Baring his Fangs, Zak Kilberg talks about Midnight Son

Midnight Son Zak Kilberg Interview

Hello everyone, Kirk aka Movie Junkie TO here again with a second interview from the guys involved with Midnight Son. My first interview can be read here. This time I get to sit down with one of the film’s leads, Zak Kilberg, for some one-on-one questioning. Enjoy!

Movie Junkie (MJ) – It’s great to talk to you again Zak, it’s been a while since Toronto After Dark last year. Congrats on the DVD release.

Zak Kilberg (ZK) – Hi Kirk, so happy you’re doing another piece on Midnight Son! Toronto After Dark has been a huge champion of our film and we all love that festival and everyone involved up there. I had a great experience coming up to Toronto for the premiere and meeting everyone!

MJ – Zak, let’s start with how you became aware of the film and eventually landed the role of Jacob.

ZK – An experienced San Francisco actor I know, David Fine, sent me the link to director Scott Leberecht’s website for the film – I was living in LA at the time. On the site Scott had a synopsis and incredible story boards from the film he had drawn. From exploring the site, I felt an immediate connection to Scott and his vision. I also happened to have an uncanny resemblance to the drawings of the main character, Jacob. I immediately emailed Scott a link to a short film I had just directed and starred in. He sent me the script right away and requested an audition tape which I sent. A month or two later I was in San Francisco for a film festival and came to Scott’s house for a call back. It was perfect timing and he offered me the role the next day.

MJ – It’s truly a great performance and as noted in my review I find your portrayal is the strongest in the quieter moments of the film. What were your influences in creating the character?

ZK – Thanks Kirk! My filmmaking influences are definitely more based in docu-drama and indie realism. I am a huge fan of Cassavetes – specifically the performances in A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE. Fleck’s HALF NELSON and Akin’s HEAD ON are two other films that inspire me deeply as a filmmaker and actor. My primary intention was to paint a picture of Jacob that felt real. I knew that realness was what separated this story from so many other vampire stories out there. If I could make the character real and relatable (and the million other filmmaking pieces came together as well) then the film would work.

MJ – Those are some strong influences for sure. You and Maya manage to present one of the more awkward romances on screen, how was it collaborating with her on this, especially since she was listed as an executive producer on the project?

ZK – Maya did an incredible job as Mary. She is an extremely professional and dedicated actress. She was cast as the actress first then became a producer on the film later so I never really saw her in that role – only as my co-star. We were able to rehearse several of our scenes before the filming began so we felt pretty comfortable together once the cameras started rolling. I think we were both just so thrilled to be working on the film that we would have done anything to make it great. We also both had a deep trust and love for Scott. It was an extremely supportive and positive working environment.

MJ – It certainly sounds like you and Maya had a great time together on this, in fact your entire cast and crew seem to be a tight knit bunch. Did you guys feel you had something special while you were making it?

ZK – We all knew from the beginning that we were making something special. Filmmaking is such a drawn out process you never really know what you’ll have by the end, but from the script, viewing Scott’s previous award winning short films and the amazing cast and crew we were able to assemble with a very micro budget, it felt clear to me we were onto something unique that would find an audience.

MJ – With a film like Midnight Son that is almost entirely set in the evening how did the evening shoots affect your sleep patterns?

ZK – I am definitely more of a night owl, so for me it was actually very enjoyable. It was exciting to wake up at 4pm and head to set, which usually consisted of running around downtown LA or Hollywood all night. It was always exciting and a truly wild experience.

MJ – That certainly must have helped! Since the film you have decided to make the leap to more of a behind the scenes role. Can you talk about that decision and is there any chance we see you back in front of the camera at some point in time?

ZK – Yes, that’s correct. Over the past few years I have taken a step back from auditions and been focused on building my production company SOCIAL CONSTRUCT FILMS. I am definitely still interested in acting and have taken some smaller roles in things I am producing, but my main focus now is in developing content and stories I love and building them from the ground up.

We just completed production on our 3rd feature film in 2 1/2 years. We also had a short film at Sundance this year called L TRAIN that was exec produced by Alexander Payne (THE DESCENDANTS) and has qualified for this year’s Academy Award consideration.

MJ– That’s great, I’m a big admirer of Payne’s work myself, sounds like you certainly have some exciting things lined up. Good luck getting a date with the “Golden Guy”, can you tell us a bit about what you have coming up next?

ZK – Two genre features I produced will be released next year in Canada, Jay Lee’s ALYCE w/ Tamara Feldman (HATCHET) and David Guy Levy’s WOULD YOU RATHER w/ Brittany Snow. We also just wrapped production last week on Ari Gold’s untitled new feature w/ Rory Culkin (SCREAM 4) and Robert Sheehan (MISFITS), and I am really excited about this one. It’s also happens to be the first non-genre film I’ve produced. You can read more about our productions at socialconstructfilms.com. Thank you, Kirk. It has been a pleasure discussing MIDNIGHT SON with you and all the rest!

MJ – As always the pleasure is mine Zak. MisFits is a personal favorite of mine, especially because of Sheehan’s work on the show, so I’m keen to see what you guys have come up with. Thanks again for this Zak, hopefully we can get you back up to Toronto soon!

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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Burning the Midnight Oil with the Creators of Midnight Son (Kirk Haviland)

Kirk here, aka Movie Junkie TO. I recently had the chance to sit down with some of the guys responsible, Director Scott Leberecht and Producer Matt Compton, for the unique and daring indie drama/horror Midnight Son and ask some questions about the film. The DVD Review is available at the above link, but for now let’s get on with the interview.

Movie Junkie (MJ) – It’s great to able talk to you again Scott and Matt, it’s been a while since Toronto After Dark last year. Congrats on the DVD release.

Scott Leberecht (SL) – Thanks Kirk, I had a great time partying with you at TAD.  If you don’t remember anything, it’s okay, I only remember the mornings. Been a long ride to finally get to this point!  Seeing Midnight Son being made available to so many people all around the world is very rewarding.

Matt Compton (MC) – Thanks very much. It’s a nice feeling to know that after such a long road, people can finally watch the film.

MJ – Scott, Midnight Son was your feature film debut after directing many short films, one of which I’ll ask about after, and stints doing effects for films like Inside Man, Sleepy Hollow and Spawn. What made you decide to make the jump to your first feature?

SL – I had the unique experience of being able to work one-on-one with several major film directors of the 90s, and as a result, I got an itch to direct my own films. I think it came out of my frustration with the fact that I was being scolded by my peers for expecting a good story or compelling characters out of summer effects films.  I realized quickly that audiences were getting used to movies with no nutritional value.  Today, I compare it to the recent revolution in the food industry.  At some point, people started doing research and found out that these big fat food companies could make better food, but they just didn’t care (because everyone had gotten used to eating shit).  I hope Americans start reading books on how to write good stories and the same thing happens to the movie industry.   Maybe then we might have original screenplays being financed, instead of every studio movie being a remake, sequel, or adaptation.

MJ – Matt, how did you know Scott was ready for his first feature and how did you come to be involved?

MC – My story as a Producer on the film is definitely a unique one.  I actually wasn’t involved at the time the film was shot, I got involved about a year later.  The film was shot it in the summer of 2007, but at the time, Scott only had enough money to get that far.  So once shooting was over, he wasn’t able to move forward with post-production.  It turned out that at the time, a good friend of his named David Hughes was doing some sound work on a film I was producing, entitled SEVENTH MOON.  David mentioned MIDNIGHT SON to the film’s director, Ed Sanchez, and told him that Scott was looking to raise some money and finish the film (Ed was also co-director of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.)  After Ed read the script, he sent it to me and asked if I would be interested coming on board as the Producer, to do the “heavy lifting” that would be getting the film across the finish line.

So, I definitely had an advantage that Producers don’t typically have.  I didn’t just have to go off of the script, but I was actually able to look at some of the footage before I jumped in.  The footage looked really good, and I definitely liked the script, so it was an easy decision for me to get involved at that point.

MJ – That’s a big advantage indeed. The film looks like a multi-million dollar production as the setting and set design really standout. It also makes a beautiful transfer to DVD, how did you manage to make such a film on an independent film budget? And how much of that came into play in the post production after Matt came aboard?

SL – It was really the work of our brilliant cinematographer, Lyn Moncrief.  He is the type of photographer that could make museum quality art with a disposable camera.  The truth about photography, I think, is that it is all about framing.  Even crappy lighting can look beautiful if the composition is extraordinary.  The focus can even be soft.  But if the framing is unbalanced or the camera position evokes a feeling that is incongruous with the story beat, no amount of pretty lighting or high definition capturing will help.  We were able to get a high quality image because we had real talent behind the camera, not money.

MC – In post-production, we were really blessed to have some very talented people work on the film, and that allowed us to raise the production value well beyond what our budget would have normally allowed.

First off, Scott’s friend David Hughes did our sound design and mix.  David works on very large studio films most of the time, and is incredibly good at his job.  He cared about the project so much, he took four weeks off working on studio films and did MIDNIGHT SON, taking quite a pay cut to do it.  Scott was able to spend a week with him in his home studio in Oregon for the final mix, which was really great.

For the music, we again had some luck on our side.  My friend Kays Alatrakchi is a very talented composer, and had heard about the film from a mutual friend.  At the time, there was another composer on-board, but he turned out to be unable to finish the film.  When I found that out, I reached out to Kays and showed it to him.  Fortunately for us, he really liked it, and agreed to do the music for the very small amount of money we were able to pay him.  I’ve been told by several people after festival screenings how great they thought the music was.  I couldn’t agree more.

For color grading, my friend Dan Myrick (the other co-director of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT) was kind enough to let us do it at his facility, called Chroma Lounge.  He gave us an incredible deal, and brought in a colorist by the name of Narbeh Tatoussian who did a fantastic job.  Dan was also instrumental in helping us prepare the film for delivery (delivery is creating a bunch of video tape masters and other materials that must be turned over to a distributor before they will release the movie).

So, across the board, we were so incredibly lucky to be able to work with all these talented people in the post-production process.

MJ – I also could not agree more with your comments about the music, it really is superbly done. Matt can you talk a bit about being a producer on a small indie film like Midnight Son and the intricacies involved with shooting on location?

MC – The film was shot in Los Angeles, and one thing about shooting there is that everyone is very film savvy.  So, when it comes to finding locations, pretty much everyone knows to ask for big money when they get approached by a movie or TV show.  So it’s always a big challenge whenever you’re shooting something with a small budget in L.A. to find locations that will agree to let you shoot there for a tiny amount of money.

On the permit side, luckily there is so much filming in L.A., the permit process is pretty easy and not terribly expensive.  The permit office is usually very easy to deal with, and when they issue a permit, they will cover up to 10 locations over a two week period, so you can cover a lot of shooting on one permit.  The price can add up if you’re shooting over a long period of time, but most small indies don’t have to worry about that!

What a lot of filmmakers do is only pull permits when they’re going to be shooting outside.  If you have a small crew and don’t have any trucks, you can shoot indoors and not draw any attention, so many just do those scenes with no permit.  It’s technically a “no-no”, but to save money, sometimes you have to do it.

MJ – Wow sounds like some of the productions I’ve seen in Toronto. Now Scott, what was the more challenging part for you in this process, directing or writing?

Writing was much more challenging.  I am a spatial artist first, temporal second.  My training in storytelling started around age 30, while creating visual imagery has been a natural compulsion since the moment I could hold a crayon.

MJ – Guys, Zak Kilberg came all the way up to Toronto for TAD last year to support the film, also one of your stars Maya Parish and fellow actor Kevin McCorkle are listed as Executive Producers on the film. Can you comment on what are obviously a tight knit and dedicated cast and crew?

SL – Everyone involved in Midnight Son was dedicated to this adventure.  We all believed in the power of the story and characters.  Everyone knew we had the talent to pull it off.  We were a family, and even at our worst moments, we sucked it up and did what we had to do.  The amazing thing about a cast and crew like this is that we all felt that Midnight Son was our shot at making something really fucking good.  So we went for it, with reckless abandon, fuelled by a primal lust for immortality through artistic achievement.  That sounds a bit dramatic, but when you think about it…

MC – Maya and Kevin were involved from the very beginning, and brought in money that was critical for the film to be able to move into production.  So, without them, the film might have never been made.  They both loved the script and decided to put their money where their mouth was, so to speak.  That’s a gutsy thing to do in indie film, and obviously we’re forever in their debt for doing it.

Overall, a great majority of the cast & crew have been so supportive throughout the process, even in those years where we were struggling to raise money to finish the film.  Even when they couldn’t help us directly, some of them tried to help by introducing us to others who might be able to.  I can take no credit for bringing those people on board; it was all Scott.  To me, it’s a testament to Scott’s script, as well as his drive to get the film made.  He really brought in a lot of tremendous people, and I think it shows on screen.  To be able to get what he did on the screen with such a small amount of money shows just how dedicated the cast & crew were to him and his vision.

MJ – That must have been a great experience. Finally I have one last question for each of you. Matt, in what I feel is one the best stories in indie film right now; you have recently launched a campaign to retrieve funds for your film from illegal downloaders. How did this come about and how successful has the campaign been?

MC – I wish I could say I planned it out months before and really thought it through.  But, the truth is, it was just something that I decided to do when I learned the film had shown up on the BitTorrent sites.  About 3 weeks before the DVD was released is when it happened, and at that point, the idea just popped into my mind that I should leave a message on The Pirate Bay, which is one of the most popular BitTorrent sites out there.  I just wanted to let people know that we were a small film struggling to make our money back, and if they wanted to help us out, they could donate to us or buy a DVD when it came out.

I wish I could say that we received a lot of donations, but sadly we didn’t.  It was a small amount, and certainly better than nothing, but it didn’t turn out to be earth-shattering by any measure.  I’m grateful to each and every person who donated, though, and I sent a thank you email to all of them.

MJ – A commendable idea though Matt, bravo. And Scott, in a non-related question, you are the only person I have ever heard of to attempt to put cult figure Lobo on screen with your short “The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special”. How did that come about and do you have ideas for a feature?

I will always be the biggest fanboy of the Main Man.  I saw my chance to make Paramilitary Christmas, so I went for it.  The experience was mind-numbing.  I have tons of ideas for the Lobo movie I would direct, but the problem is that he is an adult anti-hero.  To tell a proper Lobo tale, the film would have to be rated R or NC-17.  This would cut out such a huge demographic that there would be no way to recoup the financial investment a Lobo movie would require.  I think the only way Lobo will ever be made into a movie is if it is written to be rated PG-13, and sadly, that will NOT be a Lobo movie.  But I will go see it anyway.   I am weak.

Thanks again Guys, I really appreciate the time today. Could you each tell us a bit about what you have coming up next?

SL- Currently hard at work paying off my debt from film school.  I thought about making a sign– ‘WILL FILM-MAKE FOR MONEY’– and standing at an intersection in Hollywood, but then I realized I could probably get out of debt faster if I just filled out an application at a local grocery store.

MC – My pleasure.  As for what’s next, I’m actually taking a bit of break from producing, now that the film is out there.  It’s been such a long road, and there’s still a little more to be done in terms of trying to get the film released in other countries (Jinga Films is out foreign sales company and is working hard to make that happen.  Hopefully we’ll have some deals to announce soon).  One thing I’m just starting to think about is helping other filmmakers find distribution for their films.  The Film Collaborative, a non-profit group based in L.A., was invaluable in helping us secure our deals with FEARnet and Image Entertainment.  They tend to focus more on art-house and documentary films, and we’ve had discussions about me working with them to vet the more “commercial” films submitted to them or that may want to explore TFC’s services.  They’re a terrific organization run by some wonderful people, and I’m excited to see how things unfold with them in the next few weeks.

MJ- Sounds Great Matt, and I certainly hope that local IGA is hiring Scott! Thanks again and hope to see you guys back in TO again someday!

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Toronto After Dark Lineup Announced – 3 weeks until showtime!

Image from http://torontoafterdark.com/2011/

Showtimes and trailer links below!

It’s almost time for Toronto to usher in the Halloween season with the Toronto After Dark (TAD) Film Festival, eight nights of horror, sci-fi, action and cult movies. This the perfect type of festival for someone like me, as my interest in film lies with the mysterious and the fantastic. After the first wave of TAD films were announced, it became apparent that I would be spending a lot of time at the TAD venue, the Toronto Underground Cinema. Now that the complete lineup has been announced, I’ll just have to see if they have a room I can rent for eight nights.

The lineup for TAD looks amazing, and features a variety of ravenous undead, lonely astronauts, thirsty vampires, unfathomable futures, menacing ghosts, otherworldly secrets and pile-driving monsters, but this is just scratching the surface. Over the years TAD has garnered a reputation for their professionalism, and dedication to screening a wide variety of the best genre films from all over the world. This year will be no exception, and may just be the most exciting TAD yet!

Father’s Day (the latest from notorious Troma Entertainment, Inc.), VS (a bloody battle between four kidnapped superheros and their arch nemesis) and War of the Dead (a WWII zombie-action film out of Lithuania) make up the world premiere lineup. Highly anticipated festival circuit films include The Woman, which has been shocking audiences for a while now (check out this clip of a guy freaking out during a screening at Sundance), and The Innkeepers, the latest from Ti West, director of the creepy The House of the Devil.

In addition to these big name genre films are some that may not have as much hype, but still have me anxious for the festival to start.

The Corridor – A group of friends travel to a cabin for one last getaway before jobs, marriages, etc. make it impossible for them to do it again. The getaway takes an unexpected turn when the friends discover a spectral hallway in the middle of the woods. The corridor seems to be a harbinger of things to come and sparks negative emotions in the hearts of the men. If they hope to survive the weekend, they must face not only the corridor, but each other.

A Lonely Place to Die – From the UK comes a thrilling mountain chase film, in which a group of hikers discover a young girl trapped in the mountains. The girl turns out to be a kidnapping victim, and the hikers attempt to bring the her to safety but are tracked and attacked by the her kidnappers at every twist and turn. This film has been getting fabulous reviews and apparently must be seen on the bigscreen.

The Divide – The end of the world starts to occur just outside the windows of a towering apartment building. The tenants stampede to the secure basement in hopes of surviving the apocalypse, however, the first few to make it slam the door on the rest. The surviving group must now survive each other, as cabin fever, claustrophobia and the possibility of being the last surviving members of the human race begin to weigh heavily on the cellar’s new inhabitants. From Xavier Gens, the director of the graphic Frontier(s). Sci-fi or not, this one is probably not for the squeamish.

Redline (animated) – This animated film out of Japan is supposed to be Death Race 2000 on steroids. The plot is about a deadly intergalactic race that happens every five years, and apparently has some stellar sound effects. Let’s hope the TAD crew cranks the volume for this one!

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE (The official schedule will be announced on the 4th, when single tickets go on sale. I’m not sure when VS and War of the Dead will screen)

Click on a title to be directed to the trailer.

Thursday, October 20th

7pm – Monster Brawl

Friday, October 21st

7pm – Exit Humanity

9:45pm – Father’s Day

Saturday, October 22nd

4:15pm – Redline

7:00pm – DeadHeads

9:45pm – War of the Dead

Sunday, October 23rd

1:30pm – Some Guy Who Kills People

4:15pm – Love

7:00pm – The Theatre Bizarre

9:45pm – Midnight Son

Monday, October 24th

7:00pm – Absentia

9:45pm – A Lonely Place to Die

Tuesday, October 25th

7:00pm – The Divide

9:45pm – Manborg

Wednesday, October 26th

7:00pm – The Corridor

9:35pm – VS

Thursday, October 27th

7:00pm – The Woman

9:45pm – The Innkeepers (no trailer yet)

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