I know we've talked about this before [click
here], but do bring us up to speed: Your new movie My
Friend Max - in a few words, what is it about?
is the story of a misunderstood and bullied young girl, Theaand the imaginary friend, Max, who's always been there for her since
her father passed away years ago. It's a coming-of-age story about growing
upand making very difficult choices, something that everyone has had to
deal with in their life. Unfortunately, Thea has had to make some very
difficult choices at a very young ageand as a result she is a bit
socially withdrawn and defensive. Max is a reliable, non-judgmental
confidant that helps her put life into perspective in the absence of her
When we last talked, My
Friend Max was still in pre-production - so has the project in
any way changed since then?
That's both a challenging and simplistic question. Of course, during the
pre-production process, you always have grand visions of a film being
everything you want it to be and then some. Securing Doug Jones to star
was the pinnacle of our excitement and a top priority. We were so
fortunate to have such a solid script, that Doug fell in love with the
character and story and wanted to be a part of our little indie film.
Then once you have your star, you start to look at other aspects of the
shoot and start to realize 3 things: 1.) What you have to have 2.) What
you'd like to have 3.) What you absolutely can't have.
things that you want to do, but simply can't pull off for any number of
reasons (scheduling, budget, resources, etc). In the end, yes the film
changed many times, but not enough to prohibit us from telling a very
precise story. I'm still a firm believer that if you surround yourself
with capable, confident and positive people that you can accomplish
anything. When problems arise, you gather your team and find a solution.
Friend Max being about an imaginary friend - did you do any
research on that aspect of your movieand honestly, did you ever have one
The imaginary friend story line was an
inspiration of my personal solitude as a young child and even through
adulthood. I find that I am so much more complete when I am by myself. I
think more clearly, I focus more clearly, I comprehend emotional
complexities faster and more clearly. I think I do this in part by talking
to myself and walking my brain through the pitfalls and success of my
life. In a way, I am my own imaginary friend. I am my own support person and confidant. So the idea was spawned on my own, enhanced by my love for
the movie Drop Dead Fred and brought to life by myself and co-writer
What can you tell us about your directorial
approach to your story at hand?
My strength as a director
has always been with the actors. I've done shot lists and directed DPs
closely before, but I'm not very good at those technical aspects that I
tend to lean heavily on my crew, who does a phenomenal job. I prefer to
help the actors tell the story convincingly. In My
when you have such an amazing talent as Dougie on board, I gave a lot of
focus on his young co-star, Kaylynn Burgin. The relationship between them
both had to be solid, the bond needed to show. I did that by creating
opportunities for Kaylynn and Dougie to have fun before we started
shooting and during the shoot. It helps that Doug is the kindest soul on
the planet earth and made Kaylynn the center of attention at almost every
moment of the day. I don't believe that Kaylynn ever felt intimidated in
performing with Doug and it shows on screen. She definitely holds her own
with such a seasoned Hollywood talent, and watching them on screen you
would easily believe that they'd been friends forever.
Friend Max starring your daughter Kaylynn - what was it like
working with her?
Well, this marked my 3rd time directing
my daughter, and each production produces new challenges. Kaylynn is
wonderful to work with. She takes things so seriously and works so hard at
delivering a quality performance. She's grown up around acting & film
making, so she naturally "gets it". Of course, she's getting
older now (turning 14 in April) and as such she's got a lot more
confidence and has started to realize the importance of focus and
dedication of each new shoot. On my productions, she struggles sometimes
to find the motivation to memorize her lines and work on her character
before we begin shooting. Luckily, she has a producer/director in the
house who constantly keeps reminding her that she has work to do. On
productions that aren't mine, I think the challenge now is the anxiety of
not knowing what to expect with the crew and director that she's never met
before, which is usually extinguished quickly once she arrives on set and
sees that things are done relatively similar to my sets and everyone is
generally pleasant to be with. Next year if you ask me the same question,
I'm sure the answer will be different. That's how it goes with someone her
age. Otherwise, she's a director's Etch-A-Sketch dream actor... whatever
they imprint on her will stay there until she's wrapped and can shake it
You of course also have to talk about
the rest of your castand what was your collaboration like?
cast was stellar from top to bottom. A wonderfully talented actor, Madison
Wells, plays Thea's mom. Madison is someone I've known for a while and is
super sharp in her delivery and maintaining her composure during
difficult scenes. Always on cue, always professional and she's just an
all around wonderful person off camera as well. I love working with
Madison. Cooper Pierce plays the young lad, Billy, who has an interest in
Thea. Cooper came to us through a great lady, Kar Gustafson, out of Des
Moines area. She does some great things out there with an acting program
for younger performers and helped me connect with a few of her students.
We did some auditions and they were all great. Cooper was a lot of fun to
work with. He has a lot of energy and took direction really well. His
star is going to burn bright for a long time. Then there was Jim Von
Dolteren who plays Dr. Hitler. I had never worked with Jim prior to My
Friend Max but he just encompassed the look and feel of the
character so well. Jim and I had many discussions over the phone regarding
the Doc who was, himself, a little socially inept, but extremely wise on
how social situations were supposed to work. Jim was such a great sport and really developed a very complex performance out of one very important
scene. Can't wait to work with him again in the future.
talk about the shoot as suchand the on-set atmosphere?
Doug Jones was on the set, so it was perpetually happy and pleasant. Doug
just brings this positive atmosphere to the movie set that can't be
denied. He is so incredibly cordial and interested in everyone and
everything. He truly touches your soul in every interaction and makes you
want to be a better person. In addition, I had such wonderful people to
work with behind the camera. My gaffer Dan "Swat" Hampel is top
notch and worked directly with DP Sean O'Connell to generate warm and
friendly visuals. Then there was my amazing AD Pat Atkinson who helped
keep us on track, which is not easy to do under such fun circumstances. Of
course my script supervisor Megan Fleming was sensational as always. It
was one of the few productions that I can say we wrapped early almost
every day. Everyone just clicked, knew their job and knocked it out of
the park. Can't say enough good things about them all.
$64-question of course, when and where will your movie be released onto
the general public?
soon as one of the handful of film festivals we've submitted to is wise
enough to pick us up and screen it. Once we're done with our small
festival run, I'll release it online for free. It's a film that needs to
be shared with everyone.
Anything you can tell us about
audience and critical reception of your movie yet?
had a test screening that went over really well, many tears being shed by
audience members. There are a few things that we purposely left
unexplained in the film, and those things sparked a lot of conversation
with the audience, which is a good sign for me. Everyone seems smitten by
Max & Thea's relationship and we're getting some positive online
reviews. I really can't wait to show it to a live audience.
future projects you'd like to share?
shot another short last October called I'm a Gun, which is an
action/horror film. Think of it as a cross between Leon The Professional
and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I also have a creature feature that I would
like to shoot eventually, but time and money will be the key to that one.
Otherwise, I just wrapped an acting gig on a WW2 movie called Wunderland that starred Tom
Berenger and Steven Luke. One of
the best experiences I've ever had acting!
website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
be Max's friend on Facebook:
or "like" him on IMDb:
Anything else you're
dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
just like to say thank you to everyone who's ever supported me, or my
films, or my daughter. It means the world to us. Also, many thanks to you,
Mr Haberfelner, for the coverage over the years. You're a true gentlemen
to indie filmmakers and we need more wonderful people like you help
bring attention to some splendidly talented artists in the world. Keep
doing what you're doing! As Doug would say to you
for the interview!