Joseph and Billy Pepitone are the writers of the new film Stuck in the Middle, which was produced by Diamond Jesus Productions; here is a link to the trailer:
Q: What is Stuck in the Middle about?
JOSEPH: Stuck in the Middle is a comedy about a slacker who is in a dead-end job in a mailroom. He accidentally kills himself in a self-gratification experiment gone wrong. He winds up in Purgatory where he is put in the mailroom. He falls in love with his boss and with the help of rest of his dysfunctional co-workers he has to stop a real estate mogul from buying Purgatory and sending them all to Hell. Your basic boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl. Boy must save girl’s soul and the entire population of the afterlife from eternal damnation.
Q: What inspired you to write it?
JOSEPH: It came from spending half my life in Catholic school and half my life working in offices. It was what I knew and I thought Purgatory would be a great setting for this kind of mundane life.
Q: What kind of services does your production company provide?
BILLY: We are writers. We’ve written screenplays and novels and are continuing to work on projects for the future. When a project is ready to move forward than we will put together a team to start making that happen. We’ve worked with some talented people through Diamond Jesus Productions and we look forward to working with them again.
Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your craft?
BILLY: I am a retired police officer, and I think years of seeing the worst side of people helps your sense of humor. Without it, you would go insane.
JOSEPH: I have written for television networks for years, mostly in promos. Working on shows and movies gave me a sense of what worked and more importantly what didn’t. It definitely gave me a sense of what we wanted to do and the kind of movie we wanted to make.
Q: Assuming that there really is a purgatory what do you think the main difference would be between purgatory and earth?
JOSEPH: My theory is there is no difference. We are in Purgatory as in the sense that you wish things were better (Heaven) but they definitely could be worse (Hell). That’s the thinking behind Stuck in the Middle.
BILLY: I think Purgatory is like Groundhog Day…the same things happen every single day. So to a degree there is no difference in Purgatory. Heaven and Hell is where the difference lies.
Q: Who are some off your film making influences?
JOSEPH: I am heavily influenced by Kevin Smith. A lot of Stuck in the Middle comes from Mr. Smith’s style – consciously and subconsciously. I like Cameron Crowe too.
BILLY: I have a wide range of influences, from the Zucker Brothers to Spielberg to Christopher Nolan.
Q: What do you like about Hollywood?
JOSEPH: I like that there are no boundaries. You can tell a story about Purgatory and who is going to tell you that you are wrong or that’s unbelievable? There are no limitations. Who is to say that it can’t be done?
BILLY: The magic of bringing words on paper to life. There’s nothing like sitting in a movie theatre and becoming enthralled in what you are witnessing. For a couple of hours, you can leave your world and enter someone else’s. That’s pretty cool.
Q: What don’t you like about it?
BILLY: Everything else.
JOSEPH: Believe it or not, some people are not out for your best interest. They seem to have their own agenda. Shocking, I know.
Q: What is your most entertaining show biz story?
BILLY: Meeting Michael Keaton on the set of “One Good Cop.” He broke for lunch and didn’t come back for nearly three hours. The director and crew were not happy, saying all kinds of bad things about him and actors in general. When he came back they greeted him with “So how was lunch Mr. Keaton? Did you enjoy it Mr. Keaton? Do you need a few more minutes Mr. Keaton?” You could see by the look on his face he knew they had been ripping him apart, but he was having fun with it.
JOSEPH: Mark Hamill was cool. I was doing a shoot with him for a cartoon he was voicing and everyone said not to bring up Star Wars. Well, Mark brought it up and loved talking about it. In fact, we had to cut him short so we could start shooting. But he was a terrific, down to earth guy who was amazing to work with. I mean it’s Luke Freakin’ Skywalker.
Q: What did you look for in casting the lead role in your film?
JOSEPH: I was looking for an exaggerated version of myself. A lot of what the main character does are things that I have done or would have liked to have done or said. Stephen Fontana who is the lead was a friend of a friend who I wanted to get in the film. When he read for the lead, I knew he was it. My brother Billy and my co-director Carlos Duhaime agreed and we got a great performance from Stephen as well as the entire cast.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)