I wanna thank you for taking the time for our readers to get to know you and more about the film you directed. First can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you are from, how long have you been in film, and when did you start directing/producing?
My pleasure to be here, thanks! I made a decision in my senior year of college at Rider University (formally Rider College), in New Jersey, while doing a Production of "Godspell", to switch from being a business major to pursue acting in NY. Acting was more of a hobby, but when I saw how you can affect people doing this kind of work, I was hooked. I spent almost 10 years knocking on doors, doing auditions and getting small roles in films and doing theater, when I was inspired by guys like Kevin Smith, Ed Burns and Robert Townsend, to begin to make my own indie films, and I started my own company, Good To Be Seen Films with my partner, Christie Botelho, and did jus that. My first as a Writer/Producer on THE STAND-IN, the second as a Producer on the cult Sci-Fi sensation, "The Man From Earth" and now my directorial debut for "iMurders".
What inspired you to go with the concept of the film iMurders and how did you come up with the title?
iMurders was an idea that I came up with first, right after the release of The Stand-In. We didn't get distribution right away and we started a website to sell it on line. We had a few people like Kelly Ripa (who at the time was on All My Children) and Joe Barbara and David Ogden Stiers, who were either on Soap Operas or in David's case, M*A*S*H*, who were in the cast, so I'd go into chat rooms and say, "if you like so-and-so, come check them out in our film. I began to get to know some people who spent time in these rooms and I was taken back because they considered the others in the room some of their best "friends", yet in reality, has NEVER met. I thought, "What an interesting backdrop for a murder mystery. You don't know who you're talking to". Plus I love Agatha Christie and thought, this could be a great cyber Ten Little Indians. I wrote the first draft, called, "Chat Room". It took almost 7 years to get this off the ground and over the years, chat rooms got less "in", and social networking sites took over, so we had to update the movie and also change the name. One of the Producers at the time asked me to come up with about 10 names and I did, and we decided on iMurders. We began promoting on Myspace and there was a "brand" situation with the name. There was talk with the eventual distributor, Anchor Bay/Starz about changing it, but in the end, we decided to keep it. It definitely has its detractors, as well as fans, but that's what we went for.
There were so many twists and plots within the film, which many films attempted a similar plot but failed to engage an audience; was there any point during filming where you felt that in the introduction of all these characters you were gonna lose the main point of the story?
There is no question that the many story lines are a risk. Especially today. People want things to come fast and simple, and ironically, the computer world is somewhat responsible for that. And moreso, as the movie is being promoted as a horror movie, more than a suspense thriller, which I think it is a bit more of. I think in retrospect, there is a thing or two I could have and wish I had, trimmed, but there were also circumstances behind the scenes which did not allow for this. On the other hand, I WILL say, that I like the idea of all these different stores and angles intertwining into what I hope is a satisfying ending. I am proud of that. However, in the sequel, I think I will focus on a few of the characters stories, rather than try to develop all of them. In addition, many who have watched it more than once have said they caught on to so much more the second time and enjoyed it more too. Which was kind of the point for me. When you have a who-dun-it, it's harder to get people to watch a second time, because the suspense of who the killer is, is gone. So seeing what you may have missed the first time is an impetuous for a second viewing.
Did you hit any roadblocks during production?
OMG, SO many. Money is always an issue, as is working with a cast and crew on such a small budget. But there were other issue, like me getting into a car wreck with the film stock the day before the film. Two previously cast actors cancelled on me, one the day before their shoot and one the day of!! David Ogden Stiers once said that putting together a film, "Is like pushing jello up a mountain". He was right!
How was it to work with acting veterans such as Billy Dee Williams, Joanne Baron, and Tony Todd?
The cast of the film, especially on a shoe string budget, which really quite remarkable. And also very intimidating as a first time director. We calculated that we had a "name" actor on set for all of our 21 days of shooting , with the exception of one. And when you have such different personalities, you become as much of a psychologist, as you do a director. But at the same time, I learned SO much from working with all of them. I think coming from an actor background helped speak their language.
Some reviews have stated that the film is too confusing and that there is too much going on, what would you say to that?
You know, it's really amazing when you put a film out to the world for critical review. I spent the first week reading all the IMDB comments and external reviews and you can really drive yourself crazy. But then I realized that 5% of the people who voted for The Godfather and Shawshank Redemption, gave it a one. Now, anyone is entitled to their opinion of course, but to give either of those films a one rating (and one of the above mentioned films I am not a fan of at all) shows there is some kind of bias or another. I mean, there's NO redeeming value to either of those two films in any way shape or form i.e. acting, directing, screenplay, music, that it merits a "1". Really??? So, I can't expect that a little movie like mine wouldn't get criticized to a great extent. To better answer your question though, SURE, I wish I could do some things over again, but I put my heart and soul into the film, and for its budget and time I had to make it, I am proud of it. I just hope to take the mistakes I DID make, and there were plenty, and I hope to grow as a writer/director for the next one. And I would like to add, that although there may be "formulas" to screenplays and those like McKee who like to teach technique, this is still an art form, and for good or bad, the screenplay's many angles were a choice that I hope others will enjoy.
I noticed that a good portion of the scenes were done in New Jersey I am guessing Hoboken or Jersey City by the looks of it why did you pick this location?
Yes, every frame of the movie was shot in NJ, with the exception of some "B roll" exterior establishing shots in Beverly Hills and Hollywood, for Gabby and Wilson Jermaine's characters. The movie takes place in 5 or six cities, and early on, I had hoped to shoot iMurders for a much higher budget. Once that was no longer an option, we chose NJ, because several of the Producers and myself were from there, and since we could only really shoot in once city anyway, it made sense to do it where we could beg for location favors. One of our Producers, Jeff Quinlan, owned several buildings in Hoboken, so it helped a lot!
Are there any directors you look up to?
Always a tough question for me. Frank Darabont and Robert Zemeckis are definitely true. I had hoped to use Zemeckis' use of camera movement in What Lies Beneath for iMurders, but our locations prohibited the amount of dolly moves I could use David Fincher as well. And I shout out to James Wan, who I just met. Very cool dude.
Any favorite mystery/horror movies?
It's funny what is actually characterized as horror, but I love stuff like Jaws, and Silence of the Lambs, The Shining . Lesser known flicks like Hard Candy. Most Hitchcock. So many to mention. I like less in your face stuff, more mentally scary films. Although I would be remiss not to mention Friday 13th, since I was in Part VIII.
How was it working with someone as beautiful as Gabrielle Anwar?
Gabby was great. We were lucky that the WGA strike was going on when we were shooting or we probably couldn't have gotten her. I actually had met her when I first got in the business. One of my first jobs in the business was Michael J. Fox's stand-in and I was just that on For Love Or Money, which she starred in. She had my back in a particular incident on set back then that has me adoring her forever. She alludes to a torrid affair with me in the iMurders DVD extras. You have to check it out!
Is there a plan of getting a great cast like the one in the original iMurders for the sequel!
There most certainly is, although the success of the film will dictate whether we do it or not, I'm guessing. The story is outlined and the screenplay is 10 pages into it. Tony Todd's character will be the center piece of the sequel, as we didn't really get to know "Agent Washington" in the first one. Brooke Lewis and Joanne Baron will reprise their roles. We're going to shoot in New Orleans, which really is like adding another character to the piece. I desperately want to improve and take the lessons I learned from iMurders to make this bigger and better.
If you could go back and change anything from the film, what would it be?
Again, perhaps focusing on a few of the characters, but even so, it has more to do with the prep of the movie, who you surround yourself with in the execution of the piece, and making sure that the film is the first priority, and not all the secondary nonsense that can happen on a film, but SO sorely can affect the execution of it. There were several things I would have loved to have trimmed and changed, but could not, for reasons I can't get into. That won't happen again. I do know that those who loved iMurders, will LOVE the sequel. And we might even convert some of the naysayers.
What's the strangest thing to happen on the set?
Well, on the final day of shooting, we shot the opening scene of the movie, at my house. It's the scene of the brutal shooting, and the blood would NOT come off the wall, not matter how much we scrubbed. It's still there to this day! Maybe we'll do tours if the movie gets big enough.
One last question…..The Yankees just won the World Series……hopefully you are a Yankees fan? If so good answer you are the man!!!!
Wow, I HATE to end the interview on a downer, but I grew up in Queens and I am a HUGE Mets fans. SO with the release of the movie also comes one of the most painful baseball seasons. I mean, Phillies and Yankees in the World Series???? Come on!! Seriously though, thanks so much to you guys and your followers for allowing me to talk to you all. I hope you will give iMurders a shot. It's supporting indie filmmaking and I really think you'll enjoy it. Just watch it TWICE J It's at Walmart, Best Buy, Hollywood Video, Movie Gallery, Netflix and Amazon and you can check out more at www.myspace.com/imurdersmovie and always talk with me there, as well as www.imurderthemovie.com and www.twitter.com/imurders. And if you are into SciFi, check out The Man From Earth. It's got a HUGE following. Thanks again!