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An Interview with Jeff Nimoy, Director and Star of Fame-ish

by Mike Haberfelner

May 2020

Jeff Nimoy on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Fame-ish - in a few words, what is it about?

 

I play a fictional version of myself, as do many in the cast, like Larry David does in Curb Your Enthusiasm. So the character Jeff Nimoy is a washed-up voice director who goes to his first anime convention in 10 years, and he starts to succumb to the pitfalls of being a celebrity at an anime convention, and he finds love in all the right and wrong places.

 

The film is quite obviously about you - but to what extent is it actually based on your autobiography and own first hand experiences?

 

Haha! People keep asking me, “Did that REALLY happen??!!!” No. It didn’t. Haha! I would say about 15% is actually true, and all the rest is based on my experiences at conventions and in life that I heightened by fictionalizing them.

 

Other sources of inspiration when writing Fame-ish?

 

My favorite movie is It’s A Wonderful Life, and you can see the obvious influence towards the end of the film. I also wanted it to feel in style and tone a lot like Jason Reitman films, specifically Up in the Air and Juno. He’s one of my favorite directors!

 

Now for those uninitiated, do talk about anime convention circuit in general for a bit, what are these conventions like, and do you attend many of them?

 

It is a romantic comedy that happens to take place at an anime convention, but you don’t need to know a thing about anime or cons to enjoy it. That being said, anime fans and people who attend cons will connect with this on a much deeper level because they’re more familiar with the setting. I don’t do a lot of explaining, I just show the convention, and make explanations when I feel the general audience might need this info to understand the plot. You don’t need to have heard me as Nicholas D. Wolfwood in Trigun, I just show it, and the audience understands this is a popular character I played in the past. Pre-quarantine, I did several cons a year as a guest.

 

Fame-ish was actually shot during two conventions if I got that right - so what were the challenges of shooting with a convention underway, and how appreciative were the convention organizers of your efforts?

 

The conventions gave us unbelievable support to help make Fame-ish. Our day 1 shoot was at Anime Los Angeles, in Ontario, CA. Some fans knew we would be there, and they joined in as extras gladly! Then in Madison, WI we got the royal treatment from Geek.Kon! The staff was incredible. I gave everyone a credit at the end of the movie too, they deserved it! The Madison Marriott West even gave us free rein to shoot, and also offered their hotel staff to assist us. The access was incredible. And the Geek.Kon fans flocked to become extras in the film, and they were incredible!!!! For them, it was a different experience to be in an actual film as part of the con’s programming. I think we were the highlight of the con for fans for sure.

 

What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

Directing and producing were sort of intertwined for me on this project. I took a year off to make it, because the planning was extensive. Because we were limited by time, money, and people everywhere, I had our schedule timed out to the minute! It was run and gun the whole time we were at the convention, because we had so many factors to consider to get each shot. We had to improvise with our shot choices quite a bit, but we expected that.

 

You also play the lead/yourself in the movie - and this might sound stupid, but what did you draw upon to bring yourself to life, and how much of the real you can we find in the film you? And while we're at it, have you ever considered someone else playing you, or have you written yourself with yourself in mind from the get-go?

 

So, I never felt like I was playing myself. I always considered him a character that just happened to be named Jeff Nimoy. The character’s personality was mostly based on rumors that have surrounded me personally throughout the years. But as I said earlier, it’s only about 15% true, and the rest I greatly exaggerated.

 

As far as having someone else play the lead, it’s a complicated answer. You see, in 2017 I survived brain surgery. I don’t recommend everyone getting a brain tumor, but I recommend everyone surviving one, because it changes your whole perspective on life, and also moves your bucket list up significantly! And number one on my bucket list was to make a live-action movie (as opposed to animation, where I have spent most of my career). So Fame-ish wasn’t necessarily the movie I wanted to make, but it was a movie I was able to make! By tapping into my celebrity, I knew I could get an insane amount of production value for free, like a hotel, a convention, and thousands of cosplaying extras! So I wrote Fame-ish to be filmed at that specific location. If I cast someone else in the lead, then I would have had to rely on another actor to get the crazy amounts of footage we needed in just 6 days (we could’ve used 3 weeks!). No offense to other actors, I just couldn’t take the risk that something would go wrong (actor doesn’t know lines, or gets sick, or a million other things that could come up). And I knew I wasn’t going to embarrass myself, I’ve been acting for a long time, and I have a BFA degree in Acting from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

 

What did it actually feel like playing yourself, and not the most flattering version of yourself at that?

 

Ha! Again, I never felt it was me, just a character named Jeff Nimoy. Yes, our backstories are eerily similar, but it wasn’t me, it was a character I was playing. People kept saying to me, “This is so brave of you, to show yourself in such a bad light,” but I never felt that way. As a writer, I gave the character an arc, and if he’s gonna be likable at the end when I want the audience to be rooting for him, then he has to start off as a guy who needed to change. And boy, did the fictional Jeff Nimoy need to change by the end of the movie! Haha!

 

Do talk about the rest of your key cast, and why exactly these people?

 

Lex Lang was the first to sign on, and once he did, I knew the rest of the cast would fill out nicely. Lex is not just a meditation teacher, he’s been my buddy since 1996, and one of the most talented people I’ve ever met in my life. His contributions were enormous, adding a ton of suggestions to the script and the shoot! I needed someone physically bigger than me because we confront each other in the film a little, so Lex was on a short list of actors I considered. But his positive and loving energy shined through, and the perfect cast followed. Brian Donovan is the nicest guy in the world, but having directed him many times, I knew as an actor he could play a bad guy perfectly. And for a “bad guy”, the audience roots for him at one point more than they root for me! Nikki Boyer, who is so sweet and gorgeous (it was no problem falling in love with her on screen), was also someone I directed before in the recording booth, and the only one in the cast who has a thriving on-camera career. I was so lucky she agreed to do this. Allison Powell, who plays my con handler, steals the movie as Bobbi! She is an extremely talented actor/writer/director/producer herself. I saw her in a staged reading and she was wearing a Star Wars Nerd t-shirt, and I thought, “That’s Bobbi!” Jonathan Fahn, who plays the con chair is a member of the talented and famous Fahn family, and he’s like a brother to me. He’s also an accomplished director, which helped me since I couldn’t see myself while acting! And Margo Graff, who plays Lana, the cosplaying fan obsessed with me, I met by accident in my neighborhood, and it turned out to be one of the most fortunate accidental friendships in my life. I hope this launches a huge on-camera career for her, she lights up the screen!

 

A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

It was the feel good shoot of the summer! Although not without its issues, like any set. We were extremely pressurized to get all the footage we needed in 6 days (no retakes because when the con ends, it ends!). We were fighting time, money, programming, hotel check-out times, fans everywhere, etc. So there were times I yelled like a tyrant trying to herd cats, but I warned everyone before we started I would do that and that it’s not personal, I’m just trying to get the shot. We were like a family, and we were all in tears as we left the Madison crew to head back to LA. We’ll all be forever linked through this movie and the experience we shared making it.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Fame-ish?

 

I definitely wanted to put enough anime references in to entertain the anime audience, but not too many that it gets in the way of an average rom-com fan. And from your review and others, I think we pulled it off! The reviews have been incredible so far, and we hope that it will drive this little film to reach a much bigger audience!

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

Well, I just voiced some of my old characters and adapted the script for the new Digimon Adventure Last Evolution Kiruna, which I think fans will love. Other than that, I’d love to direct another movie, but maybe with a decent budget this time! Haha!

 

What got you into acting in the first place, and voice acting at that, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?

 

As I mentioned, I went to NYU to study acting. Voice acting happened by accident. I was in an improv comedy show where I was doing a ton of different voices, and in 1994 a producer saw it and hired me to join the cast of The Mutant League, an animated series based on the video game. I never looked back since!

 

You've eventually also expanded into voice direction and scripting - so how did that come about?

 

I co-created a show for Fox Kids called Chimp Lips Theater, and there was no budget for a writer or director, so I did it myself. Haha! But I always wanted to be a live-action film writer/director.

 

What can you tell us about your film, TV and voice work prior to Fame-ish?

 

My career is no secret at this point. I voice-directed some of anime’s biggest titles like Digimon, Naruto, and Bleach. I also voiced many anime characters like Trigun’s Wolfwood. Anime is what I’ll always be remembered for, unless Fame-ish becomes popular. Please share and make it popular!!! Haha.

 

How does voice acting compare to acting in front of a camera, and which do you prefer, actually?

 

Voice acting is a lot easier. No make-up, no costume, no props, and no lines to memorize! On camera acting is HARD! VO acting can be done in your pajamas (and often is). Any job that can be done in sleep wear is my kind of job.

 

How would you describe yourself as an actor, and some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?

 

On camera, be in the moment, listen, listen, listen, and then respond truthfully. For animation, I rely on what the character looks like for all my inspiration.

 

Actors, directors, whoever else who inspire you?

 

Woody, Tarantino, Mel Brooks, Sidney Lumet, Scorcese, Alexander Payne, Jason Reitman, Capra, Kazan, the directors I admire is too long to list. I put a lot of tributes to people and shows that inspired me in Fame-ish. I flat out stole lines from Woody Allen, Seinfeld, Animal House, Mel Brooks, and Mad Men (just to name a few) in the script. I figured, if this is my only film, I want to put as many tribute to my influences in there as I can. I love easter eggs in movies, and Fame-ish is chock-full of them.

 

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It’s a Wonderful Life, Pulp Fiction, The Godfather, Star Wars, just to name a small few. I have seen almost everything!

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

You actually learn a lot from bad movied as well as good movies! I’m not a fan of big sweeping English epics. That’s all I’ll say. Haha.

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

www.fame-ish-movie.com, where you can read more of the backstory of how the movie came about.

Twitter is @jeffnimoy

Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/fameishmovie/

And you can buy or rent the movie on almost any platform: 

DIGITAL - •iTunes •Amazon Prime Video •Google Play •Playstation •Xbox •VUDU •FandangoNOW •Vimeo On Demand •YouTube

CABLE/SATELLITE - •iN Demand Movies EST •AT&T •Vubiquity •Dish •Telus •YouTube

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

No spoilers in the reviews from now on!! Lol! Thanks for your review, I really appreciate you not only seeing it, but writing about it. Thanks! I would also like to say that in a way, Fame-ish is a love letter to anime fans, and I think we will move forward with a lot of love for each other after they see this movie.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
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Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
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... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD