Dalida [Film]


Welcome to Day 4 of our unofficially titled “12 Non-Holiday Films for the Holidays”. For 12 days, we are showcasing 12 amazing non-holiday themed films for those of us who despise holiday films or the whole damned season altogether. Enjoy!

“Recording in more than five languages, Dalida sold a record-breaking 170 million albums during her lifetime, with chart-topping hits spanning Edith Piaf-esque classics to emotional disco numbers. Following Dalida’s extraordinary rise from beauty pageant contestant to cabaret artist to international superstar, this visually stunning new film tells a captivating story of professional success and personal tragedy in exquisite period detail. Italian-model-turned actress Sveva Alviti paints a nuanced portrait of the star in her breakthrough role.”

Emma Griffiths PR

Wow, just fucking WOW! This was an absolutely incredible cinematic experience. I will personally admit that I was completely unaware that Dalida was a person of note. Yes, I am an uncultured American scum who knows very little about what shook the world in the 50’s to 80’s Europe. My sincerest apologies. I had no idea who Dalida was before watching this film, and after watching the film, I am still not familiar with a single record she may have put out. But, I can say that thanks to an absolutely brilliant and Oscar worthy performance form Sveva Alviti, and an amazing film brought to us by Lisa Azuelos, I feel like I know of Dalida and her legacy a whole lot better than I could have ever imagined.

Seriously folks, even if you have absolutely zero interest in the career of a woman who sold over 170 million records worldwide, yet could only become a star in the states through the terrifying art of disco, this is truly a fascinating film that you are going to love. At its core, this is a film about the battle of the human spirit. It is a motion picture about the tyranny of trying to battle our inner emotions against the insane view from the world around us. Few people know what it is like to have the entire world watching you, and yet all you feel inside is a deep hole that has only been filled with regrets and a sadness and shame. This is the type of aura that you will you witness as it is so brilliantly displaced by Sveva Alviti, in a role that should really make her career, and make her a world-wide success. The charisma and skill that it took to bring this truly conflicted character to live in such an elegant manner had to be an absolute challenge. But, she succeeded, to say the least!

If you can be prepared to watch 2 hours of absolute struggle in a world where it seems as though a heroine has received everything she could ever want, yet feel so cold and alone inside that no amount of “success” could ever truly calm them, then Dalida is the film you are looking for. This is not just a biopic. This is an absolutely treasure of modern cinema, and it needs to be enjoyed by all.

Dalida is now available on VOD and across all major platforms. Check out this trailer for the film here:

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Django [Film]

Welcome to Day 3 of our unofficially titled “12 Non-Holiday Films for the Holidays”. For 12 days, we are showcasing 12 amazing non-holiday themed films for those of us who despise holiday films or the whole damned season altogether. Enjoy!

“The year is 1943 in Nazi-occupied Paris and Django Reinhardt is at the pinnacle of his art. The brilliant and carefree jazz guitarist, king of ethereal swing, plays to standing-room-only crowds in the capital’s greatest venues. Meanwhile his gypsy brethren are being persecuted throughout Europe. His life takes a turn for the worse when the Nazi propaganda machine wants to send him on tour in Germany.” – Big Time PR

This one isn’t even really fair, folks! When asked if I would like to check out a biopic about arguably one of the finest musicians of any given time, it was a real no-brainer. It’s fucking Django Reinhardt!! There really isn’t a need to use the word “arguably” when speaking the finest jazz guitarists in history, because there simply is no argument. Django is the greatest there ever was, and there will probably be another like him.

I first learned of his work as a young child who was obsessed with the films of Woody Allen. These were even the days proceeding the hilarious Sean Penn led film Sweet and Lowdown. I’m talking more about a quick mention of Django in one of my favorite Woody films, Mighty Aphrodite. I’m talking about the how I fell in love with “Out of Nowhere” when I heard it on Deconstructing Harry. Or when I heard “Minor Swing” on just about every cool flick you could see in the 90’s and early 00’s. I have been hooked on Django ever since. But I soon realized after starting this film, I really had no idea who Django really was. Unlike other folks I have admired in the world of music since a young age (Bob Dylan, Tupac Shakur, etc.), I never really took the time to learn who Django really was. And I will be damned if I didn’t truly learn about the spirit of Django in this amazing biopic about a very specific, yet oh so important time in his life.

 

Django as a film, is something very special and amazing to watch even if you weren’t a weird ten year old who loved Django and Woody Allen movies at a ridiculously young age. It is just about as perfect of a film as you could ask for when depicting what life was like in the depths of Nazi occupation for people who wanted nothing to do with the fighting. Django was an established man of the people during this period, and (SPOILER ALERT!) his defiance to engage with German soldiers even for mild entertainment is a great bit of defiance that I knew nothing about, yet made me love this wild-eyed gypsy even more than I already did.

This film has it all people. Reda Ketab gives an absolutely perfect performance as the legendary Django himself that everyone could appreciate. For long time Django fans, or for people who just enjoy a masterfully told period piece, this is probably one of the best films you are ever going to see. It simply has everything, and deserves to be appreciated by the masses!

Django will be opening in New York on January 5th and Los Angeles on on January 19th. Additional markets are to follow, and VOD release is sure to follow shortly afterwards. Here is the trailer:

D-Love [Film]

Welcome to Day 2 of our unofficially titled “12 Non-Holiday Films for the Holidays”. For 12 days, we are showcasing 12 amazing non-holiday themed films for those of us who despise holiday films or the whole damned season altogether. Enjoy!

“A couple with longstanding marital issues lands at LAX after a failed getaway. For a few years now, Stefania has been unhappy in a job she detests, while Dan still dealing with his grief, hasn’t worked in years. Their strain is amplified when a Danish vagabond asks for a ride and much to his wife’s horror, Dan offers to bring this total stranger to their home. How will this affect the already strained couple? Over the course of three days, Stefania comes to discover that the desired change doesn’t always come in the package that we want or expect.” – Popular Press Media Group

 

I’m just going to throw this out there right off the bat….are you all ready to learn about the best film of 2017? I mean, this is a year that hd a lot of competition when it came to emotionally driven cinema, but I’m here to proclaim that Elena Beuca’s directorial debut D-Love is the finest work of cinematic art I have witnessed in the last decade. With a cast of newcomers and old hats, and a wonderful story that is based in distant reality, this is a film that is an absolutely perfect depiction of what it means to lose, to mourn, and hopefully find love all over again.

There is so much to love about D-Love that it is almost impossible to figure out where to begin. I guess I could kick things off the way I usually do, by telling you all that the cast of this film is absolutely amazing. But this feels inevitably as Elena Beuca and Dave Rogers are sort of just retelling the events of the emotional rollercoaster that was their lives. Rogers is credited for the script, Beuca directed, and the both portrayed versions of themselves in a perfect way. But, it is clearly obvious that this was a group effort, and D-Love is a film that was produced as a team.

But lest we forget that there were some other amazing performances as well! Including the titular character of D-Love, the one-with-the-earth and Burning Man bound character brilliantly portrayed by Ditlev Darmakaya. He is the Danish drifter who absolutely steals our hearts throughout the entire film. He’s less of a man, and more of a presence who was sent to change the lives of a couple who had nowhere to go but down. It is the freshness and naivety of that Mr. Darmakaya brings to the character that is absolutely charming and mesmerizing.

 


I honestly can not say enough great things about this amazing film. One specific scene alone really got to me though, and in attempt to not cause any spoilers, I would dive to far into it, but let’s just say it involves a minor car accident, and a bit of understanding and brilliant advice given by someone you may not have expected to give it to us. It’s not exactly the scene that truly steals the film, but it is the one that pulled on the heart strings a bit. I am always a sucker for a blue collar guardian angel type! Shoutout to veteran actor Michael Monks for making one of the smaller roles seem so huge and important.

Just weeks ago, it was all but set in my mind that I would be calling The Big Sick was going to be the emotional gem of a film to be seen in 2017. But, much like the titular character came in to help with the transformation of a couple’s soul, D-Love entered my life. And I will say that I am far more emotionally changed by the film than The Big Sick could do. While they are both wonderful films in their own right, D-Love just brings the love all the way back home in the most brilliant way possible.

D-Love will be available across all platforms soon, and is in select theaters across the country. Check out the trailer here:

Playground [Film]

Welcome to Day 1 of our unofficially titled “12 Non-Holiday Films for the Holidays”. For 12 days, we are showcasing 12 amazing non-holiday themed films for those of us who despise holiday films or the whole damned season altogether. Enjoy!

“Final day of school in a small Polish town. It’s the very last chance for 12-Year-Old Gabrysia to tell her classmate that she had fallen in love with him. She sets up a secret meeting and blackmails her love interest to show up. But what was supposed to be an intimate talk spins out of control and this seemingly normal day in life of three ordinary elementary school students culminates in shocking and terrifying events.” – October Coast PR

What the hell did I watch? I mean seriously, what the hell just happened? Have you ended a film and said this to yourself? And not in a negative way at all, just that feeling of where you are left a little bit dirty feeling inside. Well, if you have managed to avoid that feeling throughout your existence, be prepared experience something all new and terrifying.

Playground is one of those most unique experiences you will ever have in the world of cinema. The plot and premise of the film starts with a sort of confusing slow burn, and neither really truly reveal themselves very specifically. There is definitely a theme within the film. But, interpretation can easily be left with the viewer. There is a bit of sadness. There is obvious pain and confusion around the turmoil that can be constant in adolescence. But then there is a darkness that is unfathomable and entirely unreasonable. And that is the direction that Playground takes you.

This insane bit of Polish cinema from Bartosz M. Kowalski is a very well made and insanely tantalizing film. But, it is honestly very difficult to describe the events that take place within the film without completely spoiling the entire premise (which, again, isn’t entirely clear in a purposeful way). Let’s just say that Playground is a film that is going to leave you with a lot of questions about yourself, about humanity, and about existence in general. What can drive a person so young to such a dark place, so early in their existence? Is evil simply born, or is it inherited? These are actually the simplest of questions you may ask after watching this brilliant film.

Playground is available now on VOD and anywhere you find great films. Check out the trailer for the film here:

Onur Tukel [Interview]


Today we have a very special interview for you fine folks with a truly eccentric man of film, and one of the finest visionaries in independent cinema today. Onur Tukel a NYC based filmmaker who put out what could be arguably considered one of the finest films of the year entitled Catfight. It is a delightfully dark and twisted comedy that is as poignant as it is intense. Which is basically a description of any Onur Tukel project.

Mr. Tukel has been writing and directing amazing independent cinema for over 20 years now, and has a lot to tell us about the business he found himself engrossed in at a very young age. He is a very prolific gentleman with a style all of his own, and we are so happy that he was willing to share a few words with us here today. I feel it to be only respectful if I just cut my babbling out right now in order to get to these amazing words from one of the finest folks working in the world of film today. So ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Onur Tukel!

Where did your passion for filmmaking stem from? Was it an early aspiration, or did you just fall into this world?

It probably all started in the 6th grade, when I made a movie with a bunch of my friends called Campout with Death. We spent the Summer of 1984 running through the foothills of North Carolina with a VHS camcorder making a goofy slasher film. I’d say after that, I was hooked. We kept making VHS movies, copying the stuff that was out at the time. We were inspired by horror films (Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street). We were also inspired by the ridiculous Golan Globus films. We made ninja movies, fantasy, break-dancing movies, you name it. They were all ridiculous and a fun way of bonding through puberty. None of the movies featured women. We were terrified of girls. We were homophobic as well, due to growing up in the South in the 80s. We were just morons with a camera. We had no idea who we were, what we stood for, and we barely had pubic hair.

Years later, I majored in film in college but didn’t make movies. Most of my classes were theory-based. I wish I could remember the theories. In 1995, I moved to Wilmington, NC, which had a fertile film community back then. That’s when I started taking it seriously. I shot silent shorts on Super-8. Then 16mm shorts with sound. Eventually, I saved up enough money to make a feature on black and white 16mm. Years later, we shot color 16mm. Then I eventually made a feature on 35mm. From 1995 – 2000, I’d say that’s when I really figured out that this is what I wanted to do with my life. But people change careers all the time, and film has never been a career for me. I’ve never been able to pay the bills making movies.

One of your latest films, Catfight, is one of my favorite films to be released in the last few years. It is a brilliant story, and is brilliantly casted, if I might add. I am always curious about where these truly unique ideas (which are sadly too rare these days) come from. So what part of your psyche did Catfight come from? And what are your thoughts on the final product that was put to screen?

Ron, you’re a beautiful man. Thanks for the kind words. I think it’s a brave movie and I think Sandra Oh and Anne Heche are fearless for making it. I still can’t believe the movie exists. Weeks before we started shooting, I kept assuming it was going to fall apart. I just wanted to make a powerhouse action comedy about war and loss. Wars are started by men, fought be men, analyzed and planned by men. I wanted to switch the script a little bit. I wanted women to be the focus of the story. Men would take a backseat for a change. You mention the cast, and I agree, it’s brilliant (thanks to Stephanie Holbrook), but it’s also just so beautifully balanced, in terms of age and race. Sandra Oh, Anne Heche, Alicia Silverstone, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Amy Hill, Ariel Kavoussi. It runs the spectrum; it’s so diverse. And the actors all nail it.

There are so many themes in the film – solipsism derived from wealth, narcissism derived from art, self-importance derived from having children. But the crux of Catfight is centered around the war in Iraq that America started 14 years ago. I’m still, to this day, bitter about the war. I needed to make a movie about it. It’s about American entitlement and hypocrisy. I wanted to punish the audience in a way; thus, the violence is unsettling. Still, I wasn’t sure if the final product was going to be so violent. If Sandra and Anne had wanted to pull back the violence, we would have. I think they were trying to make a statement as well. These are two of the most talented actors in the business. At the time, they weren’t being offered the kind of scripts they wanted. They were frustrated. They wanted to make something angry, perhaps to reflect that frustration. I know that I’m angry. I’ve been angry for 14 years. I love the movie. I think its cathartic. I think it resonates with other people who are angry.

As a person who is very removed from the world of screenwriting, I am very curious about what it feels like to have a script in your proverbial back pocket for MANY years, and then you finally get the chance to see it become a visual reality. What sort of emotions do you go through when it finally does happen. Does it create further anxiety and fear or does it create a heroin-like rush of joy? Possibly somewhere in between?

When I was making movies in my twenties, making films was so exciting. I don’t know if it was because I was shooting on film then, but the real rush came when you got the film dailies back. You’d watch what you had shot days before and it was magic in a lot of ways. And that was just the first step. When you married those dailies with audio, it was another rush! The image speaks. “It’s alive,” as Dr. Frankenstein screamed, right? Just seeing your movie start to exist was better than sex. Then you edit that synched clip with another, and then, wow…the miracle of film starts to take shape. I think it’s hard to remove yourself from what you’re watching when you make your first movie. It’s just so thrilling to see it come to life. I remember thinking my first movie was quite brilliant as I was making it. I couldn’t see the flaws because it was just all so ridiculously exciting. I’m watching the film come together and I’m thinking, “I’m doing it. I’m actually making a movie.” I’m still enamored by the process, but not captivated like I once was. There’s a feeling of dread that creeps in now when making a movie, especially in the early stages. In some ways, it’s Sisyphean.

When I try to get a film made now, I just assume it’s not going to happen, that the actors attached are going to drop out, that the funding is going to fall through. This used to make me nervous but not so much anymore. I’m trying to accept things that are not in my control. If a movie is meant to get made, so be it. I feel lucky that I’ve been able to make a handful of movies. When the time comes that I can’t do it anymore, hopefully, I’ll switch to painting or music.

I was encouraged to create at a young age. I’m very fortunate in that regard. I never bought into the idea that I couldn’t make a movie. No one should buy into that idea. Still, you need money. And that’s the exhausting part. Finding it. The money has to travel from the investors hands into the bank, and it has to stay there. I’ve been part of projects where the money was supposed to come and it never came. I’ve been part of projects where bad checks were written. It’s part of it. When I was younger, fuck, it was a nightmare. Now, you know, I’m a little more laid back about it.

When the money does come through, and we start shooting, the objective is to be focused. My movies are low-budget, so the schedules are so tight, there’s a lot of stuff to shoot every day. The shoot may be fun and inspiring, but there’s not a lot of time to celebrate or experience joy. We shoot a scene until we get it right, and then we move on. Sometimes, something magical happens and it is like a drug-rush. It’s an amazing feeling. But there’s not a lot of time to revel in it, you know? You just keep moving, like a shark, or the momentum dies.
I love being on-set. And I’m always a bit stressed out when we’re shooting. I’m usually not completely relaxed until I can watch a rough cut of the movie. That’s why I try to do the first cut as quickly as possible, to make sure we shot everything we need. Once I see that the story makes sense in the edit, the anxiety wanes a bit. I’m not looking for good performances or good camera work at this point. The rough cut is thrown together just for peace of mind.

The editing process is fun. Rewarding. Waiting to hear back from film festivals is nerve-racking. Getting rejected is soul-crushing. Selling the movie is probably the most horrible aspect of the whole affair. Because making money in this game is tough when you have no business acumen, which I don’t. Still, overall, it is like being addicted to a drug, Ron. And I have found myself trying to quit this business, like quitting a drug. Filmmaking is too tough. It’s too punishing. It’s killing me in many ways. But I just can’t stop doing it because the high is so good. When you watch the finished movie in a theater with an audience and everything’s clicking, people are laughing and the room is alive, energized. Fuck. It’s the best.

Also as a person far removed from it all….the ever-trusting site Wikipedia boasts that you are a “notable figure in the NYC independent film community”. And simple based off the brilliant work I have seen from you, I have to imagine this is very accurate. So with that, what exactly is the NYC independent film community? What is it like to live in this world? What makes it unique from other factions of the world of filmmaking?

Ha. I don’t feel notable. But I feel lucky to be have lived in New York the last seven years. I feel lucky that I have had so many cool people who wanted to work on my movies, for very little money. I’m probably not as active in the film scene as I should be. But in my opinion, the New York Independent film community is pretty vast and passionate. Off the top of my head, I could name drop dozens of filmmakers, producers, film festival programmers and curators who live in and around New York. I think having a thriving community of filmmakers here keeps me on my toes. It inspires me to work a little harder, I think.

When I discovered Woody Allen in college, his movies had a profound affect on me. I fell in love with New York through his movies. I identified with his neurosis, his rambling dialogue, his love-affair with existence, his hypochondria. New York is magic. It’s tragic. It’s beautiful. It’s disgusting. It’s everything. And it does exist in black and white, in a lot of ways, just like he describes it in Manhattan. I get down on the city sometimes. It’s so expensive that it feels like the city doesn’t value its artists. It seems like the city continues to cater to the rich. Many people are leaving. They’re going to LA. There’s more room. It’s cheaper.

What makes New York unique? The people, maybe? When you decide to live here, you’re making a deal with yourself. You’ve come to one of the most competitive cities in the world. You have to be a little nuts to live here. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to stay here. But I can say that I stuck it out for seven years. I can say that I was a New York filmmaker for a little while. But New York is very insular as well. There’s a smugness here. Like living in New York automatically gives someone legitimacy. It doesn’t.

You have covered just about every gig there is in the world of film. From being on screen to writing, editing, directing, and on and on. How do you decide where you need to be, and what you want to take part of? And if hard pressed to label your actual profession, what would you want to consider yourself to be labeled?

I wrote a science fiction comedy a few years ago called Infinity Baby, about babies that don’t age. I wrote several drafts and had planned on making it, with me in the lead, and after some time passed, I just moved on to other projects. I eventually gave it to my friend Bob Byington to direct and I think he really nailed it. Seeing what he did allowed me rethink my role in films. I think I could step away from directing in the future, concentrate more on writing, I suppose. I’d also like to direct something I didn’t write at some point. This would be a great exercise. I’d focus more on designing shots that tell the story. It would be an exercise in aesthetics, craft. I suppose it depends on the script. I’d want to honor the screenwriter, understand his/her intentions.

It’s all up in the air. If an opportunity presents itself, and I feel inspired by the opportunity, and I trust those people involved, hell, I’ll do it. It’s all just an exercise, right? We’re all just passing the time before our hearts stop beating. But there are a ton of factors to consider. It depends on the budget. If I’m making a movie with a larger budget, I’m not going to act in it. That would be a bit irresponsible. I need to give the movie a fighting chance to recoup its budget. Casting a recognizable actor is a more fiscally responsible decision. I’ve never had enough money to hire a professional editor for 3-4 months. That’s something I’d really like to do in the future. I’ve got a shark attack script that I may not direct. If the right producer comes along, coupled with the right director, I’d be happy to step aside, let them make it.

For a long time, I thought I might play the lead of The Misogynists, until I had a reading with a group of actors. I realized I need someone older and whiter. Whether or not I write, direct, act, etc. it’s all a matter of timing, necessity, budget. For me, the ideal would be to have big enough budgets where I can just write and direct. Someone else would edit and I would never step in front of the camera. But I do enjoy acting and I’ll probably continue doing it.

When you take a step back and look at your wonderful career thus far, what would you say you are most proud of?

When I was 35 or so, I made a horrible movie called The Pigs. It was a disaster from the first day of shooting to the last day of editing. I was an emotional wreck when I made it and the film was an unwatchable mess when I finished it. It still is. It crippled my confidence. I swore I’d never make a movie again. So from 2000 – 2010, I made one movie and it held me hostage. I regret that in a lot of ways. But if you don’t have confidence, it’s difficult making movies, or any art for that matter.

So I guess I’m most proud of getting back into it. It started with a short movie called The Wallet. I wrote and directed this with a bunch of adorable children in Durham, NC. It’s very raw and funny and the kids are incredible. After that, I got cast in a couple of independent feature films, Septien and Red Flag. Being on a film set again was an absolute blast. I’d forgot how much fun it was. I started getting that itch again. I wanted to get back into this crazy world.

When the Canon 7Ds came out, it was really exciting for me, because it was the first digital camera that really replicated 16mm to me. When I went to Sundance in 2011 with Septien, I saw several movies shot on the 7D. It was a revelation. I knew that this is what I was going to shoot my new movie on. Not only that, it allowed me to take advantage of the camera’s low-price and mobility, you could take them anywhere. And we could use multiple cameras. This is when I started making movies in New York, with tiny crews. The focus was more on performance and less on the aesthetics. It was like starting from scratch. And it was electrifying.

Two cameras opened up everything for me. I could shoot twice as quickly. I like my performances to be a bit caffeinated and multiple cameras just gave the scenes more energy. It allowed me to edit faster. And between 2012 – 2017, I made several movies in New York. Richard’s Wedding, Summer of Blood, Applesauce, Abby Singer/Songwriter, Catfight and The Misogynists. I feel like I’ve been given a chance to catch up on all the movies I failed to make in my thirties.

What does the future hold for you? Anything in the works you can share with our readers?

My movie The Misogynists, about two Trump supporters celebrating in a hotel room on election night, is making the festival rounds and will hopefully be released in 2018.

I’m going to finish shooting a project I began in 2016 called Black Magic for White Boys. If all goes well, I’ll finish that up in 2018.
I have several films that I’m trying to get made – a science fiction comedy, A shark attack comedy and an existential roadtrip movie (from a script I didn’t write). Maybe none of these movies will get made. Maybe all of them will. Who knows? You have to plant a lot of seeds when you’re making movies. Some will sprout. Some won’t. Maybe there’s going to be a drought and my film career will end. It’s not a big deal. I’ll move on to other art forms – painting, music, stand-up comedy. The thing about this, whatever it is, the need to create – it’s about the self worth you get from making something. I hate myself most of the time. When I’m making something, I hate myself a little less. I get the same fulfillment from other art forms. It’s all therapy.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Two things. The “Million Matzo Balls” song in the movie Lemon didn’t just make me smile, it made me laugh my ass off. And a specific scene in Mike Ott’s California Dreams. This made me laugh like a child as well.

Ben Bodé [Interview]


Today’s interview is not only with a brilliant actor who has had an incredible career to date, but he is somebody who has helped me finally put a check mark on my internal wish list of stuff to talk about here at Trainwreck’d Society. I shall explain.

Ben Bodé has an amazing list of credits to his name. But, the one credit that really drew me to this amazing actor was his role in one of my favorite films of all time, the pivotal 90’s treasure of a film known as Empire Records. As a kid growing up in this time, this film ran supreme for me. And if we are being honest, Ben portrayed probably the least likable character in the film. I actually hated him, until his final gestures at the end of the film holding a large jar of cash (which we all secretly knew wasn’t going to cover the cost of buying the store, but we loved the concept). But here is the other thing….he did it flawlessly! Which is what led me to want to find out more about this amazing actor. And as it turns out, he happens to be one of the nicest fucking dudes on the planet!

Ben was kind enough to not only tell us some amazing stories about Empire Records, but he was so many more amazing stories to tell! He may very well be one of the nicest people we have had on this site, and that is saying a lot, as we have had a couple ofTV moms on here! In all seriousness though, we are so happy to have Ben featured on the site today, and also so excited to share his amazing words with you fine folks! So enjoy!

Through a bit of research, I learned that you were raised as a military brat, just as I was. I find a lot of artistic people tend to come from military dependent stock. In your personal opinion, do you believe that your acting or your inspiration to be an actor may have come from your life as a military child?

Hey, a fellow brat! I come from an Army family. My father served in Vietnam where he received two bronze stars and retired as a Colonel from the military after 21 years of service. and his father served in both WW II and Korea and retired, also as a Colonel, after 24 years. So how does that humbling legacy of service lead me to go into pretending for a living? God knows, really. We moved every three years or so, which meant new schools, new neighborhoods, new cultures. I needed to be able to adapt to situations quickly, keep an open mind, and cultivate a personality that would engender me to new people and hopefully deter them from wanting to beat me up. All attributes that can be be beneficial to an actor, in particular the not being beat up bit.

I also, by nature of continually being a new kid, spent a fair amount of time alone. This being the dark ages before omnipresent and effortless media, a kid had to make do with whatever he could. I watched, read and listened to whatever I could. Being stationed in Nuremberg in the late seventies is the perfect example. All we had was AFRT, Armed Forces Radio & TV, which was one radio station and one tv station and it had to cater to a very diverse audience. I was exposed to an eclectic mix of old TV shows and films and a wide array of old radio shows. From Wild, Wild West to The Muppet Show, from Jimmy Stewart to Steve Martin, from Fibber McGee and Molly to Paul Harvey, I devoured it all. And when there wasn’t anything to watch or my mother told me to get out of the house, I would spend hours in the library at the base, combing the shelves . It all seeped in deep and fueled my imagination and my fascination and desire for a life in the arts.

What was the first on screen speaking gig you can remember having? Was it an exhilarating experience, and were you a bag of nerves at all?

It wasn’t exactly exhilarating so much. I played an EMT in a scene on All My Children. I was cast as an “over 5” which is a day player with more than 5 lines, which upped my pay, which was certainly nice. I don’t recall being nervous so much as disoriented. They shoot FAST on a soap so when I was called to the set I remember it being a flurry of lights, props, cameras and a gurney. Also, unbeknownst to me, the director on a soap is not on the floor but sequestered off with a bunch of monitors somewhere. So when I got direction it came booming out of speakers in the rafters like the voice of god. Scared the crap out of me. Most of all though, I got to say the line “We’ve got to get her to the hospital…STAT!” The fact that I was saying “stat” the first time I was on TV I took as a good sign.

After all of these years of interviewing actors, I can’t rightfully say we have had a full on Julliard graduate on the site. So I have to ask, how was your experience in such an acclaimed school? What would you say is the most important factor that you took away from you time there?

I moved to New York in ’86 at the age of 17 to attend Juilliard. At the time they didn’t accept a lot of kids that young. There were 7 of us in a class of 22. Most of my classmates were in their early or mid twenties and had already graduated college or had been working in some capacity for several years. I was as green as you could be. I had graduated from high school just 3 months before and was living on my own for the first time in my life. In New York City in the 80’s at a YMCA for god’s sake! To say it was overwhelming would be putting it lightly. The schedule at the Jail-yard was rigorous, generally being 12+ hour days with classes in acting, movement, diction, voice, body alignment, scene study, stage combat, to name just a few. It was a lot to take in at first, even for some of my classmates who had just finished four years of college, but for someone like me who had never experienced anything like this, it was exciting but also more than a bit daunting.

I was at an age where I was just trying to figure out who I was and I’m being told I walk wrong, I talk wrong, I BREATHE wrong. There was so much to take in that it felt a bit like drowning and so, in self preservation, I ended up pushing back, questioning some of the stuff being thrown at me. Some of my instructors put up with it, some of them put me in my place and one or two just didn’t care for it at all. I ended up being one of a handful of us that got “warned” half way through the second year, meaning we had the rest of the year to prove ourselves or we got the boot. I managed to not get cut and was allowed to finish the program though it may have been down to the wire. At our final critiques that year I had one of my teachers tell me that they were “taking a huge risk!” by asking me back. Apparently my rebellious attitude or shitty acting had the power to bring down the very pillars of Juilliard itself!

This has always been my immediate recollection of the school anytime anyone asked…until recently. A month or so ago, there was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Juilliard Drama School with a weekend long reunion culminating with a gala. I was conflicted about it but my wife Bellina, who is also a graduate, was insistent we go. I’m glad she did. The weekend was filled with events and get togethers that were fun, festive and touching. But for during the day on Saturday they arranged for us all to take a class again. I was unprepared for what a moving and revelatory experience it would be. Being back in those hallways, in those classrooms with amazing teachers (one of whom was mine 30 years ago!) and to take class with members of Group 1 all the way to fresh faced Group 50ers, brought back recollections beyond my jaded go to. I remembered what it was like to spend your day immersed in this craft, this art form before it was a career, before it was commerce when it was just a pure passion. In a place where you could experiment and experience and learn and hone your craft with gifted teachers and talented, supportive classmates.

Undoubtedly there were days with stress, anxiety and frustration but there were probably more with creativity, joy and camaraderie. I’m grateful to have been reminded of that. So now when asked about the school I’ll say it was an amazing time with remarkable people and I’m so lucky to have had the opportunity. And then I’ll probably mention how they almost kicked me out.

You’re role as the not so lovable Mitchell Beck in the cult classic film Empire Records was absolutely phenomenal. And I am so happy to finally be able to ask you: What was it like to be the one character playing the “suit” amongst all of the “cool” kids? What was your process in developing this role?

You’re very kind to say, Ron. Thank you. You know, I had no idea how fond people were of that movie until just a few years ago. I got a call, out of the blue, from Empire‘s director Alan Moyle inviting me to a special screening of the film the following night at Hollywood Forever, a cemetery right behind Paramount Studios. Alan said we were finally having our premiere. I was astounded to see when I arrived that, like, a thousand people had shown up to see this 20 year old movie that had never even gotten a theatrical release. In fact, it was the first time I’d ever seen it on a big screen. Granted that screen was the side of a mausoleum. But I digress…

The film was shot in Wilmington, North Carolina at what was, at the time, the Carolco Studios, I think. It wasn’t very hard to play the odd man out amongst the cast as I had what’s called a “drop and pick up” contract. Basically, the majority of the cast stayed in NC, working, living and bonding together whereas I would just breeze in for a few days every couple weeks or so. Not dissimilar to how Mitchell breezes in and out in the film. In fact, I’m pretty sure most of the cast didn’t know my real name. Not to say that they weren’t welcoming and generous and lovely when I showed up, because they most certainly were. I’m just pretty sure they never called me Ben, I was just Mitchell. So that combined with the wardrobe and the hair and the fact that Alan and the producers created an encouraging environment for experimentation and creativity made playing Mitchell pretty easy and fun.

The fact they allowed me to throw in a line about “Beck’s Bath and Bidet” I’ll be eternally grateful for.

And in your personal opinion, what would you say it is that has made Empire Records a cult classic that is even more beloved today than it was when it was initially released?
As I said in my last rambling response, I was fairly oblivious of the deep fondness people had for our movie that, again, never really got a proper release. The soundtrack did! I distinctly recall driving on Laurel Canyon listening to KROQ when the DJ, Jed The Fish I believe, came on and said “That’s the Gin Blossoms from the Empire Records soundtrack. What’s up with that movie?! Where is it??” And I was screaming back “Yes!! What is up with that movie?!! Where is it?!!”
 In a nutshell, the answer to what happened to the release, as best I understand, is simply the person who greenlit the film was no longer at the studio when the time came to release it. The new person who came in didn’t feel terribly inclined to. But it was, eventually, released on VHS and, in particular, on cable. This, I’ve been told, is where the beloved-ness began. Why? Don’t know honestly. It’s got good music, good cast and “one crazy day” is a sure fire story device. But the main thing I gleamed from fans at the cemetery was they discovered it in heavy rotation on cable while they were in middle school. And they watched it over and over and over again, either alone or with a bunch of friends. The film, by sheer happenstance, ended up finding it’s perfect audience. It’s a little bit of lovely kismet.
In 2003 you gave a brilliant portrayal of the legendary Ringo Starr in the film My Dinner with Jimi. What sort of preparation went into portraying a legend in the world of rock and roll? And how was the experience overall?
Wow, nice pull Ron and, again, thanks for the kind words. It was an absolute gas being cast as Ringo and being a long time Beatles fan, I’d done all my research years before. The hardest part was getting the voice. I had a killer John Lennon and a not bad Paul. I’ve recently gotten George but Ringo…he’s elusive. He sounds easy till you really try. He’s got a tricky cadence, which is apropos for a drummer now that I think of it. Never felt I quite nailed it. As for the experience, it was tremendous fun. The movie is written by the lead singer of The Turtles, Howard Kaylan, and the story culminates to an evening he spent in an English night club and his chance encounter and brief bonding with Jimi Hendrix. Before that happens, he and his band mates get pretty much belittled and put in their place by The Beatles in the same said club. It was just one scene in the film and it was shot in a day but my fellow faux Beatles and I had every intention of making the most of it. We got together the night before and pooled our research and went through the scene several times, finding places that we could stick in some Beatle banter and shtick. Howard and the director Bill Fishman were kind enough to be amenable to our shenanigans. How much of it, though, ended up in the film I don’t recall. I do remember that The Beatles were charmingly insufferable in the scene as were we four actors on the set, as I like to recall, for most of the day and we enjoyed it immensely. Being a Beatle for a day is a complete gas and I highly recommend it if the opportunity ever presents itself.
What does the future hold for you? Anything you’d like to tell our readers about?
Sweet Jesus Ron, what does the future hold for any of us these days? Something Orwellian from the look of things.
That said, aside from the constant hunting and occasional gathering of employment I have the great joy of being an enthusiastic audience member and supporter of my daughter Lola when she performs in the play “Proof” at her school in the new year and my beautiful and talented wife Bellina Logan in her remarkable show “ Confessions Of A Mulatto Love Child”. And it’s looking like I may be doing some theatre myself this summer for the LA Fringe Festival.
As for your readers, god bless you if you’ve made it this far. Above and beyond the call. I imagine you may be tempted to look me up on some sort of social media at this point to connect, comment or harangue, but as of this writing I am not a participant in such things.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
Pressing send. Sorry this has taken so ridiculously fucking long to complete. Thank you for your interest and patience Ron. All the best.

John Poveromo [Interview]


In continuation of  our undying love for all things comedy, which is desperately needed in this day and age, we have a wonderful interview today with one of today’s finest comedians. John Poveromo is not only as good as they come today, he is better. He has been in the game for quite some time, and he definitely knows what the hell he is talking about. John is also a brilliant cartoonist and has a new book coming soon entitled Drawings From A Nobody that is both poignant and hilarious. It is a politically charged piece of art that is as on point as his stand up act continues to be.

So Ladies and Gentlemen, please enjoy some great tales and bits of wisdom from the oh-so hilarious, Mr. John Poveromo!

When did you first realize you wanted to make people laugh for a living? And once you found yourself in the world of stand up comedy, what made you decide that it was indeed the life for you?

Seems cliche, but I always liked making people laugh. Even when I was a kid I knew I had this innate ability to make a room full of people crack up. It starts with your family, then your close friends, then your classmates, co-workers and eventually just people you meet in your day to day life. Comedy isn’t always done on a stage, sometimes it’s saying the right thing at the right time to someone having a shit day who’s ringing you up at a grocery store. It catches them by surprise and makes their day a little better. It’s a pure instant connection with another human being and I think if you’ve got it, it’s an important gift to share.

Over the course of your career as a Stand Up comedian, has there been a singular moment that you can remember feeling nothing short of eternal bliss while you were on stage? Have you had that sort of moment where everything just seems to click like magic, and you become so enthralled with what you do for a living?

I’ve been doing this for 13 years and I started in the digital age, so I’m lucky enough to not only have had those moments, but have been able to capture them on video. I can tell you that feeling is nothing short of, as you put it, eternal bliss. It’s like something happens in your brain…every gear is turning at full speed, the air around you cracks and the audience is alive. It’s like something else takes over. It’s an indescribable feeling but something other comedians get right away. Comics are always functioning at a higher level on stage because we’ve got six things we’re focused on at the same time. We’ve got our set list, how the room feels, the sound of the laughs we’re getting, where to pause, any physical movements to enhance the joke, all while being in the moment in case something happens or we get the chance to improvise a new line. When that bliss hits though, it’s a perfect storm of comedic timing, ad-libbing, and audience response. They don’t last long. That’s what makes those nights special. You live for those nights.

Whilst scanning through your very impressive website and resume, I noticed that you have had writing credits for the “news” program known as Hannity. I never considered the aspect of comedy to be something involved a Sean Hannity project, but alas, there you are. So what type of contribution were you able to give to a program like Hannity?

The Hannity credit is always an interesting one to talk about. Comedians write for other comedians. Especially when they’re starting out. Early in my career I wrote for a few comics when Hannity used to have them on his show. It was challenging and fun at times but ultimately disappointing. The comics I wrote for were great but after a while I began to realize what I was writing wasn’t always making it on. Or the jokes were watered down. I was young when I was doing this and I’ll admit a little naive. It was basically a TV credit for some of these guys and not something they were doing to sling jokes and challenge the network or the host on his views,  which I absolutely understand and don’t begrudge them for. It helped me understand part of that end of the comedy business but also made me realize it was something I wasn’t necessarily cut out for. I’ve got jokes and I’ve got opinions and If I’m going to be appearing on a show like that in the future they’re not going to be watered down so the host can beat me over the head with pillows.

I am very intrigued by Drawings From A Nobody. What can you tell us about this project? What inspired you to make it happen?

I’m really excited about the book. It’s basically a result of me sitting around going, “Well what’s another way I can disappoint my family by not making any money?” And I think I made a wise choice. I’ve been drawing since I was in the third grade? I think? I know by the time I was in sixth we had these fake year books and in them we had to write down what we wanted to be doing when we grew up, and I put down Comedian/Cartoonist. So It was inevitable. Being a comedian when I was younger didn’t seem as accessible to me as being a cartoonist did. I idolized cartoonists like, the late Charles Schulz, Bill Watterson, Berkeley Breathed, Gary Larson, Jim Davis, Steve Breen, Scott Adams, Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott, Mike Peterson, Jim Toomey, Bill Amend, and Lynn Johnston. I know that list is long but here’s the thing – I wrote to all of them. Asked every single one of them for advice on how to be a successful cartoonist. They all wrote back and I still have their emails. Some of them I wrote to more than once.  These guys were clowns, and misfits, and they thought differently than the rest of the world, just like me. AND THEY WROTE BACK TO ME. I was overjoyed by this as a kid.

Two of my favorite middle school art teachers encouraged me to pursue it and I think from that moment on throughout High School that was the only profession I had told anyone I was pursuing. In many ways drawing was a cover in High School for the fact that I knew I’d never last in college and wanted to pursue stand-up in NY. I never stopped and would doodle all the time. Eventually I bought an iPadPro to take with me on the road and I started drawing these one paneled comics that were basically jokes I didn’t use on stage. Eventually I had over 50 drawings and after posting them on my website and Instagram, it caught the attention of an art gallery in Woodbridge and I got to display them. They were a hit and I deiced to put them in a book. And here we are now!

What else does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I’m doing a string of shows in Boston (one of my favorite comedy cities) the second week of December. Then I’ve got a couple local shows in Jersey I’m doing before heading back to Los Angeles for a meeting with NBC that I currently cannot disclose details for. But it’s gonna be fun.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My four year old cousin Samantha is in school now and her teacher sings John Denver’s ‘Sunshine On My Shoulders’ to them in class. So one day she’s sitting at home coloring and singing that song. My Uncle passes by and hears her singing it and asks where she heard it. She said, “Mrs Sharon sings it to us.” So he walked over to his computer and started playing it. “You know that song too?!” She asked. Then he pulled up a video of John Denver singing it live. “Who’s that?” She said. “That’s John Denver.” My Uncle replied. ‘That’s the man who sings it.” She paused for a moment, watching him and then said, “I like him. He’s shy like me.” It’s 2017 and there’s a lot of messed up shit going on in the world, but if that doesn’t make you smile nothing will. I’m gonna carry that one with me for a while.

Wanna check out John performing live? Head on over to his website to find out when he will be at a city near you! Also find updates on “Drawings From A Nobody” at his website as well. To all of our Boston/Cambridge/Somervile fans out there, you can find him this weekend all over your fine city:

Dec 7th @ ImprovBoston
Dec 7th @ The Riot Theater
Dec 8th @ The Limelight Cafe
Dec 9th @ Bill’s Bar
Dec 9th Laust Laugh @ ImprovBoston
Dec 10th Liquid Courage Comedy @ Somerville Brewery

Check out a clip of John right here: