Pages

Monday, April 28, 2014

Two Men and a Dork: Kidnappers in Dark Comedy "Bagged" Bring the Laughs on YouTube

"BAGGED" (2014)
Genre:  Dark Comedy
Length - 4:30
Company: Go for Broke Pictures
Website: Official

So these two kidnappers (Michael Evans and Jeremy Boone) stuffed their target (Sean C. Simon) into their backseat and drive to collect their money from the employer.  But the thing is, their "victim" is perhaps the most obnoxious man on the planet.

And the worst part?  Their employer's bouncer (Kyle Vonn Elzey) wants him delivered TOMORROW -- not tonight.

What are a couple of good natured, garden variety kidnappers to do in a situation like this?

Read on and find out . . .

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK

From the opening shots, "Bagged" reminded me of a particular sequence in Weird Al's feature length UHF, released back in 1989, so I thought I knew where this film was going.  But the screenplay, written by Evans, is not only hilarious but it has a couple tricks up its sleeve and it plays them perfectly in the approximate four minute running time.

The image quality is top notch and Shun Otsubo's direction keeps the action interesting and helps bring the punch lines front and center.  While there are definite gags, they feel like part of the storyline.  A lot of bigger budgeted comedies feel like the story is only there to get to the jokes, but it all feels much more organic here.

WITTY WITTINESS


The real applause should be saved for Evans' clever script and the actors.  Everyone is credible in their roles here, and it's their delivery of the dialogue that makes the film as funny as it is.  The finale in particular cracked me up with those two pitch perfect last lines.

Go for Broke Pictures has delivered a solid dark comedy that aims to entertain and succeeds in a big way, particularly considering its short duration.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 4 / 5.  Evans' script takes a few twists and turns and provides plenty of fodder for the actors to make the comedy ring.
Directing: 3.5 / 5.  Otsubo's direction is efficient and it gets us to where we need to go.  He knows how to set up the jokes in a visual sense too, which helps everything sound all the more funny.
Editing: 4 / 5.  The scenes were cut seamlessly together.  The pacing is right on the money, too.
Sound/Music: 2 / 5.  The usage of stock classical music is intended to be funny, but to me it came off flat.  The movie succeeded regardless of the background music.
Acting: 3.5 / 5.  The acting in this film is solid.  Evans and Vonn Elzey in particular shine.

Final Grade: 3.4 / 5.

Don't forget to check out the full short film "Bagged" on YouTube.  Then visit Go for Broke Pictures' official website and say hello on Facebook!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Robot Saviors and Post-Apocalyptic Faith in Bloody Cuts' 48 Hour Contest Short Film "Machine Stopped Working"

"MACHINE STOPPED WORKING" (2014)
Genre: Action / Sci-Fi
Length- 5:05
Company: Bloody Cuts
Website: Official

Two gunmen (Tom Sawyer and stunt coordinator pro Dominic Kinnaird) race across a near-future industrial site to secure the alien life form that can activate a robot they believe can save mankind. 

This gutsy sci-fi story from England was created for the 2014 Sci-Fi London 48 Hour Film Competition under team name "Bubblegum and Batwings", which means that literally it was written, filmed, edited and scored in 48 hours.  Anyone who's ever tried to do anything in two days knows that is just not a whole lot of time.

How well does "Machine Stopped Working" turn out?

Let's find out, shall we?

BLOOD AND GUNS

The film looks and sounds great thanks to anamorphic widescreen, top notch direction, editing and sound design -- all performed by Anthony Melton and Ben Franklin.  The action scenes are surprisingly well constructed considering how fast the production was, and the score by Patrick Jonsson sounds esoteric and eerie

The action is effective, with lots of gunplay and even some tightly choreographed hand-to-hand, but I never felt like the two gunmen were in real danger, and some of the gun fights feel a bit Rambo-ish to me (i.e. heroes hit their targets with deadeye aim while the enemy couldn't hit the broadside of a barn two feet away). 

The violence looked good, and the blood splatter was well done, but the whole affair lacked a certain punch.

One thing that was eye opening was the ten foot tall robot toward the end of the film.  I was disappointed there wasn't more to that -- it's there, about to kick butt and take names, and then Watts is out the door and we never see it again.

Also, it seemed a little hypocritical for Seeva and the rest to resist one robot while employing the help of another.  Maybe there was some kind of "spark of life" to Watts' robot that the other one didn't have?

Speaking of that, what happened to Cale?  We don't get closure on anyone but Watts and Seeva (Kate Braithwaite).

SAVIOR COMPLEX

Where the film shines is in its sci-fi trappings.  We have a nice looking post-apocalyptic industrial zone, and survivors in beaten up clothes pockmarked with holes.  Their faces are dirty.

There are two groups of people in this film: the protagonists Watts and Cale (Sawyer and Kinnaird) who want to revive a robot in the belief that it will heal mankind, and Seeva and Kurtz (Paul Jibson), the antagonists who are attempting to destroy a biological entity that looks like a big fish -- the only thing that can bring said robot back to life. 

Through it all, Watts retains a certain religious zeal about the whole thing, pestering the more fatalistic Cale about having faith in what they are doing. 

"I'll never have faith," Cale says in one of the film's best lines, "but I've got the next best thing."
 
Then he leaps into action, firing his weapons and taking human (and alien) lives to restore "life" to a robot.

It's little touches like this that help lend the film a personality of its own, and while it's hardly a searing indictment of zealotry, it goes a long way to adding a little depth to what is predominantly people shooting each other for five minutes.
 
OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3 / 5.  The story is basically an excuse to get people to shoot each other, but there's just enough depth to keep me interested.  I enjoyed how writer Joel Morgan played with the idea of faith -- an unlikely theme for an action shoot 'em up --  and presented both sides of the argument with something to say.  In fact, there's no communication the entire film, just both sides stating what they believe.  Neither side listens to the other, and the killing begins.
Directing: 3 / 5.  The action scenes lacked energy in spite of top notch choreography.  Melton and Franklin did what they could to make the location sing for the camera, with mixed results.  I did enjoy the shots with the giant robot -- the direction helped it feel like a big, powerful moment.
Editing: 4 / 5.  Every shot fits with the previous and leads seamlessly into the next.  The pace never dragged.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  Jonsson's score is perfect for the film.  I would like to own this one if possible!  The sound design was also well done, including a fairly creepy introductory prayer that's jumbled and echoed to represent Watts' fanatical devotion to his robot master.
Acting: 2.5 / 5.  There were bright points, with Sawyer and Kinnaird in particular delivering solid performances, but Kate Braithwaite sounds stilted during the indoor confrontation.

Final Grade: 3.3 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "Machine Stopped Working" on Vimeo and the official website of creators Bloody Cuts as well as co-director Anthony Melton's official website

For more updates on "Machine Stopped Working" and their next project, follow Bloody Cuts on Facebook!

Monday, April 21, 2014

"Remember Who You Are": Part 2 of an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW With Writer/Director Francisco Lorite ("Mediation", "Cuco Gomez-Gomez Is Dead!")

Known for his 2005 award winning short, Cuco Gomez-Gomez Is Dead!, Francisco Lorite was gracious enough to sit down and talk at length about that film, his formation of Top Rebel Productions and his latest short, "Mediation" (review here).

What follows is the second and final part of our interview with him last Friday (part one here).  Read on as Lorite discusses Hollywood's treatment of stereotypes, filmmaking in general and how he decided on the unique directing style he used in "Mediation".

* * * * * *

FCSFR: My next question is about Top Rebel Productions [the company Lorite formed with Freddy Rodriguez and Bill Winette].  

It's almost . . . like, for instance, in Hollywood, how do you think they are doing in terms of presenting fair and equally three dimensional roles for actors of Latin descent?

LORITE: Well, you know the answer to that question.  (laughs) It's obvious that there's room for improvement, there's no doubt about that.  Freddy and I, we keep that in mind, and if we can tell stories that allow for other artists, whether they're in front of a camera or behind a camera to be part of our production, then of course it's something we're going to do.  If we're lucky enough to have things rolling and other people can benefit from it, we will do that absolutely.

Now, we're interested in telling universal stories, but there's no doubt that the stories I'm writing down -- and of course I won't be the only one writing them down, but right now I am -- but the flavor's going to be there because that's who I am.  It's a part of who I am.  So of course, you know, there will be a Latin touch to it, for sure.  And there'll be some characters who are Latin. 

Now Cargo, which is the feature we're developing to shoot is a very good example of that.  It's going to be a very eclectic cast, like we're just talking about, in front of the camera, because the story lends itself to that.   So, not just talking about Latin, but of course Latin actors will be represented in the cast, but I'm talking about beyond that, different races.  I'm interested in that.  And this might be something I inherited from the theater.  In theater, blind casting is very common.  I think that's an interesting concept, where races or even gender sometimes can be incidental.

FCSFR: I think it's almost a healing thing too, and it's something people need to see.  Showing the commonality of people, rather than, "Oh, this is what you expect out of this person, based on elements that they can't control."

LORITE: Yeah.  Look at The Shawshank Redemption.  On paper, the character of Red is called Red because he's Irish.  How great was Morgan Freeman in that part?  How amazing was he?  Wow, you know?  Can you imagine anybody else doing that part?  No, you can't.  There you go.  That's a very good example of somebody saying, "I'm going for the right actor, not the race that the script is calling for, but the right actor."

I'm very passionate about casting.  I think that whoever said that 90% of directing is casting is probably right, you know? 

I'm interested in good actors, I'm interested in having them inhabit the character that I wrote.  There's nothing more satisfying.  Because it's like handing off a baton.  If you cast the part right, regardless of race or anything like that, but just the right actor for that part, you ARE passing the baton, because that actor will know the character better than you at some point.  There will be this transition.  And if everything goes well, it will happen while you're shooting (laughs). 

FCSFR: And on that note, what a cast you have for "Mediation".  You've got Freddy Rodriguez, who is fantastic.  How'd you manage to get Marley Shelton to join the cast?

LORITE: You know, actually, we spent a lot of time developing several projects, but once we decided, "Let's talk about short films" and we decided to do a short and so I had to write it very quickly.  Obviously, I wrote it for Freddy, and then when we started talking about actually doing "Mediation", he's the one who suggested Marley.  They'd worked together on Grindhouse, and I obviously was familiar with her from shows like Sin City and later on Scream 4, but he's the one who suggested her.  I remember, he kept saying, "Oh, she's so cool, you'll definitely get along with her."

We got together for lunch, and we did get along.  She came in to the lunch, which was just, you know, a get together, ready to work.  She had a bunch of questions about the character, and she was genuinely interested in playing this particular person, and we discussed themes right away while we were having lunch, and I was like, "Wow, she's serious, let's do it!"   And we got along great, and that went a long way because we were on a very tight schedule and I  knew I wanted the film to look a certain way and I knew it would take the kind of time we did not have because we couldn't afford it.

So I had to have great actors.  There was no other way around that.

FCSFR: And let's talk about the script because it is a pretty complex script when it comes to the two leads. They really run the gauntlet of emotion, you know? You've got calm, you've got extreme anger, you've got passion, you've got all this stuff all wrapped up into one in the span of -- I think the movie is, what, 14 minutes long?

LORITE: 14 minutes, yeah.

FCSFR: That's a lot to pack in.

LORITE: Yeah, we really wanted to do a short that had a beginning, middle and end, and we wanted to tell a full story.  It's tricky to tell a full story in a short amount of time, but that's something I was really set on.  And Freddy embraced that, very much.  It was a chance to play a full arc with a character who had something to say, and I think for Marlee it was the same.

The film would've not worked [without Rodriguez and Shelton].  I always say the same thing.  I'm not the cake, they're the cake, I'm the icing.  I can be fancy with the camera work . . . but if the actors aren't there to give life to the characters, then the rest doesn't matter.

I always use my mom as an example.  I always, when I take her to the movies, you know, she'd say, not often, but sometimes she'd say, "Well I like this movie."   And I would say, "Well why do you like it?"  "Well I like the story."  "Why do you like the story?"  "I like the characters."

FCSFR: How do you handle your writing process?  Do you write a certain number of drafts?  Do you outline?

LORITE: Yes, I usually do an outline, which doesn't necessarily mean that I'm going to stick to it, but I cannot start on that road without having an idea of where I'm going.  And this could change completely once I'm on the road, and I could take a right turn or a left turn that I never would have thought of.  Eventually, it does -- you know what they say, that the characters take over.  They do.  They really do.  They say things you never planned for, and that takes you in a different direction, and that's part of the exciting thing.   And that's why, when I'm writing, I'm always sort of in a daze, because I'm literally somewhere else, with a bunch of crazy characters, and I was THERE, with them!

You know, as Laurence Olivier used to say, you know, "Have a blast, and hope for the best."  (laughs) And sometimes it comes out, and sometimes it doesn't. 

But I'm always very grateful to be able to tap into my imagination, and go to those pretty places.

FCSFR: Now, two elements I thought were interesting in the film -- first of all, it kind of has a film noir slant?

LORITE: Yes, for sure.  I think that if you're talking about love, and you put a woman and a man onscreen, and something goes terribly wrong, well that's film noir.  I was always conscious that I was standing on the shoulders of giants, so I had no problem going and watching those movies and really studying -- it's an inclination I have, I understand film noir, but I'm also aware that people have come before me and have done it a billion times better than I could have ever do it -- and so I went and looked at a lot of Hitchcock, in particular Vertigo, which is an incredible masterpiece.  It blows my mind every time I see it. 

A lot of neo-noir, too, a lot of movies that I own, or movies I went back and watched, I was interested more in the theme, which is that love hurts, which is the tag line from the film.  The theme for me is the crazy stuff we do for love.  By extension I felt that a film noir-ish setting was best to tell that story.

FCSFR: And the second thing I was interested in about the script is the fact that all the scenes are told out of order, almost in a Tarantino-style manner.

LORITE: Yes, that's . . . when I was a kid, I used to read a lot.  And that's something that's in books all the time: you flash back to things that happened at just the right moment to give you a piece of information that will give you a different perspective on the story. 

There's no one better than . . . well, let's mention his name since he just died, but Gabriel Garcia Marquez, there's no one like him to do that.  It's incredible how his balance was so fast as a writer that he could mix storylines and jumble the timeline and you still followed and wanted to know what was happening.

So that's something I got from books for sure, but in this particular case we are dealing with a short.  Just because it's shorter doesn't mean that it's easier . . . the obvious reason is that you have less time, but you also have to, in our time of the ADD, you have to grab the audience right away. 

Having your story told out of order, so that you can have the right element [told] at the right time, it's sometimes more important.  It's the more effective way of telling the story.

FCSFR: So was that element in place early on or did it come up organically?

LORITE: No, it was definitely something where I started writing . . .  if I started in a "normal" way, or the more "usual" way, yeah, it would not grab the audience.  I have to start with the scene that it starts with, so that it would 1) hopefully grab the audience but also set the tone. 

It's a deal that you make with the audience, alright?  They don't know what story we're about to tell them.  They don't have the advantage of getting a trailer, or the marketing from a studio that tells you about the film so that when you walk into a film, you're already conditioned for that kind of story. 

But with a short, you don't have any of those advantages, so it was important for me to say from the get go, from the first minute: this is the film you're about to see.  This is the tone, these are the characters, this is the type of story, and this is why it starts with a monologue about a particular event that represents what is about to unfold, which is that, yeah, people do crazy stuff for love.  We tell a very short story in the beginning, and then we say, "OK, now we're going to tell you our story, and hopefully you enjoy it."

FCSFR: And in a weird way, it becomes almost more emotionally true when you tell it out of order.  It would lack punch if it was told chronologically.

LORITE: I agree.  Yeah, I agree 100%.

FCSFR: How did you decide how you were going to approach directing this picture?

LORITE: To me, when I write something -- I don't always write the stuff I direct, and one of the films we're considering for next year is not one of my scripts, so the process is different, I'm approaching the script as an outsider going in.  But when I write it, there is no difference for me between writing, shooting, and editing.  When I write my script, I'm already directing it so a lot of times some of the directing is on the page, but it's definitely in my head.  When I'm shooting it, I'm already editing it.  It's how I'm able to save time and therefore money when I'm shooting it, because I know where I'm going to cut it, how I'm going to cut it, and so hopefully when we get to editing, I'm not too far from the mark and the pieces come together, and of course there's a whole different process that happens in the editing, where you potentially rediscover the film.

In this particular case, it was very close to what I had in my head when I was writing it

FCSFR: See now, that's something else I wanted to talk about to, which is that this film is impeccably edited.  Every scene interlocks like a puzzle piece, there's so much going on visually like I said, and yet you're not lost.  And that's kind of a danger a lot of the times, when you have, you know, very interesting angles or direction, is that you end up with the audience kind of getting, "What?  We're over here now?"  And you don't get that with this picture.

LORITE: Well, thank you, I appreciate that.  I was lucky enough to work with Jacob Chase.  The people that I used before for editing were not available, so I had to look for somebody new, and I just lucked out.  I found Jacob, and Jacob is a filmmaker.  First of all, he writes and directs and he has a very good understanding of storytelling, but he's also an accomplished editor. 

What's interesting about this particular collaboration is that his sensibilities and his taste are very different from mine, and so it was interesting coming from me, to explain my vision and for him to apply his skills to the vision I had for the film. 

I remember this piece of advice I was given a long time ago, the best two pieces of advice, almost back to back.  "Remember who you are" -- which I think is very important when you're trying to tell a story, and the second one was, "If you have a choice between not making a movie and making a movie, MAKE IT." 

Again, you go back to the most important thing, which is story.  We are who we are because of story. 
Nowadays I think the best guide [to living] that we have is still story.  We started in the cave saying, "This is who we are supposed to be," and you tell a story and essentially give elements to aspire to.  And with films, we're doing the same thing, except we're not in a cave anymore, we're in our home, in front of the TV screen.

But bottom line, it's what always will drive me: is it a good story?  Great, let's tell it!

FCSFR: So what will we see in the future from Top Rebel Productions?  Is the tone of "Mediation" indicative of what we're going to see in the future, or is it wider ranging?

LORITE: It's wider ranging.  The projects we're developing right now are a wider range, and cover film and TV.  The taste overall -- I think that grit is part of our sensibility, and by grit I mean, that can include several things, not just violence, but it can include things like character driven, true to life, so I think that's part of it.

Will we put out comedies?  I'm sure.  Will we put out family movies?  I'm sure.

But right now, yes, it is kind of the first phase of our development, and it's very much steeped in thrillers, crime dramas, and eventually we actually added a horror component which is an interesting project that we'll be talking about next year, so to answer your question: it's darker but that doesn't mean we're going to stay there.

That's where my sensibilities are for sure, but as a company we will explore a wider range of material.

FCSFR: Great.  Do you think we'll see Random see the light of day?

LORITE: Yes, I do think it's coming back eventually.  I think we're lucky enough that something good came out of something bad, and I was fortunate enough that there were great actors who were interested in telling that story with me, so I think we will return to that eventually.

We have Cargo in front of it, which is something we hope we'll be able to shoot in the Winter in L.A.  If everything lines up, that's what we'll be doing first, aside from a couple other things that aren't film related, but rather TV related.

FCSFR: Is there anything you can tell us about Cargo right now, or is it hush hush?

LORITE: Well, I can tell you that it's character driven.  It's an action thriller, and that we're really excited about it.  I think it does tell an interesting story and it touches upon things that are I think important.

What I mean by that is I don't have the answers to these questions [posed by my movies].  I just ask the questions that pop in my head.  I never claim to have the answers.  I just think there are these questions that are interesting, that are crucial for us to ask, and I think that within the context of an action thriller, we still manage to tackle a few things that are relevant to who we are today, in our society.

FCSFR: You've been so incredibly gracious with your time.  I really appreciate you taking the time to sit down with me tonight.

LORITE: Same with you, I appreciate your interest.  I appreciate the fact that you're making some room for short films.

FCSFR: My final question for the evening: do you have any advice for aspiring writer/directors out there?

LORITE: Yes, I have one, which is don't listen to advice.  The only thing that matters is, if you want something, BELIEVE that you are capable of getting that thing.  If you have a story that you think other people should hear, or see, then go ahead and tell it, and that means pick up a camera or a pen.

Maybe that's a little old fashioned (laughs).  A laptop.  Nobody writes with a pen.

I'm nobody to give anybody advice, but what I can pass on is the one that I've already mentioned, but I'll tweak it a little bit.  "If you have the choice between telling a story and not telling a story, TELL THE STORY."

* * * * * *

Thank you again to Francisco Lorite for his insightful answers and great advice for new filmmakers all over the world.  If you missed part one of the interview, check it out here.  Also, don't forget to read our exclusive advance review of Lorite's new short, "Mediation" starring Freddy Rodriguez and Marley Shelton!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The First One To Clap: Part 1 of an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW With Writer/Director Francisco Lorite ("Mediation", "Cuco Gomez-Gomez Is Dead!")


Writer/director Francisco Lorite became the toast of the low budget short film world with the release of his award winning short, "Cuco Gomez-Gomez Is Dead!" in 2005.  With his sharp wit and an ear for black comedy, you'd never know just how hard Lorite had to fight to get to his position as recognized screenwriter and filmmaker.

This is the first of a two part phone interview in which Francisco Lorite takes us from his humble beginnings as a 13 year old with a camera and a dream through his successes with "Cuco Gomez-Gomez Is Dead!" and the misfortune that inspired what would have been his debut feature, Random.  We also touch on his latest short film, "Mediation" (check out the review here) starring Freddy Rodriguez and Marley Shelton.

Don't forget to check back for more as we talk more about the experience of directing "Mediation", the challenges of editing and acting and much, much more in part two!

* * * * * *

FCSFR: First of all, I know you've overcome some major obstacles to get to where you are today.  Could you talk a little bit about your beginnings in this business?  What gave you the desire to make films?

FRANCISCO LORITE: I think it was something that was in me from the get go.  My grandma, who was very good at telling stories, she'd tell me stories about the family and I enjoyed those.  And then I graduated to other stories which were comic books -- that was a big part of my childhood, and one of the first books that my mom got me was this dictionary of Greek mythology, and that was just a whole new universe of stories. 

I just kept going until it was time for me to tell my own stories, and so I started making them up.  That started pretty quickly to evolve into films.  The first one I did was with an old Super-8 camera that was lying around on a dusty shelf, and I just started shooting stuff, I was 13, and I haven't stopped since.  The tools have gotten better since (laughs), but the stories are really the only thing that matter.

FCSFR: I was going to ask another question about that.  Like for instance, "Mediation" has a really darkly, almost comic undertone to it.  Is that black comedy something that's always been with you or did it evolve?

LORITE: Yeah, I think that in this particular case, I do enjoy grittier and darker topics and films in general.  I do think that probably comes from a combination of Marvel in my childhood and Greek mythology, which is quite bloody, and I think that was just an inclination in the end, the stuff that I still like, as a spectator, as a fan. 

And I think that in the case of "Mediation", it just, it was appropriate to treat the topic with a dark overtone, because we do some crazy shit for love, there's no doubt about it . . . I think that there's a lot of absurd things that we need to do in order to prove love, or gain love back.  I think that's an interesting topic, and that's why "Mediation" came about.

FCSFR: Sure.  So on that note, do you have any particular filmmakers or writers that inspired you?

LORITE: Yeah, I mean the list is endless, but going back to my childhood, Sergio Leone was a big influence.   I grew up with a bizarre mix of American movies and European movies because I was in Spain, and that's what I saw: like, a healthy, balanced diet of American films, and French films and Spanish films.  

I'm a VCR kid.  I caught up with everything I missed in the 70's and 80's and the 60's, much later, but that's how I learned, that was my film school.  The VCR was my film school, and then NetFlix became my grad school.

I've seen thousands of movies . . . everybody has seen thousands of movies, but the difference is that I remember everything.  So that's how I learned.  I watched others, I didn't . . . I had this DP who I worked with who was from the studio system, and after working together, obviously we had very different styles, and he came to me -- he was an older gentleman, somebody who had a tremendous amount of experience -- and at the end of working together, he came to me and he said, "You know, working with you was interesting because I'm old school and you're new school."  And I said, "No.  You're old school, I'm NO school.  It's different." 

But I'm very conscious of having to learn, and I learn everyday, and sometimes it happens to be on my own set, and sometimes it happens to be watching some other people's work.

FCSFR: Well it's interesting you mention Leone, because I can kind of see that a bit in "Mediation", in terms of the sound design.  You know, there's a lot of buildup, there's a lot of different sounds going on at the same time.  I particularly enjoyed the slowed down bit with the ring as it hit the table, and I believe that happened twice.

LORITE: Yeah, I mean, like I said Leone would definitely be an influence from when I was a kid, and obviously you know Scorsese, and people like that.  Coppola was huge, as far as lighting, and Friedkin, and later on people like P.T . Anderson and Kubrick.  Those people really made me appreciate the craft of showmaking, not just the film for the sake of watching a film and passing the time, but truly, seeing how these people took it to another level because they were very detailed. 

And when you mention sound design, I think that's absolutely crucial.  I mean, yes, you receive the movie through the eye, and eventually through the brain.  But there's nothing that gets quicker to your gut than sound.  Nothing.  That's why music is so important, and to me, I mean, there's no difference between music and sound design to me.  It's something I take very seriously. 

FCSFR: Definitely, definitely.  So according to IMDb, so I have to take it with a grain of salt, because you never know --

LORITE:  Yeah.  A BIG grain of salt.

FCSFR: (laughs) Exactly!  It says you came to New York City at age 20.  Is that right?

LORITE: That is correct, sort of.  I was in high school, and I dropped out of high school, and worked for six months to make enough money to come to the States and I went to San Francisco to learn English.  So I spent six months in San Francisco to learn English, which I did somewhat, and then went back, finished high school -- I decided I wanted to leave what I knew behind and make a new life for myself, and that's why I decided to come to the States.

FCSFR: Because you were born in Spain, right?

LORITE: Yes, I was born in Spain, and lived in several places in Europe, including Switzerland.

FCSFR: Sure.  Do you think there's a difference in the way that people in Spain view filmmaking than in America?

LORITE: I think so.  I do think there's the obvious difference in that, this is very much a business, and art comes second.

FCSFR: It's an inadvertent side effect.

LORITE: I'm sorry?

FCSFR: Art is an inadvertent side effect in Hollywood.

LORITE: (laughs) Yes, I mean, you know, there's something that . . . the studio system still creates incredible movies, so there's enough there to justify the whole thing.  What is incredibly remarkable is that in spite of some of the constraints, people still manage to make fantastic movies within the studio system, you know?  And you have to recognize those people, and see, to me, it's something I don't miss a chance on doing.  I do have to step back and look at people, like [David] Fincher, for example, and go, wow, this is a true artist that still operates within the studio system and delivers consistently great movies.

Look. It's hard to make a good movie, OK?  It's hard to make a bad movie.  But what I mean is it's a lot of effort.  So when somebody manages to make a good movie, you have to just . . . you have to clap, you know?  And I'm very open to other people's movies -- and not just as director, but any of my other fellow filmmakers, but when I see and recognize a quality of effort, and a good story, and a good craft, I'll be the first one to clap. I've no issues with that.   There's no jealousy or ego in that way, because I know what it takes, so when somebody delivers something -- and it might not be my cup of tea at all, I have no problems recognizing quality in somebody else's work, even if it's completely foreign to what I'm interested in.  As a story, I can still say, "Wow, that's a great piece of work." 

FCSFR: OK, so at age 20, you're at New York City.  You became an actor . . .

LORITE: I was lucky enough to make a living as an actor, yes.  I did a lot of off-Broadway shows, which was incredible, just fantastic.  I think it made me a better director.  Made me a better writer as well because I got to study plays, which, you know, obviously is a great way to learn about drama.

And I got to be in the shoes of an actor . . . which allows me to understand what actors go through OFF the set, which I think is important too.  It's something that directors should understand.  And ON the set, which is something I think that mystifies a lot of directors.   

And the difference it makes to me as a writer is that I appreciate, I really try to give a meaty character to play.  And what I try to do is even smaller characters, I try to give them an arc and something to say, so that an actor gets to play as well.  I think that if there's a joy there, and it's not just by the numbers, it's going to help your film.

FCSFR: Could you take us from that acting career to when you decided to make "Cuco Gomez-Gomez Is Dead!"

LORITE: Yes.  I got a bit dissatisfied.  Look, the bottom line is that  I was lucky to be making a living as an actor in New York, and I was very grateful for that, but it wasn't satisfying me as a storyteller, and I really felt that was just a small part of the whole canvas.  I wanted something larger, and so I came to L.A.  And when I came to L.A., I was still working as an actor, but very quickly I moved into this crazy building -- which, by the way I still live in!

FCSFR: (laughs)

LORITE: It's filled with -- it's in the middle of Hollywood, but it was filled at the time, not so much anymore, but at the time filled with a bunch of people from New York.  We all sort of knew each other from gigs and it made for this very interesting kooky community where we got to rely on each other, and talk about our troubles, and bitch, and get a glass of wine at the end of the day.  We'd come in and out of each other's apartments, and it was this fantastic, weird universe unto itself.

And that inspired "Cuco Gomez-Gomez Is Dead!", which is the story of a murder, and a bunch of neighbors getting together and essentially talking about that particular murder.  That was not only inspired by the community I was living in, but MADE by the community I was living in.  I mean, I got all those people -- they all kept saying to me, "Oh, we should do something together."  And I was like, "Hell no.  I know you, and I DON'T want to work with you!"

FCSFR: (laughs)

LORITE: I finally caved, and I had everybody over for spaghetti and wine -- spaghetti being the only thing I know how to cook, still, to this day -- but pretty good though, pretty good spaghetti.

FCSFR: (laughs) Well, that's a pretty good dish.

LORITE: (laughs) Had everybody over, and I said . . .  first thing was, "Look, I wrote this script.  Here's the good news: everybody's in.  I wrote it for all of you guys.  No need to audition, I know your work, you're in.   That's the good news.  The bad news is -- " -- I took out a hundred bucks out of my pocket, put it on the table, and I said, "I'm not raising money for this.  This is a short, we're gonna make it right away or we're not making it.  This is my hundred bucks (the last hundred bucks I had that month)."  And I said, I asked of everyone to put in another hundred bucks each so we could go and shoot it.  They were not happy about that.   And then I made it worse, I said on top of that, you guys have to be the crew.  "We're just gonna make this, quickly."  So when they were done insulting me and cursing me and all that stuff, they finally agreed, and we shot it very quickly over 2 1/2 days I think it was.  A weekend, with a consumer grade camera.  We did the whole post-production on a laptop, even the color correction, everything, and we were really very lucky because it was very well received.  It did, I don't know, I think it was 100, 160 screenings around the world.

FCSFR: Wow!

LORITE:  I got some interesting phone calls from the industry, and then I got to . . . they flew me to Hong Kong. A bunch of things happened out of it which I didn't plan for.  I had a whole different plan for it.  None of the items on my list happened.  All this, this whole weird parallel universe opened up, where we got to do so many things, and we got a lot of press because of the way it was put together, and we got very lucky because we got a bunch of awards -- 5 or 6 awards -- which was very nice. 

It got me noticed enough that I started getting some gigs as a writer/director.  I started writing scripts for other people, which I did for a while, and again I was very grateful that people would pay me to tell stories, and I did that.  But as I was doing more and more writing, I was sort of drifting away from the directing.  I wanted to combine the two elements.  So I had a chance to do a film called -- well, I almost had a chance to do a film called Random, which was unusually based on something that happened to me in Boston, which is that I got stabbed.

FCSFR: Oh my gosh.

LORITE: Yes, not something I would recommend to anyone --

FCSFR: (laughs) No.

LORITE: I would avoid it.  It's not pleasant. 

So it was a random stabbing.  Ironically I was on my way to get a slice of pizza because all I had in my pocket was two dollars.  So, definitely not worth the kill, but it inspired this story, again very loosely -- more than the story, the actual feeling of rage and frustration that comes out of that, because I had no closure.  Nobody essentially paid for that crime.  You're left with a lot of questions and a lot of doubts and weird feelings that you have to put somewhere but you have nowhere to put them, which is something that people that go through violent trauma and I are familiar with. 

But anyway, the good side of it is that it inspired a script that got me a lot of attention.  I was lucky enough that people wanted to finance it.  And that's how I met Freddy [Rodriguez] actually, because I cast him in it, and we were ready to go, and then the financing fell apart.  That particular day was very painful because I had to go tell a bunch of people who were passionate about the project that it wasn't going to happen. 

So Freddy and I started talking about pooling our resources together.  And because we have a common taste for film and the kind of story we're interested in, we started talking, "Maybe we should put a company [Top Rebel Productions] together."  He introduced me to Bill Winette, who was a friend of his, with a business background.  He actually comes from the music industry, but he's been a businessman for a very long time and has a very good head on his shoulders, and the first thing we decided to do was we needed to plant a flag in the ground and say, "Hey, here we are." 

So we decided to go and do "Mediation", because we thought that would be a good way to say, "Here we are, there's more stuff we're ready to do, and you're going to see more of us soon."

* * * * * *

Thank you to Francisco Lorite for being such a good sport and for answering all my questions with humor and class in equal doses.

Continue with the interview and read part two by clicking here!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Freddy Rodriguez, Marley Shelton Make a Dark Stab At Love In New Short Film, "Mediation"

"MEDIATION" (2014)
Genre: Drama / Comedy
Length - 14:10
Company:  Top Rebel Productions
Website:  Official

Roman Lindo (Six Feet Under's Freddy Rodriguez) and his wife Victoria (Planet Terror and Pleasantville's Marley Shelton) attend a court appointed mediation session to try to iron out the details of their divorce.

That's when things get messy.

Very messy.

Check out the trailer online here, and then come back and read the review!

SHE LOVES ME . . .

"Mediation" is the latest short film from Spanish writer/director Francisco Lorite, known for his 2005 short film, "Cuco Gomez-Gomez Is Dead!"  It is the product of Top Rebel Productions, a film production company comprised of Lorite himself, Rodriguez, and producer Bill Winett.

If "Mediation" is a sign of things to come, then Top Rebel Productions is indeed a new force to be reckoned with.  Lorite's unique sensibilities come into fruition here, with a slightly off kilter and exceptionally stylized presentation that takes what could have been a "by the numbers" film and turned it into something special. 

SHE LOVES ME NOT . . . 

There is comedy on hand -- incredibly black comedy -- and I guarantee you will laugh out loud at a few different moments, including one of the more memorable opening monologues in recent history.
 
Following the lead of filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, Lorite uses bold transitions and text overlays to emphasize the events that unfold onscreen.  His directorial eye is on the ball as well, and the interplay between the camera work and the sound design (take the repeated shots of the spinning wedding ring hitting the desk, for instance) makes for an engrossing watch.

As if that weren't enough, his actors turn in professional, almost film noir performances  -- no surprise, considering who he's got on hand here: Emmy Award nominee Freddie Rodriguez as gritty but handsome anti-hero and lead star of TV's Eleventh Hour Marley Shelton as the gorgeous femme fatale.

SHE . . . LOVES ME?

There is a lot to like about "Mediation", but that being said, there are a couple sore points for me.  First, the security guard (Moon Ameen)'s acting felt extremely uneven -- this might be an unfair complaint, since the bar was set so ridiculously high by our two leads and Marilyn Sanabria, who plays unlucky Miss Lopez.

Also, the finale seemed rushed, considering how the rest of the film unfolded at a leisurely pace.  I didn't entirely buy Miss Lopez's reaction to the security guard's fate, either.

But the ultimate ending more than makes up for this as we learn Victoria's intentions and are left with her haunting stare.

Funny, poignant and emotionally ruthless, "Mediation" is a must see when it comes to a festival near you.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3.5 / 5.  Lorite intentionally channels some film noir with his story and his dialogue, and most of the time it works. Some of the lines don't feel genuine to me because no one says "kitten kaboodle" and the like anymore.  His clever manipulation of time adds a fun who-done-what element to the viewing.
Directing: 5 / 5.  Using oddball camera angles and visual tricks aplenty, Lorite turns in a varied and eye catching directorial performance.  He turns what is essentially a one location set into a visually enjoyable film.
Editing: 4 / 5.  The nifty transitions and text overlays come fast and furious, sometimes providing a nice punch, and other times a little distracting from the story, and what the audience is supposed to be feeling. 
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  The music, by Kays Alatrakchi, varies between inspired and filler, with particularly the aforementioned hallway scene with the security guard and Miss Lopez sounding melodramatic rather than touching.  The closing credits song however was right on the money.
Acting: 4.5 / 5.  Fantastic performances by Rodriguez, Shelton and Sanabria.

Final Grade: 4.2 / 5.

"Mediation" is screening at the 14th ­Annual Beverly Hills Film Festival later this month (April 2014) and the 9th Annual Sunscreen Film Festival in May, with more updates coming soon at Top Rebel Production­­­­s' official website and their Facebook page, so don't forget to give those links a click because you will not want to miss it when it comes near you.

For more coverage of "Mediation", check out our EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with writer/director Francisco Lorite by clicking here!

"Be Bold In Your Decisions" -- EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW With Writer / Director David Kitchen ("Family Reunion")

First time writer/director David Kitchen recently completed the bright drama short film, "Family Reunion" (review here).  Featuring top notch acting from UK TV regulars Karen Bryson (Shameless) and Trevor Laird (Doctor Who) as well as Clint Dyer (Sahara), the film poses an explosive family secret right in the middle of a troubled but loving everyday family.

"Family Reunion" is Kitchen's first attempt at writing and directing since taking a hiatus from his acting career ten years ago to work in charity fundraising.

The success of "Family Reunion" is only the beginning, though . . .
* * * * * *

FCSFR: You were an actor first, but you've recently made the jump to directing with "Family Reunion". Have you written for the screen in the past?

DAVID KITCHEN: I have two feature film screenplays and several television dramas completed but six or seven fully planned out film scripts ready to get started. The thing is, I’ve been away from the business for a decade, working in the charity fundraising sector. During these last ten or so years, however, I’ve been very disciplined, writing into the early hours; and now plan to have this work recognized – "Family Reunion" being my first step.

FCSFR: What was the turning point for you when you decided you wanted to tackle directing a short film?

KITCHEN: My mother died Christmas 2012 and as proud as she was with my work in the charity sector, she wanted me to be doing what I always dreamed of – writing, directing and a return to acting. In 2013 I completed the Director’s Course with the Raindance Film Festival in London. Raindance gave me the tools, my Mum gave me the inspiration and I provided the script.  Done it and proud. Now ready for the next challenge.

FCSFR: "Family Reunion" is essentially an ensemble piece -- every actor and actress had to shine in order for the film to work.  How did you manage to get Karen Bryson, Clint Dyer and Trevor Laird to star in this film?  The acting in this film is just tremendous.

KITCHEN: I wrote a drama. Call me old-fashioned but a drama, to me, means people communicating in order to tell a story; therefore, actors are needed. I have known Karen since our days at Lamda, she and I spoke about this project years ago. When I resurrected this script/project, Karen was on board straight away. Karen recommended Clint Dyer; on the strength of the script, he said yes. Clint recommended Trevor Laird. Again, Trevor believed in the script and also came aboard.

I was so lucky. Here were three actors, absolutely on top of their game and they agreed to work with me – on my debut. I like to think I directed them, and I know they would be kind in saying I did but really I just guided them through the non-linear aspect of the script and filming. They gelled as a cast, trusted in the project and delivered three beautiful performances.

FCSFR: This film allows the actors the ability to portray such a wide range of emotions, particularly Bryson.  How tough were the flashback scenes to shoot?

KITCHEN: Again, not tough. These actors knew their characters by the time we came to shoot.

Karen and I met on many occasions and got to know the role of ‘Karen’ so well. Karen Bryson is a very giving actress so her ensemble scenes were a joy; asking her to seize the moment when she was alone was a learning curve for me – I had to gain her trust – I had to ensure she knew when I was happy and when I needed more. The professional she is, she gave the camera everything it needed and her performance is testament to her talent.

Clint’s flashbacks were much more technical.  He had to drive a 4x4 he’d never driven before, driving along the streets of Ladbroke Grove at night, in character, screaming, a £25k camera strapped to the car, squirting water in his eyes. Clint’s done action films with Liam Neeson (and Rowan Atkinson) so I showed no sympathy . . . just sheer admiration, respect and gratitude.

FCSFR: I liked how the camera movement was fluid without resorting to handheld camera tricks like so many "indie" filmmakers do.  Particularly in such an otherwise "quiet" film, it adds a lot of life to the proceedings.  Could you talk a little bit about what made you choose the style with which you filmed "Family Reunion"?

KITCHEN: I decided to make this film on a Thursday in November, emailed Stuart Graham to ask if he would come on board.  Stu and I had worked together years ago – on a great little film, Dinner Money. Whilst I was earning a crust in fundraising, Stuart had gone on to be one of the most sought after cinematographers in the business.

Friday, the next day, I received Stu’s reply; he needed a "couple of parking permits, sandwiches for the crew and a break-down of scenes".

I wrote this script and knew every shot I wanted, I story-boarded the lot. Stuart began, on day one, and just saw the story, like the greatest DoP’s do. Every take was discussed but he knew what the story and over-all film required. There was no hand-held, just a harness where needed.

FCSFR: What writers or directors inspired you to pursue a life in film? 

KITCHEN: Martin Scorsese. The fact my film’s penultimate scene was set in a brothel, much like Taxi Driver, was obviously a coincidence, but I’m so proud Stuart and I managed to create a similar feel to the master’s.

Both Woody Allen and Tarantino – I know they’re polar opposites but their work as writer/director is a huge inspiration to someone wanting to write and direct one’s own films.

Being British though, I have to fly the flag and mention the genius of Danny Boyle, Hitchcock and David Lean

FCSFR: What is your dream project?

KITCHEN: Oh man. I do want to film many of my scripts using London as my backdrop -- real stories, of real people, dealing with real life situations -- again, not dissimilar to what Woody Allen did with New York. One day, a love story to London, like Woody did with Manhattan, would be a dream come true.

However, my dream project is already written. It’s an epic love story, set in Africa. Africa is just so big and beautiful, with in-built drama of such magnitude.

FCSFR: When are readers going to see "Family Reunion"?  Will it be shown at festivals or will it be available online?

KITCHEN: We’re entering it into most of the top festivals, including many across the U.S.  Unfortunately, many of the festivals won’t accept films that are available to view online. Therefore, we’re hoping for a good run of festival success and when it’s able to go online, we’ll be more than happy to let readers know.

FCSFR: What can we look forward to seeing from you next?

KITCHEN: A small but slick drama about a young man imprisoned in his own home – it’s based on a true story – it has a slight Trainspotting vibe to it.  Whilst we search for the finance I’m busying myself with a documentary series.

FCSFR: Last question: what kind of advice can you give to young filmmakers out there, stepping into directing for the first time? 

KITCHEN: Know your story. If you are handed a script, learn it before your cast and crew. Own it. Be bold in your decisions; I had an experienced cast and a very experienced crew, but it was my film. Own it.

FCSFR: Thank you so much for your time, David.

KITCHEN: Thank you, it was a real pleasure.

* * * * * *

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sci-Fi Superhero Short Film "Project Arbiter" a Fan Pleasing Blast of Action

"PROJECT ARBITER" (2013)
Genre: Sci-Fi / Action
Length- 21:33
Company: Burning Ideas
Website: Official

The year is 1943 and WWII rages across Europe.  A small plane carries a crew of Allies to the Polish border and drops in Captain Joseph Colburn, whose super-soldier suit can turn him temporarily invisible.  His plane is promptly shot down, leaving Colburn alone to fight his way into a Nazi occupied villa and uncover the horrible secrets hidden within its walls.

INDIE WINS!
 

You can expect a lot of things from low budget short films, but in the case of "Project Arbiter", you would be dead wrong on almost all accounts.  First of all, the acting is top notch, with Lex Cassar (TV's 24) capably playing action hero Colburn and looking like he was born for such a role. 

The special effects are also top notch, with some pretty graphic violence coming from weapons both big and small.  Michael Chance both wrote and directed the film, and it's his eye for gripping cinema that delivers those effects into the stratosphere.  This movie absolutely DRIPS big budget -- I could totally see this film being the prelude of a much longer two and a half hour action flick you'd see around Summer time.

It is done so well in fact that even at twenty minutes, it feels short.  The flick moves at a lightning pace and doesn't let up until the final frames. 

WHAT IT IS, WHAT IT ISN'T
 

"Project Arbiter" is a really, really good series of action sequences and eye friendly visuals.  It is a fan pleasing film for those who love films like Captain America or Iron Man, and comes off as an "R" rated mash-up of both films.  It even played at San Diego Comic Con 2013.

If that's the sort of thing you are into, "Project Arbiter" will impress you and then some.

Where "Project Arbiter" falls short is where most action films do: the story.  It's basically an excuse to get characters in the right positions for gunplay and bloodshed.   The dialogue, while acted well, doesn't really move the story.  And what was with the crazy experiments, anyway?  We never do quite figure out what that was all about -- failed attempts at creating the very suit that Colburn wears into battle?

So it's not great drama -- it never claims to be, and it isn't for the people who want to see that.  It's a love letter for superhero fans. 

Knowing what it wants to be, knowing its fan base . . . that's enough to get a big thumbs up from me.

OVERALL SCORES:
 

Writing: 2.5 / 5.  Chance's writing sets the action in motion but little more -- the concept's been done again and again.  What was up with the young, tortured woman?  The scene felt unnecessary.   
Directing: 5 / 5.  Chance's direction sets "Project Arbiter" apart from most other short films.  There is not one frame that does not feel thought out and carefully constructed.  The camera movement and choreography of the action must have been tough to work out, but Chance nailed it.
Editing: 5 / 5.  The film moved like a freight train.  I never noticed any transitions -- it all felt seamless.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  Big and bold like the films that inspired it, "Project Arbiter" features a stirring score by Ryan Leach.
Acting: 4.5 / 5.  Cassar does great as Colburn, but notable mentions also have to go to Tim Coyne, who plays a German scientist with a great accent and William Charlton (a veteran of The Shield and Law & Order) is a perfect pick for the creepy Colonel Heinrich.

Final Grade: 4.2 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "Project Arbiter" on YouTube, visit the official website for updates and follow along with the film's progress on Facebook!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"What's For You Won't Pass You" -- EXCLUSIVE Interview With Actress Karen Bryson ("Family Reunion", "Shameless")

Karen Bryson has appeared on UK TV shows like Shameless, Buried, The Bill, and Bodies over the course of her long and accomplished acting career.  Most recently, she's appeared in David Kitchen's directorial debut short film, "Family Reunion" (reviewed here) as a troubled woman with knowledge of a secret that could blow her family apart.

We got in touch with Karen to talk about her role in "Family Reunion" and her career.  Check it out!

* * * * * *

FCSFR: According to IMDb, your first onscreen credit is in the disco classic, "Staying Alive".  But when did your film life begin?  Who did you look up to as a young woman first getting in the game?


KAREN BRYSON: Oh, IMDb.  Yes, there's a bit of a story here.  I’ve encountered this many times before. The actress/dancer who appeared in Staying Alive is not me. I’ve done a fair bit of research into finding out who she is. I believe her name is now Karen Mueller Bryson. She is of course from the US and is now a rather successful author of a number of books.

I have, on several occasions tried to change my IMDb page, where I was asked my reason for wanting to delete the credit.  "Erm, because it's not me."  Needless to say, I don’t think they believed me.  It’s clearly still on the page!

Firstly, I was a small child in pre-school, secondly, in London. I mean, come on, Nicholas, do I look old enough? Actually, don’t answer that!

I want to start a campaign, or shoot a short documentary.. entitled "Finding the other Karen Bryson",  like “Searching for Sugar Man", LOL!

The whole thing has tainted my feeling about the film, I loved Saturday Night Fever and its poor little cousin the sequel Staying Alive was one of my guilty pleasures.

My major passion has always been to act since I was a small child, but in my less than twenty years as a professional actor I've also written and directed.

FCSFR: You've had notable performances in "Buried", "The Bill", "Bodies" and most of all as Avril Powell on "Shameless".  Do you have a favorite character or one that was just fun to play?

BRYSON: Every character I’ve ever played, whether it be in TV, Film or theatre has been so very different (including Karen in "Family Reunion") -- I’ve been lucky in that respect.

But I must say, the most fun to play was Avril, simply because the outlandish nature of the show . . . totally bonkers!  There’s a poster that I believe is quite famous in the western world saying, “You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps a lot if you are!” That sums it up quite nicely! LOL!

FCSFR: When you are preparing for a role, what do you do?  Are you a method actress or do you have your own way of getting into character?

BRYSON: When preparing for a role, I have, what I call my method. It varies from project to project.  I love this part.  I try and arm myself with as much information by way of research.  That could involve clues in the script that inform of the person you’re about to play, research in to the world/environment or circumstances in which the character exists. Then, what does this person look like and why? Once I have those, I can get on set, where it's pure gut instinct and heart.  This is where the creativity truly happens, along with the director and other actors.

FCSFR: How did you come to be involved with "Family Reunion"?  Did you know David Kitchen previously?

BRYSON: I’ve known David for years, we trained at LAMDA together. We weren’t in the same class, but we all socialized. After graduating many years later, David and I were talking at a party. He spoke of an idea for a short involving a character that he thought of for me. A few years after that, last year, specifically, Dave contacted me with the script.  My response: “Let's do this!"

The rest you’ve seen.

FCSFR: You're not just the actress who played Karen, you're also the producer of the short film.  Can you talk a little bit about the difficulties inherent on set when you have to be both Karen Bryson the actress AND producer?

BRYSON: David and Kirstin Clarke (who also played Jason's wife), the other producers, did such a fantastic job freeing things up so that was seemless process.  Great team work.

FCSFR: In your role as Karen in "Family Reunion", you go from Daddy's Little Girl to seductress to raging with embarrassment, all in the span of a few minutes.  How difficult was it to portray such an enormous range in such a short time?

BRYSON
: I love complicated characters.  That's a true reflection of the human condition.  Dave and I talked at length about filming the really emotional scenes in sequence. As one scene provoked the emotion in another scene, and so on. So for us as actors, we had an opportunity to play out real and true reactions.

FCSFR: What was it like working with such an incredibly talented team?  It may have been Kitchen's first time directing, but you'd never know it from watching the film.

BRYSON: A fantastic process, a brilliant team -- from David’s amazing ability and talent to get the best out us as actors (having been one) to the fantastic D.O.P Stuart Graham and the guys on camera, to the thorough sound department led by Antonis Tsoukatos to make up/hair designer Victoria Poland creating the looks.  And of course all the brilliant actors who by the end really felt like family.

I’ve known Clint Dyer socially for years and have loved his work.  Playing his sister was just wonderful, we just had creative chemistry. It's hard to convince an audience of  close relationships if the actors aren’t "vibing"!  A real pleasure to work with such a superb bunch of talented people.

FCSFR:  What can we look forward to from you in the future?  Do you have any new projects brewing?

BRYSON: I’ve literally just finished an independent feature film called Artificial Horizon.  It's a sci-fi thriller about a world where there is an antibiotic pandemic.  Lots of tense action, and a lot of night shoots!  I would LOVE to do more film in the future . . . just putting it out there!

FCSFR: If you could give aspiring actresses one piece of advice, what would it be?


BRYSON: Never give up.  It's such a tough business, full of  "No"'s.

This saying kept me going during my career full of ups and downs: "What's for you won't pass you!"


* * * * * *

Thank you so much to Karen Bryson for taking the time out of her busy schedule to sit down and answer our questions, and to clear up that IMDb mishap.  Thanks for being such a good sport and a class act, Karen!


MORE exclusive coverage of "Family Reunion" -- exclusive interviews with writer/director David Kitchen and Trevor Laird here!







Saturday, April 5, 2014

I Know Something About You: Buried Secrets in David Kitchen Directorial Debut "Family Reunion"


"FAMILY REUNION" (2014)
Genre: Drama
Length- 10:30
Company: N/A
Website: Official

After their uncle dies, Karen (Karen Bryson) and Jason (Clint Dyer) reunite with their father (Trevor Laird) for the funeral.

Thing is, Karen knows something about Jason, and she's threatening to tell everybody the awful truth if he shows his face again.

And Dad's 60th birthday is coming up.

What to do, what to do?

A FAMILY ENSEMBLE

Most of the time, to avoid having difficulty with amateur actors, independent productions like to stay away from talky scenes, but in this case, actor turned writer/director David Kitchen brings his actors right out in the open.  The film is predominantly dialogue.

It's a gutsy move, but then, he's also got one heck of a good cast here.  We've got UK TV actors Trevor Laird, a two time veteran of Doctor Who, and Karen Bryson, popular for appearing multiple seasons on UK's hit comedy, Shameless.  We've got Clint Dyer, who has acted in theater, film and TV for the past twenty years, including roles in Unknown, Mr. Bean's Holiday and Sahara, among others.

If you're going to put your film in anyone's hands, I'd say this trio is about as strong an acting package as you are going to find, and they play off one another like the seasoned professionals they are. 

IN A FLASH

Also of note is the dialogue: these characters talk like real people talk.  The camera movement is fluid, and at times adopts the handheld approach, but never to the point where it becomes nauseating like some films I've seen.  In particular, the drinking scene in the beginning was shaky, but it made sense, and helped things feel just a little off kilter.

The story is told predominately through smartly shot flashbacks that play with the audience's concept of time.  We're never quite sure where we are in the story's timeline until each segment has completed, and that adds much needed tension and audience participation in what is in other respects a very domestic story.

The finale is ambiguous, but it works.  To show any more would be embracing melodrama, in my opinion, and melodrama is not what "Family Reunion" is about.  It's a searing illustration of how families have, at any moment, opportunities to either dissolve or become stronger. 

Kitchen's directorial debut is without a question a big success -- a serious drama that unfolds at a great pace and kept me guessing at each turn.

OVERALL SCORES:
 

Writing: 3.5 / 5.  Kitchen has a great ear for dialogue, and makes the most out of every line.  That being said, the core of the film isn't particularly original -- how many movies have you watched where there's a terrible secret boiling to the surface of an otherwise "perfect" family?
Directing: 4 / 5.  Some interesting visual choices from Kitchen here as he quickly defines his own style.  I loved the handheld in the beginning to accent how tipsy his characters were.
Editing: 5 / 5.  The film's pacing is perfect, never too slow, never too fast.  Every scene neatly segues into the next.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5. The original score by Abi Hercules and Paul Saunderson's two contributed songs bring out the tension in even the most outwardly tranquil of scenes. 
Acting: 5 / 5.  This is one of the finest acted short films I have ever seen.  The three leads of course do well, but I also want to point out that the supporting cast is also believable and effective.

Final Grade4.3 / 5.

For additional coverage of "Family Reunion", check out our EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS with writer/director David Kitchen, and stars Karen Bryson and Trevor Laird!

Don't forget to check out "Family Reunion" at the official website and follow its progress to movie screens near you on Facebook!



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!