BACKSTAGE with Jon D’Amore

30 09 2013

Today on CSReview, author and screenwriter Jon D’Amore is making a come-back talking about a year of an incredible spin-off that followed the release of his book THE BOSS ALWAYS  SITS IN THE BACK.

CS: When we spoke last year, prior to your book THE BOSS ALWAYS SITS IN THE BACK was to be released, did you know you’d quickly get your own fan base with thousands of copies sold?

Jon D'AmoreJon D’Amore: Because the story of THE BOSS centers around a group of mob guys from Hudson County, New Jersey (the county directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan, quickly accessible via the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels),it was only logical that a good percentage of my “fan base” would come from that area. Much of the book’s initial success was due to two Union City, New Jersey, Facebook pages.

Union City was where I was born and spent the first 12 years of my life. When the book was released, and after living in Los Angeles for nearly 15 years, I went back to New Jersey to promote it…and the people came out en masse. It was amazing. Very heartwarming and humbling. The night I returned to Union City for a reading of THE BOSS at the William V. Musto Cultural Center, I was speechless when Mayor and State Senator Brian Stack, Police Chief Brian Barrett and Commissioner Lucio Fernandez came up to the podium and honored me with a proclamation naming May 24th “Jon D’Amore Day” in the city of my birth.

It didn’t take long for things to explode from there. Using the accumulated radio and TV segments, promotional materials and articles, THE BOSS snowballed. It also helps that my readings and responses to questions are entertaining, informative and humorous.

J1

The car in this picture was used in the infamous Godfather.

I recently returned from a four week tour of Florida, and I’m already being asked to return by the bookstores where I appeared. But what’s most rewarding are the emails I get every week…every single week…from people I don’t know telling me how much they’ve enjoyed THE BOSS and that it made them laugh while keeping them on the edge of their seats, or simply because it brought back memories of people and places they knew. Readers appreciate the respect, honor and love I showed for the characters…compelling characters who also had terribly violent and criminal sides to them.

CS: Jon, I think getting a day named after you is a total blast! The recent news of you securing a major NYC literary agency – what can you tell me?

Jon D’Amore: A major literary agency was something I’d been waiting, working and striving for. Early on I could have signed with a number of agencies, but I felt they weren’t high enough on the literary food-chain. I knew THE BOSS needed to be promoted and distributed in a big way…on a large scale. In order to do that, I needed an agent who shared my vision…and an agency with the power to make it happen.

the boss official coverI wanted an agent who can walk into any of the best publishing houses and put THE BOSS in the hands of the person who’s going to get it, the person who has true belief in the product, the person who knows the genre and the target audiences, not just one target audience, but the many this book appeals to. That is paramount. Anything less means THE BOSS would simply languish in the mediocrity of so many other poorly marketed books. So I had to wait until the right agency came along. It took longer than I had hoped…but doesn’t everything that’s truly worth doing successfully?

When I lecture at colleges and schools about writing, marketing, sales and self-publishing, I tell the story of when my literary attorney and I sent copies of THE BOSS to agencies to get it represented and shopped to publishing companies…and how the rejection letters, interestingly enough, contradicted each other. The responses were everything from, “There are too many mob titles in an already glutted market,” to, “There is no longer any commercial interest in Mafia stories,” and each one was signed by someone who allegedly knew what was happening in the marketplace.

It became apparent that no one really knew exactly what was happening out there. The publishing industry was changing faster than “the decision makers” were able to make decisions. After enough of those letters came in, I decided it was time to do it myself and create a market for THE BOSS.

And that’s exactly what I did.

Once I self-published the book in every marketable medium (e-books for Nooks, Kindles, iPads and Kobo readers, an audio book for Audible.com, and the hard cover and paperback versions), I put myself out there so the public could hear a slice of THE BOSS and be entertained at the readings. I also went on every radio and TV show that would have me. That’s when several agencies started to take notice.

My friend, Pamela Des Barres, along with being a best-selling author and a big fan of THE BOSS, mentioned it to her agent. He liked what he saw on THE BOSS website (www.TheBossAlwaysSitsInTheBack.com), so we spoke for a bit on the phone and I sent him a copy. He read it within two days, liked it a lot, and we spoke again. A few days later I went to Manhattan and put everything in front of him.

Conversely, I also made it a point to interview the agent and the agency. I asked as many questions of them as they did of me. I made sure they weren’t taking on my book strictly to fill a niche in a sliver of the marketplace. The agent got it. He loved the story. The arcs. The characters. The respect of the culture and the love between the primary characters.

The agency wants to make the book a best-seller…not just on a national level, but internationally. A few days later the agent, the agency and my attorney were working out the terms for our contract. It was signed within a couple of weeks.

CS: You gotta give it to those guys, they know what they are doing and what then need to do to get you where you belong. So, Jon, what does standing at the top of the mountain feel like?

Jon D’Amore: I don’t know…yet, but I’ll certainly let you know when I get there. Right now, you can say I’ve left the base camp and I’m climbing. Fortunately, I have a great support team in my agent, my attorney, the investors and the countless people who’ve enjoyed reading THE BOSS.

I really believe the apex will be when the book is published by a quality company, it’s selling well and the screenplay has been sold to a studio. Until then…it’s an uphill climb no matter how well it appears THE BOSS and I are doing.

CS: Can you put a dollar-amount on what it cost to independently publish, print and promote your book? You’ve done national tours, interviews, radio, television, lectured, released the audiobook…is it all worth it?

Jon D’Amore: That’s easy to answer. From the day I decided to publish THE BOSS until I recently returned from Florida, between the principal amount put up by the investors, plus the interest on their investment, not counting what I owe my attorney, it’s a little over twenty-five thousand dollars.

Is it all worth it? From my point of view, I can’t let it become not worth it.

J3THE BOSS ALWAYS SITS IN THE BACK has never been a vanity project like some self-published books are. I didn’t borrow that kind of money or put my credibility on the line for it to fail. I believe in THE BOSS. The people who invested in it believe in it. My attorney and agent believe in it. The masses that purchased and read the first edition love it. Even people who planned or expected to find fault with it…loved it. So I’m working very hard to make sure it’s worth it. Besides, I have investors, and for their loyalty in this project alone I need to make sure they get paid back.

CS: While speaking to the media and telling the story of your book, did you re-live the events you wrote about? Were there moments when “The Kid” (one of three mob-aliases given to you in the story) spoke in your place?

Jon D’Amore: My hanging out with da guys ended a long time ago, but the great times we had and the life lessons we all learned (well, at least the ones who are still alive)…those stories had to be told. The audience certainly sees my pleasure as I read to them, so most certainly I re-live it as I’m reading it…no matter how many readings I do.

My early years as a musician gave me the ability to comfortably perform in front of large audiences, followed by a few years as a studio musician which honed my confidence level. Of course, the things that went on in Vegas with my Godfather also had a great effect on the way I lived my life during and after those years. Later, my life in the corporate world enabled me to take those talents and skills and use them in what the suits call “the real world.”

As for “The Kid” showing up at any readings…From the beginning of the book to the last page I describe how several great eras ended. The era of The Kid is the last of them. As much as I love talking about that slice of my life when I was called “The Kid” and the great days and nights of the mid-to-late 1970s, The Kid went away a long time ago.

CS: Who is your ideal reader?

Jon D’ Amore: Anyone who enjoys a great mob story that tells about the history of the New Jersey and New York crime families, how a boy grew up in a family involved in Organized Crime, a very slick Las Vegas scam that eventually goes bad and people turn up dead, honor, respect and a deep love between a young man and his Godfather. Of course, there’s also the pure entertainment factor. I connect a lot of things in the story with memorable and historic events and locations. Things many people can relate to and recall where they were and what they were doing at that specific time.

Interestingly enough, I was able to monitor a large percentage of those who purchased the book based on sales through THE BOSS website and at live appearances, plus by the emails I receive from those who bought the e-book, the audio-book or the printed versions on-line (where I’d have no idea of the demographics)…and the majority of THE BOSS purchasers and readers are women between 35 and 65. And to make the numbers even better, women buy additional books for the men in their lives to read.

CS: Curious stats, Jon. If a publisher is acquired, do you expect them to have you re-write the book or change the cover?

Jon D’Amore: Coming from a thirteen year background in the Hollywood screenwriting community, it’s not uncommon for a producer to praise the writer to high heaven with accolades of how great their script is and that it can go right from the page to the screen because the producer is “…just the person who can get it done.” But once the deal is cut and the producer has the rights to the script, the first thing they do is change about twenty-to-forty percent of the original script. I’ve seen it and have heard writers joke(or cry) about it all the time. It’s usually the reason some great scripts become some bad films. Though, once in a while it does work the other way around.

That being said, I’m sure the chosen publishing company will want to exert some power. Will they? Who knows? Let’s see what they come up with. If it makes THE BOSS a better book, I’d be a fool not to follow their advice. If I don’t think some things make sense…that’s why we have agents and lawyers.

Personally, I think the cover is right on the money and has become a brand for the title and story. If they want something else, it had better be great!

CS: It seems you’ve done it all – and all that you could to promote THE BOSS nationally. What can you tell your fellow authors out there considering whether to self-publish (which in today’s world is just a click away), or knock on the doors of publishing companies which can, let’s face it, take forever and a contract may or may not ever happen?

Jon D’Amore: As far as knocking on doors or mailing your cover letter and chapters to a publishing company, I’ll say this…Unless you have a blood relative in a very decent position in a quality publishing company and who also owes your parents money or a favor, do not try to walk into one or mail in your manuscript and expect any kind of positive response. Yes, there are the exceptions to the rule…but the odds say it probably won’t be you. It wasn’t for me! You must get an agent. Trust me, I thought it could be done without one…and I was wrong.

As to self-publishing…If you sincerely believe in your project to where you’ll put your bank account along with your personal and professional credibility on the line; If peoplenot closest to you (that’s right, I said not closest to you) are supporters and hard-core believers; If people who’ve achieved a notable level of success in the field of your project praise, promote, support and believe in what you’ve done; If you have the ability to put yourself in the marketplace and spotlight to speak about your project with the highest professionalism, humor and ability; If you have it within you to accept praise with humility, and criticism with appreciation and respect…DO IT!

If not, whichever one of those things you’re lacking in…learn to do it…and learn to do it very well.

J2

CS: Excellent tips! Now, is the future looking bright for Jon D’Amore?

Jon D’Amore: The future’s so bright…I gotta wear shades.

CS: That’s a good one! Nice talking to you, Jon. Come back with more success stories of THE BOSS.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.




BACKSTAGE with Kenneth Kemp

14 09 2013

Today on CSReview, Hollywood actor and director Kenneth Kemp is sharing a behind-the-scenes story of an exciting upcoming TV series Attaché.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Kenneth. Let’s start with a quick look at your career in entertainment. What achievements are you most proud of?

KEMPKenneth Kemp: I ran Kenneth Kemp Productions for over 20 years, worked with numerous Fortune 500 clients, and produced over 100 projects. I won two Best Director Cindy Awards (Cinema In Industry). I was a producer at the Olympics Games in Salt Lake City and Greece. But the thing that I’m most excited about is this International TV series, Attaché.

CS: Attaché is your first network series – how does it feel embarking on a new adventure in a new, and a very different and serious role?

Kenneth Kemp: I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge. In fact, I thrive on it.  Creating and writing a series is certainly serious work, as you put it, but serious fun bringing it to fruition. Attaché is an international crime drama about a branch of law enforcement that’s never been seen on television,  and I’m thrilled that we’ll be featuring cultures, countries, and actors from around the globe.

CS: I am curious, what’s the story behind Attaché? How did the idea come about?

Kenneth Kemp: I was working the Olympics when I first encountered a Legal Attaché. I had no idea the FBI maintained a presence in foreign countries. My curiosity got the better of me and the more I dug, the more I thought, “This is a great premise for a television series”.

Astonishingly, Legal Attachés have limited authority, no jurisdiction, usually aren’t allowed to carry a gun, yet their job is to solve or prevent crimes against Americans abroad. Having no jurisdiction, they must work with a local law enforcement liaison, who’s in charge of the case. Despite these impediments, they still manage to save Americans every day.

For the series I raised the stakes even further.  A typical Legal Attaché stays in a specific country for about three years and develops these liaison relationships to help investigations run smoothly. In Attaché, our protagonist John Roemer is a specialist, sent to a different country in each episode. Beyond cultural differences he must work with someone he’s never met before and lead from the back seat. To make matters worse, limited resources seem to doom his missions to failure.

At home things aren’t any easier. Roemer is unwilling to move on from his estranged wife and he’s challenging custody of their son, who means everything to him.

AttachePoster

CS: Sounds like an awesome plot. What’s the hardest thing you had to do so far on the project? What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you on this project?

Kenneth Kemp: I’ve worked diligently over the past two years to develop my relationship with the FBI. I wanted to make sure the series was couched in reality – even though I take creative liberties to make it more dramatic. The great thing that’s come out of this relationship is that the Bureau is excited about the series and has agreed to open their Legat (Legal Attaché) files to us to mine for future episodes.  That’s something networks want to see.  Not only are our episodes based on real cases; there’s virtually an endless pool of stories.

The funniest things were some of the stories I heard while interviewing current and former Legats. I can’t tell you the stories now, but you can be sure they’ll be featured in the series.

CS: Now I am intrigued! Let’s talk about the money. Isn’t producing an international series expensive?

Kenneth Kemp: It depends on how much we actually shoot in the foreign country.  Covert Affairs, (USA Network) for example, take their lead talent to several countries over a few weeks, with a skeleton crew, and shoot the recognizable exteriors they need from several scripts in order to mitigate costs. Everything else is shot on a sound stage or in local locations that double for foreign ones.

CS: Oh, Covert Affairs has been really awesome, very dynamic and real. Do you plan on having FBI consultants on the set to ensure authenticity?

Kenneth Kemp: The Bureau’s been on board with this project since the beginning. The Public Affairs office is used to working with Hollywood. They’ve been a tremendous help to me as a writer, ensuring my pilot script’s realism permeates descriptions, scenarios and even dialogue. Once we’re in production, we will want a consultant on set, however that will be a retired agent who’s no longer working for the FBI.

CS: That makes sense. Now, since this is international, what countries are involved in the story?

Kenneth Kemp: We start off in Greece. I have the rest of season one outlined and we’re already in talks with film commissions from countries around the globe that are not only excited about the series, they’ve expressed interest in possible joint ventures. You’ll have to watch and find out where Roemer goes next.

CS: Looks like you got it all covered. What’s next for Attaché?

Kenneth Kemp:  We’re attaching above-the-line talent, aligning with producing partners, and meeting with networks.

CS: On that note let me wish you to break a leg doing the leg work for this incredible upcoming series, and we here certainly will welcome news of Attaché‘s release. Thanks for being on CSReview, Kenneth.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2013. All rights reserved.

FOLLOW Attaché on FACEBOOK





BACKSTAGE with Craig Hurley

13 03 2013

Today on CSReview, a Hollywood actor and now a published author Craig Hurley talks about his autobiography 27 And All Washed Up.

craighurleyCS: Welcome to CSReview, Craig! How does it feel going from being an actor to being an author?

Craig Hurley:  Hi! Thanks for having me…  I have actually been a writer for many years, and have five scripts registered with The Writer’s Guild.  An actor in essence interprets the emotions and written word of a character, usually written by someone else.  As a writer, the project is your own creation from its inception, which is exciting in a very different way.  Over time in the entertainment industry, you learn that without a script you really have nothing.  You learn to really respect writers.  27 and all Washed Up is my first book, and my first venture as an author.  It was a cathartic and nostalgic experience, and I learned a great deal from it.  I really enjoy hearing reader’s opinions, good and bad, but mostly people find it to be an honest and entertaining read.  In the end, I’m an entertainer, so that’s great!

CS: What’s behind the title – 27 and all washed up – what kind of a message are you sending to young actors?

27_front_coverCraig Hurley: To watch out for your careers or you’ll become that, Kristen Stewart! Be careful.  27 is actually a very interesting number in the entertainment industry.  At that age, most child actors shift into adult roles, if they can.  And you have to be prepared to do that.  When I wasn’t booking on camera at 27, I shifted into voice over work.  You have to be prepared to tackle and explore other facets of the industry while you’re waiting for what you really want to happen.  There is a great deal of advice for young actors in 27 and all Washed Up, I can personally impart because of my own experience, which was sometimes very painful.  My message to young actors about 27 and all Washed Up is to read it!  They should do so, as there is always this tendency in the entertainment industry, and in human nature in general, to hear cautionary tales but say, “That won’t happen to me.”  I was poised to parallel Johnny Depp in our careers.  The decisions you make on the way up affect those projections.

CS: You’re rather open, frank in your book. Do you have regrets, or do you feel a sense of fulfillment that you got the entire story out – your story?

Craig Hurley:  I have nothing to hide! Never have.  My girlfriend, actress Katie Barberi, says one of the traits she admires most about me is my honesty.  If you can’t be honest about your experiences with yourself and with others you really have nothing.  Honesty is truth, and truth is freedom.  I have to have a sense of fulfillment about 27 and all Washed Up, because it’s a project that’s seven years in the making.  And it is actually just beginning as I tackle the marketing aspect of it without being a marketing expert.  But I didn’t really write it for that sense of fulfillment.  I‘ve just had an interesting ride and my friend and costar in a production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest I did in Chicago, actor Zak Wilson, suggested we put those experiences down on paper through an interview process.  That process actually became the format for the book, which is another aspect of “27” I have heard readers really like.

CS: In your book you’re mentioning Paralympics. Could you share more about what exactly you did and why, and what was the ultimate lesson for you in this?

Craig Hurley:  I was a celebrity Judge at the Special Olympics in 1990, and what struck me about these kids and young adults was their spirit.  I also worked with Down’s Syndrome inflicted actor Chris Burke on Life Goes On and my observations were similar.  We so-called “normal” people  complain a lot.  A lot.  And then you see these kids, who were born with and/or have acquired an apparently huge disadvantage for accomplishment in this life.  But they don’t see it that way!  They persevere.  They deal with those disadvantages and move on toward fulfilling their dreams, just like anybody else.  They also need to be heard and recognized, just like anybody else.

CS: Are you enjoying your human experience so far?

Craig Hurley:  Well, I don’t seem to have much of a choice, do I?  I don’t know if we’re meant to enjoy the human experience.  Although there are obviously great moments of joy, mostly derived from love.  Dan Millman wote in The Peaceful Warrior that the bravest souls on this planet are those of us that come down here to learn.  To that end, I am enjoying learning.  But I am concerned about the human experience in general and for generations to come, and the fact that the “playground” we have to have those experiences on is in such peril.  On my website, www.craighurley.tv, you will find my complete report on a project I conceived for drought solution and water conservation called, “Floodwater Relocation Program.”  As an Illinois Department of Transportation Certified Inspector and the son of a Civil Engineer who has owned his own Consulting GeoTechnical Engineering Firm for the past forty years, I have learned a great deal about construction, and I believe we need to put our knowledge to use toward the saving of the only little ball of dirt in the Universe that we have to inhabit.

 CS: I won’t let you go without talking about Star Trek. I bet it was awesome, and I also happen to know that my audience is dying to hear a backstage story from the set. Maybe just one, something that didn’t make into your book?

Craig Hurley:  Well, I don’t have much more to impart about my experience on Star Trek The Next Generation, precisely because I was very specific and detailed about it in 27 and all Washed Up, and all Star Trek fans should definitely check it out!  I have some fun secrets about the special effects and the actors and how they were on the set in there.  What has blown me away is how many followers the actors from Star Trek have on Twitter!  I have used Twitter to tell people about some of the actors, writers, producers and directors I talk about in “27”, and the stars of Star Trek have some of the most followers on the planet!  Just amazing!

CS: What are your future plans? What do you expect from life in the next 10, 20, more years?

Craig Hurley:  I am right now concentrating on ScrappyCo Productions projects.  We are in post production on an independent film called Crazy that I wrote, directed, produced and starred in alongside actor Steven H. Hansen. As for my expectations, I expect to keep learning. That’s what I’m here for.

CS: Thank you for sharing your story with CSReview readers, Craig. Best of luck with your new projects. I am sure we’ll be hearing from you again!

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Copyright Camilla Stein ©2013. All rights reserved.




BACKSTAGE with Larry Laverty

29 10 2012

Today on CSReview Hollywood actor Larry Laverty is talking about a new horror film production he just finished working on – The Control Group, directed by Peter Hurd.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Larry! Nice seeing you again. What can you tell us about your recent film project?

Larry Laverty: I’ve been in a few movies now, over one hundred at last count, but hadn’t experienced anything quite like my adventure on director Peter Hurd’s first feature film The Control Group. I’d been talking with my good friend David Fine, also an actor, about this movie he was going to be taking part in back in Minnesota.

CS: And so you were immediately hooked?

Larry Laverty: Well, he’s mentioned it off and on over a period of a couple of months and then one day he told me he had a conflict with another project he was prepping for at the same time. He asked me if I’d be interested in talking with the director about taking over the role. So I did, I was hired, and I hurriedly prepared my role and travelled to Minnesota three weeks later. I spent a month on location in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, working from the very first day of the shoot to the very last day.

CS: What can you tell me about the set?

Larry Laverty: We were going to shoot almost exclusively in an abandoned asylum built in 1895 that is scheduled for demolition after we leave. When we first arrived the place was populated by hundreds of bats. Some parts of the facility look as if the staff just walked away from their jobs yesterday while others are crumbling.

CS: So, why was Fergus Falls picked for the project?

Larry Laverty: Fergus Falls was chosen as the location for the film because of the access the production company had to the now abandoned, 120-year old mental hospital there. It’s a  humongous facility, built in 1890, with all the trappings of the mental hospital of your dreams. To top it off, much of it is in wicked disrepair and now home to hundreds of bats. You could never build a set for a movie of this scale or style. We shot in the tunnels beneath the structure, in the hallways, and in countless rooms. and every day and every inch of the way, you couldn’t work without being reminded of what went on here over the years. The history of how our society has dealt with the mentally ill took place in living color here over the years.

CS: What kind of history? Any living memories?

Larry Laverty: Good and bad. Many records of the goings on have been destroyed,  rooms permanently sealed shut or demolished, and many lives were lived with no record of their existence. Over 3,000 souls died while committed here and are buried in a remote cemetery, out of view from the public, about a half mile from the main building on grounds surrounded by farmland once used to feed the patients and workers. To see this graveyard only accentuates the pathetic history of the institution. Of all the graves there, markers sit atop only a couple of dozen, in random, improbable fashion. All the other graves can only be detected by the shallow impressions left by the years of settling earth that have gone on. It’s all very sobering. So in this setting, we made our movie, a drama that turns into a thriller, that turns into a horror, with elements of the super natural sprinkled on top.

CS: This is very humbling, Larry, as well as terrifying. Who is your character in the film?

Larry Laverty: I play a government agent, of the special ops type, tasked with monitoring the operations of a secret government experiment on mind control. The experiments are done on college students who have been abducted and seems to be going well until something goes terribly wrong and the patients along with the staff and myself are forced into a run for our survival. The story has everything, in terms of plot and in terms of visuals.

CS: Sounds like something right up your alley, Larry. Who are you playing opposite of?

Larry Laverty: The lead scientist played by Brad Dourif who’s in the middle of a fantastic acting career that got its momentum from his incredible role in the highly acclaimed film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Since the film happens to be one of my all-time favorites and I’ve watched it countless times. Everywhere we went during off hours, someone would come up to us, having recognized Brad and starts a wonderful conversation. Likewise everywhere we go, somebody mentions that their mother or their sister or somebody they know used to work at the asylum and the stories keep growing.

CS: What was the most memorable during production?

Larry Laverty: I still haven’t gotten over the fact that I was working with Brad Dourif who I’ve always respected. Now a month since I left Minnesota following completion of the shoot, I still have vivid images of the creepy asylum there in Fergus Falls and the bats that lined the hallway ceilings when we first arrived. It was a twist of history that while our production was in town, the city fathers were embroiled in a fight to determine when the building, save for the administration portion, would be raised to the ground and erased from sight.

CS: Incredible. What is to happen to the building?

Larry Laverty: The Minnesota state legislature has already set aside the funding to demolish the place, so I consider myself grateful for the opportunity to have toured the structure and to have made a movie there. Life went on in Fergus Falls once the facility, at one time the largest employer in town, closed its doors. And once the building is demolished, life will go on then too. But I for one, got a glimpse  into a world that remains out of sight to our society, the world of the mentally ill and how we as a community deal with them.

CS: What are you taking with you from this project?

Larry Laverty:  I, for better or for worse, have been aware of the less fortunate all my life as my elementary school was situated right next door to a school for ‘retarded’ folks. From the very first day, we were instructed to never look through the cyclone fence that separated our two playgrounds, never attempt any contact with those individuals on the other side of the fence. And so it’s been through human history. I’m grateful to the makers of this movie, not only for the fun and adventure I had in the making of the movie, but for the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people in this community of Fergus Falls who took such great interest in what we were doing in this facility that has loomed over a community for so many years.

CS: Great to be talking to you, Larry. Thanks for stepping by, and break a leg on your next film set!

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

View the Official Trailer of The Control Group





BACKSTAGE with Traci Dinwiddie

5 07 2012

Today’s guest on CSReview is a Hollywood science fiction actress and a woman of many talents with an amazing professional record – Traci Dinwiddie

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Traci. I am truly honored to have you here. You are an award winning actress, now also a screenwriter and a singer. Does wearing many hats wear you out, or, perhaps on the contrary, gives you an extra boost and inspiration to create something new and exciting?

Traci: Thank you so much for your interest in my work! Wear me out? Oh, quite the contrary! I’m a multi-hat wearing kind of woman.  It’s extraordinary to live a rich, full life.  Being busy doing what I love titillates me.

CS: From one sci fi fan to another – Han Solo rocks! And so do Star Wars. I really do not know what we’d do without them… do you imagine your life could turn out differently if not your early exposure to science fiction? What are the ultimate lessons of science fiction that you carry with you through life?

Traci: I hear ya.  Love me some Han Solo. The ultimate lesson in sci-fi would be that anything IS possible!

CS: Who is your Yoda, your Grand Master? What would you like to learn that’s missing in your professional career today?

Traci: My Yoda is my yoga. On the simple side, I’d like to learn French.  I’m also really flirting with the idea of going back to college and finishing just because I can and I love to learn.  The only real thing missing in my career today is a series regular role in a new badass sci-fi TV series! Come on, Universe! Bring it!

CS: You know what they say…  if you want something really badly, Universe will move with you to deliver. If you’re determined, things will happen! What is most special and most hard thing to do when acting in a science fiction film? Does it differ from anything else you’ve done on screen?

Traci: Sci-fi is my heart’s love.  It’s always mind-bending.  I must give a deep bow to the sci-fi fandom.  We are a special breed.  Hardest thing: keeping my eyes open after they were ‘burned out of my skull’ while crying in Bobby Singer’s (played by Jim Beaver) arms in episode 401 of  “Supernatural”.

CS: If you were a Star Trek character, who would you be? Why? I think Star Trek 2009 was absolutely brilliant. Do you want to see another Star Trek sequel, if yes – would you want to be a part of it?

Traci: Loved it, too.  I’m eager to work with J.J. Abrams.  I would have played Spock’s mama, Amanda Greyson, hands down.  Sorry, Winona.  Ya haven’t anything on MY eyebrows! Yes, I would dive into some Star Trek sequel action without hesitation.

CS: You’re on your way to creating a new web series. This is a new medium that continues to win the audience. What are the key components of producing an ultimately great web series?

Traci: I hope I have the ingredients right.  I’m a huge social media participant.  Web Series need quick, exciting story lines to follow, brilliant editing, and unique style.  These are designed for those who’ve busy lives.  I want to leave my audience inspired and eager for more.

CS: How does trying yourself in a new, more technical role of a producer, reflect on your acting?

Traci: It’s empowering to produce films in which I act.  I dig knowing that I’m creating work for myself, and I hope it inspires others to manifest their own desired work. As one of my mentors, Marianne Williamson says, “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” While producing and acting does require a bit of a juggle, it’s completely do-able.  When I’m on the set as an actress, I delegate producer responsibilities appropriately, so I can simply focus on my craft.  It takes a good instinct for hiring your team.  I’d like to think I’ve got that instinct.

CS: If you had to go through a Stargate, which planet would you pick for your destination, and what would you find there?

Traci: Ah, yes.  My Stargate would take me to Neptune where the atmosphere is pure water in which one can breathe.  All movement would be lyrical in its effect simply by the fact that the local beings are living in a water world.  It’s a dreamy place with the essence of poetry, light, and dance where a person can restore after working their buns off on Earth.  I’m a bit of a romantic, I admit.

CS: I love alien planets! Well, Traci, thanks for a great sci fi chat! I’m glad you stepped by and I wish you all the best and all the greatest achievements in life and on screen!

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

Click to watch ANHEDONIA Trailer





CSReview SPECIAL

21 06 2012

Today on CSReview  we are talking to four filmmakers, participants of the Collaboration Filmmakers Challenge in Hollywood, CA, Film Actress and Director Bethany Orr, Film Director Skye Von, Actor and Filmmaker Xavier Sagel, and Writer/Director Ed Zareh.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Bethany, Skye, Xavier and Ed! Glad to see y’all, can’t wait to hear your stories! So, what can you tell me about the project and what inspired it?

Bethany: The theme was actually a P.J. O’Rourke quote: “There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.” Rules and festival theme were doled out to all participating filmmakers during an orientation evening in Hollywood at the end of May.

CS: That is an intriguing motto. You mentioned rules. How complicated are they?

Bethany: Not so complicated, but a little confusing! The idea is that over the course of two weeks, each participating filmmaker would: a) make their own original movie with the help of another and b) work as a “collaborator” in helping another get his/her film made.  Kind of bizarrely great because even though we were technically competing against each other, every time we helped someone we got “collaboration points” that could result in a cash prize, so it truly was in our best interest to be as helpful as possible. To begin with we were each asked to submit five different pitches for a short film piece that fit the theme, then they actually made the picks for us, we didn’t get to choose. Ultimately, each filmmaker was given one full week to complete their film from start to finish.

Xavier: And everyone was CRAZY eager to collaborate. It didn’t seem like people were just doing it for the points. People were genuinely interested in the other filmmaker’s projects and willing to do anything at any time of day. It was astounding. The orientation was interesting. When I first arrived I was like, “These are the filmmakers?” It looked like a pretty eclectic group and they were not what I would have thought a group of filmmakers would look like. But that was just one of the surprises in store for me in that two weeks. They were an amazing group. Everyone so nice and knowledgeable.

CS: Seems like a very tight schedule too. Did any of you feel the pressure and worry for the quality of the film given the time restrictions?

Xavier: At first I wasn’t worried. I had a full day set aside for shooting EVERYTHING. And then the day of the shoot came. An hour went by. Then two. Then THREE. And I had only completed one scene. That’s when panic starts to set in and you think immediately, “What can I get away with cutting and what can stay?” Because it was obvious to me that I was going to HAVE to cut some stuff. And then you think, “Will it suffer?” Luckily I had most of it. We had to schedule an additional night shoot two days after. And no one complained. It was a miracle. But yeah… I was scared there for a minute. I thought I was gonna end up with a pile of crap. Ha!

Skye: For myself the small amount of time we would have to write, produce and get the film in the can clearly reflected in my choice of the possible stories for my movie. All my 5 pitched were movies that I knew I could complete in the short amount of time. The film that the jury ended up picking was in relation to the other ones in regards to location and shoot time the easiest to achieve, since it only involved one location and one shoot day.

CS: I suppose modern equipment makes things easier and the work more productive, quicker…

Ed: (enthusiastically) I’m used to writing and shooting quickly for the Second City New Media, so I viewed the time constraint as an advantage. It’s the difference between new media and film. The film people have the advantage in technical execution, but new media people are faster and more nimble. We work quickly, get things out in volume, and are more likely to write for trends.

CS: Interesting, Ed. Creating a new generation of media, being part of history… that’s plain awesome! I am curious… who of you can tell me how selections were made?

Ed: Having someone else choose which film you’d work on was a little tricky. I’d been knocking around several ideas that I thought would fit the theme, but they ended up picking the one I liked the least, the one that was the least developed. Luckily, one of the perks of the CFC was a script consult with Nichol Simmons, formerly of AFI. That was a huge help.

Bethany: The festival organizers reviewed the pitches and selected ONE of the five for each filmmaker. They announced to us our pitch choice on Tuesday at midnight, and then we were OFF TO THE RACES! We had a total of 7 days to produce our film, including writing the script, development, casting, pre-production, production, editing, and scoring.

CS: So, all together how many filmmakers participated?

Bethany: There were 42 filmmakers total but several dropped out so I’m not sure what the count was at the end.  The completed films will be playing in a 60-90 minute program on June 22 at a well-known location in Hollywood – Harmony Gold Theatre – and the judging panel is pretty impressive!  Someone will win $5K, and there are two other $1500 prize categories as well.  It’s exciting, and in a way everybody wins because we each have created a completely original short film that didn’t exist before– even though not all of them will be shown that night. 

CS: Do you think an eventual disappointment for some might somehow reflect negatively on the whole idea of collaboration and creative work?

A Skye Von Film HORREYAH

Skye: No not all. This has been an incredibly rewarding experience. We all already won just by partaking in the challenge. The amount of professional connections and experiences we have made during the two weeks is a prize within itself. Also, I myself walk away from this experience with 4 other stories for short films, which I want to develop in the future that I did not have before the challenge.

Ed: I hope not. There’s a lot you can learn from other people– even if it’s what not to do. Film and video production is such a collaborative medium to begin with, you often have to work with people you don’t know or may not like. It’s important to be flexible and adapt to personalities or situations beyond your control. I thought the CFC was a good exercise in that.

Xavier: I don’t see how anyone can be disappointed with the collaboration aspect. It did nothing but help me. Unless your collaborator was just completely worthless, which I hadn’t heard any stories about, then you could only gain from that aspect. And even if your collaborator WAS worthless then it would be no different then some experiences I’ve had with filmmaking in the past. Ha. Filmmaking is a collaborative process. There’s always someone who’s gonna flake out on you. But for every flake there’s a rock.

Bethany: Absolutely not.  It’s a provocative way to encourage independent filmmaking, but to be provocative they had to be willing to be controversial.  They were strict with the deadline and I actually came very close to being disqualified for a last minute technical issue.  Thank God we solved the problem, but even when it looked like we might not make it, I had to be grateful for what the experience has given me: invaluable new relationships.  Particularly with Skye, who was the cinematographer on my piece, Xavier, who played one of the key roles plus provided production assistance, and Ed, who employed me as an actor on his project. 

CS: That is an awesome positive position to take. And I am glad Bethany pulled it off in the last minute and stayed in the race!  Can’t wait to hear what the judges will decide… Now, let’s talk about pitches. What was your film idea? Why do you think you got picked? Bethany, you go first.

Bethany: This is the pitch of mine they chose: A lonely child’s entertainer is called to a party on an isolated compound that unbeknownst to her is holding children captive… and they’re looking for a forever clown.  I’m assuming they picked it because it sounded like a film they wanted to see!

Ed: My original pitch was about a guy meeting an old acquaintance of his ex-girlfriend’s, and setting the record straight. But through the script consult, it evolved into a “boy meets girl” story with the guy getting tongue tied. So even thought I started out with a dramatic scene, and ended up doing a screwball comedy, there were enough similarities left to make it interesting.

CS: Xavier, what can you share about your film project?

Xavier: The pitch that got selected for me was as follows: a man is getting ready for a date. He brushes his teeth, combs his hair, picks out clothes. But before making each of these seemingly innocuous CHOICES we fast forward to his actual date and see the outcome of them if he HADN’T made the choice (i.e. not brushing his teeth results in her moving away from the goodnight kiss, wearing jeans instead of slacks getting him denied entry to their restaurant, etc.)…. all bad. Finally we get to the real date and everything goes SWIMMINGLY until he makes one FINAL choice at the end of the date and we see her grimace. We end on that image of her. Mine seems to be one of the few COMEDIC shorts I’m aware of. Albeit kind of a black comedy. Maybe that comic relief will be welcomed in the competition.

         

CS: I think it’s an interesting subject, Xavier. A little bit of romance, a little bit of comedy indeed, maybe a little bit of irony too. Sounds like a great combination, I am sure it will be noticed. Ok, Skye… please tell us your story!

Skye: The subject of my film deals with the choice and responsibility we have to carve out a better life for ourselves and our family, and with the consequences of this choice. In my film an Egyptian mother grieves and reminisces on the final days leading up to her son’s death during a violent demonstration against Mubarak’s government.

CS: Quite a choice of a subject there, Skye, I am sure it will challenge people’s outlook and provoke deep thinking. Did you have concerns that the shortness and speed of the assignment would result in the lack of depth in your film?

Skye: The short amount of time given to me for completing the film was not a concern that the film would be shallow. It was the 5 min film length restriction which was more taunting. It meant that the script had to extremely precise and not one word or action could be futile or empty. Working with the dialogue in my script felt like I was sifting for gold. I had to sift the dialogue until only the precious nuggets were left behind.

CS: As a writer I can also absolutely relate to that, Skye, making dialogues as sharp as they can be, as effective as possible. I think satisfaction is the ultimate emotion to get out of this work. You may never know for sure what impact your film will have on your recipient, but if you are happy with your product, you know you did your best and delivered a quality product, then you sleep well at night. Am I right?

Skye: Yes, you are absolutely right. I feel extremely happy with the script and the film I created. However, it was not just me who created this film. The real success of the film was the amazing team and the actors that I had the honor to work with. Shari Vasseghi and Tamer Aziz, the amazing cast, Bethany Orr who co-produced with myself, Emily Schoener, our casting director who brought the amazing talent to the project, Joe Obering, our super talented Director of Photography, Lance Casey, our incredible editor… but that is just to name a few. It was all of them who made it possible for us to complete the movie in such a short time and not lose any quality or substance.

Xavier: I believe the short that I did for the Collaboration Filmmakers Challenge is the best film I’ve ever created. Needless to say the final product took some strange twists and transformations, but I love the finished product. I’m crazy excited about the screening and I’m highly confident that our film will receive excellent reviews.

CS: I am learning a lot of new things today here. This has been a most enlightening conversation. What are your plans after the festival?

Skye:  Currently I am in pre-production on a feature dance film with the choreographer Roger Fojas and the composer Chris Komashko, for which I have written the script and will be directing. Furthermore, I am putting finishing touches on another feature length script, and am currently in Europe where I am doing some research for another script. In between all of that I hope to find time to bring one of the other stories, which I pitched to the Collaboration Filmmakers Challenge, to the big screen.

Ed: I’m working on comedy shorts for The Second City Network, as well as developing a comedy web series independently. I’m an environmentalist, so I’m creating green educational content for kids and launching a water conservation campaign aimed at a major amusement park this fall.

Xavier: Well, I moved here from Tulsa last September and I did that because I MAINLY want to ACT. So I will try and get some more gigs. I’ve been cast in a web series called Project Hollywood and that starts filming in 2 weeks. Crazy excited about that. Check it out on Facebook. Plus my show Craft Wars, hosted by Tori Spelling, premiers on TLC June 26th. I’m not in the first episode but I’m in the next nine. That should be fun to watch. I’m pretty new to this, so I’d like to get an agent and go on more auditions. It seems like every project I get involved with I meet more and more amazing people.

Bethany:  My baby sister is getting married in Colorado next month. That kind of takes the cake for me.

CS: Very exciting, and really great to hear that you all are moving forward professionaly and having fun in between screenwriting and filming. I wish y’all a great time in LA at the festival tomorrow, no matter what the outcome will be.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.




BACKSTAGE with Michael J. Kirkland

10 05 2012

Today on CSReview, a Hollywood actor, film director and producer Michael J. Kirkland, talking about his film choices. The film will be screened at the Cannes Artisan Film Festival on May 16, 2012.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Michael! What do you think of your end product?

Michael J. Kirkland: Thank you for the interview. My impression of choices is and always will be… Needed the demo reel… In the world of making films and as an actor you must take a shot at filming anything you can put yourself into with out auditioning. It’s nearly impossible to get a good film to act in or to get an audition for. In my limited success as an actor, I have come to the conclusion that you must make your own film projects to be successful! This is why I choose to make choices.

CS: Michael, what happened, where did idea of choices come from?

Michael J. Kirkland: The idea of choices was brought to me by Gene Loveland, he acted and produced the film. We started a Kickstarter page. Raised some funds and built a crew. He and I worked on raising funds and building a crew for almost a year. John Hafner was our DP and he has an excellent eye. We added Gabriel Schmidt to bring us home and finish what Gene and I had started. Now choices is done and we needed an editor. Got Tom Ford to edit. Tom Ford and I have worked together before. Script was written by Sean Ryan’s team. He’s in Ireland. Gabriel Schmidt got onboard along with a few others who provided money. Gabriel has been the reason for everything else to include the multiple physiology sessions with the Director. Without him and us three film choices would have been done half-way and that’s not acceptable. If one or all is missing from the film, choices would not have gotten made. Period.

CS: Curious, and what in your opinion makes choices unique?

Michael J. Kirkland: The same thing that makes choices stand out! Bringing awareness to alcoholism. Millions are effected by this man made disease. Time to teach the masses moderation. The fact that we credited every actor in choices with an IMDB credit. Many of them never having a credit in a film. Instead of using background, I and Gene called our acting and work colleagues to help out as choices bit actors. Put real actors in the bit actors roles made all the scene look and feel real. Officially! They are the reason why choices scenes look real and life like. All are hungry to work in entertainment. All have graciously given their time to choices. All are beautiful performers! I applaud all choices actors and crew!

CS: Sounds like an amazing team work and some really professional choices made there to make this happen. But, Michael, your prime audience may not know all this. Why would they want to care about your film, and why should we?

Michael J. Kirkland: Why people will care about choices is the same reason why we raised funds for this film. The people who invested time and money want to be heard about this man made disease. We had a few full fledged alcoholics including one of my very good friends who were in choices. Without saying their names, they were very excited for this story to be told. Many who worked on choices were not paid and did this on their own free will.

CS: Your message in choices?

Michael J. Kirkland: It is to learn the signs of an alcoholic before he or she takes an innocent life.

CS: Anything memorable happened on the set you would like to share?

Michael J. Kirkland: We have a vast audience mostly due to the people who worked on choices. They all marketed to their respected age groups! This helps choices be seen. Funny story? We were going to film on Canon 7 D’s. Awesome camera. We switched to The Red Camera. This is why choices looks beautiful. choices can be and will be a feature film. Tell everybody!

CS: You also acted in choices. Who is your character – Sean Mathews – and what did you need to do to get into his skin?

Michael J. Kirkland: Sean Mathews was an interesting character for me to portray. Basically I mimicked the best bar tender I have ever known and brought that to screen. Added 15 lbs. 1/2 part my father, a few parts of real life experience in imaginary circumstances. Put the finishing touch on the character when I decided to take four months to grow the beard.

CS: Oh, so that was for real, no prosthetics?

Michael J. Kirkland: No one at the time knew that I have a reddish beard! At first people just looked. Then when a bird flew out… Kidding. I resemble my father. Send you a photo… I digress. The Sean Mathews character was an easy read. This guy was in charge of his bar. One night he overserves a drunk man. This man Ian Chance would later go on to drive and kill a little girl. Everybody wants the opportunity to tell someone that they are crazy. Sean Mathews gets to do it in a few takes. What was special about the role to me – my son Michael was across from me every take. Nothing more special than that.

CS: Michael, what can we expect from choices on screen? Why would we want to watch these characters?

Michael J. Kirkland: Why people would want to see the Sean Mathews’ and Ian Chance’s characters? Three reason’s: besides an excellent supporting cast, it was filmed on the Red Camera and the huge fact that film choices has been accepted at the Cannes Artisan Film Festival! Two excellent actors and a great production team behind them.

CS: Thank you for sharing an excellent story with us, Michael. Best of luck in Cannes!

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

Watch CHOICES Official Trailer








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