It’s All In The Family With Michael and Stephanie Katherine Grant

September 20, 2016

To be successful in Hollywood, you need a team around you. A powerful team. Young actors,  Michael and Stephanie Katherine Grant, who hail from Tennessee  and have been in Hollywood making the rounds since 2010 are more than a team. They’re family.

But the siblings who have made an impact with appearances on shows such as “The Secret Life of The American Teenager” and “The Goldbergs” were not content to just be in front of the camera. They have recently branched out into writing, producing and directing.michael grant

Now you may think there’s nothing impressive about that in a town full of multi-hyphenates, but consider the fact that Michael is only 21 and Stephanie Katherine a mere 16.

The dynamic duo recently completed their first production called, “Dominion,” an impressive, well acted, well directed short film that is sure to get traction for it’s talented young creators.

An abstract story that deal with different layers of consciousness, the film has the look of a well funded feature, even though it was made with money Michael and Stephanie raised on their own. The pair found and hired the best film crew available and the results here speak for themselves.

In a male oriented world it took the film crew stephanie katherine granta minute to realize that teenaged Stephanie Katherine was a capable filmmaker worthy of  helming the project.

“At first people were directing their questions to me and kind of ignoring my sister” says Michael, “but eventually they got the message that Stephanie Katherine was an equal contributor and co-director, in fact she was the one who came up with the story in the first place. Soon she was running the set like a pro.”

Not bad for a sixteen year old.

Beyond co-writing and co-directing, Michael also scored the project, (he happens to be a classically trained pianist) while Stephanie Katherine edited.

“Dominion” is now making the festival rounds. First up is the Calgary International Film Festival which kicks off on September 20, 2016. The film will screen there on September 24th, at TELUS Spark, located at 220 George Drive, NE, Calgary, Canada.

Dominion CJFF Still 3

So what’s next for the Grant kids?

“More writing and directing is definitely in the cards,” says Stephanie Katherine. They are turning “Dominion” into a feature film script and also developing others projects.

If you get the chance to meet this talented and ambitious brother and sister team, you’ll see that no is not an option here. Film domination is their ultimate ambition and from the look of their first project, they seem bound to succeed.

Two Steps Forward For Indie Film

By Peter Foldy

Had the pleasure to see a very cool, low key indie thriller last night called “Two Step” written and directed by first time feature director, Alex R. Johnson.  The story deals with James, (Skyy Moore) a young college drop out who has a couple of very bad days after he becomes a victim of a home invasion robbery.

As the film opens, Jamestwostepjamesdotbarnice arrives at his grandmother’s house, his only living relative, to find her dying of a  stroke. Before long he learns that Granny has left him eighty five thousand dollars and her house. James is suddenly flush with cash.

He makes friends with a kindly neighbor, a former ballet dancer called Dot (Beth Broderick) who becomes something of a mother figure and his only friend in  town.

Meanwhile a psychotic low life criminal called Webb ( James Landry Hebert) has just gotten out of jail and is very quickly back to his old ways.  Webb is working a scam where he calls elderly people and pretends to be their troubled grandson who needs a loan. Most of the time the scam backfires, but once in a while it doesn’t.

Webb discovers that he has been dumped by his girlfriend, Amy (Ashley Rae Spillers) a girl who he had beaten up.  Amy  is now Two_Step_credit_Photo_Courtesy_of_quotTwo_Stepquotshacked up with Webb’s former employer Duane (Jason Douglas) and Webb is pissed. He owes Duane a large amount of cash and is quickly given an ultimatum. Pay up and get out of town or have your ass kicked by one of Duane’s heavies.

As Webb continues his calls to the elderly in order to find money he and James randomly connect.

It is a tense wait for the two to meet up in person and when they do the outcome is bloody and violent. Webb soon figures out that James has an inheritance and knows he has hit the jackpot. Now how to get a hold of the cash. James only has a $900 a day ATM limit.

More suspense and violence are in store till James and Webb’s destinies  collide for the last time and the third act sees the rampage come to an end. It’s a relief when it does. Johnson makes you care for these characters,images especially the innocent James.

“Two Step” is a finely crafted character driven thrill ride that keeps the tension on a low boil. That’s not to say the film doesn’t also have it’s “boo” moments that will have you jumping out of your seat.

The entire cast, all Texas locals, are excellent here, right down the the under fives. The film perfectly captures the tonality of suburban Austin, Texas where it was shot.

“Two Step” is also an inspiration to aspiring filmmakers. Made on a low budget it has garnered great reviews from Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and The New York Times.  It’s success shows that determination and a “no is not an option” attitude will get things done.  It’s a film made for art’s sake and writer/director Alex Johnson’s win here is also a win for indie crime and thriller fans everywhere.

“Two Step” opens Friday, August 7th at the Arena Theater in Los Angeles with VOD to follow in September.  With beautifully stylized cinematography by Andy Lilien this is well worth seeing on the big screen.

Production: La Chima Films
Cast: Beth Broderick, James Landry Hébert, Skyy Moore, Jason Douglas, Ashley Rae Spillers
Director/screenwriter: Alex R. Johnson
Producers: Alex R. Johnson, Paul Biedrzycki, Pat Cassidy, Charles Mulford
Director of photography: Andy Lilien
Production designer: Claire M. White
Editor: Benjamin Moses Smith
Costume designer: Rachel Marie Jones
Composer: Andrew Kenny
Casting: Beth Sepko

Where: The Arena Cinema 1625 N Las Palmas Ave, Hollywood, CA 90028  (93 minutes)  Not Rated.

Showtimes, Friday, August 7th. 7:30 pm SOLD OUT.

Saturday, August 8, 4:00 pm, 5:30 pm

Sunday, August 9, 4:30 pm, 7:55 pm

Monday, August 10, 9:30 pm

Tuesday, August 11, 8:00 pm

Wednesday, August 12, 6 pm

Thursday, August 13, 9:30 pm

 

From TV To Indie Films, Michael Grant Is Doing It All

by Peter Hughes

Young actor, MICHAEL GRANT  pulls his black Mini Cooper into a parking spot at the same time I am trying to find a place to park myself in a dark garage below a Beverly Hills cafe.

“Hey, Michael,” I call out, never having met the man in person, but having recently seen his acting chops in the fine, new, currently unreleased drama, “Fair Haven,” he looks much like he did in the movie.

We shake hands and head 10659095_520949571370766_6154814187858732891_oupstairs to order breakfast, finding ourselves relegated to an outside table where not even the hot, high octane coffee I am sipping keeps me warm on this unusually brisk morning in March.

My early rapport with Michael also seems just a little bit on the cool side.  He is soft spoken and seemingly introverted, but as we play the get to know you game his sweet side begins to seep through and it doesn’t take long to warm up to this kid.

His backstory is not all that unusual. The son of a doctor in Tennessee, he and his sister Stephanie, along with their mom, Anna, made the move to California five years ago, initially to launch Stephanie into the world of acting.  A classically trained pianist and lifelong musician, then 14-year-old Michael also decided that, since he was in Hollywood,  he too might give acting a try.  He soon landed an agent and his early auditions quickly gave him the confidence that he was looking for.

“It was when I came very close to landing a lead on a Disney show called, “Kickin’ It” that I 10456086_478567745608949_7788342373032352340_nrealized I can do this,” he explains.  Now, five years and many acting workshops later, Michael is on an upward trajectory with strong supporting roles in the features, “Where Hope Grows” in which he plays a cruel bully, and “Still Life,” an indie film dealing with high school kids figuring out their future.  “Where Hope Grows” recently premiered at the Dallas Film Festival and has since been picked up for theatrical distribution by Roadside Attractions.

Perhaps his most valuable credit to date has been as a series regular on seasons 4 and 5 of “The Secret Life of The American Teenager” a show that has not only given him some financial stability, but has also brought him some fans.  He has since guest starred on various other TV shows,  slowly building an impressive resume for a young actor who has only just turned 19.

But the purpose of our meeting today is to talk about “Fair Haven,” a film where Michael gets to do the heavy lifting.  He plays the role of “James,” a musically prodigy who has been sent by his father to ex-gay-conversion therapy where they try to scare the gay out of him and return him to his family full of Jesus.  Stopping in to see his father on his way to study at the prestigious music academy, Berklee, the character discovers that his old man has spent his college fund, virtually trapping the boy in the narrow-minded confines of his small town.  James goes to work for his dad on the farm and begins the charade of dating girls.  Along the way he runs into his best friend and one time boyfriend, “Charlie,” well portrayed 10387167_487170941415296_5077640384864648015_oanother young actor, Josh Green.

So what was it about this project that appealed to him, I ask?

“The story by the film’s director Kerstin Karlhuber and the script by Jack Bryant was so well written that it immediately spoke to me.  After reading it I put myself on tape. I read some scenes and played the piano and sent it off to the casting director.  As luck would have it I landed the role and soon found myself in the town of Victor, New York making this movie.

And how was the shoot?  “Short and fast paced.  I was in most of the scenes.  I had very little down time and when I did I kept mostly to myself.  This was my first lead and I knew the responsibility I was a carrying but truthfully, by the end of the film I was emotionally drained.  I remember calling my sister from my hotel room and telling her I don’t know if I can muster the energy for my remaining scenes, I was that exhausted, but somehow I did and we got it done.”

Having seen a rough cut of this film, I can say that Michael’s portrayal MG (1)of “James” is poignant and vulnerable, a trait that he was now allowing me a glimpse of as our outdoor breakfast chat continued.

We switch gears to talk about his life in L.A.  How does he spend his time?

“I study.  Watch a lot of classic movies.  My parents recently gave me a boxed set of films from the 50s and 60s.  I loved them, especially enjoy foreign films.  Truffaut, Godard, Andrei Tarkovski.  Brilliant directors.”  What about hobbies or pastimes?  “Basketball.  I’m a big NBA fan.”

So what is it about acting that made him put his classical music training on the backburner for now?  “Acting is a craft of the heart,” he tells me.  “It’s my chance for real artistic expression.   Although the television work I’ve done is important, I hope to be able to continue my current momentum as an actor in indie films.  I think features give me a chance to be a part of perhaps more meaningful stories. I’ve definitely grown as a person doing these last three films.  On “Still Life” in particular I made some amazing friends.  People I hope to know for a long time to come.”

So whose career would he likeFairHaven_Poster_03 to emulate?  Which directors would he love to work with?  “Terrence Malick for sure.  I loved “The Tree of Life.”  Wish I could have been in that one.   Chris Nolan, David Fincher, those are probably some other favorites that come to mind.  As far as actors, I really admire Ryan Gosling’s work and the way he has managed his career.  Andrew Garfield is another actor I admire and reaching back a few years, Timothy Hutton who was so brilliant as a high school kid in Robert Redford’s “Ordinary People.”

With the temperature dropping we pay our bill and stand in the parking lot to warm up in the sunshine as we say our goodbyes.  I’ve enjoyed this interview.  Michael’s turned out to be a cool guy who is setting the foundations for a long lasting acting and music career.

I climb in my car and follow him out of the garage.  He zips away in his little Mini Cooper, perhaps to continue chasing the dream.

From where I’m sitting I’m willing to bet he finds it.

Visit Michael Grant’s Facebook page HERE.

Learn more about FAIR HAVEN on Facebook.

IFTA Members Take Home 10 Oscars

Los Angeles, CA – March 3, 2014

Members of the Independent Film & Televisions Alliance (IFTA®) again produced and distributed the most critically acclaimed films of the year for 2013, as Member films captured ten Oscars® at the 2014 Academy Awards®, earning top honors in feature movies-oscars-2014-press-room-spike-jonzecategories including Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Leading Role, Original Screenplay and Adapted Screenplay.

This marks the 11th time in the past 12 years that the Oscar® for “Best Picture” has gone to an  IFTA Member film, as 12 Years A Slave (2014) joins The Artist (2012), The King’s Speech (2011) and The Hurt Locker (2010) among recent winners.  Below is the full list of Academy Award-winning IFTA Member films from this year’s ceremony:
(*Please note, companies listed are IFTA Member Companies involved in the film,)

Best Picture
12 Years A Slave (Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment)

Actor in a Leading Role
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features, Voltage Pictures)

Actress in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine (Focus Features)

Original Screenplay
Spike Jonze – Her (Panorama Media)

Adapted Screenplay
John Ridley – 12 Years A Slave (Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment)

Actor in a Supporting Role
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features, Voltage Pictures)

Actress in a Supporting Role
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years A Slave (Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment)

Documentary Feature
20 Feet from Stardom (The Weinstein Company)

Foreign Language Film
The Great Beauty – Italy (Pathe International)

Makeup and Hairstyling
Adruitha Lee & Robin Mathews – Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features, Voltage Pictures)

For more information about IFTA, contact Sunshine/Sachs

American Film Market Opens in Santa Monica

Los Angeles, CA – October 31, 2012

The 2012 American Film Market (AFM), kicked off this morning in Santa Monica. The AFM will screen more than 420 motion pictures, including 77 world premieres and 306 market premieres, for thousands of film buyers and industry professionals from more than 70 countries.

Films making their World Premieres include: A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, from writer/director Roman Coppola and starring Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Charlie Sheen (Independent); The Colony, starring Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton (Sierra/Affinity); Cottage Country, starring Malin Akerman and Lucy Punch (VMI Worldwide); The Frozen Ground, starring Nicolas Cage, John Cusack and Vanessa Hudgens (Voltage Pictures); Nous York, starring Leila Bekhti and Géraldine Nakache (Pathé International); The Numbers Station, starring John Cusack and Malin Akerman (Content); and Pawn, starring Nikki Reed and Ray Liotta (Red Sea Media) and Summer In February, starring Dominic Cooper and Emily Browning (Speranza13 Media).

This year’s film market has shown a preference for more “name” driven, higher budget projects signaling a slight shift in power toward the independent producers of the film world.

While the zombie and horror movies that have long been the hallmark of the AFM haven’t gone away, more would-be producers of star-filled films will be working the halls of the Loew’s Hotel looking for independent financing or to secure distribution for their projects.

“There has also been an influx of buyers this year” stated Jonathan Wolf, AFM’s managing director and executive vice president of Independent Film & Television.  “We are seeing more new international buyers come to the market than in a decade,” he declared.

The country with the most new buying companies this year is South Korea (25), followed by China (13), the U.S. (11), Japan (6), Turkey (6), and Russia (5), France (4) and Italy (4). New companies attending include Snap TV from Argentina, Lume Filmes from Brazil, JY Entertainment from China and Mountain Pictures from South Korea.

The American Film Market runs from October 31 to November 7, 2012.

http://www.americanfilmmarket.com

Stars Share “Beatles Stories” in new DVD Release

Los Angeles: September 28, 2012

October, 2012 will mark the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles’ first single, Love Me Do, that launched the Fab Four’s stellar career. Nearly five decades later, The Beatles are still captivating audiences everywhere and are considered the most influential musicians of all time, according to Rolling Stone.  Along with their musical legacy, The Beatles left behind personal stories with those lucky people who were able to share a moment with these legends.

On October 2, 2012, to mark the anniversary, Cinema Libre Studio is releasing BEATLES STORIES, a documentary that captures cherished stories from famous fans – and the not so famous – about their unique encounters with these often imitated, but never duplicated, international stars.  To coincide with the DVD/digital release date, the film will make its official theatrical premiere on Tuesday, October 2nd at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, with future showings to be announced.

Director/ Producer Seth Swirsky, an accomplished singer-songwriter and best selling author, grew up in the 60s and fell in love with The Beatles.  They greatly influenced his decision to pursue a career in music where he is known for writing the international #1 hit Tell it to My Heart by Taylor Dayne and Love is a Beautiful Thing by Al Green.

In 2004, Swirsky was invited to perform at The Cavern Club, which the Beatles made famous so many years ago.  While in Liverpool,

Seth Swirsky

Swirsky began asking the locals about The Beatles. To his surprise, these strangers shared their fondest recollections about the band; treasured stories he had never heard before, which he captured on his hand held video camera.  Swirsky then wondered, “How many more stories are out there that people have never heard before?”  That was the moment that BEATLES STORIES was born!

Over a period of eight years, Swirsky traveled around the world filming an exceptional array of people – many themselves celebrities – who wanted to share their stories.  Some of the stars he managed to sit down with include Sir Ben Kingsley, Smokey Robinson, Brian Wilson, Henry Winkler, Jon Voight, Art Garfunkel, Davy Jones and Graham Nash.

The DVD release also contains additional interviews with the likes of Peter Tork, Denny Doherty, Alan Livingston and Paul Tennant as well as an extended interview with Norman “Hurricane”Smith, the Beatles’ first recording engineer.

For more information on the October 2nd screening, visit www.egyptiantheatre.com or to purchase tickets, please visit: www.fandango.com

Website: http://beatlesstories.com

Lenore Andriel: Cowgirl on the Rise

Los Angeles: July 10, 2012

Lenore Andriel is a hard working Los Angeles based actress who has recently co-written,  produced and starred in a successful western feature film that has received accolades and managed to win top prize at several prestigious film festivals.  We caught up with Ms. Andriel and asked her to enlighten us about her project and about how comedian Rodney Dangerfield gave her respect and pushed her to pursue acting as a career.

HR:  Hi, Lenore.  Congrats on the success of “Yellow Rock.”  This is a film you co-wrote, produced and starred in.  What was the genesis of the project?

LA: It actually started out as a web series, then a small film, set in present day, with some of the same storyline and characters.  This was my first time ever producing a film and it was daunting. On top co-writing the script and playing the female lead, I worked twenty four seven. Many people thought I was crazy to take it all on, even me! But when we started, it was a much, much smaller project.  It’s come a long way, from that idea!.

 HR: What made you chose a Western?  Did you realize you might be ahead of the current trend to make Western movies?

LA: When we initially got together with our first director and cinematographer, they weren’t that thrilled by our total concept. But they liked a lot of aspects of it, like my character’s right-hand being Native American, and the through-line of “deception”. So my writing partner, Steve Doucette, and I knew we had to make the story flow better. It was Steve’s idea to make it into a Western. We didn’t have the slightest clue that the Western genre was about to make a huge comeback! We just wanted to write a story we believed in. It’s based on historic fact of what happened to many tribes in California, but told through the eyes of the fictitious “Black Paw’s”, who would be symbolic of the others. It has already brought us more success than we could have dreamed possible.

HR: Your project is a great example of not giving up and going for what you believe.  How difficult was it to put “Yellow Rock” together?

LA: Difficult, but we felt that if we did a film with an important message, others might feel the same. We kept following our instincts. Some of those were wrong, but most of them, luckily were correct. In some ways it was difficult, because the project kept getting larger. It had a very small budget, but once we decided to do it as a Western period piece, set in 1880 California, that changed everything. It was tough putting aspects together, like getting the perfect location, cast, horses, etc. But once we found the right people to help us accomplish it, it shifted into high gear. We lucked out when our Costume Designer, Catherine Elhoffer, recommended actor Peter Sherayko and his company “Caravan West”, who supplied all the horses, wranglers, costumes, guns, production & set design, and the props – all authentic to the period!

HR: Did you have people telling you, you were crazy to go down this road?

LA: Shooting the movie, felt almost impossible!! And yes, we had tons of people telling us, every step of the way, that we were crazy! Even while shooting, some of the cast and crew were saying it! Things like “just shut it down” or “quit and cut your loses!” But thankfully, my partner Steve and our other Executive Producer Daniel Veluzat, would not bend, nor would I. Like Ed Harris said in “Apollo 13”, “Failure is not an option”. We felt that to give up when the going got tough, would have been very tragic and a financial loss on top of it. When Nick Vallelonga, my other producing partner took over as director, it breathed new confidence into everyone on set, yet even then, there were so many things that went wrong that we never saw coming.

HR: How did you lock your stellar cast?

LA: I went to (casting director) Paul Weber, through a director friend of mine, who highly recommended him. Paul wanted to read the script of course, before taking it on. I remember he called me while I was driving, around midnight. I pulled over and we talked for like an hour – he loved it! We decided he was going to cast the male leads, since we had Brigitte Burdine, casting the Native American actors and other roles. Paul was fabulous, but the actors we wanted initially, were TV Male Leads and their shooting schedules conflicted.

Finally, Nick recommended Michael Biehn and James Russo, whom he had worked with and were perfect for the movie. Paul Weber was then able to close the deals. Some of the other “Cowboys” were brought to us through those actors. For example, Clay Wilcox, who portrays “Roscoe”, and Brian Gleason, as “Billy-Boy”, James Russo suggested. I brought in Peter Sherayko, who had been in “Tombstone”, with Michael Biehn. Biehn recommended Jennifer Blanc, who we wrote the role of “Monica”, the Saloon girl for. Brigitte Burdine, did an excellent job of getting us Michael and Eddie Spears for the two Native American Lead brothers, and the supporting cast of Zahn McClarnon, Joe Billingiere, Angel Felix, Rick Mora, and all the rest of the terrific  Native American cast. Peter Sherayko got us Sam Bearpaw as “Strong Bear” and the Native American extras. I wrote the roles of “Dr. Sarah’s” assistants, “Martha”, Amy Jennings and “Sequilla”, Elaine Lockley-Smith, specifically for them, having been friends with them for years and working with them. Christopher Backus as “Cobb”, was brought to us by Nick. So it truly became like a family affair, with a lot of the actors knowing each other and the rest forming great friendships.

HR: What about those authentic looking locations?

LA: I had been pulling my hair out, running around scouting with our cinematographer, Ricardo Jacques Gale. Finally, Ricardo mentioned a place he remembered called “Veluzat Movie Ranch”, in Newhall so we went up to scout it and we FELL IN LOVE! The first thing we saw was a complete period Western town, that was incredible! Ricardo turned to me and said “Re-write”! I laughed, and knew I had to write this town in. It became the town of “Yellow Rock”, which the viewers will find out is for a reason!

We went further into the over 800 acres of this mythic movie ranch, and found the perfect “Open Plains” area, nestled against the back of the mountains, to build the entire “Black Paw Village”. I got chills and teared up when I saw it. I stood in this beautiful place and could see the tippees in my mind’s eye and hear the sound of Indians chanting! I knew we found the home for “Yellow Rock” to be filmed.

Next, we drove through gigantic, tall pine trees, which then revealed, the most perfect log cabin! It was tucked into the pines, exactly as I’d written it! Ricardo and the crew were all shouting, “Dr. Sarah’s Cabin”! I ran up the boulder-stone stairs into “my cabin”, and was jumping around like a five year old!

Each area we scouted was more rustic and beautiful than the next and completely gave you the feeling of being in the wild lands of California – all perfectly set, to have our cast on horseback, take us on the journey of their characters.

HR: So you shot the film entirely on location there? Did it all go smoothly?

LA: Yes, we did it all there. Daniel Veluzat, who owns the ranch, wanted to read the script prior to approving our shoot there. He loved it, and said he’d come on board! He became a God-send and not only acted as Executive Producer, with my partner Steve, but also wound up becoming our “on-set producer”, because Nick and I were too over-loaded with shooting, and couldn’t do it by ourselves.

For Nick, directing a “Cowboys and Indians”-type film in 120 degree heat, with all the horses, crew, and locations, was huge and exhausting, but he managed to do it and keep us on schedule. For me, portraying the Female Lead, of “Dr. Sarah”, galloping full speed with nine men shooting over my head and delivering lines, made me truly know what women in those days must have gone through. We were all filthy, soaked in sweat, bug-biten, and exhausted. But we used it and you truly feel you’re right there on the dusty, dangerous trails with us!

HR: What was the most difficult day on set?

LA: Oh My God! EVERY DAY was difficult! I don’t think a day went by, where at least three things weren’t going wrong all at the same time. For example, minutes before shooting, our videographer, Keith Clark, ran up and told me that Saginaw Grant, whom we cast as our “Chief White Eagle Feather”, was ill and couldn’t do the role! I turned to Joe Billingiere and Robert Pyute Hessen, who were cast in smaller principle roles, and said “How would you both like an upgrade?”. Thankfully, they both jumped at the chance and Joe became our wonderful “Chief” and Robert became our medicine man, “Healing Deer”!

While this was going on at base camp, Eddie Spears as “Angry Wolf”, was being thrown off his horse up on the mesa where they were shooting, and to top it off, someone ran up to me and said “The catering truck just got a flat tire and won’t be here for another hour AND they got a ticket, which you have to pay for!” For the most part, everyday was tough, due to unforeseen circumstances you encounter when shooting a Western – and still we pulled it off.

HR: What about for you, as the Female Lead “Dr. Sarah”?

LA: For me personally, it was when we were about to shoot a beautiful scene with myself, “Sequilla” my Tribal nurse assistant, played by Elaine Lockley-Smith, and the adorable children of the tribe.

I’m supposed to exit the main Tippee and turn to see the children happily run up, play with them, and then speak with “Sequilla”. But the wind and dust was whipping us and my long red hair was completely covering my face, so that I looked like “Cousin It”! Everyone was shouting to “get hair & makeup” on set to help, but they couldn’t get them from base camp in time. Our director started yelling at me, because we had to go. I went back into the tippee with Elaine and Daniel. I started crying because I had so looked forward to this scene and now it was going to be a mess and I was being yelled at. Daniel was amazingly inspiring – so I dried my tears and had to “buck up”. No matter what happens, you have to be a pro. So I went out to do this “happy” scene with Elaine and the children and still get it done in 1 – 2 takes at best. When you watch the film, thankfully, you would never know it.

HR: What was your favorite day?

LA: My favorite day started at sunset, galloping into the “Black Paw Village”, with my Co-Stars, Michael Biehn “Tom Hanner”, and Michael Spears “Broken Wing”. Though we had problems riding in, i.e. my reins broke in full gallop, and Michael Spears’ horse stumbled in a hole and almost threw him, we wound up getting the gorgeous shot we needed riding full gallop “back in time”. My mom was  watching and I saw the look of pride she had and it meant the world to me, to have her see what we had accomplished.

The scene then rolls into the evening, when an authentic  “Round Dance”, is lead by Michael Spears “Broken Wing”, with my character and Biehn’s smiling and looking on. The giant bonfire, tippees, druming, chanting, and dancing by the Native American actors, brought us all into 1880. At that moment, I truly was “Dr. Sarah” and felt her joy and love for the Tribe – I’ll never forget it and neither will anyone else!

HR: What are some of the accolades your film has received?

LA: We’ve been blessed to receive many awards so far. But first off is the “Western Heritage Awards” for which we received many “Wranglers” and is the most prestigious Western Award to honored with, in the U.S. and around the world. It is afforded by The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. We received the Awards for “Outstanding Theatrical Motion Picture”, “Best Director” – Nick Vallelonga, “Best Screenplay”, Lenore Andriel & Steve Doucette, “Best Actor” for Michael Biehn, James Russo, Lenore Andriel, Michael Spears, and Eddie Spears. We are so proud and honored to have received these beautiful, bronze, “Wranglers”. The sculpture is of an historic “Cowboy on his horse” and looks like a Remington statue. Last year’s winner was “True Grit”, and prior to that was “3:10 to Yuma”, “Unforgiven”, “Dances With Wolves” and every iconic Western you can think of for the past 50 years! We all accepted them at the museum’s gorgeous Award Ceremony, filled with 1200 attendees! When we all walked into the Black-tie event, it took our breath away, and the great people who run the entire program and museum, were truly wonderful to us! The memory of the entire weekend, will stay with all of us, always.

HR: I understand you met the late actor, Ernest Borgnine at the Western Heritage Awards ceremony.

LA: Yes, we had the honor of meeting him there and he was such a lovely, wonderful, man. Full of energy and kindness and you just couldn’t help but to adore him. We were Honorees with him and did a press conference on the panel together. He won for the television film he did. Ernie told the press how important doing “classic-style” Westerns with a message are. Telling a great story is what was important to him and to us as well. We all felt that being award winners with such an iconic Western figure as Ernest Borgnine, is a memory we’ll treasure.  So sad that he has passed away.

HR: What are some of the other honors you have received?

LA: We’ve also been greatly honored by the Red Nation Film Festival, here in Los Angeles. We were their “Opening Night Premiere” at the Simon Wiesenthal Theatre and won “Best Picture”, “Best Director”, and “Best Actor – Michael Spears” and a nomination for “Best Supporting Actor – Zahn McClarnon”. The RNFF award is a beautiful, golden statue of a Native American woman. It looks like the “Oscar” and she’s proudly displayed in my home!

We also just garnered the Lake Arrowhead Film Festival’s “Audience Award”, which is judged by your peers and the public, so we were deeply honored to receive that as well.  Additionally, we received a Nomination from the American Indian Film Festival in San Fransisco, for “Best Supporting Actor – Michael Spears”.

HR: Where will “Yellow Rock” be seen next?

LA: We’re an “Official Selection” at the Prescott Film Festival, in Prescott Arizona, August 1st -8th and will be premiering at their Performing Arts Center with 1200 seats. Then we will be premiering as an “Official Selection” at the Almeria Western Film Festival in Spain, the first week of September. So we’re looking forward to both of them!

HR: The film is about to be released soon, is that correct?

LA: Yes, it will be officially released August 7, 2012, by our Domestic Distributor Screen Media Films. Initially, it will be available on Netflix, Amazon.com, and through the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Store. Then it goes wider throughout North America, but I’m not at liberty to say how and where yet. It is being distributed in the rest of the world, through Epic Pictures, who was just at the Cannes Film Festival, busy selling it to Europe, et al. So all those countries will all be announced shortly, as well.

HR:  Where are you from originally?

LA: I’m originally a “Jersey girl”, where I began my studies and doing theater. Then I moved to NYC, to further study acting at the Warren Robertson Acting Studio, Elaine Bovaso Studios, and many others, and to continue my stage and indie film career.

HR: What was the first thing you did when you got out here?  Were you excited or overwhelmed by Hollywood?

LA: Believe it or not, I rented a mansion on Mulholland Drive, from my hair stylist! I thought, “Oh my God! This is  an awesome way to live!” But then he came back from his   trip around the world, and I had to go down into the valley with the rest of the struggling actors! I figured it always gave me something to shoot for again! I was excited from the moment I got here and have never stopped loving California! But I’m thankful for having my roots in New York city – I studied and worked hard there and it was worth it.

HR: You’ve been a working actress for quite a few years but prior to that you were producing plays and concerts.  Tell us about that other life.

LA: I guess I started my career in very “backward” way. I found a 1920’s theatre for sale in Elizabeth, New Jersey. It was in terrible condition, but you could still see the beauty and craftsmanship from that era. It was a 3,000 seat theatre, from the days of vaudeville and loaded with potential. So a business friend of mine and I, were lucky enough to find an investor with the same vision, and turn it into a concert hall/theatre venue. The three of us oversaw complete renovation to the theatre, back to it’s original splendor and produced shows and concerts with incredible stars. We had everyone from Spyro Gyra, The Oakridge Boys, George Carlin, Ray Charles, and Charlie Daniels, to Rodney Dangerfield. I was producing at 21 years old and was the youngest and only female doing it in the country. It was an amazing time in my life, riding around in limos with these people, doing their contracts, and running the theatre with a huge staff, seven days a week.

HR: You had an interesting encounter with Dangerfield, tell us about that.

LA: When Rodney Dangerfield came in, he asked to speak to who was in charge. My staff brought me to him and he said “No, where’s your father or the guy who runs this place. I said “That’s me – I do.” He rolled his big, bulging eyes, then argued with me about how he didn’t want anyone getting up during his performance to get a drink. I argued right back with that big man towering over me – I looked like a little mouse! He finally said, “Kid, you got my respect!” We became great friends after that for years.

It was Rodney, who told me to be an actress. On show nights, prior to the curtain rising on our star act, I would go out on stage to welcome everyone and talk about upcoming shows. It was thrilling talking to 3,000 people a night and entertaining them. Rodney watched me from the wings one night, then sat me down and said “Kid, you got it, you got stage presence. You’re a natural and should get into acting, besides, you’re too emotional to be a producer!” So in some ways he was right and when I was ready, that sage advice helped me begin my journey into acting. I’ve come full circle now – producing and acting with “Yellow Rock” – it’s been a heck of ride!

HR: You mentioned “when you were ready”. Did you go right into acting after that?

 LA: No, I threw myself into studying acting first. But I needed to make a living, so I bought a white limosine from the Marshall Tucker Band, who had done a concert at my theatre. I started a company of all female drivers, myself included. I became Regis Philbin’s driver and would go out on stage with him at the start of his live shows. He’d say to the audience, “I’m sorry I’m late! My chauffer is to blame.” I’d then walk out in my white limo outfit, replete with white hat, short skirt, and matching heels, towering over Reg. The audience would always laugh and we’d do an impov together. They loved it and he likes redheads, so asked me to consider being his side-kick on his T.V. show. But I wanted to act in stage and films, which I love and went on to do.

HR: Hindsight is twenty/twenty. Looking back over your showbiz career, what would you have done different, knowing what you know now?

LA: I would have started acting sooner. It’s a long road and you have to be able to tough it out, plus it was hard hearing at 27, you’re too old to be an actor! It’s an ageist concept that I’ve never agreed with. But it is good to get the training earlier because it takes a long time to make a living at it. I also wouldn’t have let every remark and audition get to me so much. Now if I don’t get it, I just move on instead of going home crying about it. I think as actors, we have to not take ourselves and our careers so seriously and enjoy the journey more.

HR:  What have been some of your favorite projects and who have been some of your favorite people to work with?

LA: I’ve had small parts in big films, and big parts in small films, but with directors, I loved working with Marty Scorsese, Woody Allen, and the UK director Charles Jarrott. There’s such a galactic difference working with filmmakers of their magnitude. I’ve also had a great time with indie filmmakers, who have more time to work on a personal level and have deep conversations about your character. I don’t think I have a favorite project, because I’ve loved working on (most) of them. I did a film called “Jamie’s Secret”, with Paul Rudd, directed by Peter Foldy and was nominated for “Best Supporting Actress” and flew to Colorado for the Awards Ceremony, so that was fun. I did the Supporting role in “Midnight Witness”, with Maxwell Caulfield and Paul Johannson. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, so Maxwell, the director, and I were there to do the press and promo on it, and had a fantastic time! I also Won a “Best Actress” from Showtime’s Joe Bob Briggs for “Eyes of the Serpent”, which was a blast. I’m also the voice of several recurring roles in “World of Warcraft”. Oh! Yes, then there’s “Yellow Rock”! That’s my favorite! How could it not be?!

HR: What advice would you have for younger actors or filmmakers starting their careers?

LA: For younger actors, training is a must! I meet so many  who’ve been told they should be actors because of their looks. What they don’t realize, is that there’s a million gorgeous actors in L.A. It might get them in the door, but they’re eventually going to have to deliver. I saw it myself, when we were casting “Yellow Rock” – handsome guys would come in and everyone would get excited. Then they’d read, and there was nothing going on. They’d leave and everyone would look at each other and say “What a shame”.

I also think younger actors shouldn’t concentrate so much on becoming a “Star”. Everyone should absolutely have their dreams and hope it happens, but you have to be in love with the craft of acting, not with being a celebrity. That attitude comes through in auditions. Loving the work is what casting wants to see – it creates passion for what you’re doing, keeps you in the moment, and winds up being more rewarding in the long run.

For filmmakers starting up, I’ll pass on what I learned from a Producer at a seminar: “Make a film about what you  know about, or subject matter that you want to know about!” Then I’d add, put all your time, heart, and soul, into seeing it through. Listen to advice you get with a grain of salt, then use your instincts, and go for it. You might not make an “Award Winner” out of the gate, but at least you’ll have a voice and enjoy your path because it’s what you believe in. Just like acting, your passion for it always comes through.

HR:  Describe your perfect L.A. weekend.

LA:  Right now after completing “Yellow Rock”, it’s sleeping! But I  love to go dancing and to dinner with friends. I also spend time with my mom and watch movies. But I guess I’m also bit of a “work-a-holic”, so my partner Steve Doucette and go over “YR” stuff and the projects we’re working on for our company Enlightenment Films, which is exciting.

HR:  What do you have coming up next?

LA: “Yellow Rock” was just inducted into the Melody Ranch Museum, on display next to “Deadwood” and “Bonanza” and countless other Westerns that were shot there. We’re definitely are going back to Melody Ranch and Veluzat Motion Picture Studios to do another Western! We also have two other projects in development. One is a beautiful, medieval fantasy, which is hot right now, and the other is a suspenseful, haunting tale. I’m excited about all of them and can’t wait to start diving in!

HR: Is there a website for “Yellow Rock” and how can people contact you?

LA: Yes, it is www.yellowrockmovie.com

Our Facebook pages: www.facebook.com/yellowrockmovie, and www.facebook.com/lenoreandrielactress so folks can contact us, get updates, and follow us on Twitter too. Film festivals regarding “Yellow Rock”, can contact our Producer’s Representative, Noor Ahmed at Reder & Feig, LLP or via email to us at enlightla@yahoo.com

HR: Thanks for talking with us, Lenore.

LA: Thank you so much for having me, it was my pleasure!

Renée George Talks About “The Artist” and “Le Petit Nuage”

Los Angeles: April 24, 2012

Renée George is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker who is also an experienced lighting professional in Hollywood. She studied photography and film and holds a BFA in Media Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and attended the Graduate Film program at New York University. After working on the Academy Award winning film, The Artist” she wrote and directed an impressive short film called “Le Petit Nuage” and is now transitioning to feature-length projects. We caught up with the filmmaker and asked her about her life and career.

HR: What was your job on “The Artist?”
RG:I worked in the lighting department as a Best Boy. I was so inspired by the sets and costumes, the wonderful direction by Michel Hazanavicius, and performances by Bérénice Bejo and Jean Dujardin, that I decided to make a “response” film, my own black and white, silent film. The French had come to the U.S. to make a film about love in Hollywood with an American crew. I traveled to France to make a film about love in Paris with a French crew.

HR: How long did it take to put your project together?
RG: The idea started to form on the set of “The Artist.” I thought about exploring the concept of two people meeting in a cafe in Paris, struck by love at first sight, and what happens to them afterwards. I didn’t decide to actually shoot the film until I was on the beach in Cannes just after watching “The Artist” go from out-of-competition to in-competition. The screening with a twenty-minute standing ovation was awe-inspiring! It was a fantastic celebration of the art form. I decided then and there – with some goading from my friend from Berlin – to stay a week longer and film “Le Petit Nuage” in Paris. I asked Isabel Ribis, the French script supervisor from “The Artist,” if she knew a cinematographer in Paris. She referred me to a friend who was already in Cannes. Twenty minutes later, I was talking to Stella Libert, cinematographer extraordinaire, who agreed to work with me on my project.

HR: How did you find the cast?
RG: Just after Stella said yes, I met with Sarah Demeestère, my lead actress, in Cannes, though she was not yet my lead actress at that time. I had met her before leaving Los Angeles at a movie screening from a French Conversational meetup group. She’s an actor/director, her film screened during the meetup and she speaks both French and English so I thought it would be interesting to check out her film. Her film was wonderful and we became friends. She told me to contact her once I arrived at Cannes, which I did shortly after meeting with Stella.

At Cannes, I asked Sarah to play the female lead in my film, and she said yes. Knowing I didn’t have time to do a proper casting with only one week of pre-production, I asked her if she knew any male actors for the lead role. She showed me some of her actor friends on Facebook and there was one in particular who seemed perfect – Joffrey Platel. She arranged a meeting the next evening in Paris. We met, he said yes, and invited me to see him in a theatre play two days later. I brought Stella with me so she could meet him and watch his performance. Onstage with Joffrey was Sébastien Pierre, another actor who seemed perfect for the role of the waiter, as his comedic talents were obvious. After the performance there was a soirée for the cast and crew across the street and I asked Sébastien if he would play the waiter and he said yes. Then we just needed the little dog. As I was discussing this point with Joffrey a female friend of his walked up with a little dog! The film was successfully cast in three days.

HR: The music in the film is beautiful. Who created it?
RG: I co-composed the original score with Robert Casal. Robert is an amazing talent, and a wonderful collaborator. I am not a classically trained musician – I sang melody lines and Robert would transcribe them into sheet music. He also wrote parts on the keyboard. It was a wonderful experience; one of the most enjoyable moments of my life.

In a twist of fate, after shooting my film in Paris I was in the Charles DeGaulle airport waiting to board my flight when I saw a familiar man carrying an instrument case on his back. After wracking my brain, I realized who it was – none other than Gautier Capuçon, the famous French cellist and international concert soloist standing in line to board the same plane! I hurriedly scribbled a note in French to ask him if he would play on my soundtrack. Miracle of miracles it actually happened. Robert and I flew to Washington D.C. to record him with the Argentinean bandoneonist Emmanuel Trifilio before Gautier’s performance at Kennedy Center.

HR: Tell us about your background in film?
RG: I started out studying photography and then film at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. I have a BFA in Media Arts from that school. I also studied at NYU’s Graduate film program in New York. I have worked in the industry as a union lighting technician for many years. As far as music goes, I used to play and record in bands, Tetes Noires, who toured and recorded three albums one on Rounder Records, and Big Lucy who played locally in Los Angeles and recorded a seven inch.

HR: How did you land the job on “The Artist”?
RG: Two wonderful men named Jim Plannette and Joseph Capshaw gave me the opportunity. Both Jim and Joseph are incredibly talented Gaffers (Chief Lighting Technicians) and I learned so much from them. Their vision for lighting is so clear and so confident. Jim is a huge film buff and loves movies more than anyone else I know. The French were quite lucky to have them working on the film. The depth of experience both of those men brought to the table really shows in how beautiful the lighting is in “The Artist.” Jim did “Young Frankenstein,” “E.T.,” “Oceans 11” and many more. Working on “The Artist” really changed my life. It turned out to be an incredible opportunity.

HR: Did you have any idea the film would be this successful while you were working on it?
RG: I really did feel something special. I felt like the ghosts of Hollywood were there with us, supporting us, all around us all the time. I could feel them. We were shooting in the houses and all the places where they used to work. It was very special. I also bought my ticket to Cannes in November, before the film was finished shooting. I had heard a rumor that they might take the film there, and somehow I knew they would, although Michel the director wasn’t sure at that time if they would have the film finished in time to submit it. I told him “oh of course you will…”. And they did!

HR: What was the set like on The Artist? Calm or crazy?
RG: The set on the artist was quite lively. Michel would play music – which is never done on sets unless you’re on a music video or m.o.s. commercial. The dog trainer would be yelling commands and even the crew felt comfortable to talk quietly during takes. It was quite loud at times. We worked long hours every day – the shooting schedule was very short 35 days – so our turnarounds were very short. Go home, sleep, back to work. But it was such an incredible project, no one really seemed to mind.

HR: Did you meet Uggie the dog?
RG: Of course! Everyone loved Uggie. He is the MAN. Biggest star from the film! I heard he retired. Talk about going out on top. That little guy deserves all the kudos because he worked really hard and I’m telling you, that dog can act! You can see it on the film. It’s incredible. I know it’s just training, and he’s just a dog, but he really looks like he’s acting. Kudos to Omar and Sarah! They are amazing people.

HR: What advise do you have for people just entering the film business?
RG: Be certain that you are passionate about doing it for a living because it is a very difficult business to be in, with no guarantees of future work and a lot of uncertainty. If you can live with that, because you can’t live without doing film, then you are in the right business.

HR: What’s next for Le Petit Nuage? Festivals?
RG: Yes we are submitting to festivals now. It is in consideration at Edinburgh, the Los Angeles Film Festival, Palm Springs Film Festival, CFC International Short Film Festival and the USA Film Festival with many more to follow. We are submitting to all the larger, well-established festivals.

HR: And what about you? What is your next gig?
RG: I have decided to expand “Le Petit Nuage” into “Seven Short Films About Love”, which will eventually become a feature film once all of the shorts are completed. Each short will be filmed in a different country, each with the central theme of love. The next short will be filmed in Lake Como, Italy, this year. I look forward to co-composing the music for this next film in the series with Robert.

I also have several other feature-length projects in development. I have an original screenplay about Nikola Tesla and the birth of the film industry, and another for the French market, a French-language biopic about a famous French musician. I’m also consulting producer on an international thriller and an animated children’s film.

HR: Thanks for talking with us, Renée.

Photo of Renée George on the set of “The Artist” by Yvette Gallardo D’Elia.

You can follow Renée on twitter: @7ShortFilms

–and also on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/7ShortFilmsAboutLove