Your new movie The
Trouble with Uncle Max - in a few words, what is it about?
I like to say the movie is about murder, mayhem and peppermint stick
ice cream. Plotwise it's about how Sonya and Joe think they have this
perfect plan to kill her Uncle and run off with his money but the problem
is that he just won't die. Beyond that, to me it's also about how
different people leave their imprint on you. The line "Nothing's
untraceable, there's always remnants" is kind of the theme of the
were your sources of inspiration when writing The
Trouble with Uncle Max? And honestly, is Uncle Max based on any of
your own relatives?
The first draft was actually written in
2003 and it was inspired by the Alfred Hitchcock quote about how it's very
difficult to kill somebody, messy business. I've always liked dark humor
so I took that idea and twisted it around. The script went through a lot
of changes before I realized my first draft was much better than any newer
version so when I decided to film it I just stripped it back to its
original vision and I think it was the right move.
No Max isn't based on
anybody I know but I'm sure we can all think of somebody we know that he
reminds us of.
Which one of the characters in The
Trouble with Uncle Max can you actually identify with the most?
I write, all my characters are kind based of different versions of my own
personality, I just explore it so I can usually identify with any of them
at different times. However, Sonya has always been one of my all time
favorite characters. The film follows her final commitment to becoming
this manipulative, evil person and the way she is manipulative I enjoy a
great deal. I think there's times we all wish we could give into being
that person but because we have a moral code we don't so it's fun to get
to explore that side even just in film.
just have to talk about The
Trouble with Uncle Max's own brand of irony for a bit!
fun is always establishing characters, putting them in extreme
circumstances and watching how they react. Elevating the tension and the
desparation in all of them naturally creates conflict and there's always
room for humor and the unexpected with that. The easy way out is to just
introduce something new (a new character or new element) but to me that's
a cop out, you first want to explore using everything you already have at
your disposal because that's how you can surprise your audience. Vince
Gilligan talked about using all the meat on the bone before you start
looking to introduce something new and that's something I always try to
can you tell us about your overall approach to your story at hand?
always try to check my ego and serve the story first, no matter where the
idea comes from if it's a good idea I'll use it. You can have great visual
elements, and cool effects and all sorts of fun stuff but if you don't
have a great story with great performances people are going to lose
interest. I can't tell you how many times I've been totally invested in an
imperfect movie because the story and performances were strong and
inversely, how many times I've lost interest in a beautiful movie because
there was just no substance. Beyond that, I have to trust my instincts and
make the movie I want to see and hopefully there are others that like the
same types of movies as me.
talk about your cast, and why exactly these people?
Danae was my first and really only choice for Sonya. She has the same sarcastic
dark humor as me and I knew she'd understand the character and she really
gave an amazing performance. Nat Sylva came through the audition process and
really anchors the film since he's kind of the normal one through
everything. He also coordinated the stunts which was invaluable in keeping
people safe and making it look real. Bill Taylor was recommended to me and I only
had to see one tape of him to know he was perfect. He's actually a really
nice, sweet guy which is quite a contrast to Uncle Max. Logan Lopez, who plays
Phil, worked on another film I helped crew and he brought his own kind of
campy take on the character which was just perfect. One of those moments
that you have an idea in your head but somebody comes in with their own
ideas which are way better than yours and you just let them do their thing
and it makes you look good.
few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
shoot went incredibly smoothly. We had a small cast and crew and I had a
lot of my family help out as well as we shot at my parents' lake house. It
really helped to create a fun atmosphere which I think translates onto
screen. When you have good, talented people and you let them do
their jobs it's hard not to have fun.
$64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?
the movie is available at Vimeo on demand -
We also have an
agreement with Shorts TV so it will hopefully air on their DirecTV channel
can you tell us about the audience and critical reception of The
Trouble with Uncle Max?
It's been overwhelmingly
positive, which has been incredibly gratifying for me. This is a film that
was very personal to me since I'd had it for so long and it just
incorporates everything I've ever wanted to do with a film. To see it then
be met with positive response is encouraging as an artist. It won Best
Thriller recently at a film festival where a professional psychologist
commented he couldn't believe how well I portrayed a sociopath seeing as
he had been in the field for 30 years and was still learning new things.
The reviews are all linked to the IMDb page.
Any future projects
you'd like to share?
I'm currently putting together a
feature which I hope to shoot in January. It has a very similar tone and
feel as The
Trouble with Uncle Max. I'm waiting to get the final go ahead in the upcoming
week so fingers are crossed.
What got you into filmmaking to
begin with, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
never wanted to do anything else. I made my first movie when I was 8 and
was always writing or making movies with my friends. I did get a Masters
Degree from Emerson college which really helped me to fine tune my
understanding of how to go about making a film as well as the business
side of filmmaking. However, there is no greater training than just making
films. Good films, bad films, just make films and learn.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The
Trouble with Uncle Max?
In terms of more
professional films, I've made two micro budget feature films as well as a
few short films and written quite a few scripts. My feature film The
Muse is available on Amazon Prime and is much more a straight psychological
thriller. It was quite invaluable to go through that process of taking a
project from conception through completion so I'm hoping to be able to
incorporate all that I've learned into my next project.
How would you describe
yourself as a director?
I would definitely describe myself
as an collaborative director with a strong sense of story. The more good
and creative people I can involve the better. Directing is about making
decisions because everybody is always bringing ideas to you so I just try
to make as many good decisions as I can because the goal is to create and
then capture a moment on film and hope that energy translates. While
I do have a lot of input and ideas, I'm not as strong on the technical
aspects. It's why I have such a talented DP (Doug Gordon) and editor (Dave
Borges) who I work so well with. So much of the lighting and look of the
film was Doug and his team and then Dave brought countless ideas to post
production. My strength is working with the actors, telling a great story
and pacing so I focus on that.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
filmmaker with vision inspires me. I saw incredibly inspiring films at the
festival I attended because the filmmakers had such a clear vision of what
they wanted to do and executed it despite budgetary or time restrictions.
In terms of known filmmakers, the Coen Brothers are always pushing to do
new and innovative things and their use of dark humor and tension always
amazes me. Going to college in the 90's it's hard not to be
influenced by Quentin Tarantino, and David Fincher never disappoints.
I have very eclectic taste. My all time
favorites are Fight Club, Braveheart, Heat, Blues
Brothers, Out of Sight, Chinatown, Inception,
... honestly I could probably go on and
on. I'm always hoping to see that new film that blows me away and inspires
... and of course, films you really
that lacks soul. A film that was put together only thinking about making
money or to start a franchise and they forget about the core aspects that
make a movie great: story and character.
Your/your film's website, Facebook, whatever
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
The Vimeo on demand page
has all sorts of additional content like a behind the scenes
slideshow and a Q&A video I put together. The IMDb page
has links to reviews and cast and crew
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
Just that if you're reading this
and thinking about making movies just get out there and make one. Grab a
camera and a few friends and just start making movies. Learn as you go and
have fun doing it.
Thanks for the interview!