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An Interview with Luke Meneok, Director of Blackbags

by Mike Haberfelner

May 2013

Films directed by Luke Meneok on (re)Search my Trash

 

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

 

Drug trafficking, police corruption, abductions. Masked villains running amok and creating civil unrest. It's kind of a satire.

 

How did the project come together in the first place, and what can you tell us about your collaboration with David Kolenski, who wrote, co-produced and starred in Blackbags?

 

In a nutshell, Blackbags is just a crazy manifestation of all the urban/hip hop, comic book, and horror culture sensationalism I've been exposed to throughout my life. Once upon a time, David Kolenksi and I met in a band that went nowhere fast, but we became friends and continued hanging out afterward. We had our own twisted senses of humour, and “blackbag” was one of the many slang terms we used – as in, “you're gonna get blackbagged and thrown in a trunk, if you go walkin' home that shitfaced by yourself.” What followed was a bit of a domino effect. At the time, I was recording a lot of songs for my musical project, 13 Bags of Dick, and had an electronic dance beat that was missing lyrics and vocals. Since Kolenski was the vocalist of the band we were in, I would occasionally feature him on 13 Bags songs, and we ended up turning that phrase into the hook for this beat. He came up with a concept for a brief accompanying video, which would be him driving around, abducting some random girl off the street and throwing her in the trunk. He bugged me for years to produce this, until I finally caved back in late-2010. But I had my own ideas. If I was going to be involved, it had to be bigger than simply what was proposed, so Kolenski recruited some girls – who were surprisingly eager and willing – to be blackbagged. On top of that, I threw this sorta 'hood terrorist character, Ski Mask Guy, into the mix, which was a persona created by my friend, Dave Smith, for MC'ing 13 Bags shows. This, in turn, influenced the corrupt cop sub-plot. The project, more or less, ended up becoming 13 Bags of Dick: The Movie, in a sense: the Meathead character was named after one of Kolenski's stage names; a supporting character, based off our old live keyboard player's stage persona, pokes his out of the attic from time to time; Michael Adam (who played the corrupt cop, Bad Lieutenant James) was our long-time de facto roadie for live gigs. The two projects kinda came together as one messy multimedia experience.

 

The many aesthetic peculiarities of Blackbags, like the grainy black and white images or the constant zoom-ins and zoom-outs - was all of this planned from the start, or decided upon during the shoot or even in post?

 

The visual style was definitely planned. I imagined Blackbags coming to life in this gritty, black-and-white, noir world that I'd been experimenting with for many years prior. Until now, this particular style – the crazy zooms, et al – had mostly been used as an attempt to make my band rehearsal and gig videos look more interesting. So the ulterior motive of Blackbags was to showcase these little ideas, and this harsh, bleak, nightmare realm in which the movie is set.

 

So how would you describe your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

One word: free-ballin'. I decided to go unscripted. I had the basic plot and action worked out, but the dialogue was completely ad-libbed. That might seem like a pretty dangerous move, but I feel when you're just making a movie with your friends in your spare time that it's easier to improvise, instead of forcing them to try acting out scripted lines. The performances are more natural, and things are more flexible for everyone to work comfortably in their own styles. So far, everyone seems to be having a good time, so I guess that counts for something.

 

Please do talk about your cast for a bit, and why exactly these people?

 

The Daves were obviously in it because they created their characters, and I knew they could deliver what was required. I just sorta had Mikey in mind for the Bad Lieutenant James role because he's enough of a weirdo to play a strung-out douchebag corrupt cop, and I could see him in my mind in the shabby suit and tie and hat. And because I wouldn't have to pay him. Same for the abductees. They were just Kolenski's friend's younger sister (Melissa Doctor) and her friend (Alexa Slavin), who both wanted to be “blackbagged” in the movie. I value that kind of enthusiasm, and reward it by allowing the enthusiastic party to be in my shitty movie. It all ended up working out, though. At the time, we all had pretty flexible schedules, so it didn't take a lot of planning to get everyone together for their scenes – a problem I had faced commonly in the past.

 

What can you tell us about the actual shoot, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

It was unscripted, as I mentioned before, so you can imagine the on-set atmosphere was fairly casual. Everyone pretty much knew each other already, so the chemistry was good. The lighting was all natural, since it was mostly shot in the city at night or indoors. I wanted to genuinely capture that gritty darkness of the nocturnal urban core.

 

What can you tell us about critical and audience reception of your film so far?

 

It's been generally well-received, despite its limited release. But it's an indie movie, and an homage to bad, weird, low-budget cult movies from the drive-in and VHS eras, so not everybody is going to appreciate that. However, there was a nice little review of it on Fangoria.com, after one of their writers caught the premiere screening. I thought that was pretty cool, anyway. But I only recently made it available to view publicly online, and it was officially released on home video at the London (Ontario) Shockstock convention, back in April (as a VHS split release available through Candle Flame Films). So not a lot of people have had the chance to see it yet, outside of a couple local screenings. I have submitted it to a handful of indie festivals, but I'm holding out for something a little bigger down the road...

 

Any future projects beyond Blackbags?

 

A prequel/follow-up, entitled the Art of the Wushu, is currently in the editing stages. It will focus on the Meathead character's origin, and is a bit more occult-based. There is also another prequel/follow-up in the works, which will be Ski Mask Guy's origin story. Well, some of it, anyway. We have a lot of ideas for Ski Mask Guy that go way beyond Blackbags – or that we just didn't get to use – and are working on developing a separate pilot movie and TV series for his character. There was even talk of potentially producing some webisodes in the near future. And I plan on mashing up Blackbags, Wushu, and the 3rd Ski Mask Guy origin chapter to make one big, ugly beast of a movie.

 

What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?

 

I didn't go to film school or anything like that. I've just been a movie geek for as long as I can remember, carrying on a family legacy of movie geekery. I grew up an only-child, so my imagination was all over the place. I was extremely creative, always writing or drawing or acting out the ideas in my head with my action figures and Lego. I'd always taken a sort of cinematic approach to my storytelling, and eventually began writing screenplays during my early teens. Although, it wasn't until I enrolled in a broadcasting media course during the last half of high school, that I finally got to mess around with video cameras and start making short films. From there, I saved up over that following summer and bought a really nice Sony camcorder, then went forth with the help of the internet.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Blackbags?

 

There isn't much to tell. I was briefly in an episode of Creepy Canada, I made bullshit little short films with my friends during high school and intermittently over the years that followed. Nothing major though, or anything that anyone's seen. 2006 was when I first started experimenting with this weird visual style. But then I went on a hiatus from about 2007 or so until 2010, when I was hired by ImageFM.ca as the main camera operator for their live concert webcasts. I was beginning to develop longer and more elaborate concepts, and it was becoming harder to get my friends together in one place to shoot a scene in our spare time. Blackbags is the first complete movie project over five minutes that I've actually taken (somewhat) seriously – as in, trying to make it look a little more like art and less like a home movie – and where everyone involved showed a dedicated and valiant effort until the job was done. I've also acted in a few productions by another local independent filmmaker, Eves Raja (Orok/Siberian Films). One of my musical projects, Swords of Texas, made a cameo appearance in his latest release, First We Take Hamilton..., and recorded an original song for the soundtrack.

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

I could turn a crack rock into a motherfuckin' mountain... I dunno. I wouldn't. I even hate filling in bios and stuff like that on social networking sites.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

To name a few, in no particular order: Tarantino, John Carpenter, the Coen brothers, Torin Langin (Candle Flame Films) [Torin Langen interview - click here], the Soska twins [Soska twins interview - click here], David Fincher, Jim Jarmusch, Chris Nolan, Kubrick, John Woo in his Hong Kong days, Scorcese, Walter Hill, Alex Cox [Alex Cox bio - click here], Kevin Smith, Marc Gatschner, John McTiernan, Wes Anderson, David Lynch. Pekinpah, I guess, to some extent. I'm naming a lot of obvious ones, but forgetting many others. A guy named Alvin Ecarma (Unearthed Films) made a shot-on-video indie picture back in the early 2000's, called Lethal Force, which was a huge inspiration after I learned about it through [obscure movie review site] Teleport City. Robert Rodriguez was also pretty inspiring, earlier in his career – especially his book, Rebel Without a Crew, which is a journal he kept while developing and producing El Mariachi.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

I always hate being asked this question. Especially because I go through phases with movies, like I'll see one for the first time and watch the shit out of it, then forget about it for a while until I re-discover it later. Or movies I used to watch a long time ago will suddenly come to mind and I'll watch the shit out of those. But for a large chunk of my life, I can say Fight Club and Pulp Fiction were tied for the all-time favourite spot. No Country for Old Men is pretty fucking amazing. Training Day is just awesome. Boogie Nights is a classic. I feel like I can say Goodfellas is on the list. The Dragnet adaptation/spoof with Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd is a classic. The Undertaker and His Pals is one of my favourite B-movies, and Army of Darkness is pretty high up there, too. I always liked that one over the other Evil Dead-films. I can't count how many times I've seen Big Trouble in Little China since I was a kid, and it features Kurt Russell's best role, next to Death Proof. I'm gonna stop there, 'cause I could go on about this for days. Or pages, in this case. And it often just ends up becoming a list of recommendations.

 

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

 

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I would recommend avoiding Prometheus. I genuinely feel like they committed theft by making people pay to see that movie. I dunno, I guess I have to get into the habit of not bashing other people's movies, though. So, I think I should start here. Except for Prometheus. That shit was pointless. Fuck Hollywood, sometimes.

 

Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

Watch Blackbags on Distrify: http://muvi.es/w4078
Blackbags on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Blackbags-the-movie/354857944537146?ref=ts&fref=ts
Video McNasties on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/VideoMcNasties?fref=ts

 

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

 

People reading this: Watch my movie! On another note, I'd let you twist my arm into letting you financially back me, if you've got money. I prefer cash.

 

Thanks for the interview!

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... 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

 

 

Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...

 

Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!

 

Bauliche Angelegenheiten
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Michael Haberfelner

 

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