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Insane Plan Interviews

January 24, 2008

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May 6, 2007

Interview with Damien Colletti

May 6 2006

Interview With Amanda Unetich by Johnny Mikes

From the Vault: Film Interviews by Dale Pierce

Interview with Greg Morgan by Dale Pierce

1.Tell people a little about yourself and how you came to be involved in film.

GM: My parents were huge lovers of film and exposed me early to the craft. My earliest memories were going to see Franco Zeferelli's "Romeo & Juliet" at around 4 years old with my parents and I was bawling the when Juliet died. That movie changed everything and cinema was my escape. Being a hobbyist of all sorts my mother gave me an 8mm camera to tinker with for home movies and I started to make films with it, at around 10 or 11 years old. I made about 5 or 6 different films with my friends. War and Westerns mostly, that I still have today. Funny, one of the "actors' became big in Hollywood film development and as much as I tried to get my foot in the door, the contact wasn't to be. After viewing my films I was hooked. I just knew from then on that I wanted to get into filmmaking and I watched countless films and learned the art. I went to college and majored in film. My second "brush with greatness" (as my wife likes to call it) was constantly (and I do mean constantly) renting videos from my local video store where the, now legendary, Quentin Tarintino used to work. After working my way through college, I had no money, so I had to continue working in the field that paid the bills & video rentals: Real Estate. During that period I met my wife, Jeanne, who loved the art of film as much as me. With her by my side, I made my first film 10 years after graduation when we finally wrote a script everyone liked, 17 & Under. 17 & Under was picked up by Spectrum Films and was their best selling title. That film got me a directing gig for my second feature "The Playaz Court" which was written by Bawb Cochrane.

2. When did you form Coal Mine Canary Films?

GM: Coal Mine Canary Films was formed out of necessity to make our first film 17 & Under. I believe it was around 1995.

3. Where did you get the title for this company?

GM: Everyone asks this question. In the old coal mining days, a canary was placed in a cage and put into mine shafts in order to detect any traces of methane gases that would naturally seep up from deep below the surface of the earth. If a miner saw a canary lying flat dead on it’s back, then he’d know it was high time to get the hell out a’ there! I believe being a independent filmmaker is much like being a coal mine canary. The audience (miners) go into a dark cave (the theater) and watch your film (mine away). If the film stinks, you as the filmmaker croak and the audience is left to run for their lives. But besides this simple analogy, there is a more complex concept to why we call ourselves Coal Mine Canary. Like other independent filmmakers, we are striving to forge new ground, bringing controversial subjects, unconventional screenplays and anti-formula films to the forefront. A very risky proposition!

Just yesterday, my wife said that she believes there is more to the name than wanting to be a movie maverick, it's much deeper than that. She reminded me of the symbolism in the name and how subconsciously she believes we were trying to put some sense to a tragic incident of the past. That incident was the driving force behind the concept of "17 & Under."

4. What are some of your releases?

GM: "17 & Under," "The Playaz Court," "Party Animalz," "Monkey Love"

5. The Playaz Court was pretty well received, was it not?

GM: Very well. It won me the Aurora Award for best low budget feature of 2002. It also won several other film festival awards as did "17 & Under." I also find reviews all over the web on it and most are pretty positive. Seeing your work reviewed is a kick. Good or bad, and you always get both. One in particular stands out they equated my movie to "Roshamon," a film I happen to love. That kind of review is so inspiring and honoring to be among someone you dug, very full circle. But I must say the best review I ever received was from a guy that wrote a entire sequel to 17 & Under. I mean, wow, that's art touching another soul. It blew me away, kind of freakish, in a good way.

6. Wasn't there another one, Party Animalz, which you took yourself out of doing, due to conflicts of some kind?

GM: Yes. The whole concept to this film was Jeanne's idea. She brought it to me and I thought it would make a great, low budget feature. My first feature was all Latino cast and that sold well so I thought this would do well too. It also was all one location, a crucial factor for low budget. I started writing it, but got tied up on another project. It was shelved for a few months till I hired a co-writer, Steve Atkin. I wrote up a contract with him that gave him all the writing credit since I was going to direct and produce. After it was done I passed it on to a production company that kept lowering the budget until I cried uncle and said "No way, even I can't make it for that." A few weeks later they called and wanted to buy the script from me. Steve had no credits at that point so I said yes and did it. All I got out of it was a check and a co-producer credit.

7. Do you have anything new ready to go?

GM: I always have several projects I'm pitching or in pre-production or writing. Sometimes I'm writing three scripts at once. Most of those get shelved. Writing itself makes for a better writer. Just because you don't use it, doesn't matter to me.

8. What about in the planning stage or to be shot soon?

GM: Yes. I'm shooting my latest feature in May 2005 called "The Substance of Things Hoped For." It's a spiritual drama in the vein of "Solaris". We should have it done by the end of 2005. I wrote this with a co-writer Duke Addleman.

9. Incidentally, where can people contact you to find out more about your films, order them or so on?

GM: I have a website at www.coalminecanary.com which people can email me from. Just put something about "film" in the subject line or my SPAM software may eat you up. All of my films can be rented from the typical places or ordered off Amazon or similar website. "17 & Under" isn't rentable at most Blockbusters anymore as it was released in 2000. My website is updated every now and then and people can find me on the IMDB database which lists info about filmmakers, actors and more worldwide.

10. What element of cinema do you prefer most, as you have been involved in various parts of film making?

GM: I love all of it: Writing, directing and editing. I hate producing but unfortunately I'm good at it. I seem to have two halves to myself: The artist and the businessman. I would love to form a relationship with a producer who loves my work and we could work together like other well known producer/director teams. I love editing as it is a second attempt at directing. Fix those mistakes you made during production and come up with new ides. I don't understand why all directors don't edit their own projects.

11. As someone involved with indy films you probably cannot be as selective as the big companies when it comes to casting. What do you think people look for when hiring actors or actresses?

GM: That's a big question. They just have to be right for the part. When I cast and the way the actor read the part is not quite what I was looking for, I ask the actor to make a change. If the actor can make that change with no problems, I know the actor is seasoned. They still may not be right for my part, but they have talent. And God knows there is alot of undiscovered talent out there. It's sometime beautiful and tragic at the same time, great artists, but no venue. I feel their pain.

12. It can be a pretty cut throat business though?

GM: Absolutely. Especially the higher you get. It's who you know, not how good of a film you can produce. Even in the low budget world I'm in, we notice people in this business for the wrong reasons. They are mostly in it for the chicks, so to speak. I'm happily married, so I'm not in it for the chicks (anymore)(no, I'm just kidding!). I love the art of filmmaking and am in it for that. As for my projects, I only associate myself with people that want to be a part of my films. Down-to-earth people that I would like to hang with. Any attitude and you're gone.

In the early days, I tried to be a part of the Hollywood scene, but it just isn't me. And besides no one in this town is going to give you something for nothing. You have to prove yourself first, that's a fact. Also don't put a price on your soul. I've been offered funding for "exploitation" films, garbage where they pay more attention to the video jacket than the contents. No matter how hungry I get I avoid those shiny objects.

13. Any other interesting stories to tell about incidents surrounding your career?

GM: As I mentioned before I knew Quentin Tarantino when he was the video store clerk. My office was next door to his building. He and Roger Avery, his co-writer for Pulp Fiction worked there. Roger and I went to highschool together. At that time, I worked in real estate with my Dad. My Dad's name was also Quentin and when we would go into rent movies Tarantino would say, "Hey, Quentin!", in which my father would reply the same. He would recommend many films to us and a few of them were good. Just a few.

An Interview With Jon Russell and Tracy Cring by Dale Pierce

1. Tell everyone who you are and a little about yourselves?

Needing a name? How about Jon Russell Cring, the Director and Producer for the Extra/Ordinary Film Project. Enter Jonathan Richard Cring, my father and my wife, Tracy Nichole Cring, the cinematographer and editor, and miscellaneous Crings and others and you have our project, which has now finished eight films and is in pre-production on number nine. We were toiling away in zombie hell, producing for an independent horror company and realized zombies don’t talk so therefore never have anything new to say, so we asked my father, who is an accomplished novelist and award winning song writer to put pen to paper and give us a feature film script we could finish fast and on a small budget. Lenders Morgan, a psycho-sexual period piece set in 1969 was what he gave us, and it has become a film festival darling.

2. What is The Extra Ordinary Film Project and how did it come about?

The Extra/Ordinary Film Project is an audacious attempt to make twelve feature films in twelve months. We were sitting at a Chinese restaurant and my father said he could write a feature film script every month, and dared us to produce the impossible. We had finished one feature and eleven shorts the previous year, and this sounded like a chance to fully immerse our creativity and passion into full-time filmmaking. One guideline: Every film has to be about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

3. Do you have a plan to hit the conventions or festivals with this?

We have premiered at eleven festivals and won four, for best screenplay, best actress, and two best feature awards. Impressive? I guess you'd have to understand the reality of film festivals. Honestly, sometimes they impress me and sometimes not. I could put up a screen in a parking lot and have the same crowd who attends my viewing at a festival, so to me, they really are about meeting up with other filmmakers who have a heart to champion the people they perceive as up and coming. Often I am asked to speak on panels about my experience and my particular film-making philosophy. It's really quite simple. I contend that it is important to remain inclusive and encouraging and that it is very powerful to demystify the film-making process rather than frightening new-comers with the harsh reality of legalities, sales figures. business plans, contracts and all the other shit that keeps people from pursuing their passion.

4. Is there a My Space or url where people can find out more about this project?

The project website is the place where actors and the interested innocents go to get all news and information Extra/Ordinary. At www.extraordinaryfilmproject.com we have a weekly blog, DVDs for sale, festival news, trailers, premier info, and casting notices. We try to stay connected to the public, and keep the site updated and interactive.

5 What other film work have you done?

Well, I think that’s like asking me to show you the ashtray I made in ninth grade pottery class. Other films I have worked on are hiding in the drawer of the banquette in the dining room. One day a renegade DVD might escape, but suffice it to say, I am excited by my current projects and have learned that it takes as much energy to make crap as to make gold.

6. Any other projects planned for after this?

Extra/Ordinary will be morphing in 2008 into finishing 6 feature films in 6 cities all over the U.S. Landing in Phoenix, Arizona first; we hope to continue to take advantage of the beauty and talent of the regions we will visit. This will diversify the look of the films and give us a chance to stir up each community and reach audiences that wouldn’t have been able to be a part otherwise.

7. Any interesting behind the scenes stories to tell as The Extra Ordinary Film Project evolved?

Well there are things we have learned and mistakes we have made that make us who we are. As a director, I can envision what a montage of the projectpassing before my eyes would look like. Let’s see, it would have to include 4 near arrests, 2 cases of food poisoning (one urp in progress--filmed), a female crucifixion, several fires, $500 for the loss of food in a walk-in refrigerator at a restaurant location, a combined total of 1271 actors and extras working 15 hours a day for 82 days, shooting more than 256 hours of footage. It has been the ride of a lifetime. When I am old and gray on the front porch I’ll be thinking of all the richness of experience Extra/Ordinary brought me.

8. Where did you all study film or did you just get involved and go along with what you learned as time went by?

None of us went to college. That may not be an inight that high school guidance counselors want revealed, but the truth is you learn or burn, including burgers at the local diner. We all have creative strengths; Tracy won her first film festival in Los Angeles at age 18. My father tours the country and has since age nineteen, performing theater, music, comedy, and penning novels. Me, I found a way to be bossy for a living without incurring the wrath of the proletariat.

9. What made you choose film as a world to work in?

After taking his first pioss out next to the petrified dinosaur dung heap, the first men and women next felt a need to communicate their experiences to other people. Cave drawings were movies--depictions of the triumphs and tragedies that were the first visuals based on a true story . Add a marquee that says Starring Mel Gibson in Mammoth Hunter and you got yourself a blockbuster (although profit margins did tend to cave in). I believe all art was created to be a film. If Michelangelo had a 35mm camera, he probably would have made a helluva movie. Film is the combination of all art--music, painting, photography, theater, and comedy.

10. Has what you have experienced so far lived up to your expectations or been a letdown?

My wife and I recently dragged our asses out of bed and over breakfast she looked up at me with her puffy eyes and with a hint of snarl, asked, “Who the fuck came up with this fool idea?” When we started the Extra/Ordinary Film Project, we had no clue how long a year could be. How you can bend space and time to your will. Being the end of the year we are reflecting on the year prior to the project, and had a good laugh over taking five months to edit our first feature. I asked Tracy why it took so long and she said, “ I sucked back then. Now I know what needs to be done and in what order.” I think that sentence is pretty much the key to success in all things.

11. What film genre do you prefer?

I love films of every genre; a great film can be anything. The stories that last are all about the struggle of an ordinary person. I think Halloween is different from Saw, I care for Jamie Lee Curtis, why does her brother want to kill her, why is George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life such a jerk to his family, have I ever felt as overwhelmed by the complications of life like Jack Nicholson in Chinatown. I am a huge film fan, my wife claims to have watched 325 films in one month (weird), but you have to come away from a film with a revelation of emotion, or it will be as forgettable as Jack Black in Never Ending Story III. At a premier of the fifth film of the project $6 Man, the story of a homeless widowed father and his young daughter choosing to live on the streets, an older lady came up to me in tears talking about how the film touched her, a kid with a Mohawk stopped me on the way out, saying it was the most real thing he’d ever seen. My characters talk like you because they are you, at your worst and best.

12. Any genre you positively hate?

Re-makes. Come on this is a great big world, do we need to have Denzel Washington displacing Frank Sinatra in the Manchurian Candidate? Netflix has the first one. There are stories yet to be told. I notice no one is touching To Kill A Mocking Bird. Uh-oh, don’t you get any ideas.

13. What do you consider the high and low points of indy cinema, as far as working within goes?

The only reason to make what you call “indy” films is to secure the fact that you own it. My films answer to me, not some test audience that scores every pixel and gets to determine every plot point, including the ending. I don’t consider myself independent, indy, underground; those titles have less and less meaning when their budgets are in the millions. I am making mainstream stories, like Network, Breakfast Club, Serpico, and Babe--just at a discounted bottom line. I am the Big Lots of cinema.

14. The easiest part?

Making a movie in a month. Once you have it produced and paid for, the easy part is shooting it, making all the actors shine, editing together all the gold into a film which I get to sit back and watch on the big screen.

15. The hardest?

Living on tacos, little sleep, and tight budgets. No really, the big question after a film is always what to do with it now, getting it out in front of people. We have had distribution offers, but a famous record producer told my father once, “Never sign anything until you absolutely have to, and the only reason you have to is cash.” Distribution companies sometimes don’t have incentives to sign except for a lot of back-end promises, and I don’t know about you but I always try to avoid the back end of almost anything. We really want the E/O Project films to sell to a company that believes in these twelve films, and the six to follow directly after. We have had offers, on several of our “children” but would you sell one of your kids? Oops--perhaps that'a a bad example. But truthfully, you would want them all to have a happy home.

16. Where do you run casting calls or find crews for your projects?

We cast through several wonderful talent sites--Mandy.com, ExploreTalent. CraigsList, MySpace, local talent agencies and we conduct auditions through Youtube and DVD. We also have breakdowns and casting info on the website.

17. Anything else you would like to touch on before closing?

I would like to extend an invitation to our premier of the Christmas film we just finished, WONDERFUL, in Flint, Michigan on Saturday December 8th, 2007 at 11:00 AM, at Cinema Hollywood off the Birch Run Exit. If you can’t come, go to the website, look around, email us and share your thoughts f3films@comcast.net.

18. Closing comments?

Yeah. "Go into the world and preach. . ." Wait, I think that one's been used. How about, "Ask not what your country can do for you...?" Wait a second. Someone might have actually watched a special on Kennedy on Entertainment Tonight. Oh, well, I guess I'll have to go original. It's worked for me so far. Thanks to you for listening and go forth and make films that matter.

Interview with Tetsuo Lumiere by Dale Pierce

1. You live in Argentina. Is the film industry very big there?

No. In fact in 2007 only 80 movies were released. And for sure there were another 40 not released commercially, and that will never be released at all. The horror, science fiction or "Trash" movies, don't receive official support. And those movies are filmed outside of the industrial circuit. Fortunately, since more than five years ago, there is a festival of horror, fantastic and bizarre movies, called "Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre" (Red Blooded Buenos Aires "). That helps that kind of movies start to grow each year more and more in quantity as well and quality.

2. You recently produced My Kingdom For A Flying Saucer. What is this film about?

It´s about a young man called Lumi. He was born in a small town, a town without a movie theatre, but he fell in love with movies by watching them on TV. His favourite movie was one about Martians destroying Earth with their flying saucer titled: "The War of the Worlds". His dream was to make a movie like that, a film about flying saucers attacking the city of Buenos Aires. When he was a teenager he moved to the big city, and there he lived in the streets, in squats... he never stops making movies: very cheap ones, with sets made out of trash, using actors and actresses found anywhere; anxiously waiting for the moment to become rich and famous for having made a great movie about flying saucers. During the shooting of one of this films, Lumi fainted. At the hospital he learned that he had a brain tumour and he only had a few months of life left. Even then, having no job, no money, no girlfriend and ill at the verge of dying, Lumi was not discouraged. He spent his last months of life making his dreamed movie of flying saucers. Whatever it takes.

3. You act, direct and do many other things in this film, kind of like the late Ed Wood. has anyone compared you to him?

. Actually, yes. Many reviews in Argentina said that I was some kind of mix between Ed Wood, Buster Keaton and Benny Hill. In fact, the story of my movie is very similar to Tim Burton's "Ed Wood".

4. Of the things you do such as acting, writting and directing, which do you like best?

. I've always done the three things at the same time and I don't see myself writting for another actor and directing another's script. Acting for other people, yes, in fact I have done that several times and I loved it! But what I like the most it the edition. See how all the work starts to form.

, 5. Which then do you like least?

. Even though I produce my own movies that's not the thing I like the most. Being independent I have no choice!

. 6. Is there a place in the USA where the movie is available with English subtitles?

. My movie will be released with subtitles in English the first semester of 2008.

. 7. What are your webpage urls?

. Mi official website http://www.tetsuolumiere.com/ The official site of my feature film "TL-1" is http://www.tl-1.com.ar/

. 8. Are you working on a new project now?

. I'm making my second feature film called TL-2, that is the sequel to TL-1.

. 9. Did you study film making in a school or just do it and learn as you went along?

. I learned by myself. I did some courses, but at that time I was already filming. That was evident in my early short films, which I used to make all alone. I used to push "REC", stand in front of the camera and act. And then edited those with two simultaneous VCRs, like Robert Rodrigues when he was a little young man.

. 10. Any other interesting things to tell people about yourself?

. Yes. To see my old short films you should visit http://www.tetsuolumierevideos.blogspot.com/ Check them out and laugh out loud! Ha! Ha! Ha!

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