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Actor David Banks Puts on 20 Pounds Of Muscle for New Role and Says, ‘Sayonara Skinny’

Photo by: Gaylord Hill

Photo by: Gaylord Hill

They say actors can always just sit and wait around for the right roles and auditions to come along. But David Banks was never about the status quo. Instead the actor –who’s credits include more than 100 commercials as well as the features “The Dark Tapes,” and “CUT!” chooses to shine by doing things his own way.

Case in point. Banks’ upcoming project, “Preacher Six” required the wisecracking funnyman to gain more than twenty pounds. To reach his goal in the quickest amount of time, Banks hit the weights hard and supplemented his routine with Optimum Nutrition products.

I recently spoke with him about his dramatic transformation and his upcoming projects in this exclusive new interview.

“Preacher Six” required you to gain some weight. How were you safely able to put on 20 pounds of muscle?

My character is one of those heavily caffeinated, fast-talking lug types. I’ve been the skinny, twerpy guy for a long time. So when they asked me if I’d be ok with putting on ten pounds I said, “Why not go for twenty?” Robert Corbett and the guys at Optimum Nutrition really helped get me get on the gain train! Their gainer shakes and Amino Energy quickly became my new best friends.

What was your exercises routine like? 

I went the resistance route. Lifted heavier than normal and whenever I wanted to stop, I did two more. I got to the point of excitement that I’d hit the scales just to see how much heavier I was than the day prior. I also set my alarm clock to wake me up in the middle of the night to devour tuna and protein shakes.

What can you tell me about “Preacher Six”?

The minute I picked up the script I literally couldn’t put it down. Tracy Ray [screenwriter] is onto something really big here! “Preacher Six” is the story of a small town preacher who’s summoned to the big city where he ends up fighting evil. The characters he meets along the journey are something special and unique! The film also stars Naomi Grossman (American Horror Story), Zach Galligan (Gremlins), Kyle Hester (The Chair) and Bill Oberst Jr. (Criminal Minds). Kyle and I have been talking about working together for years, so I’m excited it’s finally happening. He is an absolute talent.

You’ve recently stepped away from commercials to be a little more involved in films. Is there one you enjoy doing more than the other?

I’ve always had a strong love for commercials and enjoy the process of it a little bit more. It’s fascinating with everything that goes into a simple thirty-second spot. 

David Banks - (Before)

David Banks – (Before)

What’s the biggest compliment you’ve heard so far about any of your commercials?

“Wow, you were so annoying!” [laughs]. I think the minute I stop being the aggravating, irritating and imbecilic idiot next door is when I know it’ll be time to quit.

You have two other movies coming out soon, “Half Magic” and “Bornless Ones”. What can you tell me about them?

“Half Magic” is Heather Graham’s directorial debut and was an absolute blessing to be a part of. She really put her heart into this one and is one of the most giving actresses I’ve ever worked with. I also got to work alongside Chris D’Elia and it was non-stop laughs.

“Bornless Ones” will be out sometime in early 2017. Alexander Babaev [director] is absolutely going to be huge! I’m excited about that one as well.

 What do you enjoy most about the creative process?

I’d have to say my favorite part is witnessing how it all comes together in the editing process. I also tend to lean more towards the seriously dark and depressing characters in a film and am fascinated by the ability one has to turn on the “crazy” switch.

Have you ever given thought to your next writing / producing project?

Absolutely! I had so much fun watching my last writing adventure; “CUT!” come to life. I’m already working on a new film even more twisted [laughs].

‘Night Cries’: Actress / Filmmaker Brigitte Kingsley Discusses New Psychological Thriller

Written and directed by Andrew Cymek, “Night Cries” is a psychological thriller about a man searching for his wife in a post-apocalyptic world.

The film took home the Best Screenplay award when it premiered at the Blood In The Snow film festival last November, and for good reason. Cymek and his partner, Brigitte Kingsley have become masters at delivering multi-layered stories with beautiful cinematography and passionate musical scores to all of their projects. “Night Cries” is a thought provoking film that plays on the ultimate question we have in life, and just how far we’d go to find our one true love.

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The beautiful Kingsley plays the role of Sara Morgan in “Night Cries”. A strong, defiant wife and mother who finds herself lost in a world she doesn’t recognize. The film also stars Andrew Cymek, Colin Mochrie, Lauren Williams and Jacob Blair.

Night Cries is available now for pre-order now in various packages and will be shipped on December 14. This will be followed by a world wide digital release in the New Year.

I recently spoke with Kingsley about “Night Cries” and more in this exclusive interview.

How did the Night Cries project originally come about?

I first met Andrew back in 1999 when he and I were both in school. He was doing a ten-minute short called “Night Cries” that was inspired by these characters. We shot the short and I remember thinking that it was a really cool story. Now fast forward to 2012 when we started our company, Good Soldier Films. We were trying to figure out a good pilot project to launch the company with and decided to create a “Night Cries” feature. Andrew had already worked out the characters in his head. He wrote the feature and we jumped into it.

In your opinion, what makes the story of “Night Cries” so special?

I think the main push is the cyclical feeling you get when you watch it. There’s so much thought that went into the imagery and ideas behind the story and you see that in various ways throughout the production. It’s a very in depth look at life and death. Andrew wanted to forward the idea of the end of the world, but he also wanted to go more into a personal apocalypse when someone’s world ends. There’s a lot of layers to it and that’s what makes it so cool.

What was the casting process like?

A lot of the characters were written with certain people already in mind. Colin Mochrie was someone we instantly knew we wanted to work with. He has so much depth to his acting but doesn’t often have a chance to do things this sinister. We thought he’d be great fit for the role of The Hat. A lot the other actors, like Lauren (Angel) Williams and Jacob Blair, we had worked with on other projects before.

You mentioned Colin Mochrie. What was it like working with him?

Colin is one of my favorite people in the world. He’s so defined as an actor and comes extremely prepared. He was only out for a few days but was such a pleasure to be around.

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A lot of attention is paid to the music and cinematography in this film. Can you speak a little as to how these are important to you?

They’re both very important to us. We’ve worked with Josh Fraiman (cinematographer) for several years on various projects. Although we had a small crew we made sure to take the time to give him the beautiful shots he wanted. When it comes to the music, Emir Isilay (our composer) is an extremely talented guy. Andrew sent him the ideas of what he had in mind and when the music came back the first time around he had tears in his eyes because it was exactly what he had envisioned. Going from one world to another and bringing sense to a certain level. It was epic and beautiful.

What are some of the other projects you’re currently working on?

“The Man In the Shadows” is another film that’s available for pre-order. It’s a story by Adam Tomlinson that’s based on the real phenomenon of shadow people. Adam had experienced a man in a hat and coat that that had haunted him a few times. He looked into it and found that it’s actually an apparition that happens to many people around the world. He wrote a script that’s partially based on his experiences and the people he had spoken to. “Country Crush” is also coming out in the New Year. It’s a country musical that stars Jana Cramer, Madeline Merlo and Munroe Chambers.

As a filmmaker, what satisfies you the most about seeing a completed project?

As a filmmaker, the thing you want is for your work to mean something. So when a stranger comes up and tells you that your work touched them or made them realize something they hadn’t thought about before, that’s what matters.

‘The Killing of America’: Director Sheldon Renan Discusses U.S. Release of Ominous Documentary

killingofamericaWhen they asked Sheldon Renan to watch The Killing of America at a recent film festival, it was the first time the director had seen the film he had worked on since it was released thirty-five years ago. Afterwards, Renan remarked how amazed he was at how well the film played more than three decades later and how relevant its message still was in 21st century America.

Originally produced in 1981, Renan, along with co-producers Leonard Schrader and Matachiro Yamamoto set out to document America’s seemingly unending love affair with violence. From iconic newsreel footage to chilling interviews with convicted killers, Renan and his team sought to depict a terrifying aspect of Reagan-era America through a brutally honest lens. Despite some limited theatrical showings, the documentary has never received an official American release, until now.

The Killing of America is told in narrative style. Describing horrifically tragic events of the last half-century with pinpoint accuracy and chilling realism. But perhaps more than anything else, the film is an ominous reminder that social, economic and racial injustice as well as the proliferation of personal firearms has not abated in the thirty-five years since the documentary’s creation.

I recently spoke with Renan about The Killing of America and more in this exclusive interview.

How did you become involved in The Killing of America project?

I had done a lot of heavy research in the world of homicide and gun culture in preparation for a script I was working on when I met Leonard Schrader and Matachiro Yamamoto. They wanted to use the film Faces of Death as a springboard for this new project they were working on about homicide and violence. They were looking to put together a team of young filmmakers that were very ambitions and loved films, but they were having trouble finding clips. I had come out of the film archivist world and put together some clips for them. It was exactly what they were looking for and they asked me if I could help them.

What was the initial reaction like to the film when it premiered and why has it never received a proper U.S. release until now?

The film was initially made to be released in the fall in Japan. It was the seventh highest grosser there that year as well as a hit in a number of other countries. The company that bought the rights to distribute the film in America did a preview for coming attractions, but a high ranking official thought it was taboo and would terrify people. I even remember at the cast and crew screening about a third of the people walked out.

Aside from the fashion and vintage cars, the documentary looks like something you’d see on the news today.

Although it looks like a documentary, nothing is fake or has been rigged. The only change is that the sound has been enhanced in some places. Len’s writing is incredible and Chuck Riley’s voice in the narration could cut through metal. He was telling a complete story. A narrative arc about the subject. By the end, you’re inside the mind of killers, which isn’t very comfortable.

What are some of the parallels you see today as compared to when the film was made?

It’s the same pattern. The main thing is that the person pulling the trigger is usually someone who has a very bad sense of self-esteem. I remember the L.A. coroner telling us that it comes down to the person deciding whether to kill themselves or someone else. When you’re unhappy about something in yourself, you tend to project that flaw onto other people.

What have you learned about us as a society by making this film and seeing it again thirty-five years later?

You observe that if you don’t treat people well or if they’re not raised well and given structure and self-esteem, you’re going to pay for it later in a very bad way. You also can’t let emotion rule you because the long-term effects can be enormously devastating. The third thing is that people have to have the right to have access to and have guns as it says in the Constitution–but not one that can punch a hole in a tank and not without background checks.

Is there a message you think viewers should take away from watching The Killing of America?

If you’ve had a lot of violence in your life this is a film you shouldn’t see or show to your kids, as you’ll find it very upsetting. Early on, the coroner’s office allowed us to film and the day we were there L.A. was in the middle of a crime wave and they were running six autopsy tables at one time. This is a complex phenomenon and something you can’t run away from. This film is one step in thinking about and understanding violence and how epidemic it is in American culture and recognizing that you cannot escape the connection between it and the easy availability of guns. People also need to be careful about this loose talk about destroying our infrastructure because you don’t like one party, candidate or president. Because what lies on the other side is nothing we want to go back to.

‘Insecure’: Actress Veronica Mannion Discusses New HBO Series, Career

(Photo credit: Anne Marie Fox)

(Photo credit: Anne Marie Fox)

Veronica Mannion is fast becoming a rising force in the celestial world of the Hollywood scene.

The beautiful actress–who’s also spent time as a standup comedienne–can currently be seen in the HBO comedy series, Insecure. The show, based on series creator and star Issa Rae’s web series “Awkward Black Girl”, follows the exploits and racy tribulations of a modern-day African-American woman.

Mannion plays the recurring role of Kitty—Issa’s co-worker—who tries to be her friend throughout the season but almost sabotages one of Issa’s work projects due to her gossiping and prejudiced skepticism.

In additional to an impressive resume that includes stints on Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” and FX’s “American Horror Story”, Mannion has also written, directed and appeared in the film “Booze, Boys & Brownies”.

I recently spoke with her about Insecure, her career and more in this exclusive new interview.

How did your involvement in “Insecure” come about?

I was one of the lucky chosen to audition for the pilot. They booked me off tape so I didn’t even have to come in for a callback. I shot the pilot last September and then heard they wrote me into four more episodes in April. It was a dream come true scenario!

What was it that attracted you to the role?

Kitty’s the kind of person who tries too hard. She may be sweet but ends up coming across as annoying and judgmental. I think that I have that side to me, so it’s been fun channeling that version of myself.

What else can you tell me about her?

Kitty works with Issa at We Got Ya’ll and really thinks she’s making a difference at her desk job helping underprivileged kids.  She loves anything vintage, her co-worker Ken, and cats… obviously.

How would you describe the series? 

“Insecure” follows the awkward experiences and racy tribulations of a modern-day African-American woman, Issa Rae, and her best friend, Molly.  Some people are saying it’s like the black “GIRLS” or “Sex In The City”, but I think it’s what every HBO show wants to be: laugh out loud funny, authentic and with a lot of heart!

As a woman, what’s its like for you to be a part of a series that was inspired and created by Issa? 

Issa is an inspiration, not only to me but I think for all of us on set and for women everywhere. She’s so talented, funny, real and kind. She’s created not just an amazing show but a great atmosphere on set… and I think she’s going to change the world!

What’s the filming process like and working with Issa? 

A typical day can last from six to twelve hours. Since this was the first season the way it was shot and the tone (and even what our characters were eating or doing) was all a collaborative feeling. Issa definitely has a strong vision and point of view, but she was also open to people bringing themselves to the role. Everyone contributed to making Insecure the best it could be. It felt like one big family!

Did you always know that you wanted a career in entertainment? Was it something you always aspired to do?

I was one of those little girls singing in my living room, playing dress up and dreaming about the big lights of Hollywood.  My mom taught me that your thoughts create and to go for what you love to do. So here I am!

How did you become involved in doing stand-up comedy?

I started doing stand up when I moved to LA as a way to get on stage and get my acting fix! I realized that you don’t just have to tell jokes – you can do characters, sing, or even improvise with the audience. Stand up became my performance outlet. Somewhere where I could feel like I had power over my career just by making people laugh.

What’s the most challenging part of doing stand-up? What do you enjoy the most about it?

Probably the scene of it all and breaking through that next barrier. I don’t enjoy the bros, or the drunk hecklers but I love the immediate response of the crowd! You really have to be present during stand up because people will glaze over if you just go on stage and go on autopilot. You really have to be on your toes.

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

I just filmed a small role on “FEUD!” opposite Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange. It’s Ryan Murphy’s new FX show that premieres next year!  You can catch me in Episode 2.

What excites you the most about the new series and this next chapter of your career? What are you most looking forward to?

I feel very lucky to see my face on HBO!  I remember watching the second episode and thinking, “This is crazy! I’ve watched HBO all my life wanting to be on it and there’s my face!” I’m looking forward to more fun parts and more work with talented, good people! Whatever happens, I’m definitely enjoying the ride and feel so lucky to be apart of such a new awesome show.  I hope you watch and love it as much as I do!

‘The Caretaker’: Actress Meegan Warner Discusses Supernatural Thriller

thecaretakerWritten by Jeremy Robinson and directed by Jeff Prugh, “The Caretaker” is a new character-driven thriller that tells the story of a young woman who returns home to care for her gravely ill grandmother.

The film stars the beautiful Meegan Warner (Mary on AMC’s critically acclaimed series, TURN: Washington’s Spies) as Mallorie, an empathetic young woman who wants to do well by her grandmother. But in the process of staying in her grandmother’s vast Victorian home, Mallorie encounters bouts of sleepwalking and envisioning spirits, all while uncovering dark secrets about her family’s past.

“The Caretaker” was an official selection at Indie Horror Film Festival where it took home three awards, including the Director’s Choice Award. The film was also an official selection at FilmQuest, HellaCon, Gasparilla and the Fantastic Horror film festivals.

I recently spoke with Warner about “The Caretaker”, the final season of TURN, her career and more in this exclusive new interview!

How did this project come about for you? 

It was a pretty standard procedure. My agents sent me the script, I went in and taped with the casting directors and was later asked to come in for a chemistry read with [co-star] Sean Martini. Then a few weeks later, we were all on set!

What was it that attracted you to the role?

I remember coming in for the chemistry read and workshopping the audition scenes. It was the first time I met Jeff [Prugh], who was completely open to improvisation and suggestions. Meeting everyone and seeing how passionate and determined they were really drew me in. I just remember walking out of the room really wanting to be a part of the project.

How would you describe the story of “The Caretaker”?

“The Caretaker” is a character-driven thriller about a young woman named Mallorie who returns home to care for her sick grandmother only to discover that things aren’t as they seem. 

What can you tell me about your character, Mallorie?

Mallorie was such a gift to play because she had so much going on. She grew up with the knowledge that her mother abandoned her and her grandmothers health is deteriorating, She also struggles with her own mental heath problems and sleep disorders. I liked that she wasn’t your typical damaged horror movie girl though. She has great relationships outside of her family life. 

Meegan Warner (left) and Sean Martini in The Caretaker

Meegan Warner (left) and co-star Sean Martini in The Caretaker

What was the filming process like?

The whole experience was amazing. It was one of those projects where you didn’t want it to end. Jeff and Jeremy were awesome to work with. So open to ideas and encouraged improvisation. It was a very creative set to be on. The house we shot in was incredible and definitely added to the film. I remember Jeff saying something like he wanted the action taking place downstairs to feel like a drama and the events taking place upstairs to feel like a thriller. He really wanted the upper level of the house to have a dangerous vibe.

What do you think makes horror such a great genre? 

I think like any genre, it’s that escapism –the thrill and adrenaline. I love horror movies. If I’m choosing a movie to watch I usually gravitate towards horror. When you think about it, scaring yourself is a pretty strange thing to enjoy!

Did you always know that you wanted to have a career in entertainment? Was it something you always aspired to do?

The thought of being an actress never really crossed my mind when I was a kid. That whole world seemed so far removed from my upbringing. It wasn’t until I was fourteen that I decided acting was something I wanted to do. I did the school play and just loved the whole experience. I don’t remember the exact moment when it went from being a fun thing to do to a career option, but it happened quickly and from that point on I was pretty determined to figure out how to make it work.

What are you most looking forward to about with the final season of “TURN: Washington’s Spies”? What can fans expect from the show and from your character, Mary?

I’m really excited and curious to see how the writers will wrap it up: if we’ll have time jumps and finish the war or if we’ll just continue on from Season 3. I know absolutely nothing, so I can’t tease anything! But I can’t wait to read the first script, and I hope Mary continues to surprise!

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

TURN will start filming soon, so over the next few months I’ll be working on that. After we wrap, who knows? That’s the exciting part about this job. You never know what’s next! I’d also like to give a shout out to another horror film I did in Australia. It’s called “Scare Campaign” and it’s getting a U.S release later this month. So please keep a look out!

“The Caretaker” is available now in multiple formats.

‘It Happened Again Last Night’: Actress Amanda Wyss Talks Powerful Short-Film, Other Upcoming Projects

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Actress Amanda Wyss has built an indelible legacy with her eclectic body of work. Whether it’s her role as Tina Gray in the horror classic “A Nightmare on Elm Street”; her dramatic portrayal as Rabbit Layton in the 1989 Sundance Award-Winning film, “Powwow Highway” or even more recently, as a psychotic killer in television’s CSI, Wyss has a earned a reputation for portraying deep, emotionally-driven characters that progress the story forward.

One of Wyss’ most important projects to date may be filmmaker Gabrielle Stone’s upcoming short, “It Happened Again Last Night” . A film that tells the story of a woman named Paige [played by Stone], who must choose between love and fear before she has no choices left to make. Wyss portrays Paige’s mother in a flashback sequence but much like every role she plays, brings about an extra layer of honest creativity.

2016 has certainly been one of Wyss’ most successful years. In addition to her involvement in “It Happened Again Last Night” she was recently awarded Best Actress honors at the Santa Monica International Film Festival for her work in Paul Santana’s horror short, Oct 23rd. She’s also received high praise for her recurring role as Kat Cooper in the TNT series “Murder in the First” as well as the lonely woman caring for her domineering father in the upcoming thriller, “The ID”.

I recently spoke with Wyss about “It Happened Again Last Night” as well as her other upcoming projects in this exclusive new interview.

How did you become involved in “It Happened Again Last Night”?

Gabrielle Stone is such a smart, go-getting, incredibly talented young lady. She wrote and directed this film along with Roze and they asked me to be involved. I play Gabrielle’s mom in flashbacks. It’s an important story about domestic violence and not being able to choose who you love and about having to take care of yourself.

Photo by: Chris Heck

Still from ‘It Happened Again Last Night’ – Photo by: Chris Heck

As an actress, what attracts you to a script?

Obviously, it’s the story and about being challenged. But I also ask myself a lot of questions, like is it a role I can do justice to and will I be able to use the character to help move the story forward. With this role, I really loved the story and the people involved. Even though it’s a small part, it’s a very powerful moment where you get to see Gabrielle’s character become who she is. It was something I knew I wanted to be a part of.

What was it like working with Gabrielle on this project?

She’s fantastic. Gabrielle and Roze both knew exactly what they wanted and had the story so well thought out. We all had time to really go over the script together and talk about these characters and about why we were doing what were doing. Even though it was such a heavy piece, it was a fun environment to be in and everyone brought their “A” game.

Can you give me an update on another film that’s been creating a lot of buzz for you – “The ID”?

It’s going to be released at the end of October on Blu-Ray and then in November on digital. It was such a good role and the reviews for it have been really great!

How would you describe the story?

It’s the story about a woman and her father and the interesting dynamic of what happens between two people who are in a caregiver relationship. They’re both trapped in the past and trapped in their home—each with their own reasons for not leaving. How do you cope with that and how does your psyche interpret that information in order to create a better world in your mind than for what is actually happening? It’s definitely not a recipe for success—or for the faint of heart! 

Are there any other projects you’re working on?

I’ll be going to New York in a few weeks to start work on “The Watcher of Park Ave” where I’ll be playing a retired, hard-working detective. Then in the spring I’ll be doing a movie called “Catch A Fallen Star” that we’ll be shooting in Nashville. It’s another really good script where I’ll be playing Dee Wallace’s [character’s] sister. I love country music and am really excited about it.

 What are you most looking forward to about the next phase of your career?

I just love making movies, creating characters and digging deep into interesting people. So I’m looking forward to getting more of this joy. It’s been so fun getting to work with such young, enthusiastic filmmakers who have such wonderful projects going on.

Follow the progress of “It Happened Again Last Night” on Twitter.

Actress Alex Lynn Ward Discusses ‘It Happened Again Last Night’, Upcoming Projects

AlexLynnWardBorn and raised in New York City, Alex Lynn Ward grew up in a place that had plenty of resources to feed her acting bug.

She was accepted into the Drama Program at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts at the age of thirteen where she began honing her craft.

From there, her passionate work ethic led to conservatory and making her way to Los Angeles where she landed multiple film and television roles in addition to being part of national tour and hitting the stage in London.

Although well-versed in both drama and comedic genres (she’s also a stand-up comic), the beautiful Ward has recently taken on perhaps her most important role yet in Gabrielle Stone’s upcoming short-film, “It Happened Again Last Night” — a film that tells the story of Paige [Stone], a woman who must choose between love and fear before she has no choices left to make.

The producers have set up an Indiegogo campaign to help with the film’s completion and with fan support have already surpassed their goal. They’re now working towards a stretch goal, which includes some really amazing perks.

I recently spoke with Alex Lynn Ward about her role in “It Happened Again Last Night” and more in this new interview.

How did you become involved in “It Happened Again Last Night”?

I’ve been friends with Gabrielle for years. She’s actually one of the first people I met when I moved to L.A. from New York. She had been writing drafts of this script for a long time and had always asked me to read it. So when it came time to make the film she told me she’d love for me to play this role. I said, “Absolutely!”

What was it about the project that piqued your interest?

I loved the story and all of the things it stands for. On the creative side, I’ve wanted to work with Gabrielle for a long time. Opportunities like this don’t come around very often.

Photo by: Chris Heck

Photo by: Chris Heck

How would you describe the story of “It Happened Again Last Night”?

It’s the story of a girl named Paige who’s in an abusive relationship and is also involved in a relationship with my character, Kris. Paige doesn’t know what the right decision is but she has to choose between fear and love before she runs out of time, and she knows it’s getting to the end.

What else can you tell me about your character, Kris?

Kris is very in love with Paige. She’s also strong and very matter of fact with no BS. Although Kris and I are complete opposites I identified with her so much. It was cathartic to play this role.

What was the filming process like?

I can’t say enough good things about it. It was the smoothest, easiest and most stress free shoot. There was so much love in the room and everyone was on board from the very beginning. Gabrielle was so on and it was exciting to get to see her direct.

Photo by: Chris Heck

Photo by: Chris Heck

Did you always know that you want to have a career in entertainment?

I did. I grew up in New York City so the opportunity was always there. When I was 13, I got accepted into the Frank Sinatra School of The Arts where we had celebrity mentors and intense theater training. I knew then that this was what I wanted to do.

Are there any other projects you’re working on?

My Star Wars fan film recently won the JJ Abrams Audience Choice Award for our short, “The Sable Corsair”. That’s up now on Star Wars.com and is very exciting! I’m currently collaborating with WhoHaHa.com. It’s Elizabeth Banks’ new venture to spotlight funny women. They have a few of my YouTube videos and we’re working on some original content as well. I’m also going to start work on a new short that’s part of “Twilight Zone”-themed anthology called “Spades”.

What are you looking forward to about the release of “It Happened Again Last Night”?

I’m so excited about this film. Everything is so beautiful and so well done. It speaks to what I really stand for and I feel the end product is going to be reflection of just how awesome it was to make. This is really going to be something special. 

‘Malacostraca’: Filmmaker Charles Pieper Discusses Psychological Horror Film

MalacostracaFilmmaker Charles Pieper probably never would have dreamed that an idea he had for a college creative writing assignment would come to life.

But not only will Pieper’s psychological exploration of the fragility of the human mind become a short film, but the talented writer/director has enlisted the talents of actors Amber Bollinger and Charlie Pecoraro as well as practical creature puppetry and special effects by none other than legendary artist, Gabe Bartalos in making his vision a reality.

Pieper sees Malacostraca as a horrifically scary film that’s full of universally relatable feelings and fears. It will have a tone of trapped dread and nature-based horror. Think “Possession” meets “Picnic at Hanging Rock”. 

Horror fans can also help bring Malacostraca to life by contributing to the project’s Indigogo campaign, which has already garnered more than $10,000. Pieper and his team have several unique perks available as a thank you for helping to support independent films.

I recently spoke with Pieper about Malacostraca and more in this exclusive new interview.

When did the idea for Malacostraca originate?

This idea for the film actually goes all the way back to 2007. I was in college studying film and had been taking a lot of writing classes. For one of the classes, I wanted to try to come up with the most disturbing image that I could, and something that would even freak me out. I ruminated on that for a while and out came this initial image of a crawdad crawling across a sleeping woman in a bathing suit who had just been swimming. To make things even more uncomfortable, the woman’s husband was watching and almost yelled to wake her up, but then decided not to because he’s morbidly intrigued by what the crawdad is going to do. It was uncomfortable and unsettling. It was the start of this really creepy story and about pushing the boundaries of what I was comfortable writing about. Years went by and I eventually ended up working in L.A. doing stop-motion animation and music videos. I never thought I’d ever be able to do this kind of short film but spent the last two years meeting people and developing it out. Now we’re halfway into a two-month campaign and have already raised more than $10,000!

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You’ve got two amazing actors tied to this project in Charlie Pecoraro and Amber Bollinger. What can you tell me about them?

I’ve known Amber and Charlie for a long time. I first met them back in 2009 when I was working on a series that they were acting in and we really hit it off. Amber and Charlie have been friends for a long time and since they’re playing a married couple, they already bring chemistry to the project. In fact, when I revised the short story I wrote it with them in mind as the characters.

How would you describe the story of Malacostraca?

It’s a psychological, relationship horror film with monster elements. To me, the scariest thing in real life would be when your body or mind was working against you while you’re stuck with someone you shouldn’t be with.

Gabe Bartalos

Gabe Bartalos

How did legendary FX artist Gabe Bartalos become involved in the project?

I used to work for Gabe at his company (Atlantic West) for a few years. We both share similar interests, both in horror and in art. We became friendly and the two of us stayed in touch. Once I felt the script was ready to present I ran the idea past him. He loved it and jumped on board. Gabe almost never does short films like this so it’s very exciting!

Let’s discuss the project’s Indigogo campaign. What are some of the perks donators can receive for contributing?

The most exciting perk happened shortly after we became an Indiewire Project of the Day. Because of that, Creepy Co reached out to us and offered to make us an enamel pin of the baby monster as a perk. They’re a great company that’s made a limited edition run of 300. We brainstormed like crazy to create interesting perks that were different from most campaigns. So you can also get things like original art, prints and even a storyboard artist’s concept design. Every donation helps.

What’s next for the project?

The campaign ends in September and once that’s finished, the majority of the funds will go toward building out the rest of the puppets. We’re hoping to have everything ready to shoot by the end of the year. Once the film is complete, donors who backed it at the $25 and up level will be given early access through a website secret password. As a whole, the movie will be sent to all horror festivals sometime next year.

What the most looking part about Malacostraca? What are you most looking forward to about it?

The most exciting thing for me is the culmination of years of development leading up to this. To see something that I initially wrote as an idea in 2007 become a film and then to have a creature made by one my favorite special effects artists of all time will be the best. Everything else will be icing on top of this terrific cake!

‘It Happened Again Last Night’: Multi-talented Actress and Filmmaker Gabrielle Stone Talks New Project

GabrielleStoneSome know actress Gabrielle Stone for her inspiring performances in such horror films as “Speak No Evil,” “CUT!,” and “Zombie Killers”. But the beautiful daughter of legendary actors Dee Wallace and Christopher Stone has a creative side few have seen –that is until now.

This fall Stone, along with her project partner, Roze will unveil their new short-film, “It Happened Again Last Night”.

A passion project for Stone, the film not only features a group of seasoned actors –including Amanda Wyss, Randy Wayne, Chris Mulkey and Alex Lynn Ward, but was also written, directed and produced by the creative duo of Stone and Roze. Stone also takes on the emotional role of Paige in “It Happened Again Last Night”, showcasing her versatile acting prowess.

The producers have set up an Indigogo campaign (with some really amazing perks) where fans can contribute to help with the film’s completion.

 I recently spoke with Gabrielle Stone about “It Happened One Night” and more in this exclusive new interview.

When did the idea for “It Happened Again Last Night” begin?

 I initially wrote a script I wanted to do as an actress, but once I brought in Roze [co-writer/co-director] things quickly evolved. After we had settled on our final draft, it was clear what a powerful story we had. The subject matter of domestic violence is not often spoken about publicly and we wanted to depict it in a real and truthful way. The LGBTQ themes were also in the script from the very beginning. I have a lot of people in my life who are in same sex relationships and I really wanted to do a piece that shows the strength I witness in all of them.

How would you describe the story?

It’s the story about a woman [Paige] who’s struggling to own who she really is. Paige is stuck in an abusive relationship with Stephen (Randy Wayne) while her heart is with Kris (Alex Lynn Ward). In the end, she must choose between fear and love before she has no choices left to make.

 What can you tell me about your character, Paige?

Honestly, it was a very emotional experience playing Paige. There was a real sense of responsibility in bringing realness to this character. I remember after we had finished a highly emotional scene, Alex (Lynn Ward) came into the make-up room and looked like she was about to burst into tears. Alex and I have been friends for years and she’s always been the funny and lighthearted one in the room. She was so affected by watching me in the state I was in and feeling the reality that women actually go through this that it really hit her.

There are a lot of notable actors involved in this project. What can you tell me about them?

They’re all amazing. We were incredibly lucky to get such great talent on board and I think most of that has to do with them believing in the material. Every person brought everything they had to set and everyone gave incredible performances.

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Do you have a tentative release date for the film?

We’ve already got a picture lock and it’s currently with sound and color correction. We’re now in the process of raising the last bit of funds to cover post-production costs, marketing, and festival submission. Our goal is to be finished by mid-September to start submitting to festivals.

What are some of the perks fans can receive by supporting your Indigogo campaign?

We genuinely appreciate everyone who believes in this project and has been helping us by donating or sharing. I truly believe this film is going to affect people and hopefully will help heal some as well. We’ve got some great things to offer as a thank you. Everything from fully signed film posters, digital downloads, scripts signed by our entire cast and even dinner with Randy Wayne and I.

Are there any other projects you’re working on right now?

My film, “Ava’s Impossible Things” is currently available on Vimeo and I have “Death House” and “Dance Night Obsession” coming out later this year. I’ve also recently signed on to a horror film that hasn’t been publicly announced yet.

What’s the best bit of advice your mom has given you as an actress / artist?

Be authentic. Live in love. Don’t act.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about the creative process while working on this project?

This entire process has taught me to trust my instincts and has reassured me that I know what I’m doing in the creative world. I also have a greater understanding and new appreciation for people on the other side of the business. This is a passion project I’ve held close from beginning to end and to finally be able to show it to the world and have people experience what we’ve been working on will be incredible. For me to say “I’ve made my first film” is a huge accomplishment for me and I couldn’t have picked better people to be involved with it. It’s something we’re all truly proud of.

‘Fight Valley’: Writer/Director Rob Hawk Discusses Action Packed Film

robredcamWriter and director Rob Hawk spent much of his early childhood as a skateboarder and break-dancer before transitioning his time into the studio creating and editing rap music videos. Eventually, his creativity got the best of him and he found himself having to write and create more. He quickly moved from doing three-minute music videos to the world of film and hasn’t looked back since.

Now Hawk has unveiled his first feature length release –the appropriately titled, “Fight Valley”. A film loosely based on his love of “The Outsiders” and growing up in a tough neighborhood, Hawk tells the story of one woman’s journey to find vengeance and closure in a dark, underground fighting ring.

The action-packed thrill ride also features three of the fiercest women in the hardcore UFC: Miesha Tate, Holly Holm and Cris Cyborg.

I recently spoke with Hawk about Fight Valley, working with Miesha Tate, Holly Holm and Cris Cyborg, his career and more in this exclusive interview.

Where did the idea for “Fight Valley” begin?

I grew up in a gang-populated neighborhood where I forced to run around with one of them, just to stay safe. I’ve always loved the movie, “The Outsiders” and wanted to mix my love for it with a little bit of my own personal life but wanted create it with females. The original idea was to involve real fighting sequences and get people who could really take a hit. But it was hard to find an actor and say to them, “Ok, this girl is going to punch you in the face!” [laughs]. So I decided to get some trained fighters who do it for a living. That’s how it came about.

Was the idea always to include UFC fighters like Miesha Tate, Holly Holm and Cris Cyborg?

It really just evolved into it. I hadn’t really followed the UFC much but started doing some research. I originally spoke with Ronda Rousey’s team about doing the film but she wasn’t going to be available. But while I was doing research on Ronda, these three other women’s names kept coming up. With more research, I found out that they all had some real friction against each other. It was perfect timing!

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What was the writing process like?

Even before I sat down to write, I had been planning this film in my head for about eight months. I always try to play it over in my head and then visualize it on screen. When I finally sat down, it just came right out and took me about nine days to write.

How would describe the story of “Fight Valley”?

As I was writing, I tried putting myself in a real life situation by asking myself, what would you do if someone came to you and said that they found your brother dead in the woods? Naturally, the first thing you’d think about is who did this to my brother. You would want revenge.

 In Windsor’s case [Susie Celek], she hears her sister died in Fight Valley and she decides to go there. Then she discovers that Fight Valley isn’t really a place; it’s all of Camden, and there’s an underground scene where girls who have no jobs or money could fight and get paid for it. She eventually finds out her sister was killed in a street fight and decides to fight the girl who did it and make her pay. The problem is, Windsor is a rich girl who’s never broken anything other than a broken nail in her entire life. So Miesha takes her under her wing to train her. She already knows there’s no way Windsor’s going to win, but she decides to train her anyway because she wants her to have closure. 

What do you think makes the UFC style of fighting so popular with people?

The human race is very completive and one where everyone is so busy and on the edge trying to get ahead. So it’s cool to come home the end of a hard day and watch people beat the crap out of each other—and know that it’s not you! [laughs]. The other cool thing about it is that instead of rooting for a whole team, you get attached to and root for a single person.

What was the filming process like?

It was very challenging, especially with scheduling. It was nine days of crunch time in the heat and fighting. It was my first, full feature movie and I really learned a lot.

Did you always know that you wanted to have a career in entertainment?

I did. I had played instruments when I was younger and even entered talent shows in school. I remember being upset at the possibility of losing but once I got on stage and the spotlight came on and I saw my mom looking at me I said, “I want to do this forever!” I started doing rap music and it eventually evolved into making films.

What do you enjoy most about the filmmaking process?

I like the idea of how you can take something from your mind and put it on screen. It’s an awesome process being able to create characters and locations. Then there’s calling “action” and seeing it all come to life. It’s a feeling you can’t really describe.

As an artist and filmmaker, what lessons did you take away from working on “Fight Valley”?

There were a lot of lessons learned ,but I think the most important one is to take your time creating and getting what you want. Because you could work for years and not get distribution, but you never know when that one film will get away from you and go into the mainstream. I love this movie and it’s very dear to me. I’m also very excited about showing everyone what the next step will be.

Fight Valley is available now on multiple streaming services.

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