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An Interview with Chris Esper, Director of Please Punish Me

by Mike Haberfelner

March 2015

Films directed by Chris Esper on (re)Search my Trash


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We have talked about this before [click here], but do bring us up to speed: Please Punish Me - in a few words, what is it about?


Please Punish Me is a dark comedy about a man whose life is overly blessed and life is too good for him. So, he seeks to be punished for his "curse". 


What drew you to the story initially, and to what extent could you identify with its message and its brand of humour?


The story was by Tom Paolino, who came to me with the idea in late 2012/early 2013. It was then written by Rich Camp. What drew me to the idea was the heart and humanity within the story. Underneath the comedy is a wonderful story about succeeding down a path you do not like instead of your desired path. I find that in a way, everyone is a lot like Scottie. We all have dreams and ambitions as young people, but then somewhere along the line we lose that in favor of something that gives us an income and we become unhappy because of it. Scottie is this way. He's simply going through the motions. In addition, it is also wickedly funny in its dark sense of humor. Tom's story had the story and heart in there and then Rich went in and punched up the humor.


Since we had our first interview about Please Punish Me [again: click here], how did the project change and evolve (other than that it actually got shot of course)?


Most of it remained the same. However, though, a scene was cut and we changed one other scene around to help it fit better with the story also help the length of the film not be too long. The script also featured a few lines of dialogue that we cut and just try to make it a leaner story and still get the point across.


How would you describe the movie's look and feel?


The movie has two different looks. I wanted to show Scottie's world versus the world he's about to enter into with the Punish Me Palace. His world is very bland, white and a few Earth tones. It's your basic corporate setting where everyone is focused in their own world. The palace, on the other hand, is a completely different. There's a lot of reds, yellows, pinks and just a whole array of colors. That world is uncomfortable for Scottie and feels creepy.


Do talk about your key cast for a bit, and why exactly these people?


We had a great cast for this project. David Sackal plays Scottie. I worked with David previously on another project I directed and we had a great rapport together. So, when we were casting, he had sent in an audition video and we gave him a call back and eventually the part. He displayed the vulnerability and humor required for the part that it was easy to say yes to him.

Joanna Donofrio plays Michelle. This character as well is vulnerable like Scottie, so it was important for the actress to display that. Joanna was actually originally going to be my production designer on this. I had met her through a friend and we started working on design ideas. Then, when she read the script she wanted to audition. I knew she acted as well, but didn't know anything about her acting. So, she just blew us away in the audition and we called her back and gave her the part. She was wonderful and captured exactly what the character was like. 

Brad Rhodes plays Steinberg, Scottie's boss. Brad is a very funny guy and has a great creative side to him in discovering his character and displayed that here. Steinberg couldn't just be funny, but he also had to be the driving force for Scottie wanting to get punished. Brad really hit home with that. 

Lorrie Bacon plays Doe-Rey-Mi, the head mistress of the Punish Me Palace. This was no contest in casting Lorrie for this. I can still remember auditioning her and just laughing so hard. She commanded the room and I knew I really wanted her for the part.

Mark Carter plays Crueger, the receptionist of the palace. Mark, too, is a very funny actor and can do a lot with his face, which was great for this part. I saw Creuger being somewhat equivalent to Igor in Young Frankenstein, and Mark played it brilliantly in that way.

Finally, we have Talli Clemons as Tiggs, Scottie's co-worker. Talli read for the part in an initial table read where we read the script out loud in its first draft to see how it sounded. Talli did a great job there. Then, we auditioned a bunch of people, but Talli kept popping up in my head for this part and he really wanted it, but couldn't make the auditions. So, I just simply asked him to play it.


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


It was a fun shoot. We only had a $1,000 budget throughout, but even with that we had a very dedicated cast and crew who worked very hard and never complained. Everyone just bought their A-game to the production and it was also very collaborative. The actors and I all had different ideas as to who these characters are and we had a nice happy medium between what we all thought and in the end we got something I think a lot of us can be proud of.  


The $64-question of course, when and where will Please Punish Me be released onto the general public?


Right now, we're looking into having a premiere at a local theater in the spring and then moving onto the festival circuit and eventually online distribution.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Yes, I always have something different in the works. I've been given a few different scripts to choose from, so I'm trying to find that next one. I'm also getting back into writing myself and trying to develop a my first feature. It's been a long time coming and I feel I'm ready to take something bigger and really start pushing forth in my career.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


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x-rated  find Chris Esper at

My website:

Macremi (production company who produced the movie):

Please Punish Me Facebook:


Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


The trailer for the film premieres online on Friday March 27th at 7pm on YouTube and Vimeo! Don't miss it!


Thanks for the interview!


Thank you for interviewing me again! Always a pleasure.


© by Mike Haberfelner

Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
content of sites from a third party.

Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
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On the same day
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produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD