Month: January 2013

An Interview With Reelgrok founder Norman Berns


Norman Berns is a filmmaker and the founder of Reelgrok; here is a link to the website:

Q: What is your background in filmmaking?

A: It actually began in theatre. Got my Equity card as a stage manager, but started directing as soon as I could get in front of the curtain. Did years of dinner theatre and had a real ball at it. Still miss it. But I was catering to a crowd that came for the buffet but stayed for the play. That meant I always had to fight to get a distracted audience to focus where I wanted them to focus.

The first time I was on a film set, bang, zoom, I had the answer. Cut. Close Up. Pan. Zoom…. You can’t do that on stage.

By then I was living in New York and I was ready to learn everything, work on anything, paid, unpaid, terrible little movies that made me rush home to wash the blood and gore off my soul. But those horrible little gems taught me how to build a story visually.

I became an AC, did a bit of gaffing, worked props. The jobs never mattered much to me; I fell in love with the whole process.

Eventually, I got a shot at running the show. First as an assistant director, then years in, as production manager, eventually as producer and finally, full circle, back again as the director.

Now, as much as I love producing and directing, I still shoot set stills when I can, I’m still happy hauling cables and setting up the camera. Good lighting gives me chills of joy.

I think filmmaking is the most amazingly rich, wonderful storytelling process. And it’s that whole process I care about. Someday, maybe, there’ll be something better, but I can’t imagine what that would be. And besides, it’s not here yet so I make movies.

Q: What inspired you to start Reelgrok?

A: Madness. A sudden bout of unrepressed madness.

The thing is, teaching is supposed to be a natural part of filmmaking. You know, the whole gaffer-best boy relationship. Despite a very few, very rare auteurs, film is a pastiche of all the talent that went into it, a communal effort. If we don’t bring up the next person, there’ll be no community, no one to take over. And very few of us can do it all on our own.

Let me back off for a minute and explain how I get to this point.

I got really, really lucky starting out. The casting legend, Marion Dougherty, insisted on casting me in the movie “The Hospital.” (Yes, I was actually discovered working as a waiter.) I took the role (hey, it paid), but I negotiated a job as an “observer” (no, no, not like the “Fringe” baldies).

Incredible industry pros simply accepted me, invited me into every private meeting. Paddy Chayefsky had me “write” a scene with him, Arthur Hiller let me “help direct”…. It’s a very long list. The show went on for months and it changed the rest of my life.

I’ve still keep notebooks filled with the information they gave me. Once I understood, I vowed that someday, somehow, someway I’d try to repay their mentorship. That’s what reelgrok is about. Passing on what I know, helping the next generation pick up what I learned.

Q: What is the most common mistake filmmakers, make when looking to fund a film?

A: Two bigs ones.

The first is not understanding that film is a group effort. That very few of us could make a movie without the support of all the other people on the crew, from the DP to the last PA. Even legends like Orson Welles and Ingmar Bergman needed great cameramen, brilliant gaffers, incredible set designers….

The second is even worse. It’s being unprepared.

Too many new filmmakers treat filmmaking as if it were some sort of game, a fun way to tell a good story. (“Good” being a euphemism for whatever floats your boat. Odds are good your “good” and my “good” are not on speaking terms.)

To an investor, filmmaking is a business. It’s how they plan to make a profit.

Of course there’s no harm in just shooting away, doing your best, money be damned, because maybe you’re a fucking genius and Mr. Money will notice all of your great art and shower you with wealth. Oddly enough, it’s actually happened. But more likely you’ll wear yourself down to a dull nub and push your credit cards to the point of no reserve.

Every film is like starting a business. Or going to war. Pretty much the same thing. You have to stay focused on winning. You need to gather your troops – not just any troops, but the best of the best. You need to know the cost of everything and you need to know exactly where and how and when and why you need to spend the money to get it.

Ultimately, you need to know where to find your audience. When you’re running your show on the leavings in your wallet, you can do whatever you want. Hell, put it on YouTube and party as soon as three people see it. But when you go looking for an investor, you need to explain EXACTLY how that investor can possibly see a profit.

It’s amazing how many filmmakers don’t understand how to make a budget. Oh, they can add the numbers, but they have no idea that they’re making a blueprint for building their film. They want to direct, but don’t know how to talk to actors, they want to produce by don’t understand contracts. They want so much, but don’t have the skills they’ll need to get the job done right.

My seminars are all on CD now ( and we sell quite a few. But not enough, not nearly enough to cover all the things filmmakers need to know.

I actually keep files filled with “mistakes filmmakers make” and use them in my classes. Some are funny, most are just sadly oblivious to the incredible art and business of filmmaking and its hundred year history.

Q: What is your strangest filmmaking story?

A: I think almost every movie must be fodder for “the strangest filmmaking story” of all time.

There was the mad director who refused to look at the production schedule – “I make movies,” he was fond of saying, “not schedules.” Of course that show ran out of money long before it ran through the script. There was the director who could never quite wrap his head around the idea that he was the one who called ACTION and CUT. We burned a lot, a lot, a lot of film before he finally caught on or I got the AD to take over.

One day, on a scout deep in the weeds, far from anything resembling a road, my producer was feeling unusually macho. “Keep driving,” he screamed. “No, it’s all mud ahead,” I screamed back. “Gun it, gun it, go, go, go.” I did. The car sank up to its axels. It took a good-sized truck to extract us. If there is such a thing as quickmud, we found it.

I think every shoot, from the best to the worst, has at least one OHMYGOD, YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS story. Hey, we’re all out there learning; sometimes we trip over our own good intentions.

Q: What makes an indie film marketable?

A: Great marketing.

A solid lock on the intended audience. Do you have any idea how many filmmakers don’t know their audience? Who have no idea who will see their film beyond “folks who like it.”

Marketing needs a realistic plan for getting to your audience. And, of course persistence. And money. Energy. Drive. Focus.

The subject really doesn’t matter. There seems to be an audience for almost anything. The task is identifying the audience and knowing how to talk to them.

Delivering a really good film doesn’t hurt, of course, but it’s way down on the list.

We never wanted it that way, we never asked for it and we still won’t believe it, but filmmakers all work in sales. Isn’t that what a film is? Really? Selling an idea to your investors, then to your crew and your cast and finally to your audience.

That selling, the marketing, doesn’t stop because the film is over. Hell, that’s when it breaks into high gear.

Q: What is the most overrated independent film in the last twenty years and why?

A: Bad question. We’re really missing the point about independent films. By their nature, indie films are experimental. They’re supposed to push the edge, try new approaches, discover a new world in new ways. Hell, they’re not underfunded Hollywood films. They are their own thing, the orphan love-child of Art and Business.

Indie films are indies for one of two reasons. Either Hollywood didn’t want them. Or they didn’t want Hollywood. Either way, they’re their own genre and their job is to carve out new space.

That means indie films – by design – will fail more often that studio films. Despite fewer resources, they will try more, brave more, risk more. And fall flat on their celluloid more often than the endless churn of Big Boy films.

That’s absolutely wonderful; beautiful daring risk-taking should be nurtured, applauded.

For example, the Guthrie in Minneapolis is a complex of theatres. Way upstairs, hard to find, is their little experimental theatre, down an oddly raked hallway of angled windows, next to a ramp stretching out over the Mississippi, across a disconcerting glass floor that connects to the theatre.

It feels odd, even dangerous, just getting there. And you gird your goodies for whatever may lie ahead. You know this is not going to be ordinary.

That’s what indie films are supposed to be about. A raw space across a twisted room at the far end of a glass floor, next to a bridge stretching into infinity.

If indie films never fail, they’re not trying hard enough. They’re just copying Hollywood (which is way too busy copying itself already) instead of finding a new voice. At its worse, we get Hollywood on a shoestring. At its best we get our minds screwed on backwards and inside out and filled with more goodies than a gimme bag on Halloween.

At its very best, you get incredibly quirky films like “Moonrise Kingdom” or the stunningly brilliant hushpuppy of a movie, “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” So maybe instead of dissing the bad films – and there are at least a few jawbreakers every year – we can keep ourselves safe and warm acknowledging the brilliant work being done by indie filmmakers.

Truth is, I can’t imagine how those two films got funded and made. I’m only grateful that they were and they were.

Q: What is the best marketing campaign you have seen for an indie film?

A: That’s always the same answer. I really, really wish it weren’t so because I hated the movie, but no one’s ever bested the marketing for “Blair Witch.” It was carefully thought out, well planned, brilliantly executed. Every filmmaker who’s hoping to create THE NEXT BIG SHOW should study the marketing of that film very carefully.

And, of course, get a couple of million dollars to make it happen.

The important takeaway in this case is that the movie was meaningless. Literally and figuratively. Once we saw it, we all knew it was a real piece of crap and we’d been had. It was far worse than most first timers could churn out with their Saturday Night Special Handycams. But the buzz was so great, no one cared. It was the thing to see, it was in your face, it was amazing. So everyone walked out and threw up, but so what. They paid to walk in.

That kind of marketing campaign takes an enormous amount of advance time, lots of money, careful planning, clear focus, a sharply targeted audience and persistence. And persistence. And persistence.

Did I mention lots and lots of money? Did I stress lots of time, too. This kind of campaign has to be well planned as well as well executed. It starts long before a frame is shot and it’s as integral to the movie as picking camera angles or figuring out where to cut.

Q: What is the biggest change you have seen in independent film in your career?

A: It’s only been a few years since we moved from short ends to memory cards. But even all that good tech aside, the biggest impact has been distribution and financing. Wait, that’s tech-based, too.

Reality is, everything has changed for indie filmmakers.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there were real distributors out there. Filmmakers could make presales, get advances and have just enough money to raise the rest of the money they needed to make the movie. It was risky and dangerous and difficult, but there was a real support system with a built-in audience and profits on the other end.

Poof. That’s gone. We gained the internet and lost our indie distributors.

Oh, there are a few out there. But the ones with enough clout to matter are run like mini-studios and no easier to reach than the studios. And the ones without clout are about as useful as your Aunt Tillie.

For the most part, the big studios own the theatres. Okay, not literally OWN, good gosh that would be illegal. Instead they control the flow of content, which is probably even more profitable and much more manipulative and duplicitous than actually owning them.

Which means that indie producers are mostly on their own. If they can find a theatre that’ll peg them in between tentpoles, they have to do their own promotion, they own marketing. And it’s a minefield unless you’re an SEO pro and a social media maven. Or have the smarts to hire one of the good ones. (Ask, I’d be more than happy to pass along the names I know.)

For most indies, Opening Night isn’t in a theatre anymore. It’s on a cellphone. It’s a VOD download. It’s Redbox or Amazon or Netflix (if you’re extra lucky). Then again, the potential audience for your film has jumped from a few million to lots of billions.

Think about that. I said BILLIONS. All you have to do is figure out how to get to them. And set a price they can afford to pay. Doesn’t quite have the glamor of klieg light openings, but it can be a lot more lucrative.

Financing is the other big change. It’s an entirely new universe. There are so many incredible options, from the extension of Section 181 to crowdfunding to the rise of debt financing.

I know filmmakers who are using all three, individually or together.

181 is pretty much a no-brainer. Filmmakers should qualify for it whether they want it or not, then use it if it suits their backers.

Crowdfunding is available, but it takes a lot of work to be successful. It’s no free marketplace with shelves of money to be taken like apples at the farmers’ market. Filmmakers need to make a huge effort, enlist serious guidance and invest a fair amount of money to do it right. If you build it, no one will come unless you let them know about it.

Then there’s debt.

I still remember when debt was the worst idea. Just a few years back I was warning my students to sit on their credit cards and stay out of the loan department. Those two things are still correct, but the nature of debt has changed. I’m starting to see shows that have had extraordinarily good luck incorporating debt financing into their funding.

Don’t panic. This isn’t your father’s kind of debt. On the best of deals (and the only ones that should be considered, the picture (not the filmmaker) is the sole collateral for the funding. It work amazingly well and I’ve been seeing some wonderful films being shot because of it.

Like anything else in this business, it’s not easy to qualify. And not every film is right for debt. But if your project can fit, it’s an ideal – and mostly untapped – resource.

Q: What kinds of films would you like to see more of and why?

A: Well, gee, how about more films that I make? You know the type. Well-funding movies with a searing message, films that do extraordinarily well, earn a zillion dollars and turn me into a mogul.

Hey, you asked….

Everyone on earth, I’d imagine, would like to see more good films, interesting films, exciting films, thinking films, fun films.

I want films that surprise and delight. Network television already churns out more than enough mind-numbing crap. Comic books, never a fount of great wisdom, have been drained of every pow, bam and boom in search of sales.

Movies – real movies – should take you to places you’ve never been, never imagined being, telling you things you never knew you wanted to know, needed to see.

I would never have “liked to see” a film like, say “Lincoln.” I’m no history buff or battleground aficionado. So why would anyone in the world want to see a film about an overly tall and very dead president waging a war that some are still fighting. That’s fodder for history class and Classic Comics, surely not a real movie. As one wag put it, “why bother; I know how it ends.”

Until you actually see “Lincoln” and realize that it’s exactly the movie you’ve always wanted to see. So stunningly insightful and good that it sets the mark for movie bios forever. Or until the next great film is made.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)


An Interview With Film Producer Caspar von Winterfeldt


Caspar von Winterfeldt is a former JP Morgan investment banker who is currently the president of Fortune Films, LLC and a member of The American Film Institute’s National Council. Here is a link to his IMDB page:

Q: What made you leave the world of investment banking for film?

A: Since I was a boy my dream had always to been to become a filmmaker. My best friend and I had grown up in England making home movies in our spare time which we then screened for our families and friends. We had borrowed an 8mm camera from our parents and just began shooting. After I left Vassar as a film and theatre major with a BA in Liberal Arts the job market was fairly grim, especially in the world of Film. I had worked a couple of summers on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and so I enrolled in the Morgan Stanley trainee program and began my career on Wall Street. The year was 1991. My journey took me to four major blue chip financial institutions and I worked in six different cities, including new York, Atlanta, Frankfurt, London and Zurich. By 2003 I had been part of the biggest bull market in history, run my own trading fund; IPO’d some of the most notable Biotechnology companies in the world and achieved most of my goals in business. It was at that time that my boss at JP Morgan sent me to a week-long seminar in London with the aim to motivate and focus me further on my career in Investment Banking. However, it was there that I rediscovered my passion for film and realized that it was this dream that I had always intended to pursue and that if at the age of 34 I did not make the attempt to do so, I might regret the move for the rest of my life. So three weeks later, I quit my job at JPM cold turkey and set off to pursue my dreams as a filmmaker. I woke up the next morning realizing that I didn’t have a clue as to how I would achieve that and thanks to divine intervention I suppose, I was accepted at the American Film Institute in California where over 1000 applicants vied for a 28 spot program. Somehow I got lucky and thus arrived in Los Angeles with 4 suitcases on a hot August afternoon in 2003. I never looked back.

Q: What makes a film a good investment?

A: To me there are two critical aspects to this question. 1. Story story story – in other words to me it’s all about a great script. and 2. you have to be able to make that story for a good price. Once you have achieved that the third element is a lot of luck because an audience is so very unpredictable.

Q: Do you think that the film industry is ultimately liberal or conservative?

A: Undoubtedly liberal It has to be in order to allow art and expression to mix and allow for great story telling.

Q: What is your role at AFI ?

A: Although I never graduated the producing program I had enrolled in – I dropped out in the second year after having been hired by my then mentor, maverick film producer John Daly (Platoon, Hoosiers, The Terminator, The Last Emperor), I was asked in 2012 to become a founding member of the American Film Institute’s National Council. A board that exists to further the mission of the AFI – to Honor the country’s most prominent filmmakers, to Preserve the country’s greatest cinematic works and to Educate the country’s next generation of filmmakers. It was a huge honor for me and gives me a chance to give back to the institution from which I was born into this industry.

Q: What do you look for in a person when awarding the AFI life time achievement award?

A: The winner of this prestigious award must have made a significant contribution to the global cinematic stage whether behind or in front of the camera. This contribution should serve to inspire audiences, peers and students alike and have been sustained over a whole body of work.

Q: What makes a film a classic?

A: Two fold – either it has inspired a generation during the time that it was made and/or it is story-telling that is timeless and continues to draw an audience over multiple generations because of it’s ability to emotionally satisfy them.

Q: What is the strangest thing you have ever been asked to invest in?

A: Hmm…that is a good question. I have been approached on so many different ideas that it would be hard to pick one. I did get asked once to look at a company that had built a machine that could turn air into water. Does that count?

Q: What is your strangest film set story?

A: I remember when I was making PLAYED with Val Kilmer and Gabriel Bryne. The film was brought to me by a little known actor at the time – Mick Rossi – they had filmed a significant amount of the film and I recall coming to set and realizing that the whole picture was being improvised and that no script existed. Somehow we managed to pull off a fun film but the strangest part came later when I had to have my assistant type up a script from the locked picture to submit as a deliverable item. Curiously the film went on to win several awards, including Best Script! Funnily enough, improvising a film is now become somewhat mainstream…take my good friend and Sundance darling – Drake Doremus whose first feature film ‘Moonpie’ I produced while I was making PLAYED, has become very successful at making wonderful films without the need for a written script. However, back in 2005 this was still a very big risk. the good news is we sold the film to Lionsgate for a good amount and the film ended up being sold in over 20 countries worldwide. Not bad for a film with no script. It reminded me of my youth when I was making films for my friends and family.

Q: Did you think the media coverage of the JP Morgan silver scandal was fair?

A: No comment on this one.

Q: Why is it important for film investors to attend Sundance?

A: I think you won’t get an opportunity as rich as at Sundance to attend great screenings and watch remarkably talented filmmakers at work. As an investor you subsequently are able to network with these filmmakers in a way that is so natural and removed from the Hollywood ‘game’ that you often find opportunities that you wouldn’t be able to back in the ‘real world’. As a result I think to miss Sundance is insane. I have been coming here for 8 years and each visit enriches my business and my circle of friends and colleagues in the industry beyond that which I can achieve during the rest of the year.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Artist Ricardo Rivera


Ricardo Rivera is an artist whose interactive, 3-D projection-mapped parable “What’s He Building In There?” was featured at the Sundance Film Festival. He is the owner of The Klip Collective, here is a link to its website:

Q: What is the theme of your piece for The Sundance Film Festival?

A: There are a few themes that are within the piece. The most blatant is man vs. machine. Organic vs. Mechanical. We are all processed everyday and spit out to just do it again the next day. The piece also explores the physicality of the building facade by playing off of what’s inside vs. outside. It’s kind of a peak into my psyche. The machine being work and the other weirdo things are the distractions.

Q: How closely does the piece follow the Tom Waits poem?

A: The Tom Waits track gave the piece it’s overall tone. It does not really follow it line for line per se, more as an inspiration. There is a scene where mail is delivered which is a direct reference to the line “He has no friends, but he gets a lot of mail.”
Q: 3. How did you get a piece in the festival?
A: I was a part of the inaugural year of New Frontier in 2007. NF is curated by Shari Frilot and this year she asked is to come back in a big way.

Q What is the Klip Collective?

A: Klip is the company I started with Nic D’Amico in 2003. It’s part art collective, part creative agency, part production company. We do mostly commercial work, but create independent art pieces whenever we can.

Q: What inspires you as an artist?

A: I love a good story.

Q: Who are some of your artistic influences?

Q: . What makes someone an artist?

A: If you can execute a creative vision for others to “take a walk inside your brain”, than you are an artist.

Q: What is your strangest work story?

A: Animating a cow tongue was pretty strange.

Q: What do you like about the contemporary art scene?

A: Collaboration. I think it is essential and new tech is making it easier and easier. Taking art out of the gallery into the streets is something that is starting to happen. Site specific work is finally starting to get some traction.

Q: What changes would you like to see in the art world?

A: Less nepotism, more art.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Commercial Producer Jamee Natella


Jamee Natella is the founder and executive producer of BLUEYED PICTURES a company that produces commercials, live events and multi-media entertainment. Here is a link to the website:

Q: What does your company offer to a client who wants to make a commercial for their product?

A: Blueyed (BLU) is an innovative and imaginative production company where creativity can thrive. We strive to engender a hip and artist-friendly work environment. We are fully integrated and able to provide clients with a roster of award winning directors and the world’s leading production crew. If necessary, we also have access to top creative teams (e.g. when an ad agency is not involved). And we are full service – everything from concept to production to editorial/post-production, including visual effects.

Q: What does planning a film premier entail?

A: It depends on whether the client is a major studio or an independent company. If it’s a studio, we usually collaborate with the studio’s in-house publicity and marketing departments, in order to implement their vision and ensure that it is incorporated into the event. We watch the film itself several times in order to get ideas for themes – e.g. if the film’s story takes place in the winter, we might bring in snow for the premiere after-party. We liaise closey with the studio to ensure that the correct media are invited to the event, and properly placed on the red carpet etc. and that they get access to the stars/director for interviews. For an independent client, it’s a similar process to the above, but there is usually less money available which forces us to be more creative. We would also watch the film, and make sure that the premiere “theme” matches the product. Blueyed would create a budget for the event, hire all vendors, and provide our camera crew.

Q: How do you secure celebrity guests?

A: By working with the studio’s in-house PR team and/or the outside public relations company, and using their established lists. Sometimes we bring in nightlife professionals, who have their own celebrity invitation lists, and tastemakers like Bolt House Productions. We also work closely with the agencies – CAA, WME, UTA etc.

Q: . How did you get into the business?
A: I started working as a PA on commercial and film sets at a young age .I managed to work my way up to production coordinator and then eventually a production manager . Shortly after, I landed a studio job at Warner Brothers and later Touchstone . After working the studio environment for years I was asked to produce in Tokyo and realized there was a strong need for Western service production in Asia.
I had support from ad agencies such as BBDO/ BBH . Dentsu. Virgin Enterprises , Pioneer and many others.
It was inevitable for me to start my own company. In 1998 Blueyed pictures was born. We now have offices in London Tokyo and Los Angeles.

Q: What is your strangest work story?

A: I was flown to Alaska to line produce a kids movie, where I had to work with four different sets of twins, in 30 degree-below weather . I had my own four year-old son in tow, who was curious about twins and kept as asking me if there was two of him. On another occasion, I was hired at the last minute (48 hrs beforehand) to oversee a movie premiere in Los Angeles, for TRANSFORMERS. It was a big budget event, and we closed down several streets in down town Westwood. I had to incorporate the actual Transformer cars from the movie, using art directors and set decorators (not the actual props from the movie).

Q: Who was the most challenging client you ever had to deal with?
A: The hardest client to work with this is the client who doesn’t know what he/she wants. But when this happens, we always sit down with them and try to work through the problems. It is really important to get everyone on the same page.

Q: What is your greatest success story?

A: The “Boo Boo Campaign” which was to publicise a campaign to promote giving blood. For a period of time, anyone who bought a box of Band-aids and had a boo boo, was encouraged to swipe the blood from their boo boo (a swab was provided in the band-aid kit) and then you could mail it for free to a doner bank. The campaign saved lives and added a lot of new names to the doner list. Blueyed produced the campaign in Europe and was involved in it from its conception. It put us on the map as a company but we also got to help people.

Q: What do you like about working in Hollywood?

A: It is a dynamic, exciting and rewarding environment. I get to meet and work with a lot of different people from all over the world. I get to learn a lot about different ways of working, and different ways of seeing the world, and that in turn informs how I approach my job in LA, and makes me a better resource for my clients. In addition, being based in Hollywood gives me access to the top professionals and equipment in my line of work. This is still the center of the global entertainment industry.

Q: What don’t you like about it?

A: Because Hollywood is so entertainment-driven, and so dominant in LA, it can get a bit insular and suffocating. But I am lucky as a I get to travel a lot, and my company has offices in London and Tokyo, so I don’t lose my sense of perspective.

Q: How important would you say looks are in your business?

A: It’s Hollywood…so your looks may get you in the door, or help you get started, or enable you to stand out in a crowded field. But that’s all. This is a very competitive industry, and people are ultimately interested in results. So, expertise and a strong work ethic are more important than looks. You have to be able to deliver.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With HD Owner Joe Newkirk




Joe Newkirk is the owner of HD which is  a professional electronics systems integrator. Here is a link to its website:



Q: What are some of the services your business offers?

A: HD is a professional electronics systems integrator. We specialize in the latest technologies including Smart Home/Automation, Audio/Video design and installation, Custom Home Theaters, Computer Networking, and Lighting Control. We offer our services in both residential and commercial applications and we are an authorized DirecTV retailer.


Q: What kind of background and training do you have?

A: I was introduced to electronics when I was young. My mother worked for a large tech firm in Silicon Valley and would bring work home. I would get to help her fiddle with all the parts. My father was a general contractor and I learned my construction trade going to work with him. 20 years ago, I started working for a large audio/video retailer and found that I liked working in this industry. I currently engross myself in training for new technologies and do continuing education on every system I work on.


Q: What is the strangest request you have ever had?

A: I have had a couple requests to work out of the country. Typically I will travel but the latest request   was to rebuild an American security infrastructure in Iraq.


Q: What is the most elaborate home entertainment system you have ever installed?

 A: We just finished a project that turned out really nice. The Home Theater had a 138” screen with High Definition projector and 5.2 surround sound. There were two 42“ TVs on full motion mounts on the side that swing out so that there were 3 pictures that could be watched. We built and elevated wood floor to sit the motorized Home Theater seats, added lighting control so that lights could be controlled remotely and then integrated all the remotes into a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 so that the Theater, equipment, and lights could all be controlled with the tablet computer.  The house also had multiple TVs and a distributed audio system.


Q: What do you like about running a business in San Diego?

A: San Diego offers a diverse customer base and I get to meet interesting people. I also have a team in Los Angeles and even though the drive can take hours, San Diego is still close enough to drive if I have to.


Q:  What don’t you like about it?

A: Running a business in general requires a full time commitment. It doesn’t matter if you are in San Diego or a smaller city. Everyone sees the benefits of self-employment and thinks that there is no boss to tell you what to do, you get to make your own hours, and go on vacation when you want. The fact is I work more now than when I had a typical job. I do not have a boss but that doesn’t mean I can slack on my responsibilities. I have a fiduciary duty to provide work and payroll to my employees. It is such a roller coaster ride and you have to take it as it comes, whether you up or down, you have to stay committed to keeping the business going.


Q: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen on a security video?

A: I have put cameras in many different places. Typically videos are monitored by the client and not myself so I will describe some of the places that I have installed cameras. People put cameras in their homes for different reasons. I have done cameras to capture would be criminals, to watch horses on a ranch, to watch owls in an owl house, to spy on the nanny, and other various household things. I have installed cameras in stores to monitor theft, in banks for security reasons, on guard shacks, at payment centers, and offices.

Q: What is the most common mistake people make when selecting a sound system?

 A: There are a couple areas here. One of the biggest I find is the homeowner that bought the newest HDTV but still has standard definition cable as the source. The other common mistake is manufactures’ have made buying easy by placing all equipment necessary into a box (Home Theater in a Box).  I find that sometimes I get to a house and speaker placement is incorrect and the sound is not calibrated so sound quality is lacking.


Q: Do you think home theater will eventually replace traditional theaters entirely (why or why not)?

A: No, the entertainment industry will continue to create bigger and better movies and people will continue to pay to have the theater experience. That said I do believe that I can make the home theater experience a lot better than the commercial theater. Depending on the budget, I can make a more comfortable environment with better sound and effects.


Q: What is the next big thing?

A: Technology is making life more convenient. Smart technology has made things simple and automation has taken things to the next level. We have iPad/smart phone integration. This is the ability to control all your equipment with your phone or tablet. It can do heating and air, lights, security, and the audio/video throughout the house. You can travel half way around the world and if you have access to the internet, you can check to see if you turned off the lights or turn them on if you want.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Producer Brian Metcalf


Brian A. Metcalf is the owner of Red Compass Media which produced the film The Lost Tree; here is a link to it’s website:

Q: What made you interested in film production?

A: It started from an early age. I loved watching movies as a child and knew that this is what I wanted to do. I spent all my time growing up watching movies and drawing stories. As my interest grew, I did everything I could to learn about the business. I studied sequential storytelling and comic art. I learned how the camera and lenses work. I then studied art direction and became a creative director for several design studios. And I learned visual effects to learn the post-production part of the film industry. I read countless scripts. I got myself onto various sets when I worked at Sony and was able to observe how it was all done. But I always knew that my main goal would be to make movies.

Q: What is The Lost Tree about?

A: The Lost Tree is a tragic horror/drama about a man (Thomas Ian Nicholas) who has everything and then suddenly loses it all after the making a serious mistake. He becomes guilt-ridden and lost but soon gets help from his father (played by Madsen). From there, he decides to start over again, moving into an isolated cabin to clear his head. But he soon learns of the surroundings of the area and discovers an old tree nearby with an evil that is linked to it.

Q: What inspired the film?

A: Thomas Ian Nicholas (Noah character and producer) and I sat down for a meeting. We knew we wanted to do another project together but weren’t quite sure what. We sat down for hours and hashed out ideas together until the idea of doing a haunted house type story came to mind. Within less than a week, I had a full synopsis and outline of the project written.
Q: What are some examples of the visual effects you contributed to Wizards of Waverly Place.

A: For Wizards of Waverly Place, I was the onset visual effects supervisor for a number of TV commercial spots. My job was to make sure tracking points were properly set and greenscreen was lit correctly, things like that. I also helped create some digital backgrounds and fx for it.
Q: What is your wildest work story?

A: I’ve had more chaotic than wild stories. But I remember on my last film, we were set to shoot inside an attic for a certain amount of days and were asked to leave early. So we had to scramble to finish what we could and shot the rest on greenscreen to try and make it work out.
Q: What makes a film worth producing?

A: I think what makes a film worth producing is a good story. Telling a story visually is the most important part of making a film in my opinion. I also feel it has to be something you are passionate about with a solid vision and also with something to say.
Q: What has been your greatest professional triumph so far?

A: My greatest professional triumph to date would have to be making this film with this great cast. I had such a wonderful time doing it. I didn’t have nearly the problems that I had with my last film. All the actors and crew were very professional, talented and hard working which makes doing a project so much fun. Everyone was really dedicated to making this film, working long hours and not complaining.
Q: What has been your biggest disappointment so far?

A: My biggest disappointment would have to be my last film, Fading of the Cries. We had all sorts of issues that arose such as being forced to leave locations early, pre-production getting cut in half, heavy rains which washed out our sets during filming, the fires in Santa Clarita which caused serious schedule changes and other disastrous problems. A number of important scenes were not filmed for budget and time constraints. It was ultimately not the story I had wanted to tell. That being said, I am very grateful for being given the opportunity to work on it and thank those who were dedicated to the project. It opened the door for me greatly.
Q: What filmmaker would you most like to work with?

A: Wow this could be a very long answer so I’ll restrain myself. There are so many great filmmakers I would love to work with in all areas. I would love to collaborate with great directors such as Steven Spielberg, Guillermo Del Toro, David Fincher. They have such strong and solid visions. There are many great producers such as Jerry Bruckheimer, Brian Grazer who can give you the proper resources to make a proper movie. There are many great actors out there that I would love the opportunity to work with such as Will Smith, Michael Fassbender, Anne Hathaway and more. They bring such depth to their characters. The list could go a mile long.
Q: What film do you think had the best visual effects?

A: There are so many great films with great visual effects that its hard to choose just one. Recently, I thought The Life of Pi had very amazing visual effects as it seemed nearly flawless. I was so involved in the story, I wasn’t thinking about if they were cool visual effects shots or not, I was just focused on the storytelling. I think the best visual effects are when the audience doesn’t realize they are visual effects. They just are so captivated by the story.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Actress Marla Simone

Marla_Simone_Head_Shot (1)

Marla Simone is a Los Angeles based actress who has appeared in Fright Night 2 and Earth Girls Are Easy. Here is a link to a video she appears in:

Q:  What made you interested in acting?

A: Since I was a child I’ve loved stepping into the world of fantasy and exploring different facets of human emotion. I realized as I grew up that actors actually did that for a living, and it gave me access in exploring something I wanted to be or I thought I couldn’t be. I caught the acting bug early and my need to step into new worlds pushed me to pursue acting as a career.

Q:  What was your most challenging role?

A: Being the writer, producer and lead actress of my own short film. I had to coordinate all the aspects of production and had to deal with directing all the way to craft services. On top of that I had to center myself in order to function in the scenes properly. It was a very overwhelming process but rewarding none the less. It was one of those instances where your will is tested and it makes you ask yourself “do you really want to do this?” and my response was “yes.”

Q: What famous role could you have nailed?

A: I would have nailed Glenn Close’s role in Fatal Attraction because I know what it’s like to love and want a man who you can’t have.

Q:  What method of acting do you use and why?

A: The Stanislavsky method, first because that is what I studied in my training and secondly because it forces an actor to focus within themselves before stepping on stage or rehearsing. This internalization allows you to be more truthful in your acting and one of the keys in acting is to have it seem believable.

Q:  Who are some of your acting influences?

A: There are so many! But I would have to narrow them down to Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Anne Bancroft, and of course the gorgeous Gene Tierney.

Q:  If you could change one thing about the film industry what would it be?

A: Definitely an advancement in the roles and opportunities for females, especially over the age of 40. I think we have made great strides in the film industry in having greater inclusivity, but there are still more barriers to be knocked down. Male directors still greatly outweigh female directors in terms of box office success and choice of film projects. I believe when more female directors come into fruition, more diverse roles for women and for women over 40 will also arise.

Q:  What makes you fame worthy?

A: My insights as a human being and as a woman. In my life I’ve often catalogued or internally journaled my insights into the inner world of people, the hidden parts they think are hidden. As an actress I like revealing them. As someone who has wanted to act for so long and am finally making progress in my path, I feel that it is my time to take center stage.

Q:  What is your wildest backstage story?

A: I was performing in a small play in the middle of summer. Backstage was insane and bustling and people needed to change and shower to ensure they didn’t look grimy onstage. I remember it was sweltering and everyone was hot and sweaty and there was only one shower. We practically had to pat ourselves down for the time being. It was all great fun and we laughed at our circumstance so it may be my wildest, but its definitely one of my fondest backstage stories.

Q:  What sort of day job do you have and how does it influence your acting?

A: I work as an event producer and I seek to constantly perfect my product presentations by witnessing potential customer’s reactions. In this position I get to meet a lot of different people so I have a wonderful opportunity to observe the behavior of people, which has been tremendously valuable in my acting. I will listen to people talk and liken it to a line from a script and notice their delivery and I observe their mannerisms, body language, and eye contact.

Q: Why do you think so many people want to act?

A: Self expression! Acting is the purest way to express ourselves as a character which we often wouldn’t have the opportunity to do in a real life. On the flip side, a lot of people think it’s glamorous and crave the adoration that comes with it, but in my experience I realize how much hard work it takes in front of the camera and behind the scenes. It takes a lot of concentration and skill to bring a scene to perfection and getting a character to come alive in front of the camera.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)