Here is the complete, unedited interview I did for the OPENFILM.COM blog
What was the inspiration for this film? Was it based on something, or did you write this yourself?
The inspiration for Accidental Art comes from my seething hatred for the contradictions of suburbia. It’s not based on anything real, although trying not to imbue a relationship story with any personal experience is impossible. The short film was always an adaptation of a feature length screenplay’s opening scenes. I wanted to create something that wasn’t a trailer because sometimes the best trailers are not for good movies. I wanted to demonstrate my ability to tell a story and work with actors along with the camera in a cinematic way. If I never made the feature, this was a self contained story with a beginning, middle and end that could exist on its own as a short film. Most movies for the last 15 years or more have used pop-culture references to get their laughs whereas the best films of Blake Edwards and Neil Simon relied on the situation and more universal means to make with the funny. I believe this makes their films more timeless and less constricted to dialogue that exists only in one place and time, which also dates those films. “Accidental Art” is a modernized story in the vein of Blake Edwards and Neil Simon but with more of the Quentin Tarantino/Neil Labute indie film edge. The challenge for the screenplay with the writers (of the feature length script) and myself was to make it funny without relying on the crutch of making a quip that’s got a shelf life of 2-3 years, IE referencing a TV show or specific music.
I wrote and re-wrote this scene alone, but the feature length screenplay was written with collaborators like Alex Newman, Chris Gavaler, and George Caleodis who really made the feature length script much better than it would have been if I wrote it by myself.
How long did it take to create?
I have been working on the screenplay for “Accidental Art” the feature length for over 6 years. Once I committed to doing the first few pages as a short film, it was 6 weeks of rehearsals once a week with the actors, 1 week of prep and a single 11 hour shoot day with a crew of about 22-24 people, a hybrid of professionals and amateurs who learned on the job.
I found that the long rehearsal schedule was worth it entirely because on the shoot, there’s no time to really get into it and play with actors, but that is the single most fun thing about directing for me, so I love rehearsals and playing with actors. We changed a lot of dialogue with the work we did together during that time. On the shoot, we had already worked everything out.
Greg Sabo brought all the resources of his grip and electric company Sabostudios to the table and that raised the bar for everyone who worked on the show. Greg’s cinematography makes the film look as good as it does, hands down.
Then editing was done on weeknights for about 2 weeks to refine it down to the current running time. The digital FX work was done in about 3-4 days and the music was done in a single afternoon by the brilliant composer Bill Wandel, entirely over the phone and email.
If you were to win this competition, would you make any changes to this film?
Yes, I would re-shoot the scene with name actors. I would want to book moderate names like Colin Hanks or Wil Wheaton as the male lead, and even if we don’t win, I’d want to replace the day player role of the repairman with Scott Caan if he is available. It’s a one day shoot and he has the perfect look and character to play there. For the eccentric aunt I’d want to fill that role with an actress of the caliber of Kate Mulgrew (who lives in Ohio anyways). The actors in the original short film are well aware that they may not be in the eventual feature film.
I would also tighten up the dialogue to get into the meat of the scene a little faster. The scene has been tweaked a little already in the screenplay. I want to get the same amount of information in less time and more visually rather than dialogue heavy.
I’d also make sure to get the big 50 foot crane in for the opening shot like I wanted to but didn’t have the time or budget for.
Do you have any upcoming plans for future films? Is there anything you’re currently working on?
I am making “Accidental Art” later this year no matter what. If we don’t win the GET IT MADE competition, we’ll be using a substantially smaller budget and have less star power, but I believe that story is king and this feature length movie and marketing strategy will win out in the end. It won’t be optimal, but in this economy you work within your means. Luckily in Ohio, I can make a movie for a lot less money and pack it with high production values.
I’m executive producing and acting as show-runner on a PBS show called “FRAMELINES” about filmmaking in Ohio. Aside from that, I am working on a webseries called “THE CELL PHONE MONOLOGUES” where we take actor monologs and try to make them as cinematic as possible with writer Mickey Fisher and the best cinematographers in the state. I’m revisiting my short film “Bitter Old Man” to re-do the effects that are now 10 years old. I usually fill my plate to the brim to prevent myself from getting bored and to appease my obsessive compulsive nature.
Anything else you would like to share with me?
I was on a shoot in San Diego when I found out I was a finalist and last night my father called to congratulate me on making the Top Ten finalists on the GET IT MADE COMPETITION. He told me he was proud of me. He had never said that to me in my life, nonetheless in regards to what I’m trying to do as a filmmaker. For that alone, I’ve won something from this contest money could never buy. I consider it an honor just to have our film viewed by film legends like James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Mark Rydell…. And also it’s not so bad to know that Scott Caan is going to see it too. : ) (see the smiley face, Scott? That means I was joking…I saw your film Dallas 362 when it came to Ohio and liked it)