Monday, June 22, 2009

Exclusive Interview with Director Princeton Holt

TCWreviews’s Administrator and Editor in chief Clifford Kiyabu sits down with Cookies & Cream director Princeton Holt for an exclusive interview. Princeton E. Holt has worked on several projects since graduating from the New York Film Academy in 2000 and launching his own film company called One Way or Another Productions LLC. He wrote and directed a 20 minute short called Phish in 2006 which gained him an “Official Selection" at film festivals including the National Black Media Conference Film Festival in Philadelphia, he is the writer, producer, and director of the upcoming flick Cookies & Cream, a film that I personally had the pleasure of reviewing not so long ago, but with all that I have already said about him, there is still much more to be said from the man himself.

CK: First off let me say thank you for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to have this little interview session with me, you must be very busy with the film’s premiere just around the corner?

PH: Well first of all, I dig your interviews so thank you for having me. We are getting a little busier for the Cookies premiere on the 5th of July at the Anthology Film Archives in NYC as part of the NewFilmmakers Film Festival Summer Series. For those in the in the NY area, make sure you come see it while it’s still in NY before it heads to LA. Ryan Balas, who co-produced the movie, is the one doing most of the work. He says he just wants me to be able to enjoy the screening as a dText Colorirector this time, and not have to do the producing part of it when it comes to preparing for the screening. That’s a huge luxury, one I don’t get enough, and I’m grateful to Ryan for handling everything.

CK: Alright, before for we go into talking about your film, I think its best my readers get a chance to learn, just who is Princeton Holt?

PH: I'm the 34 year old son of a non-denominational, Brooklyn pastor/playwright/author with an honorary PHD, and an English professor/book editor/author with an academic PHD. My younger sister is a professional top model. Growing up with a family like that, ambition isn't a thought or even something we even consider an attribute. For us, constant ambition is like breathing. It’s something that also isn’t all positive at times, because when you realize you don’t know what it’s like to quit or slow down, you still aren't able to do much to change or alter it. So while the ambition "curse" of my family has been rewarding and you get a ton of things accomplished, you look around and realize that people around you may be living life a little more than you are. I'm also a professional unicyclist that fights crime on weekends.

CK: WOW, so you come from a family of hardworking career people?

PH: Yes Sir.

CK: So how does your family feel about you getting into filmmaking?

PH: They've been pretty supportive. My father and sister at times have helped me finance some projects including this one. I guess they are happy because I'm happy. My father is the "voice of purpose" you hear in the scene where Jodie comforts Jonathan after their breakup, and my sister plays a cameo as the woman who sets up the whole online webcam business. She's in another film I have coming up. My mother still hasn’t seen it, and I'm curious as to whether or not she will be able to appreciate my determination to not judge any of the characters.

CK: What is a typical day for you?

PH: I get up really early, and by noon have done more than people in a lot of other industries will do in an entire day. By 1pm, I have already had 2 conference calls, approved something on at least one project whether it’s an edit, a script, or a promotional trailer or something, have spoken at length with my brilliant and sometimes motor-mouthed lawyer Greg, and have talked to investors or signed some form of contract or agreement. Then 3 pm hits and I stop to take a half an hour for lunch. After that, the rest of the day is basically solving problems - production problems, or anxieties in other directors or actors I work with. When my Lakers are doing well in the playoffs as they are now, three nights a week end early so that I can scream at my flatscreen like a psycho. But most times, the day doesn’t end usually until 10 pm, and then the next day it’s time to do it all over again.

CK: How do you manage to keep a cool head with such a daily schedule?

PH: I make sure to try to have some fun with it all.

CK: What influenced you into wanting to become a filmmaker?

PH: Magnolia by Paul Thomas Anderson. I saw it the first time, and didn’t really understand what I had just seen. But it stayed with me for a week. So I drove all the way down to NYC from Massachusetts where I was living at the time and saw it again. And it changed my life. That night I immediately went home and enrolled in film school.

CK: So was opening your own production company part of the equation when starting out in the business or did it just simply happen?

PH: Well I went to the NYFA in Manhattan and my favorite professor (Dylan Kidd who went on to direct Roger Dodger and P.S.) mentioned something about having a credit placed in your thesis film. He didn’t demand it, but he mentioned something to the affect of making your thesis film the first official project by your production company on their dime or something like that. One Way or Another Productions sounded right because he said that if you do go that route then to choose a name that would be like a mantra for you, something that would drive the mentality of the company and something that would constantly remind you of something. That name was where I was mentally at the time, and maybe consequently, have been able to maintain to this day. I started doing music videos and commercials to get my feet wet as a director. Then when my brilliant partners Monica, Jenny, Crystal, and now Cassandra came along, that’s when real progress began to take place. Let me preface all of this with this revelation: the goal for me is, and will always be to be able to just write and direct feature films - whether independently or for studios. The company's producing part, came out of a survival tactic, almost by accident. Producing, from my personal experience, is nowhere near as fun as writing a script and directing it. But ironically, producing became the thing that made the phrase "full time filmmaker" a reality. Producing multiple works for people allows you to direct when you have free time away from your full time producing work. Either way, you are making films full-time. For me producing is the day job between directing movies. I wanted to direct so bad, that I became a producer to make sure I could.

CK: Where you always a fan of the cinema?

PH: I was a fan of good films but not as young as I have heard others say they were. Mine started mostly in my teen years being fans of films like Forrest Gump and Boomerang, and gorging on Spike Lee films. I grew up in a religious home. My father and mother could not have been more different parents; my dad was always a fan of mass media, my mother not so much. He brought home the laser disk for Superman when I was like 7 or 8, and of course it blew me away and opened up my imagination. But later when they divorced, we spent the first half of our teenage years with her. And she was such a stickler for education above all else, that she didn’t want us spending precious years in front of the television rotting away. And thank god she did that, because the movies, and TV world became this forbidden fascination that my sister and I developed, and when the TV was locked up (literally I might add), instead of looking at it as simply an alternative form of entertainment like most kids, we began to wonder what was inside of it, and the world itself. So when we did get those occasions where we would see movies, or watch a good TV show, our appreciation of the art of it was tenfold - much more than the average kids our age who had unlimited access to TV and movies. When it was denied to us, we would then go into our own imaginations in our separate rooms and write stuff. Hence, my sister's a full time model and musician, and I grew up to make movies for a living. We owe some of that to my dear mother, even though at the time we couldn’t see the "things happen for a reason" way of thinking. We certainly understand it now. So I appreciate all of the critical accolades the film has gotten, because according to the religion I came up under, I will have to use it to soothe me while we are burning in eternal hell-fire.

CK: You know what you just said reminded me of an old saying, people always want what they’re denied, and in your case it’s quite true. [Laughs]

PH: Absolutely.

CK: What are your favorite films?

PH: My favorite film of all time is a foreign film - Federico Fellini's 8 1/2. That film is like the secret to what I actually see, live, and think like. Also in my top 10 is the hilarious Being John Malkovich, Le Goût Des Autres by Agnes Jaoui is absolutely incredible, Malcolm X, La Dolce Vita, Breathless, and an experimental narrative film few people have seen called Carter that I actually produced. It was directed by Ryan Andrew Balas, and I'm not doing some strange self-promotion thing. I truly think it’s one of the most original pieces of work I have seen in cinema in nearly a decade. And the fact that few people have gotten it or understood it so far makes me feel very superior and smarter than everyone else (smile).

CK: Who are your favorite filmmakers and actors?

PH: Hmm. When you imagine being in this business you have this answer all prepared. But for reason it always stomps me. I find it odd when directors get asked this question and don’t mention the people that made their film possible to begin with. I feel very fortunate to have now what I used to always dream of having and that was a repository of talent to work with on a continual basis - whether it’s my film or one I'm producing for someone else. But if Jace Nicole wasn't a favorite actor of mine, then I don't think I would have even made Cookies & Cream to begin with. I owe all of the love the film has gotten to her, because if she didn't pull it off, no one would have cared. The same for Naama Kates who I love. She played Jodie. Naama has told me some very nice things about her experience working with me, but I gotta say that working with her was just as awesome. Brian Ackley is an amazing talent I think. He fought me some of the way during production because I was intentionally more vague about his character than he would have liked me to be. Brian likes to have a certain amount of cognitive preparation on things, and it makes sense. But for some people it can be a crutch, and I wanted his first instincts to inform me, not the other way around. One of the lessons I was trying to get across to Brian during Cookies was the Woody Allen line in Manhattan. "The brain is the most overrated organ in the human body." And I think he did a great job. My favorite challenge on the film was directing comedian Ardie Fuqua in a strictly dramatic role. It was a challenge for me, not for him. He slipped right into it when he played Jonathan, and it’s one of my favorite performances in the movie. I have the same love for Danny Doherty, Chris Riquinha, Kent Sutton, Rick Borgia, Thyais Walsh, and Derek McAllister. How’s that for self-promotion? Also, I owe Chris Riquinha from Uptown 10 bucks from the other night, so he is my favorite actor overall.

CK: So Aside from directing Cookies & Cream you also wrote it?

PH: Yeah. I went away for 7 days to a hotel that even I can't remember the location of now. I struggled for two of those days not being able to write a word because there were so many places I could go with a subject matter like this. Ultimately I chose pure honesty above all else, and wrote it in 5 or 6 nights.

CK: What influenced you into writing it?

PH: I wanted to make my first film right away. I also wanted to do something with Jace that would challenge her as well as myself. I wanted to take away her ability to be aggressive in a way, and see what she would be like to watch if she had to keep all of her emotions bottled up. We came up with this idea of a character that society frowns on - this porn star who is a single mother, and we both wanted to challenge ourselves to make that character human no matter what. We worked very hard at doing that. Also at the time I was pissed about how long funding was taking for another film I am doing, and was watching a lot of DIY digitally shot films like Quiet City, The Puffy Chair, and Hannah Takes the Stairs. I even took Jace and Brian to see it at the IFC when it opened here in NY to show them what we were getting into. I also made sure to write something I felt could be done whether we had some money, or none at all. Luckily we had billions and billions of dollars.

CK: Your lead star of the film Jace Nicole told me in her interview that you picked her after watching an addition tape she sent you; could you tell us what you saw in her that made you pick her for the leading role?

PH: I saw her throw a table clear across the room in an improve exercise, that’s what. Cookies & Cream wasn’t even thought of at that point, but I wanted to use her in as much as I could. She was like a secret weapon. I had never seen an actor that dedicated - no matter what you put them through. I put her in Phish, a short film I did in 2005. Then it came time to make Cookies and we worked on the story together, so the plan was to make Cookies for her in a sense. Plus, she paid me $700 to choose her and at the time I had to pay rent.

CK: How many days did filming go on for?

PH: We scheduled it for I think 12 days. We shot exactly double that amount of time.

CK: Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I heard that making this film was an uphill battle for you, the cast, and the production crew?

PH: Oh my goodness, you must have been watching the "Making 'Cookies & Cream'" series, huh? That’s more than a shameless plug (we can’t make money off the web-series anyway), it’s a testament to how much went wrong while we made it. So much so, a documentary was made by Omar Hernandez the co-producer about it. You name it, it went wrong, and things you wouldn’t even think of went wrong too. It was literally a nightmare to get that thing made, that you don’t have enough space to print here. Seriously. That's what makes the reception to the film that much more gratifying for all of us involved. The website for the film has a section called "See It" and in there you will see all the episodes that are up (I think 6 so far). You will see for yourself why there was too much drama to begin to list here. The President is having an easier time fixing the United States economy than we had making Cookies & Cream.

CK: Are there any memorable moments in making the film you’d like to share with us?

PH: Having my girlfriend hold a stick with a microphone taped to it for several twelve minute scenes pretty much takes the cake, don’t you think?

CK: Yeah, I guess so [Laughs]

CK: What type of problems, if any, did you encounter while filming?

PH: The entire shoot was a problem that would not have been fixable had it not been for Damon my sound designer/composer, and Hector, my editor. The fact that you were even able to see it is a miracle.

CK: I may have said some harsh things about the acting in the film with my review, I will say that after allowing the film to maul over in my mind I kind of see what you mean about the cast giving a realistic performance.

PH: Well Cliff, you keep saying you were harsh on the actors but I don’t think you were at all. Harsh is saying they sucked. Mentioning that a few of them did "okay" is not half as bad. Overall, I thought your review was great. And I do appreciate you still having it on your mind even now. A director's job is to look thru the lens or at the monitor or the editing screen and constantly ask themselves, "Do I believe him?" "Do I believe her?" For nearly every frame of the film you see, the answer for me was "Yes."

CK: Well you’re right now that I think of it, after all if you’d really like to see me being harsh to a film than just check out every review I’ve done on Uwe Boll films.

PH: Now I can't wait to read it!

CK: I was kind of curious about something regarding your film C&C and the other two films in the Naked Series: do all three films co-exist in the same reality?

PH: Wow. You stomped me again. Now that I have a moment to think about it, the films do not co-exist in the same reality. They are the sole interpretations of each filmmaker's sensibility. We do share things as artists. But besides some shot-types we may all have an affection for, they were just really human stories about everyday people who fascinate us. Where some people may love extraordinary people that always look great, think fast, and are super strong or super smart, we happen to be fascinated by the true story of a lonely guy who falls for a married woman, or a girl whose boyfriend decides to commit suicide in the midst of their happiness, and in this case, a single mother who accepts an adult film gig to take care of her daughterj and herself. Besides the fact that we stole each other’s actors (Chris Riquinha is in Cookies and Uptown, Deirdre Herlihy is in Uptown and Carter, and Derek McAllister is in Cookies and Uptown), the main thing they all share is they are all produced by 3 at-times neurotic young men that happen to hang out off the set as much as we do on it. But just in case you wanted to know, Brian's the wild one, Ryan is the nervous one, and I'm the black one.

CK: This next question I’m about to ask you has become somewhat of a tradition for interviews here at, so don’t worry, you’re not the only one I’ve asked this question to. [Laughs]

PH: No I'm not going to get naked.

CK: Darn it, you know how much my readers were looking forward to it? [Laughs]

PH: Of course! Sorry to disappoint so many people.

CK: As a filmmaker how far are you willing to go for the sake or art?

PH: As far as the source material says we should go. I may even go further. For instance, from here on out, could you please refer to me as "the director formerly known as Princeton?"

CK: Whatever floats your boat buddy [Laughs]

CK: Are there any actors you’d like to work with one day?

PH: Catalina Sandino Moreno. Mos Def. Rochelle Aytes. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Zoe Saldana. Shia Labeouf. And of course, Sandra Bullock. Right after Brian's done making out with her, I'd like to ask her why she's been in so many crappy movies.

CK: Well if you ever get an answer out of Sandra Bullock please send it my way. [Laughs]

PH: I'll tell her you said 'hello.'

CK: Last question; can you tell us what the next project you’ll be working on will be?

PH: My next film as a director is an alternate reality comedy called American Woman, which features nearly the entire One Way or Another Productions repository of actors we like to work with. Then a relationship comedy called The Butterfly Chasers, the one that Cookies was made out of frustration because of. Hopefully after that, I can finally get the chance to direct a script I wrote called, "I Wish My Lawyer Would Stop Calling Me During My TcwReviews Interview."

CK: Well it seems you’re going to be busy for quite a while then. Plus that last one you mention sounds like it’ll be a real award winner for you, but I’ve got to ask, who would play me in the film? [Laughs]

PH: Probably Brian Ackley.

CK: Good choice!

And that concludes the interview with Director Princeton Holt. I enjoyed doing this interview with Holt as he showed to have a level head throughout the entire interview as well as off the record afterwards. But this of course is all due to the fact he puts a 110% of himself into everything he’s doing including the very interview we did. I welcomed him to come back for a second interview in the possible near future. Holt’s film Cookies & Cream will be premiering on the 5th of July at the Anthology Film Archives in NYC as part of the NewFilmmakers Film Festival Summer Series. More information about the Festival can be found HERE. If you’re not in the NY area or are unable to make it out to the Festival than you can purchase a DVD copy of Cookies & Cream HERE. More information about Director Princeton Holt and his production company can be found HERE

Copyright 2009
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Review: Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day (2008) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Bharat Nalluri
Written by: David Magee (screenplay) and Simon Beaufoy (screenplay)
Genre: Comedy / Romance
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for some partial nudity and innuendo.
Released: 7 March 2008 (USA)
Starring: Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Shirley Henderson, Lee Pace, Mark Strong, Tom Payne, Ciarán Hinds.

Plot: Guinevere Pettigrew, a middle-aged London governess, finds herself unfairly dismissed from her job. An attempt to gain new employment catapults her into the glamorous world and dizzying social whirl of an American actress and singer, Delysia Lafosse.

Review: 8/10

My Thoughts: Based off the 1938 British novel written by Winifred Watson, Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day is a deliciously delightful comedy about a about taking risks, and enjoying what life gives out in the moment. To be completely honest I’ve never read the book so there is no way possible that I can compare them together, however I can say from my experience from watching the theatrical adaption of this wonderful story was nothing short of brilliances, I can only imagine how even more better the book will be, the movie is basically about one day in the life of Guinevere Pettigrew (McDormand) a woman who has always lived at the edge of total poverty most of her life, and on one particular day when her luck had struck to its lowest point she acted out of her usual self and portended to be something she wasn’t, this of course set the film’s comedic and adventurist plot in motion for an exciting thrill ride, but as much as there is laughter in this film there is also a very valuable lesson to be learned as well, that when it comes to love you must chose what’s in your heart, and not what’s in your mind because in many cases the two can be very much different things.

As I’ve stated already, I’ve never read the book this film is based off of, but I very much enjoyed the film, and as we all know the book is always a hundred times better then the film, so I’m assuming if I really liked the film then I will love the book even more, now was there problems in the film? Yes, did it ruin the film in any way? No. the film is in some parts hard to fallow due to it being based on a signal day and there is just so much going on with these characters that can make one feel somewhat exhausted , but then again isn’t that how life is? Anyways there isn’t much character development going on here, but again this film is only about one single day and not a life time so characters development would be pretty pointless for a film such like this, and even though there isn’t much development going on in this flick, you still feel as though you’ve known these characters your entire life. Also the overall back setting to this film was spot on with a very authentic 1930’s Fashion London era which of course also gives the film this light tone to the ever so depressing WII era which was sweeping all of Europe and quickly approaching the borders of the United Kingdom at an incredibly fast rate, one could say that the over tone to the film presented itself as the calm before the storm. The film shows both the humor to the story’s plot as well as the drama of the war nearing soon, but of course talks of the war does not play a big role in the film, more like hints and small talk here and there is all.

But all of this of course is all thanks to director Bharat Nalluri, a British director whom I can’t help but say was perfect for the job, giving the film just the right touch to make it a very enjoyable film all around. Sadly there are some flaws; one in particular lies in the plot which lacks direction at times, there are times in the film where there are just so many things going on at once it can be heard to keep track, this could partly be blamed on director Bharat Nalluri part, and even though I had just given him a high praise on his directing style no film is flawless, and in all cases it will either be the director’s fault or the actor, either way there will always be a fault, you just have to look out for them, but aside from this little problem, the film was a lavish delight, a pleasure for any moviegoer looking for some good old fashion light hearted romantic comedy that will put a smile on your face. Overall I had a great time with this film, to rare is it that we see a film like Miss Pettigrew to come along and do what it manages to do in its genre, and when one such as this dose come around we must seize the moment and enjoy every bit of it.

The story is about; In 1939 London, Miss Guinevere Pettigrew is a middle-aged governess who finds herself once again unfairly dismissed from her job. Without so much as severance pay, Miss Pettigrew realizes that she must--for the first time in two decades--seize the day. This she does, by intercepting an employment assignment outside of her comfort level--as "social secretary." Arriving at a penthouse apartment for the interview, Miss Pettigrew is catapulted into the glamorous world and dizzying social whirl of an American actress and singer, Delysia Lafosse. Within minutes, Miss Pettigrew finds herself swept into a heady high-society milieu--and, within hours, living it up. Taking the "social secretary" designation to heart, she tries to help her new friend Delysia navigate a love life and career, both of which are complicated by the three men in Delysia's orbit; devoted pianist Michael, intimidating nightclub owner Nick, and impressionable junior impresario Phil. Miss Pettigrew herself is blushingly drawn to the gallant Joe, a successful designer who is tenuously engaged to haughty fashion maven Edythe--the one person who senses that the new "social secretary" may be out of her element, and schemes to undermine her. Over the next 24 hours, Guinevere and Delysia will empower each other to discover their romantic destinies.

As for the acting; Frances McDormand was outstanding, she’s an Oscar worthy actress that gives us nothing short of an Oscar worthy performance. Amy Adams was breath taking, she alone steals the show as Delysia Lafosse, her performance came natural and matched the era of the film spot on, and her attitude is just downright irresistible, I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the part as great as her. Shirley Henderson did a marvelous job as Edythe Dubarry, much like Adams; she too gives off a charismatic performance that matches the times the film is set in. Lee Pace did a fine job, although I felt it could have done a little better, at time his performance was lacking and a little off key, but that’s just my opinion. Mark Strong did a great job, he in some why (more than others) plays the story’s villain and he does a great job in doing so. Tom Payne is…. Ok in a way, I feel as though he wasn’t picked for the role of Phil for his acting qualities but rather for his looks, because I honestly felt nothing from his performance but someone who’s there as eye candy for the ladies to look at, and yeah, the female audience could argue with me that Amy Adams showing off her nearly perfect figure (And what a beauty it is I might add) is the same equivalence to what Mr. Payne does for the female audience, that’s true, but there’s one difference that separates them, Adams can actually hold her own ground on camera as where Payne cannot. Ciarán Hinds was magnificent; he’s one of the best actors in his class, there isn’t a film or show that he’s done that I don’t like. He gives a strong performance in each of the roles he plays, and his presence can always be felt in a film.

Final Say: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was a very enjoyable film, it gives its viewers a fine combination of an old fashion screwball comedy meets a classy romance tale which hasn’t been seen often enough these days, the film is a true class act for it’s fine qualities despite its few flaws and is recommended for anyone who wants to curl up next to that special someone of theirs and enjoy a magical evening of lighthearted humor that is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. I recommend it!

Copyright 2009
All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 1, 2009

Exclusive Interview with Actor/Director Brian Ackley

TCWreviews’s Administrator and Editor in chief Clifford Kiyabu sits down with Uptown (2009) director Brian Ackley for an exclusive interview. Brian Ackley is an actor, a writer and now a director with his debut film “Uptown”, just barely getting his feet wet and he’s already dived into the three main positions of filmmaking and can you believe he’s barely gotten his first toe in the door? Some have dreamed their whole life for the moment they would being able to do just one of the three than alone all of them, but Ackley shows that you don’t have to be a hug name in filmmaking nor do you have to have the big bucks to back you up either, but a strong head on your solders and the will to set out and do it yourself, as both a filmmaker and an individual, not much known about him outside of his inner circle. So this is where I come in, with this exclusive interview that allows Mr. Ackley the chance to tell us a little bit about himself.

CK: First off, I’d like to thank you for taking the time out to do this little Q&A session with me, I enjoyed your film a great deal, though you probably read my review on it already, I hope you liked my blunt and honest review.

BA: It’s my pleasure to do this. Thank you so much for your interest. I enjoyed reading your review very much.

CK: Before we go into discussing about your film “Uptown”, I think my readers would like to get to know you a little first, tell us a little about yourself.

BA: I’m a 30-year-old college dropout who enjoys writing and making movies. I’m from South Jersey and moved up to Brooklyn 9 years ago to go to Brooklyn College. I fell in love with their film department- the faculty, the students, the equipment- and spent as much time as I could on sets. I always had a passion for acting and writing, but at BC I found an interest in lighting, framing, and directing.

CK: What motivated you onto wanting to become an actor?

BA: Michael J. Fox. I can’t remember if I first saw him in Back to the Future or Family Ties, but I was enthralled. I think it was Family Ties. Alex P. Keaton. As far as I was concerned he made the show. By the time Back to the Future came out, at the age of 6, I knew I wanted to be an actor like him.

CK: So did you decide you wanted to get into directing as well when starting out in acting or did directing come as an afterthought?

BA: An afterthought. Much after. I did a few plays in High School but it wasn’t until a year after graduation that I decided I’d really go for it. I had spent that year admiring the work of Quentin Tarantino, watching his films again and again, reciting their best lines with friends again and again. Two ideas came together around that time: it is the director that creates and controls the visual style of a film; and an actor looking for work in the overly populated world of acting should be able to do more than just act. Having no other performing talents to my credit (such as dancing, singing, or playing an instrument), and having an interest in creating and controlling a visual style (or stealing from Tarantino), I had the brilliant idea of going to school to become a director, thereby paving my own path as an actor.

CK: Well I wouldn’t say you stole Tarantino’s filming style, but rather coming into your own as a filmmaker.

BA: When I started writing back in high school I borrowed Tarantino's style all the time. While at BC I made a short called Hostage Person which is very Tarantino influenced.

CK: Where you always a fan of movies?

BA: Since Back to the Future (1985).

CK: What films did you enjoy watching while growing up?

BA: All of them. I liked everything I saw. Except horror films. I never liked to be scared. But everything else. I was a huge John Candy fan. To me, there was no better a collaboration than with John Candy and John Hughes. But I fell for all the classics: Father of the Bride, Home Alone, Ghostbusters, Flight of the Navigator, Indiana Jones, even Driving Miss Daisy!

CK: What are your favorite genres?

BA: I love to laugh. These days Wes Anderson films have me in stitches. It’s easier for me to talk about filmmakers than genres. I tend to enjoy those films that can’t be easily labeled, like a Charlie Kaufman film. The Coen Brothers are also somewhere at the top, with Zemekis, Spielberg, Eastwood, Shyamalan, and of course Tarantino.

CK: Most actors and filmmakers tend to set themselves into a safety-net of what they can and cannot do, like some will stick to films in genres that they are capable of. So my question to you is; do you have such limits set upon yourself in both acting and directing?

BA: No. Though sci-fi is not a favored genre, one prime motivator for me has always been the idea of exploration, largely within myself but also with behavior, language, and ideas. I may have majored in either Psychology or Philosophy had Celluloid not been invented. Another prime motivator is this strange, often overlooked idea of wanting to have fun. How much fun is a safety net? While at BC I made 5 shorts; the second was a supernatural horror film so far outside my element that it became a technical and narrative disaster. But it was fun. And one day I’ll return to the genre just for the hell of it.

CK: So would it be safe to say that a comedy isn’t too far over the horizon for you?

BA: Not far from the horizon at all. My next project is a comedy.

CK: Seeing that you and the horror genre doesn’t go well together and the fact you don’t set limitations upon yourself have you ever considered thinking outside of the box and doing a comedy horror someday for say, the experience?

BA: I always wanted to do a Christmas comedy horror where everything takes place in one house at a family Xmas eve party. I'd have a psycho cousin or somebody running around offing people one at a time and hiding their bodies.

CK: I see that you and director Princeton Holt have a pretty good friendship aside from being co-workers on a few other projects, how did you guys meet and did you’re friendship come about before or after working together?

BA: Princeton and I are the greatest of pals. We share similar views and values, we’re both cognitive creatures, and we’re both huge fans of films and each other. Princeton found me through a mutual friend when he inquired about the technical limitations of a camera he intended to use for the filming of his short Phish. This friend happened to be the DP on my latest short Hostage Person, shot with the camera in question, in which I also starred in. Seeing the film Princeton took to my performance and cast me in Phish. That experience being pleasant, we began talking about what was going to be his first feature, The Butterfly Chasers. The project would become delayed but we would continue hanging out from time to time and talking about films and philosophy. When Princeton finally got fed up with waiting around for more financiers to jump aboard, he decided to make a “smaller” film, a cheaper film. He called me up and asked me to act. I cleared my schedule. It wasn’t until the filming of Cookies & Cream and soon after that Princeton and I became really close. I think he would agree that our friendship grew from a deep respect in working with each other.

CK: Is there a particular filmmaker and or actor you’d like to work with one day?

BA: No. This is going to be my last film. Did I get you? I know I got you! I’d like to work with Sandra Bullock but only if I can make out with her. Seriously, I couldn’t answer this question without a story or script or character in my head. There’s a lot of talent out their but the key to producing is in finding good matches. Just because I like Pacino or Hanks doesn’t mean we’d be compatible. It really depends on story and character. With that said, knowing both the directing styles of Ryan Balas (producer on Uptown) and Princeton, I can say that I am looking forward to having them each guest direct a scene in my next film Indulgence. In the same vein, I’d like to act beside Chris (from Uptown); I see us playing brothers.

CK: OH you got me alright, for a moment there I thought you was actually serious [Laughs], So Bullock is a definite for you if you could choose, why is that?

BA: I was just joking about Bullock. I'd love to meet her though. She's cute and funny.

CK: I asked your Cookies & Cream Co-star Jace Nicole the same question I’m now asking you; as an actor how far are you willing to go for the sake of art?

BA: I don’t see art. I see an experience. It depends on how receptive I am at the moment the experience is offered, and that may depend on what I think the experience is worth or it may depend on where I see myself without that experience. I know. That’s a vague answer. Let me try again. I’ll go anywhere if I believe it will be worth it. And sometimes, like I said before, I’ll just go for fun.

CK: What inspired you to write and direct Uptown?

BA: I fell in love with a married woman. With a little creative maneuvering, condensing, and narrative altering, Uptown is a pretty close version of actual events from this period of my life. But what truly inspired me to tell this story in a film was Princeton. Princeton was in post with Cookies & Cream after dragging himself through hell to make it. He set out to make movies, he wrote movies, he got people interested in making his movies, and then nothing. He was told it’s easier for a filmmaker to find financing for a film if he’s already made a film. So how do you make a film without money? You drag yourself through hell. Uptown came from a culmination of my being inspired by first time feature director Princeton Holt and a little film he showed me by coincidence on the same night I told him the story of the married woman. It was called Quiet City, and it shares a similar sentiment and style with Uptown. I recommend it.

CK: How long did it take to film?

BA: Less than 10 days within a month.

CK: Did you encounter any problems while filming?

BA: Who doesn’t? The better question would be: Did you encounter MANY problems while filming? The answer to that would be yes. I’ll briefly tell you about one of my favorites. With virtually no money to film and only a small window of available time to shoot, I decided early on that I was going to use two cameras simultaneously. I would design each scene to be shot with coverage included thereby speeding the process altogether. Camera A was our main camera that we used for masters, while Camera B was used for close-ups and cutaways. Each had their own slate. After walking through a scene with the actors, I’d place and frame first A, then B. If A was all I needed for a shot, then B would pick up inserts. The system worked beautifully. We were able to film very quickly (as fast as TV) and move on. We shot for a period of 4 or 5 days in a row before our first production break, completing more than half of the film. At some point during this brief break I checked the tapes. I was stunned to find a disturbing pattern: one tape ran great, one was pixilated; another one was fine, another pixilated; another was fine, another pixilated. It turned out everything shot on Camera B was pixilated. The camera was busted. The funny thing is that after each location we checked our footage to see that we got our shot…but we must have only checked Camera A every time! The bottom line: we lost half of everything we shot.

CK: So basically there’s a lot from the film that never made it to screen due to the lost footage in camera B, must have been tough improvising on that?

BA: Mostly just different angles and coverage. It was kind of bizarre. A day after this tragic discovery, I went back to review what we did have and found that our story still worked without the Camera B footage. We had to reshoot maybe only 20% of what was lost. We recovered quite easily, surprisingly.

CK: Looking back at the 10 days of filming that went on what would you say was the most memorable moment in all those days of filming?

BA: That's a difficult question. I have loads of great memories. I guess one special moment was while we were filming at the underpass by the fountain in Central Park. It's a magnificent location. We had both cameras- I had A, Ryan had B- and we each followed a character as they took in the location and each other. I had only a vague sense of what I wanted from the scene, and so we kept walking and shooting and trying different things; meanwhile uptairs, Princeton and a full crew waited patiently (and hungrily) for 45 minutes before I finally found what the scene was about. 45 minutes of Ryan and I following the actors! The moment I discovered WHY that particular space was important was when I knew HOW to shoot it. It only took a few minutes after that for me to get the scene.

CK: Correct me if I’m wrong, but when I viewed the film I got this hug impression that the film’s scrip was partly based off of real life experiences?

BA: You are wrong. It was mostly based on real life. Also, in truth, there wasn’t much of a script. We largely followed nothing but an outline.

CK: I think I may have phrased it wrong, what I meant was; some filmmakers tend to get personal with some of their films rather than just making it for the paycheck. And well, I could really feel that in “Uptown”, like it was more than just a film but rather a piece of you, the film’s director, and seeing this is based off actual events in your life, you could argue that you are sharing a piece of your own life experience with the viewers.

BA: Absolutely. The person that Uptown is about had a way of opening me up to the point where I could share everything about myself - and this started from our very first conversations. Making Uptown was about extending that freedom and openness that she inspired.

CK: After finally sitting behind the director’s chare, which can you say you preferred more, acting or directing?

BA: I enjoy being a part of telling a good story. Sometimes my role is very specific and all I have to do is serve a singular element. And sometimes my role is vast and all-encompassing and I’m responsible for the look and sound and feel of every moment. Both are exhilarating and challenging in their own right. One is not more rewarding than the other. With acting, I enjoy being someone I’m not- doing and saying things I wouldn’t normally say or do- but also I enjoy learning about myself within that process; with directing, I enjoy offering an audience a fresh experience- sometimes emotional, sometimes intellectual, sometimes indulgent- and with that the challenge of problem solving and the opportunity for experimenting. If you put French Fries and Shrimp on a table, I won’t decide between the two of them; I’ll eat them both.

CK: Though the film was probably made as a one shot film, I felt as though the ending left the viewers hanging with some unanswered questions, like where do they go from here?

BA: Uptown is not meant to end ambiguously. I feel most viewers will get it easily. With that said, I am playing with the idea of revisiting these characters at a later stage in their lives. If a sequel is made though, it won't be until after my next few features. Maybe 5 years from now.

CK: Is there any chance of us seeing some kind of continuation to Uptown in the future?

BA: Yes and no. There won’t be a sequel to Uptown. The story simply ends there. But, since it is based on a personal experience, and chances are at some point I’ll make another highly personal film, I’d say it’s possible that I may further explore similar characters within a similar world, as it may relate to my own growth as a romantic individual.

CK: Are there any new projects coming up for you that my readers should look out for?

BA: Absolutely. One Way Or Another Productions has a full slate to look forward to this year. I will be acting for Princeton once again in American Woman, an Altman-esk film he scripted with an ensemble cast in mind (including Meissa, from Uptown, Chris, and Jace!) living in a female dominated society. Also as part of One Way, we’ll be making Ryan’s new film, tentatively titled Mother/Sister, which explores the relationship of two sisters (Jace and Deirdre) meeting for the anniversary of their mother’s death. And finally, to round out the year, we’ll be making the aforementioned Indulgence, a comedy about a self-indulgent writer trying to find the meaning to life and love; if Woody Allen and Wes Anderson collaborated on a project, it would resemble Indulgence.

CK: Last question; now that you’ve taken on both acting and directing, is there any future life goals for you in the movie industry that you’d like to achieve?

BA: I already mentioned Sandra Bullock. At this point I’m currently only wedging a toe in the door of the movie industry. My main goal is to walk (or shove my way) through that door. I’ll find success when I’m able to make a living by making films.

CK: Of course, it’s pretty obvious that you’re only a step in the door and have a long way to go before you get both feet in of course, just make sure you don’t sell your soul to the bigwigs when that happens for you. [Laughs]

BA: [Laughs] I'll sell only a few shares off to the bigwigs; I promise I'll keep ownership of at least 60% of my soul at any given point! [Laughs]

CK: [Laughs]

And that concludes the interview with Actor/Director Brian Ackley, Brian and I still remain in contact, we’ve talked about future projects that he is working on and I still throwing the idea of a Comedy/Horror out there to him, and with some luck I’ll that happen, let’s just hope I get props on the idea [Laughs], we also talked about doing another interview in the near future, I thank him for taking the time out from his work to have this little set down with me, and if you’d like my personal input on him, both on and off the record he showed to be a down to earth person, most people in the same type of profession as him are usually uptight swines (no offense to swines), so take it from me when I say I look forward to our next interview. Uptown is now available on DVD as part of the Naked Series. You can also learn more about the film by checking out the office website by clicking here. You can also check out the official MySpace page for the film by clicking here.