Your new movie God
Forgive Us - in a few words, what is it about?
has and always will be a character study of modernized Western
society. In some way, shape or form, every single character in this study
somehow relates to an issue, problem or stereotype found within Western
society today. What I mean by this, more casually, is that I really wanted
to show the audience that in different ways than 3rd world survival, there
is this level of fight-or-flight even in the 1st world —
struggle every single day to get by and whereas in the 3rd world they are
fighting for survival against illness, environment and starvation, in the
1st world we are fighting against ourselves, which in some sense is way
more evil and menacing than ‘Mother
I by no means am trying to sway one side as more difficult and the 1st
world may very well be overpriviledged, but with this overpriviledge we
actually set ourselves up for a lot of downfall and that’s
what this film is about in way more words than need to be said.
the four main characters, the suicidal guy, the terminal
ill priest, the heart-broken father and the prostitute, who could you identify with the
most, actually, and are any of the events in the movie based on real life
a lot of questions regarding this. Some philosophical critics who know a
bit about my personal life have theorized that every character is symbolic
of someone in my life to date, whether it be Mother, Father, brother, best
friends — whatever. But this is what I can tell you,
Dane undoubtedly was a self-inspired character and why, in some scenes,
can come off as heavy-handed. It’s
a difficult task to attempt to inspire and convey an idea to an audience
you’re so familiar with and really make it, on
screen, as familiar as it is with you.
never attempted suicide in my life like Dane, there are nearly half a
dozen events throughout my life that prompted the notion —
was a serious consideration once or twice. I never did take that first
step. I had my Mother and my best friends to talk me down whenever those
feelings welled too largely and became overbearing, but my heart aches for
people who genuinely feel -that- alone and cannot be satiated by those in
(Other) sources of inspiration when writing
God Forgive Us?
enough, God Forgive Us
was inspired by a dream I had —
actually turned out to be the ‘Waterfront
the Father and the Priest. However, in my dream, these two stood over the
tombstone of the Father’s
recently deceased daughter and the two casually spoke about “God’s”
hand in the world, how he can allow such death and chaos to reign free.
Outside of the metaphysical inspirations, I would say I was most heavily
influenced (story-wise) by the film I
Melt With You
Rob Lowe, Jeremy Piven and Tom Jane —
film, well worth checking out if you want to feel slightly suicidal after
watching a film.
far as I know, God Forgive
Us is your debut feature film - so what made you choose exactly
this topic, and what were the challenges of directing a feature film
compared to making a short?
I was going through a weird phase in my life (and in some respects,
still am) where I feel like I’ve
awakened to this flawed society — there
is this place and we’re
just born without consideration, expected to work 9 to 5 to support
mediocre lifestyles where we can only hope to attain some form of
happiness that has been brainwashed into us that is, literally,
impossible. Even at life’s happiest — how
happy can you actually ever be? And these thoughts sat and fermented in my
brain for a long, long time before writing this, during writing this and
still sit to this day. It hurts to think that life, such a precious thing,
was meant to robotically exist without some greater purpose and meaning.
And that’s what these characters all pursue —
a greater purpose and meaning, whether it’s love, or hope or just the idea that they can
inspire this purpose or meaning. I know most of this sounds pretty crazy
and out there, but this was where I was coming from inside this twist
corridor of nerves that make these stories.
far as challenges, in this particular case, was the cold —
goddamn cold. The first segment of our shoot took place in November of
2013 and it was simple, way too easy; the average temperature despite it
being November was 60 degrees. I think the last day of the first shoot was
45 and we were freezing to death —
thought we were. Then we took a break, since the film was supposed to be a
short; in that short amount of time we got green lit to make the film a
feature with some additional financing options and interest in expanding
it, so Kyle Downs (lead producer) [Kyle
Downs interview - click here] and I were given two months to get our shit
together, build a team, get a script and get everything going and
operating the way it needed to be, simultaneously while working full time
as bartenders. In this short amount of time, the character who played Dane
dropped the project —
the Dane you see in this film was not the original, cast Dane that we had
decided on way back in pre-production (however, take note, the only reason
James Doherty hadn’t
been cast as Dane originally was that he was going to be out of the
country during the first shoot —
had written the role specifically FOR HIM). So when the second shoot came
around, despite all these little bumps, we shot most of the film in -10
degree weather with wind chills averaging around -30 to -40 per night and
most of these days were 10-12 hours. Kyle, Camrin Petramale (DP) and I spent a
handful of days working 14-19 hours ... and shit, those were grueling.
How would you describe your
directorial approach to your story at hand?
always been a director who appreciates reality; I try to create and
develop characters who are all real life, believable characters.
It doesn’t make sense to me when films attempt to create these fictional
character arcs and development patterns that don’t exist in real life — the
reason we, as a species, love film is because we can totally relate (in
some way) with what’s
happening on screen: whether it’s
a fantasy, aspiration or just the same shit we deal with day to day. So
this was my directorial approach.
I like style. So how do you create a realistic story with style? You show
grit, dirtiness, sex, drugs, alcohol, violence —
give the audience the content of real life and the approach to this
content with real life, but cast the story as a story. What I mean by this
is what Camrin and I did with lighting design and framing, what Kyle and I
did with locations —
gave the film our best shot at giving it a feel, a style, while still
approaching the content as if it were reality. As nice as it might be, and
convenient, to setup a camera and shoot with everything natural to give it
not my cup of tea.
What can you
tell us about your key cast, and why exactly these people?
funny enough, my last short film Captive
starred a fair amount of my leads. Lindsay Rathert (Millie), James R.
Doherty (Dane) and
Brian Rooney (The Father) were all characters in Captive,
albeit James and Brian minor roles, Lindsay was actually a lead. The
shitty thing I had to explain to people was that it -was- purely
coincidence. Everyone auditioned (with the exception of James, who the
character had been written for to begin with) and just so happened to be
the best fit. Matthew Urban (The Priest) was the only key cast member who
auditioned and got the part without a prior work relationship. I mean
sure, as a director, I was more inclined to work with people I’d
worked with before, but my casting team wouldn’t
let me make the final decision (which is fine) and I think it worked out
for the best.
talk about the shoot as such for a bit, and the on-set atmosphere?
every person who worked on God Forgive Us
became a good friend of mine. It’s
not even that we talk every day —
We, as a team, went through some of the shittiest shooting conditions we’d
ever been in and fortunately, it wasn’t
The terrible weather I mentioned prior really played a key part in making
our lives hell for about two straight weeks in January and February. One
of our locations, we actually didn’t
have running water or heat in -10 degree weather and we’re
STUCK there due to a blizzard —
fun, let me tell you. There was honestly a few days of work that we’re
so arduous and mentally challenging that I was ready to have a breakdown,
but I had a good team (Kyle, Camrin, Mariah Rossow [Key-Makeup] and even my cast)
who really helped push through the bad shit as a team. However, all the
sadness and difficulty aside, Camrin and his whole team really kept the
mood elevated and tried to be goofballs to lighten the mood even when shit
can you tell us about critical and audience reception of your movie so far
- and of course, when and where will God
Forgive Us be released onto the general public?
been really surprising (I mean I guess it always is as a self-critical
artist), but everything has been fairly positive. CLEARLY there is an
innumerable list of changes and ‘mistakes’ I feel like I made as a writer, director — everything in between, but all I can do is
live and learn in this case. But as said, I’d say upwards of 95% of critical and audience reception has been overall
hard to know when God Forgive Us
will be released publicly. Kyle and I had
toyed with the idea of releasing GFU via VHX self-distribution in March,
but then found out we’d been invited to Beloit International
(Wisconsin, USA) and Green Bay (Wisconsin, USA) film festivals and are
pending invitations from a handful of others (still working out the
details) — so then it was a no brainer to hold off.
got a handful of offers from distributors prior to the film festival
announcements, but Kyle and I didn’t
feel like these companies were going to do what needed to be done for God Forgive Us
still on the lookout for a distributor who will really take care of the
project, otherwise, it’d
be in our best interest as producers to continue to promote and possibly
self-distribute in the future.
future projects you'd like to share?
Kyle and I are taking a step back from straight drama-genre films for
awhile. We have a crime Tthriller film Kings
pending optioning from a producer out in LA, a horror thriller film that’s
untitled being developed right now and having some minor star talent
attached and a horror mystery film The
undergoing some rewrites. I find it, personally, more than likely that the
untitled horror will be the next piece on the market you’ll
see from this, but don’t
quote me on that yet.
What got you into
making movies in the first place, and did you receive any formal training
on the subject?
always been a writer; I have short stories dating back to pre-school
believe it or not — I mean they’re god-fucking-awful, but that’s
besides the point. I always wanted to be a storyteller, however, it wasn’t until I was in 7th grade and got to see
Days Later that something just … it
just clicked. I was, at the time, thoroughly amazed at how Boyle had
developed and portrayed such vivid, relatable emotion in his characters in
their survival for life that it impacted me to tell stories of such
caliber. For years after that I was obsessed with stories of survival and
derelict humanity, and I still am to some greater extent as I think about
my source inspiration behind God Forgive Us.
training? No — well, I mean, I went to Columbia College in Chicago for a
semester, but that school and their training for directors and producers
was a goddamn joke. I have a little cousin who wants to be an animation
director and I told her that she needs to go into an art school with
tunnel vision on just meeting people, cause really, you either are or aren’t
a filmmaker —
no in between where you “learn”
to do it. I’m
not saying there’s
a right or wrong, but there just is and isn’t.
met so many filmmakers who just aren’t
and you can tell because they’ve
been stuck on the same step since the day I met them. I am by no means
some model career maker, let me step down from the soap box for a minute,
I just want to emphasize that either you have what’s
in you to tell and feel a story out to its truest extent, or you don’t
and school and formal training, in my deepest opinion, doesn’t
help anybody but the pockets you’re
stuffing with money.
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to God Forgive Us?
A lot of stumbling in the dark and fucking up and making half-ass short
few words about your production company
Kingdom Entertainment Chicago,
and the philosophy behind it?
Kingdom Entertainment Chicago
prides itself on making films that have a reason and purpose. What I mean
by that is the day my company involves and produces something that doesn’t
have a greater purpose in the subtext of the film about humanity, society
or the world as a whole, please slap me, slap Kyle, slap both of us silly —
be for the best. We make movies to convey ideas, to discuss problems no
one wants to, religious, political, all the things you avoid at family
parties (especially when alcohol is involved). We want the audience to
leave our films and take a step back from their cushy (or perhaps
not-so-cushy) lives and think about what life actually means to them and
would you describe yourself as a director?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Emotional. Kyle and I have a running joke that like
‘method actors’, I’m
a ‘method director’. You’ll
find my off-set personality to be much more rude and abrupt than you’ll ever find me on set. I can’t
explain it, honestly; it’s
just something I’ve noticed throughout the years. I think it’s because I try to put myself in the
perspective of the character so I can give the most applicable advice to
my actors and that I can represent the perspective the audience needs to
understand what the characters are going through on an emotional level. I
guess the obsession with emotion is enough a style to my directing to
summarize, but yeah, I’m
not one hundred percent sure. I’m
still learning and will be forever who I am as a director.
who inspire you?
Fincher, cinematically and thematically, is by far my favorite filmmaker.
I feel like he captures the darkness of humanity better than any other
director out there and it’s
great. But honorable mentions are: Darren Aronofsky (especially his work
for a Dream
Vince Gilligan, Nicholas Winding Refn, Terrence Malick, Shane Carruth, Denis
Villeneuve, and quite randomly, Guy Ritchie.
Your favourite movies?
my all-time favorite movie. Big fan of Drive, Social
know, I love films so it’d
be stupid to list off every one, but I like films that make me think.
and of course, films you really deplore?
know if there’s
any films I HATE. However, films that overuse CGI or attempt to manipulate
the audience through lazy techniques tend to wind up on my shitlist.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
you are dying to tell us and I have merely forgotten to ask?
This is one of the more extensive interviews I’ve done, so - hah, no I think we covered our bases pretty well!
Thanks for the