Catching Up With ‘Outlaws and Angels’ Director JT Mollner As He Heads For Sundance

Catching Up With ‘Outlaws and Angels’ Director JT Mollner As He Heads For Sundance

5 Questions with ‘Outlaws and Angels’ Director J.T. Mollner

We catch up with our very first Filmmaker Spotlight subject, J.T. Mollner, as he prepares to premiere his independent western Outlaws and Angels at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, coming to the Midnight block on January 25th. J.T. talks with us about his undying love for film and how it enhanced the western world he created for his first feature.

Outlaws and Angels: When Outlaws on the lam invade the home of an unsuspecting, seemingly innocent, frontier family to hide out for the night, an unexpected game of cat and mouse ensues, leading to seduction, role reversal, and ultimately, bloody revenge.

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Tell me about your feature, ‘Outlaws and Angels’, which will be debuting at Sundance this year:

The Sundance acceptance was a huge surprise as well as a dream come true. I wasn’t ready to show them the film when the deadline hit. We had no choice but to send them an overlong, rough cut with no sound mix or color timing and I was sure we were going to get bad news.  Then we got the news. Wow. We owe so much to those programmers out there. I really couldn’t imagine a more perfect place for this film to premiere. Midnight, Monday the 25th, Sundance Film Festival. Love how that sounds. And the most exciting part about it is that we will be screening our premiere at the library theater on a 35mm film print, something that didn’t happen at all at Sundance last year. We’re proud to be bringing Kodak back to Sundance.

I’ve always wanted to make a western – mainly so I could do all the things with it that I thought were missing from most of the westerns. It’s a revisionist western. A home invasion thriller that has derivations in story from films like Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs, Polanksi’s Cul-De-Sac, and Kubrick’s Lolita. It has the traditional western elements, but we break them down, and I like to think It plays more like a gangster film. Another thing I wanted to focus on was authenticity. Most westerns are too clean. We spent hours dirtying actors up, sweating them up, and rotting their teeth. Fluoride toothpastes weren’t being used on the frontier.

In our first interview, you referenced some filmmakers that inspire you such as Polanski, Bergman, Fellini as and described them as ‘outlaw filmmakers’. Now you having written, produced, and directed your new feature ‘Outlaws and Angels’ how has their work as ‘outlaws’ played a role in your feature if at all:

Their work hasn’t just influenced me, the film very simply would never have been made if it weren’t for those masters. And I certainly wouldn’t have dared go to the dark places in the script if it weren’t for the influence of the “Outlaw” elements of story in films like “Cries and Whispers”, “Repulsion”, and “La Strada”. There’s plenty of post-modern European cinema influence in this picture. It’s all there. Although my Director of Photography Matt Irving and I found our own look for the movie, our starting place was “McCabe and Mrs. Miller”, in my opinion Altman’s best flick and heavily influenced by European cinema as well. It’s because of Altman that I fell in love with the zoom lens, rarely used today as heavily as we used it in our film. But then we incorporated new things – hand-held in certain spots, for instance, something I’d never seen in a western. It gave us our own unique look. Matt and I decided to do long takes and minimal standard coverage. There is one 10-minute single take and the actors really nailed it. I was working with people who had tremendous talent and it made this very specific, visual style possible.  

Being such a lover of FILM how did that provide an advantage or disadvantage making ‘Outlaws and Angels’

Did I mention that we didn’t just shoot on film, we are projecting on a film print at our Sundance premiere?! It’s so incredible that Kodak has made this possible.

Okay, back to shooting on film. It was never an option for me not to shoot this on film. I have a deep commitment to film as I think it represents more than just a certain look, it represents the very nature of cinema. Many filmmakers put too little importance on format. I think it wasChristopher Nolan (God bless him) who was asked by a studio head if story should trump all else, including format, and he said something like “No, if that were the case we’d be making radio shows. They are much cheaper”. Absolutely brilliant and totally right on! As filmmakers, we owe something to celluloid. We need to go to battle for it or it will go away. I could have made “Outlaws” a few years earlier if I had been willing to shoot digital but I stood my ground and it was worth the wait. I had to fight for it every step of the way, but to me it was just too important to compromise.  We shot on Kodak 35mm film and Panavision cameras on the 2 perf format. It was heaven. Lorette Bayle from Kodak and Jim Roudebush from Panavision really got behind us. We wanted grain and we wanted texture. We shot with a package of all vintage Zeiss and Cooke lenses from the early 60’s. We got exactly what we wanted and it wouldn’t be the same film without the rustic, “old-photograph” look we were going for. There were challenges, like shipping back to labs in LA when you’re on location, and not having full resolution playback, but who cares? The benefits FAR outweigh the disadvantages. Film is king.

Tell me about how you assembled your team for ‘Outlaws and Angels’

Chris Ivan Cevic was the first Producer I brought on because we’ve been partners on shorts and commercials for nearly 10 years. He was involved from the very beginning, putting together our package so we could hit the streets. Chris and I aren’t just partners, we are friends, so we really complimented each other from the beginning. I like writing and directing, but I can’t stand the other shit associated with getting a film made. He likes the other shit, and he supports my vision but also isn’t afraid to give me his opinion when I’m going astray so we have always been a good fit. Then Rosanne Korenberg (“Half Nelson”, “Hard Candy”) read the script and flattered us by agreeing to come aboard and Produce, even though she had been hired as a VP at Miramax and wasn’t really interested in producing indies anymore. She helped us lock the first half of the financing and then we were ready to go out and get the thing greenlit. That’s where Luke Daniels at Tunnel Post came in. He’s hungry – he’s a go-getter. He really was the final piece we needed to make the film real. He got us the rest of the funding but it was contingent on a certain level of talent being attached, so we hired Chadwick Struck, an amazing Casting Director and spent about a year pitching the film to agencies and trying to get everything to line up. It all finally came together and we went to make a movie.Chad Michael Murray was an unlikely choice for the role of the seasoned outlaw, Henry. Gersh pushed for a meeting and I just fell in love with the guy when we met. He was so passionate, wanted to do something different than he had before, and it really translated to the screen. Francesca Eastwood auditioned for us, and then we had a great meeting as well. She’s just a natural born movie star so much charisma, such great instincts. You really can’t take your eyes off her when you watch the film. Both of them just gave that crazy level of commitment on set that directors dream about and they are so talented. All the other cast came together quickly. Ben Browder and Teri Polo were brought in by Gersh, who were so helpful and had a deep belief in the film. They are both brilliant actors and gave 110 percent as well. Then the other pieces just fell into place last minute, Madison Beatty, who auditioned for us and I was already a fan of because of her role in “The Master” came into play Charlotte and knocked it out of the park. Keith Loneker and Nathan Russel provide the much needed comic relief and really nailed it. Frances Fisher jumped in to play a supporting role last minute and just blew us all away. We were so lucky to get her. And then, of course, Luke Wilson was one of the last guys cast. Great guy. He really bought in, totally trusted my vision, and was a pleasure to work with. The whole cast really brought it, took it seriously, and had a sense we were doing something special. I feel grateful.

The cinematographer was an interesting thing because I’ve always worked with the same guy,Gavin Kelly, until this project. Gavin and I were a great team, but he had another project scheduled at the same time and I was not looking forward to working with someone new on the first feature. Our Line Producer Mykel Denis, turned me on to this guy Matt Irving. I was a fan of a film he shot years back called “Groove” and also liked his most popular film “Waitress”, however, I was concerned his signature look wouldn’t fit what I was going for. We got on a 2-hour long film-geek call where we talked movies and I knew he was the right guy. Matt’s a genius. We spoke each other’s language. Couldn’t have gone smoother on set. He bought into the vision and we almost always wanted the same thing for each shot. He knew exactly what type of film we were making and it shows when you watch the footage.

Now that you’ve completed your first feature are you going to turn your short ‘Flowers of December’ into a feature? What’s next?

The easy answer is yes. Now that we’ve got a distributor for “Outlaws” and we are getting the theatrical release that was so important to me, I’m already thinking about the next project. It’s contemporary, takes place in West Texas, and is titled “18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses”. It’s a dark love story, somewhere between “Leaving Las Vegas” and “Midnight Cowboy”. “Flowers in December” is a different story but takes place in the same world.

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Francesca Eastwood in ‘Outlaws and Angels’

Source: No Remake Pictures

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JT Mollner and Duke Mollner on the set of ‘Outlaws and Angels’

Source: No Remake Pictures

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Luke Wilson and Steven Michael Quezada

Source: No Remake Pictures

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Chad Michael Murray

Source: No Remake Pictures

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Filmmaker Spotlight: Anna Akana

Filmmaker Spotlight: Anna Akana

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By Chelsea Fung

Twitter: @CineChel

At the tender age of 19 Anna Akana was entering bars before she was of age, to perform stand-up, and dropped out of college to become a pupil of film school taught by the silver screen lit up by her shadowy influences: Tim Burton, Stephen King, and Joe Hill.

 

Today, Anna runs her brilliant, spunky, raw YouTube Channel that stands up against social stigmas, challenges the men who proclaim they have a case of ‘yellow fever,’ and writes, directs and stars in out-of-this-world short videos such as Pregnapocalypse, Here She Is, and her newest cosmic short, Miss Earth and she may possibly be a super hero, by night.

 

Where did you get your start in the industry?

I started doing stand up when I was 19. Because I was underage at the time, at certain clubs I would be forced to wait outside until it was my time to go on stage. Then I would do my set, walk off, and be kicked out again.

Stand up is such a unique experience that I absolutely loved, but I realized I wanted to pursue acting. My focus since then has primarily been in film. I’ve done a ton of web projects and short films, and I finally feel confident and capable enough to tackle a feature in 2015.

Where do you get inspiration to fuel your shorts and projects?

Honestly, it all comes from boredom induced by strict deadlines. I’m always working on something, whether that be sketch or a vlog or a short film. When you hold yourself to deadlines, you create a ton of content (with a focus on improvement). The more you create, the more ambitious you become with your projects. Short films were a direct result of over 200 web series sketches and vlogs. After you create enough 2 minute videos, you start to wonder what else there is. Deadlines and discipline and quantity with a focus on quality have always been what keeps me going.

And of course, it’s all very fun. Hard work, but still fun.

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A few quirks or interesting characteristics about yourself:

I’m a very quiet person. I like to sit back and watch everyone talk and interact. I don’t say much unless there’s something I can add to the conversation. I can “turn on” the confidence and charm and be talkative if I have to, but if the social situation doesn’t call for it, I’m very reserved and observant.

I believe that an abundant amount of cats are the perfect form of birth control. Haha.

If you were officially a superhero, what would your superhero name be and what would be your superpower?

Gah, I’ve been pondering this question for like 20 years. Still don’t have an answer. If I could only have one power, it would be teleportation. No more traffic for me!

Did you go to school to study acting and directing?

I dropped out of community college two years in. The most education I have with acting is attending various classes in Los Angeles in Meisner, scene study, cold reading, etc. As far as directing goes, my experience is solely my self-produced projects. However, I do treat the short films of this year as a film school. It definitely is a learning process.

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Tell me about assembling your team and cast for your shorts:

My shorts have had virtually the same cast and crew for the entire year. We got into a work flow and an environment that we all knew and loved, so I kept bringing the same people back. Megan Rosati, a good friend and an insanely talented actress, has been in almost every single project I’ve ever done. From So Fetch Sketch to Miss Earth, I’ve brought Megan back not only because she’s a joy to have on set, but because she’s passionate about her job and isn’t afraid to speak up when she has an idea or suggestion.

I hope to work with a more diverse crew and cast in the future. For the feature, I definitely want to do traditional casting. I have certain people in mind for various supporting roles, but I would love to have the leads be star names.
What is fueling your future feature? Any details you would like to share about it yet?

As of right now I’m taking meetings with investors. If I can’t raise my desired budget, my last resort would be crowd and self-funding. I don’t feel comfortable releasing any details, just yet, but it’s a romantic comedy written by two very funny women I know.

What inspired you to pursue film?

The process itself is so rewarding and fun. I started out as an actor, but that mostly means hurry up and wait. Once I started developing my own content, I fell in love with being on set and bringing it all together.

 

Your shorts, such as, Afflicted Inc., Here She Is, and Hallucination, have a swarthy tone throughout. What/who has influenced this style of filmmaking?

I attribute the black tones in my films to Stephen King, Tim Burton, Joe Hill and Richard Matheson. However, most of my writing is influenced by mental health. I’m incredibly passionate about shedding light on the stigmas associated with mental illnesses. When our bodies are sick and people extend their sympathy, bring us soup, offer up solutions. When our minds are sick people tend to shy away from you, be afraid, or call you outright crazy. I’m fascinated by the way society and individuals view mental illness, and most of my shorts comment on that.

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Do you have a specific character you like to play the most?

I love acting in other people’s projects honestly, haha. I’m a huge fan of comedy, although I have a killer scream of anguish/anger in my tool belt.

 

If you have to stay in one character for a whole day; who would it be and why?

Probably my school girl character. That Japanese accent never gets old.

Tell me about your feline entourage:

Lily, Jimmy, Abby and Congress are my furry children. At times they can be difficult to deal with (especially during feeding time), but I love them! They’ve taught me a crazy sense of responsibility and bring a meaningfulness to my life that I imagine only children really can.

When will they be making their social media debuts?

Ha! I have trouble keeping up my own social media, much less having Instagrams devoted to them!

In the spirit of Halloween, I’m curious, what’s your biggest fear in life?

That I won’t sufficiently live. I am a workaholic, and sometimes I sacrifice experiences in order to be productive. I hope I don’t end up imbalanced and regretting these decisions when I’m older.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?

Miss Earth, which released on October 16th, is a science fiction comedy that I wrote, directed, and starred in. It was in collaboration with New Form Digital, who pitched in some money, and the rest I funded with my life savings. It’s the longest piece of content I’ve done so far, and definitely the most ambitious.

Who is your favorite director and why?

It changes, but right now my favorite director is James Gunn. Guardians of the Galaxy is the epitome of what I want to do with my life. There’s not enough science fiction comedy with heart in it, and he nailed that one on the head. My favorite directors are always writers as well, because directing is just that last draft.

Any advice to your fellow filmmakers?

Create, create, create. The only way to get better at anything is to do it all the time.

Any advice specifically to female filmmakers?

Keep going. Sometimes you’ll doubt yourself, certain people will make you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, others will discourage you or objectify you or tell you you don’t deserve to be where you are in life, but just as many other people will encourage and be inspired by your work. Keep your audience in mind, but always do it for yourself.

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Filmmaker Spotlight: Christiano Dias

Filmmaker Spotlight: Christiano Dias

Filmmaker Spotlight: Christiano Dias

Christiano DiasChristiano Dias

By Chelsea Fung

Twitter: @chelcmei

In a single shot, a nine-year-old girl activates her boiling imagination to fend off a cloaked monster created by her parent’s underlying feud, which can only be conquered by the resolution of family love in Monster in a House by Christiano Dias.

Brazilian born, Texas raised writer and director, Christiano Dias brings his endless imagination and creativity to every film he creates, especially when it is in a single shot. In Dias’ recent short, Monster, he brings back some familiar faces from his eminently creative short King Eternal, which also revels in the elusive imagination of an adolescent to escape a difficult reality. Dias’ talks with us about building his dream cast, keys to crowd funding, writing through the blocks and what is in store next.


 

Where did you get your start in the industry?

Texas. I was a 19 years old when I started an internship with The Studios at Las Colinas in Irving, TX. Everyday I would drive about an hour round trip to the studios to help with famed Film Coach, Dr. Don Jackson’s acting workshops. I would film the classes, edit them, and over time – occasionally – lead some of the workshops with the younger actors. I later befriended the Studio Chief, Justin K. Muller who managed the company that ran the studios at the time – Muller Entertainment. That was when I got to work on some commercials there as a PA and also Studio Grip on shows like Prison Break and America’s Got Talent. I ended up interning there for four years and just two months after I started, Justin Muller was already helping produce one of my short films. In those years, Justin ended up producing a handful of other short films of mine and an indie feature that I also DP’ed. In 2012, I moved to Los Angeles to get my Masters in Filmmaking at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. I’m currently writing a feature, have two films in the festival circuit, and am in post on a third episode of comedic web series.

Tell me about your short, King Eternal, that brought you to HollyShorts.

My short film, King Eternal is about a young boy that uses his hyper-active imagination to cope with his parents’ divorce. It’s told in a magical realism style, blending reality with childhood imagination. It’s a film that is very dear to my heart, as I dealt with some of the same themes growing up. It also stars Golden Globe winner Joseph Bottoms and actress Lisa Roumain (Jersey Girl, Avatar) and I’m grateful to say that I’ve made a lifetime friendship with both of them. So much, that my most recent short film also stars both of them and another very wonderfully talented young actress, Kitana Turnbull. It’s called Monster in a House and is 14 minute single moving shot and, I’m obviously biased but, I think it’s a doozy! I’m just fortunate to have worked with such immensely talented people from Composer – Daniel James Chan and Director of Photography – Michael Helenek. To me, it’s all about building a family that you work well with, believe in, and are “sharp as a knife” focused on telling a story.

 

 

Who has been an inspiration to you in the industry?

Well, every filmmaker has their favorite filmmaker. Or at least I would hope. But no one beats Kubrick in my mind; he’s totally untouchable. Of course, I admire many others, but every filmmaker is influenced by him in one way or another, that Kubrick is sort of the all-encompassing person for me. I also think the way Austinites, Robert Rodriguez and Richard Linklater got started are powerfully inspirational. It tends to give us newcomers a fighting chance!

 

 

You write and direct and edit, how do you fuel all of these contributions that go into your films? How does the story change from page to screen? Which is your favorite to do?

I would say that I take them one at a time, so my head doesn’t explode. Writing is inherently insulated, safe (generally), and something that can be changed, even on set. I mostly encourage the actors to bring their ideas and I’ve been privileged to work with some masterful ones, so they’re my safety net as much as I’m theirs. Directing is an organized chaos. No other way to put it for me, we change things on the spot and adapt and take some losses and some wins and in the end it’s getting as close to the script as we can. The story will always be there as long as we don’t veer into oblivion, so it’s just keeping in mind the things that keep your story grounded and not forgetting it; we can have fun and be chaotic and try things as long as we have at least one foot on the ground to bring us home, if that makes sense. And, editing is just scary. It’s sort of like completing the circle and you’re writing all over again – in that cave that no one enters until you have something. And not really knowing what you have until you can sit down and look more closely, and knowing you can totally screw it all up too. This sounds awful, but editing is not all that bad, it is equally as fun as it is scary. Maybe that’s all of filmmaking…

 

 

If you could tell your younger self something, what would you say?

Hearing and listening are two very different things. Don’t forget to listen.

 

 

Tell me about your recent short, Monster in a House:

I’m very proud to say that I just finished my latest short film. It’s a story about a husband and wife’s broken relationship that manifests itself as a monster that only their daughter can see, and only they can defeat. It’s the most challenging film I’ve ever made. We shot it all to feel like a single shot and I think we wildly succeeded at that, it was just a technical whirlwind of a film that really reflected the theme. Which is about not running away from your problems or “monsters” and facing them head on, so cutting felt like running away. I’m also happy to say we completely crowd funded it on Indiegogo, so it’s good to know we have some fans right out of the gate. I’m dying to show it! Right now, I’m currently writing my first feature and having a blast doing so.

 

 

What fuels your writing? How do you get past any blocks or troughs while writing?

I try to write something every day. Even if it’s just a sentence or anything. I open the Notes app on my iPhone daily and write something that comes to mind: a character’s name, a situation that happens at lunch that’s funny, a daydream, whatever it is. It’s amazing because it’s all saved there. I have notes from 2009 that I sometimes dig up and see if it’s usable or if it just plain sucked, unfortunately it’s sometimes the latter. Then there’s the blocks. I like to write from the heart, picking stories and things that happened to me or that I’m afraid of or love to do, or always wanted to do. I feel like you really have to love it if you’re going to write it and spend so much time with it. So “write what you know” has sort of been my mantra. I like to think I get over the writing blocks by hitting them over the head with an 800 pound bowling ball; you sometimes have to just battle yourself! I heard the Coens like to write themselves into a corner, then write themselves out. I think I’d like to try that someday.

 

 

How did you go about casting your shorts?

I’ve always cast all my films myself with a trusted fellow filmmaker and another to run the camera. That’s really been the whole process. Then you take the footage and sit down with a few more filmmakers and get their opinions, but at the end of the day, it’s really how that audition made you feel. I remember when Joseph Bottoms came into the audition for King Eternal and it was towards the end of the day and I hadn’t done much research, but knew he looked the part and by the time he showed up, we ended up talking for about 20 minutes before he even did any sides. Thinking about it now, I feel like I cast him before he even sat down and before you go screaming bloody murder about it, it is a huge thing to really get along with your actors and have a relationship. I cherish my relationships with every single actor I’ve worked with greatly. A good vibe’s a good vibe. I suppose that’s been my biggest lesson about casting and making films, “go with your gut.”

 

 

What advice do you have to fellow crowd funders?

My humble opinion for crowd funding is to tell your story as simply as you can, explain why it needs to be made or what makes it important – and it helps if you have others attached already that can speak on your behalf too, and then give some decent perks; do it all in a well made three to four-minute video and you’re halfway there. With films, the perks that really matter are the big dollar Producer credits. I was lucky enough to successfully crowd fund two of my shorts in two years and our backers are scattered literally all over the world. What helped us was that Joseph Bottoms happened to have some very enthusiastic and generous fans from Russia that massively funded each of our films together and I’ll forever grateful to them. Lisa Roumain and Joseph both really helped me promote the story in the campaign video and we’re just over the moon with how supportive people were. Make phone calls, write letters, email until your fingers bleed, and do anything you can to get the word out!

 

 

What advice do you have to your fellow filmmakers?

I’m not sure what I’d say, I mean, I’m still learning myself. I don’t think we ever really stop. But maybe I’d say the same thing I would to the younger self question, “Don’t forget to listen.” And by that I mean that filmmaking is collaborative and not just one person’s film; listen to your actors and collaborators, but only take the ones that will help you tell a better story. Because at the end of the day, the story is king. But if they’re filmmakers, then they don’t need my advice, they’re already making films – that’s the best thing there is.

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Read more about Monster in a House in the reviews below:

EPIC podquest film review

Red Carpet Crash Film Review

Forest City Short Film Review: Monster in a House

Stay connected!

Facebook: facebook.com/monsterinahouse

Twitter: twitter.com/monsterinahouse

Website: www.monsterinahouse.com

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/99810872

Filmmaker Spotlight: Bonnie Bower and John Wynn

Filmmaker Spotlight: Bonnie Bower and John Wynn

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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