Mark Anthony Galluzzo [Interview]

Mark Anthony Galluzzo

Several years ago, I came across a little independent horror film entitled R.S.V.P.  And while the concept seemed intriguing, a Hitchcockian like mystery where you already knew who the killer was (but not who was next on his list!), I did have to admit that it was the appearance of the legendary View Askew favorite Jason Mewes that led me to checking out this film.  But, what I was not expecting was to completely fall in love with the film.  It had a certain touch of brilliance in the mystery genre that you simply didn’t see much during that time (circa 2002) and even to this date.  It still remains a steadfast go to film when I am looking to be thrilled, scared, and yes, even laugh a little at the terror of others.

The film became even more intriguing when I discovered that the film’s director, Mark Anthony Galluzzo was sort of a one man show behind the camera.  Writing, directing, filming, producing, even some stunts.  The idea of a filmmaker taking the reigns like this has impressed me ever since I caught my first Robert Rodriguez film twenty years ago.  So, I did some research and discovered some of Mark’s previous work including his amazing and acclaimed film Trash, which is a must see for anyone who is a fan of other side of the track films.

Mark as been out of the game for a little while, but he has definitely kept himself busy as I would learn after asking this modern marvel a few questions.  So ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to introduce a cult hero in our time, Mark Anthony Galluzzo.  Enjoy!

 

What was the first film you remember seeing and realizing that you wanted to be in the world of film?

That’s a tough one. I don’t really remember any eureka moment. I think it was more of the fact that my dad loved to watch old movies on TNT on Sunday. So I got a good early exposure to Hitchcock (Rear Window, Strangers on a Train come to mind), War films (The Great Escape, Battle of the Bulge, Longest Day), Bond films (Dr. No, Goldfinger) and Westerns (Shane, High Noon, Once Upon a Time in The West).  When I got older I gravitated to the films of Oliver Stone, Scorsese and Spike Lee and that naturally led me to want to go to NYU.

I understand you were a real “go for” guy on the set of Saturday Night Live in the beginning of your career.  How was this experience?  And overall, what did you take away this experience?

Ha. I reckon it was more the ‘go get it’ guy.  I was a writers’ assistant, which meant I had to hang around all night in case one of the cast/writers needed something.  SNL was written fresh each week so after the show Saturday night followed by the party Sunday morning (1:30 am it would kick off) everyone would recover on Monday and roll into 30 Rock on Tuesday.  Table reads were Weds afternoon so a lot of the talent would just pull an all nighter on Tuesday. And that’s where I came in.

David Spade wants some onion rounds and sugarless peanut butter at midnight?  Sure I’ll get it. Sandler left his guitar at his apt? Sure I’ll get it.  XXXX forgot his special cigarettes?  Well you get the picture.  But let me tell ya finding sugarless peanut butter in midtown Manhattan at midnight ain’t easy!

All in all it was a good time. I learned a hell of a lot about deadlines and execution, as writing the material was one thing but then only having 4 days to make it real with costume, rehearsal, set design, hair and make up, props, graphics, camera blocking… And after all that frantic work, they put it on live. No net…  That’s old school.  That’s what makes it special.

Your Hitchcockian-esque thriller R.S.V.P. is be far one of the most interesting modern horror films I have seen.  What made you want to make this film?  Where did the idea and story for this film come from?

Other odd one this… After Trash I was approached by a guy who said he had the cash to shoot this remake of Rope. I think it was called Unscrupulous or something. I read his script and it was terrible. A complete retelling of Rope without any changes or insight. I explained it wasn’t possible and offered to write something new that was ‘inspired’ by Rope instead of just ripping it off.  At the time, teen horror was quite big but the formula was getting so stale that the audience could anticipate the beats like a veteran script analyst. Thus I thought, hey, let’s turn this mo-fo on its head and completely take the piss out of the current genre expectations. Instead of putting the ten beautiful people in our story and having the audience guess who the killer is whilst watching them get bumped off one by one, let’s just show the audience who the baddie is and let them come along for the ride.  This lead to some very strange developments that really pushed the script into black comedy and satire territory. For by simply pulling apart and reordering the old teen thriller genre, it threw up a lot of laughs as well as insights into why audiences even go to see these movies in the first place. Thus the motif of Bull Fighting throughout the film.  A bullfight is very scripted with the outcome pretty much never in doubt.  Same with the teen horror. Oh there may be a twist or two but they all end pretty much to script. Thus turning the genre on its head sort of lets the Bull win for a change. Although as I found out to my peril, when you fuck with a genre / audience expectations, be prepared to make some of em fighting mad.  Yeesch, some people were really pissed off.  Where’s the tits! Where’s the blood! I knew who the killer was in the first ten minutes (um, duh, we did just tell/show you)!  I think the one key shortfall of winning over these people was we didn’t have a likeable enough protagonist.  Rick did an amazing job considering the circumstances but originally we had Ian Somerhalder to play Nick (Ian dropped out 3 days before shooting for a film with a bigger paycheck) and I think his boyishness would have taken some edges off our twisted psychopath. Somehow we also let Ryan Gosling slip through the cracks during auditions.  Kicking myself for that one.   I’d love to see the old audition tape again to figure out what I missed or if he was just having a bad day.

Mark Anthony Galluzzo2Your casting of Kevin Smith’s well-known sidekick, Jason Mewes seemed sort of shocking and surprising.  What led you to casting the young Mewes?

He was a friend of the casting director Shannon Makhanian. Originally I was going to use Troy Garity who lived nearby in Venice Beach and did some table reads of the script as Terry, but when the film got pushed by six months, he was booked.  Shannon thus set up a meeting with Jay, and he must have been on good behavior because I thought he was perfect. I was unaware of some of the personal problems he was going through, which made for a very stressful shoot. Still I’m glad he’s back on his feet and doing well as he has a lot of heart and talent.  Glenn Quinn was pretty much the same. When I met him he was all business and fired up to play Hal, but once in Vegas, the temptations were too much and he headed on a downward spiral.  Glenn tried to clean up after he hit rock bottom in LA but fell off the wagon for one lousy weekend and it ended with tragic results. I’m just glad Jay managed to pull it together in time.  Losing Glenn and his great talent and love of life was enough.  I joked with my bro that I should have shot in Provo Utah.  No drink, no drugs, no gambling. Perfect!

Exactly how much of your acclaimed independent film Trash is autobiographical? 

All the characters in Trash are based on people I knew and the things I saw growing up outside of Jacksonville.  I took traits (good and bad) from several different individuals and combined them to create the lead characters.  Most of the events are true but aggregated from the town itself and attributed to the leads.  The opening hunting accident is real.  Great guy I played football with, Curtis Cantrell, was tragically shot and killed by a young boy while turkey hunting. It profoundly affected a lot of people. Shortly after graduation, another boy was shot by the police after robbing a jewelry store (His girlfriend was the getaway driver).  A third boy was killed cleaning his father’s gun.  Two others died in a car accident.  We had a pretty bad run of luck my senior year culminating in a brawl between some parents, students and teachers involving baseball bats and chair legs. Blood, broken bones, cops, ambulances and a crying baby. Quite surreal in hindsight.  Shame, I never figured out how to weave that one into the story!    Back then too, the trailer park community wasn’t as stereotyped as it is now thanks to reality TV. Back then it was just how poor folk lived and no one thought too much of it.  As the character Sonny says “Here or there, poor is still poor.”

Mark Anthony Galluzzo3What was behind your decision to move to become an English citizen, and begin teaching over there? 

The usual…. A girl.  A Welsh one in fact, so we have to be careful with the English citizen bit. Technically I’m a dual citizen US/UK.  I got the 2nd passport as it makes travel a lot easier in the EU and supposedly I will get a pension one day if the government isn’t broke by then.   Also I have three kids now and all have these funny British accents, so I guess I’m in for the long haul.

Teaching was just a way to stay active and get involved in the UK film community. I’ve stepped back though as I think they are pumping out too many media grads and there just aren’t enough jobs out there… well, unless you want to teach. Sort of a ponzi scheme I didn’t want to be a part of.

And do you think you will be getting back behind the camera soon?

Definitely. I took a few years off to run a business and start a family. Both have been a smashing success and have allowed me the opportunity to return to making films.  I also reckon the time away from the industry has helped mature my storytelling.  When you’re young and ambitious you are convinced that what you’re doing is always the best way and if people don’t get it then they are just wrong. As you get older you learn to take on feedback and comments and pick out any hard truths that you are willfully ignoring.  I look at Trash and see a young artist who needed a guiding hand to really make that film a classic. It was very close to achieving greatness but the handling of the final reel held it back.

I’ve got three new scripts on the go. One is an ensemble comedy / drama called Dirty Little Secrets that I’m shooting in Wales next Summer.  My producing partner and I are taking it out to talent at the moment. It’s sort of a Gen-X Big Chill.  The other two are bigger budget genre pictures.  First up is a sci-fi thriller called Prisoner’s Dilemma that we’re hoping to take to IFP Film Week in New York.  It’s a futuristic noir using post WWII Berlin as inspiration.  Lots of spies, smugglers, femme fatales and outlaws. After that is a Western adventure about a motley group of hunters, trackers and killers hired to track down a monster that killed the son of an old West land baron. It’s called Helen Ballard and The Fall Creek Ten and has gotten some good heat on the new Blacklist.   Sort of a Western version of Avengers Assemble.


What was the last thing that made you smile?

My three kids waking me up on Fathers’ Day with homemade cards.

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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