Your new movie Dr.
Cheapskate - in a few words, what is it about?
about a lonely, frugal guy who got screwed over in a divorce and is pushed
by his friend to start dating again.
any of Dr. Cheapskate
based on personal experiences, and to what extent can you identify with
Dana (or any of the other characters, actually)? And your personal
thoughts about your local dating scene?
it was based on some personal experiences. After my divorce it took me
some time to start dating again. When I moved to Austin, I didn’t know
anyone. Like in Dr. Cheapskate, I ran into a friend from school that I
hadn’t seen in a long time. The guy I ran into was Scott Dean (Dr.
Cheapskate’s friend Beau in the movie). Hadn’t seen or spoken to Scott
since we went to school together twenty years ago. We became good friends
and started hitting the Austin social scene, which is really young. Being
in our forties, we often felt out of place. Like old creepy guys. So we
tried online dating and would debate about what to put on our profiles.
What pictures to use. What to say. How much to say. And on actual dates, I
stopped giving handshake greetings and went with the hug-hello. As to
Austin’s dating scene it is great, but definitely better for people in
their twenties and thirties. But that’s probably every city. Haha.
of inspiration when writing Dr.
I have an uncle
who’s a retired anesthesiologist and pretty thrifty. Super nice guy.
I’m pretty sure he has clothes from the 70’s. Saves everything. My
aunt has to throw things out when he’s out of the house. Secret dumpster
Do talk about Dr. Cheapskate's
brand of humour for a bit!
it’s not yuck, yuck funny. And doesn’t have a ton of jokes. More
situational humour. There’s a scene in the movie when he negotiates at a
donation center over the price of a toaster. I actually bought a lot of
our props from Goodwill. And gave them back. However, I returned the
toaster too soon, forgetting that we had another scene with it. So I went
back and bought another toaster from Goodwill and negotiated the price
down a couple bucks because it had a scratch on it. They gave me the
discount. But I donated it back to them after shooting the scene.
Was all the dialogue in Dr. Cheapskate
acutally scripted, or did some of it develop on the spot?
was scripted. I’m sure there were lines of dialogue that developed on
the spot, but nothing that stands out that I can remember.
What can you tell us about your
directorial approach to your story at hand?
The learn-as-you-go approach. It was my first time
directing. Helps being the writer because I know exactly what I want from
each scene. The actors all did a great job of giving honest performances,
which I loved. And Michael Rodgers, the cinematographer, was very helpful
with the composition of shots.
terms of directing style, I have a gentle, encouraging approach. That
being said, we were running way behind at a couple of locations when we
were on borrowed time and rushing shots. At one location when someone
spoke in the middle of a scene I yelled, “Quiet on the set!” Turned
out it was a guy delivering pizza. Everyone talked about that—my dark
side. Jason, the yeller. And our sound guy, David Riffey, and the cast,
got a real kick out of me yelling, “Michael!” whenever he needed to do
another lens change. So I’d do that sometimes for laughs. And Michael
knew it was in good fun.
You have to talk about your key cast, and why exactly these
cast my friend Scott because he’s hilarious, confident, and fearless.
Knew he’d be great and he was. Met Ray Rosales (Dr. Cheapskate) at a
business networking event where he had “Actor” on his nametag. He
auditioned and beat out a lot of people. For the antagonist, we had gone
through a bunch of people and weren’t crazy about anyone. Thinking
we’d have to do another round of auditions. Andrew Key was our last person
to audition for that role. He came in wearing a tank top and flip-flops
and gave a great read. And the guy couldn’t be any better looking. Over
time, the rest of the cast and crew started having body image issues after
being around Andrew so much. Our DP Michael would always say, “Andrew,
you’re so easy to light.” And
Ray would tell Michael, “You never say that to me.”
What can you tell us about the shoot as such,
and the on-set atmosphere?
shot eighteen days over weekends, taking about a year to finish the shoot.
On-set atmosphere was positive and fun. We had a small cast and crew, with
everyone chipping in with everything.
So we all became pretty close. For a majority of the days we shot,
we had a crew of three: our DP/lighting guy, our sound guy, and our helper
with everything else: Jordan Gass-Poore’.
She’s a trooper, for sure.
The $64 question of course,
when and where will your movie be released onto the general public?
an answer I wish I had. I’d even pay more than sixty-four bucks for it.
We’re trying to find distribution. We’re hoping that after our
festival run we can create some buzz and find distribution. If we don’t,
we’ll self-distribute through an aggregator to get on iTunes, Amazon,
and other VOD services. If your readers want to find out when, they can
join our Dr. Cheapskate
Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/dr.cheapskate/
future projects you'd like to share?
another feature over weekends starting this fall. It’s called Tag Team
Truckers. It’s about a twenty-something who’s kind of a dreamer. He
can’t keep a job and is trying to figure out what he wants to do for a
living. He sees an ad for team trucking, where two people work for a
trucking company and travel together. He has to convince his
straight-laced brother to do it with him. But first they try another job
together to see if they won’t kill each other.
You entered the
filmworld as a writer, right? So what made you become a screenwriter in
the first place, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?
right. It was on a whim that I got into screenwriting. I’ve always loved
movies. Someone I worked with told me she took this screenwriting class
with this amazing teacher, Chris Canaan, at UCLA. And he is amazing. Chris
was complementary of my work and really encouraged me to keep at it. My
first screenplay, Notch 22, which I wrote in his class, was a finalist in
a contest out of over 4,100 scripts. And another guy, Oliver Tatom, who I
met in that first UCLA class, worked as a reader at Fox Studios. He liked
my work and was extremely generous reading and giving notes on so many
drafts of the first six or seven scripts I wrote. Took more classes, and
eventually enrolled and graduated from UCLA’s Professional Program in
Screenwriting. After a decade,
with ten more scripts under my belt, and no agent or manager, I decided to
leave LA and move to Austin.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Dr. Cheapskate?
was a co-writer and co-producer on a couple of creature features, Axe
Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan, which premiered on SyFy Channel, and
Burning Dead, with Danny Trejo. Both
films were with writer/producer Jeff Miller, who gave me my first shot. It
was so exciting being a part of a movie that’s actually getting made.
All those years of scripts never seeing the light of day. To see an actor
say a line of your dialogue is pretty cool.
far as I know, you've also written a couple of young adult novels - so
please talk about those!
Yeah, the book writing was kind of random, too. My
former screenwriting teacher told me he was starting to write books
because it’s so hard to get a script read by anyone. And for it to
actually go anywhere. He suggested that I write a book. So I did. I turned
a TV pilot I wrote into a young adult novel: Covert Youth Agency. It’s
about an elite group of nerds who fight injustices in high school. The
advanced placement A-Team.
I queried about twenty agents in New York. I got one
within a month of those queries. I was shocked. I was thinking, man I’ve
been writing scripts for ten years without getting an agent. Write one
book - boom, an agent. I got notes from a lady at Harper Collins: Loved the
story, loved the characters, the way the plot moved, BUT it reads too much
like a screenplay - which it did. She gave me another chance at a re-write.
But nope, still passed.
another book called, Debugging Tori Redding, a YA book about a girl who is
gifted and cursed with a
photographic memory after an incident that happens in a dentist’s chair.
She uses her skills to help her detective father solve a missing
person’s case. The last book I wrote, The Sext Crime, is book 2 of the
Covert Youth Agency series, and probably the best in terms of my novel
writing skills. Still plenty of room for improvement. Ended up
self-publishing them all since my agent at the publishing company was gone
and the new agent didn’t want to pick me up. Back to no agent. Square
What urged you to pick up
directing eventually, and could you ever be persuaded to direct another
I started directing because I
wanted to make sure the story I wrote is told in the way I had envisioned
it. I’ve heard horror stories from seasoned, successful writers, who
talked about how directors change the script so much, along with
producers, and sometimes actors. Unweaving the narrative of their stories.
Sometimes changing it to the point where they don’t even want their
names on the script. I love
writing, but there’s a lot of alone time. Directing allows you to be
with people. And to be playing in the world you create. I love directing
but doubt anyone would ask me since I’ve only directed one feature,
which was crazy low budget. Since no one’s asking, I’m going to direct
the next one I’m producing: Tag Team Truckers.
How would you describe yourself as a director?
I want my movies to be thought of in terms of story. Won’t be any
signature shots or anything like that. I’ll never be any kind of
technical visionary. Want to tell an entertaining story in an honest way.
Like to think I’m caring and inclusive. Want everyone on set to feel
appreciated and part of the team. And consider everyone as equals.
writers, whoever else who inspire you?
John Hughes, Harold
Ramis, Judd Apatow, Mark and Jay Duplass, Robert Rodriguez,
Ed Burns, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and all the people
fighting to make it, all of us unknowns, spending all our free time
pursuing an endeavor with passion, against all odds.
Man, so many.
Shawshank Redemption, Dumb and Dumber, Ground Hog Day, The
Breakfast Club, Star Wars, The Godfather, American Beauty, Breakfast at
Tiffany’s, Amelie, Vacation, The Bourne Identity, Old School, The
Hangover, Usual Suspects, Animal House, Casablanca.
... and of course, films you really deplore?
a sensitive person I have a hard time being critical of other people’s
work. I’d make the worst critic. I
will say that I hate reality shows, especially the Real Housewives
of ... name any city.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
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you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
forward to seeing the progress of your movie, Michael - There’s No Such
Thing As Zombies. Thank you so much for your review and interview. Really
for the interview!