Your upcoming movie Please Punish Me
- in a few words, what
is it going to be about?
The film tells the story about Scottie, a man who's tired of his luck.
Life is too good for him. Whenever anything good comes to him, everyone
else around him receives the negative side of his positive gain. So, he
seeks to be punished for his "curse".
How did the project come into
being in the first place, and how did you get involved with it?
Paolino, who's a very talented actor, had come up with the story. He wrote
the initial script a few years ago. It was originally titled House of
No. I don't fully recall how he came up with the concept, but I do
know that he drew some of it from his own personal experiences of living
in Los Angeles. The script had been sitting around for a few years and
nothing was happening with it. Then, one day, in the summer of 2012, I got
to meet Tom at a film screening and we quickly hit it off. He was asking
me about the stuff I had been doing. At the time, I had only directed
films that I had written myself, but I wanted a new challenge of sorts. I
wanted to direct a film that wasn't my own writing, but by someone else.
So, Tom had told me about the script and he sent it to me. I read it and
really liked it. We met and talked further about it. That's when I decided
for it to be my next film.
can you tell us about your collaboration with Please Punish Me's
writers Tom Paolino (concept) and Rich Camp (screenplay)?
Tom already had the story in mind. He told me about it and I agreed to do
it. I then showed the script to Rich Camp, who's a good friend of mine
and screenwriter. He specializes in comedy. I showed him the script and
both he and I felt it needed some work in the story and the humor. So,
Rich and I met. He gave me his ideas and I interjected some of mine. Very
little of the original concept changed. Rich simply went to another level
with the story. He gave it more depth and character development and of
course added more humor. He would send me drafts of the script and I would
make my notes and then I would send it to Tom for his input. At one time,
we also did a rough table read with the three of us, the producer and I
got some actors to read the parts. Rich made some notes and went back
until we finally came to final draft that we were all happy with.
what degree does the film's message apply to your own life?
closely to my life, I would say. I just graduated from college and it's
rough out there, trying to find a job. I came out of college afraid of
what was going to happen next. I studied film and, like any creative
field, finding a permanent job in the field is very hard. Sometimes you
find people who give up their dreams and settle for something else.
Something that they don't like. Despite that though, it works out for
them. They find success, but yet they're not happy. It happens to a lot of
people. Either reality kicks in and they feel it's time to find a living
or they found a job as a way of living until their dream job comes, but
it doesn't. This is what the main character, Scottie, goes through. He
lost his dream of being a cartoonist along the way. Now, he has job he
hates, but yet he's finding much success. While everyone around him, who
actually try hard, are not finding any success. Thus, he feels he must be
punished. I, myself, fear of getting that dreaded 9-5 job that I don't
like and losing my dream of being a filmmaker. It's a positive film that
will have many laughs and a message that everyone can relate to. It's a
film about doing what you love and how one shouldn't settle.
can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?
my previous films, my approach is bring out the personal side of the
story. I want to have the actors draw their character's feelings from
their own personal experience. However, all my previous films have been
quite dramatic and have had a serious tone to them. With this being a
comedy, my approach is going to remain the same, but bring out the funny
side of the drama. A comedy is a drama in disguise, I think. The trick
here is to show that. Both Tom and Rich have a funny script here and whole
situation in the story about this guy wanting to get punished for having
good luck, essentially, is funny all by itself. My approach is bring out
the comedic side of that, without losing the poignancy of it and message
would you describe Please Punish Me's brand of humour, and since
you do have a background in standup comedy (right?), how would you
describe your own sense of humour?
Please Punish Me
is a dark comedy. Rich, himself, has sort of a dark and twisted sense of
humor, So, all the humor comes from him, really. I'm more the
emotional/dramatic person when it comes to my own writing. Yes, I did do
stand-up, but for an extremely short time in high school. At the time, I
wasn't quite sure what it was I wanted to do with my life. I had always
loved film since childhood, but it never occurred to be that I could be a
director. Since childhood and into my teens, I drew an interest in
acting, comedy, film, writing, photography, animation, puppetry, etc. You
name it and I probably tried it in high school. Stand up, for me, was
somewhat successful, but I discovered it wasn't truly what I passionate
about. I was passionate film and found that I could combine everything I
love into one medium.
As for my own sense of humor, it's so opposite of
the film, oddly enough. I do enjoy dark comedy very much, but I don't
consider my own humor to be dark. My sense of humor is all over the place.
I have a little bit of silly in there. I think that comes from the fact
that I still enjoy watching cartoons, The Muppets and sitcoms and movies
that were before my time. There's also a bit of dry humor. It ranges in
different areas, I think.
can tell us about your intended cast yet, and why exactly these people?
haven't done any casting yet. We'll be holding auditions at the end of
of now, the film is still in its fundraising stages, right? So what can
you tell us about your fundraising efforts?
we're raising funds on IndieGoGo. I had successfully raised the funds on
the site for my last short film, Still Life. So, I decided to do it
again. We're looking to $4,900. The funds will go towards locations, craft
services, equipment rental, production design and of course the cast and
crew. If anyone wishes to donate, here is the link:
funds are raised, how do you plan to proceed, and any idea when and where
the film's going to be released (and yes, I know it might be waaay too
early to ask)?
It's hard to say at this time, but because
it's a short I'll probably go the usual route. We'll send it out to film
festivals, perhaps have a screening in my area and hopefully distribution.
Fortunately, I have a contact with Twistflix who had distributed my last
film, Still Life. So, that could be a possibility. Who knows?
Any future projects beyond Please Punish Me?
Absolutely. There may be one more short
that's being written by another friend of mine. Then, there's my first
feature film, which I've been in writing for quite a while now. It's still
in the early stages, but I've been putting a lot of thought into that
What got you into filmmaking in the first
place, and did you receive any kind of formal training on the subject?
mentioned earlier I've been into the arts, particularly film, since I was
a kid. As a kid, I always thought I would grow up to be an actor/comedian
like Robin Williams (he was always my favorite) or that I would be a
writer or animator. I was always into creating something. I tried my hand
at writing a screenplay when I was 10. I had seen Ghostbusters and
I was also into robots, so I wanted to try to write a sci-fi/comedy in
that vein about a boy and his robot and they fight aliens. I sent the 30
page script to Columbia Pictures (since they produced
hoping they would make it. It got sent back to me, of course. It was fun,
though. I also got into film just by going to the video store (This is
when they had VHS tapes! Remember those?). I used to rent so many movies
and would be on IMDb for hours just looking up all this trivia and
history. By the time I was in my teens, I became quite a movie buff and my
taste in certain movies developed. Eventually, I went to college at New
England Institute of Technology in Rhode Island. This is where I trained
in film and video production.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Please Punish Me?
I was college, I started to network around New England and worked on
different movies doing camera work, editing, production assistant work,
etc. This included working on Rich's own feature film, Gotta Find Barry.
I was his intern and worked as part of the camera team. This is how we
developed our friendship and our working relationship together. As for my
own work, I made a couple of short films while in college. A few of which
went to a couple film festivals and did quite well. However, my first
"professional" film out of school was Still Life. Again,
it was a personal story. This one was about a photography student who
struggles with his thoughts about his creativity and talent. It's very
much based on myself and my growth as an artist and how I always
questioned myself. The film has, not only gained worldwide distribution
from Twistflix, but was recently accepted into New Filmmakers New York
Film Festival which is next month. It also received critical acclaim and
was very well received by audiences wherever I showed it, including
getting a standing ovation at it's premiere. It was very rewarding.
would you describe yourself as a director?
I find myself to be a very personal director. All the stories I tell
usually come from my own experiences in life. It's funny how Please Punish Me
came right after Still Life. The latter was about
myself learning and growing as an artist and the former is now about
keeping that alive. I made Still Life
at a time where I wasn't sure
about myself and my work and if I was good enough. Now I'm making this
film in a time where I no longer question my abilities, but now I'm
questioning how to make it possible without losing it along the way and
settling for something I don't enjoy. So, it's like the next chapter of my
I also consider myself to be a visual director. I love to compose
camera shots and think about its movement. I also enjoy thinking about the
lighting and what mood I want to set with it. I also enjoy thinking about
how the film should be edited and such. Before I shoot anything, I always
have the movie in the head shot by shot. A clear visual picture as to what
I'm looking for.
I'm also pretty story-driven. I do consider myself a better director
than I am a writer, but if I'm given a script, I like to pick it apart and
see where the story arcs are, the character development takes place. I
enjoy things like that. Working with actors is fun to discover these
things. I'm certainly not an actor's director, but that story-driven
side of me helps me to work with the actors successfully.
who inspire you?
So many. These are the clichéed choices, but they really do inspire me.
Martin Scorsese is one. He's my favorite director. His passion for film
is so contagious. I love listening to him talk about how he makes his
films. Listening to him speak about Raging Bull and of course watching it
is what made me want to be a director. Plus, his visual style is fantastic
as are the stories that he chooses, and how he executes them is just amazing.
Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick are also my favorites for reasons
I don't need to explain. I'm also inspired by Walt Disney, Jim Henson,
Charlie Chaplin, David Cronenberg and so many more.
Your favourite movies?
That's a tough one. My favorite movies change so many times. At this
time though, I would say that these are my top 10 favorites:
2. Raging Bull
3. King Kong (1933)
4. The Wizard of Oz
5. The Godfather
6. Cinema Paradiso
7. Psycho (1960)
8. City Lights
10. The Shining
and of course, films you really deplore?
That's tough to
say. I haven't really found a movie that I hated or strongly disliked.
There are some movies I just thought were so-so, but I always find redeeming
qualities in almost any movie I see. I guess I find it hard to really hate
a movie since I know how much goes into making one. Even movies that I
know are bad, I'll find a lot of unintentionally funny things about it.
movie's website, Facebook, IndieGoGo, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
My personal website is www.chrisesper.webs.com.
There, you can see my previous films, music videos and other things I
Here is my Facebook like page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chris-Esper-Director/316989045002591
The Please Punish Me
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Please-Punish-Me/496180797105097
Again, the IndieGoGo page: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/please-punish-me-short-film/x/641610
Here's the Twistflix link to see Still Life. Subscribe to the
site for as little as $5.93 a month to see the movie along with other
independent films: http://www.twistflix.com/films/?film=26
else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
hope anyone reading this considers donating to the film. It's a personal
story for all of us making it and want to inspire audiences and get our
message out there and of course make them laugh. It can't happen though
without your help. Every little bit helps. As little as $5 will help make
this movie happen. If you donate, there's also many perks including
getting a copy of the movie when complete and even being in it!
for the interview!
Thank YOU! It was my pleasure!