Rock 'n' Roll Space Patrol, Highway Pirates
1. When and why did you decide to be a filmmaker?
I flirted with filmmaking or rather I was friends with people who were involved in it: actors, editors, and composers. But I was into music for the sake of music. Still, I did dabble when myself and my roommate at the time Jose, from Spain and drop dead gorgeous and sweet as can be illegal immigrant neighbor, Anna, made a series of 2 minute shorts in and around our apartment building in Hollywood right by Hollywood High... and the In & Out Burger on Sunset. I wish I had a copy of that. I had a friend who scored commercials and he was very encouraging with getting me involved in composing. Back then though unless you had a phat wad of cash you couldn't afford Pro Tools. Later, I did music editing on a tv pilot called The Privateers starring Karl Urban & Walter Koenig. I worked around the set a bit and got to see a little of how things go down. But really it wasn't until I watched Steven Soderbergh's Schizopolis for the second or third time that I decided to make a go of it. There was a movie absurd and far out as can be. That's when I decided to make Rock 'n' Roll Space Patrol.
2. What are your favorite films and why?
The Andromeda Strain has got to be in my top 5. Jerry Goldsmith composed and Robert Wise directed. It was made in the early 70s but that movie is still amazing. It was from watching that movie that I learned what a Diopter lens is. Just excellent.
American Movie is my favorite documentary followed by Project Grizzly. There are these wacky people, in the north, that on one hand you're laughing at and on the other you're totally rooting for them because sure their ideas are flawed and absurd but they are passionate and you want them to succeed... or at least you should.
The Lord of the Rings movies were excellent as was Howard Shore's score. I first heard of him from Ed Wood the movie. That's another good one.
3. What is the most helpful book you've read on filmmaking?
The Digital Filmmakers Guide.
4. What are the most difficult challenges you've faced as a filmmaker?
Budget and weather. Budget because I haven't had much of one as of yet and weather because Missouri's weather is pretty unforgiving. The actors and crew I've worked have been excellent in their devotion.
5. Do you feel it's necessary to go to film school? Did you have any traditional education or training in this industry?
No. I'm musically trained and interestingly I've found a huge number of similarities with music and film production and writing. That said it certainly can't hurt. The more you can draw on can only benefit you in my opinion. I've heard a lot of discussions about training particularly with music. That somehow it limits you or makes you think in a clinical or un-unique way. I haven't found that to be true.
6. How many shorts did you make before tackling a feature?
7. How do you like working on a short versus a feature?
In the case of Highway Pirates, which is a short, it was about three times the amount of work I did for RNRSP. That includes the learning how to make movies that I did for RNRSP. So in that way they are paradoxical in the amount of labor. I guess I don't have a preference. They should be as long or short as they need to be.
8. How did you go about getting your first feature distributed?
I get asked this a lot. And I've read that securing distribution is incredibly hard. I wish I had a more exciting story but the truth is I sent them a DVD and a month later they called me offering me a contract. I did make a short list of companies to send out to but I just figured that if anyone would take Rock 'n' Roll Space Patrol, Troma would.
9. Have you earned any profit on your film?
No. I've talked to others and read about this and the consensus is if you don't get an advance you probably won't see any dough unless your movie does extremely well. Even then there are plenty of examples of a film "never turning a profit" on paper. I was willing to accept this considering RNRSP was my first movie, the budget it was made for, and the quality of the film.
10. What was it like working out a deal with a distributor?
Stressful and informative. A friend of mine's entertainment lawyer was willing to represent me for a discount but still his fee was $500 just to look at the contract. Considering the budget of RNRSP, which was extremely low, I decided to negotiate myself. I wouldn't say I did as well as a competent entertainment lawyer but I was able to get them to remove a large number of things that I saw were potential pitfalls and weren't copacetic with me.
11. What have you learned about the business side of filmmaking?
That I'd much rather hire someone else to do it. When you don't have someone or can't afford them you inform yourself as much as you can before making big decisions. Still, there are people who enjoy that sort of thing and I look forward to working with them in the future.
12. Why did you choose Rock 'n' Roll Space Patrol Action is Go as your first feature?
It was a compelling story that had to be told. That or it was just ridiculous enough to be fun.
13. How did you find a composer for your feature?
I did all that myself.
14. How did you finance your films?
Fortunately when you do almost everything yourself you don't have to pay yourself much. You should treat yourself to a nice dinner at least but that's it. The draw back of course is that you have to learn and work your ass off as well as switch roles. It takes a long time but you do it the way you want and for CHEAP! That said, my next film will involve a lot more people in the production because it's just too taxing. There is a good reason that there are hundreds of names in the credits at the end of a movie.
15. What do you think is the key to working with actors?
Respect. Respect their time and efforts and what they have got to do and try to make it work for them the best way you can. This in turn earns their respect, trust, and loyalty. Leave the bullshit to Hollywood. These people deserve to be treated like friends and family. I've always found them to reciprocate.
16. What do you look for in an actor?
Dedication followed closely by talent.
17. What do you value most about your experiences thus far?
That I have done virtually every position in filmmaking. This gives me an informed opinion.
18. What is the most important piece of advice you'd give an aspiring filmmaker?
Be honest with yourself and the people working for you. Be realistic and don't bullshit or give false hope. It's a small world and it all comes around one way or another. Leave your ego at home. It doesn't belong on set unless the role calls for it. Dedicate yourself and GET IT DONE!