Filmmaker Spotlight: Bonnie Bower and John Wynn

Filmmaker Spotlight: Bonnie Bower and John Wynn

Bonnie Bower
Bonnie Bower
John Wynn
John Wynn

In the future there is a fierce, female force to be reckoned with; who fights to protect the young and innocent, while defying the weighty dictatorial society swathing around her. Luckily today such a strong female character isn’t such a foreign and futuristic idea, especially with badass heroines being brought to the screen like Eve in Bonnie Bower and John Wynn’s Escape. In this week’s Filmmaker Spotlight we got to know the heroine herself, Bonnie Bower, and Writer/Director of Escape, John Wynn.



Where did you two get your start in the industry?

Bonnie: My background is in Theatre. From a very young age, I was performing ’40s era show tunes in talent shows. My dad was very much the inspiration there. I went on to get my B.F.A. in Music Theatre. I knew about halfway through college that I wanted to focus on acting and transition to film and television. A month after graduation, I flew to La La land with two suitcases and $250…the classic bumpkin going to Hollywood story.

John: I started out as an actor, doing guest stars on TV and a lot of commercials. A few years ago, I produced a film I was starring in and one thing led to another and I soon realized my calling was as a director. I loved my time as an actor. It was creatively and financially rewarding, but for me it came down to what excited me when I woke up in the morning. I just love with all my heart, directing and producing. I’m obsessed with it. The biggest challenge in making the switch was the time commitment. As an actor, you become the role and you give it everything you have, but once you wrap, you’re done. At least until you have to do press. You don’t have to worry about distribution and color timing and DCP’s and sound mix. You get to refresh and charge back up and tackle a new role. Behind the camera, when you finish principal photography that’s just the start of a very long road to release the film. But that’s also the most rewarding part of being behind the camera: you’re actively involved in what happens in the film, or at the least, you have some idea of what’s happening.  For me, the switch has been the best decision I could have made.

 

 

Tell me about your short ‘Escape’ that brought you to HollyShorts

John: Escape is a wonderful showcase for both Bonnie and me. For her, she did a fantastic job co-producing it and her performance in it is stellar. Everyone is just star struck by her presence on-screen. I’ve had a wonderful history with the HollyShorts Film Festival, having won honorable mention back in 2011 with my first short Pillow Talk.  I wanted the next film that I screened at HollyShorts to be even more of an eye opener. Escape was something I felt could be that.  The world in Pillow Talk was small and intimate. Escape is immense and wide in scope with almost every frame of the film augmented by VFX.  It was a huge undertaking to make it all appear seamless and organic, but I think we pulled it off.  Again, none of that matters, though if the story isn’t engaging and the characters endearing, so it was very validating to have the audience at HollyShorts love the film.

 

Where did the idea come from to tell the story of such a badass heroine?

John: The idea was born out of a talk Bonnie and I had about an action sequence I wanted to shoot.  I don’t want to give away all the details because I still want to make it, but basically, I asked her opinion about this scene where a woman has to protect a child during a very violent confrontation. I’ve always been drawn to strong, complex female leads and really wanted to explore the maternal instinct to protect one’s young. From there, our talk evolved into a better idea of what the character of Eve might be. Bonnie had some really great suggestions that I was able to incorporate and once I figured out the rest of the story we were good to go.

 

Bonnie, as a female lead how did it feel being such a kick ass heroine? Did you have any specific heroines that you were channelling in your role as Eve?

Bonnie: Um, it was awesome! I have played roles with a similar emotional range to Eve, but I have never played a role with this type of physical action. I grew up dancing and with sisters, so needless to say I was not a scrappy kid by any means. Getting in touch with that part of myself was an exhilarating and freeing experience. There were so many film heroines performances that inspired me to get into the right physical and mental place. Sigourney Weaver in Alien, Angelina Jolie in everything, Kate Beckinsale, to name a few.

What are some words of wisdom that you have for actresses/women in the industry?

Bonnie: Be true to who you are. Listen to yourself. The self you were when you moved to Los Angeles or New York or Toronto or London. I have grown in amazing ways, but I know this is just the beginning for me and I have to remember that Bonnie that moved to Los Angeles right from college with a little extra cheek chub and 250 bucks. Perspective.

Bonnie, you did some crowd funding for Escape, tell me about the process of your experience with crowd funding.

Bonnie: John and I had talked about doing the project and he wrote it literally in an afternoon. John Wynn is a busy man so I had to coerce him a bit to do another short film. I thought, what the heck, I’ll just go ahead and raise the money and then he will have to do it. I asked him how much he thought he needed and he threw out $5,000.  I made a super fun campaign video, with the help of our amazing friends Nathan Moore and Lana Moore, who have a huge presence on YouTube. I used the crowd funding site Indiegogo and that video to spread the word. Well, I’ll be damned, I was determined and it paid off. We surpassed the goal I set.  I was completely overwhelmed by the support from friends and family everywhere. The key to crowd funding, in my experience, is learning how to phrase “Give me your money” in a way that doesn’t make everyone ignore every single post you make to social media. It’s also an art in knowing how often to make those posts.

 

What tips do you have for indie filmmakers and their crowd funding campaign?

Bonnie: Make a short, fun campaign video in the beginning and make sure to have little updates and videos all through the process. It’s important once you raise the money to keep everyone who contributed in the loop too! They are all investing in you, so as the filmmaker you should give back by sharing your process and making your campaign in your individual voice.

Do you have plans to make this short into a web series or perhaps a feature?

John: Escape is being set up as a feature. We cracked the logic for the extended story and are very excited at what the full length version of it is going to look like.  Stay tuned.  We should have details soon!

Bonnie Bower
Bonnie Bower
Bonnie Bower and John Wynn
Bonnie Bower and John Wynn
John Wynn
John Wynn
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Sideways 10th Anniversary

Sideways 10th Anniversary

The Crest

Last night at The Crest in Westwood a group of cinephiles gathered to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Sideways followed by a Q&A with novelist Rex Pickett, director Alexander Payne and star Virginia Madsen.  The audience was privileged to have Rex and Alexander there to talk about how Sideways made it from being an unpublished manuscript to screen and celebrating it ten years later. 

Life is full of moments when the glass is less than half full, and sometimes hardly enough for a serving for even a taste. For Rex, he bares all on-screen of his life as at a time where he was at his bottom, rock bottom.  Against the odds and unsavory opinions Rex puts his grittiest moments in life on the page and last night, on-screen. 

Rex: The book is incredibly personal. When I found out my ex-wife was getting remarried, when I found out she was pregnant and realizing it was over, that’s me, not exactly how it was with Miles, but that’s me. We made two feature films together, she produced my films, we spent ten years together, and we gave our lives to the movies. I had a drinking problem back then. That’s me stumbling out of The Hitching Post II; I’m watching myself on-screen. It wasn’t easy to do it, but the acclamation, the laughter from the audience, that’s validation that I went somewhere deep and I fileted my soul and I joke many times that if I could afford a gun back then…

Alexander: Rex’s ability to have a wide variety of experience from the darkest to the lightest and to share that with an audience that’s the sort of material I need for a film. When I read material which could be adapted to a film I’m looking for is lived in and known experience, not so much a story invented out of someone’s head. I find my observation looking back at the lived emotions felt and actual experience.

Rex: I was in such a state of despair…only way to sell this story was to make it funny. The only way I can sell despair is with humor. 

Alexander: I’m sure you’ve skated on the thin ice of depression, many times and your humor saves you. You’re a charming fellow and you’re funny…and talented.

Virginia: Did you really drink that bucket of wine spit?

Rex: At a high-end tasting, I didn’t have any money back in those days. They were pouring wine back in and I sat and I sipped. It was a wine tasting we went to every Saturday and they talked about that for months. I was like ‘well that’s going in the book’; Alexander read every single draft that I wrote. Alexander is unbelievable. What looks so simple on that screen he meticulously to detail. There are also some things he did in post production that truly blew me away. The way he montages through the dinner scene. That’s not even in the novel and it’s not even in the screenplay. It looks effortless, but the directing is truly brilliant.


Alexander goes into detail about his initial attraction to the then unpublished manuscript and how after just a few pages he was hooked and hoped that the main character would make it in the end, and luckily, he does.

Q&A

Virginia Madsen and Alexander Payne

Filmmaker Spotlight: Anya Leta

Filmmaker Spotlight: Anya Leta

Anya Leta
Anya Leta

In Points of Origin a couple who cannot conceive must replace a birth announcement with a plane ticket, a baby shower with doctor’s appointments, and an American womb with an Indian one. RJ, an Indian radio host played by Ankur Vikal, and his wife, Rosemary, played by Tessa Thompson, face ethical dilemmas as they outsource their pregnancy to India, hoping that the in vitro process will endure as well as their relationship.

When thinking of outsourcing a service one’s mind doesn’t immediately think of outsourcing a pregnancy, but for Anya Leta’s main characters it’s the not just on their mind, it’s their reality. Writer and Director Anya Leta brings two worlds together divided by culture and circumstance and joined by one commonality: life.

As Rosemary attempts to relate to her surrogate she is blinded by the nucleus of her own grounding and deficient to see the circumstances of the cultivation that the surrogate faces.

RJ faces scrutiny as he addresses the controversial topic of outsourcing surrogacy on his radio show, and is rapidly put in the hot seat when callers ask heavy questions that force RJ to surface his fears and doubts about the procedure.

 

Tessa, Ankur, Denzil

Points of Origin Synopsis:

Points of Origin is a fictional short film exploring the emotional conflicts an American couple experiences while attempting to have a baby with a female surrogate in India.

 

Anya, tell me a little bit about where you grew up and where you studied filmmaking:

I grew up in a small town in Iowa called Fairfield. Where the Transcendental Meditation (TM) headquarters are. I have roots of visiting India since I was 14 years old. So shooting a film there wasn’t such a foreign idea to me.

I did my undergraduate in Film at UCLA and got my graduate degree from NYU Tisch Asia at the campus in Singapore. What I loved about the program is that focus was making films and production in Asia.

India is like a second home to me and I’ve always been drawn to it. After I attended NYU I went to India with the intention of making a film. Being a foreigner over there I also encountered other foreigners and the reasons why they were there. I found that many were there for medical tourism, as after the financial crash in 2009, it was more affordable for Americans to do medical procedures at state of the art facilities in India rather than the US.

 

What lead you to tell the story of ‘Points of Origin’

When I started finding out that people were going to India for surrogacy. You’re taking your genes and implanting them into another woman, to me that was the most intense form of medical tourism that there is. You think about outsourcing being outsourcing jobs, but this is outsourcing life. All of this emotional and personal implications that usually involves two people and you’re starting to involve a third person and you’re involving doctors and nurses and this whole exploitation that runs under it. That was the inspiration for the story. Specifically I wanted to tell the story through the point of view of the husband. There are often documentary stories told about American couples who go there and they have no idea what’s going on. I specifically wanted the husband to be Indian and understand the culture. So he would give the audience a very personal look at what was going on. He understands what’s going on, he understands the language. Then I chose to have an American wife who was very much on the outside. And the conflict between the two people.

The plot of the film is surrogacy, but for me it’s about the relationship and what happens between two people in the conflict of this situation. Often they’re sitting throughout the film waiting to go to the doctor’s office, waiting to meet the surrogate, facing forward, but by the end of the film they’re literally facing each other. When you want something so badly and you’re going forward, going forward and finally you get that moment to realize and reevaluate what they want in the face of this circumstance.

 

In a way, you’re including a piece of your American side and a piece of your side that grew in India into the film:

Some people say ‘you make movies about yourself’ and people say “well you must be the wife,” actually I feel like the husband. But, I have some qualities of the wife. Even though I’ve been to India many times and I’ve lived there for two years I’ve been treated like such an outsider. I know how it feels to be the minority and for me it was a very eye-opening experience.

I feel that I brought a sense of that discomfort from those experiences of being a minority in India into the film. Even though I had a great time there I also experienced some assumptions people had because I don’t look like I’m from India.

 

Points of Origin’ was shot internationally what was it like to have a crew internationally and filming in India?

Our lead actor is from and resides in India, our lead actress is from Los Angeles, our composer is from Madrid, the Director of Photography is from Tokyo, our producer is from Portland–our crew is from all over the world. Everyone is scattered all over the globe.

It is very difficult to get filming permits in India. Because the subject is sensitive that added this whole other element where people would ask what it is about and I would respond: it’s a love story. If I accomplished anything at the end of the day I felt good about it because of the challenges I faced filming in India. It makes shooting in the US easier. Filming in Los Angeles vs. India is very different, the lighting and grip team were incredible. They’re the hardest working people I’ve ever seen. I was blown away about how cool they were and how they could work with so little. I remember one day a lamp broke on set and they were so innovative they just made a new one on the spot.

We had a local production team that helped us get our permission for the location we shot at which was essential.

 

Where did you get the funds to film internationally?

I got the funds through Kickstarter. I was thinking about how do I make a quality film, and where is that money going to come from? Thanks to my producer, Erin Galey, we raised $25,000 dollars. Without her I wouldn’t have gotten there. Approaching how to pitch Points of Origin I took into account that I didn’t want my pitch video to be “help me, please!” I wanted to talk about the story.

I think crowd funding is tricky because the campaigns I get turned off from are the ones that come off as desperate, but if you tell me this project is amazing and here is why and here is why you should be a part of it I’m like okay, yes. So that was the approach that we took: we are doing an international shoot we have great actors and you want to be part of it!

The dream of Kickstarter is that there is someone in the world that gives you a bunch of money because your story is so great and it started out that people from my hometown were donating and then at the very end we had this major donor from India who just really connected with the subject and donated thousands of dollars. I feel like I got the miracle of Kickstarter. What’s amazing about crowd funding is that you connect with people you would never know any other way.

My producer, Erin, helped me with great incentives and we used her successful kickstarter for her film Sahasi Chori (Brave Girl) as a model. Some donors aren’t in the film industry and it’s important to make them feel like they’re coming on a journey with you and they’re part of it all. I feel like I didn’t do it well enough after the film was shot– you really have to stay in touch with the people, they need updates, and that’s a struggled for me and Erin because we are keeping so many projects afloat. It’s almost like customer service, because you have to reassure people along the way that they’re going to get what they paid for. I’m happy to do it and I’m so grateful for all who donated, I just wish we could have been better about being in touch!

 

How did you go about casting the characters?

Our main actress, Tessa Thompson, loved the script. It’s important that they connect with the script because I don’t know her, she doesn’t know me, what you can sell is the story. I showed her some of my previous films so she got a sense of my visual style. I went through a casting director to bring her on board. I saw Tessa’s work and she had a bit of vulnerability that came across on-screen and that is what I was looking for. The main character was in a vulnerable state being injected with hormones, she’s in a different country, as a woman she can’t give birth. I wanted the audience to empathize with her rather than thinking about her as a woman who goes to India and colonizes a woman’s body. I thought Tessa was a great fit because she was attracted to the script and she had what I was looking for. She really jumped in to the culture, she loved the food and she would travel around and converse with the crew and that elevated the story because she not only loved the script, but she was really an outsider coming in to the culture.

The actor who played the doctor, Denzil Smith, also connected with the material. Even though he had such a small role he wanted to be part of the story. It’s humbling when you get people like that who are part of your film.

 

 

What are you working on right now?

Points of Origin is touring festivals right now so I can relax a little. Right now I’m working with this brilliant screenwriter named Ron Nyswaner he wrote Philadelphia, he’s one of the writers on Ray Donovan. I saw Philadelphia when I was really young and I never thought I would get to work with someone like him and we’re working together on some of his television projects. He’s a great mentor and I love having a mentor that has so much experience. I’m also working with Erin and her production company In The Flicker. I’m also developing Points of Origin into a feature. Right now it’s only twenty-four hours before they implant the embryo and there is so much more to the story, the pregnancy, the family dynamics. I’m also approaching the surrogacy topic and turning it into a television series. The topic of biological colonization is interesting and I want to touch on the dark side of it,  trade that goes on as well. There is a really dark side that isn’t explored in my film and I want to do that in a long format and in television you can expand stories out even more. Points of Origin is a look into the filmmaking I’m interested in I want to touch on the tension between the two cultures and ultimately between two people.

 

Do you have any advice to fellow filmmakers?

I feel like I’m not qualified to give advice at this time because I’m at the beginning of my career. I think it’s important to do good casting, work with good actors, and I think that all comes from the story. Your script needs to be right, it’s the foundation to your film. Once you have a story that’s working I feel like I’m embellishing it and working it, and when you bring the actors in they contribute to the script.

Anya with ActorsTessa Thompson

Filmmaker Spotlight: Bad Weather Films

Filmmaker Spotlight: Bad Weather Films

bad weather films photo

Chi-town class clowns to sketch comedy channel artists Sam Milman and Peter Vass push the limits of comedy and some comfort zones. These creators, writers and directors of Bad Weather Films have made us laugh, cry (from laughing) and subscribe to the comical concoctions that come from the Bad Weather Films Channel every week.

Last year the duo brought Tennessee Luke, a peculiar and eccentric comedian, from the streets of Hollywood to the HollyShorts Screen in their TV Pilot short ‘Project Tennessee.’ Today the pair is working on comedic movie trailers such as: Tinder, The Movie, Street Spelling, 8 Mile Parody Trailer, and Scarface 2: YouTube Power.

Where did you two meet?

We both joined a TV production class in high school where we made short films and worked on live TV broadcasts. We realized we had the same comedic sensibilities and made a short film together for our final project that became a bit of a hit in our high school.

What sort of short films did you make in high school? What was the beginning of Bad Weather Films because it was conceived?

Our first short film we made in high school was called Badminton: A Rivalry is Born. It was a Napoleon Dynamite meets Dodgeball; we acted as the two main characters as well as wrote and directed it. It became a bit of a phenomenon at our high school since we had a TV channel there and everyone would watch it. We even had people quoting us in the hallways and Sam even sold a couple of bootleg copies during school.

Where did you go to school to pursue film?

Sam went to Columbia Chicago and Peter went to The University of Iowa. Both of us studied film.

How did Bad Weather Films come to be?

After we graduated from college, we decided to move to Los Angeles together to pursue writing and directing comedy. We shot some sketches before moving out and decided to give a name to what we were doing and we came up with Bad Weather Films (which is based on of a voicemail Peter’s grandma left for his brother Nick). We uploaded a few videos on YouTube and the channel started growing from there.

How do you come up with what short to do next? Where did you get your fuel to your funny bone?

We keep notes and ideas in our phones when we think of them. Inspiration for comedy will come randomly and we make sure to make note of it to expand later. Then we put the ideas in a Google Doc and start writing the ones we want to shoot next. That depends on who we are collaborating with and the logistics of shooting the video.

In terms of influences, sketch shows like Chappelle Show, Key and Peele, and SNL gets us excited to think of ideas. YouTube sketch groups like Good Neighbor Stuff and The Lonely Island are inspirational as well, given what they accomplished starting out digital and making it to SNL.

 

Who is your favorite character to play?

Peter: Bruce is my favorite character to play because of how ridiculous he is and how awkward things can get when I interview people.

Sam: Barry is my favorite character to play because he doesn’t give an F about anything and he’ll say whatever is on his mind.

 

If you could stay in character all day, which character would you be?

Peter: If I could stay in character all day it would have to be ‘Joey the Park Ranger.’ I draw a lot of inspiration from nerdy dads, including my own, and feel like the character is believable enough that people sometimes don’t know I’m acting when I approach them in public.

Sam: ‘Yannick’ from The Most Best Talk Show because his accent is funny. Also, I like to wear fedoras.

What sort of awkward situations have you two gotten yourselves into while doing a sketch or staying in character?

We had guns drawn on us before by two police officers while filming a sketch in an alley, and then got padded down. In the sketch Sam was holding a fake gun to Peter’s head while he was pleading for his life, in a jean jacket and jeans, and that alarmed neighbors enough to call the police. Fortunately, they let us finish filming. Close second is getting kicked out of the Century City Mall for filming a music video, dressed up as girls.

What is your process like putting together a cast for your shorts?

Most of the time we are casting actors we already know and work with. We try to collaborate with other YouTubers in every video so a lot of our casting is through YouTube collaborations. Occasionally we will reach out to Upright Citizens Brigade and Groundlings members as well.

What else are you two working on? What will you submit next to HollyShorts or any other film festival?

We have a few TV ideas that we have been developing, shot a sizzle for one of them that we are currently pitching to networks, outlining our next feature film while also releasing YouTube videos every week!

 

Tennessee Luke and Adam Ray
Tennessee Luke and Adam Ray

Last year at HollyShorts your short ‘Project Tennessee’ screened: about an oddball hand model teaming up with a talent agent.

Tell me about how you met ‘Tennessee Luke’ and how you created a short from there:

We met Tennessee Luke on the street, literally. Peter was interviewing people in character in Hollywood outside of the Oscars back in 2012 when we came across an older man in a tuxedo ‘networking,’ and we had such a blast interviewing him we looked him up when we got home and realized we had recognized him from Tim and Eric Awesome Show sketches, it’s been love ever since.

Peter has a web series called ‘A Guy Walks Into A Bar’ and the third season starred Adam Ray as the lead bartender. Tennessee Luke was in an episode and their chemistry was so hilarious we decided to create a pilot and TV concept around them co-existing and that became Project Tennessee.

 

Tell me about the television projects you’re working on: Who do you have in mind for these television projects?

We have a few TV show ideas we have been developing them, one in particular called Club Temperature we shot a sizzle for that stars Adam Ray as the club promoter Stu Temperature and also features comedians Brad Williams, Whitney Rice, Melissa Villasenor, Scott Blair, and Peter Gilroy. We are also in the outline stage of writing our second feature film while continuing to upload videos weekly on our Bad Weather Films YouTube channel.

Peter as BruceSam as Barry

Filmmaker Spotlight: United Film House

Filmmaker Spotlight: United Film House

Camille Profile PicBlake directing what a lifeblakemilleBlake and Camille with Phil LaMarr

Could love at first sight be real, or possibly love at first interview? For award-nominated director, producer and Founders of United Film House Blake West and Camille LaBry’s story is nothing short of Kismet, a Nora Ephron script would draw inspiration.

While Blake was looking for a producer for his film Ride the 9, he found more than a highly competent co-worker in Camille, he found his wife. Ever since then the couple has collaborated on numerous projects and together they birthed their brain child: United Film House. Making them ‘Blakemille’ or ‘West’s’ of the filmmaking industry. Today the power couple team up on features, commercials, music videos, and their short  Alone Together, written by Camille and directed by Blake. 

So lets go back before you two met, Where did you two grow up and how did you get into the industry?

Camille: I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, I first started performing at six years old. I moved to Los Angeles in 2004, and have loved every minute of it!  I’m passionate about collaborations, sustainable relationships, and telling a good story – one of the most wonderful feelings is to be with an audience who is watching our work, and going on the ride together.

Blake:

I was raised on a Navajo Reservation, where my parents were teachers on the reservation.

My start in the entertainment industry began when worked as an extra on a Budweiser commercial in Phoenix.  I asked the crew how they got to do what they do and was told about the film program at Scottsdale Community College. I quickly dropped the business program at Arizona State University and went to SCC.  Interestingly, I was classmates with Bill Hader – who has done some amazing and funny work!!  He was always a really cool guy.

From there I luckily landed editing work for the HBO Network and moved to Los Angeles in 1998. From there I parlayed my editing experience to directing and often claims that fixing other people’s mistakes for years was the best teacher ever. Some highlights of my work include a Grammy nomination, the Oscar Shortlist, and the Weinstein’s and Quentin Tarantino produced film, Hell Ride.

Tell me about how you two met:

Blake and I met on a teaser / trailer that was filmed New Orleans for a feature in development called Ride the 9.

Blake’s producing partner on the film, Jordan Marder, put an ad on Mandy.com, which I answered.  They interviewed me, and during the interview Blake told Jordan to call the other candidates because they had found their producer.  At our wedding in New Orleans, Jordan was our best man.  The first words of his toast: “Camille, you had him at ‘hello.'”

 

How do you two collaborate together? Any tips? Tell me about your process together.

We have an excellent collaboration together, like two sides of the same brain. We’ve both said on many occasions that this is the best collaborative partner, we’ve ever had – we’re like the Coen brothers. But married. And not related…

 

Whose idea was it to start a business together? How did United Film House come to be?

For years Blake had the vision that he wanted to be in business with someone he was close friends or involved with – we just happened to work together before we were involved instead of the other way around. Which worked out great for us, having that trust, friendship, understanding, and work ethic first – the love simply blossomed out of fertile ground. We were back and forth with a million names – Blake knew he wanted “house” in the title because we do feel it’s important to truly collaborate with people and it’s not about competition. There’s plenty for everyone, and all success is good for everyone. That’s when we thought “united”, and the rest is history!

It’s also a nod to United Artists, founded by Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith.

Your short, Alone Together, was at HollyShorts this year, tell me a little bit about it and how you decided to cast your actors:

Alone Together is an 8 minute film without dialogue about a man struggling with his past, only to realize, like many of us, that it is his present and inescapable future.

We were inspired by Ryan Coogler’s short film Locks. His film is without dialogue and leads the audience to believe they are headed towards an expected outcome, then has a fantastic twist at the end.  The visual storytelling is so impeccable, we knew we wanted to do our own take.  Ryan – great work man!

We felt it was very important to have a film without dialogue, especially for Camille in the beginning stages. Our main character, Louis Mandylor (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) brought so much to the character– his pain is truly tangible, and his performance is mesmerizing because of the work he put in.

Casting was interesting; we knew we wanted Louis right away and we were thrilled he responded to the material. Brooke Newton was actually a last minute addition who Louis brought in- we lost our original actress on the first day of shooting and it ended up costing us about a half a day of filming.

We’re very grateful that to have Brooke added to the film in the end…she worked out fantastically.  And in a wonderful twist – her physicality actually added a dimension to the film that was unexpected.  Perhaps we had a higher power looking out for us?

 

Camille, tell me about your early start as a performer:

I loved performing! I started out with stage, literally telling my mom at the age of 4 I was going to be an actress in the movies. I ended up doing a bit of singing, soloist at Carnegie Hall at age 17, and voice overs, anime, foreign films, video games, etc. In my early 20’s I was also a Project Manager for a number one Fortune 500 company in San Francisco before moving to Los Angeles. I was also a makeup artist for a few years before rolling all that knowledge into where I truly feel like I am now meant to be – writing and producing.

 

Blake, tell me how growing up on a reservation has influenced your filmmaking style:

The Navajo reservation and the experiences growing up there lent a unique understanding of Native culture. It definitely influenced my style as well, I’m fascinated by Southwestern folklore, the landscapes, and the wild west.  We actually have a project we are currently packaging that takes place in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona – Superstition, based on a legendary cursed gold mine called The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.  My spec work on Hell Ride actually gained the interest of Quentin Tarantino & the Weinsteins, since it has a raw and dreamy Southwestern aesthetic.  I was Editor and 2nd Unit Director on the film and I directed the Peyote Trip.

 

 

Blake, your work has been recognized for some Grammy and Oscar awards. Tell me about those nominations:

Yes, a couple projects I edited were recognized:  Grammy nominated for Johnny Cash’s America (directed by Academy Award-winner Morgan Neville) and the Oscar Shortlist for Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh, where I worked with Friends co-creator, Marta Kauffman.

What will come out of the works next from United Film House?

We have many projects in the works. Right now Blake is directing, casting, and packaging The Flyer Hold Up, a 1930’s surreal comedy mystery. He’s also directing, casting, and packaging a thriller/horror that I wrote, Superstition. We’re also about to start casting and packaging Ride the 9 a contemporary pool hustle film.

We have many projects in the works. Right now Blake is directing, casting, and packaging The Flyer Hold Up, a 1930’s surreal comedy mystery. He’s also directing, casting, and packaging a thriller/horror that I wrote, Superstition. We’re also about to start casting and packaging Ride the 9 a contemporary pool hustle film in the vein of The Color of Money.

We just completed shooting a comedy television pilot presentation called, That Guy, starring Kelly PerineMaya StojanBrooke NewtonShondrella AveryKevin Weisman and Phil LaMarr.

About United Film House:

The Name of the Game is Connection.

Our intention is to build sustainable relationships, provide a quality experience for everyone who shares involvement in our films, and to tell stories that inspire positive transformation.

At United Film House, we consistently evolve our business, and ourselves – sharpening proven tools, and gathering new ones along the way.

We are developers, contributors, and collaborators with a foundation built from integrity and inspiration.

Who Are We?

May Our Work Speak for itself.

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