Your movie The Blackout
- in a few words, what is it about?
It's about a band of rocktards about to kick off a world
tour after signing their first big record deal with a major label. They throw
a party to celebrate only to wake up the next day with no memory, a missing
contract, and a dead body in the pool. As things continue to go south, they
figure out in short order the only way to remember the prior night's events is
through "state-dependent learning", in other words, they have to do
drink, smoke, snort, or pop whatever substance they were doing the night
before in order to get that piece of the night back into their memory and
figure out what the hell happened.
How did the project fall together in the first place, and how did
you get on board? And maybe related to that, what was your collaboration with your writers Scott
Rosa and Keith Brown like, especially since they also had their hands in
The project came together as the follow-up to a short film (Scavenger) I had produced/directed with the same group. And since we were
all still desperate, we (KB and I) decided to have a write-off to
determine which script we were gonna dump our collective tip money into
for a feature. I lost, which is weird because even I voted for his script
over mine. So his script is based on the concept that he and Scott came up
with. I was very attentive to the script phase, there were blowout
arguments, there was weepy reconciliation, and a touch of bromance before
the script finally got to where it was something I thought I could
execute. I loved collaborating with those guys because we all kind of
exist in the same creative headspace so it was usually just a matter of
pouring enough scotch to get us all on the same page.
Seriously, to what extent can you identify with/live the rockstar
lifestyle depicted in your movie?
None whatsoever. I'm a
straightedge. Well... I do drink my fair share (aged bourbon [Booker's
preferably], if you're in a mailing mood), but I had to rely heavily on KB
and Scott for the "lifestyle" research of the band members. I
actively avoid partying in general. I do, however, find that if you space
out 4-6 cocktails over the course of the day with at least an equivalent
amount of water (the regimen), you can still get the vast majority of your
work done, often more effectively.
How would you describe
your directorial approach to the subject at hand?
I wanted to allow the players to do their thing, since this is the
backbone of what I think is great about the picture, that they were all so
nut-crunching good in their respective roles, and use different
camerawork/special FX/visual FX devices to express the connection between
the lost memories from the night before with the particular situation they
found themselves in the day after, all while keeping in touch with the
visual and story motifs. A little handheld here... a doorway dolly shot
there... a giant one-shot follow into lead back into follow here... a live
couch fire there... and boom, we got something.
talk about The Blackout's
brand of humour for a bit, and also about your personal sense of humour?
is where KB's genius comes in, the guy has an endless supply of this crap.
And he's pushing it on me all the time. He has so much that it physically
exhausts you. And it has the secondary effect of rendering most other
people's humor inane. He's like the Einstein of microbudget raunch comedy
movie humor. Everybody knows it works, but nobody knows exactly how.
The Blackout, its basically: 4 parts college aged
male buffoonery, 1 part offbeat random riffery, 1 part Benny Hill sight
gaggery, and 1 part pothead smartassery.
My own personal humor veers to
the dryer side of the scale. I grew up loving that dry British humor, so
magnificently expressed in the modern by guys like Ricky Gervais, Eddie
Izzard, and Steve Carell. I think I always loved it because it seemed like
the "smart humor" and I was always the smartest guy in the room.
So... there's that.
have cast yourself as a sleazy A&R guy - so how much of Matt Hish can
we find in your character, and how much fun was it to play pretty much the
asshole of the piece?
Beg your pardon "sleazy",
"asshole"? Spencer is a realist and a professional. He knows
hack musicians when he sees them and he's not afraid to say so. He knows
how business is done and gold records are made. The great thing about
playing Spencer was that I just got to stay in character that I had been
working on since early high school.
Do talk about the rest of your
cast for a bit, and why exactly these people?
back row: Michael Graziadei, Flood Reed, John
front row: Scott Rosa
The why is
simply because the show was basically written for most of the main players
including Scott Rosa (as Eddie Mesmer, rhythm guitarist, star), Flood Reed
(as Toss Dunbar, drummer), Michael Graziadei (as Chas Knoppfler, lead
guitar/vocals), John Joyce (as Gunther Shea, bassist), the incredibly
talented Autumn Federici (as Jenny, Eddie's girlfriend) [Autumn
Federici interview - click here], and myself. But
along the way we picked up some other nut-kickers as well, including Tommy
Gatto (as Officer Collins), Jared Bonner (as Officer Kazansky), Kenneth
Michael Glass (as Chuck) and working actors David Barry Gray (as Reuben
Adler, record executive), Shanelle Gray (as Layla) and the delectable
Shane Lynch (as Beth, Toss' psycho girlfriend).
About the only player we
didn't know at the time of shooting was Jerrell Lee (as Filipino James,
pimp) but he might as well have written the role himself because he
crushed the nuts out of it. I would not hesitate to work with anyone of
these performers again. They all brought the HEAT, and embodied exactly
what I expected them to on the day. Especially me.
you tell us about the actual shoot, and the on-set atmosphere?
shoot was a mess, literally. It was a one-location shoot and because we
had to turn a single house in Beverly Hills into a rock band party house
and leave it like that for 2 weeks made for us collecting hundreds of
empty bottles of alcohol for props and set design, stacked on top of
trash, solo cups, paper plates, pool toys, toilet paper, broken furniture,
broken windows, furniture on the roof. The shoot was fast as hell too, we
only had 15 days to get it done. The atmosphere was a boozy blend of
raucous fun, desperate extras wrangling, balls-to-the-wall acting, deft
camera work, and constant stressed-out schedule re-configuring, all topped
off with many laughs between takes. It was easily the best time of my
life. I don't care what the rest of my employees said...
few words about critical and audience reception of your film so far?
whole thing was meant to be a grassroots-type film because we knew we
didn't have the name/budget power of larger productions, and so far most
of our grass is rooting for us. We've got a 70% user rating on RottenTomatoes.com. Obviously those people "get it". As for the
others - "I fart in you general direction!"
future projects you'd like to share?
As we speak I'm
delivering a horror/thriller called A Haunting of Innocence
that I directed back in May. It will be out on all the same digital, DVD,
and VOD platforms as The Blackout in January. I'm in
development on numerous other projects ranging from a Vietnam era biopic
to a dark comedy/action piece to a cop-spoof series all while keeping my
eye out for investors who wanna waste some money.
What got you into
directing in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on
No formal education whatsoever. The path I
followed was from model (I was a pretty big deal in South Texas) to
photographer (where I got my understanding of cameras and light) to
theater actor (in San Antonio where I went to college). My overwhelming
vanity forced me to move out to LA after college. Since elementary school
I had always written stuff here and there, so that led me to eventually
teach myself how to write poor screenplays once I got here to LA. And
eventually my frustration with the acting world out here led me to
finance/produce/direct/edit/star in a short film (Jawbone) to showcase my
acting (not sure to whom). It was on the set of Jawbone that I realized I
had a knack for directing. Sure enough it was Jawbone that caught the eye
of Scott Rosa when I screened it for a group of my co-workers at the time.
He ended up financing and starring in my next short film Scavenger, which KB also wrote, so that he could showcase his
acting. Long story short, it was ego that got me into directing, and
mediocre acting that kept me there.
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to The Blackout?
Regarding format, I've always shot digital, mostly for
economical reasons, and I imagine I'll continue to, especially after
seeing what cameras like the RED EPIC and the ARRI ALEXA can deliver. Like
I mentioned there were several shorts first, starting with Pull To
Stop, which was a short I co-directed/co-starred with Michael Zussman
way back when, then Jawbone, which was essentially my own
personal "film school" because I did everything on it from
writing (tips hat to Ronnie Koshaba), financing, producing, scheduling,
tranportation, lodging, budgets, craft-services, production design,
stunts, directing, and editing. At the time both of these held acting as
my foremost concern. When I did Scavenger, where Scott took
over the lead and I got to be more vision-focused, I was able to put more
energy into the total package of the film, and it shows. Much better
production value and more cohesive feel to it, plus I loved it. Once we
finished up our festival run with Scavenger I told the crew
(Scott/KB/Autumn) it was time to play with the big boys and make a
feature, which became The Blackout.
How would you describe yourself as a director?
coming from a school program and instead coming from "the
streets" of low budget do whatever it takes to get it done under
whatever conditions and budget and ime restrictions you're given while
you're figuring it out as you go because you've never done this before-filmmaking, I'd say I'm the kind of director who does more with less. I've
also always been such a fan of how the great indies think outside the box
when it comes to being creative in expressing something when you don't
have a studio budget. I'm also actor-oriented, for obvious reasons, so I
like players to play, that's when you get the best out of them.
who inspire you?
Mel Gibson, Michael Gondry, Danny Boyle,
Kubrick (obviously), Chris Nolan, Martin McDonagh,
El Mechri, Ben Stiller, Adam McKay, Tomas Alfredson, Nicolas Winding Refn,
Fincher, Tarantino, Aaronofsky, are ones that just popped into my head,
there's many others.
Your favourite movies?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
um... Braveheart, The
Exorcist, Memento, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space
Odyssey, Heat, Step Brothers, Last of the Mohicans,
Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, Fight Club, Eternal Sunshine of The
Spotless Mind, Kill Bill Vol.
2, Tropic Thunder, Old School, Super Troopers,
Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Dark
Knight... again just stuff
popping into my head. Many, many more.
and of course, films you really deplore?
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
You can find the movie on Redbox, iTunes, Hulu, Playstation, Xbox, Vudu,
Comcast, and numerous other digital and VOD platforms.
Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheBlackoutMovie
Twit us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/H2AB
you are dying to mention and I've merely forgotten to ask?
survived a volcano eruption and concurrent typhoon in the Philippines in
1991 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Pinatubo) and
I was arrested for second degree auto theft when I was 14...
for the interview!
My pleasure, thank you.