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An Interview with Mark Baranowski

by Dale Pierce

February 2006

For films directed by Mark Baranowski
on (re)Search my Trash
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1. You have spent several years in indie film. Where is your company located and when was it formed ?


My company - On Mark Productions - is located in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was formed in late 2001. It was at this time that I made my first film, Despair. The name actually came from a close friend and former business partner in the late 90ís, when we were trying to decide what to call our indie record label. Since we were releasing not only my music but his as well, I didnít think it was the right time to focus so much on the Mark aspect of it. Once that partnership had dissolved, however, I finally decided to adopt the name.


2. What have been some of your productions ?


My entire film catalog consists of Despair (2001), Ryli Morgan: Audition (2002), Runaway Terror (2002), Expendable (2003), Sin By Murder (2004), The Powerful Play (2004), and Heaven Help Me, Iím In Love (2005). In between Runaway Terror and Expendable was a film called The Zombie Room, of which I shot a few hours worth of footage but then realized I'd made a poor casting decision and scrapped the project. A rough cut of that footage can be found on The Powerful Play DVD.


3. Do you have a web page ?


Indeed Ö is the official Mark Baranowski/On Mark Productions site, which provides plenty of details about everything Iíve worked on over the past 15 years or so. Most of this stuff can be ordered directly from the site.


4. What is the latest production you have done ?


Heaven Help Me, Iím In Love is my latest release, which I completed in September í05. Obviously, itís quite unlike my earlier films, though itís my favorite (and the most personal) of the bunch. A romantic dramedy, it tells of a guy who foolishly tries to deceive his girlfriend because heís too stubborn to obey her. It doesnít work, and she dumps him. He rebounds, thus making his situation even worse, until finally realizing how important she is to him, and he tries to win her heart back before itís too late.


5. Now you have acted some, but tend to prefer directing and producing, right ?


At this point, Iím not so sure. Handling nearly every task in creating my films has burned me out a bit, and itíd be nice not to worry about anything but playing a character for a change. Iíve acted in all my films as well, and itís only been stressful because I was directing at the same time. I made a brief cameo appearance in Amy Lynn Bestís 2003 film, Severe Injuries, and I had a blast. Once the scene was over, so were my duties, in general - a refreshing and welcome change.


6. You are married to an actress ?


Quite proudly ! Ryli Morgan ( has been my wife for over five years, and the star of each of my productions.


7. Do you have a personal preference for horror or is this simply an easy market on the indie scene ?


For some reason, weíve been best appreciated by horror audiences, yet I donít think any of our films fall into that category. Expendable might, since it deals with vampires, but that isnít made obvious until the last 10 minutes of the film. In any case, that one is still our best seller to date.

I do believe that horror is the easiest market on the indie scene. Where distribution is concerned, it's probably the only genre that donít require a big name actor. All you need nowadays is an attractive (and generally mindless) cast, as much nudity as possible, and lots of gore. Iíve been a horror fan all my life, but I can barely sit through any of the latest horror releases. Ryli enjoys renting them, but Iíd much rather stick to 70ís and 80ís fare, especially the Italian stuff.


8. Your productions tend to have good film scores. This seems to be a rarity within the indie cycles ...


First of all, thank you! Occasionally, youíll come across an indie film with a great score, but very seldom. It seems that most filmmakers consider it more effective to create a soundtrack consisting of several loud/obnoxious indie (i.e. unknown) bands, rather than taking the timeóand spending the moneyóto come up with an original and fitting score. Iíd guess that the majority of these bands arenít offered payment for the usage of their music, but they allow it simply for the thrill of hearing themselves in a film. Being a musician myself, Iím fortunate enough to be able to create my own scores, although Iíve also relied on the immense talents of such folks as Ollie Olsen (Third Eye, Max Q) and Dubok for some supplemental material.


9. A lot of your film scores sound like something from Goblin and Dario Argento. A coincidence or do you just like that style ?


Goblin is definitely a major influence, since Argento's films are among my favorites of the horror genre. John Carpenter's scores have also been a great inspiration to me. Overall, though, I try to maintain a vibe similar to most of Michael Mannís productions - Miami Vice, Manhunter, Heat, etc. The music used in his films plays just as important a role as their human characters, and it creates an amazing atmosphere that Iíve yet to see duplicated as effectively by any other filmmaker. Itís important to me to bring at least a fraction of that style into the indie arena.


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10. Who, aside from your wife, are some of the actors and actresses you have used ?


For the most part, I try to rely on local (North Carolina) talent, which generally makes a production run more smoothly. I also like to bring back certain actors that Iíve enjoyed working with on a previous film, knowing I can fully depend on them and expect a great performance. For instance, Michael Hicks (Sin By Murder, The Powerful Play, Heaven Help Me Iím In Love) is a fellow Charlotte resident who Iíve come to rely on whenever I have a new project in the works Ö Jennifer Calhoun (Sin By Murder) was a nice surprise; a first-time actress whoíd just been featured in the magazines FHM and Hustler. Although she seemed a bit nervous at first, she soon warmed up to her role and did a great job Ö An out-of-town (Ohio) actress whoís become almost as important to my films as Ryli or myself is Rachelle Williams. Sheís been in every one since Expendable, and I canít imagine making any more without her Ö Iíve also had the enormous pleasure of working with two genre favorites: Brinke Stevens (Expendable, The Powerful Play, Heaven Help Me Iím In Love) and Lynn Lowry (Heaven Help Me, Iím In Love). These experiences were undoubtedly among the high points of my career thus far, and I hope to work with both again.


11. What are your interests away from the film world ?


Iíve been working on a novel for the past couple months, but because my schedule is so unpredictable, itís been hard to focus on it for very long. I enjoy photography, drawing charcoal portraits, and just spending time with Ryli. The past four years have flown right by, and I feel like much of that time was wasted, where our relationship is concerned. I may not be able to get those years back, but instead of keeping my attention focused constantly on films, itís now mostly on her, where it always should have been. This business can wreak havoc on a relationship if youíre not careful. Always keep your priorities in order.


12. Any interesting stories to tell from behind the scenes about your involvement in indie film ?


Quite honestly, I never intended to make films of my own - indie, or otherwise. Iíve always been most comfortable as a writer, and I envisioned myself becoming an author one day. At the same time, films nurtured my imagination as a child, and later inspired me to try my hand at writing my own. While still a screenwriter trying to get my work optioned, many people recommended that I become a producer and shoot the scripts myself. I didnít heed their advice initially, but after two years and still no script sales, I finally became frustrated and desperate enough to go for it. Iíve never had any formal filmmaking training, but I believe trial and error is a much more effective teaching tool than a classroom.

Since Iím both a perfectionist and extremely impatient when it comes to others handling any given task for me, it was only natural that with each film I tackle so many duties (funding, writing, directing, shooting, editing, scoring, packaging, marketing) myself. As exhausting as this can become, Iíve grown accustomed to working this way. I guess it makes me a ďcontrol freak.Ē In any case, the tremendous satisfaction that comes with taking a film from conception to completion yourself makes the entire process worthwhile.


13. Anything else you would like to touch on before closing ?


I suppose I should mention that we just released a Special Edition DVD of Heaven Help Me, Iím In Love, which includes over 30 minutes of outtakes, a slideshow and two interviews; one with Lynn Lowry, another that Ryli and I did with one of the co-stars of the film, Nic Pesante. Also, Ryli and I will be appearing at It Came From Lake Michigan! film fest in Racine, Wisconsin (Oct. 20-22, 2006). Be sure to check out their site,, and mark your calendars! We hope to see you there Ö


14. Closing comments ?


The past four years have been incredible Ö Ryli and I have met and worked with many great people, and we hope to continue doing so for many years to come. Weíve been extremely fortunate ever since Despair, and itís all on account of loyal indie/horror fans. You guys (and girls) are the best. Thank you all for your support !


Thank you for the interview.


© by Dale Pierce

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