Thursday, May 25, 2017

Edie Falco on "Judy Berlin"

You've known the writer/director of Judy Berlin, Eric Mendelsohn, for a long time -- over 25 years. At what point did you become involved in the project?

EDIE FALCO: Usually he'll wait until a script is finished and then give it to me to read, which is what he did. After I read it and told him how much I loved it, he said 'I would love for you to play the part of Judy.' I was flabbergasted, because he had not said a word to me about it.

You didn't realize that he was thinking of you for the lead?

EDIE FALCO: I've read everything he's ever done and given my feedback, so I assumed that that's what this was.

What are the advantages of working with someone you know so well?

EDIE FALCO: A lot of the films I've done I've done with friends and family. The advantage is you go in there feeling no obligation to prove yourself. There's a camaraderie and a trust that is inherent in just all of you being there together. It makes all the difference in the world. It's like raising a child, I imagine. They become what is expected of them. I know they trust me and I trust them. It gets that all out of the way so we can get down to the work.

Eric took the interesting approach of keeping you and Barbara Barrie (who plays your mother) apart before your scene together. Did that help add to the awkwardness of the scene?

EDIE FALCO: It sure did. Although I thought it was just a matter of scheduling. I thought, 'All right, I won't meet her until the day we shoot.' That's the way these things are. I think in retrospect it did help.

She was a woman around whom I was unfamiliar. You hold your body differently, eye contact is different than with someone that you're comfortable around. I think physically the relationship that Judy and her mother had sort of mirrored that of strangers. In that regard, the subconscious stuff that was already taking place probably only fed what was happening in the script.

Is your preparation any different when you know you're going into a low budget project?

EDIE FALCO: No, not at all. Really nothing about my preparation or involvement is any different on anything I do. The only thing that varies is, if I read something and I like it, I'll do it. If I read something and I don't like it, I won't. Once I've decided I'm doing something, I approach everything exactly the same, whether it's a play or a movie or a low-budget movie or a big budget movie. It's irrelevant.

What's the hardest part of working on low-budget movies?

EDIE FALCO: You get a lot of directors who are nervous and they don't trust themselves or they don't trust the process. So, they might end up doing a lot more takes than they need, as if the actor is an infinite source of these things. Because at a certain point I know I'm not doing work that I'm proud of anymore, I'm just exhausted. And they are just too afraid to say, 'Okay, let's move on.' And so you'll do another four, five takes, and I start thinking, 'Oh, this is not what I meant to do, this is not the take I want.' So that's a little rough.

I wonder if I'd never done bigger budget stuff, perhaps I would never have noticed the difference. But once you start doing things where they put you in a nice trailer, and you've got people running around and taking care of you, when you all of a sudden have to change clothes in the back of a Chevy again, you think, 'You know, this does kind of stink, come to think of it. I would prefer to be in a trailer right now.'

So I don’t know if I've been a little bit spoiled by some of the bigger budget stuff. And you realize there's a reason you're taken care of, because you want to show up and do the best you can each time you're out there. It does help to be rested and warm and all that stuff.

What are the advantages of working on a low-budget project?

EDIE FALCO: There are so many advantages to working on a low-budget project. I feel a totally comfortable with the idea of trying something and having it not work. I feel a sense of freedom to just go for it, because money is not at the forefront of everything that goes on in these things. You don't have a producer standing over you saying, 'We gotta make the day!' Everybody's just flying by the seat of their pants and I feel a sense of freedom that I don't when money is being talked about. You feel the energy of these big-budget things.

Also, on a big-budget thing, there are a zillion people working on it. Oftentimes nobody knows who anybody else is and they don't necessarily care about their job, they're jus trying to get enough days so they can become an AD.

On these low-budget things, everybody's there because they want to be. They know the director, they love the work of the director, they're a friend and he needed a helping hand. You know you're not going to make money and you know it's going to be hard work and you're there because you love it. And that is infused in every moment you spend on the set of a low-budget movie. It's been my experience that nothing but good stuff will come out of that.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

PODCAST: Jonthan Lynn on "My Cousin Vinny" (25th Anniversary)

Director Jonathan Lynn joined me for a conversation about his classic comedy, My Cousin Vinny, which is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year.

We also talked about his new comic novel, Samaritans ... and a bit about his classic farce, Clue.

You can hear the full interview HERE. While you're there, hit the Subscribe button, so you don't miss any future podcast!

You can also read an earlier interview I had with Mr. Lynn HERE.

Thanks for listening!

Director Jonathan Lynn and Joe Pesci on the set of "My Cousin Vinny."

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Billy Lewis on "The Terrible Two"

What was your filmmaking background before making The Terrible Two?

BILLY: My background in filmmaking is a long road, as are most peoples who pursue this field.  I got my college degree in Broadcast Journalism and worked in TV news for 5 years.  Then I started my own production company doing TV commercials, web marketing videos, music videos, short films, etc. 

I wrote and directed The Jailhouse in 2009.  That was my first big feature film and I learned a lot from that.  In between that movie and The Terrible Two (2017) I’ve learned so much about filmmaking and storytelling in general and I feel that knowledge helped me tremendously in creating what we think is an entertaining film in The Terrible Two.

Where did the idea come from and what was the process for getting the script ready to shoot?

BILLY: My wife and I bought a house the year before we did the movie and the first time we walked through the house I noticed the amount of space in the house to move around and have lights, cameras, crew, etc.  So I said to her that we would buy the house but on one condition.....that I was going to film a movie in it.  She agreed but didn't believe me.  

A year later I was kicking her and my girls out for 2 weeks (figuratively speaking) and we had a full crew ready and turned the house into a movie set.  My wife Mollie was a real trooper to allow us to do that and for that I'm very appreciative.  

As far as getting the script ready to shoot I had a really knowledgeable producer and first assistant director named Jonathan Landau who helped me out tremendously in tying up all the loose ends for production and tightening up the script so that it would be ready to make a good movie. 

The whole team we put together was amazing considering the fact that we had a very low budget on the film.

At what point did you decide to shoot in your own house and what impact did that have on the scripting?

BILLY: As I said above, the house was the basis for the entire movie so the script was built around the location.  I like to look at the house as a character in the film and if you watch the entire movie then you know why. 

Knowing the location so well allowed us to be efficient when shooting and move at a rapid pace.  We shot a total of 11 days and that’s pretty crazy.

What was your casting process and did you change the script to match your final cast?

BILLY: Our casting was pretty easy…with a few bumps in the road but that was expected. 

Early on I cast Reid Doyle as the lead actor, Albert Poe.  He also came on as a very important producer during and after production.  We had a lead female cast to play Rose and 2 weeks before production she got a higher paying job that she took (and I couldn’t really blame her) but that opened up the door for us to cast Cari Moskow who did a excellent job as Rose Poe. 

Also we had the 2 little girls cast and the night before we were supposed to shoot our first scenes with the girls something came up with them so we had to scramble to find 2 replacement girls.  That was stressful but every aspect of an independent film normally is. 

It all worked out in the end as we ended up with a great cast…a small cast but a great cast.  We stayed true to the final script and didn’t conform to match our cast.

What type of camera(s) did you use and what did you love (and hate) about it?

BILLY: We ended up shooting on the Sony FS7 in 4K.  We used the Sony A7Sii for a few pickup shots here and there.  I love the look of the FS7 camera but it’s not the best camera in low light so that’s why our grip and electric department was so important.  And they did not let down either.  They were great. 

The good thing about owning the house and the camera is that after principal photography of the movie I was able to get a ton of time-lapses and cutaways for my editor that we weren’t able to get during production.  So that was a huge bonus.  That camera is amazing for what it is and the price.

Did the movie change much in the editing, and if so, why did you make the changes?

BILLY: The movie changed a lot in editing.  By that I mean that we stayed true to the script but we had an amazing editor by the name of Jesse Andrus who took The Terrible Two, which when we shot was an okay movie, and turned into something that was entertaining, the pace was great, the sound design and music flowed.  All of that was very critical to have considering we shot the entire movie in one location. 

We tightened up a lot of dialogue, cut out some scenes that were repetitive, and made cuts that kept the action moving and interesting.

Can you talk about your distribution plan for recouping costs?

BILLY: We have signed with a sales agent, High Octane Pictures, who is currently putting a marketing plan together and in the early stages of shopping the film around to both domestic and international distributors. 

We really hope for the best because we feel like we’ve made a movie that could do big things and we’ve proven with this film that you don’t always need millions of dollars and need to be backed by a big Hollywood studio to tell a good story.

What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?

BILLY: I can’t really pinpoint the smartest or dumbest thing we did during production.  This is very cliché but we assembled such a great and professional crew that we kept the mistakes to a minimum and we were very surgical in how we shot scenes and did things during production. 

Every night after we’d shoot I’d sit down and look at the dailies and go through each scene and make sure we’d gotten exactly what we needed from that scene and if not we’d do a quick pickup the next day. 

Again on such low money you have to know what you’re doing and be smart about things, if not you could be at risk of having your project tanking and not finishing what you started.

And, finally, what did you learn from making this feature that you will take to other projects?

BILLY: The number one thing I learned from this movie was to trust others to do their job.  If you get a good crew together and everyone believes in the story, then most likely you are going to make a good movie. 

It’s been said often but it’s so true that making a movie is such a collaborative effort.  This rang very true on The Terrible Two because I can tell you that both cast and crew worked for peanuts on this movie and took a pay decrease because they believe in film and keeping it alive in this area. 

I’m so thankful first and foremost to God and then to my wife Mollie Lewis for allowing us to use the house.  Then if it wouldn’t have been for my 2 producers Jonathan Landau and Reid Doyle, along with Dr. Martyn Woleben, then this movie would’ve never seen the light of day.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

PODCAST: Lee Wilkof on "No Pay, Nudity"

Aging actor Lester Rosenthal (Gabriel Byrne), who has lost his way with his career, with his family, and with his friends (Nathan Lane, Frances Conroy, & Boyd Gaines), finds out that the way out is through.

Director Lee Wilkof was kind enough to call in for the first Fast, Cheap Movie Talk podcast.

Subscribe here to the Fast, Cheap Movie Talk podcast.

Lee Wilkof, with Ellen Greene in the original production of "Little Shop of Horrors."

Gabriel Byrne and Lee Wilkof on the set of "No Pay, Nudity"

Gabriel Byrne as Lester in "No Pay, Nudity."

Frances Conroy, Gabriel Byrne, Nathan Lane and Jon Michael Hill on the Actor's Equity lounge set.

One of the videos created for the Kickstarter campaign.

The trailer for "No Pay, Nudity."