative freedom. Which gives me more fearlessness as a creator. Which, I think, is the only way for new original ideas and content to be born. 

Q: Why should people donate to your Kickstarter?

A: So you can allow new ideas to be created without the hindrance of commercialism and sellability. To create something new, fresh and unique. Everything that the world truly wants: braveness and uniqueness. 

Q: Are you offering any kind of rewards/ exclusives?

A: YES! We have digital downloads of the film with commentary tracks, movie posters and tickets to the physical screening! You can be a producer on the film at the $700 level or Executive Producer at the $1,500 level! We also have ADD ON rewards like: Custom Illustrations by me and the chance to even have a speaking role in the film!

Q: Do you find using a Kickstarter allows you to be closer to your audience?

A: Absolutely! I have A TON of relationships that have been creating through friends and fans backing my kickstarters AND participating in the creation of the films and comics that I’ve made over the many years. 

Well there you have it, if you would like to support Wheel Of Heaven then head over to the Kickstarter and give what you can, and make sure to check out the film when it releases.

If you enjoyed this interview, then please head over to my Patreon to support me, I offer personalized shoutouts, one on one Q and As, the ability for you to pick what I review next and full access to my Patreon exclusive game reviews. Check it out!

Interview With Actor Waseem Mirza: Beyond Belief

Hey Everyone, I recently had the chance to talk to Waseem Mirza about his role in the newly released Beyond Belief, we talk about the ideas of the film, family and how to research a role.

Q: What was the experience of making this film like?

A: It was a surreal experience as it was my first drama shoot during a full lockdown. It was around 3 days long, but I was involved only on 1 day – which was when we could film in an actual surgery without disrupting patient care. It also happened to fall on my birthday.  On the day of the shoot my grandma was in an ICU after having several strokes. The prognosis wasn’t good.  I tried my very best to keep things together as best I could for filming, but it was very difficult.   The worst thing was that I didn’t want to open up about what was happening for fear of it affecting the performance – a storyline which was now far too close to home. 

I remember feeling so drained with a hundred different things swirling around in my mind.  With the Director’s help – Haider Zafar – I made a conscious decision to try and use that same energy to depict a tired, but still warm and friendly doctor.

We filmed my scenes in a real GP surgery in the East Midlands in the UK, out of hours on a Sunday.

After wrapping, I remember going to London to see gran and even though she was not fully conscious at the time, I made a promise that she’d be the first to see the film when I had it.  She died in mid-january. But, like the characters in this film,  I and my family were well prepared for the inevitable by an amazing NHS team.

Q:. Did it change your perspective on coping with grief/life after death?

A: The film did open my eyes to the idea that people have such different views on how to cope with grief.   It’s still very much taboo but definitely needs to change. After all, we’re all going to have to face it one day.

Q: What would you say is the message of this film?

A: I think the message really is that there is no one answer to this dilemma of facing death or having to help loved ones cope with someone who is facing a terminal prognosis. All you can do as a health professional is be there for support and signpost to other sources of help. 

For doctors and nurses having to go through this on a regular – or even daily basis for many health workers during the pandemic – is one of the reasons why this film really brought home its message to me that they really are the true heroes.

Q: Do you have any funny production stories?

 A: no sorry!

Q: How did you get into character for the role?

A: Coming from a family of Healthcare professionals I found getting into character straightforward.

Q: What sort of research did you do for the part?

A: Part of my (unintended) research consisted of going to a&e (for real) after bad friction burns following filming on another project! I used that opportunity (if you can call it that), to really observe!

But it was the personal situation unfolding off-set that began to drive the choices for my character during the shoot.  My energy – understandably – needed to be brought down a notch (or two) and Haider was so patient and superb in directing me in every way.

The entire cast and crew were great to work with, but they were unaware of what was really happening.  I only opened up to the Director about what had happened behind the scenes, a week before the film premiered online.

In hindsight I should have sounded the alarm earlier. The Show Must Go On and all that.   I think I get that from my live TV experience – I’ve been a TV news journalist before making the journey back to screen acting. Live broadcast News is a world where it’s really ingrained in you that no matter what, an audience is expecting to see your program at a certain time and failure is never an option. Maybe I should get around to trying theatre someday!

Check out Beyond Belief available via the Open University and see my review which is on site now.

If you enjoyed this interview, then please head over to my Patreon to support me, I offer personalized shoutouts, one on one Q and As, the ability for you to pick what I review next and full access to my Patreon exclusive game reviews. Check it out!

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Interview With Cade Thomas: Director/ Producer For Ribbon

Recently I had to chance to talk to filmmaker Cade Thomas about his film Ribbon; see my review of it up on my site now. In the interview we talk about the death of capitalism, the effects of consumer culture and finding the humour in the day to day; to break up the cycle of buying and selling.

Q: What is the message of this film?

A: I have heard people say they feel the film is saying different things and most of what I have heard was intentional. Most people say it’s a film about growing up and learning to be open to new experiences. That is certainly one of the film’s themes, perhaps the most blatant. However, embedded in this comedy film are themes about the death of capitalism, mistrust between the classes, consumerism’s lack of care, and finding balance amongst extreme philosophies – while also having a meta-reading as an allegory for my own filmmaking journey. However, I always viewed these themes and messages as treats for more critical audience members and never wanted it to distract from telling an engaging, often comedic story that everyone could enjoy. My film is a comedy, no matter how pretentious I sound when talking about it.

Q: How much can it be read as a swipe at modern consumer and capitalist culture?

A: When toying around the idea for this film in my head, the most interesting aspect of it was what it was saying about our modern consumer and capitalist culture. The film’s main set piece is the town’s dying mall – which symbolizes the death throes of late-stage capitalism and its impact on American cities. The film is so littered with company names and logos that they are almost inescapable in the film. (Fun drinking game: Take a shot every time a company is mentioned by name or a logo appears somewhere onscreen.) Our nightmare is inescapable. We work all-day and get sold things all-night. But, did you see the new dog mascot?

Q: If you had to describe your film in a word, what would it be?

A: Offbeat.

Q: Who is your filmmaking inspiration?

A: I enjoy a wide variety of filmmakers. I love the films of David Robert Mitchell and look forward to whatever insane films he makes next. I would say RIBBON owes a lot to the works of Alexander Payne and Richard Linklater.

Q: Does your film aim to shed new light on how modern corporate culture is effecting the every person?

A: I hope to show the viewpoint of a new generation becoming “working age” and not wanting to turn out like the generations before them have. The oldest members of Gen Z are entering the workforce and we haven’t seen that in film yet. In many ways, this film is a Gen Z vs. Millennial movie between the two sibling protagonists. I also hope the film says something about class. Our protagonists, Maggie and Michael, are firmly middle-class – while our supporting characters are a homeless woman and a new CEO who essentially inherited the role from his dead father. The key friction of the film is how each character views the world they are in and their fundamental distrust of the others based almost entirely on their class.

Q: Where is the line between making a point and comedic satire for you? Where did you draw the line?

A: To make the joke? Or not make the joke? The number one thought in my head at all times. If I can make a joke while making a point, then I don’t question it. A joke for a joke’s sake will have to be a pretty funny joke for me to include it. I would say most of the jokes in RIBBON have a deeper meaning to the story, themes, or characters – whether that clear upon first viewing or not. One of the jokes that always seems to get a laugh is “Olive Garden joke” during the climax of the movie. Sure, it’s funny because it’s making fun of Olive Garden, but that’s not the only reason I put that joke there. To me, it’s humorous because it’s an advertisement playing over our protagonist’s darkest moment. Maggie is literally crying because her entire worldview has come crashing down as she is being shoved on stage to dance for her chance to win money – all while a chipper cross-promotional advertisement plays that practically begs people to care about the mall again and tells you how to save money when you buy at Olive Garden. It’s easy to dismiss comedies, because of how disposable many mainstream movies have been in recent decades. On the other side though, a film can’t be too preachy to the point that it alienates the audience. There’s a middle ground. And that middle ground is Olive Garden.

Q: What was important for you when considering how to form your characters?

A: I start with trying to come up with interesting relationships, then create opposing traits that would make the characters good foils of one another. From that, you fill in the character more – their desires, their fears, etc. I was very interested in telling a story with dual protagonists on opposing character arcs. That ended up informing other aspects of the film. Direct opposites and parallels became a recurring convention in the screenplay.

Q: If you could go back in time to when you were first starting out as a filmmaker what advice would you give yourself?

A: Find people who are as interested as you in filmmaking. And never stop creating things.

Q: Future plans and projects?

A: I have a few different projects coming up!

Stay tuned to my YouTube channel: youtube.com/CadeThomas

That’s where I’ll be posting all the things I make – whether that’s short comedy ideas, commentary videos, documentaries, or feature-length films.

Q: Any funny on set stories?

A: The cast and crew had a lot of fun making this film. We all became closer friends making this project. When making an ultra-low budget movie, you have to improvise a lot and learn to roll with the punches. We filmed the jail scene on what seemed like the coldest day of the year, but I asked my actors not to appear cold onscreen as to not distract the audience. We took multiple breaks to run to the car to warm up and had to reset between each angle. Ultimately, you really can’t tell that the actors were dying of hypothermia, which should have won them an award.

If you want to see other examples of the fun we had on set, you can watch RIBBON’s Blooper Reel which is also on my YouTube channel.

If you want to check out the film head over to youtube.com/CadeThomas

If you enjoyed this interview, then please head over to my Patreon to support me, I offer personalized shoutouts, one on one Q and As, the ability for you to pick what I review next and full access to my Patreon exclusive game reviews. Check it out!

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Interview: Blade King Voice Over Artist

Hey Everyone, I recently had the chance to chat to voice actor Blade King about what life is like as a VO artist, in the interview we talk about life on set, breaking into the industry and fond memories.

Q: How did you get into voice acting, what is your origin story?

A: Well I guess it starts with my unique ability to understand others as well as the ability to blend into the crowd at a moment’s notice.

Q: What was your first voice over project and how did/ do you feel about it now Vs then?

A: Nothing really big or out there, which is why I’m looking for something interesting and I’m down with almost anything, and I’d say it makes me feel unique no matter how small the part.

Q: If you could go back in time to when you were first starting out what would your advice to yourself be?

A: I’d have to say, be more confident and comfortable in your own abilities and use your traits to become a better you.

Q: How would you describe the process of being a voice actor?

A: I’d say slow if you are just starting out, but with the right kick can get you somewhere.

Q: What is a typical day on set like for you?

A: A typical day currently would be waking up next to my fiance and my baby daughter and seeing my baby girl grow each day.

Q: What was your best VO experience and what was your worst?

A: I’d have say VO ING with my friends on small projects

Q: Do you have any funny stories?

A: It would have to be how I can be pretty awkward at times when people meet me for the first time, lol one time someone caught me in a pic looking like a t-rex, I do not take super good photos when. I don’t know about it.

Q: Future plans/ where can people see you next?

A: well I’ll have to say it depends on you and the people who gives me the time of day I suppose lol.

If you enjoyed this Interview, then please head over to my Patreon to support me, I offer personalized shoutouts, one on one Q and As, the ability for you to tell me what to review next. And access to my game review catalogue Check it out!

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Interview With Puppeteer/ Animator Chris Brake: Scraps

Hi everyone, I recently had a chance to talk to Chris Brake, the puppeteer behind Scraps and the in-development Canned Laughter. In the following interview we talk about all thing puppet related, Sesame Street, Tim Burton, and puppetry’s place in the modern cinematic landscape.

Q: Who would you say is your biggest filmmaking influence?

A: Depending on what day of the week you ask me, it could be Alfred Hitchcock, Spike Jonze, Steven Spielberg, Billy Wilder, Robert Altman, John Cassavetes, Tim Burton.

Q: How did you get into puppetry?

A: I’ve always had a fascination with puppetry that started with the TV shows and films I watched growing up.  As with most kids, ‘Sesame Street’ was my gateway, but I then went on to fall in love with ‘The Muppets’, the Gerry Anderson ‘Supermarionation’ shows, and some of the more anarchic stuff like ‘Round The Bend’.  What I really adored about all of those shows was that they presented this completely alternative reality where the whole world was re-designed to fit the puppets.  Every show felt like a complete escape into an entirely imagined space, and there was something really appealing about that to a boy in the suburbs.

Q: What sort of messages do you try and convey with your films?

A: I’m always drawn to stories about outsiders who kind of sit on the fringes of society.  The main theme that seems to run throughout all of my work relates to how they create their own little world where they feel accepted or loved within it.  They’re always either about finding peace with whatever makes you different or moving on from whatever you think defines you.

Q: Do you think puppetry still has a place in modern cinema?

A: Absolutely.  Puppetry allows you to tell stories in such a way that you can be symbolic or allegorical in really different ways than how might be explored in a ‘normal’ live-action film.  But at the end of the day it’s a tool, and when filmmakers use that tool really well it can be profoundly moving and generate incredible depths of empathy from an audience.

Q: What challenges did you encounter trying to get your film made and how did you overcome them?

A: Mounting a puppet film presents a lot of technical challenges, but the key to overcoming them is always preparation.  I tend to storyboard every shot in my films so that I can have discussions with the Puppeteer and the Cinematographer about where the camera needs to be placed, what actions the puppet needs to undertake, and therefore what potential issues need to be considered in order to accommodate both the puppet and the Puppeteer.

Q: How do you go about planning the design and look of the puppets you use in your shorts?

A: I always start with a sketch, often before I even have a script, and from there I tend to develop some concept art before handing that over to the puppet builder or fabricator.  From there they then add their own interpretation of my sketches and develop the look further.  With puppetry there’s also technical considerations around what mechanisms need to be included within it, so the build of the puppet has to accommodate those requirements under the skin of whatever the design is, and in such a way that the puppeteer is able to easily operate it.

Q: If you could go back in time to when you were first starting out in filmmaking what would you say to your younger self?

A: Write what you love, not what you think other people will love.

Q: If you won an award for one of your films who would you thank?

A: Everyone who took a chance on me.  (Might be a long speech.  I fully expect to get played off the stage).

Q: Future plans?

A: Hopefully a debut feature.  Watch this space…

If you enjoyed this interview then check out Chris Brake’s Scraps and if you have anything to spare check out his Kickstarter.

https://www.patreon.com/AnotherMillennialReviewer

Interview Writer/Producer/Director Monte Light: Space

I recent had the chance to chat with writer/director/ producer Monte Light, about this horror thriller film Space. In which an astronaut finds themselves trapped in space fending off an evil entity. In the interview we talk about the final frontier and why it is so scary. Enjoy.

Q: Who is your filmmaking inspiration?

A: I have so many throughout film history. Off the top of my head, the big ones would be Howard Hawks, Leigh Brackett, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, David Mamet, Dario Argento, Kenji Misumi and lots more.

Q: How would you describe this film in a word?

A: Claustrophobia.

Q: What was your catalyst for getting this film made?

A: ‘Space’ is the quintessential micro-budget, independent genre film. It was a labor of love, self-financed. It utilized talent both in-front of and behind the camera, who did it for the sheer love of the story. I called in every favor I could. I worked with amazing artists, some of whom had been working on my projects for almost twenty years before we made the film.

Q: If you could go back in time to when you were first starting out as a filmmaker what advice would you give yourself?

A:  I would tell myself to start writing feature length screenplays from the get-go. I first picked up a camera when I was sixteen, and I was obsessed with the actual construction of movies, (the cameras, lenses, lights, non-linear editing, use of score and sound cues, etc.). So I spent a number of years making several short films, but actual feature length screenwriting didn’t start for me until college, and I wish I would’ve started on that earlier.

Q: Do you have any funny on-set stories?

A: The spacesuit helmets were an absolute beast to use. They were constructed in Australia, and because of shipping issues we only got them a few days before we started filming. They were never quite fitted correctly to each actor’s head, since we had to move so fast, and the visors were constantly fogged up by their breath. There is a scene where three of the actors had to appear on-camera in their helmets at the same time, and because of the found footage style we had to roll on long takes. So before each take our poor costume mistress, Madi, had to fit each helmet individually, then de-fog the next, and then probably have to go back to the previous because the helmet had slipped down. The whole time the actors are trying to remain as still as humanly possible, but you got to breath, right? I’d be ready to call action, and then something would happen to one of three helmets. It got to the point where it would take ten or more minutes to get those damn things perfectly situated, and then try to shoot out a scene. Needless to say, my language may have been a bit salty that day.

Q: Space is such a vast isolating place; how did you turn that into a tight claustrophobic thriller?

A: You know, it’s funny. I wrote the screenplay at the beginning of 2018, and we filmed the movie by the end of that year. I was very interested in the psychological effects prolonged isolation would have during deep space travel, as well as how communication technology would need to evolve to facilitate that travel. I thought it would be an excellent way to explore the found footage horror genre in a way not seen that often. In real life, when we watch astronauts communicating to us from outer space, we’re always seeing them in cramped, industrial looking environments, performing mundane tasks. The vastness of space is out there, beyond the spaceship walls, a vacuum that will kill those astronauts quickly. But we never see that, (hopefully). We just see low hanging walls. The experience of traveling through space is an inherently claustrophobic experience, like being in a submarine. In addition, I was fascinated by the challenge of maintaining tension and gripping storytelling for almost forty minutes through just split screens and “zoom” calls. Mind you, this was several years before the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone inside and onto their computer screens. It’s interesting how quickly the theoretical can become a reality.

Q: What was important to you when crafting the scares/thrills for this film?

A: I knew because of the budget constraints and the kind of story I was telling, I needed to put the characters front and center. This is a slow-burn horror film, and that was done deliberately. Rather than focusing on jump scares or makeup effects, I wanted to impart a creeping sense of anxiety that mounts over the course of the whole film. So my biggest challenge was to create the reality of being stranded in deep space using almost entirely “in-camera” tricks and techniques, as well as getting the best actors I could to capture the reality of astronauts being put to the ultimate test. What was the message of the film? To me, the message is very much a pro-science one. As much as we like to focus on all the selfishness, ignorance, and arrogance that humans are capable of, there are also brilliant, positive people in the world making our lives better through research, medicine, and even examining outer space. I wanted to tell a story where the worst possible survival situation could be overcome through the power of scientific thought.

Q: Sequel plans or other upcoming work?

A:  I am in post-production on a black-and-white, surreal vampire thriller called ‘Blood Covered Chocolate’. That should hopefully get a release sometime next year, 2022, which would be really cool. It’s the one hundredth anniversary of the release of F.W. Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu’, the first vampire film, and a large inspiration for ‘Blood Covered Chocolate’. There are currently no sequel plans for ‘Space’, but I do adore outer space science fiction and the great world hinted at in the movie, so who knows?

Q: If you won an award for this film who would you thank?

A: Without a doubt, I’d have to thank The Price is Right. The budget for ‘Space’ came from that show, when I played the game of Plinko.

If you want to watch Space you can check it out on iTunes and Amazon Prime, and as always check out my review on site now.

https://www.patreon.com/AnotherMillennialReviewer

Interview With Dan Karlok: Crappy Mother’s Day

I recently had the chance to interview director Dan Karlok for his latest feature Crappy Mother’s Day. The film follows three generations of women who get together to celebrate Mother’s Day together only for things to go comically awry. We discuss motherhood, home-made vokda and the finer points of script writing.

Q: Who is your filmmaking inspiration?

A: Frank Capra. His mix of comedy and drama were always right on.

Q: How would you describe the film in a word?

A: Wacky

Q: What was your catalyst for making this film?

A: The writer/producer Bill Rutkoski approached me with the script. I thought it was funny. We had done numerous other projects; documentaries, short films and projects for tv etc., but this was our first feature film. The big challenge was shooting the whole thing in 8 days!

Q: Do you have any funny on-set stories?

A: Too many. Some would be too incriminating! Let’s just say, one of them involves a gorilla head, boxer shorts and home-made vodka.

Q: If you could go back in time to when you were starting out as a filmmaker what advice would you give yourself?

A: more aggressive and take more chances.

Q: What was the worst Mother’s Day that you were ever a part of? 

A: I wish I had a good funny story for this, but unfortunately I don’t. Not to be a downer, but probably the Mother’s Day right after my mom passed was the worst.

Q: What other crappy day of the year films would you like to make next? Crappy Father’s Day? Crappy Christmas?

A: Crappy Father’s Day would be great. It writes itself! (don’t tell the writer Bill Rutkoski that!) I actually think it could become a tv series. It’s a crazy film family and the stories would be abundant.

Q How did you balance the comedy and the more sincere elements of the script? What was your mix?

A: With this script, the funny is in the words. The actors don’t have to be funny, they just need to say the lines with believability and the funny will come materialize. The same with the sincerity. You need to find the truth in the words whether or not it’s supposed to be funny or serious but then be able to change on a dime. It’s very tough to get the right mix. Sometimes it’s a happy accident. We were very fortunate to have an awesome ensemble of talent who could do both and I’m very proud of them and what we accomplished.

Q: If you won an award for this film who would you thank in your acceptance speech?

A: There would be a lot of people! One person doesn’t make a film. It takes quite a few people and as a director, you need to trust them and let them do what they do. If you’re smart, you hire the right people and let them do what you hired them to do. But in answer to your question, it might sound corny, but I would thank my mom and dad. When I was growing up, I wanted to make movies since I was 7 or 8. My parents never tried to talk me out of it and were always very supportive.

If you would like to check out Crappy Mother’s Day it can be found on all good VOD platforms and storefronts and as always check out my review of the film on site now.
https://www.patreon.com/AnotherMillennialReviewer