Your movie The Trade Off
- in a few words, what is it about?
Itís about a
hedonistic man with no morals, or no social consciousness, that has done
what he wanted his entire life and is now, for the first time, having to
deal with the consequences of his actions and lifestyle.
Is any of
Trade Off based on personal experiences - and other sources of
inspiration when writing the movie?
None of the situations
were based on anything that actually happened to me; I was just trying to
come up with relatable drama and conflicts that people go through in life.
In terms of the plot, I did lean on Oscar Wildeís The Picture of
Dorian Gray for inspiration.
You also play the
lead in The Trade Off
- so what did you draw upon to bring your character to life, and to what
extent have you based the character on yourself?
This character was just
a dialed up version of the man I was in 2008 when I did the film.
would you describe your directorial approach to your subject at hand?
Keep things simple and
donít fall on my face. Going into The Trade Off, we were shooting
in HD for the first time, and yes that was a big deal in 2008 because the
technology for an HD prosumer camera was still very new at the time. We
were shooting our HD footage onto a hard drive attached to the camera
called Firestore. We recorded through the Firestore and not the camera, so
we were recording without actually hitting any record button and see the
all-important red light, which gives you a very uneasy feeling going into
every scene. Transferring the footage took 3 times longer than the footage
we shot. So if we shot an hour weíd have to stop shooting for 3 hours to
be able to look at the footage to make sure it recorded properly. In
addition to the Firestore, we were shooting with a lot of new equipment we
had never used before; including a new lighting set, boom stand, and
steadicam. Also, I was directing from in front of the camera for almost
all of the film. My crew consisted of 1 other person aside from myself
(Aswad Issa), and most of the girls in the film were models that had never
acted before. The selling point for The Trade Off
was going to be
beautiful girls, T&A and softcore sex. So being in the sex scenes
and not having to direct both actors in them definitely helped a lot as
talk about your cast for a bit, and why exactly these people?
My films can come off
as very graphic, extreme and offensive to a lot of people, including
actors. So, my main goal is finding people who have no reservations about
the material and no inhibitions in terms of what theyíre willing to do
and how theyíre portrayed on camera. Then, as long as I have something
that fits them and makes sense, Iíll work with them. This film has 2
multi talented actors that are in 2 of my next 3 films, Chrystal Claire
and Adonis Williams. Chrystal is also an amazing singer that Iíd also
like to get on a future soundtrack. Adonis is also a stuntman and fight
choreographer, 2 skills I plan on making use of in future projects.
Lastly, Iíll mention Waliek Crandall. Heís the best actor Iíve ever
worked with and he has played a lead character in 4 of my films.
Trade Off features quite a few quite explicit sex scenes. What led
to the decision to go almost all the way, and was this at all a problem
with any of the actresses?
I enjoy pushing the
envelope as a filmmaker. So when we decided to do a hedonistic film
inspired by The Picture of
Dorian Gray, I had to make it my own. I
did things such as shooting in an urban environment, having an ethnic
cast, taking the supernatural aspects out of the story and viscerally
showing his sexual desires play out on screen. In terms of problems with
the actresses, I havenít had any issues at all. I worked with one of the
actresses again on my next film and I interviewed 4 of them about this
film years later. Thatís not to say, some time down the road one of them
may regret what they did when they were younger and view things
differently. But, I canít let the possibility of that happening prevent
me from fully expressing myself as an artist.
What can you tell us about
the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
Imagine being in a car
and almost getting into an accident. Youíre scared, youíre anxious,
youíre terrified and then itís over and youíre fine. You feel like
you wish it didnít happen, but youíre excited that you survived it and
itís over. Between equipment issues, dealing with first time actors, not
being able to direct from behind the camera, thatís how I felt everyday
recently, another film of yours, Maniac
Too!, has finally seen its release as well - so what is that one
A man sexually assaults
women on the streets of New York and itís unclear whether itís real, a
dream, a nightmare or a drug-induced hallucination.
The title of Maniac
Too! is of course a reference to William Lustig's Maniac
- so what did you find so interesting about that movie that you wanted to
follow it up?
I loved the look and
feel of the film as well as the lead character. Someone who, while doing
heinous acts both enjoys and hates it at the same time; the killer is
asking the audience and the victim to feel his pain.
Too! features quite a few very graphic rape scenes that you've
filmed in public, guerilla-style, and that don't necessarily hold back -
so how did you even go about filming these?
The first thing is to
be completely honest with the crew and actors as to whatís going to
happen. Then I pitched my vision of the end product. Once theyíre clear,
it becomes a group effort. Aswad helped me find the locations; one actress
used the headlights on her car to light her scene because the location we
had was too dark; another actress completely reshot her scene after the
cops shut us down. Everyone that was part of the film went above and
How hard was
it actually to cast the girls in this movie?
The script called for
12 actresses. Of the 6 in the film, we cast 2 from an open call, and 4
were callbacks from previous castings. I think the main thing that got the
actresses to do it was my passion for the material. Even though the end
product has very little more than the actual rapes, you can still see this
was intended to be a psychological film. If we had more time, we would
have cast girls for the 4 remaining rape scenes. The 2 principal female
roles were the girlfriend and mother. All of the actresses being
considered for the girlfriend would later be cast in Hookers in
Revolt, but the mother was another story. We never came close to
casting her, we needed a really good actress that was in her 40ís, who
had the body and willingness to do nudity and love scenes on camera. That
was one of many reasons we decided to stop production.
As far as I
know, Maniac Too! ran
into all sorts of trouble during and after the shoot. Care to elaborate,
and what made you push through and release it despite everything?
Where do I start and
where do I end? We were shooting with a new camera that had no warranty,
that wasnít ours. We were never able to cast the other 2 principal roles
of the mother and the girlfriend. We hit a roadblock trying to cast the
last 4 girls to get the 10 rape scenes we wanted. We were shooting with a
lead actor that had worked with us on several projects that were never
finished and his faith in us was understandably waning. We were almost
arrested when the cops pulled up on us during a rape scene. With all that
said, and despite it not being the film I intended when we started
shooting, I am very proud of the end product.
of Terror, the DVD featuring Maniac
Too!, also includes your acting debut A
Good Samaritan in New York City - so obviously, you have to talk
about this one for a bit!
Acting was something I
had resisted for years at the time, despite Aswad Issa, my partner,
pushing me to do it. However, we had Glenn ďIllaĒ Skeete, a crewmember
that was acting in all of our films and Jeff Roches, an actor, who had
become part of the crew. So I had no excuses. We were sitting around
eating Chinese food in Aswadís apartment, reading the script for the
first time when he asked us to pick which roles we wanted. Surprisingly we
each got our first choice. I thought for sure when I suggested Jeff pick
first, since he was the only one of us that is an actor by trade, he would
pick the role I wanted, but he didnít. We shot a few hours later on the
ďAĒ train in Far Rockaway, Queens. The most memorable part of the
shoot was when I started going over the top with the screaming and crying;
I kept waiting for Aswad to say cut and tell me to tone it down. Instead,
he wanted me to take it further and he kept dousing me with more and more
chocolate sauce, which was doubling for blood. After we shot it and
started packing up, some cops suddenly came on at the next stop. The train
and myself is covered in chocolate sauce and Iím sitting there by myself
angling my body so the cops and the people coming on the train donít see
enough of me to make the connection. Meanwhile, the guys are pretending
they donít know me, so we donít all go down if I get caught. Then
Iím going home a sticky mess hours later for no pay, thinking to myself,
a) that was awesome and b) what actor would do all of this for me?
Thatís when I realized, with the type of films I do, I need to act
simply to make my job easier. So much of my time is spent trying to find
good, open-minded actors that are willing to throw caution to the wind.
But, what better way to find them than leading by example?
The other two films on Vault
of Terror, The
Driller Killer and Night
of the Living Dead ... what made you choose exactly these -
especially in relation to your own body of work?
I feel that when you
look at Maniac
Too! and The
Driller Killer, from visuals to themes to characters to shooting styles, I feel they both have a ton of
parallels. I also feel the same could be said for A
Good Samaritan in New York City and Night
of the Living Dead. Those reasons, as
well as the fact that they were both low budget indie films made by
filmmakers that I admire, lead to my decision to include them on this
future projects you'd like to share?
Regret, Scumbag Hustler, and Ace Jackson is a Dead Man will
all hopefully be released in 2014, in that order.
website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Anything else you are
dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
things: 1st I want to thank my partner in crime,
Aswad Issa, for helping me to complete these films. 2nd I have
a weekly podcast you can listen to on my website, in which I interview
other artists in the entertainment field, called Full Circle Movie
Talk - www.facebook.com/fullcirclemovietalk.
The 3rd and final thing is to anyone reading this,
thanks for your interest in me and my films. I always try to make my next
film my best film and I appreciate all of the support and feedback from
all of my fans. Please keep spreading the word on social media.
for the interview!
you again Mike, this was fun. Canít wait to do it again.