Michael Walker [Interview]
November 12, 2013 Leave a comment
Much like many of the folks we speak with here at TWS, I discover them from a little thing called Netflix. Other wise known as the digital Thor who smashed away all those pesky Blockbusters. But that is a whole other distorted bit of madness to go over at a different time. NO, I am here to talk about the fabulous filmmaker Michael Walker, who I first learned even existed when I discovered his wonderful film Price Check, that I still find myself heading back to the digital wasteland to watch Parker Posey strut her stuff in this beautifully directed and well orchestrated film. And then I realized that Mr. Walker was indeed coming back behind the camera in his very own feature film once again. It realized that it had been over a decade in between his fist film, Chasing Sleep, which was amazing as well, and his most recent film, the aforementioned Price Check. But, then I learned that history would not repeat itself once again, and he was already back on the books with his upcoming film The Maid’s Room, which seems absolutely delightful. So, I decided it would nice to get a few words from Michael to see what he was doing on hiatus, talk to him about how great I think Price Check is, and about his upcoming film. So enjoy!
We saw a 12 year gap between the release of your debut film Chasing Sleep and Price Check that was released just last year. Tell us, what were you up to during this time?
I was writing. I did some work for hire and had some scripts optioned. Most of that time I was trying to get THE MAID’S ROOM made. I finished the script in 2003 and it seemed like it would happen a few times and then fell apart.
Price Check is one of my favorite films to come out in the last few years. How did you come up with the story behind this wonderful picture?
I had this character of Susan Felders, a driven boss who is insanely ambitious and good at her job and sort of acts like a man, but uses her feminine side when it works, and she’s great at what she does. I had met a few women like this and found them really interesting in the way they couldn’t balance their work and their lives. Then I wanted to put her in an environment that reflected what most of my friends and people my age were going through. They were getting older, had more expenses and were having to choose between supporting their families or trying to keep their heads above water and pursuing dreams that they had in their 20’s that were becoming less realistic.
You have stated in previous interviews and such that you had originally set out to become an actor. Is there any chance we might see you get from behind the camera and out in front? Possibly writing a role for yourself?
I went to acting school (Stella Adler) after film school, but I never set out to be an actor. I did it because I had trouble talking to actors and I had read Elia Kazan’s book, and others, and they all said that if you want to direct, you need to go to acting school. When I was finished, I did want to do it for about five minutes, but being an actor is a tough life and I quickly scrapped that idea.
THE MAID’S ROOM is about a maid who gets a job working for a family at their weekend house in the Hamptons. The family tries to cover up a hit and run by their son, and the maid becomes the only person to know the truth. It’s a dark, suspenseful film. It’s a very simple story, but the film has a lot of ideas in it and I think people really like the way it uses those ideas in the story.
How did you come to have Paula Garces as the lead role? Was she the kind of actress you were thinking of when you were writing the script?
Paula auditioned for the part. She couldn’t have been more perfect and she’s an amazing actress. I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to find someone for the part and we had seen a lot of actors for it. And talked about some “name actors” as well, but they all seemed wrong. Paula seemed to really understand the character and it was amazing for me to watch her play Drina.
So what is next for you? Any other projects in the works?
I have a film that I’m casting now called THE REVOLUTION OF JENNY SPECK, which is a sort of cross between the office politics of PRICE CHECK and the psychological mind fuck of CHASING SLEEP. It’s a really fun film that has a lot to say about the way we live in our pop culture.
One of the things about having ten years between projects is that I have a few scripts that are already written and ready to go. And I keep writing. So there is always another project in the works. It’s just getting a cast together that can get it financed that takes the time.
I had a great time at the festival. It was interesting to show it to a crowd that could relate to the characters and the settings in the film. They definitely got some of the jokes, which was nice. They seemed to really like it. It was an older crowd, so maybe not the Twitter generation, so I didn’t see any honest reactions after the film behind my back. The audience was really with the film. I can only tell in the suspenseful parts when they jump at the right places, and they did.
What is it that you absolutely love about the world of filmmaking? What disappoints you the most?
I love making films and the big disappointment is that it takes so long to get them made. I love writing (sometimes), I love actors and I figuring out shots and scenes, and I love editing. There are huge disappointments when you make films, and part of them is watching bad movies. Now that I think about it, there’s no end to the disappointments in filmmaking. It’s enough to make a person cynical.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
I wrote a funny scene the other day that made me laugh out loud. That’s always good.