MICHAEL: Writing good roles, and directing myself in them, has always been my goal. Producing in this case was something I did out of necessity. I would much rather have been able to pay someone to have all the emotional meltdowns for me, trust me.
I love acting but there's something far more rewarding about being involved with every step of the creative process from idea to screen. You really feel like you raise the film from infancy to the moment you release it into the world. I don't have kids so making films will have to suffice for now.
Where did the idea come from and what was the writing process like?
MICHAEL: Myself, Mark Montgomery my producing partner and Dominik Tiefenthaler (who plays one of the leads in the film) got together one day and decided to make our own film. We weren't getting as much love from the industry as we felt we deserved so we decided to create our own work.
We decided that I would write the script, Mark would produce it, Dominik and myself would act in it and we would find the right director. Well, as soon as I sat down to start writing, I realized I truly felt I was the right person to direct it.
My writing process was intense. I usually lock myself in my apartment with a 40 of Olde English and hammer out an outline. Then I put myself on house arrest until I have a first draft. In this case, it took me four days. I was very motivated.
Can you talk about how you raised your budget and your financial plan for recouping your costs?
MICHAEL: It was predominantly through friends and family and their friends. Some people were acquaintances we met and pitched them on the project. We did everything from setting up a good website to developing a solid prospectus to going to networking events and pimping ourselves out. This was by far my least favorite part of the process. Then we used the trailer to raise some more money for post.
We also got a post-production grant that helped us out. Our plan now is to turn a profit by securing as many forms of distribution as we can; domestic, foreign, TV, internet, VOD, etc.
What camera did you use and what did you love and hate about it?
MICHAEL: We used the RED and I loved it. My DP, Gus Sacks, who is terrific, had shot on it many times so he was familiar with it. If you have a crew that understands its idiosyncrasies, which are numerous, and can handle the workflow, which is considerable, it's not as much of a pain in the ass as people say. And the fucking picture it provides is sexy as hell.
What are the advantages (and disadvantages) of directing a movie that you're acting in - - or acting in a movie that you're directing?
MICHAEL: The disadvantages are that you can't be as in the moment as you want when you're shooting the other actors' coverage. Because you have to be cognizant of what they're doing and if they are delivering the material.
We rehearsed for three weeks, so I was very confident going into the shoot that they would do that but still...you're kind of taking mental notes as you're acting with them, which sucks because you want to be as present as you can to help their performances.
Advantages? I knew what I was supposed to do. From writing the script to rehearsing to actually shooting, I had such a deep understanding of every moment, I never had to really search for anything. And I was a joy to direct, I must say.
What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?
MICHAEL: The smartest thing I ever did was ignore all the people that told me I couldn't direct myself in my first feature. Because I knew I could. After that, it was just a matter of surrounding myself with good people. And luckily I did that. From my production team to my cast to my
editor to my composer and everyone else in between,
Mark and I really assembled a great team.
The dumbest thing I ever did? I had written an orgy scene with myself and thirty bisexual virgins (yes, female virgins). But we scrapped it because, well, it had nothing to do with the story. That was a battle that I lost and I'll forever regret it.
What did you learn from making the film that you have taken to other projects?
MICHAEL: You can make a great film without name talent. But doing so will make raising money, getting accepted into top-tier festivals and securing distribution much more difficult.
On a purely artistic level, there is something very gratifying about disregarding the
paradigm. But it is not an approach I will take on my next project.