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Interview with Tony Farinella By Chris 31/7/08
Tony Farinella does interviews with actors/directors for the site 411Mania and reviews also, I have known him for a while now and figured it’s time to ask him about the world of Hollywood and talk about our amazing friend Michelle Page. It’s a really good interview with some great answers. If you ever wanted to know about interviewing actors read on.
Chris So how did you get into doing interviews and reviews?
Tony Well, I started doing reviews in my Live Journal around 2004. I was just doing it for fun, because I wanted to put my thoughts down on paper. After I got rid of my Live Journal, I started putting my reviews on MySpace. It was mostly just for my friends to read and I wasn’t really taking it seriously. But after I started doing more and more reviews, I started to really enjoy it and a lot of people would compliment me on my reviews. I started sending out different applications to different websites, but it was pretty hard to get noticed or get any attention. I ran into a woman by the name of Dash, who used to run Film Fantaix.com, and I started doing a lot of reviews on their website. After that, I started sending out more applications, and I was writing for about 6 different websites. It started to really blossom around 2006 Things started to really pick up for me when I started doing reviews for 411mania.com. They are a pretty big website, and when you write for them, people start to take you more seriously. 411mania.com also offers free DVD’s to their writers, so it was nice to be able to get free DVD’s, because I used to spend a lot of money on movies. One day, a publicist offered me an interview with Roy Disney, and I realized then how much I really enjoyed doing interviews. To backtrack a couple of years ago, from 2001 to 2004, I was a member of the website, ChicagoWrestling.com, and I used to do a lot of interviews with wrestlers, so I had some interview experience, but it’s a whole different ballgame when you interview movie stars. So after that Roy Disney interview, I started thinking about interviews a lot, and my interest in doing reviews started to die down. I still do reviews from time-to-time, but I do a ton of interviews.
Chris yeah so basically when you became part of 411mania you really launched into doing interviews
Tony Correct. That’s when it really started to take off for me, because publicists are all about hits. When you tell them that you can offer them a certain number of hits a month, they want to do business with you. It allowed me to email different people and say, “Hey, I’m a writer on 411mania.com. Can I interview you?” And they would take me seriously. They want their client to reach a certain number of people, and if you can offer them a million hits a month, they want to work with you. It allowed me the oppurnity to knock on doors and really search for interviews. I had the platform, and it was up to me to take advantage of it.
Chris so the publicist wants their client to get maximum exposure with a site that has hits, so they don’t want their client to be interview on a site where the person may ask really great questions but no exposure
Tony I wouldn’t necessarily say that. I think if you conduct a good interview, people are going to want to work with you. But, at the end of the day, it’s a business, and if you can offer them a big platform, they’re more eager to work with you. That being said, if you’re a bad interviewer and you offer them 200 million hits, they’re going to notice that, and they probably won’t want to work with you. So, it’s a combination of two things really: One, having a platform that people take seriously. And two, being a good interview that they can trust, they don’t want you on the line with their client if you’re going to ask bad questions or insult them. So while hits help, it’s not the whole picture. It’s only part of the picture and it helps. But I think if you do good interviews and conduct yourself in a respectful manner, people will want to work with you.
Chris gotcha and to me if you ask good questions and being respectful and not delving into the private life like most major mainstream magazines do they are going to want to do more interviews with you
Exactly. It’s all about building up a reputation and working with the right people. If you work with a certain publicist and they hear good things about you, they’ll offer you more interviews in the future. So, once you get in the door, it’s really up to you to make a good impression and stand out. If you can get in the door and blow their socks off, they’ll remember you and consider you for future interviews. The hard part is getting in the door and showing them what you’re made of. But if you can do that, you have a good shot of impressing the right people.
Chris yeah to take this in a different direction when you hear something about an actor for example when Sarah Jessica parker complained about her dress to her premiere of sex in the city and when actors in general complain about trivial things does it affect on how you do interviews or do you just not let it affect you
Tony If I interview the celebrity that is complaining you mean?
Chris yeah basically when they have made comments in the media
Tony That’s a good question. Well, I’d be lying if I said that I don’t read the news or know what’s going on, and it’s hard not to have a certain opinion on someone when you hear something like that. That being said, it is the media and it is the tabloids, so it’s hard to take a lot of it seriously. I’ll consider it and listen to it, but until I talk to them one-on-one and see how they treat me, I try to go into the interview with an open mind, because you never know what they’re going through. I complain about small stuff all the time, so if someone caught me on a bad day, I might say something that I wouldn’t want the world to know about. So, while it’s in the back of mind when interviewing someone, I also try to give them the benefit of the doubt until I talk to them one-on-one. I think everyone deserves that.
Chris yeah they do like everybody does but the public they don’t want to hear actor’s problems because actors problems are nothing compared to the rest of the world.
Tony That’s true. But, at the end of the day, they are people just like us, and their problems are very real to them, even if they don’t appear big to us. I always try to put myself in their shoes. Sometimes real people with real problems complain about nonsense. It’s just human nature. I think the key is not doing it too much. Once you recognizing that you’re complaining about petty stuff don’t do it again.
Chris exactly I just wanted your option on all that. So now have you ever walked out of a movie?
Tony Not at the theatre, no. Because I figure if I’m going to spend 10 bucks on this, I might as well finish the whole thing. I’ve stopped watching a lot of movies on DVD, though. That’s the good thing about watching a movie on DVD at your house. You can always turn it off or fast forward during it.
Chris any movie that after a few minutes you’re straight away turn it off. I almost walked out of the last samurai I hated it but because I was with my parents I stayed.
Tony I always like to give a movie at least 20 minutes to a half hour to catch my attention. If it takes longer than that, I think something is wrong.
Chris yeah now do you think that DVD/Blue Ray will basically take over the cinema and movies will go straight to DVD because more and more people like me will just wait until it comes out on DVD. People already ask when a movie being made when the DVD coming out?
Tony I think the cinema will always be around, because there’s something magical about seeing a movie on the big screen. I don’t think our love affair with the cinema will ever go away. People might not go to the movies as often as they used to, but they’ll still go to the movies. Look at the Dark Knight for example. People came out to see that movie, even with the way things are now. We might see more straight to DVD movies, and we already have too many of them, but the cinema will always be around. And I’m glad. Even though it costs too much, I like to go when I can. It’s great to see a movie on opening night with a big audience and a big screen.
Chris yeah myself I go and see more indie films if I ever go to the cinema which is hardly ever now. I’m picky because I like my money to go to a film that is actually good compared to some of the brainless Hollywood films that always come out which you know is bad but you still see it and another one will be made like it
Tony And the hard part, as you know, is finding the indie films. You usually have to travel downtown and really search for them. Sometimes it’s just not worth the hassle, even if it’s a great movie. It’s easier just to drive five minutes and see a bad movie, because it’s closer and easier. If it was easier to see indie films, maybe more people would see them.
Chris so who would you most ultimately like to interview?
Tony That’s a great question. I did a conference call with Stallone, but I’d love to interview him for an extended period of time and really get inside his head. He’s a smart guy with a lot of unique opinions. I’d love to interview the remaining members of the Golden Girls, because I’m a huge fan of that show, and they have been around Hollywood for a long time. Basically, I want to interview anyone who has a unique story and has lived a unique life. I love talking to people who have overcome adversity in some way. It’s wonderful to hear from someone who had a problem or some kind of demon, and now they are a better person and lived to tell about it. David Lynch would also be interesting, because he’s a complex human being. I’d really have to think about it, but those are the names that come to mind right away. Also, Sidney Poitier, He’s a living legend.
Chris Is their any body you wouldn’t want to interview?
Tony Not really, unless they were a total jerk. But even then, it might be fun, because it would be a good story to tell people. I’m open to interviewing almost anyone, even the jerks. I might be able to find out why they are so angry or rude.
Chris so because of doing the interviews and the reviews have you made friends out of doing all this who are in the film industry and is this going to be a serious career for you?
Tony It’s tough to call them a friends, because I haven’t met a lot of them in real life, but there a lot of people I keep in touch with and email a lot, and they also send me Christmas cards. So, in terms of friends online, I’ve talked to a lot of wonderful people, and I’m sure if a lot of us lived closer, we’d be really close. I definitely feel really close and connected to a lot of people from all over the world, you included. That’s one of the great things about this. And I hope to make it a serious career. I feel like I’m on the right path and paying my dues, and I’ve done a great of getting my name out there with newspaper clippings, DVD quotes, and national radio appearances. I’m just doing my best to get as much exposure as possible, so people can see what I’m doing.
Chris yeah I’m like you I’m trying to get my name out their going to gigs twice a week, putting on gigs which I just had to kill one and I have made friends in the music industry so far who have been really helpful and always are willing to answer my questions and I have made friends out of this site , Michelle for one and we really are friends and like you we are both supportive of each other careers and in this day in age is very rare because everybody out for themselves and their is a lot of it in Hollywood
Tony Yeah, I think when everyone helps each other out; it makes it easier for everyone involved. You can call on someone for a favour, and they’ll be happy to help you out. Like I said above, it’s about having a good reputation, but it’s also about being a good person. It’s hard doing this alone, and we all need help from people once in a while. And it’s OK to admit that. It doesn’t make you less of a person. We all need people to spread the word about us and say nice things. Your reputation follows you around wherever you go, and if you burn one bridge, that might be a job that you’re going to lose out on.
Chris yeah your right and their a lot of actors who know that if I’m professional on set and not being a diva, I know that I will be able to work with that director again and if I don’t upset anybody I’m doing good
Tony Exactly. Word spreads like wildfire in Hollywood. So it’s important to be professional and reliable. We all make mistakes and have our bad days, but the key is not making them a habit. Everything you do, it affects others.
Chris yeah so what your all time favourite movie
Tony Midnight Cowboy. I’m a fan of sad stories, and even though it’s a sad movie, there’s a lot of hope and positivism in it. It’s about two people who are ignored, abused, and rejected, and I think we all know how that feels sometimes. Yet, through all the negativity and the cold streets of New York, they still find friendship. And I think that’s all we are looking for in his life: Friendship and respect. It’s a tough film to watch, but it’s a very rewarding experience. I get choked up at the end of the movie every time.
Chris yeah to me one of the saddest films I have seen is Mysterious Skin and it’s such a powerful movie and yet its message is against it but one of the Christian groups here in Australia tried to get it banned
Tony Were they successful?
Chris nope it got released here in Australia saw it at the film festival and I have a copy on DVD. one film that did get banned was Ken Park by Larry Clark and one of the most prominent film critics here in Australia almost went to jail for showing a public screening of the film
Tony Yeah. I don’t agree with the banning of any movie. It’s up to the audience to decide what they want to see. And that’s the beauty of cinema. Sometimes it tackles topics that aren’t pleasant. But we learn from it and we question our own beliefs and opinions.
Chris exactly but it’s always about the children and what they shouldn’t be seeing and that decision should be up to the parents and their responsibility not the government
Tony Agreed. If certain parents think their kids can handle it, that’s their right. When you get other people involved, it becomes too overbearing. That’s not the government’s decision to make.
Chris yeah have you seen Mysterious Skin?
Tony Yes, I have. It’s one of those films that once people see it, they fall in love with it. But I’m not sure how many people have actually seen it.
Chris it’s the only movie that is rarely actually made me cry the other is out of the blue a New Zealand movie
Chris who do you think out of all the young actors who are known so far is going to have a very successful career?
Tony Joseph Gordon Levitt, the same actor from Mysterious Skin, he reminds me of a young Brando. He can do it all. It’s tough, because an actor doesn’t usually hit his peak until he is in his thirties, so a lot of actors are “wait and see.” They might be hot today, but tomorrow they might fall apart. Shia Leabouf for example. He is very popular, but some of his decisions outside of the acting business have been questionable.
Chris yeah I think Shia is the flavour of the month. If he keeps screwing up his career is not going to go so well but if the movies he makes keeps making money then he will be alright. But Joseph Gordon Levitt is amazing, when I saw Manic I was like wow this actor is so no the actor he was in 10 things
Tony Very true. Sometimes all an actor needs a chance to prove himself. There might be a lot of great actors out there, but they are stuck on a TV show. Look at Jason Bateman for example. All an actor can ask for is a chance to show what he or she is made of. But, sadly, Hollywood might not see it.
Chris yeah so if you a do a movie and a show that does very well then your career is going places and the same with doing a movie or a TV show that is critically acclaimed
Tony Look at Rider Strong for example: He’s a great actor and a great person, but a lot of people only see him as Shawn from Boy Meets World. Or they see him as the horror kid. So while you’re making money and you’re busy, sometimes you’re stuck doing the same thing over and over and over again. So it’s tricky. You’re happy for the work and you don’t mind it, but sometimes you want to do something more and show more sides of you.
Chris yeah you always need to find somebody who will give you a chance to turn your career around classic example monster with Charlize Theron
Tony Exactly. Good example. So a lot of it is in the hands of other people. You need a good agent and a good eye for the right script at the right time. And once you get it, you better be ready for it.
Chris and the longer it takes for you career to really take off the better your career will be as a lot of these actors who get big really quickly always end up crashing and burning
Tony That’s true, and I think you appreciate it more because you had to go through so many ups and downs and so much crap to get to where you want to be. It wasn’t just handed to you, so you know how quickly it can go away. So when you do have it, you do whatever it takes to hold onto it. Other people, they might think it’s always going to be there, and it’s easy, and it’s really not.
Chris yeah that why Michelle Page career going to go so well because she doing all these great indie films that will really help her career and getting her good roles in major films
Tony And, like we talked about, she’s a good person. She’s doing good work and she’s also a good person. Once people meet her and discover her, it’s not hard not to fall in love with her as an actress.
Chris yeah tell me about it. I had only known her online and I had done some stuff for her, passed on info to her which got her a lead role which landed her another role plus the interviews and blogs praising her and she always had said thank you and sending letters to me saying thanks and just being respectful and kind goes a long way.
Tony I agree. It doesn’t take a lot. Just a simple thank you or phone call to let someone know you appreciate them. Its common courtesy and more people should use it.
Chris yeah its rarity and she really genuine and down to earth and she a far busier person than I am but she really cares about me and you. She actually wanted to meet me and I’m just a little guy in the world of publicity but she appreciates it and she liked what I had done for her and what I am still doing for her. Along the way we became friends and real friends and if you help people and do good things for others they won’t forget it
Tony Exactly. And at the end of the day, we are all people trying to get ahead in this business. No one is better than anyone else. When you start to think you are better than someone else or bigger, that’s when it becomes a problem. Like we talked about earlier, you need to remain level-headed so you don’t crash and burn. And if you treat everyone the same, the writers, the actors, the sound guy, you’re going to do well in this business. Sometimes people are only nice to certain people because they can help them out or get something from them, but when you’re nice to someone and it’s real, that’s a wonderful thing.
Chris Yeah with Michelle it’s real and I know it’s not going to change as I have had some bad experiences with people were nice because they wanted publicity. I am going to have to wrap this up mate, got a dentist appointment. What would you say to somebody who wants to do what you do?
Tony Just start writing…. anywhere. On the bathroom wall, on your blog, on myspace, anywhere. Once you start writing, you never know where it might take you. And just keep on keeping on. Don’t be afraid of negative feedback from other people. Just do what you know is right and be patient. It won’t happen overnight, but, eventually, it will work out. But it won’t start working until you start writing. And you really have to love writing. There’s not a lot of money in this, so just write because you love it.
Read You Like A Book
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Interview with the film director Robert N. Zagone By Chris 30/7/08
I discovered this film by chance, like what I read contacted the filmmakers for an interview and a review of the film. So we have a really great interview with the director Robert N. Zagone about independent filmmaking and the making of the film. Expect an interview with the screenwriter this week and a review of the movie next week.
1. How did the film come about?
Jim Vaccaro (the screenwriter) and I would always meet at Black Oak Books prior to getting a cappuccino to talk about film ideas. The owner of the store at that time (2005), Don Pretari, overheard us talking about movies. Don, an avid movie lover, offered his store as a location if we ever wanted to make a movie. Jim and I always thought the store would be a great location to make a movie. We jumped on the idea and took Don’s offer, commencing immediately to work on a film idea. As a constructionist of the idea, and knowing that I wouldn’t be able to raise enough money to shoot in a lot of locations, I gave Jim the notion that the story could never leave the bookstore. What started out as a low budget conceit, eventually turned into a high filmic concept. Jim did a masterful job keeping the action confined within the store.
2. What was the inspiration behind the story?
Black Oak Books – a revered independent bookstore – was quite enticing as a location. It had countless nooks and crannies, a maze of stacks, plus a variety of levels to make it visually interesting. The location and the desire to work with a cadre of consummate actors that I wished to work with was a combination that could not be ignored. Also, the state of the political environment that we were living in at the time in the U.S, was an added impetus to the story line.
3. How long did it take to film the movie?
Jim and I worked over a year on the script, on and off, while doing other work, Pre-production was one month. There was one day of Rehearsal where the entire cast met at my house (near the bookstore) to read through the script and discuss the style of shooting the impending movie. Shooting occurred over 17 days in July 2005. Editing took, not continuously, from the end of August to the end of October (excluding scoring and sound mix). The music score was produced and composed in Stuttgart, Germany (by Doublehead – Tim Nowack and Rolf Zischka). I had met these two a year earlier on a corporate shoot while in Frankfurt (they were doing the sound). I went to Stuttgart in December of 2005 and spotted the movie with them and they played me themes. At the same time we determined together where the music should be placed in the film.
In February 2006, the film was mixed at the Saul Zaentz Media Center in Berkeley. An old friend, Mark Berger, mixed the film. Mark has 4 Academy Awards for Amadeus, The Right Stuff, The English Patient, and Apocalypse Now.
The film premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival in October 2006 at two screenings, both sold out and with overflow crowds.
4. How was the process of choosing the actors for the film like?
There were NO casting sessions for the movie (except for the characters of Zoe – Barbara Crampton; and for the Role of Stan, the Pharmaceutical goon – Alan Draven). I went directly to actors who I had either worked with on other productions, or with actors who I desired to work with.
For example: I emailed Karen Black (whose work I admired) and inquired if she might be interested in doing a role in an independent film. She told me later that she enjoyed how I wrote my emails. After resisting, she finally asked to see the script. The screenplay was the final arbiter in sealing the deal – and she signed on. Karen takes her work very seriously. She is a national treasure whose acting skills are supreme. I loved working with her and learned an enormous amount about the craft of the actor from her.
The role of Zoe, on the other hand, needed an actress who had a powerful sense of sexuality, plus acting skills that could portray the complexities of the character. I was astounded that cult actress Barbara Crampton showed up to an audition. She had left Hollywood and moved to Northern California in order to raise a family. Her children were now at an age where she felt comfortable in getting back to acting in films. As soon as she walked in to the audition I knew she was Zoe. Fortunately, Barbara and I had a wonderful working experience. She knows the camera and knows how to capture the essence of a scene.
I had known Tony Amendola for years (he played Bra-tac, the 200 year old warrior on the popular sci-fi TV series, STARGATE-S1). He was a stalwart of the American Conservatory Theatre and the Berkeley Repertory Group, playing roles in productions of The Pillowman, Uncle Vanya, Othello, A View From the Bridge, among others. We had done a corporate video together and I loved working with him. A few years ago, I had written a screenplay that I wanted him to play in, but the project was unable to find the money for production. READ YOU LIKE A BOOK was written especially with Tony in mind to play Dante. His involvement was crucial to the success of making the movie. He is a hard working consummate actor who is sharp, spontaneous, and methodical.
I met Catalina Larrañaga at my daughter’s wedding and on the spot I asked her to be in the movie. I had worked many times before with comic actor, Joe Bellan; and Comedian Bob Sarlatte was in a prior film that I directed (THE STAND-IN, starring Danny Glover). I met Ricardo Gil at the local café and when I found out he was an actor I asked him to be in the film. I saw Shaun Landry’s inviting face and smile on the cover of a magazine (she is a noted improvisational comedienne), which prompted me to contact and ask her to be in the film. These were the methods of casting for the majority of the cast.
My casting credo was intuition, intuition, and intuition, augmented by the recognition of their stage, film, or TV work. Although my choices were intuitive, in retrospect they were all on the mark. I was never disappointed with any of my casting choices.
5. Was it hard to edit the film to make the story flow?
Not really. We edited the movie according to the shooting script. There were the obligatory discoveries that the flow of the film worked better by eliminating certain scenes, especially if they included plot redundancies. There were a few instances of moving a scene or two around in order to introduce a character earlier. The most difficult scene was the opening. We played with a lot of versions until we arrived at what is in the film. The film has many genre aspects to it (comedy, fantasy, romance, comedy, erotica, horror – all reflecting the books on the shelves in a bookstore). A decision had to be made as to whether the opening should reflect the serious aspects of the movie or should it reflect the comedic aspects? We decided that a bookstore is a melancholy and evocative location. Therefore, we went with a cut at the opening that reflected melancholy nature of a bookstore – enhanced by the music.
We had several editing room screenings, each a different cut of the film. After the first screening of a long edit, we cut out 13 minutes. The first cut is always long and the screening confirmed our intent to cut out certain scenes. We also played with two version of the ending – one that ended with the freeze frame of Dante and Gina. But we decided that the ending with Danny Glover was more powerful.
We were also concerned that being inside a bookstore for the entirety of the movie might prove to be claustrophobic for the audience. However, our focus groups decidedly said, “No, we love to be in a bookstore…”
There were certain scenes based on actual incidents that taken place over the years in the store (e.g. the Thief, the Coffee Spill, a visit from the FBI, etc.). These scenes didn’t advance the plot, so there was a discussion as to whether they should be cut. We decided to leave these scenes in and they definitely added to the charm of the movie.
6. Has the film had much international sales yet?
We are early in the game in relation to international sales. However, there has already been a sale to Russia. Our sales rep, ECHELON STUDIOS is currently in the midst of attempting international sales. VANGUARD CINEMA, the distributor of the DVD is covering the United States and Canada.
7. What was it like working with actors such as Barbara Crampton & Karen Black?
When you are doing a low budget film, you have little money, ergo little time, in which to shoot your film. It is imperative to have seasoned actors who can give you usable performances with just two or three takes, but have quality nuances within each of those takes. The main actors, especially Karen, Barbara, Tony, Catalina, and Lorenzo would give me a usable performance with 2 or 3 takes. Such professionalism saved our production from going into overtime or having to include additional days, days that we were not budgeted for.
Both Karen Black and Barbara Crampton were so savvy about the placement of camera and what I, the Director, was trying to achieve or emphasize. With actors like Karen and Barbara, all the Director has to do is give them a short attitudinal suggestion and they would take and run with it, giving me what I wanted. It wasn’t necessary to have long discussions about what was wanted in a scene. They knew their characters and had done their homework – professionalism to be admired. Seasoned actors like Karen, Barbara, Tony, Catalina, Lorenzo, and Joe would not only do their homework, but they would come prepared to the set and give me different approaches to the scene or the character. I never had to worry about these actors in capturing the moment. They knew where they were going.
At first I was slightly intimidated by the vast work that Karen and Barbara brought to the set. But they were extremely cooperative and believed in the movie and wanted it to succeed. I would gladly work with them again.
There was only one scene (between Barbara and Tony) that I went back and did a re-shoot (the next evening). I wasn’t pleased with the coverage. I’m glad that I did it. It made the scene more powerful. I ended up using elements from both evenings and I defy the viewer to know that it was shot at two different times. Both Barbara and Tony appreciated the opportunity to perfect their performances.
8. What did they bring to the film in terms of performance?
The film was shot under the auspices of the Screen Actor’s Guild Modified Low Budget Contract. The actors I used in the movie are extremely smart. They all could take a suggestion and improve their performance beyond expectations. Most of the actors had considerable stage experience as well as film experience. This double sword experience enabled the actors to give theatrical expertise when needed, in addition to creating an aura of naturalism in intimate scenes.
Karen and Barbara and Tony especially held up a professional torch for the other actors to emulate and for all of us cast and crew) to stay on our toes and improve our performances.
9. How did Danny Glover get involved with the film?
Danny Glover is a long time colleague and friend. I used Danny early in his career in a docu-drama about the Black independent filmmaker, Oscar Micheaux. He also played the starring role in an earlier independent film that I directed, called THE STAND-IN (1986). Danny is the nicest, smartest, fun-loving actor that a Director could work with. He is ultra professional, plus extremely conscientious about matters of political life, history, ethnicity, and gender issues. Danny was kind enough to play a cameo in READ YOU LIKE A BOOK as a favor to me. All of the other actors and crew enjoyed their time with Danny. He is a profound humanist, always giving of himself.
10. Was it hard to make the film with a very little budget?
Yes, to be honest, it is very difficult to make a film on a small budget. Low budget films these days in Hollywood go for around 8 Million dollars. We made READ YOU LIKE A BOOK for $239,000. Granted, that’s still a lot of money, but not in terms of making a movie. When we shot the movie, we only had about $220 K. I was able to raise some additional funds to take care of some pos-production costs. The film is a true independent film. All of the funding came from individual local investors, with no corporate funding.
But you know what? There is nothing more satisfying and fun than making a low budgeted film. Having little or no money forces everyone to be more creative and inventive, for both the cast and crew.
11. Why set the film in a bookstore?
The evocative aura that an independent bookstore creates was incredibly inviting. The particular look of Black Oak Books was captivating; plus the location was virtually in my own backyard with some of the best restaurants in Northern California. The crew ate quite well and they could browse books in between takes.
I would often joke to my friends that READ YOU LIKE A BOOK is the only movie ever made that if you become disinterested in the plot or the characters, you can still have a good time by browsing the books on the shelves in the background!
12. Were you happy the way the film turned out?
In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that we actually shot, completed, and distributed the film. We all jumped into the pool, into the deep water, not knowing if we could swim. Somehow, we all survived.
Most independent films never see the light of day; and in this day of the blockbuster, it is getting even more difficult to get an independent film distributed. Distributors are less inclined to spend advertising to promote an independent film.
There are always moments that are in the film that I would have loved to have more time and money to have done additional takes, but the exigencies of the budget forced us to move on.
13. How did Vanguard Cinema become involved with releasing the film on DVD?
READ YOU LIKE A BOOK acquired a sales representative in Los Angeles, ECHELON STUDIOS. They contacted me with a sincere interest in representing the movie. They, in turn, made a sale to Vanguard Cinema, a distributor in Los Angeles who specializes in independent films. Vanguard Cinema has been very understanding of the special requirements to sell an indie film.
14. What have been the responses so far to the film been like?
We are just starting to get some attention on some literary and entertainment websites. What are most interesting are the comments by consumers who have either rented (Netflix) or bought the movie (Amazon). Also, each personal comment that I have received has all been positive. Not everyone needs a car crash, a gunshot, or a murder to enjoy a film.
15. Was it hard to get finance for the film?
Raising money for a movie is always a difficult process. It is imperative to ask people with the compliant approach that a rejection for involvement would never interfere with your prior relationship. I always went to people who had enough resources that investing 5 or 10 thousand in the movie would not lead them to the poor house.
I ended up asking several old friends whom I had gone to high school, some family members, and people that I had an ongoing relationship with, e.g. my barber, of all people. Jim Vaccaro helped out immensely by bringing in some of his old time friends and family members. This was vital to the success in raising money.
I would also like to say that working with the Producer, Larry Lauter, was one of the best decisions that I made. Larry made those dollars walk a mile. He know how to handle the money, where to spend it wisely, and was very gracious in handling matters with the cast, the unions, and the crew. In short, Larry is the best!
16. What did you learn from making of this film that you can use for
I would again use experienced actors. I would raise more money the next time. And I would increase the budget to have more shooting days. We shot the film on Super 16mm film conforming to High Definition Video. We edited the film on an Avid (from DV Cam transfers) and mastered the movie in High Definition on a Smoke system – all at Roughhouse Editorial in the Presidio in San Francisco. Roger Krakow, the co-owner of Roughhouse, edited the film. Without the support and involvement of Roger, and his partner, Michael Pickman-Thoon, the film could not have been made.
17. Has the Internet played a good part in promoting the film and in
The Internet and e-mail word of mouth is instrumental in promoting an independent film. An independent film is never going to have a big opening like a Hollywood blockbuster – but it can increase its sales over a longer period of time due to website promotion. We sent out a promotional flyer to hundreds of independent bookstores, pointing out the fact that the demographics for an independent movie are the same for an independent bookstore. Most bookstores, these days, sell DVDs, either in store or online. Hopefully, these stores will discover READ YOU LIKE A BOOK and share that discovery with their customers.
18. What was the editing process like for the film?
The editing was very methodical. Roughhouse Editorial, the postproduction facility, partnered with me in the totality of the editing process. They were able to help me with a sweet heart editing deal. One of the aspects of editing was we could be bumped if their was a cash paying client who was on a deadline. Roughhouse has 5 or 6 editing suites and we were rarely bumped – but it did, however, lengthen the editing process.
Editing on a digital system like the Avid allowed us to keep a variety of cuts of the movie, so we were able to compare and analyse. It was always astounding to go back to an earlier cut and discover a moment that worked better than the current edit that we were working on.
Also, it is imperative to have an editor that you are totally comfortable with and that you can trust. Roger Krakow, from Roughhouse Editorial, was such a editor. He could be brutal with me, and we could get into arguments and into confrontational discussions, all for the improvement of the edit, without getting personal. Those confrontations always led us to a solution for a scene.
19. Is their anything you wouldn’t do next time that you did this
time in regards to making of the film?
The mantra: more money, more time – but we really don’t want corporate or Hollywood money – we wish to maintain control of the product and the editing.
I might shoot the next film all on High Definition, but definitely not on DV. Or, now that I have the knowledge of conforming film to High Definition, I may repeat the process for the next film.
20. What’s next for yourself?
Jim Vaccaro and I are writing another script to be set in the same area in Berkeley, California aptly named the “Gourmet Ghetto” for the delectable eateries in the area. It is our desire to make a trilogy, including some of the characters (in cameo roles) from READ YOU LIKE A BOOK. The next idea involves a young female lead, a singing career, and a witness to an unlikely murder with links to the war in Iraq.
21. Did the actors stay pretty much to the script or was improv allowed?
The actors, given time constraints, always had the opportunity to invent or improvise aspects of the script. There are many delicious moments in the final edit that are spontaneous or improvisational creations.
22. Were their any major problems when making the film?
We shot the film in the bookstore in three stages: (1) early in the morning before the store opened up at 9 AM, enabling us to film the more intimate scenes; (2) while the store was open – enabling 90 percent of the extras to be real people browsing in the store; and (3) late at night after store closed at 9 PM – e.g. the book reading scene which was shot in two consecutive evenings from 9 PM until 5 AM – a killer time schedule.
The main problem was not to upset or interfere with the public buying their books. They always took preference. Be that as it may, we never had any issue with any consumer or staff member. Our method of working – a small and fast moving crew – did not interfere with people’s browsing. In fact, for most of the shoot, people just didn’t pay any attention to us. Oh, occasionally, you would hear: “Is that Karen Black? No, it couldn’t be…”
One spaced out Berkeley character came into the store around 6 AM while we were setting up. He shouted out at the crew, thinking they were bookstore staff: “I need my science fiction, I need my science fiction, I want my science fiction”! The crew didn’t respond to his inquiry, but at the same time, stepping out from a back room came Tony Amendola. Now remember, Tony, at the time, was on the most popular science fiction television show running on American TV, STARGATE – S1, playing Bra-tac. When the spaced out character saw Tony, it was like a Star Trek character being teleported from the Enterprise – or, in this case, Bra-tac coming through the Stargate. When the drugged out sci-fi fan saw Tony, he started to scream and scream and scream and then proceeded to run out of the store. Well, he got his science fiction fix for the day!
23. Is it hard to make an independent film in this day and age?
As mentioned earlier, it is getting harder and harder to raise funds for independent films. Distributors want a certain kind of technical expertise and want a modicum of recognizable names featured in your film. It’s not the budget of your film that is of concern – it is the advertising and promotional costs that are primarily prohibitive for independent productions.
24. What advice can you give to some one wanting to make an independent film?
I would advise using experienced actors who can give you what you want in 2 or 3 takes. If you have to go 10 or 15 takes because an actor hasn’t done their homework or is too inexperienced, then you are going to go over-budget and into overtime. It causes enormous burdens.
Do as much pre-production planning as you can. I don’t use storyboards, but I do make blocking sketches in my script book. You must learn to be flexible, but it’s nice to have a basic plan that you can fall back on.
Don’t yell. Respect your cast and crew. They will always go overboard to help the Director solve an issue.
Use a cameraperson that you implicitly trust. I used two cameramen that I had worked with before: Michael Chin (who shot some of Wayne Wang’s early films); and Bill Zarchy (who shot Conceiving Ada). Bill stepped in when Michael had to leave the last week because of a prior commitment. It’s imperative to concentrate on the actors and the script and not have to micro-manage the shooting and lighting. You must take time to talk out shooting and lighting and stylistics during pre-production. And it helps to do tests to get the look you want.
Also, there are untold post-production finishing costs, ranging from festival costs to promotional casts, to poster costs, to travel costs to sell the film. It is always a good idea in y our budget to have a contingency to cover any unpredictable costs after you finish shooting and editing the movie.
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Interview with Hyske By Chris 17/7/08
Hyske is one of the most unique exciting female fronted bands to come out of Australia at the moment, They describe their music as Gothic Folk Pop and their album Luna is getting very good praise and expect a review on the site soon. This is one band you gotta check out. Do it right after reading this interview
1. How did you get into music?
– I was born with it lol, ever since i could write i tried to write
poetry and as soon as i could speak i sang
2. Who were your idols growing up?
– Almost everyone who played or created music, it was
Extremely thrilling to discover new music and I don’t find
myself connected to a certain genre (I don’t get into too much mainstream music)
… Bob Dylan fascinated me because
for me I felt he was a great story teller and i connected with what i felt
was his heart.
3. Who were your influences?
– Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, John Lennon – my fathers favourties
4. Are you happy with the responses from the album?
– It’s been overwhelming to get such a welcoming reaction, especially
when I feel I’ve waited my whole life to give songs to people.
5. How did the recording process for it go?
– For us it was quite the journey as we recorded, mixed, co-produced everything
ourselves which was a great learning experience.
We found it interesting to learn more about the engineering side of things with
some words of wisdom from ‘Paul McKercher’ (The Cruel Sea, Augie March, You Am I)
to help us in the right direction.
6. Has the internet helped with your music?
7. Do you think tools like MySpace are useful?
8. What inspired the band style of music?
9. How do you go about writing a song?
– Time alone with silence without any distractions from the outside world.
10. Have you had much radio play since the release of the album?
– Yes, we’ve had a lot of support from radio
11. Any plans to play some more gigs down in Melbourne?
– We will be coming back down to Melbourne after shows in Sydney
12. Who would you most like to record a song with and play with?
– Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
13. What is on your stereo at the moment?
– Arcade Fire – “My Body Is A Cage”
14. What are some of your favorite musical artists/bands?
– Some? … Thousands!
Bessie Smith, Goldfrapp, Arcade Fire, The Killers, Nick Cave, Johnny Cash,
Leonard Cohen, Antony & The Johnsons, Pan Sonic, Portishead,
Pj Harvey, The Ramones, Gil Scott Heron, Igor Stravinsky, Gorecki,
Tom Waits, The Stooges, Massive Attack, Bob Dylan, blah blah blah…
15. What has been the highlight so far?
– The release of “Luna” and the support from people in our
home country Australia.
16. Have you had much response from labels?
– There’s a couple of majors interested, however, we haven’t
really put our minds or energy into that space as much as we have into the
music side of it.
17. What is next for the band?
– Ooh… that’s a secret, it’s fun though and we cant wait to
show you our next incarnation.
18. Any plans to go overseas with the music?
– Yes, London in January next year, we look forward to travelling and
have had a lot of support over that way.
19. How have people responded to your music?
– A lot of people seem to be excited about hearing a different kind
of sound coming from Australia.
20. Whats one thing you don’t like about the music industry in Australia?
– I think we could have more live music venues
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Interview with Lesha By Chris 16/7/08
Lesha is an Australian singer songwriter,an actor and artist based right here in Melbourne Victoria and she really good. I dug her tunes and think she gonna go far so read on.
1. How did you get into music?
I always loved music. I’ve been writing lyrics for as long as I can remember. I wanted to play drums when I was 10, but my Mum wouldn’t let me. My Grandfather had an old classical acoustic guitar, and every time I’d visit him I’d stare at it longingly. He let me borrow it when I was about 12. I fell in love, and started saving up for an electric guitar.
2. Who were your idols growing up?
One of my earliest memories is from when I was about 4 years old, sitting on a lambs wool rug in front of a record player, listening and trying to sing along to Madonna. Yep, she was definitely up there for me back then, and Belinda Carlisle. I’m not afraid to admit it.
3. Who were your influences?
Mostly heavy rock, Alice In Chains and Bush contributed a lot to my writing as a musician. As well as bands like Tool. My sisters got me into Nirvana, Hole, Guns n Roses and Bon Jovi. Mum was listening to a lot of Country music, that helped me ease into the acoustic guitar thing.
4. How is playing music compared to acting?
It’s completely different. I see music as my own personal expression. An extension of my emotions and a creative outlet, whereas with acting I’m more of a instrument for the writer/director to tell their story. Acting is also very internal. I enjoy both.
5. What inspires you when writing music?
Mostly love and the attainment of love, I started out writing angsty songs. Now days I can’t write unless I feel hopeful. Needless to say, I try to stay positive.
6. Has the internet helped with your music?
Definitely, in the beginning when I first started using the net, it was a great way to meet people and get opinions on my music, feedback and encouragement. It helped a lot.
7. Do you think tools like MySpace are useful?
For sure. Without MySpace I’d definitely be spending a lot more time on the monotonous stuff, like; finding ways to reach more people, or constantly sending out EPKs to venues. It’s definitely a necessity for anyone starting out without label or booking agent support.
8. How did you get into acting?
I kind of fell into it, I loved stage performance as a kid and jumped into any school production. I had a spare elective to fill in grade 12 and Drama was the only available interesting class. So I took it and loved it. A local production company put out a casting call at my school for a 5 year TV campaign. I auditioned and got it. As soon as I got on set I knew it was something I’d be doing for the rest of my life. No matter how great or small.
9. What has been the highlight of acting so far?
Anytime your agent tells you you’ve got a call back it’s a highlight. Haha.
10. Who has been the most help so far with your music?
Tom.. aka MySpace.
11. Where have you enjoyed playing the most?
I played at Schoolies Week on Surfers Paradise a few years ago. It was an afternoon gig. The stage was on the beach and faced the ocean. It’s was freaking gorgeous.
12. What has been the highlight for music so far?
Learning how to record at home, the quality of my song writing jumped enormously and it gave me so much freedom. I definitely recommend it!
13. What is on your stereo at the moment?
Paramore and John Mayer. And the MySpace artists in my top friends.
14. What are some of your favourite musical artists/bands?
This list is long. I’ll condense it.
Incubus, John Mayer, Tool, Tori Amos, Paramore, A Perfect Circle, Birds of Tokyo, GnR. You get the idea.
15. What don’t you like about the Australian music industry?
I used to hate it. I won’t lie. I always dreamed of relocating to America or Europe so I could see the bar raised and work amidst a higher standard, but the music industry has grown so much in Australia over the past 5-10 years. I feel proud to be an Aussie musician.
16. Have you had any responses from record labels?
A couple of indie labels have hit me up. But generally the tiny ones who couldn’t do much more for me then I’m already doing for myself.
I’m pretty resourceful, so I don’t need a label unless they’re offering full support or an advance. Then I’d be all for it. 😀
17. Do you think digital downloads is the way to go for music?
I’m a CD lover. I love having the artwork and reading the lyrics, the whole package and owning a little part of the band/artist.
Digital downloads are cool, but I don’t even have an iPod (Christmas present anyone?). Digital definitely makes it easy to access. But I don’t think anything will beat CDs.