Your upcoming film Polypore - in a few words, what is it
There are really two plot-lines, the first of which follows the
protagonist who, to his great surprise, awakens one morning with the
ability to read minds. The second plot-line follows the Rein Corporation,
a pharmaceutical company that is trying to get people sick in order to
sell them medication. When the protagonist tries to find out why he has
telepathy, the plot-lines intersect.
seems to be highly critical of
the pharma-industry. Where did the inspiration for that come from?
be honest the pharmaceutical industry just seemed like an easy target. The
Umbrella Corporation was also an early inspiration.
plot of Polypore also seems to be deeply rooted in science fiction
- a genre especially dear to you, and your genre favourites?
don't like action films that happen to be Sci-Fi or television shows with
a Sci-Fi theme, but I'm a huge fan of Sci-Fi films that make you think,
and those containing social commentary, like Moon, District 9,
Akira, 12 Monkeys,
Pi, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix and They
Live. The Fifth
Element is a guilty pleasure.
sources of inspiration when writing Polypore?
was a huge influence in the original story but the plot has since
transformed and doesn't contain nearly as many references.
heard that Polypore grew out of a rather small idea into a
comparatively vast project. What can you tell us about the evolution of Polypore
at the writing stage?
The original story was written in a
pretty informal fashion on napkins at the Tunnel Bar in Northampton during
my senior year of college. I knew that the students who were filling crew
positions would be departing after graduation, so I decided to start
production immediately and wrote the script while simultaneously shooting
the first half of the film. While slightly chaotic, this fluidity allowed
me to add various forms of production value as they materialized (new
locations, characters, etc.) and the writing process became very organic.
With Polypore having become
a very ambitious project, how hard/easy was it to get production off the
ground, and were there any major stumbling blocks bringing your vision to
I pretty much just jumped right into it head
on. One stumbling block that occurred in particular was that the actor
playing the protagonist went to Europe for a semester before we finished
shooting. A pretty absurd re-write took place to solve the issue and the
actor ended up shooting some footage on location while he was abroad. When
he returned I shot additional scenes involving his character. At the same
time I was doing videography work to fund the film so I was well aware
that production would take longer than usual.
According to my knowledge, Polypore
was shot all over the world. What can you tell us about the trials and
tribulations, but also the appeal of shooting a small independent
production on pretty much an international stage? And will you ever again
go global to shoot a film?
Shooting internationally was
mostly achieved through networking with other filmmakers and also through
the help of actors who happened to be visiting other countries (i.e.
Japan). One of my goals was to squeeze as much production value as
possible out of a very low budget. This went a little too far at times and
I've already identified scenes that will be removed from the final cut,
but for the most part this strategy worked to my favor, and the film looks
much more expensive than it actually is. It's pretty cool when you jump
from the suburbs of New York to the streets of Tokyo. As for shooting
globally, I would love to do so again in a much more professional fashion.
What can you tell us about
your principal cast?
Jeffrey Bielat is an actor and
musician with several years of experience in live performance and sketch
comedy. While acting in Polypore
he simultaneously worked at Animal Planet
in New York City, then moved to Grenada as part of a study abroad program.
Chen Tang is a professional actor based in New York City working in film,
television, theatre, commercials, print, and industrials. He trained as an
actor at the University of Miami and Emerson College and is originally
from Memphis, TN.
Your film features
legend Lloyd Kaufman in a cameo. How easy is he to work with, is he
willing to be directed or is he more likely to take control into his own
hands? And what influence do Kaufman and
have on you as a filmmaker?
Lloyd was great to work with, I
actually based his scene on an interview from The Long Road to Gary, a short mockumentary that I co-directed about the making of a
zombie film. He was more than willing to take direction but also offered
some improvisation, which worked well for the interview-style scene that
he was acting in. I wasn't inspired by Lloyd's actual films so much as his
do-it-yourself attitude. There is a lot of wisdom in his views surrounding
the democratization of media as well as self-reliance when it comes to
filmmaking and distribution. Self-distribution in particular is something
that I'm quite interested in exploring.
On Polypore, you seem
to have your hands in everything, from directing, writing and producing of
course to filming, editing, even acting, and the like. What do you enjoy
the most, what could you do without?
I enjoy directing the
most but I also enjoy writing, as well as producing. I've actually had to
spend most of my time producing on this project as opposed to directing.
For my next film I'd love to have a producer and be able to focus entirely
on directing. Acting was supposed to be out of convenience at first, when
the film was very small, but as the plot evolved this actually became
quite an inconvenience. I wouldn't recommend wearing too many hats, it can
get pretty crazy.
The $64-question of
course: When and where will Polypore
be releasing Polypore
at a film festival in 2012 (I've fundraised $1,500
online which will be used to enter around 30 film festivals).
go back to the beginnings of your career: What got you into filmmaking in
the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
I was younger I spent a lot of time drawing cartoons, which sort of drew
me towards exploring animation, which in turn drew me towards filmmaking.
My mother signed me up for a membership at the Pittsfield Community TV
Station where I learned the basics of editing on an ancient version of
Adobe Premier. After a few months of volunteer work they let me create my
own television show so I picked up a copy of Final Cut Pro and messed
around with it endlessly until I was fluent. In college I took a few film
courses but I personally learn best from experience, so the time I spent
making films for class was always more educational than anything that
could have been taught in a lecture.
far as I know, Polypore
is your debut feature, but you have made
quite a few shorts. Why don't you talk about those for a bit?
2005, I co-directed The Long Road to Gary, a short
mockumentary based on the making of a zombie film. Numerous problems arise
on the set and everything seems to go wrong for the enthusiastic
filmmakers. The project won "Best Student Film" at the 2005
Northampton Independent Film Festival and "Best Overall" at the
2009 UVC-TV 19 Film Festival. My other shorts were created for
experimental film courses and served as stepping stones to Polypore. They
were a blast to make and seemed wonderful at the time, I look at them now
and think, "dear god, these are absolutely horrendous in comparison"
- but you learn the best from making mistakes and these
shorts led the way to working on a feature where I was able to call upon
those earlier experiences for insight. Of course I made new mistakes while
working on Polypore, which is also a stepping stone to another film, which
will be a stepping stone to the film after that, and so on, but in the
process I learned how to make a feature-length film. Polypore
is my film
what way does making a feature film differ from directing shorts (if at
It is much more time-consuming and I personally pour
much more energy into a feature because it is a "real film" that
can actually go somewhere. I enjoy shorts and some stories only work as
shorts, but I'm much more interested in creating feature-length films.
Any future projects you'd like to talk about?
my next project I'd like to create a much more minimalist film on a
somewhat larger budget. I'd also like to work as an assistant director on
a larger film at some point, I think that would be a great learning
who inspire you?
Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Paul
Thomas Anderson, Park Chan-wook, Darren Aronofsky, Guy Ritchie, Vincent
Gallo, Chris Cunningham, Michel Gondry, Terry Gilliam.
Your favourite movies?
would say that my favorite films are what I at least consider to be of the
"dramedy" category - films like The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life
Aquatic, Magnolia, Breathless, Pulp Fiction, Eternal
Sunshine, Buffalo '66
and Lost in
Translation. I also like some edgier films like Sympathy for
Mr. Vengeance, Layer Cake, Fight Club, Kill Bill and
Requiem for a Dream.
and of course, films you really deplore?
mindless, formulaic and lifeless yet profitable franchises. You know what
movies website, Facebook, whatever else?
for the interview!