Your new film Beyond Oz - in a few words, what is it about?
Dorothy winds up in Oz after a huge storm, and with
the help of her companions Cornielious Maize (Scarecrow), Nick Chopper
(Tin Man), and Leonard Leonardo (Cowardly Lion) she fights to save the
magical land from the torment of the Wicked Witch of the West.
got the project off the ground to begin with?
wanted to make a full length feature with fantasy elements. Something that
would really push the limits of Funuda Films
as a company. I looked into
different options but in the end, The Wizard of Oz caught my
eye. Like so many other people, all I knew of the story was what I learned
from the famous 1939 movie. I had no idea that there was actually 14 books
total in the Oz series. I read about all sorts of crazy characters and
places that have long since been forgotten. I delved into the pages of L.Frank Baum's work searching for anything and everything I could include in
my film. I found more than I could have ever asked for - and then some! The
rest is history.
you interested in L.Frank Baum's source material, and how faithful do you
remain to his stories?
The characters. Oh my stars! They are so diverse and creative. Ozma, Tik-Tok,
Wogglebug, and many others. I couldn't belive how well their existance had
been hidden from me. The elements of his books were intriguing and
exciting - as they should be. If you are writing a children's book you
want to make sure you keep thier attention. I found myself turning the
pages with great anticipation.
I wrote a single line of the script I began researching L.Frank Baum.
Eventually I discovered that he himself made quite a few Oz
movies. And in
those movies, the stories were very different from the books. Most of the
time their scenes were compleatly unrelated to his own source material.
That was when I started to feel more comfortable with the idea of making
my Oz something completely different. Beyond Oz has the basic
story arch of the first novel, but there are many elements that I added
myself. I feel confident that if Baum was still alive today, he would
respect my adaptation for what it is. Something different.
it comes to Oz-movies,
I think it's fair to say that everybody will immediately think of the 1939
adaptation Wizard of Oz
starring Judy Garland. Was that movie (or any other adaptations) at all an
influence on your film?
I am a fan of Victor Flemings Oz film, but for
legal reasons I couldn't really let it influence my work too much. The
books are the only Oz material that is royalty free, so I drew my inspiration from those. However, I will say that the phrase "Lions and
tigers and bears - oh my!" pops up in one of the scenes. It cracks me
up every time.
Any other sources of inspiration
when writing Beyond Oz?
I have a big family, so when I wrote it I wanted it
to be something that I knew they would really enjoy. When writing a movie
you really need to think "What is the point of this film? What am I
trying to say to my audience?" The key element of the The Wizard of Oz-story is the longing for a sense of home and family. I think that was what
really made me fall in love with Oz in the first place.
How would you describe
your directorial approach to your subject at hand?
No matter how much hard work needed to be done
(which was a lot), I wanted to make sure that everybody involved was
having fun and learning a lot during the process. I don't make movies for
the money or the attention. I do it because I adore filmmaking and I want
to learn more about it. I think everybody who is a part of Funuda Films
feels the same. The best way to sharpen your artistic skills is to get
your hands dirty. For Beyond Oz, my focus was on character
development. Since the strongest elements of the books were the characters, I wanted to make sure they were properly represented. I
encouraged my actors to make their roles "their own". I wanted
their performences to be memorable and original. They didn't dissapoint.
What can you tell us about Beyond Oz's cast?
They are a crazy bunch, and that's perfect. Oz is a
crazy place. All of them are so talented and dedicated. I honestly
couldn't ask for a better group. I don't know if anybody realizes this,
but since Funuda Films
is so small I can't possibly afford to pay them.
But even though there wasn't a paycheck at the finish line they gave it
their all. And that alone is such an inspiration to me. I always make sure
that the finished product is something they can be proud of.
As far as I know, you play the wizard
himself in Beyond Oz - so what can you tell us about Gerrit
Nieuwenhuis the actor, and to what extent can you identify with your character?
The Wizard actually lived in the circus before he
landed in Oz, and since my parents own an entertainment business I know
what that is like. Clowns, inflatables, cotton candy, magicians, animals,
puppet shows - the list goes on. Also, as an artist, the idea of making
people believe you are something you really aren't is familiar to me. I
have always loved acting, so to make up for the fact that I haven't been
on the stage since my senior year of high school I give myself
performance opportunities through my film projects.
As far as I know, you have premiered Beyond Oz
only recently. So what can you tell us about audience and critical
reception so far?
I heard great things from the people who saw it!
Granted that there are some rookie mistakes here and there. The film as a
whole was thoroughly entertaining. People were already grilling me for
information as to when DVDs will be available. I was so nervous about what
people would think of the film, but now I am sure that Beyond
Oz is everything I hoped it would be.
Let's 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?
When I was young, my dad gave my sister and I a
video camera. At first, we just made nonsense videos that were completely
ridiculous, but as the years went on, our projects got more and more
elaborate. Around the age of 13 I got my first editing system called Dazzle. It was a really badly made program, but it granted me
the opportunity to start learning the art of film editing. Then finally,
as a sophomore in high school I took a class called A/V (audio visual).
Mr. Blevins was the teacher, and I can't even explain how big of a step
that class was for me. It's literally the reason why I can make movies
like this one. After I left high school all I wanted to do was keep
making films. Mr. Blevins even let Funuda Films
rent his equipment to do
just that. He is my hero.
What can you
tell us about your filmwork prior to Beyond Oz?
There are countless silly videos from my childhood
that my friends and family helped me make.
But the first REAL movie I made was a short called Danny Boy. It
was a musical of sorts. And it was horrible! Haha! But it gave me a peek
at what filmmaking is really all about. Summer of 2008 I made a short film
based on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through
the Looking Glass. It's still on YouTube and has over 82,000 views.
After making that, I decided it was finally time to try making a full
length feature. Ascendancy was filmed in summer of 2010. It
was a religious movie that dealt with spiritual warfare. The premiere for
that really made waves, and I started to see how far Funuda Films
come and how far it would continue to go.
few words about your company Funuda Films?
It's small. About 20 people so far at its core. I
am at the head of it. "Funuda" is a word that my sister made up
when we were trying to decide on a company name many years ago. It's stuck
projects you'd like to talk about?
I had wanted to make a film adaptation of the
classic novel Dorian Gray. It would be a much more faithful
adaptation than the ones that already exist. But period pieces are very
expensive, and I don't think we could afford to do it... yet. So with that
on the back burner, it's free game. I have lots of possibilities swimming
in my head right now, but nothing definite. At least, not until we come to
a descision as a team. Rest assured, Funuda Films will be back...
I absolutely love Tim Burton (don't judge!) - I know
he's become a sort of brand name, and I have to admit that some of his
recent stuff is not so great. But movies like Edward
Scissorhands, Big Fish, and Nightmare Before Christmas shaped who I am today. Not only as a
person, but also as a director. Classic Disney films are of course a
favorite as well. I really admire M Night Shymalan's work (with the
exception of The Last Airbender - my sister and I are very
serious about our love of the animated series, and that movie just... it
was painful). I know his name is usually followed by a resounding
"booooo!!!!" noise, but I don't care. There is something about
his filmmaking style that stirs something in me. Lord knows I love me some
Kung Fu cinema. Others who inspire me are Hayao Miyazaki, Peter Jackson,
Darren Aronofsky and Alfonso Cuarón. The list is really long.
Your favourite movies?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Mirrormask, Crouching Tiger Hidden
Alice in Wonderland (Disney), Lord of the Rings trilogy,
Howl's Moving Castle,
Perfume: Story of a Murderer, Mary Poppins, Donnie
and of course, films you really deplore?
The Last Airbender, Daredevil,
Madagascar, The Notebook, Cars, Tales of
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
is existent, but is still in the
beginning stages. We also have a Facebook page and a YouTube channel - both
under Funuda Films, of course.
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Nope, I think I have blabbed enough, hahaha! Thanks
for the interview.
Thank you for the interview!