Ernie O’Donnell [Interview]

 

23 years ago, a phenomenon in film industry occurred. A little indie darling of a film hit the big time and shook the world of cinema to its core. It is a film that we have talked about on multiple occasions here at Trainwreck’d Society, and a film that I am certain we will continue to talk about at lengths whenever possible. That film was called Clerks. The debut film of legendary filmmaker behind such classics as Tusk and Yoga Hosers. We have had the fortunate experience in the past to speak with two of the film’s stars, Marilyn Ghigliotti and Scott Schaiffo. I also had the honor of having some great conversations with the late Lisa Spoonauer, who sadly left us here on earth this year and will definitely be missed.

But with that being said, we have yet another brilliant actor from the world of Clerks! Today we have some words from the great Ernie O’Donnell! Ernie portrayed the trainer who so confidently explains to Dante Hicks that he may need to hit the gym after he struggles with an 8 lb gallon of milk. It is a brilliant moment in the film, and portrayed excellently by Mr. O’Donnell. Since Clerks, Ernie has gone on to appear in a half a dozen other films from his childhood friend Kevin Smith, as well as moving into the world as a producer on films like 100 Acres of Hell, Zombie Death Camp, and associate producer on the biopic Shooting Clerks, written and directed by Chris Downie and featuring several other cast members of the original Clerks.

We are so honored to have Ernie on the site today, who turns out to be even more charming in real life than the trainer he portrayed over 20 years ago. So ladies and gentleman, please welcome the great Ernie O’Donnell!


When you were filming your infamous scene in Clerks, were you able to fathom what may very well come out of doing this gig? What was your reaction, and of those around you, when it just sort of hit in a major way?

Nobody imagined that Clerks would ever become this iconic pop cultural movie. Most people probably thought it was going to be some locally recognized film but over twenty years later it still has a hugh following and a pop culture impact. Being connected to Clerks has opened quite a few doors. I was honestly surprised by its success but always new Kevin was going to do something great with his talents.

Was it appearing in Clerks that gave you the acting bug, or where you always interested in the craft? When did you decide to give acting a real shot?

I was always a performer of sorts but got interested in acting in the fourth grade when we had to act out a commercial in class. After doing plays and comedy skits in grammar school and high school I decided to give acting a real shot during my senior year.

What were those early days like in your part of New Jersey after the film was released? And does the area still receive a shit ton of visitors making the pilgrimage to the Quik Stop?

There was a lot of local buzz after the film was released and starting winning awards. People were very happy for its success especially our friends but then again there was always the haters. As far as the Quik Stop goes, people from around the world still visit it regularly. It’s crazy.

What was it like to revisit that time in your life in Shooting Clerks, which you are a star in as well as an associate producer? How was the experience itself overall?

Filming back at the Quik Stop was pretty dam cool especially since my 5 year old niece was filming that day also with me. I had a blast with the Shooting Clerks crew. They’re true independent filmmakers and it was refreshing and inspiring to watch their passion for the original.


Last year you co-produced & directed, as well as starred in the intriguing horror film 100 Acres of Hell. How did this project come about? What made you want to help bring this story out into the world?

I was approached by someone I went to high school with through Facebook. We hadn’t seen each other in years and the concept seemed very interesting. I was a hugh fan of horror and always hoped to get into the genre. This seemed like a great ground level project for me. After sitting in on multiple meetings ,the producers realized I had more to offer than just acting so they brought me on as a producer. The story is your classic 80’s horror type film. It’s filled with all the cool horror stuff I grew up with. We tried to create a classic horror icon along the lines of Jason and Mike Myers. It’s pretty bad ass.

So what is next for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

After starting my production company, Jersey Lights Productions in 2016 I’ve takin on multiple projects. Besides producing 100 Acres of Hell I’ve been developing an original animated sitcom which I’ll announce at the end of the summer. I’m involved with producing Unit Five an action comic, for the big screen. I’ve also partnered with Toy Entertainment to bring one of their screenplays to life and develop content for television.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Watching my wife Carla with my dogs Jake and Elwood.

Check out the trailer for 100 Acres of Hell, right here:

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Christopher Matthew Cook [Interview]


So, a few months ago, I was listening to my favorite podcast, Super Geeky Play Date, do a hilarious review of the film Dog Eat Dog on Episode #40 of their show (“Working Man’s Vin Diesel, I believe they called him). It is suffice to say, they didn’t care much for the film. But, they did manage to throw in a plethora of compliments for one actor….Christopher Matthew Cook. So, I was intrigued. And when I am intrigued, I reach out! And sometimes the person who has intrigued me is nice enough to amuse a low-rent entertainment blogger with some answers to to some questions….and this was one of those times!

Christopher Matthew Cook has been making waves in the world of film and television with his gigantic size, and even larger talent. He has appeared in television series like The Walking Dead, Zoo, and Under the Dome. He also had an outstanding role in the Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg fronted action film 2 Guns. And just so much more. So, I was obviously very excited when he agreed to talk with us for a bit. He’s a charming fella who may have biceps as large of a school bus, but that’s nowhere near as impressive as the size of his heart. So ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the great Christopher Matthew Cook!


What made you decide to join the world of acting? Did you have early aspirations in to join the business?

I’m an only child and would entertain myself daydreaming and acting out scenarios in my head. I have memories of going to the movies and acting them out afterwards. I leaned towards music and grew up playing drums and also singing in bands. I always wanted to act but never followed through with going to classes, etc. I finally started taking an acting class and it was an instant fit.

And what keeps you going in this world? What do you still enjoy about the occupation?

I love to create different characters and imaginary worlds. I love the discipline that it takes to continue to learn, grow and persevere.


Your work in the Dog Eat Dog, directed by the legendary Paul Schrader, with a script adapted from the book by the dearly departed Edward Bunker, was quite the thrill ride, and I dare say you stole the show acting alongside Nic Cage and Willem Dafoe. What was your experience like working on this project?

Thank you! It was an amazing experience to work alongside and learn from three of America’s greats. The most challenging aspect for me was the fact that there was a delay in getting me the script due to re-writes. The positive outcome was I was afforded the opportunity to do script analysis with Paul Schrader for a week prior to shooting our first day.

In 2014 you had a nice couple of episodes in the legendary Walking Dead series playing Licari. What was this experience like for you? Were you a fan of the series prior to working on it?

It was probably the absolute best set that I’ve worked on and they really are a family. Everyone is treated with respect and welcomed with open arms. I was a fan of the show, but I had no idea of the magnitude of the fan base until after the episodes aired.


Aside from the amazing work you have already accomplished, what would consider a dream project for you personally? What is something you have been yearning to work on but haven’t quite made your way to just yet?

I would love to be on a cop show as a cop or detective. I would also love to breakout of the cop and bad guy at some point, but I’m definitely grateful for the work!!

So what is next for you? Anything you would like to plug with our readers?

I’ve got a couple of projects in the works and just shot a movie with director Jordan Rubin called The Drone. I’m not sure if thats actually going to be the name of the movie.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I’m always smiling, laughing and talking to myself. Another day above ground is a beautiful thing!

Check out the trailer for Dog Eat Dog courtesy of Zero Media:

Tim Russ [Interview]

A few months ago we did a long run of interviews entitled “The Voices of Fallout 4” that fan’s of the game brought with some amazing praise and lots of encouragement. So much so that we decided we would love to do it all over again. But, why not break it up a bit? Mainly because he discovered that there are so many amazing folks involved in the Fallout world who have had spectacular careers beyond the Wasteland. So it feels like it would be better to just showcase these amazing artists whenever they are able to share a few words with us.

And today is a brilliant example of a legendary actor who just so happened to be involved in Fallout 4 as just another notch in the extremely impressive proverbial belt of acting gigs. That man is the legendary actor Tim Russ. Mr. Russ was indeed the man behind Capt. Kells of the Brotherhood on Fallout 4. But he may be even more recognizable for his brilliant performances in the likes of Spaceballs and Star Trek: Voyager and so much more. He is an extremely accomplished actor who has proven himself to be a legend in the world of performance with a career spanning decades and an astonishing list of credits. Not to mention the involvement in so many different cult franchises that undoubtedly bring along a string of hardcore cult followings.

So without further ado and to end my rambling, please enjoy some great words from the legendary Tim Russ!

You managed to steal the show with one simple line in the legendary comedy Spaceballs when you belted out, ‘We ain’t found shit!” as you’re “combing” the desert. During the time, did you have any idea that you would have such a impact on the world with just a few words?

At the time no, not in the least.  I was even wondering if it would stay in the movie.  Often those bits get cut out for time. But as it turned out it’s become iconic. 

You joined the ranks as one of the elite idols to a very avid fan base when you joined the world of Star Trek in 1993, and eventually landing a full run on Voyager. What has your experience been like being known to millions as the great Tuvok in one of the most beloved franchises of all time?

It has been an ongoing association over the years.  To me it was just another role I booked, that happened to be long running, but the fandom associated with it was greater than that of an average series.  Most shows don’t have their own conventions and related events such as with the Trek franchise. 

Your work on Fallout 4 as Captain Kells was brilliant and added so much to the experience? What are your thoughts on the final product that was the biggest selling video game in history?

Well, it was once again, from my perspective, it was just another video game booking I got, and many hours in the studio.  I had no idea it was going to be so popular to the game players out there.  I’m glad to find out it was.


Have you experienced any cross-over fans from the Fallout and Star Trek worlds? Have you had an interactions with fans who realized that the 
legendary Tuvok is also featured in one of their favorite video games?

Yes, occasionally at conventions I get people coming up to my table asking me to sign their Fallout 4 game box.  So, not surprisingly, there are those fans out there who like Trek and that game as well.

 So what is next for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers and your loyal fans who have surely made their way digitally over here?

I’ve got another video game project coming out shortly, unfortunately I can’t reveal the real name yet, but I believe it’s the 3rd in a series and it’s very popular,  and I just finished working dong voice-over work on a feature called, Fairy’s Game, playing one of the characters. On camera, just awaiting the release of a Sci-Fi thriller feature film called, 5th Passenger, and the 1st part of Renegades Requiem  which I directed, and should be made public very soon.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

It was a bit on Youtube, a flash mob performance of Beauty and the Beast.  It took place in a busy intersection crosswalk.

Check out this exciting teaser trailer for Renegades Requiem courtesy of The Atom Network:

Sunday Matinee: Unpresidented [Short]

Hello Everyone! Yes, we are coming to you all on the unusual Sunday here with a new feature on the site that we are very excited to share with you all. Welcome to the Sunday Matinee! I know that we have less than subtly been pulling an MTV on you all and skewing away from being a music centric site, and have leaned into the world of film and television. And with the addition of this feature, there is obviously no stopping the monsters within. But, I think you all are going to love it.

For the first official edition of the Sunday Matinee, we would like to share an amazing new short from the fine folks at Ganglebot Films entitled Unpresidented. You may recognize Ganglebot from the sensational viral videos aptly titled The Drunk Series, which we also highly recommend. And the company’s latest venture into the world of politics is absolutely incredible, and something we are so happy to share with you fine readers.

Unpresidented is a short bit of satire that feels absurd and ridiculous in it’s own right. I mean, it is children saying some frightening and offensive things on camera. Problem with it is, 95% of the frightening and offensive dialogue the children are using, are taken almost directly from the voice of our current sitting President of the United States of America. And that is what should truly be frightening and offensive to the viewers. The film manages to clearly explain the events surrounding the 2016 Presidential Election that led us to the state that we are in today. It is a masterpiece of satire and hilarity that is sure to make you cringe while laughing hysterically.

So please enjoy Unpresidented, our first venture into the world of the Sunday Matinee.

 

Michael Goorjian [Interview]

It’s been a few years since we spoke with SLC Punk writer/director James Merendino, but a lot of great things have happened since then. In that interview, we talked about the potential of a SLC Punk sequel coming to light. Well, since then, that film has been released, and to great acclaim I might add. So, upon the release of this beloved sequel, we wanted to jump back into that world a little bit. And who better to chat with than Heroin Bob himself, the great Michael Goorjian.

But, as we examined further into the world of Goorjian, we discovered that he has accomplished so much more than just being an iconic character in a brilliant indie film and it’s subsequent sequel. He is an Emmy Award winning actor, an accomplished novelist, and an overall brilliant human being. So, of course will talk SLC Punk as it is unavoidable and worthy of notice, but we also wanted to hit on some of his other amazing work, including a new novel entitled What Lies Beyond The Stars that is absolute MUST READ! And we will hear all about it in the words below. So please enjoy some great words from the amazing actor, writer, and so much more, Michael Goorjian!

When did you first realize you wanted to be involved in the world of acting or the creative world in general? Was it an early passion that drove you?

I started acting as a way of getting out of class. The principle at my JR. High made an announcement over the PA telling anyone interested in auditioning for a part in a local community theater production of Computer Crazy should to come to the front office. I went and ended up getting the part. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the rest of the cast were all senior citizens, and this very dorky play was going to be performed in front of schools all over town, including at my own school. Despite the humiliation of that first experience, I stuck with acting.


You developed a fanatic cult following for your amazing portrayal as Heroin Bob in the indie classic film SLC Punk. You were already an Award winning and established actor at this point, but this put you in a whole other realm it would appear. Is this a proper descriptor, or am I projecting? Basically, what was it like after becoming the man behind Heroin Bob?

Yeah, it’s weird for sure. There are people out there with tattoos of me on them. I actually saw one Heroin Bob tattoo on a very attractive woman’s back side – just a photo mind you.
Bob was definitely a very special character. Much of it had to do with the dynamic between me and Matt Lillard (great actor). But also, I think Bob is kinda the sacrificial lamb in the film, a Jesus character, who dies for all our sins.

I’ve had many people connect me throughout the years about how deeply important Bob was to them. How Bob help them get through tough shit, how Bob was like their best friend, etc. That for me is the greatest joy one can ever have as an actor.

And then all these years later, you returned to the Heroin Bob character in 2016. We spoke with James Merendino when Punk’s Dead was in the early stages of pre-production, when it still felt sort of like a dream. But now it is out there and living amongst its fans. So how was this experience for you? What was it like to go back after all of these years?

It was a blast. I hadn’t seen James in years, and that alone was worth it. It took a while to find the character again but once we got rolling it all came back.

You decided to get yourself behind the camera a bit with the amazing masterpiece and last project of the legendary Kirk Douglas, known as Illusion. How did this project come to life? What made you decide to move into the director’s chair on the other side of the camera?

“Illusion” took me 5 years to make. I shot it piece-meal while raising money as I went, maxing out credit cards, begging, borrowing and occasionally stealing as I went. We shot on a borrowed 35 mm camera from Francis Ford Coppola — he didn’t know I was using it at first but luckily he became very supportive once he found out what I was up to. I shot 3/4th of the film before even getting Kirk Douglas involved. He was a dream to work with; it was an experience I’ll always cherish.

We always ask our statue holding interviewees this one question….Where do you keep your Emmy? And does its physical location have any sort of significance for you?

It is on a shelf in my hallway. For years my mom kept it because I’ve always been a bit of a recluse and often just lived out of my car in LA. I did consider having it mounted as a hood ornament on my matte-black 95 Chevy Caprice but decided that would be a little much.

Can you tell us a bit about your novel What Lies Beyond the Stars? When did you decide to add novelist to your expanding list of credits? And where did this story come from?

What Lies Beyond the Stars is based on a screenplay I wrote 20 years ago. I was actually close to shooting the film with myself and Michelle Williams to star, but then the financing fell through in a very predictable Hollywood way. So, instead of letting the project die, I threw the script on a shelf and waited and waited and 15 years later found myself doing some directing work for a Publishing company that happened to be looking for new material. I showed the CEO my script and he agreed to let me turn it into a novel!

What’s the book about?… I’ll just say that it is the artistic work that I am most proud of (along with Heroin Bob of course). Here’s a link if people what to check it out.

 

What else do you have coming up that our readers should be on the look out for? Do you have anything to plug?
I’m currently writing a sequel to What Lies Beyond the Stars which will come out in the Fall of 2018. I’m also going to be doing a play at the Berkeley Repertory Theater later this year. Back to the stage!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Dave Chappelle

Pick up a copy of Michael’s book What Lies Beyond the Stars right HERE. For a preview, check out this amazing trailer that has been put together for it:

Roger Christian [Interview]


I am compelled to preface today’s feature by stating that this is officially our 200th interview here at Trainwreck’d Society, and I am extremely thrilled to bring it to you fine folks today. We have had the honor of sharing some great words with some amazing people over the years, and to mark this amazing milestone we definitely have something pretty special for you all today. And let it be known, it will most likely not very long before we are telling you that we have our 300th interview coming soon. Exciting times around here in the Trainwreck’d world.

And we are excited to announce that today’s interviewee is known other than the Academy Award winning art director, writer, and filmmaker Roger Christian. Roger is the mastermind behind some of the most iconic figures and images known to man. It is because of guys like Roger that even the most casual movie goer knowns what a light saber is, and fell in love with the happenings of things that took place in a galaxy far, far away. Yes, he is the man who helped make Star Wars to be the visually fascinating masterpiece that we all know and love today. He was the man who was entrusted by George Lucas as the art director of what would be one of the most famous films in history, as well as being entrusted to join him on his journey through The Return of the Jedi and the saga’s return in The Phantom Menace as 2nd A.D.

But while Star Wars is obviously a major feat for Mr. Christian, it is important to mention that he has brought so much joy to the world beyond the likes of the Jedi. He was nominated for an Oscar once again (and unfairly robbed of a win, in my opinion) for his work in art direction on another classic film we all know and love known as Alien. Yes, that Alien. Beyond the world of art direction, Roger is also an accomplished filmmaker who has been behind the camera on some of amazing projects that were actually the catalyst for why I wanted to talk to him.

I will honestly admit to you all, here and now, I was not interested in Roger’s work on Star Wars, as this is not a world that entirely fascinated me. So, it brings me great joy to be able to say that all Star Wars related questions in this interview are either inspired by or directly from none other than the brilliant Brady “Berzerker” Berkenmeier from my favorite podcast known as Super Geeky Play Date. A huge thanks to Brady for coming through for us on this one. Once again, help from a dear friends is what we rely on to make this site a success!

As I stated before, those of us who are less familiar with the Star Wars world will definitely know who this man is. In a career spanning over 50 years, he has been the man behind films like the 1997 Patrick Stewart fronted film Mastermind, 2013’s Stranded that features Christian Slater’s finest performance pre-Mr. Robot, and most importantly, the upcoming creation of the passion project he has had funneling through is brain for the last 50 years (and has released in short versions on at least two occasions), Black Angel, which will be coming soon and will mention in great detail. In fact, once you have completed reading his great responses, you can scroll all the way to the bottom of this interview and find the FULL version of the original short.

Yes, Roger Christian is a legend in the world of filmmaking, especially in the visual sense. He is the man behind the fucking light saber for shit’s sake! For that alone, it is an honor to have him featured as our 200th interview here at Trainwreck’d Society. It has been a long and winding rode to make it to this milestone, and I speak for all of us who have made this happen when I say we are so happy that you have chosen to take this journey with us. So before I get to sappy here, please enjoy some amazing words from Academy Award winner, Roger Christian!

What inspired you to join the world of art direction and filmmaking? Were you always interested in the world of a film from a young age?

I grew up in the country near a town called Reading, with no access to theatre or any knowledge of the film industry. I was given instruction by my Father to be an architect, Doctor or Priest. Escaping the brutal way we were treated at school, to an arts college, I went one day with friends to London to see Doctor Zhivago and Claude Lelouch’s A Man and a Woman. David Lean’s film made such such a powerful impression on me, I literally had an out of body experience in the theatre when the music rose as the young Zhivago stood by the grave at the burial, and it is still one of my most favourite films of all time. I was hooked, and A Man and a Woman cemented a passion. The driving jazz and the power of images with emotion, was a new kind of filmmaking. I remember having huge arguments outside the theatre about its style and impact.

Working every summer to survive putting up huge marquees for shows all over southern England, we were in Black Park, and I saw a prison camp, so realistic, a tramp used to offer food every day to the men who built it. They told me it was a film set, and we were next to Pinewood studios. So squeezing under the fence that lunch time I watched James Bond being filmed through an open stage door, the smell and the lights and sets, was it, I had to do this. I spent years trying to get into an industry where I didn’t know anyone, even doing two years at Oxford School of Architecture, as I was told to enter through the art department as I’d been years at Art school.

I spent all my spare time watching films by Bergman, Felini, Pasolini, Truffault, Godard, Lean, Powell etc and my master and mentor Kurosawa. I ate up his work, and giants like Visconti. My first job ever was where destiny struck. I was tea boy to John Box who designed Dr. Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia. John mentored me closely in an industry where it was run like an office, and I was told daily to get a haircut and a suit and tie, and stop talking about these art films and knuckle under and work my way up slowly on the drawing board. It wasn’t for me and I quickly worked my way to be a set decorator, and using the money I earned to direct theatre plays I commissioned and music videos, anything I could get my hands on.

We all know that Star Wars: A New Hope, now 40 years old, was a groundbreaking masterpiece that changed the world of cinema forever. And it was pointed out to me that the film also marked one of the first times that art direction and special effects really became extremely popular. What was this experience like for you? Was it surreal to finally get the credit you deserved?

Yes it was surreal. There was no faith that Star Wars would make a dollar, as Science Fiction as a genre was dead at the time, and worse this was regarded as a Children’s fantasy. I shared George Lucas’s vision, that space should be dusty and real, and the world used and old and natural. With the budget, when we started off with four million dollars to make this epic, it was daunting. I had to buy scrapped airplanes and break them down to encrust the interiors. I used real guns with pieces stuck on, and made the Lightsabre with an old camera part and superglued on T-strip and an old calculator part.

John Barry the designer was brilliant, taking George to Tunisia where he found the ancient world and deserts, adapted by our dressing and props to the world of Tatooine. The majority of the crew, thought the film was a Children’s story and being sci-fi, would never see the light of day. The worlds of myth and legend got me through my difficult childhood in the grey times after the wars, and so John and I and the two art directors stood by George Lucas’s side when few others did, and built his world for Star Wars, difficult as it was.

Star Wars was the first science fiction film ever where the audience believed the film was real, set in its world, old used and natural. This was my world and I was finally able to put on screen my vision for how it should look. Being awarded an Academy Award, so unexpected, was an honour and a recognition that all the hard work and belief where most people doubted it would work was justified.


What was it like jumping back into the world of Star Wars in the late 90’s to work on The Phantom Menace, over 15 years after the release of Return of the Jedi? Did it feel like a whole new experience for you?

It was like coming home. Being trusted by George to film alongside him, we had the two crews who filmed Indiana Jones making this epic in just twelve weeks, there was no time to think. Star Wars was my world to enter back into, and little had changed. Being back in Tunisia was inspiring especially the huge set for Tatooine built in the desert near where we filmed the first film and filming the pod race. Directing instead of designing, was a joy for me. I worked with all the main actors and some amazing stunt and action scenes, so it was like being in heaven despite working 14 or more hours a day. George had to leave at the end, so I finished the filming.

I am very intrigued about your project Black Angel. Can you tell us a bit about how this project has come about? What made you want to tell this tale?

The short film I wrote as my debut directing film, was commissioned by George Lucas to release with Empire Strikes Back and funded by a twenty five thousand pound grant from the British government. Following Kurosawa’s influence, I was the first person to film Scotland’s stunning and ancient landscapes in cinemascope as a background for my ancient myth. It inspired John Boorman Excalibur and George step printed a Yoda fight in Empire when he saw mine. I received many letters from the audience at the time, how I had touched them deeply, and that was my intention to connect to the subconscious as Tarkovsky did.

I made the film as I love mythology and legends and wanted to explore the last moment in a Knight’s life as he honoured the code they lived by, to find a maiden in distress and rescue her. I went deeper as it was a fight against death, a huge theme in mythology.

The negative was lost after Rank in the UK went bankrupt and found three years ago in Universal studios after I had almost given up ever seeing it again. Restored to its original powerful imagery, it screened again as closing film at the Mill Valley Film Festival to ecstatic reviews and even more popular at the Glasgow Film Festival where we sold out a four hundred screen cinema. I got five hundred thousand hits about it from a BBC online article, and social media went viral after. Not bad for a thirty five year old film.

This led to Alex Tate a UK producer wanting to make my original epic fantasy feature idea and we are filming this year in Hungary and Scotland. The popularity of Game of Thrones and Star Wars have created a massive platform for fantasy which is real and down and dirty, and thats how we made the original Star Wars and Alien. I am following my original desire to create a very real and down to earth epic set in amazing visions, in the same vein as these powerful films I was involved with connected to the audience. That desire is more and more prevalent in audiences, who want to connect to worlds they can identify with, but be carried on an exciting journey.

And you have mentioned in a previous conversation that you are very fond of the music that is set to be used in Black Angel. Can you tell us a few details about said music? And, as a huge fan of well composed music in film, I am curious to hear your personal insight as to why music is a critical element to any good film?

Music and sound create the power of a movie, equal to performance of the actors and characters they have created, and the director’s vision. Turn off the sound on any movie and its power collapses. Who can forget those simple notes on Jaws, and the Star Wars theme that takes you right into the saga when you hear it. My number one favourite, Dr Zhivago‘s score is as epic as the film.

I spent weeks and weeks gathering reference for Black Angel to influence Trevor Jones. Vangelis was unknown in England at the time, but I had gathered sound tracks from French documentaries he had composed the music for. A huge influence, Stomu Yamashta an amazing Japanese composer who created Red Buddha Theatre, and other music I found inspiring to create a musical landscape, the soundtrack takes you deep into the mystic soul of Black Angel.

What else does the future hold for you? Anything else we should be looking forward to in the future?

I am deep into the epic feature film of Black Angel, a passion project for me since writing and directing that short film as a launch for my career. Finally I am able to get it made and this is my legacy really, and has taken this time for the global market to get recognition for this type of fantasy, so I can get funded. I am also making a documentary/drama on the Creative Force. Inspired by the five rebels who made Star Wars when nothing else existed in cinema and with the smallest budgets way below what it would have taken using conventional techniques. So they echoed Luke Skywalker, heroes journey moment and let out of their comfort zones and because of them Star Wars got made. This extends to some incredibly famous people in their chosen films who saw Star Wars and became so inspired they followed their dreams and left their comfort zones. Based on my book, Cinema Alchemist, which is a blow by blow account of how Star Wars, Alien and Black Angel were made on way too low of budgets, I was intent on inspiring people and that is the overwhelming response to the book. So I am interested to explore this and help people follow their dreams and inspire them to follow their own heroes journey as thats what its all about and why myth and legend is so important to everyone.

And we always ask our statue holding friends this question: Where do you keep your Oscar? And does its physical location have any significance to you?

When we got ours, it was the worst thing you could do in England to embrace it or shout out about it, the familiar place everyone kept theirs was to hold the toilet door open. That was to do with the British establishment looking down on Science Fiction and American culture. Star Wars helped change that and Alien and the films that followed quickly made getting an Oscar a huge honour.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Seeing the lightsaber I created for 12 dollars gaining iconic status as a main plot point in the final scene in A Force Awakens and coming to fruition in The Last Jedi. – R

Do yourself a favor, and check out the amazing short film that is Black Angel, which Roger Christian has so kindly put on YouTube with a lovely introduction as well. Check it out here:

Debra Eckloff [Interview]


Today we have a feature on a brilliant actress who fans of the improv world will probably now and love. Her name is Debra Eckloff, and is a delight! I will admit that I am not an expert in the field of improv (or any field for that matter), but through my research I have learned that Debra is a class act in a realm all of her own. And then when I got some nice words from her, I would soon realize that she is simply a gem of a human being!

I first became aware of Debra and her work with her performance in one of the most beautiful pieces of satire I have ever witnessed, the video “Ballad of Billy John” performed by Trevor Moore on his special entitled High In Church that was released in 2015, and remains a continuously watched special in my world, especially “Ballad of Billy John”. Seriously, you HAVE to check this shit out. It’s absolutely incredible.

And part of what made the video so damn great was the subject of our interview today, the great Debra Eckloff. She is a beautiful human being, and has so much to say. So let’s get to it! Ladies and gentlemen, Debra Eckloff!

I have come to learn that you have been making quite the splash in the L.A. improv world over the last few years. What drew you to the world of improv? And what do you still love about the job?

I stumbled into improv. I was signed up to take an advanced scene study class but it cancelled unexpectedly. Patrick Bristow, Improvatorium, was teaching improv next door and was willing to let me audition. I joined him for about three years. I learned most of what I know about comedy from Patrick. He’s a master. The task of creating a small comedic scene from a suggestion plays with the idea of living being a shared experience, of organic communication that is in the moment. Improv abandons preconception and planning and trusts in the connection we all have. When a scene is really working, it’s quite a charge.

In your professional opinion, how has your improv work translated to the more scripted screen roles you have done?

Improv is fundamental to how I work. When I first get the sides, I attempt to discern what I can in order to create something grounded for the audition, something that allows me to enter the world of the scene. Depending upon the script, this takes many forms. For instance, if I have some pages of the script but I don’t see what is driving the scene they want to see me do, I might write a scene that is not in the script pages I have. This enables me to have history (complete with dialogue) that I imagine to have lived. Further, if I have a lot of memorization, one way that I reach it is through improvisation. I do my best to learn the lines, of course, but I find once I start living the scene and the emotions are bubbling up, they upset the lines.

So what I do is I work on the lines, but then I get to a point where I throw them out for the sake of meaning. I let the improv loose inside of the emotions that are running underneath the lines in order to fully live them. I’m ready with the scripted lines after I’ve explored like this. Another area where I use improvisation is when I am working on my moment before. What you choose for the moment before results in your character’s mood/state of mind at the start of the scene. I also use substitution a lot in my work. I probably use substitution almost as much as I use improvisation. All this sounds rather think-y but the truth is, the better it’s working, the less think-y it is. In other words, all of this enriches the role for me and makes it an incredible emotional experience. What improvisation and substitution do for me, essentially, is they free me.

I absolutely adored your role in the video for Trevor Moore’s “The Ballad of Billy John” a part of his High In Church special. How did this role come about, and what made you want to work on this project?

Thank you. I am very proud of the video and the reception has been great. I love reading the comments from viewers. I’m grateful to Trevor Moore for a delightful, original and clever song and for including me in the project. The first thing that happened was that I auditioned for Matthew Vaughan over at CAZT. I was so green I didn’t even know that “CC” stood for Comedy Central. The audition involved going through a series of emotions for the camera, locating the highs and lows of Billy John’s wife. Prior to the shoot, I was sent an audio file of the song. I am grateful to Matt because he made me feel very comfortable both in the audition room and on set.


And how was the process of filming this amazing video alongside Ron McPherson? Was there a lot of laughter involved?

We shot the video in a sweet little residence in Laurel Canyon. I had never met Ron before but we had good chemistry right away. He’s a really nice guy. I had to nuzzle up and get some instant intimacy going and it was very easy to break the ice with him. Trevor was there all day for the filming and answered any questions I had. I improvised throughout filming because, as I was saying, I find my emotions through improvisation. Direction was tight and precise on the project.

Nicholaus Goossen was just amazing. The video had its complexities because there’s the camera, the camera in the laptop (which was filming some of the footage), the song that plays, etc. Back to your question, was there a lot of laughter involved? The comedy is grounded in reality in this case. What I mean is that the couple is not in on the joke. So, yes, laughter in between takes but real emotion had to be generated to ground the experience the couple was having. It’s hard to analyze comedy, that’s for sure…but I believe the shock of what they expect and what actually happens is anchored in their innocence. The comedy comes from somewhere around there, I believe.

In your opinion, what would you consider your dream role? What is that role that you would absolutely love to get?

Who knows, really… I have been lucky so far and I am grateful. I have played a myriad of characters and I have gotten to explore so much emotionally. I marvel at many incredible performances I’ve seen. For instance, I love the role Shelley Winters plays in Lolita, Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton, Cherry Jones’s role in Transparent. I enjoy tender roles for women as well, such as J. Smith-Cameron’s work as the mother of Daniel Holden in Rectify. I’m a little darker, though. I have played some meanies (that’s what I call them). It’s a wild place in your mind where you go to motivate and own a badass. Comedy, of course, is my other love, my first love. Ironically, I have more control over my badasses than I have over my comedic characters. I prepare for both, however I never know what’s going to happen in comedy. I have to step off a cliff.


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

Who knows, really… I know I will continue to age. lol And that’s a factor in what the future holds for anybody. I know a great role is coming for me. When we meet, we will be like long lost friends. Sometimes you get a role and the memorization is like butter on warm bread. I long to meet characters that will bring me to emotions I need to traverse.

I am in two films that are headed to festivals. One is Emily, written and directed by Jean-Marc Demmer. The other is still in post, The Last Crow, written and directed by Jake Miller and Paul Cadenhead. Both experiences were wonderful.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Probably a man, but I hate to admit that.

Check out the above mentioned sketch for Trevor Moore’s “The Ballad of Billy John” right here, courtesy of Comedy Central: