I have failed you all, I know it's the 14th day since I last posted and I steadily have been at a five day gap between my blogging..... But it can be justified! At least in my mind. I got a new job as of this week, so the transition has been a little rocky when it comes to my daily schedule. Also - my post this week is an AWESOME interview with director Michael Mason - which is a bit lengthy. The interview being lengthy resulted in a decent amount of time being put into it to get it into a text format. Speaking of that - does anybody know a voice to text app for the iPhone that is reliable? I have had to do all of my interviews thus far manually which makes for a quality translation but takes a lifetime.
Anywho - meet a new chum of mine, Michael Mason! He's a greatly talented director / writer / creative genius. Get all up in his head with me:
The beginning of our talk was very informal and came with a word of caution from Mason:
A little warning: I am very animated when I talk. My sign as far as the Myers Briggs personality type is ESFP.
I'm a huge geek as far as the personality types, just to put that out there. In fact I have a whole post about my personality type here https://kennerddy.squarespace.com/new-blog/ . I am INTJ, so Michael and I are total opposites on that spectrum. This will be one entertaining discussion - I could already tell.
INTJ - I know a lot of people like your personality.
Not uh! I have the rarest personality which means nobody else can have it.
*Scoffs at my stupidity* Well that's the most common one for my book. You're an introvert, you basically predict the future - practically, you're very technical, and basically you have a strong opinion about everything. Oh, and you believe you're always right.
*Seal laugh* Yes! That's me to a tee. Who the fuck is interviewing who? *Claps* You should be a counselor, you are in the wrong business my friend. Anyway, that's all true.
I know it is.
HA HA. VERY FUNNY. Anyway ---
It's my job to basically understand actors and where they are coming from so knowing Myers Briggs tells me a lot about them and I should actually approach them.
I swear this was so organic and was NOT a plug for my Myers Briggs post! How weird right??
So let's just say if I was a My Little Pony character, I would be Pinkie Pie.
YAS - you watch MLP? (I seriously did not expect such glorious answers.)
Of course, and you would be Rarity.
I realized at this point I hadn't even done an introduction! Why am I so professional and good at this? I met Michael through my previous job at a University - we were both Admissions Counselors. He still is actually. We bonded through a mutual love over the fantastic film, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I do have to say that I don't meet a lot of people who even know what Sweeney Todd is - so it was harmonious and exciting to fan girl over one of my all time fave flicks! We gushed for maybe 25 minutes over Johnny Depp and I knew a friendship had been born.
Yeah, Johnny Depp was awesome in Sweeney Todd. He is so talented and for not knowing how to really sing prior to this role, he knocked it out.
So Michael is a director of a slew of genres. He's working on a thriller right now.
My forte is fantasy. I like making very theatrical characters come to life. They usually start out as drawings. Then I'll go out and get the fabric, get the costume pieces and then cast the person.
How do you cast a character? I don't know anything about this process, do you use Craigslist or...?
San Diego actors help, people on the street help, ....
People on the street? So you just go up to people.....
If they look like that person, I will put on my producing hat and be like, "Hey, come with me."
Well, maybe you shouldn't start it like that....
Okay so it's more like, "Hi! I film and direct, and you look like something I drew up. I will offer you X amount of funds if you'd film these four scenes - andwe have a lot of fun doing so."
That's amazing. I would love if someone came up to me and told me that!
With that being said, my first film was called, "White Fire". It's a film that I put almost $30,000 into making - just on props, costumes, equipment... I should've upgraded the camera I was using for it though. My main female character, she was the masked huntress and I had a very strong image of what she looked like in my head down to a tee. Not only did she have to be strikingly gorgeous but she had to have green eyes, brown hair, and embody a lot of compassion for the character but also, like ya know, kick a lot of ass - essentially. So, I found her in a Halloween Store.
Really? Okay so how did that conversation go? Was it weird or was she into acting already or was this her first experience in the acting realm?
She actually had more of a troubled background, persay. She was living with Marines, my manager noticed her and started to date her - that kind of a thing.
Oh so you have your own Manager?
Well yeah at the time, it was my manager at the Halloween Store because I worked there too. We were coworkers.
Ohhhhhhh - that makes much more sense! (I'm so ditzy.) I thought you originally meant you were just shopping around in this store.
No, no, no. Like I said, I have had 28 different jobs at this point in my life. I mean if I could find two more jobs I'd become an Ordained Ninja Priest. So I could legally kill someone as a Ninja and also give the Eulogy ---- and it would be completely correct.
You'd be the whole package! Okay so you met her there (remember I am a structured person so I need to keep this chat on route)
So I met her there and I filmed a good 24 scenes with her and it was good. I paid her around $75 per scene. Well, $75 for acting and $50 for talking.
Ya see I have no idea how that kind of thing works.
Well if you have your friends, your friends will do it, no problem. They will love doing it too, because if you bring someone onto a film set they will actually enjoy it immensely.
Yeah I would totally be in another world. I love film, obviously. I was a in theatre / dance for almost two decades.
Why'd ya stop?
Well ya know, I moved to California and my interests were pretty much cut off by the person I moved here with.
Yeah, well I think I have found my passion anyway. I love my blog and conducting interviews like this. I thoroughly enjoy getting to know people like you or anyone I find interesting - which is a lot!
Basically, though, for the first 11 years I'm making White Fire - cause that's how long it took. Because I was building myself up from nothing to everything.
$30,000 - yeah - that's a lot.
Mhmm, paycheck to paycheck. & it brought me a lot of experiences that I'm very happy about. Some horrible, some a lot awesome...but it's...I've learned a lot. A lot more then I should...basically I did everything: I'd written it, I produced it, I directed, I acted in it, I build a lot of stuff, I designed all of the characters, I did it all. Editing was a lot of fun.
You're the man of many.... Hats...*ba dum tsk* I should let you know Michael came into my apartment wearing an Indiana Jones styled hat.
Yes, It's very hat-tastic.
Okay, so what have you done since then? You said you learned a lot. So how much work have you produced since then?
I think I am going on my eighth or so. I've got 8 projects. When I did White Fire, it turned into a mini series and just got so huge that I didn't want it to stop. I pretty much broke down and cried when I finished it. When I stopped editing it and said, "Oh my gosh, it's actually done." It was my favorite story to tell. It's under my idea that every one person has one really awesome story to tell. And I told it, in a really crazy way.
Okay so no spoilers for anyone who hasn't watched yet but what's a brief summary of the plot?
Of White Fire, that is. Imagine it's on the back of a DVD cover, what would that say?
Ultimately if I could say it in one sentence it would be, "It's a revenge story that takes place on an island where this main character dies once trying to save a girl but he comes back 7 years later...
From death you mean?
Yeah, Lady Death befriended him because she hated the guy that killed him - and that's because he makes himself so hard to kill. He goes away and starts a company full of attractive, brunette women and he trains 'em all. But he doesn't use them until a lot much later, and he takes mercenaries onto an island to find a sacred power to help him kill the bad guy. Along the way he meets this masked woman who is secretly the girl he tried to save.
She falls for him, he doesn't know that it's her and that's how the story unfolds.
I just want to let you know that was more then one sentence...because you had said, "If I could summarize it one sentence..it would be this." But that was definitely more like eight sentences. But that did answer my ultimate question of what would be on the back of White Fire's DVD cover. So good job!
To answer your other question, during White Fire I did make another film called, "Treachery: A Dead Man's Promise" which is a Pirates vs. Ninja film. So I made that and it took about nine months - it was a lot shorter and was off & on.
Is that pretty self explanatory as to what that is about?
Well it was the origin on how pirates and ninjas first started to fight - because this is the first initial conflict. It's over a trinket that the Pirates find - they both want it. They both cross paths with it and they both do not take too kindly to it. We made that project, it was awesome. I got to meet every single reenactment pirate in Southern and Northern California. After this I finished White Fire, and when those projects were done I started a company called Cinemason. From there we started making film projects. I would direct a majority of these. Some shorts, features....eat
Okay so what does the genre range from?
There's one that is a straight up drama. It's about a boy who overcomes his fear of water. I enjoyed the angles I got in that one and the editing process the most. It was a very short project though - only about 10 minutes long. There's three Stranglehold projects that I have done - San Diego Comic Con plays a huge part in that because every year at SDCC, I have to make Klingon videos. This year is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek so I have to do a lot of videos for Stranglehold.
Do you have a quota you have to meet by the time Comic Con is here?
They say, "Here. We are going to be doing a play at Comic Con, we need you to make little 2-3 minute video of us so we can make that a prelude to the entire play." I've done three of those already.
& Comic Con is in.....June??
July. So then once the time of the event comes, this is probably my happiest part - not only is it my job to film the play but I also get to see people enjoy my handiwork.
The Western I did - that we filmed up in Calico Ghost Town.
Is that recent?
It was 2014-2015. We filmed it in 2 parts. The first part is focusing on how everyone is after this one piece of gold. That's actually the theme of the 2 episodes that I did. That was a lot of fun because Calico has lot of little mines. You go in there and people are already dressed in costume so it's easy pickings for the most part. A lot of the things about films like this is that the location will tell me something - like where to go with the story. Then I'll just run with it. That was the point of most of those scenes is that I was so "into" to the story and was so excited to be doing an official Western. I always hated John Wayne growing up. I only started watching Clint Eastwood type of stuff recently.
Right now we are making a sequel to the Pirates vs. Ninja film I talked about earlier. This one will be different in terms of direction and I guess since I am dealing with a slightly different crowd for this one -- it will be more comical.
Okay so what is your timeframe for that to be complete?
It's more seasonal right now. But the plan is to be finished by October of this year. It's being filmed at the Renaissance Faire so that's not 24/7 - we can only film when it's up.
The two features I'm working on right now: one of them is a Mormons vs Zombies film. I love that one - it's a lot of fun. I'm actually looking at the outline for Part 2 right now. We just finished filming a scene recently with about 20 zombies outside of a Mormon Church. It's my character, a few zombies, .....
What is your character in this?
I play a character that looks just like GI Joe actually. I wear a black ski mask and a white outfit with a whole bunch of guns. I have this really awesome monologue that revolves around my character name, "Z".
*Michael recites dialogue where "Z" words are prominent throughout* It was marvelous & I cannot do it justice on paper.
That alliteration doe! That's good. You have two other projects you are working on you said. What are those?
The first one is Harlquin in Darkness - that one started off as a short film. I put it together and made it look snazzy. So since the Hollywood crowd really liked it, and the general buzz of the viewers loved it, we decided to make it a feature. I filmed a good five or six scenes already. It was on break for a while so that I could finish the Mormon vs. Zombies film. We just picked it up last weekend again though.
YAS - that excites me because Harley Quinn is one of my all time favorite characters.....ever. I have always been a villain fan over the "hero".
This is actually not Harley Quinn.....Harley Quinn is a clown. This character is Harlequin - based off the clown that Harley is originally derivative from. This is a different take. Society knows Harley Quinn but they do not know what Harlequin is.
So describe what the difference is:
You know The Joker, from Batman? He is dressed as a clown but is more of a veil for the characterization he embodies. Does that make sense? It's like the "Bat" in Batman or the "Ant" in Ant-Man. So a Harlequin for Harley Quinn is this character. Harley Quinn is actually a clown. Harlequin has a lot of diamond shapes in the costume and there's a disease out there, called, harlequin-type ichthyosis. It’s the worst thing you would want to research on Google. When a baby is born, they have really thick skin that is cracked and has diamond shapes in it. Their eyelids are inside out and it's really terrifying to see a baby with this. 80% of babies do not live past this.
The character I have seen in the trailers for this looks nothing like what you described, is he supposed to have the disease?
Harlequin does have the disease - he gave into what society told him he was with this and made the costume you see him wearing. Only 100 people in the world have this disease and are still living today.
I'm so happy with this film. It mixes art and mystery - it's a thriller. I played the Harlequin in it. I wear so many hats in all my creations.
Okay so where can we see all of your stuff?
I had to take White Fire down due to copyrighted music. Unfortunately, music is something that you feel - so I had to use what I wanted. White Fire is on my computer and has a Facebook page. I will release it on DVD too eventually.
The last film I'm working on is Captain Alpha and Techie. It's kind of like Green Hornet in a way because you have this really macho, buff guy -- who is like a superhero with a bunch of gadgets. And then you have this tech guy, who knows everything and always sees the main character at fault. It turns into a comedy but is also an action movie at the same time. I want to make it more original then Green Hornet though. That'll probably be released online too.
Okay so where? On your Facebook page, YouTube...?
I am planning to make a Cinemason website. Right now, how it stands, is lingering on YouTube which has the drama about swimming, Pirates vs Ninjas, School is for Losers (the Western one), a trailer for Mission Apocolypse and two trailers for Harlequin in Darkness.
I wanted to ask you what has really inspired you to take this path in life, in general? When you were growing up, what did you watch that made you say, "I wanna do that."?
This is kind of like a double answer. Everything hit me. On the very first day we started filming where I was a terrorist covered in mayo - and my buddies came up to me and were trying to shoot me, I fell back and pretended to get shot. When I did that, this dirt cliff kind of thing fell off and hit me which buried me alive in it. I woke up, covered in dirt, blood and mayonnaise. We had kept the camera rolling so I looked over and saw the footage - I was just like, "Oh my God, this is awesome." And quite literally, that's when it all hit me. Till this day I still have a bump on my head because of it.
So you were never interested in doing this prior to that incident?
Well before then I did acting, a little bit in 5th grade where I did a stage play - I had all of my lines on a podium, but when they opened the curtains they had dropped all of my papers on the ground so I ended up just freezing on stage. I hadn't gone into acting since. Going through high school I wanted to design video games - you know I love Zelda, I loved MarioKart, Castlevania, Goonies 2 on NES - I love all of those things. I always wanted my own - so I drew up all of my characters thinking they would be very good video game characters. But then I kind of realized that...if I get into the video game industry I'll be working on characters that aren't mine more then likely. It's tough to make your own in that field. It's almost like when I was four and I tried multiple times jumping off the chair thinking I could fly. Damn you, Peter Pan. You are a bastard.
It does sound like you've always been in the artistic biz to some extent though. You always knew you wanted to do something to express yourself?
Exactly. I started taking drama but that wasn't satisfying my creative tooth at all. I really wanted to just bite into something and tear it up as I wanted to. Film allows me to do that. I realized that I could either work on some character's leg and have my signature on it or I could make a film where game developers eventually come after me.
Yeah! So who do you look up to as a director? Obviously Tim Burton (Sweeney Todd, remember?)
Obviously, he's badass. I've learned something from each filmmaker, to be honest. I love Tim Burton's style and how he makes his films iconic / visually interesting. I can appreciate Robert Rodriguez because he likes to do whatever the hell he wants - he did like Desperado making it on a shoe string budget but still how he would like to do it. I want to be a Michael Mason - just have my work really, really defined. I also want people to just say, "Hey, I like what you did."
Yeah - well what style would you be aiming for then? Do you know yet? Or are you kind of figuring that out still?
I'd say it comes out in my films now because if you watch White Fire and then Harlequin - I think you can definitely see what elements make it a Michael Mason film. The theatricality in the characters and the structuring of the story is basically my signature, in a sense. I like things to be action oriented, theatrical characters, a lot of fantasy elements and also curveballs but I still like to have strong endings with everything I do.
To loop it around a bit, you seem so connected to your cast and I feel like you do not see that a lot nowadays. You take such an interested in every single person affiliated with your film and that's probably what makes them such phenomenal pieces - no matter what we are discussing.
To add, as much as the things I make are scripted, a lot of it is spontaneous too. In my scripts, there's always room for more ideas. There are two types of directors: those who are narrow minded with sticking to the script already written or those who adapt to new ideas as they go. But that's the way the cookie crumbles, I'm pretty adaptable and love spontaneity to an extent.
Okay so a random question, sort of. How do you add a soundtrack to your work and put it on the Internet without getting sued? Nowadays, it seems like that's all I see is videos being taken down for Copyright infringement. Do you just make your own or is there a way around that without paying the original artist?
Well yeah - originality is always key, for me at least. You can make anything into music if you're creative enough. But if you feel that connection like I talked about earlier with a song that you know has to be put into your scene to really get that emotional layer there - you look for "Royalty Free" in the jargon of the licensing.
But as I said I make a lot of my music. My mother is actually a musician - she plays lots of instruments but plays piano a lot. She helped a lot with White Fire's soundtrack. I also have friends out there with a lot of good skills that help me a lot too. It's a good thing, I think, that I'm so friendly. I'm genuinely a kind person and I think others sense/feel that about me when we meet - kindness definitely goes a long way. Especially in my book.
That's so cute, keeping the artist blood alive in the family. I believe in kindness working its way back around too, so that's such an awesome positive vibe.
What kind of genres of film are you typically watching when you have down time?
Since you mentioned horror earlier, I will say I love the Saw series. But, I like superheroes, action flicks, and just things that are very rich in the storyline. I have a hard time watching dramas if they are boring.
I can definitely relate to that. My ADD is horrible and I'm typically doing 9302392 things at once all of the time.
I only have one more question to touch on. Obviously, I am kenNERDdy - so I have to ask about some really nerdy stuff. Obviously, too, Western/Zombie/Mormon film making is NOT nerdy enough so...I have to talk about video games. I know you're a huge Zelda fan so tell me a little bit about your fave game or something relating to that. GO!
Alright, alright. Well that is definitely one of the most interesting questions. Growing up, honestly, I felt like a majority of my childhood growing up was based off of two things: a white standard poodle and NES video games. The first video game I ever played also happened to be the worst video game ever made: where you had to bury the main person's dead brothers and sisters in New Mexico.
& What game is this?
E.T. For Atari.
WTF? I never played that. WTF....? Why would you do that!?
Yeah, so E.T. For Atari. Of course growing up I would love going to Video Depot and other places like that and just renting loads of NES video games. Such a random library too: Batman, Super Mario Bros 3....
What was your favorite then? Not current, but from your NES library.
I would say the games that impacted me the most were:
- Ocarina of Time - I even had the gold cartridge a a kid. It was crack. It had the best story.
- Alone in the Dark for PC. I'm not a huge PC guy but this is the huge granddaddy of all survival horror. They still make games today. But it was the perfect mix of a haunted house, the paranormal, zombies, and puzzles. They did it so beautifully. I was so happy with the first 3 growing up.
- Goonies 2 for NES. Most original game that has not been replicated.
Console wise NES wins though - always.
Oh and all of the Castlevania games, of course!
HELL YEAH - Castlevania is my shit dawg. That's my life outside of my Zelda / Mario umbrella.
Alrighty then - this was Michael Mason ya'll! He's extremely talented and is going to put a big stamp in the film industry so WATCH OUT. He's a man of a million hats and his dedication and natural creativity is going to really shine. Thank you so much for sitting down with me and letting me ask you dumb questions - it was a blast. I look forward to Mission Apocalypse coming out and suggest you freaks do the same. Thanks so much for reading and remember to #staynerdy!
Michael's Facebook Page!
DISNEY HANGS (of the week)
The Cove Bar in California Adventure recently expanded it's seating to the patio area - where Brendan had asked me to officially be his girlfriend via Donald Duck - to accommodate it's high demand. We only waited in line for maybe thirty minutes and even made some awesome pals who happened to share our love of morbidly dark sarcasm. We drank some Long Island Iced Teas - which I highly recommend if you're on a budget and want to get somewhat plastered. The nachos are the most popular item on Cove Bar's pretty tiny menu - they are yummy as fuck.
ADULT-ING OF THE WEEK
As of last week I began the journey of a new career - at a place I'm very happy to be working at! What a good feeling. I think that's what we all strive for anyway, right? To be at a job where it doesn't feel like a job. The business park where I work overlooks a stunningly gorgeous canyon that has a hidden patio at the top so you can breathe it all in. I don't think too many others know about it because I've had it all to myself each lunch break! It's a refreshing change of pace to meditate, relax and of course work some more while drinking Mountain Dew.
SPOTLIGHT OF THE WEEK
I have briefly talked about the band Western Settings before but I saw them once again, front and center, this past weekend at my local spot - Pour House. They were kickass, no surprise and I even scored an interview with the band in the next month! I strongly suggest you go check out their Spotify or wherever you listen to jams - they are bomb.