Your new movie Blessid -
in a few words, what is it about?
is about a deeply depressed pregnant woman,
haunted by a childhood tragedy and stuck in an empty marriage, who suffers
suicidal thoughts until she meets her eccentric new neighbor – a man
that’s lived forever.
What were your sources of inspiration when writing Blessid,
and is any of the movie based on personal experience and the like?
was written during a time when I was
suffering depression. Not suicidal, mind you. But life seemed more gray
than in Technicolor most days. At the time my mother was in the late
stages of dementia and having her not recognize me – look at me like any
other lug on the street – that was tough. I used to be her favorite and
then I was just kind of nobody.
One day when I was stuck writing the script,
I got a call from my dad. He told me my mom recognized me. To help trigger
memories, my family brought in mementos from each child into her room at
the nursing home. That day my mom pointed to a plastic picture clock I’d
bought over twenty years ago with a photo of my smiling unshaved mug. She
smiled and said “Robert.” That simple gesture not only made my day,
but gave me the creative inspiration to finish the script (I was searching
for a visual metaphor).
Blessid begins and ends with a shot of a
photo clock – only there is a different picture in it in each scene. I
won’t say too much to spoil the film – suffice it to say that in the
opening you get the sense that the shot of Sarah and her young sister is
her only positive memory to cling to. It is only at the end, when you see
another picture taped over it, that you realize the memory entrapped her
and was the root of her suicidal guilt.
Of all the characters in Blessid,
who do you identify with the most, actually?
of me is Sarah, and part of me is Jedediah (the immortal character).
were the challenges of bringing Blessid
to life from a producer's point of view, and how hands-on or hands-off a
producer are you, actually?
I was very hands-on during pre-production
and during post. I was hands-off during the actual filming. As producer I
made sure the actors showed up, the locations were lined up, meals were on
time, and paychecks were delivered. We were filming a crazy amount of
pages and I only intervened when a creative decision or change to the
script was required.
For a first-time filmmaker a key lesson is
to hire an experienced crew that works hard and gets along. Then stay out
of the way. You’ve already written the script and gotten the actors –
now let the professionals do what they do best. It certainly worked well
What can you tell us about your movie's director Rob Fitz,
and what was your collaboration like?
Rick Montgomery jr
Rachel Kerbs, Chris Divecchio
guy, calm demeanor on set, shows up on time and stays late. I enjoyed
working with Rob and am glad he enjoyed the experience too. When I first
interviewed directors he didn’t have the most directing experience, but
he had the most experience working on film (as a makeup artist, effect
person, etc.). He also brought the clearest vision to the table and
offered great connections that enabled me to round out a really phenomenal
crew. I can honestly say the crew and actors enjoyed one another, and
liked the process. The results show on film. And that is a testament to
Do talk about your movie's key cast, and why
exactly these people?
– consummate pro who somebody needs to discover. I saw her in a film by
Toby Wilkins called Splinter and knew she was the one. Rachel walked in on
day one and punched through sugar glass on one take to start the shoot,
and later that day nailed the most emotional scene in the film – real
tears and all. Our production designer even made the mistake of leaving
real vodka in the prop bottle and she took a swig, winced for a
nano-second and completed the scene. That is Rachel Kerbs in a nutshell!
Rick Montgomery jr
– a businessman who turned to acting later in life. He had a reputation
of being a great character actor but this film proved he could be a lead.
He won a best actor award at the Buffalo International Film Festival and I
couldn’t be happier for him. In retrospect, this role was made for him.
– solid actor with tremendous TV and theater experience. Also a
card-carrying magician at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles. Serious
actor but a fun guy on set. He’s one of those actors I just think are
“watchable”. Good dude and I loved his performance.
– he was going through a bit of a rough stretch and totally gravitated
to the bad boy role. It was an outlet, I think. I remember him telling me,
“I love that this guy is a total dick!” In real life he’s a sweet,
caring guy and is now a mind and physical fitness coach. He came to the
set prepared and worked great with Rachel. He’s also a quick study for
any physical stunts. He comes from a great family that lives in the town
next to where I live. Karma.
A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set
Amazing crew. Rob
was steadfast and professional. Silas Tyler was an animal in terms of
getting the right shot in a minimal amount of time. Both Rob and Silas won
festival awards, and Silas even won a $10,000 Panavision rental package
for his next film. From there the trickle-down effect was just as solid.
Kurt Bergeron (production design), Alanna Keenan (costume design),
Eric Altieri (assistant director) were all fantastic to be around and work
with – these are people who work on big budget films and have even won
Emmys. PJ Hand and Dan Mason rounded out a camera crew that was small but
efficient and award-winning. Good guys, consummate pros. John Gage managed
to do sound with no additional dialog recording required. Amazing! John E.
Seymore was the experienced producer that a first-timer like me so sorely
needed. Great score by Federico Chavez-Blanco. Post-services by Alex
Ferrari at Numb Robot (and creator of the #1 film podcast and website Indie
Film Hustle), including color correction, final assembly and
deliverables. Also Iris Tsing pitched in as producer of marketing and distribution. Have I forgotten anyone? Probably – but they were
all great. Many told me it was the best set they’ve been on.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of
is a different type of film. What I hear most is “I had no idea where
the story was going – you totally surprised me!” Those patient enough
to hang in for a slow-burn story that goes crazy in the second half are
rewarded with an unconventional, totally unique experience. I mean it’s
about a person who is depressed so there aren’t going to be Kung Fu
fights and exploding buildings to establish characters. Overall, both
viewers and critics like it. We have pretty much an 8 rating on Amazon and
IMDb, which is hard for a film with no stars and an unpredictable story.
Festivals liked it too – we got into about 8 festivals and won a half
dozen awards. Many festivals that didn’t accept us told us we were right
on the cusp and they really enjoyed the film. The best thing? At several
festivals I had people come up to me after a screening thanking me for
making the film and asking when they can buy it on DVD.
future projects you'd like to share?
Glad you asked! Recently a short film I
wrote called Alibi has been raking it at film festivals. I’m very glad
that script was made and my hat goes off to transgender filmmaker/director
Noni Salma for making it. I love the cast in that film too! Here is
the trailer: https://vimeo.com/144577072
And currently I am shooting an experimental
documentary called Afraid of Nothing. It looks at life and the afterlife
through a paranormal lens. Rather than tell you about it, you can watch
the teaser for the film here: https://vimeo.com/176821342
I am currently doing a crowd-funding
campaign on Hatchfund, and am proud to say I’ve met my target goal with
10 days left. Anyone who wants to contribute can do so, and get great
perks and a tax deduction by going here:
What got you into screenwriting in the first place, and did
you receive any formal education on the subject?
when I was 50. When I was 40 (before I got married a second
time), I took a year off and completed the Graduate Screenwriting
Certificate program at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. I also
attended several screenwriting seminars/courses, including ones by Robert
McKee (famed Story weekend seminar) and Richard Walter (UCLA
Screenwriting Chairman, author of The Essentials of Screenwriting).
They wouldn’t remember me – but I learned a lot from them.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Blessid?
have written several features and shorts. Optioned a handful but when they
all fell through, I got tired of waiting for other people to make my
stories. So I took the leap and did it myself. Terrifying, really. But
something I will be proud of on my deathbed.
writing screenplays, you have also written quite some novels, short
stories and graphic novels - so do talk about those for a bit?
novels, but that is on the bucket list. I’ve written articles for Indie
Film Hustle, written/produced horror graphic anthologies (Cold Blooded
Chillers, Bone Chiller, 2012: Final Prayer) and also wrote a graphic novel
called The Night Projectionist. I’ve gotten mixed reviews, but
mostly good on all of these. I’d love to talk to someone about turning
my Cold Blooded Chillers indie comic series into a horror anthology
franchise – two of the stories I wrote have already been made into
festival winning short films.
How would you describe
yourself as a writer?
good dialog, develops strong characters, can handle many genres … but on
occasion can over-complicate stories.
filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?
indie filmmaker who completed their movie!
Back to the
Future, Braveheart, Stir of Echoes, The Dead
Girl, The Exorcist,
Fright Night (1985), Dear Zachary, The Nightmare.
and of course, films you really deplore?
and remakes, except on rare occasions.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
great website for indie filmmakers is Alex Ferrari’s Indie Film Hustle -
Anything else you're dying to mention and I
have merely forgotten to ask?
Just that people who watch movies –
especially indie films – have so much power they don’t even realize. A
good or bad review and make or break a filmmaker’s night. So please do
take the time to watch independent movies, and write a favorable review.
Here is a very brief article I wrote on Indie Film Hustle about ways
people can help a filmmaker without giving him money:
Lastly, film reviewers like you, Michael
Haberfelner, are the unsung heroes of indie film. We need you and your
voice to get our films out to the masses. So thanks for watching my film,
making my day with a positive review and allowing me the honor of an
Oh, and a big thanks to my wife Angela and
my daughters Carly and Emily. They’ve had my back when I spent so much
money on Blessid
and deserve a month in Disney World one day. They really
are my muse for some many things I write!
Thanks for the interview!