Michael Polish [Interview]

Michael Polish4

It is no secret that independent cinema is, in my opinion, where some of the finest stories are told in this day and age.  It is literature in plain sight, poetry that is literally in motion.  And one film that truly sparked my interest in the independent cinema world was a little film that made big news was the wildly entertaining, Twin Falls Idaho.  It was a film that stormed the festival circuits, and made heroes out of Michael and Mark Polish.  The left Sundance with the Grand Jury Prize, and have never looked back.  The have become the masterminds of film, and Michael Polish has become one of the most well respected filmmakers of now.  Hey, he managed to bag the beautiful Kate Bosworth, so he must be doing something right!

And as if other films like The Astronaut Farmer and Northfolk. weren’t enough to solidify this cat as one of the day’s greats, he has moved onto some even more sensational territory – The Beat Generation.  For those of you who know me personally, you will know that the Beats are an extremely influential part of my life.  Almost everything I do in my own work, I tend to try and reflect to this beautiful creatures.  And one of my favorite novels from the era was Kerouac’s mildly renowned book Big Sur, which didn’t receive nearly as much credit as it deserves.  And with the somewhat disappointed take I had on the recent adaptation of On The Road, I am delighted to know that Michael Polish is going to be the man behind the lense for the Big Sur’s adaptation.  Not to talk smack about Walter Salles and the work he put into creating his film….but this is an Kerouac adaptation that is completely Kristen Steward free.  And as pretentious as that may seem, that is all I really need to enjoy a Kerouac adaptation.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased and extremely honored to introduce a man who should need no introduction at all….the great and legendary writer, producer, director, overall film genius, Mr. Michael Polish.  Enjoy!

What made you want adapt the work of Jack Kerouac with Big Sur?  Are you a fan of the beat generation?  

I have a lot of respect for the landscape of Big Sur, as a place and novel. I believe that Jack Kerouac captured the environment internally.

I admire the writers of that time. I was most attracted to Kerouac’s spontaneous prose and how that would translate to the movie screen.

What sort of things were you looking for in the actors when you were casting Big Sur?  Was there a lot of research involved when casting folks to portray such legendary figures?

I wasn’t as fluent in all of characters until I adapted Big Sur. I traveled to San Francisco and stayed there for months tracking the moments recalled in the novel. The poets like Michael McClure are published and he’s alive today, I was able to visit with him on the set of the production. There is also a Beat Museum in North Beach — The owner Jerry is probably one of the most knowledgable people on this subject. I still learn new stories from him even after making Big Sur.

What was the inspiration behind making Twin Falls Idaho?  Was it metaphorically symbolic to the relationship with your own brother? 

Twin Falls was inspired by Cheng & Eng Bunker, the conjoined twins who coined the phrase “Siamese” twins. They were from Siam and become famous in the sideshow business. Their story is fascinating and worth telling someday in cinema.

Metaphorically it’s about marriage and interdependence — those are symbolic  to any close relationship and not exclusive to brothers. That’s probably why the story has universal appeal.

What would you say is your greatest non-artistic achievement?

Michael Polish3Jasper Polish

The majority of your catalog of work survives in a realm of independence and somewhat low budget work.  Is this by choice?

The stories I tend to be attracted to do not garner a lot of attention in terms of financial support. A movie about conjoined twins doesn’t open up the check books, therefore the budgets are lower. That’s the nature of independent filmmaking. Sometimes a subject matter like The Astronaut Farmer appeals to a studio, like Warner Brothers. That movie could go either way, thankfully WB came on board to the launch that rocket. It was a wonderful experience. A movie like For Lovers Only is the exact opposite, a black and white movie on the streets of Paris, a camera and two actors. No crew, no budget. It always depends on the story you want to tell, that usually determines the budget.

What is the overall experience like working with your sibling so closely?  What are perks and a downsides?

The strength of working with a sibling is what we do differently. When you have complimentary talents it’s a great team. I have never co-directed any movie, but I could possible see that as a downside.

Michael Polish2If you could make a film about any American travesty in the last 100 years, what would it be about, and why?

I’d like to make a movie about Custer’s last stand. However, that is over a 100 years ago. I’m interested in the blueprint behind the conflict with Sitting Bull.

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming film, Hot Bot?  What can we expect to see?

Hot Bot is my homage to Weird Science. Two teenage boys run into a sex robot. It’s frustration and fun from that point on.

What else does the future hold for you?

That question.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Her name is Forever

Ethan Wiley [Interview]

Ethan Wiley1

In a world so obsessed with notoriety and acclaim, there are brilliant minds in the film industry that tend to go unnoticed to the outside world but hold great accord within the industry and the products we know and love, and see virtually every day, would not be the same without them.  Case in point – the illustrious Ethan Wiley.  In so many different shapes and forms, he has been involved in some of the greatest sagas in film history.  From writing and directing the classic 80’s horror film series House, to chiming in in his own right to the Friday the 13th series, Gremlins, Star Wars, etc., etc.  And there are his original inputs like the latest christmas romp featuring Wee-Man of the hit television show Jackass, and his forthcoming feature, China Bigfoot: Legend of the Yeren featuring Sasha Jackson.

This is a man who is constantly giving his greatest efforts in the film, and music, industry and has literally produced nothing short of greatness.  His tireless effort to provide great cinema will definitely not go unnoticed as he proceeds to wow audiences across the globe.  We were for fortunate enough to steal a few words from the man himself to tell us about the glory days of yesteryears, and what the future holds for this great artist.  So check it out folks, this is a great one for ya!

In your early days, you were a special effects guru, designed some very well  known creatures like Gremlins.  You even worked on a small independent 1983 film called Return of the Jedi.  What was your role in the final film of that little known saga?

Guru is an overused word, which I use all of the time.  I happened to get a job literally sweeping the floors of the creature shop at ILM, and then when things got busy I got my first assignment:  making Ewok feet.  Then soon after, I was called to the 2nd unit location in Northern California (still the biggest movie I ever worked on) and was an Ewok “wrangler” helping outfit and costume the Ewoks for filming.   What a time to be in that world, surrounded by people such as Joe Johnston, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston, Phil Tippett — even a young guy named David Fincher was in the camera department.

Later I left ILM to become employee #1 for Chris Walas, who left to start his own company, CWI.  After bidding on several movies, we finally landed Gremlins.  I worked on Gremlins for almost 2 years, from initial design phases to puppeteering for the movie.  It was an amazing experience, everyone was so cool with allowing a hungry 21-year-old kid to follow them around and ask stupid questions.  Joe let me sit in on picture editing sessions, Mark Mangini let me watch him edit the sound.  Chris Columbus took me to dinner to share some of his hard-knock screenwriting experiences.  I learned so much working on that movie.

What sort of consideration goes into creating, not just a sequel, but a 5th addition to a well loved series as you did in Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror?  How much do you reference the 4 previous films? 

Ethan Wiley7I had seen the original film, but not the sequels.  The first thing was to sit down and watch all the films so I wouldn’t go into Miramax and pitch something that might already have been done.  Dimension was definitely in “Scream” mode and wanted the movie populated by a group of hip, attractive 20-somethings.  I happened to have a total unknown named Eva Mendes walk in the door to audition.  So I tried to go back to the basic premise of “what if a real cult of children existed”?   How would it function, why had this group of children ended up on this rural farm?  So I explored the idea of these children having been abused and neglected by the adult world, so they create a “religion” and isolate themselves from the “adult” world.  And then added lots of sharp objects that rip through people in various ways.

You’re film Elf-Man is one I might share with my small children.  The rest of your body of work for the most part, not so much.  What made you decide to enter the world of making a family friendly film?  Was it a tough transition?

No, actually, it was pretty easy to go in that direction for me.  If my work has one connective thread, I believe it is creating worlds where “imagination” or “fantasy” play a big part in the storytelling.   Also, I hope that my movies usually have a sense of humor, so I’ve always loved writing comedy.  House 2 is pretty much a children’s movie in a lot of ways.  Why family films?  Because there’s a market for them, and it’s a nice change of pace from gore and slasher flicks.

I understand you are also quite the musician, and have even released an instrumental album.  Care to tell us a bit about this?  What do you play?

I play mandolin and mandocello mostly, also guitar and bass.  After I moved to New York in the ’90’s, I became good friends with guitarist Jon Sholle, who had toured and recorded with two of my mandolin heroes, David Grisman and Andy Statman.   One day I got the courage to play Jon four-track demos for my tunes and he was really impressed and said we should record them.  So, we gathered some of the best acoustic musicians on the East Coast and we put out the CD, which thankfully was very well received.  If anybody’s curious you can hear the music at www.meanbunny.bandcamp.com.  I also play on soundtracks, do some gigs around town and record on other people’s CD’s.  My greatest claim to fame was opening for Chris Thile (Nickel Creek, Punch Brothers, a MacArthur Genius) when he was eight years old.  I was just so thankful I went on BEFORE him, instead of after, or I never would’ve gotten up on the stage.  Sometime I’ll get to making another CD, but the movies keep me pretty busy lately.

How did you come to be the man behind those great little ditties from Jason X?

_MG_4801I was good friends with the late Jim Isaac (who tragically passed away last year from cancer).  We grew up together and worked on many movies together.  He needed end credit and source music and was in a panic because they were about to start their final mix.  He called me on a Friday night, because he knew I had a pretty good knowledge of music and musicians.  He told me he needed some “space anthem rock” and did I know someone who could deliver him six minutes of music by Monday morning?  I said, Jon and I will take a crack at it.  We sent him the tracks, he loved them and put them in the movie.  We went for a purposely “retro-futuristic rock rave space” music and it turned out pretty well, thanks to Jon’s insane guitar wizardry and despite my dubious keyboard skills.

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming project The Quarry?

The Quarry is actually on the back burner at the moment and we have some other projects that will be coming along sooner.   I just finished directing China Bigfoot: Legend Of The Yeren , shot in the remote mountains of rural China.  We’re currently in post-production.  Chris Walas did the creature design and we also wrote the script together, so it’s been fun working with my old boss again, after many years.   Chris also did the Elf-Man design and created a lot of the fun props for the movie.  Richard Jefferies is now my partner in Wiseacre FIlms, and he’ll direct a new family “dog” movie next, which we just wrote.  We’re also prepping Elf- Man 2 , and we’re in talks to do another Chinese creature movie.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Or laugh out loud?  A great new documentary about the wild life of Cream drummer Ginger Baker.  Beware of Mr. Barker.  Highly recommended.

Robert Romanos [Interview]

Robert Romanus

When people remember a classic film that was never intended to be anymore than a summer sex romp known as Fast Times At Ridgemont High, it seems as though Sean Penn gets all the credit as the zany stoner known as Spicolli, and Pheobe Cates with her historical topless scene.  But, there are a few of us who know better.  Well actually, more than a few.  Robert Romanus’s role as the illustrious Damone, and the equally as attractive and twice as topless Jennifer Jason Leigh.  Yes, these were the true stars in some of our eyes.

And as the years have gone by, Robert Romanus has proven himself to be a truly intriguing and respectable human being.  Without ever actually meeting the man, he still seems like the most mild mannered and relaxed individual in Hollywood.  It appears as though he does just about whatever he wants!  His film career is ever progressive.  He is also an acclaimed musician with his fantastic group (that seemed to be spawned just for fun) known as Poppa’s Kitchen.  He also teaches the youth of today, and owns his own swanky little coffee shop in West Hollywood named simply, Bob’s Espresso.  And whilst sharing a few words with Robert himself, we learned here at TWS that he is also one of the most interesting men we have spoken with since Frederic Raphael.  So sit back and enjoy a conversation with one of the smoothest cats in the show business, Sir Robert Romanus!  Enjoy!

I understand you are also a musician, and your original intentions were to become a singer prior to acting.  How did the transition into film come to life?

I came to LA in 1976 with it in mind to be Doc Sevrerinsen”s drummer on the tonight show…. obviously that didn’t work out.  So I took a job as a singing waiter and after I had finished what I thought was a lovely ballad…  a very pretty girl walked up and said, “maybe you should try acting”…  I took it to mean I wasn’t very good as a singer.  I was also very shy so I took an acting class to help with my shyness and there I found the freedom to be all the things in life I had a hard time with… ie: the lover, the asshole, etc.  Next thing you know I was playing Jodi Fosters boyfriend in a movie called Foxes… I started focusing on that.

Can you tell us a bit about Poppa’s Kitchen?  

I met Steve when we were singing waiters together… over the years we have always gathered with friends and jammed all night long…  Steve and I decided about 17 years ago that we would get together every Tuesday and Friday night and write… we are still getting together every Tuesday and Friday night… 7 CD’s worth of material and a whole bunch more that didn’t make the cut…  always something I can look forward to no matter how the weeks going

Robert Romanus3Obviously the world of teaching is not the most profitable occupation, which is pretty sad.  But I am sure it can be rewarding in its own right.  What do you personally get out of teaching?

Any time I can help a kid get a troubled kid on the right path I am happy.  Showing a 4 year old how throw and catch a ball or open a juice box makes me happy.  My focus as a teacher is to help these kids find their voice and like it, like themselves, and know their worth.  I’ve taught from pre-school through high school and the goal is always the same for me. Then again, I teach the arts…

What made you want to open Bob’s Espresso Bar?  Has coffee always been a passion for you?

I’ve always loved coffee houses… I’ve always thought great music has come out of coffee houses and I’ve been a coffee consumer since I was 12…   Not a connoisseur mind you… but I know what I like…  truth is I needed a job so I decided to take a chance and throw my money into Bob’s and hire myself…  it’s basically an extension of all the things that make me happy music, art, coffee conversation and the occasional game of chess…

How did your role in a music video for indie rocker’s The Moog come about?  Were you a fan of the group?

The Moog’s manager called and asked if I would be interested… I heard the music and said let’s do it…  I am now a fan….

You recently reunited with the Fast Times At Ridgemont High castmates for The Men’s Choice Awards.  Was it like old times, as some would say?  Had it been a while since you have seen any of them?

It was nice reuniting with the cast.  I don’t see them often but when I do it’s always a fun experience.  I’m very proud of Fast Times. Who knew what seemed like a silly summer movie would get so much respect…

You have been in no less than seven films from acclaimed director John Putch.  Is there an illuminati like relationship going on here?  Are you and John close?  Does he write roles specifically for you?

Putch and I have been friends for many years… when he has a part for me now a days it’s usually written for me…  he’s an awesome director and I would work for him any time any where…

Robert Romanus2Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming film The Midnight Game?  What will your performance be?

The Midnight Game is a fun little horror flick that I shot recently based on a kids game like “bloody Mary”  it’s good and scary… I come in at the very end to buy the house where the crazy-ness ensued… when I realize this is that house… I head for the hills..

What was the last thing that made you smile?

The last thing that made me smile was my daughter asking me if she could work at the shop with me…  she now works every saturday night (music night) and we are having a blast…

Judith Hoag [Interview]

Judith Hoag

As a man, when you grow older and time wages war against your mind, body, and soul, there will always be a collection of females that appear on screen that will always ride the coat tails of your memory as time marches on.  One of those women in my brain is definitely Judith Hoag, the woman behind the yellow jump suit in the original live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film known as April O’Neil.

And of course, Judith’s career as not been limited doing a film with a bunch of plastic turtles.  She has been appearing on the hit television show Nashville since its inception, and you may remember her in films like the star studded Armageddon and the recent critically acclaimed biopic Hitchcock.  She has also been featured on pretty much every major television show in the last ten to fifteen years, including Grimm, Without A Trace, E.R., JAG, Bones, Grey’s Anatomy, CSI, and so on.  And we can’t forget the Halloweentown series, that was just so adorable, even though I am a grown ass man and probably shouldn’t be watching such childish shows.  And between all of this madness, we were able to steal a few words from Judith herself, giving us a bit of insight on the world of TMNT, Nashville, and more on her lovely career.  Enjoy!

You did a lot of acting in commercials during your early career.  What was your favorite ad you ever appeared in?  Anything strange?

Honestly commercials are all about the money for me. However I have had a lot of fun shooting them and worked with some feature directors who I went onto make movies with. My favorite commercial was for Tropicana Twister where I was part of an All-Mom Garage Band. We rocked out to playback for 10 hours. I could’ve gone on for 10 days.

Strange you ask? Pretending to eat and then spitting your bite into a bucket after each take. At first it’s an entirely gross endeavor, three hours later you can’t spit it out fast enough.

You have also graced the stage, film, and numerous television appearances.  If you were left with the chance to only act in one singular medium, what would it be?

Television hits the biggest audience so I’d choose that medium. It’s all about getting the the story and your work seen so you’ll hit the greatest number of people worldwide with television. But if I could only do one last job ever – I would choose to a play in a nice long run on Broadway.

It would behoove me, as a child of the 90’s and geek by nature, to ask you about your renowned role as April O’Neil in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live action film.  What was that experience like for you?

I had no idea when I took on the role of April O’Neil that I would be embarking on a job that would most likely be referred to in my obituary. It was a great experience. It was a challenging experience. It was a life changing experience. We’d work 15-17 hour day six days a week. We had Sunday off and we’d play hard on that day. It was a summer spent in steamy Wilmington NC mostly on a damp sound stage but also on a very hot sunny beach with perfect waves.

Judith Hoag2

In your personal opinion, what do you think it is about TMNT that has made it develop such a devoted cult following?

The first thing that appealed to me in the original version of the script was the more mythical aspects of the story. It was a classic Hero’s Journey which is timeless. It was about facing your shadows, the power of your mind, the love of family and being victorious in the end. It was JRR Tolkien, Joseph Campbell, Star Wars, CS Lewis, Comic books and Pizza. A real ragout of inspiration. And it touched a nerve in a certain generation of kids who all these years later haven’t forgotten what it meant to them. Now they’re turning their own kids onto the movie.

Was there a reason you didn’t appear in the TMNT sequels?

I wasn’t asked to reprise my role. I had strong feelings that we needed to honor the original themes of the story as much as the martial arts. I was probably not very diplomatic with my requests. They obviously felt I was replaceable and so they replaced me. It was an interesting moment in my young career.

If you could portray any famous political figure in world history, who would it be?

Um… I wouldn’t mind taking a crack at Mary Mother of Jesus told completely from her point of view in a film directed by Quentin Tarantino shot on location in Israel.

Your portrayal in the hit television show Nashville is absolutely phenomenal and the show seems to be doing well.  What is the dynamic like on the set?  More importantly, are you having fun?

The amount of fun we’re having is ridiculous. The dynamic on set is super focused, very playful & wicked saucy. Let us all now bow our heads in prayer that we may be renewed for a full second season.

What keeps you motivated to continue your career as an actress?

As I get older I have more & more freedom in my work. It doesn’t diminish, it just expands. I get paid to play pretend. And that is an insane amount of fun. Plus the people I get to play with just keeps getting better & better.

Judith Hoag3

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Baby, I smile all day long. I wake up with a smile and go to bed with a smile. Just reading that question made me smile. In other words – I’m on the look-out for reasons to smile.

Kel Mitchell [Interview]

Kel Mitchell

Growing up in the 90’s, it would have been damn near impossible not to know this talented, now grown, kid.  Kel Mitchell and his buddy Kennan were the tag team to rule them all during their time as the duo known simply as Kenan & Kel.  What was simply one act on the hit variety show All That would spawn into the children’s classic film Good Burger (we ALL remember the infamous “Welcome to Good Burger” specch, right?), And even a television show that was one of the finest shows for young adults in history.

And as you would expect, the duo has been hard at work even when they became grown ups and were allowed to occasionally drop a curse word here and there.  Kenan went on to SNL, and Kel has done films like Mystery Men and The Adventures of Rocky  Bullwinkle.  He has also championed the act of voice over work, providing voices for hit programs like Clifford The Big Red Dog and Motor City.  All of this in addition to getting behind the camera, writing and directing some of his own work.  He is an extremely busy man with some wonderful credits to his name.  So, we were fortunate enough to be able to steal a few minutes of his time to drop a few questions in his lap.  So here we go!

What was the inspiration behind the hilarious film you wrote and produced, Dance Fu? Are you into Kung Fu yourself?

Yes I am so into Kung fu. I love kung fu movies and dance movies so I thought it would be a great idea to put the two together , so I came up with the story of a guy that can only dance when music is playing.

You became a regular cast member on All That when you were just a young teenager. What was it like during this time? Was it hard handling a work and school schedule at the same time?

We had “On Location Education”. It was a program for kids in entertainment. We had a trailer behind the studio that was our school house. We would go to school early in the morning and in between filming on set. I still stayed enrolled at my high school in my hometown. My teachers would send my work to my tutors on set so I could continue the same work my class was doing.

How do you enjoy voice work for animated projects? Is it pretty impressive to your own children and are they fans of Clifford, Motorcity, or any other programs you have been involved with?

 Voice over work is awesome! I am a huge fan of cartoons, graphic novels and anime. It’s great to see what the animators do with our voices! My kids enjoy it!

Kel Mitchell4What is the most hilarious thing that has happened to you during the filming process since you began your career as an actor?

Can’t pick just one so many hilarious things but one that sticks out is when Kenan and I played Mavis and Clavis, The two old guy characters from All That We took a studio golf cart for a joy ride through Universal studios in full old man make up and wardrobe, we got in trouble with Studio security but we stayed in character the whole time so they thought it was just two old man that decided to take the golf cart for a joy ride.

If you weren’t involved in the world of film and television, what do you think you would be doing?

I would probably have an art gallery with my paintings. I like art and have been into it since I was kid. I went to a vocational high school and majored in commercial arts. The art gallery would also double as a juice bar, custom shoe store and have a DJ playing Dubstep and K-pop. Yep I am a K-pop fan as well. Awwwww I can see it now.

If you could portray any TV dad from the back in the day, who would it be? Why?

George Jefferson played by Sherman Hemsley. He was never afraid to speak his mind and he owned over five stores in New York City and he moved his family on up to a deluxe apartment in the sky. Plus that show had one of the greatest theme songs in sitcom history.

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming film First Impression? What can we expect to see you doing?

It’s about a couple that find out they were more honest when they interacted with each other on a internet dating site because when they meet each other in person they try too hard to impress one another by using lies. I play a well known bestselling author that gives them some good advice.

Kel Mitchell2What else does the future hold for Kel Mitchell?

More writing and directing. I got some great films coming out that I have written and will be directing.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I’m sure it was something my wife said. She always makes me smile.

The Cerny Brothers: The Cerny Brothers [Album]

Cerny BrothersI simply pity the fool who really thinks that the spirit of creativity and originality is dead in this country, in regards to music at least.  Sure, much of the indie hippyster rock music coming out these days is similar to the latest craze you were just finding out about, but I will be damned if I don’t consider this a blessing in disguise.  When I hear a band like The Cerny Brothers break out in their beautiful folk melodies and extremely catchy and chorus driven sing alongs, I don’t think of it as hearing a redefined version of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, no matter how close a comparison my negate.  No, I hear passion.  I heard loud love for story telling.  I hear zeal and I hear grace.  That is the beauty of the new age indie folk movement…..it’s all personal.  And being  a bad with personality is as wonderful as we can expect, and The Cerny Brothers have nothing if they don’t have personality!

The single most impressive thing about The Cerny Brothers self titled debut album is one simple emotion that it draws from one’s breath.  An emotion that you have to admit, you probably don’t feel too often.  Well, an emotion might be a bit of a stretch, but it is definitely a saying.  A saying to yourself of, “Damn, I bet this would be SO AWESOME LIVE!”.  Even in their moments of sorrow, these cats manage to be inspiring and beautifully laden with a sadness you want to see spilled in front of you like the blood from a gladiator.  Just seeing the group effort from a track like “Out of Time” would mean the world to me.  And, yes, anyone who listens to this album will recognize (if you weren’t already driven by) the beauty and catchiness of “Ohio” which, if I am to continue the Edward Sharpe references since they recorded the album in ES&TMZ’s home turf, will definitely go down as The Cerny Brother’s very own “Home”, which is definitely not a bad thing.  It is a truly tremendous track and worthy of any recognition it receives.

This is the kind of band that makes me remember why I even got into the business of writing about great music.  The Cerny Brothers are the reason that I wake up in the morning and decide that I absolutely most profile some beautiful music.  This is the type of music that makes life worth living.  This is  the type of album that leaves you with a reason to go on and gives you hope for a brighter future in a world that is plagued with chaos and misfortune.  The Cerny Brothers know how to make us smile a time when it is so easy to frown.  And what the hell else do you need from a band of emerging merry men/women.  If you need more than that, you are just selfish.  This music is life.  This music is precious.  This is exactly what we need!

Pick up your own copy of The Cerny Brothers debut album on May 28th right HERE.  You’re not going to want to miss this!

Golden Bloom: No Day Like Today [Album]

Golden Bloom - No Day Like TodayWhat is it that makes Golden Bloom such a fine commodity to the world of independent music?  While some of might see this as an arbitrary question that only the meek and disembodied souls of this world should ever have to ask, it might just be worth an answer.  Shawn Fogel and his newly formed band of merry men known as Golden Bloom are the perfect result in the people’s yearning to not feel like shit all of the time.  Too much of today’s indie rock is so sad that it is almost entirely impossible to enjoy.  Sure we get down at times, and we need these songs.  But, we also need an album like No Day Like Today from these fine folks to bring us back up and tell us to simply chill out.  It will all be okay, one way or another.  For this, we should be eternally thankful that a band like Golden Bloom exists today.

Now, this is not say that it is all sunshine and Mountain Dew flavored rainbows on No Day Like Today.  There is a slight sense of sorrow within the walls of this amazing album.  The difference being that a positive aura is consistently present during a single listening session.  The struggles of trying and striving are evident and extremely important to the positive factors of this EP.  There is a constant feeling in this album that simply makes you realize that even as we fail, we are constantly learning and becoming far greater people than we were yesterday.  When Fogel sings from his heart telling his that there is “no day like today”, he is simply telling us that today may very well be the day our lives change forever and we would be right to embrace it at the highest level.  Now, this may not be a literal transition to what he truly means, just my own dumbass views, but I can dig it, if you are willing to as well.

This is the third installment of Shawn Fogel’s inceptive mind put to music as Golden Bloom, and it is definitely his finest work.  “Flying Mountain” might very well be his finest piece of work today.  He’s playing with a solid group of folks at this point, and it truly seems as though the creative side of himself has been greatly enhanced by finding a gaggle of like minded souls to make music with as a community of awesomeness.  No Day Like Today is an album that leaves you wanting more, and praying to the heavens that we will hear even more from Shawn and his merry men that are Golden Bloom.

Tommy Lee Wallace [Interview]

Tommy Lee Wallace

The world of horror cinema has been littered with some pretty ingenious folks.  And while some names ring louder than others (Craven, Barker, Carpenter, etc.) there are several others involved in this world who have done just as well as to scare the shit of you over the years as the big dogs have.  Especially a man like Tommy Lee Wallace.  This is the man who has not only teamed up with his life long friend John Carpenter on damn near every project John has ever been a part of, but he has brought you several legendary films that more than likely still haunt your dreams.  I know that his visual adaptation of Stephen King’s It has given me a lifelong fear of clowns (thanks a bunch, Tom).   His continuation of the Halloween series on the third installment was by far the finest sequel that series has had to date.  And he is showing no signs of slowing up as he is releasing the highly anticipated Helliversity in the near future.  We were awarded the chance to talk to Tommy about his up coming project, working with John Carpenter, and much more.  Enjoy!

The 1989 film Far From Home in which you were the screenwriter for was quite the departure from you usual body of work. What inspired to you to tell this tail? Was it personal?

Far From Home came from an original script by Ted Gershuny — my rewrite steered the story more into Pinky’s psychosis — and the notion that young people imitate what they see on television — a popular idea at that time. Hardly a departure for me, in my opinion; look at the themes around Halloween 3 – Season of the Witch. TV is one of the most important influences on our culture in the last hundred years. Note I didn’t say “positive”. I was also drawn to the setting — coming from Kentucky, I find the vast expanses of the western deserts sometimes grim, often beautiful, and always absolutely fascinating — a potential breeding ground for all sorts of mysteries and secrets, big and small. Area 51 comes to mind. I also loved the childhood romance and rites of passage — that’s certainly what attracted me to IT, as well.

Your extremely impressive catalog of work includes a great abundance of sequels including Fright Night 2, which was based on our dear friend Tom Holland’s original story, as well as several others. Is there much pressure in carrying on someone else’s story?

Of course there’s pressure, if you do it well. Sequels are strange animals. They can be crass exercises in pure exploitation of a successful title, or they can move an interesting and popular story along, expand it and offer new chapters, in a novelistic, expansive way. Speaking of Tom Holland, when Fright Night 2 popped up, I went to Tom to pick his brain a little, just tease out his thoughts, because I thought it might help me give the sequel a sense of veracity and continuity. I don’t remember what got said, really, but I was glad for the exchange. It gave me a sense of confidence about the whole thing — a passing of the torch, I guess. I’m really proud of Fright Night 2 — we’re trying to get something going in the way of a new DVD — it’s a gorgeous wide-screen movie, and should be seen that way.

You have also been the mastermind several made for television movies and mini-series, notably the film that ruined the appeal of clowns to generations past and generations to come, the adaptation to Stephen King’s IT. Tell us, how is making films directly for television different from creating for cinema? How are the similar? And do you have a preference?

Television MOWs, pilots and minis are not much different from movies, as long as the producers understand what a director needs, and give proper support. Series, episodics, sitcoms, three- and four-camera shows — that kind of television is a different animal, and a film director is generally less central to the process there, in favor of a producer or two, or seven, or twelve. It’s all an issue of control and vision. In movies, the director is usually the person to whom falls the central and most crucial task of bringing a script to visual life. In order to fully achieve that, he or she must be in a position of ultimate authority. In TV, that same role often falls to the Writer/Producer, with the Director acting more as a traffic cop for the actors, and perhaps a supplier of clever and exciting shots.

Tommy Lee Wallace2I have enjoyed some real high points in TV, including, of course, IT, and another mini-series that followed that one, And the Sea Will Tell, a true-crime drama starring Rachel Ward and Richard Crenna. It’s worth watching, and was a great TV experience. I love TV, and think some incredible stuff has been happening there for the past several years, in a kind of new Golden Age — The Wire, Mad Men, Dexter, Breaking Bad, the list goes on and on — but in the end, I prefer feature films.

Of all the sets you have been on over the years, which has had the best crafts services? Why, and was there any correlation with the film/show itself?

The most recent one, “HELLIVERSITY”. Someone near and dear to me is running craft service — my daughter India. It’s the best — and so is she.

How did you come to work on so many projects with John Carpenter? And what do you think it is that has made you guys such a great team for almost thirty years?

John and I go all the way back to childhood in the same grade school. We became close as teenagers, when our lives were built around making music — first in our own folk group, then in a couple of different rock and roll bands. We shared interests in comic books, horror, sci-fi and western movies, Beatles and Stones, basketball, girls, drinking beer, all that stuff. John was focused like a laser beam on film directing from a very early age; I wandered into it through art and design. He found his way to southern California, and I followed three years later. Making movies together was a natural process. He used his friends to help him realize his vision, and I was right there in support. He’s always been a bit more the mentor, and me more the student, but we’ve learned a lot together. We partner well because we have a huge common background and share a deep friendship, but are very different people.

What is the set dynamic usually like when shooting a horror film? Is it always dark? Is there ever a chance for laughter?

It’s almost never dark. Any well-run movie set is a friendly and businesslike, if sometimes frantic, endeavor, in which a group of people carry out a series of tasks to achieve an effect, that being the visual telling of a story. In the case of horror, there’s often something grim and scary going on in front of the camera, but numerous funny situations develop behind the camera to achieve that effect. There are frequent laughs. A bucket of fake blood and a Mole fogger aren’t scary on set — they’re funny, in some quintessential way, and the essence of horror movies.

Tommy Lee Wallace3The opening sequence of Halloween is, by now, pretty well known, a big, bravura single shot which goes all around the Myers house, upstairs and down outdoors and in, telling the story of young Michael’s beginnings as a psycho killer. It took us all day to prepare that shot. There was the usual team around camera: Focus-puller, D.P. with hand-held fill light, guy with flag to fight light flares — then there was another lineup of people trailing along behind: Debra Hill the Producer, wearing the clown suit (childlike hands reach into drawer, pull out knife), there was me with that bucket of blood and a paint brush, ready to zap Michael’s sister from behind camera as she’s getting fake-stabbed, there was the sound guy with his boom, there were guys guiding and spotting the camera operator, so he didn’t stumble and didn’t run into stuff, there were guys and gals jumping through windows to re-light the set for when we came back through the room in a reverse angle — when we finally ran the whole thing, it was like the Keystone Kops, and if you could have heard the production track you would have heard gallumping footsteps like a herd of elephants, people crashing around doing their work and then hiding from the lens, whispering, even suppressing laughter — does this sound grim or somber to you? It was a ridiculous circus caravan of a shot — once we had it up and running, and working, it was a thrill to be a part of, but it was also absurd-looking, and very funny.

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming film Helliversity?

Small town in the south, small college that was once all African-American. A mixed group of students decides to stay on campus for Thanksgiving break. Meanwhile, while researching a project, one of the students finds an artifact from Jim Crow days, an execution hood said to be the one in which notorious racist Sheriff Ewing “Killer” Kane was electrocuted back in 1936, for spree-killing a group of students one grisly night. A lightning storm releases Kane’s dark spirit from the hood, it finds a new host in a young campus cop, and Thanksgiving turns a bit grisly for this group, and this campus. Trapped in a security-minded environment with high walls and electrified fences, our students fight for their survival against an unspeakably evil and supernatural force.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

This question.

Sadistik: Flowers For My Father [Album]

Sadistik - Flowers For My FatherAt this point, Cody Foster a.k.a. Sadistik is a household name down here at Trainwreck’d Society.  We have featured him.  We have interviewed him.  And now, we are kicking off his album review status here.  Sadistik released his first solo album since 2008, his delightfully compelling album Flowers For My Father.  And damn it as it is, Sir Cody has a whole lot to deal with over the last 5 years since his last album.  He watched his father pass, hence the name of the album.  And he also felt the loss of one of his cohorts and idols Michael Larsen, a.k.a. Eyedea.  And as sad as all of this is…. Sadistik has managed to create one of his finest works to date despite (or because of) the despair he has suffered over the last few years.

Flowers For My Father, in its entirety, is truly a wonderful showcase of a truly brilliant artist who obviously loves what he does for a living.  Each track is another story so beautifully told, it feels as though Sadistik is ripping his heart from his chest, throwing it in a pile of rose petals and carving his thoughts directly onto its surface.  Everything is so personal and bewildering it is almost hard to keep up, strategically leading a listener to give the album a couple of dozens of listens before truly feeling the album as a whole (or taking a shit eating music blogger months to do a simple write up for an album that came out months ago, sorry Cody!).

The man himself is definitely in good company on this album as well.  The friendship he has shared recently with indie songstress Anna-Lynne Williams has the internet going wild, and her cameo (as Lotte Kestner) on the utterly compelling cut “City of Amber” is definitely a combination of creativity that is an obvious highlight of the album.  Other notable cameos of the album come from Cage & Yes Alexander on “Russian Roulette”, Child Actor on “Palmreader”, and Deacon the Villain on “Kill The King”.  But it would behoove me to note that Sadistik rips it all on his lonesome on the opening cut “Petrichor”, which is a song that will surely be the short action soundtrack to this man’s already illustrious career.  This is the sort of album true hip hop fans have been waiting for.  Hip Hop as an art form is a relevant thing, and Mr. Foster, your favorite indie rockers favorite rapper, is here to smack some sense into all the naysayers out there.  And it is safe to say, he has made his point abundantly clear.

Take yourself HERE to get up to 5 copies of Flowers For My Father for FREE!  

Frederic Raphael [Interview]

Frederic Raphael

© Graham Jepson/Writer Pictures

We have spoken with some very intriguing folks here at Trainwreck’d Society.  We’ve spoken with great filmmakers, authors, actors, and so many more.  They all have been wonderful in their own way.  But, this cat is different.  This is THE Frederic Raphael.  Considered by most (well, myself at least) to be one of the finest and most esteemed authors, essayists, screenwriters,….basically a mastermind of the written word to put it bluntly.  He has had works published that date back further than some of our parent’s births. And he has never missed a step.

Mr. Raphael is also no stranger to controversy.  When he released his memoir of his time spent with Stanley Kubrick while writing the adaptation screenplay for Eyes Wide Shut, entitled Eyes Wide Open, he pretty much pissed off everyone possible, and still created a masterpiece comparable to the fine work he did writing the screenplay.  And now he is back this year teaming up with his colleague Joseph Epstein on a book of digital correspondences, to stir up the pot once again, and to prove that he is and will always be a force to be reckoned with in the literary world.  And dammit if some how we managed to get a few words from the legend himself!  I could think of no greater individual to have on the site as our 50th interview in our very short history.  Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce the man who should need no introduction if you know how to read….Frederic Raphael!

What was the first book you can remember reading?  Did it have any impact on you?

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t A la Recherche de Temps Perdu in Sanskrit. People usually lie about influences. Ever since Harold Pinter told me, in response to a quiz which I put to him for the sake of a good cause, that in his teens he “read Laforgue”, I have been wary of those who laid claim to lofty antecedents. I do remember reading Ferdinand the Bull at a precocious age though. The phrase “His mother, who was a cow…” remains in my mind.  As far as novels are concerned, Maugham’s Of Human Bondage was of, as they say, seminal importance: it was well enough done to excite, but not so well that I was deterred from, the idea of becoming a novelist. It seemed to promise that as long as one was unhappy enough, there would be no shortage of subject matter.

In your long and illustrious career you have written in just about every category there is to be read.  In your opinion, what is your favorite genre or form of writing?

I am most myself, if that’s a good idea, when I am writing in longhand in squared notebooks. Handwriting encourages both candour and pretentiousness. I like fancy phrases and I like best what is written as well as possible but without any intention to please any paying audience, not that I object to a standing ovation.

What do you consider your greatest non-artistic related influence in your work?  

The Jews and their fate. Alas! I imagined that being a novelist would be a way of disappearing inside the work; but the art that conceals art can never quite conceal the artist.  I thought I would be rid of the Jews just as, perhaps, Wittgenstein though he would be done with metaphysics. But whereof one cannot speak is a topic difficult to keep silent about.

Your 1999 memoir of your time with Stanley Kubrick, Eyes Wide Open, seemed to gather quite a bit of controversy upon its release.  For those unfamiliar with the book and said controversy can you tell us…what the hell happened?

Stanley Kubrick required all those who worked with him to sign a contract which obliged them not to write about the experience.  The first draft of the contract concerned Eyes Wide Shut proposed that I concede to him the last word on who had written what lines of dialogue or had what ideas in the script. I told him that, much as I admired him, I could not work with him on that basis.  He told me that he would have the lawyers strike out the clause which offended me. In that case, I told him, I was happy to proceed. The lawyers did as they were told, but the same clause contained a sub-section concerning confidentiality.  As a result, after Stanley’s death, Jan and Christiane Harlan were unable to prevent me from telling the truth, most of it very flattering, concerning my labours with Kubrick.  Their only recourse was to scream and shout with the purpose of “discrediting” my book. In this endeavour they were backed by Tom Cruise, who takes a similar attitude to anyone who seeks to deny the quasi-divinity of Ron L. Hubbard, and by Michael Herr, who wrote one successful book, which was not the “novel” about Walter Winchell (that I just happened to have reviewed unflatteringly).  Larry Gelbart told Stanley Donen that my book was “like a glass of clear water”. I took this surprisingly well.

 Frederic Raphael2Distant Intimacy: A Friendship In The Age Of The Internet seems to be gaining the same sort of attention.  In my personal opinion, I find what you and Joseph Epstein are doing is courageous.  Could you tell about this book and how it came to life?

 It never occurred to Joe or to me that we were doing anything but not lying to each other while seeking also to amuse and provoke: it used to be known as flyting, but why upset people by knowing anything other than clichés?  Our refusal to admire the same modern idols (Pinter, Sontag, Vidal, McEwan, Amis et all) as those who have an investment in them has led to a torrent of witless abuse and accusations. We were accused, for instance, of being “phoney”, which in glossary of modern cant means that we lacked the instinct for vanishing up the asses of the well-placed which makes critics, pundits and presenters into the trustworthy assessors that we know and whose judgments we must honour or else. Daniel Johnson, who commissioned crappy review of our book from a descendant of one of our foremost targets, is both a slow-payer (who whines about his own salary)  andthe only man whom I have ever invited to lunch (in a club of which D.J. was not a member) who, in the middle passage of our long conversation, signalled to the wine waiter and ordered another bottle of the same. I should have known at that moment that he was not a man to go into the jungle with.

 In your personal opinion, what do you believe it is about the celebrity psyche that makes people believe that some artists should never be criticized?

Robert Graves wrote a lecture way back when entitled “These Be Thy Gods, oh Israel” in which he dared to denounce poets such as Ezra Pound (whose mistranslations from Latin are held, by his admirers, to be better than the original Propertius), the sainted Mr Eliot and other canon-fodder.  My views are, of course, by no means identical with Joe’s, but we have both been round the block a few times and know which writer ring true and which do not.  Journalists, the breed to which almost all reviewers now belong, care above all to write the kind of thing which will lead editors such Dunghill Johnson to ask them to do the same again. I have committed many sins (it would be nice to think), but I have never written a put-down review because that was what an editor wanted. The British, in particular, have replaced criticism with copywriting and wit with idolatry. Telling the truth endangers people’s investments. Why would you want to do that?

 Whenever we get an award winner on the site, we always have to ask…. where do you keep your Oscar?  And is there any significance to its location?

 I keep it on the windowsill behind family photographs. It emerges only when a producer or director comes to visit.  I do not bow down to it or kiss it; but I cannot deny that it came in useful, career-wise: the fact that we own the said window-sill, in a French farmhouse far from the muddening crowd, owes not a little to the wit and wisdom of the Academy.  

Can you tell us a bit about your screenplay currently in pre-production This Man, This Woman?  How did the idea for this story come along?

 A producer rang me to propose a story about a woman whose successful husband leaves her for a quality bimbo and hinc illae lacrimae as no one much in Beverly Hills ever says, however regularly they may be sorry for themselves.  I added a few touches (the original bits) and now we are, if you say so, in pre-production; the pre- bit has lasted a good few years. Who knows when or whether we shall be saved?

 If you had any advice for young authors with the ambition to write for a living in this day and age, what would it be?

 Forget the living and do the writing. The best advice I ever had was from a British editor after he had told me that my 600 page novel was too long. I told him that I wasn’t cutting anything that people wouldn’t like, especially the bits about (yes!) anti-Semitism. He said, “I don’t want you to cut anything in particular.”  I said, “Meaning you just want the book to fit into some preconceived market.”  He said, “Here’s what I suggest: go through the manuscript and cut ten words on every page. You’ll find you always can.”  And he was right.  Desmond Flower!  Hats off!

Frederic Raphael3 What was the last thing that made you smile?

After reading my recent review of the latest John Le Carré novel, A Delicate Truth, Joseph Epstein told me that the Jewish version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor was entitled Tailor, Tailor, Tailor, Tailor. I’m still smiling as a matter of fact.