Your new movie Life
on Pause - in a few words, what is it about?
about a 1980's-era wedding videographer, still smitten with his college
crush, that attempts to win her love with his "totally
were your sources of inspiration when writing Life
on Pause, and is any of it autobiographical?
Just like Adam, I was also a 1980’s-era wedding videographer - and
(without giving anything away), let’s just say that the most traumatic
thing that happens to him in the film happened to me as well. In the
actual incident, there was no love-interest to add even more emotional
drama to the situation. However, most of my wedding videographer career
took place while I was simultaneously in high school & college - a
time packed with plenty of unrequited infatuation - so it felt natural to
blend that into the story.
on Pause is set in the 1980s - why that era exactly, and what were
the challenges of "going period"?
short is actually a proof-of-concept for a feature-length script of the
same name - which existed long before, and that I hope to make. In the
full-length script, Adam gets caught up in an ever-increasing 24-hours of
chaos that includes getting lost in a way that only makes sense in an era
before the advent of the GPS and cell-phones. And since I personally
suffered through a ton of this firsthand in the 80's, that’s the time
period I set for the script; which then also allowed me to include
fashions, trends, slang, historic/cultural events and music from the era.
For the short film, “going period” wasn’t too difficult because the
majority of scenes are interiors. As such, it was a matter of getting
time-appropriate clothing, props and - most importantly - hiring a hair
and makeup artist with plenty of 80’s-style experience - which we did!
What can you
tell us about Life on Pause's
approach to humour?
large part of the humor has to do with setups designed to make the
audience think that one thing is happening, but then throw in a totally
unexpected punchline; for example: It seems
to be a regular wedding, but then out
of the blue... or: “Oh no, poor Adam is running late,” but when
There’s also no shortage of 80’s specific humor, whether it be the
anticipation of technology that doesn’t yet exist (“I
just wish they’d invent some device in cars that could just TELL me
which way to go”)
as well as good ol’ slang of the era: “How
bodacious would that be?” There’s
also humorous subtlety in all the performances and a strong emphasis on
creative editing for comedic effect.
Do talk about your overall
directorial approach to your story at hand!
primary goal only makes sense if we can see and feel what he is thinking,
and continually contrast that to what’s happening in reality. This was
achieved by storyboarding (from shot-to-shot) the specific differences in
eyeline, performance, sound design and visual effects to achieve this
goal. Having this guide on hand throughout the shoot enabled this to be
effectively achieved. For example, Valerie’s mannerisms are different -
depending on whether she is seen from Adam’s infatuated point of view
vs. a strictly omniscient one.
What can you
tell us about Life on Pause's
cast, and why exactly these people?
the character of Adam to work, he had to be portrayed by someone that is
naturally endearing, funny, dynamic, genuine, and - most importantly -
relatable. Adam is not some “poor sap” to feel sorry for. He is,
rather, a gentle soul that happens to be going through an awkward phase of
love, fear & hope, which we all experience at one time or another in
life. I literally felt all of this in Daniel Desmarais as soon as I saw his audition
video. Several in-person auditions followed, so I could be sure my initial
assessment was correct… and his amazing performance in the film makes me
feel very strongly that it was.
required an actress who could indicate the character’s narcissism and
shallowness to an audience, while simultaneously making the irresistible
sweetness that Adam sees completely believable from his point of view. I
watched what must have been well over 100 Valerie auditions via a
Backstage ad that I kept re-posting, continually hoping for a winner in
the “next batch”. And eventually the moment came - with Jackie
audition. To have lived with this character in my head for so many years
and then to suddenly see her come to life was almost surreal!!
is also a bit of a narcissistic jerk - but a very benign one - because
he’s clearly such a dim simpleton that he doesn’t realize how his
behavior affects others. As such, I needed an actor who had the perfect
blend of good looks and a natural silliness/comedic talent. And - funny
story about BJ Gruber his audition video was not only the first I received for
the Trevor character. It was the very first audition I received in general
after posting the ad. And yet there was Trevor in the flesh, exactly as I
had pictured him. I thought, “Could
it really be this easy? How can I cast an actor without looking at any
other auditions?” So of course I watched many others, but each one
confirmed that BJ was indeed Trevor.
A few words about
the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
happy to report that the on-set atmosphere for Life
on Pause was
one of fun, camaraderie, friendship and professionalism. To me, the
comfort and happiness of the actors is the most important thing. They
the story. Their performances need to be believable, funny, subtle and
relatable. Proper casting and directing are of course always key to this,
but I have vivid memories of making movies in film school where, despite
the actors’ talents, on-set problems and stress took their toll on them,
such that their performances on the original audition tapes were much more
natural and fun than in the films themselves. Not wanting that to happen
I spent a great deal of time with logistical advance planning, which I
compiled into a series of storyboard-oriented daily shooting guides
designed to bring about the most possible smoothness. Of course, in
filmmaking, all the best-laid-plans are no foregone conclusion that all
will go well. But in this case, it did - which was great! Oh - and I made
sure everyone had plenty of food too :)
$64-question of course, where can Life
on Pause be seen?
short answer to that is Vimeo. I’d be glad to send the link to anyone
that’s interested. That said, nothing beats watching this on the big
screen with a live audience. It’s been in 10 festivals thus far, where
it has won the awards Best Short and Best Cast, as well as being nominated
for Best Actor in a Comedy and twice for Best Comedy. It’s still on the
festival circuit, and I always post info about upcoming festivals on both
the film’s Instagram
pages. I can be reached via instant message on either account, to provide
the Vimeo link or to discuss any aspect of the project.
Anything you can tell us about
audience and critical reception of Life
of the pandemic, only two of the 10 festivals the film has appeared in
thus far have been live screenings. However, I was thrilled to see it
generate a great deal of laughter in both - often during parts that I was
not necessarily expecting, which (in each case) was a fun surprise.
Several festival directors have also personally told me how much they
enjoyed the film. Critical reception is only just beginning, but - thus
far - has been positive, with such aspects as: the editing,
casting/performances, character development, 80s-era stuff and comedic
punchlines being pointed out as highlights.
Any future projects you'd like to
am actively working towards getting the feature-length version of Life
on Pause into production. In addition, my next short film will be Spin
Cycle, about a smug ladies-man who gets trapped inside his own coat at a
other feature-length scripts are Night-Sessions (a tongue-in-cheek
horror/comedy about a post-production facility taken over by a vampire)
and Mister Awesome, which chronicles the intertwining lives of a paranoid
young sketch comedy writer and an over-emotional middle-aged heavy-metal
What got you into filmmaking in the first place,
and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
this is going to sound cliché, because there are so many stories like
this, but I did tons of those little movie “flip-books”, starting at
about the age of about 7 (too long ago to remember exactly), and made my
first super-8 film - an animation modestly entitled My First Film -
when I was 11. From there, I continued to make several more throughout
high school, before receiving formal training at college. I was a
Radio/TV/Film major at Glassboro State College (subsequently re-named
Rowan University), where I was President of the Cinema Workshop, and then
moved on to the NYU Graduate Film Program.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Life
made another short, entitled The Masterpiece - a mockumentary about a
ridiculously silly motion picture which attains the reputation of being
“the greatest film of all time”.
This utilized actual footage from one of my NYU student films that went
bad (but hilariously so) and real behind-the-scenes footage from the same
project - blended with all-new interviews of fictional specialists
bragging about their achievements. Some examples were: “The
Extra-Terrestrial Behavioral Specialist”, “The Sexuality Coach”, and
Anatomy Consultants”. The
unique result had audiences hysterically laughing at various NYC venues,
including the Angelika Film Center, Anthology Film Archives and others.
How would you describe yourself as a
already mentioned, I spend quite a lot of time with casting and
storyboarding, as well as doing whatever I can to make the filmmaking
process an enjoyable one for actors. I also prefer to take a gentle
approach, to put everyone at ease - and love to collaborate on ideas.
addition, having spent more than 20 years working professionally as an
editor, I’ve come to realize that my most effective approach to writing
and directing also involves the “editing
frame of mind”.
For example, my writing process involves mixing and matching ideas on
index cards and cut-out strips of paper. Similarly, when directing, I am
constantly thinking of how I’ll eventually be putting the footage
together in the editing room. As such, I get extra coverage when I know
I’ll need it and don’t waste valuable time filming things that I know
I won’t. Visualizing how it will be cut in advance also allows me to
find ways of not wasting people’s time. For example, even though Adam is
seen dodging through a crowd of people in the wedding scene, his close-ups
were actually filmed on a different day, when most of that crowd was not
there. In the spirit of natural performances, I also love to allow actors
to do some extra ad-libbing when time allows - which I used in a fun way
during the Life
on Pause end credits.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
are of course many, but I’ll pick the first four names that come to
mind, simply because each has made films that filled me with
jaw-dropping awe & amazement that has never diminished: Orson
Welles, Stanley Kubrick, Terry Gilliam & David Lynch.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Citizen Kane, Monty Python and the Holy
Grail, Brazil, Time Bandits, Casablanca,
Blue Velvet, The Elephant Man, The Party, A Clockwork
Orange, 2001: A
Space Odyssey, The Shining,
1917, Rear Window, It’s a Wonderful Life,
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
if I had to pick just one: Citizen Kane, for sure.
... and of course, films you really
putting any titles here, let’s just say I’m not usually a fan of films
without a focus on plot. From an intellectual standpoint, I understand
that this kind of movie can have significant artistic merit (and there are
some that I do genuinely enjoy) but for the most part, I much prefer
wondering what’s going to happen next because of clearly-defined
conflict. Obviously, this doesn’t make me unique - but then again
it’s clear that films which more or less just present
very much appeal to some. I also don’t like films which do not make an
effort to introduce the characters in a way that could get you interested
Your/your movie's website, social media,
Anything else you're dying to mention and
I have merely forgotten to ask?
I would like to use this opportunity to once again mention that I am
actively working towards getting the Life
on Pause feature film into production, and I invite anyone
interested in discussing any aspect of this to send me a message at either
of the above film pages.
Thanks for the
It was a sincere pleasure! I'm very honored!