Category - Entertainment News

Aleksi Puranen Talks ‘Heavy Trip’ and Finnish Film Culture

Aleksi Puranen was the writer for the recent film Heavy Trip, which is about a heavy metal band coming together to make great music. Puranen talks about the movie, Finland’s society and film views.

ATM: How did you think to connect comedy to heavy metal music?

AK: I think there are quite a few similarities between heavy metal and comedy. There are a lot of things in heavy metal that are over the top like the way they dress. Or how extreme their opinions might be or their appearance. They usually very easygoing guys.

 ATM: Why was your film Heavy Trip necessary to be written for the big screens?

AK: Right from start we intended to write Heavy Trip as a feature film for the big screen. In Finland we don’t even have such a thing as a “TV movie” anymore. We used to, but not anymore. So, it was either a feature film for the big screen or a TV series and series was never our intention. Plus, there hadn’t a feature film about a metal band, at least not in Finland, and we decided it was time to their voices be heard. And usually extreme metal is combined with horror, which again was never our intention, but rather wanted to make a comedy since quite often the guys under their extreme or harsh appearance are sweet and mellow.

ATM: Do you think it could persuade a person who has never listened to the genre to listen?

AK: I think it’s very much possible that someone who has never listened to metal would start listening after seeing Heavy Trip. The music the band plays in the film is rather extreme, but the soundtrack by Lauri Porra is much more mainstream and melodic and I’d say “easier” to listen to. I’ve heard people who have never listened to metal say that they enjoyed the music. Whether that lead them to buy loads of metal cd’s or create Spotify playlists consisting of metal, I don’t know. But, in general, I think when you see something new in a film that interests you, there’s always a chance you might give it a go in real life.

ATM: What are your favorite heavy metal bands?

I started out listening to bands like Kiss, WASP, Twisted Sister and Dio in the 80s. Then I got in to melodic metal bands like Helloween, Queensrÿche, Iron Maiden etc. These days I mostly listen to progressive metal or just heavy metal and my favorite bands are Dream Theater, who are widely considered as the prog metal masters. They’ve been around since the late 80’s and continue to produce quality albums. Then there’s a Finnish band called Sentenced who started as a death metal but leaned more towards heavy metal and hard rock later on and had a really dark and humorous side to their lyrics. They disbanded in 2005 but still remains as one of my favorite bands. Evergrey from Sweden is close to a perfect mix of combining melodies, heavy riffs and emotional, somber mood and I enjoy their music very much. Another band from Sweden I love is Seventh Wonder who are closer to the style of Dream Theater and they just released their new album and I can’t stop listening to it. Circus Maximus from Norway is another one. They also play progressive melodic metal and sometimes even lean towards hard rock and I’ve listened to their two last albums almost continuously. Iron Maiden and Halloween also remain as some of my favorite bands. On the harsher side, I also enjoy Finnish Moonsorrow who play really epic metal and were sometimes said to play “pagan metal”. Whatever their genre, I really like them. Then there’s Summoning from Austria, who started out as a black metal band an evolved into a wonderful mixture of extreme metal, darkness, fantasy, ambient sounds and soundtrack-like music and their albums from “Stronghold” on have been masterpieces.

ATM: Have you ever been in a band? If so, then what was your band name? Describe an outfit and dream concert event.

AK: I used to play at my neighbor’s garage as a kid. I played bass guitar and “growled”. This was in 1991 or 1992 and we tried to sound like Iron Maiden or Megadeth. Then we recorded a demo tape (with a c-cassette just like Impaled Rektum did in the film) of more extreme metal and called ourselves “Impurity”. This must’ve been in 1992 so I was fourteen and not very good at playing any instrument. Soon after that I quit playing and decided to focus on listening to music instead of trying to play and I’m quite happy with my decision. If I played in a band today, the music would be really heavy with a melodic touch, a combination of what Sentenced and Evergrey sound like, perhaps. I don’t think I would have any special outfit. Dark jeans and a t-shirt would do, but a dream concert would probably take place somewhere in Finnish or Norwegian Lapland at a mountain side. I have no idea how anyone could organize a concert event in such a place, but it would be epic!

ATM: How popular is the film industry aspect in Finland’s pop culture society?

AK: I think the film industry is quite a popular thing in Finland, but the thing is we’re a nation of 5 million people and not too many Finnish films travel abroad. Although, lately this has been getting better and better. But the fact that approximately 30 feature films get produced per year is since the Finnish film industry relies on state funding. Finnish Film Foundation has a limited budget and is obligated by law to support all kinds of films (art house, documentary, short film etc.), so there’s only so much money to be dealt and naturally, there are lots of filmmakers who are eager to get their share. Average budget of a Finnish feature film is approximately 1,5 to 2 million euros and the Finnish Film Foundation usually covers about half of that. Producing films without state funding would be impossible in Finland.

ATM: How do Finland society celebrate its film professionals (directors, producers, actors, etc.)?

AK: I think film professionals are quite highly valued in our society. Maybe there’s not as strong a “star cult” as maybe in Hollywood but for example, the press in Finland is very interested in how Finnish films travel abroad etc. It is, of course, a big thing every time a Finnish film succeeds in one way or another abroad. For example, when the short film “Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?” was an Oscar nominee and the feature film The Fencer was a Golden Globe nominee, those were big deals over here. Of course, we have our own annual “Oscars”, Jussit, which is an awards gala where all the awards are given, and both films and filmmakers celebrated. “Jussit” is in March so we’ll see if Heavy Trip or my feature length documentary Wheels of Freedom will receive any nominations. If they do, that’s, of course, a wonderful thing but not the reason I make films.

ATM: So, fame and fortune does not matter to you in terms of making films? Why do you even make films? What makes you not stop?

AK: Well, it’s, of course, nice to get recognition for your films but awards and fame are not the reasons for making films, for me at least. I think there are very few Finnish filmmakers who are rich. There are some but most just make a decent living. And quite a few struggles to make a living at all making films and it’s not unheard of that people stop making films because it’s hard to make a living. The pay is not as good as in big Hollywood productions because the budgets are also significantly lower. I make films out of a passion for storytelling. If there’s a story I love, then I naturally want people to hear about it. With films, you can not only entertain but also inform people, change attitudes and even change the world. I don’t think I’ve made that kind of impact or if I ever will, but as long as I just have this passion for telling stories I will keep on trying to make films. What or when my next film will, I have no idea at the moment, but it will come someday.

ATM: How do you feel you change attitudes and use film narratives to change the world? Is there any elements or topics about life that you have not observed yet your film? Describe the struggles of your first time and what was the time of it.

AK: I think there are quite a few topics yet to be covered. I first graduated with a BA in 2006 and then with an MA (in film screenwriting) in 2012 and worked in the film industry as a lighting technician, assistant director and whatnot, all the time trying to make it as a screenwriter and/or director but none of my projects went anywhere. I made several low/no-budget short films out of sheer fun and also to keep up and advance my skills as a filmmaker. Those films were easy to make in the sense that there weren’t any funding bodies or anyone else who might have had had the possibility to tell me what to do or not do, but rather I had pretty much the freedom to do whatever I wanted.

A lot of times I either didn’t get any funding for my writing or producers weren’t interested in my scripts. So, in a sense, Heavy Trip and Wheels of Freedom are really my first times. Both took quite a while to get going. I think I started with both in 2013 or 2014 and they were both eventually released this year. Both actually cover the topic of believing in yourself and not being afraid of failures or rather keep on trying even if there’s a big chance you might fail, which is fairly typical for us Finns. We tend to think that if there’s a chance I might not succeed, then why to bother at all. Especially with Wheels of Freedom – which tells the story of a disabled man trying to drive across Europe from Finland to Lisbon, Portugal with his power wheelchair – I was able to make people aware about disabled people’s rights. Not sure if I have changed any attitudes yet, though.

ATM: What are some social issues or controversies in Finland now?

AK: I think #metoo is one, which I think is rather self-explanatory. Also, right-wing political parties rising to power (or trying to) is something I think I will try cover in one way or another in my future films.

ATM: How do you cover such topics without it coming as bias?

AK: This is a good question. I think when you’re making a film you should always have a point of view, whatever the story is you’re telling. You’re always commenting on something about the world or society or pointing out something that may be wrong about society. As a filmmaker you should always have something to say and the film you’re making is the medium through which you convey your message.

 

TJ Wright Turns a Frown Upside Down in ‘The Hate U Give’

TJ Wright plays Sekani in the new film The Hate U Give. Wright’s character helps bring humor and comic relief to the main character’s sadness. Wright talks with ATM about his role and life outside of acting.

ATM: Express how it is working around so many adult actors while at a young age.

TJ: They made it a lot of fun, so I was not like the only kid. They made it very inclusive. This was really fun for me.

ATM: Explain more about your role in this film.

TJ: My character is the young brother in the family. He supports comic relief in the film. My character helps his sister in her moments of sadness.

ATM: What is it like working as a young actor through your eyesight?

TJ: It is good for me to start at this age to see if this is what I want to do as an adult. I want to do this as an adult from my experiences so far.

ATM: Describe your whereabouts during the audition decision making.

TJ: I got the script when I was about to leave at the end of the summer. I was about to leave for a trip. We taped in Miami. I flew to New York for recreational purposes. I flew to Philadelphia to see my family. I received a call back while in Philadelphia. I flew to Atlanta from Philadelphia and then I went back to Philadelphia after this.

ATM: How did you feel about the script and story-line?

TJ: I felt the script was really powerful and touching. I knew I was going to click to the character the first time reading, and I did. This was really helpful.

ATM: Why did you feel you were already going to click with the character?

TJ: Some of it was funny. Everything about his lines and the way he acted in terms of the little things that tell you what to do. Some of it was funny. It just helped me think of how Sekani would act if he was a real person.

ATM: Are you normally a person that provides comic relief to people? 

TJ: I definitely provide comic relief. Sometimes when people are sad, I say, “no,” stop,” “no.” I am like, “there is your comic relief.

ATM: Talk more about your aspirations about swimming.

TJ: I used to be on the swim team for UM. I started to get more focused on my acting career. I am out of it a little bit. I am a very good swimmer. I am about to tell you my catchphrase. “Breaststroke is my best stroke.”

ATM & TJ: (Laughs).

ATM: What do you like to draw?

TJ: I like to draw portraits of humans. Sometimes I will do abstract and doodles of animals. Mostly I do people.

ATM: When did you first start drawing?

TJ: I started drawing when I was about 2 or 3. Honestly, every 2 or 3-year-old starts scribbling. I got the click of stick people at 3. This was a really helpful boost to my drawing.

ATM: Describe an early drawing of yours.

TJ: I did a drawing of a one-eyed human at the age of 6 or 7. This is one of my first drawings on my Instagram. The hair was out in terms of it blowing into the wind. It was really cool.

ATM: Why do you enjoy photography?

TJ: I really like aesthetic stuff. I am really good at making collages and polaroid pictures are everything.

ATM: Who are the photographers that you admire?

TJ: My mom and grandfather. We have like a little family tradition.

ATM: What do you like taking pictures of? Nature? People?

TJ: My grandpa is mostly about jazz photography. My mom does a lot of pictures of people, sunsets, and sometimes abstract pictures of grass. Sometimes I ask, “What is that?” I do a lot of pictures of people when they are not looking.

ATM: So candid photos?

TJ: Yes.

The film The Hate U Give is an adaptation from author Angie Thomas’ book titled the same as the movie. The main character loses her childhood best friend to police brutality and is left to cope with the sadness. Wright’s character Sekani provides comic relief to help the main character through this difficult time. The Hate U Give Now In Theatres.

 

 

 

 

Luther Campbell: Warrior of Liberty City

Football is the heart of this Miami town and it helps save its youth. The legendary Luther Campbell founded the youth football team, Warriors of Liberty City, 29 years ago and many NFL players have trained under him in this program. Now a television show, Campbell gives us insight into the seriousness of the violence and the talent in his community.

ATM: What does the word “warrior” mean to you?

Luther: A person that does not take no for an answer and goes hard in the paint. They fight for whatever they need to fight for.

ATM: Who were your mentors growing up at the same age as the boys and girls in the youth program?

Luther: My dad and mother were my mentors. I spent a lot of time with my uncle. I really looked up to these guys. My mother taught me the do’s and the don’ts of the world. Also, how cruel and great the world could be.

ATM: Name the most emotional story.

Luther: Devonta Freedman who is the running back for the Atlanta Falcons. He was the smallest guy and walked around with the limp. We had always thought there was a deficiency with the leg. One leg was longer than the other. There was always something about this kid. He has a good soul and always kept a smile on his face. His body started to catch up in the middle of junior high school. He had a breakout year during senior year. He ran 1000s yards in the playoffs. No one saw this coming. He received a scholarship to Florida State. He went on to play in the Superbowl and National championship. This story just is always emotional. He was the person no one thought would make it to the NFL. My wife and I always get emotional when talking about this story. There is a true believer in God.

ATM: How do you have patience with these young boys and girls?

Luther: It is almost like planting a tree. I have seen these kids at the ages of six and seven. I have seen Lil George and his crew on the cover as children. It is like they are coming and checking into the military. You see them mature and grow into young men. They become unbreakable. You see them grow through the program. No one can tell you anything about them that is not noticed. This is why we extended our program to high school. People were talking bad about them once getting into high school. We were able to see them going in the right direction.

ATM: If I were to ask one of the children on the cover what morals and value were learned, then what would their answer be?

Luther: Those kids love me like their uncle. Lil George would say “Coach is there for us. He makes us happy.” A conversation with Devonta would say, “He gives you good information if you listen.” Each one will tell you something different. The young lady will say “Coach walks in the park saying this is ladylike and that is not ladylike.” These few words make them think.

ATM: Explain the weakness and strengths of your first year.

Luther: I was a baseball guy but always loved football. I had always wanted to have a football program. It was an overwhelming response. I was at the height of my career and the biggest thing coming out of Miami at the time. Hundreds of people showed up and signed their names. It was a major impact for the area in which I grew up. It was fairly new. I got people in high school to come to coach. We got beat up our first year and now we are doing the beating.

ATM: Just how bad was the violence?

Luther: It was and still is very bad. My mother always taught us, “There is always trouble to get in and trouble to get out.” People would show up at people’s houses a night back then. You would find yourself on the floor because of the shooting. You can always find trouble on every block.  They also shoot in the daytime. The docuseries shows they are trying to make their way out. The fathers and mothers are trying to have the kids get out. You will see kids on the team that gets murders from drive because of shootings.

ATM: How does it make you feel turning these young kids dreams into a reality?

Luther: It makes me feel really good. I am a weird person. I do not get overly excited about anything. It just always worked. I always think what to do better for the ones that get incarcerated. I really good for the ones that do make it. I feel good for them to listen. The successful ones remind me that the non-successful ones did not listen. There is still more work to be done. I am always happy. I have girls that I want to see become doctors and lawyers.

ATM: What has this 29-year journey taught you about yourself as a man?

Luther: It taught me the importance of being humbled and that I made the right decision. There were many things I could have done. My career could have been a lot more successful. It was not about me but was about my community. I made the right decision to stay in my community and to save lives. Saving lives does not happen overnight. You have to plant the seed and watch it grow. I am happy the world gets to see what we planted and what the families go through. They will have a better respect for people living in projects and government housing. Some people think they are lazy and want to live here. People have stereotypes about these types of people, but this docuseries shows they are working out to keep their kids alive.

Campbell would have been a record executive if he did not step out to take a risk. A lot of these young boys that have matured into men would have never occurred. He is dedicated to helping the youth in his community Campbell wants to see little girls and boys become better women and men in the future. Listening to his parents and painting with his uncle was a part of how Luther become who he is as a mentor.

Beautifully Broken: Emily Hahn

Getting over internal scars is challenging amid what life throws. People are inspiring and supportive to others. Beautifully Broken is about three families giving each other hope to help get through their own personal struggles. Emily Hahn plays Andrea Hartley who has a secret of her own. This film also debunks traditional views about fathers and mothers.

ATM: Explain how this film challenges your ideas about hope used in your own life.

EH: There are three families in the film that struggle to outcome different obstacles. This made me realize that everyone needs hope despite their struggle. Despite whether they are a refugee. We all struggle to find hope. If we can recognize in one another that all we need is hope, then we can build a better community, and also find humanity and relationships. We have to all recognize to have the common desire to find it.

ATM: Why do you feel our internal scars make us all beautiful?

EH: Benjamin A. Onyango who plays William is broken because he is away from his family. He uses his experience as a refugee to spread light to others. William has wisdom from going through a terrible experience. My character is appointed to others and spreads the light to others when feeling broken. Light shines through us better when we are broken.

ATM: How has this film taught you to add more values and morals to your life?

EH: The ideas of authenticity, honesty, and forgiveness. There is a scene in the movie that focuses on forgiveness. This scene is very incredible. Especially when someone has done something bad to you. This scene is between William and another character. Forgiveness was a key theme in this movie. It taught me that you can overcome the need for revenge and fear to move on. William says, “Forgiveness is the only one I know how to let go.” This quote has deeply impacted me.

We build a better community and stronger relationships when being authentic with one another. You see this in the film when my character is honest about her story. All the characters become honest about everything they have been through. They have built beautiful connections with one another and have found hope. These characters recognize their struggle.

ATM: Do you believe Andrea’s trajectory on pain was the best way to convey to the audience her feelings?

EH: The script shows the true arc of her life. The writing and the directing of the film took each character through their profound storyline. It showed the dynamics that we go through as humans. I loved how her trajectory was written and how it was made. I spent a lot of time with her parents.  They helped me to get a view of her story. It allowed me to put this into the portrayal.

ATM: How was the energy around the screening night and theater release of this film?

EH: I have heard from different people who have been hurt in different ways. People left the theaters at the screening not feeling left alone in their pain. It was beautiful. Our main goal is to shine a light where there is darkness. We want to let people know that what they are going through others are experiencing it as well. We can shine a light on each other from being honest with other stories. People’s reactions were incredible.

ATM: How was this film different from your performance in the film Toy Story 3?

EH: The content is different. Beautiful Broken is a free indie drama and a true story. This changes how you approach a character. There is a lot more pressure to perform. You want to bring justice to someone’s real life. The difference is the weight that each story carries. I felt the pressure with my character to portray it with sensitivity and honesty.

ATM: How does a true story influence how you approach a character?

EH: You have to really know the person’s story. There is a difference between creating a character and not creating a character. You have to channel the person’s energy and story. There is a lot more involvement of respect and empathy. I was able to get a real life experience of what happened to her and their family. It is harder to achieve the respect and empathy when you are not building the story from scratch.

ATM: Express how you feel this film depicts fathers versus other films.

EH: Fathers are portrayed to be the financial figure and in some condition of success in society and in other films. However, Beautifully Broken shows fathers need to just be that loving figure and spread hope to their family. This is the main difference. We wanted to spread the message that fathers do not have not only have success or financial benefits. Mother and fathers are supposed to be living figures to their child.

ATM: This film denotes the world’s stigma that fathers need to be the backbone and breadwinner in their family. They just need to love similar to a mother. This film takes fathers off their pedal stool and expresses their softer sides.

EH: Beautifully Broken shows each mother is the stable source in their families. We are trying to get across that the stigma needs to be removed.

ATM: This puts mothers as the head of the household instead of the fathers. We do not see this a lot in society or in films.

EH: The mothers are the pillars that hold up their family in this film. Beautifully Broken is trying to convey to fathers that they should take up a role of being a pillar. They do not look more toward being a provider. This could mean taking off a day of work or giving up some financial success. Life is about our connections with one another at the end of the day. Life is not about fame, wealth, or success. It is about being in the movement with ourselves and finding harmony.

ATM: Why do you believe films do not highlight the debunk of the father stigma?

EH: We are taught to conform in today’s society. We also like what feels familiar to us. Going against the current is scary to people.  We do not like to be different in our instinct. This means we are not invisible anymore and cannot blend in with others. This is the reason films do not approach it. It is time for them to approach these stigmas. You have to spread light and not conform to the patterns of society.

ATM: Society copies off the construction of films. If films keep portraying parents being like this, then people will keep on thinking this way. This film will allow people to think about a different way to view parents in society.

EH: Exactly.

ATM: People who go against the conforming are considered weird because it does not follow along in the pattern.

EH: We are starting to see stronger female characters in film and television but there still needs to be more. There is still a trend to show the father or male figure as the only person reaching success or the main provider. Everything should be balanced in this world. People should be able to seek equality in their roles. Beautifully Broken now in theaters.

Support The Girls

Women are fighting for empowerment and respect in all aspects of popular culture. Support the Girls is a film that goes into the truths about women working in the cocktail industry. It marks the high disrespect that is received and the emotional struggles this industry brings to them. Nicole Onyeje chats with ATM on the film depiction,  as she was a part of this film.

ATM: How does this film match up with your morals in life?

NO: This film matches up with my morals in life by reminding me to live for myself and not for others while also continuing to do what I feel is right.

ATM: It can be hard to think for yourself in a world full of arbitrary ideas. A lot of people cloud a person’s internal thoughts which limits them to think and do for themselves. Do you feel women receive the appropriate respect in the cocktail industry?

NO: I believe women do receive the appropriate respect in the cocktail industry, but I do not believe that they receive that respect 50% of the time. A woman’s respect is demanded in this kind of industry rather than given.

ATM: How is this respect demanded and not given? Does this give a culture view on how women are viewed? What is it going to take for women to get this respect? Metaphorically, speaking the girls represents the women population and the diner represents America. 

NO: In my opinion, respect is usually demanded by a woman’s work ethic. A person recognizes a worker’s overachievement, so therefore they are more likely to gain the respect of the ones around them because they have proved their role within the company. I believe the women can get the respect they deserve by changing the game by aiming towards a specific crowd. Obviously, the crowd in the film were men, some perverts. If woman shifted their focus of crowd they could potentially attract the attention of those who will give them that respect.

ATM: Is the restaurant Hooters a big inspiration from this movie?

NO: Yes, the restaurant Hooter’s was a huge inspiration to this movie! Similar things have happened in Hooters that they displayed in the film.

ATM: Take a moment to visualize a world of male working at Hooters instead of women. 

NO: If men worked at Hooters instead of women, then I would only allow business casual attire as their uniforms except on Fridays and Saturdays.

ATM: Explain your interest in this film beyond receiving the script from your agent.

NO: I was very excited about this film because I was amazed by the way the story is told. It basically showed the lives of waitresses on and off the clock at this job. A beautiful girl at such a restaurant is more than just her face, she has thoughts opinions, and ideas just like everybody else. Customers and management sometimes forget that their appearance is not the most important factor in their job. For these ladies to slap a fake smile on their face and tolerate some of the most ridiculous things is commending and customers should start showing it.

ATM: Is this appearance aspect similar in acting? The casting agents are first met with your headshots which makes them possibly draw notions about you that might be true and are.

NO: Yes, it is similar in acting. This just says that America has a habit of stereotyping individuals but that does not always mean that it is in a negative way.

Support The Girls exposes the reality of how the cocktail industry negatively affects women. These women are the core of what makes this service thrive each night. The film also stars Regina Hall and Haley Lu Richardson. Support The Girls is currently in theaters.

 

 

Briana McLean On The Struggles of Acting

People might not understand the behind scenes of what it takes to become a break out star in Hollywood. There is a lot of money and time that goes deep into the work. Briana McLean, an actress in the recent film Searching talks about the true values and efforts it took to become an actress.

ATM: How was the premiere for the movie?

BM: It was really great and definitely bigger than I expected. The invite for the screening downplayed the size of the event. The turn out was amazing.

ATM: Has this film given you a reality of how it would feel losing a child?

BM: I’m not a parent yet but the film does a great job of taking you there and what it means to be a parent in our world today. Our hearts are so tied to our devices and social interactions. Searching does a great job exploring these connections. I found myself still emotional while watching even knowing what to expect.

ATM: Does acting in the industry now change your way of looking at films?

BM: This is a really good question. I’ve always been compelled about what motivates and shapes people. I always question my reactions in my personal relationships, friendships, and family. I ask myself, “Why did I do this?” or “Why am I reacting like this?” Acting helps me so much in my own self reflection. One of my professor’s at USC would always refer to actors as “Athletes of the heart” and that has forever stuck with me. You have to be so in tuned, committed to exercising your heart, and empathy for the world in order to be a strong actor. An actor who betters themselves for the world is always going to be a better storyteller. Seeing how well Searching is doing is a crazy feeling. I’ve never been able to able to share a story I was telling with so many people at once! It feels insane. People all around the world are getting to experience this story.

ATM: How are your friends and family like this for you?

BM: It’s funny. I am not really good at telling people things. A lot of people found out about the after seeing the trailer online or on T.V. They’d text me and say, “Oh my god! YOU’RE IN A MOVIE?!” I’ve just never been good at sharing stuff. I never want to seem boastful. I like for people to find out on their own. They know where my heart is in this work. It’s never about telling people who I’ve met or who I was around. That was never what brought me to acting.

ATM: Did you attend an acting conservatory or school?

BM: I attended an arts middle and high school called Denver School of the Arts! After that, I got my BFA in acting at the University of Southern California. Once I graduated I moved to Chicago and taught Early Childhood Education.

ATM: Why?

BM: I needed to figure out what I wanted to say. Most actors don’t come to the work with diverse experiences or the life outside of acting. I think a life outside of that world makes for better storytelling. When I graduated from USC, there were even fewer opportunities for people of color in film and television. This was in 2010. The storytelling was much, much different even 8 years ago. It’s a really special time to be acting.

I also wanted to know a life outside of acting. It makes you think about what life would be if you weren’t acting. Once I stepped out of the classroom and moved back to LA, I was trying to get a position advocating for teachers. I didn’t find anything that felt right. I was running lines with a friend who encouraged me to get back into acting. Shortly after I jumped back into it, my first agent came to the first play I did in LA. She had heard good things about the play and I had no idea she was an agent when I met her after the show. She loved my work onstage and reached out a few weeks after. It is really special to find someone who believed in me so much. I was so green and it’s definitely an opportunity a lot of people don’t get.

ATM: It is interesting that when you are in the midst of something you are not aware of what is happening. Other people can see it, but you cannot. Life pieces everything together like a puzzle. However, you feel like nothing is going right. You look back and see how everything was connected. Life becomes a jigsaw puzzle once you figure everything out.

BM: That’s so true. You figure out this happened because of this. But it’s definitely easy to say to people, “No, no. You’re wrong. This is NOT going to happen.”

ATM: This is the hard worker’s anthem.

BM: So true.

ATM: What ideologies did you have about acting prior to joining Hollywood?

BM: I romanticized it to some degree. I was definitely spot on when it comes to how emotionally draining it is. I’ve realized how privileged you have to be to pursue this at a high level. Privilege meaning you have a flexible job and can afford to live in a city that caters to acting. You have to pay for high-quality headshots and have a car to make it to auditions. A lot of people aren’t privileged enough to have all those things. It’s not talked about enough. I started to see everything it took. You have to pay for actor accounts and union dues. There are just so many costs. If you don’t have someone to help it’s very, very difficult to pursue it at a high level. People romanticize the struggle but I see it as another system that is structured to keep certain people from being successful.

A lot of kids at USC come from wealthy backgrounds. When I was graduating SAG and AFTRA were separate unions. At the time, you could just buy into AFTRA. Most of the people I went to school with were able to do so. So when the unions merged, almost all of them became SAG. It cost $1,100 to buy into AFTRA. I definitely didn’t have $1,100 nor did I have anyone who had that amount laying around. These kinds of things frustrate me because there’s so much talent that misses out on opportunities because they can’t afford to do this work.

If you are talented and love this work, you should be able to do it. A lot of people working aren’t necessarily working harder than others. In many cases they just have the resources and opportunity to fight for a dream they wanted. Film and TV is just another space where black and brown people are kept from reaching their full potential. This is not to take from black and brown who are killing it right now! I’m not trying to take anything away from people of color who creating beautiful work. I’m more so speaking to the fact that it takes a lot of EVERYTHING – money, access, opportunity – most of these things are still very much inaccessible to people of color.

ATM: People who are not in the industry sit back and create a commercialized fantasy of the industry. They wonder why their favorite or hit actor in a film is never seen again. A big fan can be the money. Some actors live from role to role. This similar to how people live from paycheck to paycheck. Some people just do not have the money to make their dreams come true. It is what solely hurts the most. No one will come out to say it. This is why some people in acting just go to work normal jobs. You have to let people experience the industry themselves and let them learn what is all about truthfully. People think first time actors receive a million for their first roles.

BM: (Laughs). Exactly.

ATM: This is not reality. There are a lot of people such as Tyler Perry who worked a lot of odd jobs to make it to where he is today. It takes a lot of dedication, perseverance, and sacrifices. No one does it just for nothing. There is no one in the industry that gives half their dedication.

BM: It has to be 100%.

ATM: Some people are just supposed to be in the entertainment industry and some people just are not made to be in it. It is hard to distinguish who is which.

BM: It is. It is hard to step away. I realize I’m supposed to do this shit. Storytelling is what I’m supposed to do. I’m very, very grateful. There are very few people who get to do this.

 

Twin Brothers Josh and Jonathan Baker, Directors

Getting adopted into a new family can be difficult. Especially, if the new family is not the same culture or race. The new movie film Kin is focused around this very topic. Twin brothers Josh and Jonathan Baker infuse their passion for films into this project. This film was inspired by their 2014 short film Bag Man.

ATM: Express the beginning stages of this film.

Jonathan: We set out to tell the story of our own. This film was inspired by our 2014 short film Bagman. We did not make it get a movie off the grounds. This was a great opportunity to step in and tell a slightly longer story. A lot of eyes were on the short. This was the time to take the themes from the short film to make something much bigger. We wanted to bring in more things about family and what makes one. We pitched this idea to the writer, Daniel Casey. He agreed with our story and what we wanted to tell. We then went off to write the screenplay.

Josh: We looked for production companies to help develop the screenplay. We found a crew called 21 Laps owned by director Shawn Levy. He was the director for the Night at the Museum and the Real Steel. Levy was making Strange Things around the same time of Kin. We had the same taste.

ATM: What does family mean to you?

Jonathan: It means a whole lot to use because we are twins. We are close creative partners in anything we do. The themes of brotherhood and family were put in every part of the movie. We wanted to explore these two ideas. It is really nice to have a brother that has your back while as a director. This helps when dealing with the pressure to making a movie. It takes a long time to develop, cast, edit, and shoot a film. It has been the last three years of our lives. Family involved helps with the brains of the project and creates a better support system.

ATM: How did this film teach you more about working as directors?

Josh: We mostly made ads, commercials, and music videos before making films. We were used to many short durations. Therefore, we started in short films. It allowed us to try something new and much longer. A film that is two hours becomes a bigger deal. It involves more thought with the story and theme. It took us ten months to develop the script. We learned that it is a marathon to direct a movie. A section of the film took about half a year. The marathon concept was new and something we had to get used to it quickly.

ATM: Explain an average day and aspect of shooting.

Jonathan: This is a great question. The tone of this movie is about so many things. We described it as just as much Moonlight as it is District 9. You find yourself handling different things. One day you might film a young boy in the bathroom by myself himself late at night. This is a quiet and intimate moment. You could be doing big car flips and stunts on another day. The production was very different. We shot this film in 47 days in Toronto during the winter. This was challenging. Toronto was the coldest we have ever worked.

Josh: We try to be on the same page as twin directors. Our job is about how to be one voice when it comes to talking with the crew. The advantages are doing things faster if you are on the same page. We can occasionally split up a small task to get things done quicker. You can enhance an idea with a twin brother who has the same taste in films. We brainstorm well. Not a lot of directors who work by themselves have this ability. It is about having a second thought that can enhance your first thought.

ATM: Discuss the weaknesses and strengths of directing a Sci-Fi film.

Jonathan. We set out to tell a story that was still compelling, emotional and has an emotional face to these characters. This goes even if you take the Sci-Fi out of the film. Sci-Fi was just an addition. We never wanted to get out of control and take away from the film. The film is about family and brotherhood. Also, the movie is about a young black lead that is adopted by a Polish American family. We are interested in these things and wanted to explore. When Sci-Fi takes over too much it can make the connective tissues cold and lifeless. This is the problem with the audiences these days for blockbusters. The films are visual and epic but has a lack of a story and character level. Our goal is always to make the films’ human.

ATM: What overview and insight do you expect a real life adopted male take from this film?

Jonathan: Representation in a film is super important. This is one of the reasons we wanted to feature a young African American kid as our hero. We did not get to see this often. This became interesting to us as filmmakers. The more we make these culture decisions, the more we push the culture forward. This is something that lacks in terms of your question about the adopted characters. I loved the idea of an adopted hero being in a family that looks different. We have amazing stories of people who are adopted that came up to us after the screening. They have thanked us for representing them and their lives. This is rare. There are a lot of different levels of representation. I hope we have hit on a couple that is not often seen.

Josh: The identity issues of this character interested us. You want to put the main problems visible for the main characters. Eli has a problem with the locking down a sense of belonging and identity for himself. This is an interesting thing to look at. Eli tries to figure out where his place is in this film. He is closer to discovering himself. It is just as much about being adopted into a Polish film to having the feeling of not ever fitting in and belonging. We answer this in the film. There is hope for this character in figuring this out toward the ending.

ATM: How do you all dissolve disagreements while having mixed ideas?

Josh: This is also a great question. We talk it out and debate. The best idea always wins. You have to defend your idea and come with logic. It became clear about which way to go. We have ideas that are opposing to one another. We decide which idea is most important for a character. Most the of the time the answer jumps out. You have to put your egos aside to go with the best idea for the movie.

Jonathan: We have the same upbringing, age, interest in moves, college and education, and experience. These are things that shape you as a filmmaker. We are being shaped in the same way to help us have energy as co-directors. We have this problem less than other co-directors. There are a lot of people that work together only because they like too. This is shown especially in advertising.

ATM: How deep is your passion for film?

Josh: We were in design. This was our careers in the early 2000s. We thought this was our career for the rest of our lives. Then, we started to deal with aspects of storytelling. We discovered separately that we had a passion for film and telling stories. We were not working together at this point. Once it was discovered to be a filmmaker there was no looking back. We traveled from Australia to America to pursue this career.

Jonathan: We grew up as massive movie lovers. This made us put Hollywood on a pedal stool while living in Australia. There has always been a fascination with how American movies release out into the international market to inspire people. You find the best people from around the world. These people make their way to Hollywood to establish themselves to have bigger budget ranges on an international market. This is a long time coming for us. We have been loving movies, telling stories, and becoming better filmmakers for over 15 years. It feels like it is a full circle moment right now. As kids, we have never thought to make it to this position in our lives. Yet we are here. You have asked some very unique questions.

Fitting into a society that welcomes you is many of most people’s issues. This film tackles these issues through the themes of brotherhood and family. These topics are personally important to twin brother directors Josh and Jonathan Baker.

Kin now in theatres.

Lauren Miller Rogen Directorial Debut

Netflix’s Like Father was written six years ago. Lauren Miller Rogen used her writing skills and brought life to the script of Netflix’s Like Father. Rogen talks about the experience and exposure around her directorial debut for the feature film. This takes us through the hardships of a father and daughter relationship.

ATM: Describe the pressure surrounding your directorial debut for this feature film.

LMR: Oh my god! There is so much pressure. This is both self and industry imposed. I work in an industry that does not look to do any favors. I do not get nepotism. I get a lot of good things because of my husband. There is still pressure to do something good. This is what being an artist is about. You put your creation out into the world and it because scary. There will be feedback that you do like and dislike. Also, feedback that makes you quit. It is up to you to keep going. You have to in this industry because everyone will tell you no. Additionally, more people will tell you no before yes. I am used to this. It is scary putting your baby into the world. This is what Like Father is to me.

ATM: What elements did you discover from taking a step back to eyewitness a woman’s life without a father?

LMR: Everyone’s relationship is different. Netflix released a beautiful piece to support the release of the film. They had real fathers and daughters who had not seen each other in years come to spend time together. It is so moving. Any parent and child relationship is a dense area full of emotions. There is a special relationship between fathers and daughters. My dad treats me like his little girl. He will always call me his baby even though I am 37. It is an interesting feeling. Fathers have an instinct to take care of their children but to let them go out into the world. Harry was watching his daughter become like himself. She was starting to have the same mistakes similar to him in life. She learned from his mistakes. It was fun to explore this. I do not have this same dynamic with my dad. I have learned so much from him as my life has evolved. I have learned from this career to start a family, and his life currently. It is such a rich relationship with a lot of emotion.

ATM: What have you learned more about the father and daughter relationship?

LMM: My parents and I are a lot alike. I have noticed this while aging. It is something that I fight against. I love my parents. I am fortunate to have similarities like them. Besides my dad’s horrible road rage. My driving is a lot better. I have learned to have less rage. We will become our parents. However, we have to learn to not make their same mistakes. I have been fortunate to have parents that allowed me to learn from them in the good and the bad ways. This is just in life and aside from making the movie. My mother has Alzheimer’s disease and my father is her caregiver. It has been a journey with him hiding his sadness and anger. Sometimes he does not hide it. I say, “Woah, this is too much.” It is a constant balance. Parents are human beings. This is something we have to accept but will always struggle to accept.

ATM: What emotional support did you receive from your husband Seth Rogen?

LMR: I receive so much emotional support from him. He is great. I am lucky that we do the same thing. We are not annoyed when the other one is talking about their work. We give valid opinions on each other’s work. He is an amazing writer and director. Seth has an unbelievable wealth of knowledge. He is not obnoxious and does not take over. He gives answers to my questions. Seth really likes his character in the movie. Seth enjoyed playing Jeff. He was not supposed to play this character. We came up with jokes and he agreed to do it. Seth has so many responses on Twitter. He is in there with me through the ups and downs of releasing this movie. Seth gave me notes when I needed them. He watched the film 40 times in the editing room. I am lucky to have such a generous partner. We have so much in common.

ATM: How was it going to work with him in this movie?

LMR: We worked on a cruise ship in Jamaica. It was not like we left our houses together in the morning (Laughs). It was fun. He was brought up into this industry in a really collaborative and respectful way. He was very respectful of everyone that works on set. We both like to sit on set for the experience and energy. He was proud and took a lot of photos. We like to watch movies and make them.

ATM: What has the process of this film taught you?

LMR: It taught me to listen to my own instincts. It is okay to second guess, but you have to make a decision and go with it. You have to push hard. You learn as a first timer. You hope to have more time and money to get more options the next time.

ATM: Take us through a day of shooting in Jamaica.

LMR: We shot the movie in two states, three countries, and on a cruises ship in Jamaica. There was a day in Jamaica that became one of the greatest shooting moments ever. It might ever happen again unless I write something like this. Maybe I should. I had written a script with scenes in cool places. I realized this while on the scout. We were in the middle of the ocean. This was cool. We tried to find a waterfall in Jamaica. We shot at the Jamaica Inn. This was seen in the kayak scene. We started early at 6 am. We shot the kayak scene on the beach in front of the hotel. We made sure to get the best sunshine. It sounds like it was a vacation, but it was not. My chair and monitor were in the water because they were so far out. This was on a beautiful day in September. All the actors were swimming and snorkeling with underwater cameras. This was the greatest moment of my life. The next day we were in the jungle. It was beautiful, hot, slippery, and humid. It had treacherously rained before we came. It was an amazing adventure. It was not sitting in the cool ocean water. It was dirty, hot, and sticky. There was a lot of slipping. I love when people fall down (Laughs). It is funny.

ATM: Did you fall?

LMR: Oh my god! I fell so many times. I fell at the top of the waterfall. We shot scenes on top of the waterfall with my monitor inside a sort of cave. There was just so much mud. My script supervisor and I could not stop laughing. It is that moment where you cannot stand up, so you just fall on your ass.

There are many challenges that circle around a father and daughter relationship. This type of relationship is not much depicted on television. It is usually the same gender in terms of a family portrayal. Rogen completes a tedious job as a director and will continue to direct.

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Gregson-Williams Discusses Equalizer 2 and Emmy Nomination

Hollywood’s most sought-after composers is Harry Gregson-Williams. He composed both for The Equalizer 1 and 2. His work allows one to gravitate emotionally to the scenes in The Equalizer 2. In addition to composing for this film, Gregson-Williams has a line of work with other movies. Some of these movies include all four installments of Shrek, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, The ZooKeeper’s Wife, The Town, Gone Baby Gone, Man on Fire, and more. Gregson-Williams discusses with ATM about film scoring for The Equalizer 2The Meg, and his recent Emmy nomination for Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special.

Gregson-Williams has been surrounded around music since an earlier age. Composing music is a way for him to express himself. “What does working

Photo Credit: Todd Williamson

as a composer mean to you?” He says,It means everything to me. It is my whole life. I have not done anything else for the less 20 years. I have only produced children. I have five.” The famed composer grew up in a musical family. ‘“I went to music school on a scholarship. Later, I worked with Hans Zimmer. We got along very well. He invited me to Los Angeles to give it a go. These were his exact for words, “Give it a go.” At this point, composing for a film was something I never worked in. I had never considered writing music for a film. It was not until I saw the amount of fun he had. I am still giving it a go. I have just worked on The Equalizer 2 and The Meg. They are very much different. This movie is currently out. You work on a score for three to four months. The Meg is a symphonic score. It is a big symphony orchestra playing. I am composing on a Disney film that releases earlier next year called Penguin. This is a beautiful nature and wildlife film. These projects keep me on my feet and interested.”’

The Equalizer 2 composer recounts how it felt winning a scholarship that has shaped him into the man he has become today. “Describe what went through your head as a seven-year-old auditioning and also winning the scholarship to attend music school?” He says, ‘“It was a very severe audition. There were hundreds of boys who auditioned. My audition took place while at the age of six. I sang and played an instrument at my audition. I could see my mother in the audience mouthing as it was my turn to stand in front of the music professors, she said, “Come on Come on. I felt like a lucky guy.”’ Some of his musical talents has spilled over into his children. His oldest daughter has been studying music since she was a little girl.

Gregson-Williams also composed the score for The Equalizer 2. He talks about the difference between the two. “The Equalizer 2 has a more emotional storyline. The director Antoine Fuqua was sitting in my studio. There is a scene where Denzel’s character is trying to save this young boy from the criminality and drugs. This is not the focus of the film, but it shows the humanitarian side of his character. He actually cares about what is going on. Denzel is yelling in this poor boy’s face trying to make him understand he has a choice to not go down the road of drugs and guns. Director told me this scene was the reason Denzel wanted to do this story. This scene means something to him. Denzel is a good man. Isn’t he? “Yes, he is.” This scene is very different than what I wrote for the first film. Music is so subjective.”

The young music scholarship winner shares how he views music compared to someone else. ‘“If we were sitting in my studio, then I would play you a piece of music that is really tense and has a lot feeling in it. You might say you do not feel this. If the director is not feeling it, then you cannot sit there and say, “Well I am.’’ This is a collaborative process.”’ Additionally, Gregson-Williams expresses the times when he composes the most. “I tend to compose a little in the morning and at night when the kids are asleep. I am like an owl. “You are nocturnal?” Yes, I am. He tells us about the challenges that go into composing for films. “Composing is more than just knocking out the music. Whoever thinks this should find another job. You get things handled back with red marks. Kind of like homework.”

Gregson-Williams talks about his recent Emmy nomination for the upcoming 70th Emmy Awards. “Grateful. (Laughs). I am a film composer who dabbled in television. I got really lucky for pretty much my first work on T.V. I am a little bit of an imposter. (Laughs). Thank you to the Academy.” The first time Emmy-nominee has work that spans over more than 20 years. He has scored for the Solid video game franchise and for Call of Duty. Additionally, Gregson-Williams composed for the first computer-generated animation from Dreamworks, Antz. His delivery and contribution to the film industry is very an exquisite talent. The Equalizer 2 is currently in theaters. The Meg releases in theaters August 10th, and Disney’s Penguins releases in theaters early 2019.

 

 

Orange is the New Black’s Jason Altman

Orange is the New Black’s new season is set to be different than the other seasons. Season 6 has the main characters in maximum security because of their behavior in the riot. The new officer in charge is set to make their stay extremely difficult. You will witness the attitude and treatment Jason Altman (Hermann) will give them through the episodes. Altman becomes in charge of these groups of women at the Litchfield Penitentiary. He recounts moments while working on set with ATM.

ATM: How do you feel when people, friends, or family members call you to talk about the show? What types of questions do they ask?

JA: They ask what episodes I play in and at what time can they see me. I can get very anxious. I really take the work seriously. I do not love watching myself on camera because it makes me a bit anxious.

ATM: Explain your experience working onset for Orange is the New Black’s Season 6.

JA: It was phenomenal. Arriving onset for the premiere episode was a bit nerve-racking. They gave me four pages of dialogue days prior. Two of these pages were monologues. This was the big plotline of the season. This was the first time I had met the cast for the season. Also, this was the first time meeting Uzo Aduba and Adrienne C. Moore who I have scenes within the premiere episode. They came up to me to introduce themselves. I had such a big fan of the show that made it feel like an out of body experience I had not met them in the season 5 finale. It was one of the best experiences of my whole career.

I would wake up early, get sent to my trailer, and find my costumes. They take you to trailers with hair and makeup. You put on your costume insider your trailer. Next, you wait for the director. They bring you the set to rehearse with the other cast members. The crew sets up with what was seen in rehearsal and the camera angles. They take you back to your trailer to prepare for shooting the scene. The scene was shot almost a year ago in August 2017 and just wrapped up this February. Two episodes per month. It took about six months for the whole season to be shot.

ATM: What qualities are your character Hermann representing this season?

JA: My character is definitely not likable. He is a veteran cop and also a dirty cop.  You can tell he has been in these type of situations before. He does not have many good qualities to him. Some of the good qualities are being a leader and being able to take control of the situations he is put in.

ATM: How do you feel once receiving a script with a character that is not likable?

JA: I think about what the character wants, what is he doing, and what he is doing to get it.

ATM: Describe the difference of your character as working in a women’s prison vs. men’s prison.

JA: He feels like it is going to be a piece of cake. In the season 5 finale, his goal was to end the riot. He feels like he is overmatching them and can do anything. Hermann judges working in a female prison and feels superior in strength. It is a match between them to take over the prison.

ATM: So, Hermann seems to have an issue with working with women that are limited to doing anything.

JA: I definitely agree with you. He looks down upon not just only women but criminals. He comes in there with a chip on his shoulder about this. He does not hold back with punishing them. Hermann feels superior to everyone in the world.

ATM: What is Jason’s personality?

JA: Jason is totally opposite than Hermann. He is a lovable guy, a family man, a peaceful guy, and not judgmental. I do not have any prejudice against women or criminals. Well, it depends what type of criminal you are.

ATM & JA: (Laughs).

JA: I am in no position of superiority to judge. I would have never thought of being a police officer. Only in my acting career. Apparently, I look like one. This is what I typically get casted in.

ATM: Do you take snippets of your Hermann character with you offset and do you implement snippets of yourself while onset?

JA: I do not take anything dealing with my character home with me. I spend a lot of time working on the character. I bring everything of myself onset about the character. I want to bring the most of myself as possible. I do not judge Hermann while onset. I am ready to deliver the reality of my character once the director says action. This is one of the best things I like since becoming an actor.

Superiority and not being likable are attitudes linked to Altman’s character Hermann. Hermann continues to treat the women at Litchfield less than who they are. This season is set to be very different and expose more unique topics. Netflix’s Orange is the New Black released their sixth season July 27th.