St. John's Confidential File
MICHAEL ST. JOHN”™S CONFIDENTIAL FILE
By Michael St John
Oct 21, 2012 - 12:20:18 PM
HELLO AMERICA!—There are a lot of film directors popping up on the Hollywood scene from every college and film school in America these days. They all are bent on making the greatest motion picture in the world. Most of them unfortunately have more passion for special effects than story. However, this is where we separate the boys from the men. I recently committed to performing in a film called “The Challenge” written insightfully by WILLIAM CAMPBELL, III. The director, BUDDY HOWARD, a bright young Texan who makes it very clear he is one who searches for a good story first and then fills in the canvas with the shape and body of the idea immediately becomes very special. Hearing this made me anxious to talk with our new, young filmmaker.
MSJ: When did you first realize that directing motion pictures would be the most important part of who you are as a creative artist?
A:I have always had a love of films, two films really that made an impact on me as a kid was “Duck Soup” The Marx Brothers and “Help” by the Beatles. There are a ton of films I loved but those two films really pulled me into this completely magical world. The one movie that really sold me on the power of film was “To Kill a Mockingbird “as a kid I could feel the sweet from the court room in the high school I attended offered film as literature class our Teacher Mr. Kopenec taught us how to make a film well sort of we watched the great film makers and he gave us a camera to make movie or better yet to fail. In my book, “What Was I Thinking” because whether you want to sing, act, write, produce, or direct you have to go do it sitting at home with a million dollar headshot does nothing when you have nothing on your resume, I would say anywhere they set up a camera I went to find out what I could do to help them, and me.
MSJ: What film and television directors affected or influenced you the most through the years and why?
A: There are so many great directors my first choice is simple CECIL B. DE MILLE he pardon the pun but dreamt in wide screen Technicolor I’m not sure where film would be without his dreaming as large as he did. ALFRED HITCHCOCK if he didn’t create fear he tweaked it we watched "Psycho" in the film as lit class I remember Mr. Kopenec said to us a good film scares you that night a great will always scare you that never really resonated till a few years ago in New York getting in the shower thinking about it then shutting the door to shower. Charlie Chaplin there are so many great directors of comedy I could write a book, but to me Chaplin was the master of the small details. Frank Capra captured the soul of feel good during a time when everything was going to hell, now there is a story teller. The next director I have had a link to him and his work going back to 9th grade film as lit class our class film was a star wars spoof called “School Wars” which really lit my fire I discovered I could make movie I could act doing it my way I developed a link to GEORGE LUCAS would be fully connected because in my first film project I became part of my second star wars spoof with the psychic counsel (spoofing the Jedi council) a week after we wrapped I received a call from Lucas arts with a guy laughing at our jawas council he laughed about Lahna Turners song and said you guys have talent ask George is a nice guy if you ask he’ll let you spoof him. No porn though that seemed fair, Hollywood is a dream factory those that dream have captured the dreams of the world. In fairness to George Lucas I would wind up in 6 different star wars spoofs, the last two Star Dorks got a very funny letter from the ranch stating you break any of my toys I’m coming to get them (funny letter) and My life as a Storm Trooper that George sent a quick note saying not bad I laughed. Since Mr. Kopenec was the first director I worked with the having him explain spoof laws along with dolly shots and a thousand other terms he planted the seed and pointed us in the right direction. Plus I want to call out Kevin Smith watching "Clerks" because of how he captured the lives and times of 20 somethings. Also Ron Howard every day I watch him work besides I would love to work with him we could be cousins we could be Ron and ready to work on whatever you need me to do (LOL).
MSJ: What kind of stories are you attracted to? And do you consider the general market place
A: This is an easy one I guess being a cub fan doesn’t hurt either stories of underdogs, with “Wilderness Survivor” everyone in the group where underdogs. Love in most films will save the underdog in "Wilderness" it just complicates his life. In “Modern Dating According to Jeff" Jeff learns in the end the stalker never wins. So I guess I like stories with unexpected twists and turns. The thing that grabbed my attention on the obstacle was how William took Brads life journey. Getting the call from William about the script I thought how little this man has learned in over 30+ years of information available. Plus for a first time script writer William created this amazing world to play in. I sat down in my empty house and read the script from front to back I remember crying a little at the ignorance that was associated with the character. Mr. Kopenec once wrote on my year book the best stories seem to involve more than the whole sum of their parts; when you are really in one then you will see more than anyone can teach. I picked up the phone and called William to tell how powerful his script is when everyone falls into place!
MSJ: Has being a director changed your view of yourself as well as the world, generally?
A: Growing up has, I wrote a book “What Was I Thinking” (another shameless plug), in the book I talked about growing up in the Columbia Center, a housing project in Hammond, Indiana and how people would constantly remind you that where came from, and was no better than common street trash. Once I moved away from the area life got better for me, so it was the area not the person. Yet that seemed stupid I was the same person driving an ugly yellow gremlin. So after time and time again being told all I was trash. I stood up looked around and started acting in independent films, found out I was pretty good so started talking about my story ideas, discovered I had a bunch of some pretty good ideas so I wrote a big chunk of ”Wilderness Survivor the Game” and everything clicked since then most everyone always wants me to direct.
MSJ: What kind of actors are you more prone to connect with when developing a film?
A:Honestly I like all kinds I’m into the characters that have to feel everything from socks to hats. I will also cast people with the same frailties and problems. Plus the outside the box castings were you take the less good-looking lead and cast as the hottie so the audience is always trying to figure out why? But what this does it get the cast discussing characters and value, and then the audience starts to do the same thing. In the play punch and Judy, that our 4th grade class put it on it wasn’t the ones that thought the play funny it’s about opening up a few minds to the ones that didn’t understand people like them something that they might not ever see if that makes sense.
MSJ: What is the most difficult aspect of developing a motion picture independently?
A:What is the most difficult aspect of developing a motion picture independently? I would say that’s an easy question, life people tend to completely place their lives ahead of the project, then can never figure out why it takes so long to finish.
MSJ: How does the “digital” technology impact the industry? Does it affect budgeting and how you develop a story or has it made the whole process more complex?
A: It has speed up everything you no longer have to wait for film to be developed, instant gratification; on site editing, you can have a ruff edit while on location plus you can email clips you can literally walk off a set, email a completed film to a theater.
MSJ: When dealing with Hollywood generally what are some things one must remember or take in consideration in order to survive?
A: They bring a butt load of money for starters we all sit in our independent world talking about how much we know, but were did we learn all of it from the industry has built a million like us and will build a million more after were long gone. I would like to think I can a chapter or to for their story and at the very least entertain a few people while I give it.
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