SEATTLE  AREA  FILMMAKERS

A site for all Washington State filmmakers.

On the move!  Interviews with actors and filmmakers of Washington State!

Interviews with Washington State filmmakers and actors.

Washington State has a lot of talent right here and abroad. Some born here in Washington and stay, others who moved here to continue working and there there are those who found a new step that led them onward to Hollywood. There is no right or wrong in staying or going on to the film industry down in Los Angeles and other high production film communities. It's the passion within the person that matters. 

This is to shine a spotlight with those who are either becoming an inspiration or already are for others in the movie industry.

The diversity will be from Actors to Producers to Composers to VFX artists - all being key to making movies. Please take note that I did not divide between genders, religion and race. I don't want to see 'female Director' listed because she's a Director. Breaking down division and creating a equal opportunity community is a dream to a goal. Let's do this!

 

 

Russell Hodgkinson




Russell Hodgkinson currently plays "Doc" on the SyFy series 'Z Nation'. He is a 35 year theatre veteran who became interested in film work while living in New Orleans after being cast in Tim Burton's 'Big Fish'. He also appeared with Norman Reedus in the film 'Tough Luck' before moving to Seattle in 2003. Other films include '21 & Over', 'Fat Kid Rules the World', 'The Abduction of Eden' and 'Zombies of Mass Destruction', as well as TV appearances on 'Grimm' and 'Leverage'. Russell's latest film 'Star Leaf' is a sci-fi thriller about extraterrestrial weed that brings awareness to the medical benefits of marijuana for soldiers with PTSD. Russell was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division from 1977-1983.


How did you get started acting? 
It was after school (7th grade), I was waiting for my friend Tammy who was auditioning for The Wizard of Oz. There wasn't enough kids to read the roles. I was asked to help out. I made the teacher laugh and she offered me the role of the scarecrow. I loved the whole process of putting a show together, seeing all the elements come together. It was the most fun I'd ever had, so I just kept doing it. For me, nothing beats hanging out in a big empty theatre rehearsing a play.

What is your background?
I grew up in a military family, I have three brothers who all served. I was offered a theatre arts scholarship in high school and intended to go to college. When my girlfriend ended up pregnant during my senior year I realized I had few options, so I joined the Army. By age 21 I was divorced with two kids and a mortgage. I lost custody of my girls and life was pretty bleak. One day I saw an audition announcement on base. Soon I began performing regularly at the Fort Bragg Playhouse, a semi professional theatre that gave me the opportunity to work with many seasoned broadway performers. Luckily it was peace time, which enabled me to work steadily over the next few years. This was my OJT (on the job training). My artistic director and mentor Lee Yopp, encouraged me to pursue an acting career, so I said goodbye to the Army and hello to New York City. It was 1983. I'll spare you the gory details of that chapter. Let's just say it was a wonderful, horrible, eye opening experience.

Who is your role model?
I've never had role models, but I have great admiration for actors and filmmakers who create their own work, instead of waiting around for opportunities to present themselves. Many of my friends here in the Pacific Northwest fall into that category.

Do you feel that you are much like the character that you played? (physically, personality, etc.) 
My character Doc and I are similar in many ways. We are both optimistic, kind-hearted team players who use our sense of humor to get out of awkward situations. Having the opportunity to help develop a character over time is very gratifying. As the writers get to know you, they begin to write for you, allowing the essence of who you are to come through by highlighting your strengths. At least that's been my experience.

What actions do you take to improve your craft?
I am probably the laziest actor I know. I don't really study or train. I have no 'process' to speak of. I just try to stay fit, open-minded and grateful. That will go a long way. I wish I had taken improv classes or had vocal training. That would have been really useful. I never wanted to spend the money, so I would wait until I was cast in a show and then pick up helpful techniques from the 'trained actors'. In addition to that, I could always count on my wife's constructive criticism with comments like "Are you going to do it like that?" and "You're doing that 'thing' you do". She is a retired professional actress and director. After 25 years of marriage she knows just how to bust my balls. Seriously though, she is an amazing acting coach who has helped me avoid embarrassment on numerous occasions.

What is the most embarrassing audition?

In my opinion auditioning for musical theatre is the worst. Especially when you're asked to sing and dance in front of your competition. It's excruciating. I've definitely blown a few of those SCT auditions.

What is your dream role?
I don't have a dream role in mind, but I've always gravitated towards complex, tortured souls, outcasts, misfits. I would enjoy playing Scrooge someday when I'm old enough (budum bum!) I would also welcome the challenge of playing a transgender character. I love Jeffrey Tambor's work on Transparent and Louie Anderson on Baskets. I'd like to do a one man show based on the life of George E. Ohr (The Mad Potter of Biloxi) or George Carlin, the late great comic genius. Is anyone interested in helping me create these opportunities? I told you I was lazy. I actually think I could have been a successful stand-up comic. I tried it for a short time, but people steal your jokes and the venues were always past my bedtime.

What are some of the difficulties of the acting business? 
Making a living as an actor is probably the biggest challenge, also dealing with constant rejection. It's hard not to get discouraged. Losing a role to someone with a bigger Twitter following has got to be infuriating. (Please follow me @hodgmahal).

What is some advice that you would give to someone aspiring to become and actor? 
I've had such an unorthodox career, I'm probably the worst person to ask for advice, but here goes. First off, if you can find a career that you love as much as acting, you should consider it. Otherwise, find a flexible job and do as much local theatre and film work as you can. I did that for years and was perfectly content. Generally, I would say, audition for everything you can, it's good practice, be punctual, be kind and take risks. Remember acting is not that hard, Shirley Temple did it and she was four. I definitely stole that line from somebody.

Thank you Russell for your service in the Army and to now be an inspiration for other actors.


If you would like to contact Russell:
On Twitter
On Facebook 
IMDB

Megan Griffiths




Megan Griffiths is an award-winning director, writer and producer based in Seattle, Washington. Her films (The Off Hours, Eden, Lucky Them, The Night Stalker) have attracted top tier acting talent, screened at prestigious festivals such as the Toronto International and Sundance Film Festivals, and have been distributed internationally. Megan was the recipient of the 2012 Stranger Genius Award for Film, was named the 2013 City Arts Film Artist of the Year, and received the 2015 Seattle Mayor’s Award for Film. She serves on the board of the Northwest Film Forum and is an active advocate for sustainable production.





Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking was not just a hobby, but that it would be your life and your living?

My theory on life is that you need to figure out the end goal—where you want to ultimately wind up—so that you can make all the decisions that come your way every day with that end goal in mind. I decided that I wanted to be a filmmaker probably in my late teens, and have just been working towards it ever since.

Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

I think it’s harder to keep going. When you make your first film, you’re fueled by a lot of idealism and buffered by a lot of ignorance. Once you experience how difficult this industry can be, and how much rejection you’ll face, it takes a certain fortitude to continue to try and succeed against the intense odds. Personally, I had to get comfortable pretty early on with the fact that not everyone was going to love my work. It helps to remember that there is no film in existence that is loved by everyone—even THE SHINING has haters. You have to develop trust in your own instincts and build the confidence to truly believe that your work has a place in the world.

What is the one mistake most filmmakers make, regardless of experience?

Most mistakes come out of fear or ego. I think many filmmakers don’t seek honest, critical feedback for their work because they are either afraid of it, or they feel like they already know everything they need to know. But there is nothing more essential than non-sycophantic truth if your goal is to make the best film possible. Yes, you have to filter it through your own vision, but if you never seek it out at all, you’re missing a huge opportunity for growth.

What makes you good at your position?

I think I have a strong sense of what people need from me as a director, and I’m good at providing that so that they, in turn, will provide me with what I need (a good performance, a good shot, etc.) I worked for years as a cinematographer, an editor and a 1st assistant director, all of which gave me invaluable insight into how to communicate on set. And I’m someone who can get along with just about anyone, so that doesn’t hurt either.

What are personal attributes that make for a good filmmaker, and what do you do to foster them?

I heard Henry Winkler say once that the two traits one needs to succeed in the film industry are tenacity and gratitude. I couldn’t agree more. You foster these attributes by working hard, holding yourself and others to a high standard, and saying thank you (and meaning it.)

What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?

I’m very character-centric. I want to believe that the people I’m watching are truly experiencing their character’s story. Nothing throws me out of a film faster than a false moment from an actor. If you can achieve that, and also create an aesthetically interesting world, and ultimately give me something resonant and meaningful to take with me when I walk out of the theater, you’ve achieved something special.

What are your five favorite films?

Impossible question, but here are the first five that spring to mind: HAROLD & MAUDE, YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, DEAD MAN WALKING, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, and maybe FISHTANK. Last year I loved DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL.

What three actors/actresses stand out to you?

Right now my talent-crushes are Jenny Slate, Melanie Lynskey, Sam Rockwell, Lupita Nyong’o and Imogen Poots. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are really way too many amazing actors to name.

When do you know a script is ready to shoot, and what is your process of getting it there?

Again, I seek feedback. In the script stage, it’s usually from trusted friends and people with a sense of how things translate from script to screen. I think knowing when it’s ready is a bit instinctual—the whole writing process is for me, actually. Sometimes I’ll read my script as if I’m an actor I’m about to send it to, and I try to think about why the actor would say no, and then go back in as a writer and try to get it to a place where I’m giving them no obvious reason to resist.

How did your love for movies get sparked and what can we -- as a community -- do to help others discover a similar pleasure?

I don’t remember my first film. I know I saw STAR WARS at the drive-in with my parents and sister when I was two years old, so that might be it. But I’ve always been excited about movies. A good film can transport you and provide an opportunity to look at the world from a completely new perspective. It can be tremendously powerful and empathy-building. And as someone who believes empathy is the single most important trait anyone can have, I guess it makes a lot of sense that I’ve gravitated towards this role. As a community, I believe filmmakers need to look into themselves and try to determine what is unique about their own perspective, and then put that into their work so that others might recognize it and/or learn from it.

To keep up with Megan:
Twitter 


Sean Patrick Burke




Sean Patrick Burke is an American movie producer, writer, AD, Director and script consultant. He grew up in Spokane, Washington. He works on indie films, major motion pictures and commercials. He is a partner and co-owner of Have Not Films. He recently produced a film titled, "As You Are", that had its domestic release in the American Drama competition at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2016. He just produced a psychological drama titled "Ayla" that is in post-production. He lives in Tacoma, Washington and is married to photographer Tiffany Burke. Together they have two sons.


Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking was not just a hobby, but that it would be your life and your living?

This was a difficult portion of my life. I was a WABO certified shop welder and my wife and I had just bought a new home in Bellingham, WA. I had a 4 year old son and my youngest was just born being 3 weeks old. My shop foreman came into the shop and handed me a lay-off notice one day rather unexpectedly. I was absolutely shocked. It hit us extremely hard and I was applying to several welding jobs, but due to my young age, I could not for the life of me get a job. I had been doing script writing and very interested in filmmaking as a profession, but didn’t know really where to begin. At this point and time, I knew I had to jump into a world I was very unfamiliar with to keep my family afloat. Getting laid off from my welding job was the best push I could have ever received in order to follow my dreams and aspirations of becoming a filmmaker. 


Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

A little bit of both. I see a lot of people struggling to get started because they don’t have a push that I had. People get comfortable and somewhat complacent with the lives he/she lives. Working a “regular” job that offers consistency is a tough thing to walk away from. I see a lot of folks struggling with this aspect. To keep going is difficult too. This industry is exceptionally difficult to build something sustainable. Freelancers often float from job to job and this can prove to be quite tasking. I feel both are uniquely challenging and as a result very few folks ever jump into this industry and even fewer find success for great periods of time.

For me, I find the keep going aspect to be more difficult. I didn’t have a choice when I  was getting started. That aspect was actually quite fun and I learned so much from my many failures. I learned from all the networking I had done throughout the years. I find it difficult some days to continue working in the industry because it can tend to beat you up on certain days. With many successes, there are often many more failures. To be honest, I want what is best for my family. We are doing fine with the way my career is moving and things are continually getting better and better, but if I ever had to choose between them and my career, I would do whatever is best to support them.


What is the one mistake most filmmakers make, regardless of experience?

I can really only speak at the independent level. I have worked on bigger studio pictures, but not at the above the line positions. In the Indie level, I see a lot of mistakes being made, but one that I see constantly being made is: cutting corners. Every production has issues with budgets, but it is how producers find ways to save money on productions that can be a mistake. It more often than not negatively affects the crew and the overall production itself. Getting resourceful is key, but taking care of your crew is an elemental must because they are the backbone to any good production.

What makes you good at your position?

What makes me a good Producer/Director is that I have worked so many below the line positions. I PA’ed on bigger studio pictures and I have been 1st and 2nd AD’ on many indie films and commercial shoots. I have an excellent sense of time, have worked in the trenches with the crew, and understand the ins and outs of a production from pre-production all the way through post. I also have a great sense of how to make something marketable while also maintaining creative integrity.


What are personal attributes that make for a good filmmaker, and what do you do to foster them?

Some attributes can be learned, but I think the most important (and something I think is innately within someone) is work ethic. I think this goes for pretty much any industry. If you want to succeed or be the best you can possibly be at something, you have to work harder than anyone else. I have hired a lot of people and very few have the intrinsic value of hard work ethic. Attributes you can learn: patience, modesty, and treating everyone equal. Fostering these takes time for some, but very important on any production.


What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?

This is a tough one. Honestly, it really depends on my mood. I watch films based off of productions I am currently developing (which are mainly darker films). I have, however, been working on finding things good with films rather than focusing on the negative. I feel it is the least I can ask for anyone watching anything I produce or direct.  For me, a strong film comes from the story. There needs to be a good foundation and the characters need to be developed. So many stories/films have poorly developed characters or characters that shouldn’t even exist. I feel most films, recently, look pretty good. Everyone loves aesthetically good looking visuals. It is important. Music is one thing I am VERY picky about. I feel a strong composition can make a film drastically better or ruin it for me. Good music/score is key.


What are your five favorite films?

I will try my best, but these films change pretty regularly.

  • Bullhead. Belgium film. Met the producer of this film at Sundance and was gushing to him about my crush on his film. I was only slightly embarrassed. 
  • The Seventh Seal. I have to have one throwback on my list. Bergman was well ahead of his time as a filmmaker, but I feel this story is so simple and accessible.
  • The Pusher Trilogy. Yes, I cheated. I added three films and combined them into one. These films HAVE to be watched as one though. Trust me. Winding Refn is a genius.
  • The Fountain. Aronofsky. There is just something insanely beautiful about this film, the story, and the score. It gave me emotions I never thought could exist.
  • Wildcard. Undecided. It’s an ever-changing movie. 


What three actors/actresses stand out to you?

  • Leonardo DiCarprio. People give him crap for who he is and how he is as an actor, but I feel he is so dedicated to the craft that he gives everything to each role. These are the actors I plan to work with on a majority of my films.
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor. Really, just something about the way he looks at other actors. It is hauntingly good. Love his work and how he carries himself.
  • Keira Knightly. I have always been a huge fan of hers. I feel she is a phenomenal actress who has great morals too.

When do you know a script is ready to shoot, and what is your process of getting it there?

There are many factors that need to be there for a script to be ready. The story is the first thing to tackle. It must function properly or the film itself will lack. As a producer and a director, I like to work hand in hand with the writer(s) and directing if I am producing; to ensure the film is at its best. I like the film to have edginess, excellent structure, proper formatting, and the proper amount of pages before we move forward.

How did your love for movies get sparked and what can we -- as a community -- do to help others discover a similar pleasure?

Great question. My love for movies has always been something I could never explain to my friends growing up. I would rent movies by the dozen from the library, Blockbuster, and local video stores just to watch them alone. I just love getting lost in beautiful stories.

As a community, I would love to see people share resources more and to connect/ collaborate more. I also would love to rid my community of egos and the need to constantly work with the same individuals. We all need to communicate about wants and needs to strengthen what we have. Washington State has a lot to offer, but we won’t get anywhere without shooting excellent content in the area. This happens by working together.


To keep up with Sean:
www.havenotfilms.com
Facebook

Wayne Bastrup



Growing up, Wayne Bastrup was never the first up on a stage. More inclined to play sports, build a tree house, or get lost in a good book, acting would become the antidote for this shy, introverted, kid from a small, working class Washington State town.


Graduating from the University of Washington with a Masters in Architecture, acting would soon become his passion. Over the last few years, he has successfully appeared, and starred, in a wide range of award-winning films and TV shows. Ahead of his most recent role in Paramount Studios Terminator Genysis, some of his credits include: Leverage, Awake, Whitney, CSI: NY, Radio America, and The Mentalist. He can also be seen in the Bill Pohlad (12 Years A Slave) directed feature “Love and Mercy”.

In October 2015 it was announced that Bastrup was joining the cast of Sully, an upcoming American biographical drama film directed by Clint Eastwood, based on the autobiography Highest Duty by Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger.


How did you get started acting? 
It took me a long time to figure out that acting was what I really wanted to do. I always find it strange that the minute you turn 18, you are, in a sense, required to find that one thing you’re supposed to do for the rest of your life. I had participated in drama classes in high school and really liked it. Which, as I recall, was very surprising to me. I was really shy in high school, typically focusing on sports and my schoolwork. I think the drama classes helped me to find my voice as a teenager. But I didn’t really take acting seriously at that point. I went to college right after high school and I thought I wanted to be an engineer and a baseball player. Then I thought I wanted to be an English professor and a professional mountain biker. Then a drummer in a wildly successful rock band and an architect. Then a photographer and graphic designer. Then a writer and a bicycle designer. Trust me, the list goes on. But I wouldn’t have figured on acting had I not explored all of those other options. I tried, and failed, and succeeded and failed again. And then found out what I really wanted to do.

What is your background?
In 2009 I was laid off from the Architecture firm I worked at in Seattle. It was a scary time - there were no jobs in construction. None. And I had developed a narrow skill set – Architecture and acting. The two choices didn’t leave me very optimistic. I tend to be fairly practical, and acting, at that point was more just a hobby. At that point I had I made very little money as an actor in Seattle. It was something I loved to do, but not feasible as a career. Plus, I had no clue of what it would take to become a professional actor. So, with no options on the table in architecture, I decided to do the crazy, impractical thing and give acting, as a career, a shot.

The extraction process out of Seattle was tough. I had built a life there, having gone to the University of Washington as an undergrad and grad, working in the city and participating in the film and music community. Putting that life on hold and setting up completely new in a city you know very little about is daunting. But once I got settled in Los Angeles, I realized it was exactly what I needed. In many ways, the move pushed me outside of what had become routine. It was liberating.


Who is your role model?
I’m not sure I have any specific role models I look up to, but there are actors whose career’s I admire and aspire to. Joseph Gordon Levitt, Paul Dano, Ryan Gosling and Ewan McGregor are a few who I think have it figured out. They are able to pick and choose the types of projects they work on, jumping effortlessly between major blockbuster films and keeping their artistic creative thirst quenched by doing quirky independent films. All the while managing to keep their integrity. It would be great to have that type of career.

Do you feel that you are much like the character that you played? (physically, personality, etc.) 
Absolutely. I firmly believe that’s one thing that you can never leave behind or forget in any role that you are in. There will always be you, never just a character. I think it’s important to realize that in any role one takes. In my opinion, this is what brings reality and believability to a performance. If you attempt to step outside of yourself, that’s when the performance breaks down. Nothing beats your real emotions.


What actions do you take to improve your craft?
I tend to believe that nothing is better than life experience. Daily actions and activities are what all acting roles derive from. Now that I have a daughter (20 months old), experiencing the world with her and through her eyes has informed me beyond what I could have ever imagined about relationships and interactions with the world. I think about these things constantly and how my approach to these situations in real life can inform my craft.

Watching movies, attending plays and film festivals, talking with other actors over a beer, classes and workshops are other activities I participate in on a daily basis to keep myself engaged and learning.

What is the most embarrassing audition?
There have been so many, it’s hard to keep track. One that sticks out was for the role of a drug addict that required the character to wear short-shorts and roller skates – and nothing else. I remember I squeezed myself into a pair of my wife’s shorts and rented a pair of roller skates. The wait to get into the room was long – parts of me were falling out. And I hadn’t worn roller skates in years. The copy for the audition gave direction for the character to do a little twirl after delivering a few lines of dialogue and then go back into a speech. I got to the twirl part and fell on my ass. This happened about 4 times, each time having to start over. The casting director finally said I didn’t need to do the twirl, but I insisted I could do it. Finally, on the fifth try, I did it…only to mess up the delivery of the rest of the dialogue.


What is your dream role?

Roles and films that focus deeply on flawed characters have always fascinated me. Paul Giamatti in Sideways, Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs, Paul Dano and John Cusack in Love and Mercy, are all examples of these types of films. Any opportunity to step into a performance resembling this type of depth and story arc would be a milestone in my career. But don’t get me wrong. Taking over the role of Captain America from Chris Evans would also be a dream come true!


What are some of the difficulties of the acting business? 
There are many, many challenges to navigating Hollywood – finding the right representation, classes, branding, self-promotion, agents, managers, pre-auditions, driving all over LA to get to meetings, (so much driving) etc. For me, one of the hardest is to constantly be going to “job interviews” i.e., the auditions. You’re always putting yourself out there and you get very little feedback. You pour hours and sometimes days into an audition – studying lines, researching - and you walk into the audition, deliver your performance, and then you’re done - typically in less than 5 minutes. That’s it. That’s all you get. I compare it to the Olympics: you train for years to perfect your sport and then you only get one shot at it. One performance to get it right. And sometimes you fail miserably. You have to get used to being told “no”, over and over and over again. And it can take a psychological toll. There are long dry spells where you might not go to a single audition for weeks, months. There are times when you might go to 15 auditions in a month – and not get a single callback or book a single line. 95% percent of the work as an actor is the effort put into getting the job. The other 5% is when you’re actually on set filming – the most enjoyable part.

But I also think there are a lot of misconceptions about what Hollywood is like. I’ve been able to meet and work with some of the most talented, gracious and grounded people. I haven’t had any negative experiences, on or off set. It many ways, I’ve had a much easier time on a professional level than working in Architecture and construction.


What is some advice that you would give to someone aspiring to become an actor? 
Advice is a tricky thing to give. I’ve always been of the mind to take anyone’s advice with a grain of salt. To simply follow my passion and never give up. I’ve never seen myself as being someone who is particularly talented at anything. The one thing I would say I have is tenacity. Once I decide to do something, nothing is going to stop me. It may take days, weeks, months, years, but I will keep at it until it’s become my life.

I think everyone needs to find that spark. That thing the drives you to want to get to the next level. I think all actors need that. Because the profession is unlike any other. It is a marathon where your strength and training only pay off if you stay in the race.


To keep up with Wayne Bastrup:
Website 
Email
Twitter
Facebook

Wynter Rhys



Wynter Rhys (as of 2016) is 17 year old director, writer, editor from the Seattle area. Her signature aesthetic and storytelling style represents all things controversial and abstract that push the boundaries of society and common thinking. She want her films to ignite raw truth and get under an audience's skin. As a director, she begin and instill the story, but she believes the story evolves and resolves itself within the mind of my audience - which is precisely the reason why her films are so psychological. Universally human, undeniably chilling, and beautifully visceral - this is the foundation of every piece she creates.



Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking was not just a hobby, but that it would be your life and your living?
For me, this realization came simultaneously with the creation of my first film, Little Red. Film has focused the essence of how my mind works into something shareable, beautiful, and uncanny ­ so the word “hobby” has never been quite adequate for the way directing makes me feel.

Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either? 
My films are not particularly palatable. The concepts running through my mind were explicitly controversial and unsettling long before I touched a camera, so I was well aware that breaking my first ­film­ virginity would result in a byproduct of my dark mind. I knew that this would elicit a dramatic response in viewers, and I can’t lie ­ the looming threat of prying eyes watching a YouTube or Vimeo link that is a piece of my heart almost startled me out of creating it in the first place. However, the concept for my debut film had haunted me for so long, and I realized that NOT creating it felt so much more terrifying than the looming threat of creating it and putting it out into the world. So, at fourteen years old, I ventured into the dark woods with a wide­-eyed little girl, a red riding hood, yellow rain boots, and a vision to elevate the classic g­raded fairy tale utilizing the most terrifying homestead cabin I’ve ever witnessed, with its walls full of ghosts. I am working on branding myself, and this makes the “going” easier than the initial “doing.” Viewers are starting to pinpoint my signature style from a mile away, and this deep ­rooted compliment to my creative self is what will continue to carry me. When I made my first film, in contrast, all I had was my word.

What is the one mistake most filmmakers make, regardless of experience?
I think many filmmakers always make mistakes that lead back to flaws in the human condition. Being tired, being forgetful or frustrated, the list goes on. We are all human, and although a film crew is referred to as a “well­-oiled machine,” we are really all just people sharing the same space to creative something groundbreaking to the best of our abilities. In addition, I see a lot of filmmakers making the mistake of avoiding risks and making “comfortable” work ­ and this level of safeness, in my belief, does not make changes.

What makes you good at your position?
I'm a very visual director, so when I write my scripts I have a very clear idea of what I want the finished piece to look like prior to production ­ down to color, mood, shot placement/order, and even editing style and timing. I am sewing the pieces together from the moment the concept has made itself vivid in my mind. On set, I know the film like the back of my hand. I have fostered deep relationships with my characters and their psyche ­ my serial killers, my terrified little girls and my undeniably evil women ­ so when the camera rolls, my deep understanding as a director facilitates the rawness in the room. This keeps the story alive and real throughout production, even at four in the morning on the crew’s 20th cup of coffee. Perpetuating the films’ foundational energy prior and during production and being explicitly aware of every minute detail is my job. Each film I create is a chunk of my soul, and I ensure that I have an answer to every and any question that could be tossed my way.

What are personal attributes that make for a good filmmaker, and what do you do to foster them?
I believe my bravery is what allows my films to push the boundaries of society and evoke feelings deep within the human condition. As directors and filmmakers, I believe we must be brave. This is not to be misunderstood as fearless ­ I think it’s almost impossible to be fearless ­ but it means we must recognize our fears and find solutions. We must take a downfall and elevate it into something better, more impactful, more far­-reaching. In addition, I believe the best filmmakers are shamelessly people­ watchers, collecting memories on how people move, speak, and feel. Prior to and during production, we must be loud communicators, in the face of pressure and with an open mind and mouth to receive and respond. However, after the film is complete, we revert to observational listeners.

What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
I need a film to make me feel, first and foremost ­ and linger in my mind long after the credits roll. A lot of films that capture the human condition so eloquently and viscerally, I find, tend to be films very close to the particular director’s heart. I want a film to make my stomach turn with its truthfulness, and ignite nostalgia with its relatability. In the case that a viewer cannot relate, it must make us understand ­ force us into the skin of the characters so we are witness to their experiences. I believe interpretation to be an extension of any director’s work. A film becomes an experience when it is taken in by other's eyes and processed in their minds ­ in a theater full of mannequins, film would not have the same impact. It must be an exchange. This process of communication from film to viewer is when it goes from a project to a piece. And as a director if my piece lingers, if it is reflected on, if it raises questions ­ then I have done my job.

What are your five favorite films?
We Need To Talk About Kevin
 It Follows
James White
Black Swan
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night.
For their own reasons, each really sat with me. 

What three actors/actresses stand out to you?
Benicio Del Toro, Christopher Abbott, and Tilda Swinton.

When do you know a script is ready to shoot, and what is your process of getting it there?
Sometimes the characters in my own scripts surprise me, and it’s when they begin to move on their own and it feels right that the script is done. For my latest piece, The Fawn Response (where two serial killers meet over coffee because they’ve targeted the same victim by mistake), the writing process became very personal as these characters became more and more real to me. One day when I was writing, one of the subtle background characters had suddenly made herself very present in the story. I toyed around with it and loved the way my main characters responded to her existence. From there, it spun into a very solid and twisted ending. This is usually how it goes ­ I am stuck on the vivid first scene until I get to know the characters like the back of my hand. Then, something spontaneous occurs in the story ­ and the characters’ responses to this event solidify the script. When I am done, and I see this story 3­60 from every angle and have edited the whole film in my head, it is ready to be shot. 

How did your love for movies get sparked and what can we ­­ as a community ­­ do to help others discover a similar pleasure?
It was the realization that film is the key to empathy and a vessel for human experience that truly solidified my love for it. All the mediums of art collect when it comes to good film, and replay the way humans work in a way that cannot be replicated in any other art form. As a community, recognizing the tie between film and community is crucial ­ not just intimate movie nights or the thousands and millions of people collected in theaters around the word every day, but the way film as a medium bottles and portrays our day ­to­day lives for safekeeping ­ and opens doors to worlds we could not have witnessed otherwise.


To keep up with Wynter Rhys:
http://www.wynterrhys.com/
https://vimeo.com/165236141
https://www.linkedin.com/in/wynterrhys

Greg Marks




Greg Marks was born in Tacoma Washington. In 1985 he started using drugs and alcohol in high school which led to a twenty year addiction; he became homeless at the end of his addiction living on the streets of Tacoma WA at the age of thirty-five he decided to get his life together.  He went to a rehabilitation center in South Seattle called the Conquest Center for eighteen months. He completed the program after one year and stayed an extra six months to work at the center. Once he made the decision to change his life he never relapsed and has been clean for 14 years.

He worked at a road construction company for many years up to the point of becoming a supervisor. At the age of forty-three he decided to become an actor and has had much success being featured in magazines, TV shows such as GRIMM, Leverage, Meet the Browns and appearances in feature films such as EDEN, 21& Over, One Square Mile, Matt’s Chance and many Washington State based films as well as television commercials.

He recently produced, wrote and acted in his first short film “SHIFT PARADIGM” which was selected to be screened at Holly Shorts in Hollywood and screened at Mann’s Chinese Theater. Greg Marks is a 2014 graduate of Pierce College with a 3.2 GPA in Fashion Merchandising. Since founding Right Now Today his organization has helped over 500 homeless adults and teen through the 500 Bags of Love program by providing hygienic products, food, and clothing. Currently, Right Now Today is taking on the issue of “bullying” which is a growing problem in the United States. Right Now Today is on a mission to help decrease the number of bullying incidents and suicides due to bullying.


How did you get started acting?
I have always wanted to act and one day I saw a man sitting in a chair on a television commercial and said to myself "I know I can do that." After getting burned twice by a two illegitimate agencies I did some research and landed a fantastic agent that I have been with for 6 years.

What is your background?
My background is road construction which I did for 20 plus years.

Who is your role model?
Honestly my father is my role model.

Do you feel that you are much like the character that you played? (physically, personality, etc.)

Yes if you mean "Samuel" from "Shift Paradigm."


What actions do you take to improve your craft?

I am always acting or watching people with characteristics that I might be able to use. I am somewhat method. I also research actors that I admire and try to emulate what they do to draw an emotion from the audience. Just as important as words body language says so much.


What is the most embarrassing audition?

In my earlier days I had to audition with a guy who I didn't know. The whole time while I was waiting to audition he kept talking on his cell phone loudly it was irritating me. When it was time to go in he was my audition partner, by then I was so frustrated I could remember my lines and flubbed them. So I just hugged the guy and walked out the room.


What is your dream role?

My dream role would be to act alongside Denzel Washington in a deeply emotional movie.


What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?

My difficulty is being a "type" I am not athletic, tall, or strikingly handsome so I feel I have to do more to be cast. Time is also important, auditioning can be costly at one time I was auditioning 3 to 4 times a week and driving from Tacoma to Seattle then to Portland and back all in the same day. In order to get jobs you really can't have a job if you want exposure in front of casting directors.

What is some advice that you would give to someone aspiring to become and actor?

If you want to act be true to it give it your best! Once you walk away from an audition move on don't worry about it concentrate on what's ahead of you and keep pushing forward. Don't act take your life experiences and use them to draw the character out in the situation you have been put in.


To keep up with Greg Marks:
Twitter: @greg_marks

Facebook: Gregory D. Marks

Website: rightnowtoday.org


Meli Alexander



Meli Alexander, born in Hartford, CT, grew up in CT, The Bronx, NY, Seattle WA, and Pasadena, TX. An accomplished chef, she had aspirations of becoming a registered dietitian and food sociologist. However, she now devotes her life to being a full time professional actor and producer. Meli has appeared in infomercials for ProSleep and Aquatize.

Her credits include four TV commercials from her time in Seattle, WA. Meli's first national commercial for 1-800-Flowers features her in two scenes. She has also been featured in "Dog with a Blog" as a Christmas singer, "Tattoo Nightmares" as a stern boss and "Alien Encounters: 3" as the mom of a half-human/half-alien son.

How did you get started acting?

I got my start in Seattle when a friend of mine texted me and let me know there was a film being made across from his condo (Capitol Hill) and wondered if I wanted to volunteer as an extra. That movie was “Grassroots” and it completely changed me! By the third day on set, I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I still keep in touch with most of the people I met while working on the film. Before that life­ changing opportunity, I started to model a bit because I knew I looked much younger than my real age. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find representation as a model. I was told by an agency that I should consider getting into acting instead. It was a challenge because I had no idea where to start: what classes to take, how to get a good headshot, how to write a resume, etc. It was daunting but I was also determined to figure it all out somehow.

What is your background? I am originally from Hartford, CT but also lived in The Bronx, NY as a kid. I had aspirations of becoming a journalist, a pediatrician and eventually, a chef. After living as a housewife in Utah, I divorced and moved to Seattle to pursue my dream as a chef. I graduated from The Art Institute of Seattle with honors. I started working at different restaurants and eventually worked in the meat department at Whole Foods Market. I have four brothers, one niece and two nephews. I am predominantly French­ Canadian, English,

Who is your role model?
I have several role models; my first one will always be Julia Child because A) she was an amazing chef and B) she started her culinary career later in life. When I went to culinary school in my mid­30’s, I thought I was crazy trying to start that type of career. It was somewhat rewarding but the “light” never went on. That only happened when I got into acting! My acting role models include Sandra Bullock, Carol Burnett, Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Cindy Williams and Judy Greer. I love comedy more than anything, so it’s easy to have positive influences.

Do you feel that you are much like the character that you played? (physically, personality, etc.)
One of my favorite roles (so far) was playing Sue in “Who Killed the Bible Salesman?” because she is quirky and smart. She is also kind of klutz! I used the chemistry I have with my co­lead, Danny McDermott, and brought her to life. Her favorite color is purple, just like me. From a physical sense, I kind of made her a bit like Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik’s character on The Big Bang Theory). Very nerdy with glasses.

What actions do you take to improve your craft?
I try to attend various workshops and networking events around LA. It also helps to get together with my friends here (all in the industry) and write, brainstorm and shoot whenever we can. Even if we are creating a story through improv, it continues to sharpen my skills and timing. It’s all about the “yes, and”. That is the real secret of my success...just go with the flow.

What is the most embarrassing audition?
I auditioned for a spec for Nintendo and it was a cold read. I never saw my sides until literally one minute before they called me in! Plus the session runner barely spoke English and I completely misunderstood what she wanted me to do. The directions were very unclear and I felt very uncomfortable. I seriously hope they deleted my take… Otherwise, I do my best to prepare as best as I can and hope the casting director can overlook any hiccups.

What is your dream role?
That’s an easy one! I want to play a mom with three kids who works to help support the household and doesn’t try “to get her body back” just to please her husband. Seriously, it bothers me to see sitcom moms who are a size zero. It’s beyond unrealistic and casts a negative shadow over body positivity. Most women don’t have access to a personal trainer, nutritionist, full ­time chef, procedures, etc. Women need to understand that it’s okay to not starve yourself and not spend more time at the gym instead of taking care of your family.

What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?
Living in LA has been very eye­-opening for me in many ways. The level of competition is insane compared to Seattle. Plus everyone wants your money (even though the average actor here doesn’t earn anything close to what a “name actor” does). Between workshops, classes, seminars, reels, etc., it can be very pricey. On the other hand, I have become more cautious and savvy when I do spend my money. A good agent or manager will NEVER make you use “their” photographers for head shots nor tell you to take “their” classes. I’ve seen this in Seattle and almost fell for it. Unfortunately, LA is much worse. Too many aspiring actors arrive here daily and haven’t learned who and what to avoid, until it’s too late. Very sad. What is some advice that you would give to someone aspiring to become and actor? If you’re just starting out, it helps to become comfortable in front of the camera. Even before I modeled, I would hang out with friends and take photos just for fun! I started working with professional photographers to get higher-quality photos for my portfolio. Also, becoming an extra (or background actor) is absolutely essential!

The first day I worked on “Grassroots”, I quickly learned who Denise Gibbs was and how she is the number one contact to help you start working. Being on set will let you gain valuable experience (it will also show you that a 10 to 12-hour day can actually be fun). Networking is an absolute must, whether you are talking to other actors on set, meeting at events or going to festivals like SIFF. You never know who you will run across and it can possibly bring you future opportunities. You may also learn about good classes to take! Most importantly, surround yourself with people who are positive and supportive. They are your cheerleaders and your tribe. If some of your closest friends start to distance themselves from you (through insecurity, jealously, etc.), then you may have to rethink your friendship. Someone who can’t be happy for you is not a true friend.

To keep up with Meli:



Jean-Marcus Strole




Jean-Marcus Strole is a professional  photographer and film maker from Seattle. Originally born and raised in Sweden he has resided in Seattle since 1995 where he received his bachelor of fine arts degree in photography from the University of Washington. He has a lust for life and is usually

at a concert or traveling or traveling for some out of town concert.




Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking was not just a hobby, but that it would be your life and your living?

One day sitting on my bed eating a bowl of Golden Grahams the idea for an ending of a time traveling movie popped in my head out of nowhere. Well actually I didn’t realize it was going to turn into a movie but just the concept was something that fascinated me because it was so  unique. While finishing my bowl of cereal I had worked my way backwards and mapped out what could be a great movie. That day I decided that I should write a movie simply because it was something that I felt I had to do. I found a free script writing template and started working away at it. I had no idea what I was doing but I just wrote the way I saw it and it turned out quite well.  I felt good just knowing I had completed it but hadn’t really intended to do much more with it since I wasn’t a film maker.

Later on that year or so, I was asked to help a director I met at a friends wedding I was photographing named Bogdan Darev. He wanted me to come shoot stills of the making of his short film “This One Is About Love”. Needless to say I’ve never felt such energy and excitement or something of such artistic magnitude before. I knew then that this is where I needed to end up. Making movies.  From then on I took my scripts and ideas more seriously.

Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

For me it is definitely harder to keep going than starting. Ideas pop into my head all the time. I have now made my first short film “The Trophy Wife” and awaiting word of getting into any festivals.  I have my next project “#trending” on deck and is finished being written and I still have my time travel movie “The Specter” written, as well as 5 other really great movies laid out in my head. Ideas pop into my head all the time and I just write down the title of it on a note on my phone. I am constantly working out the storyline in my head and until it’s perfect I don’t feel the need to write it down. But all my scripts are expensive to make and so I am just hoping that funding will become available. Until then I sit and wait.

What is the one mistake most filmmakers make, regardless of experience?

I think the biggest mistake filmmakers make is to not be true to themselves. They make films the studio wants them to make. One thing that Matt Stone and Trey Parker said in an interview once was that they just make things that makes each other laugh. They don’t care what anyone else thinks.  That is what filmmakers need to do.  I had a lot of people tell me I needed to change my script to “The Trophy Wife” and I refused because then the entire story was pointless. It would have been another film. It wouldn’t have had the same effect at the end. Always make the film you intended to make.

What makes you good at your position?

Having been a photographer for almost two decades now has really helped. All this time I’ve been making movies. They just consisted of a single frame. Now that I have over 200,000 frames to tell a story it has opened up so many possibilities for me. I am no longer confined to a single moment. But it’s taught me how to try and tell that story the best way possible. And as visually as possible.

What are personal attributes that make for a good filmmaker, and what do you do to foster them?

I love watching movies.  An sound engineer friend of mine Austin Healy sit around watching movies all the time and commenting on them through Facebook messenger. I’ve always found myself super critical over films. I remember it would drive me nuts when film makers used props in their films which clearly were not what the film said it was. Or lack of continuity drives me insane. Ever since I was a kid I had noticed film flubs. Or the ability to predict the ending of a film early on. Or little things like when people out run explosions on foot, dodge bullets fired into the water, or get brought back to life by a defibrillator. I just yell out “that’s not how that works”. In fact I might be annoying to watch movies with.

What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?

Nothing will spoil a movie more than terrible acting. I can forgive low budget or  bad music. But horrible acting will always separate me from the story. But a movie can have almost no dialogue in it and if the acting is great I will be sucked into it. That is unless the script sucks.       
 

What are your five favorite films?

Fight Club has to be one of the best films ever, along with Shawhshank Redemption, The Goonies, Dumb N Dumber,  & Pan’s Labyrinth.

What three actors/actresses stand out to you?
Ed Norton, Philip Seymore Hoffman, and Willem Dafoe.  I know I know…. There aren’t any females on that list.  I’ve often thought about that. I’ve never been able to pinpoint an actress that has blown me away. That is NOT to say that there aren’t just as many great actresses as there are actors. BUT the ones that stand out are the ones that make me truly believe that their role is reality, and are able to place myself in their position. For instance Brad Pitt in the famous “what’s in the boooooox” scene of Se7en. I was able to feel the gut wrenching agony of his character once he realized… (sorry no spoilers). I am not a woman. I can’t even begin to put myself in their thoughts or feelings. I respect so many female actresses but when it comes to female roles there hasn’t been a time where I’ve stopped and said “Wow. For a second there I thought that I was that character.” At no fault of their own of course.

When do you know a script is ready to shoot, and what is your process of getting it there?

I don’t think a script is ever ready to shoot. I think there is always things that could be tweaked to make it better. But if that was the case no movies would ever be made.  There is a point though when you just know that the story is ready to be told.

My time travel movie isn’t quite done yet even though I’ve been working on it for 10 years.  There is one character that I still think needs to be developed a bit more in order to strengthen the story and expand it into a new direction.  Plus being very heavily weighted in real quantum science I want to make sure that it holds true. A big pet peeve of mine is when they get into a time machine, turn some dials, flip a switch, and presto chango, they are in that time. No time travel movie that I know of has ever tried explaining time travel and how it works in layman's terms. I think this story is really close to being told though. And that is exciting.

If you are unsure if the script is ready to be told or not then just have a stranger read it. If they don't give you the reaction you were hoping for then it clearly needs more work.

How did your love for movies get sparked and what can we -- as a community -- do to help others discover a similar pleasure?
I think everyone has a love for movies. A psychologist friend of mine once told me that the reason we all love movies so much is because soon as those lights go down and the film starts our brain waves click over and our subconscious takes over. We actually start to believe everything that is before us. And that is a beautiful thing. We all need that escape.

We can all be just more supportive of other people’s desire to make films. Even if it sounds like a stupid movie to you, or you hated everything about it. Still support them. The world needs more movies and there is a genre out there for everyone. There’s even people who love shitty movies. If you don’t think so then just look at the number or views of “Sharknado."

To keep up with Jean-Marcus:
Facebook Photography
Facebook Film