Chat w/ William Fichtner - "Be more fearless than you ever thought you were."

William Fichtner is an actor’s actor. With a expansive resume of work in TV, film and theater, he’s well respected as a character actor who can perform equally well in a comedy or drama or action or whatever you throw at him. He’s well known around the world for his roles in movies such as Black Hawk Down, Heat, and Armageddon, and his collaborations with top directors like Christopher Nolan and Michael Mann. He is also well known for his roles on TV as Sheriff Tom Underlay in Invasion and Alexander Mahone on Prison Break, and now on Mom as Adam Janikowski.

You can see more of William in his new action avatar, in Matthew Hope’s new film ALL THE DEVIL’s MEN. All The Devil’s Men is a hard, relentless and explosive action-thriller about a battle-scarred War on Terror bounty hunter who is forced to go to London on a manhunt for a disavowed CIA operative, which leads him into a deadly running battle with a former military comrade and his private army. William plays an experienced CIA operative, the old guy who’s been around forever and should’ve gone home ages ago.

We talked to William about the film, his career, his upcoming turn as a writer-director in his directorial debut COLD BROOK, and New York City. Listen to the whole interview below:

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Exclusively on DIRECTV: November 8, 2018

Theatrical Release Date: December 7, 2018

Directed By: Matthew Hope

Written By: Matthew Hope

Produced By: Amory Leader and Hannah Leader

Starring: Milo Gibson, William Fichtner, Sylvia Hoeks, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Joseph Millson

Running Time: 100 minutes 

All The Devil’s Men follows a team of hardened military operatives on a relentless manhunt through the backstreets of London. The explosive action-thriller finds a battle-scarred mercenary in the War on Terror who is forced to go to London on a manhunt for a disavowed CIA operative, which leads him into a deadly running battle with a former military comrade and his private army.

Chat w/ actor Jeff Lima - "it’s an actor’s responsibility to be involved"

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Jeff Lima, is a New York City-based actor who is best known for his recurring role as Leon Cruz on NBC’s Chicago Fire.

Jeff got his start in theatre at the age of 11 after gaining acceptance to the “by audition only” junior high school, Tito Puente Performing Arts Academy. Jeff was immediately immersed in the teachings of Meisner and Stanislaski with ambitions to secure a seat in a premiere performing arts high school. His tenacity and diligent preparation earned him a seat at the Talent Unlimited High School where he’d study theatre all throughout his high school years. Fortunately for Jeff, preparation met opportunity. The year right before high school, Jeff landed a role in a short film titled ‘Gowanus Brooklyn’, which would later become a feature length Oscar-nominate film. He embarked upon his high school years having already starred opposite Ryan Gosling in ‘Half Nelson’.

During his tenure at Talent Unlimited, Jeff was not allowed to audition for any professional productions, as is the case with most Manhattan performing arts high schools. His insatiable approach didn’t allow him to align himself with the aforementioned school policy. Jeff would often sneak to auditions and one in particular would serve as the catalyst he’d been hoping for!

During an audition in which Jeff spent about an hour with the director and producer during a first session, a spectator observed from afar. At the conclusion of the audition, that spectator followed Jeff to the elevators and asked that he submit his headshot and resume to her agent for consideration. The spectator would go on to win the 2015 Emmy for best Actress in a Comedy Series… it was Gina Rodriguez!

Having remained a client with the agent to whom Rodriguez introduced Jeff, he secured a commendable amount of work in film and television. Jeff has guest starred on CBS’s Blue Bloods, Netflix’s The Get Down, and NBC’s Taxi Brooklyn. He eventually landed a series arc on the HBO mini-series Show Me A Hero and currently recurs on NBC’s Chicago Fire. 

Jeff hopes he can be as influential as many of the educators he’s come across. He is a founding member of the Achievement Lab After School and Summer Camp, which serves 150 at-risk children, annually. Currently, he is shopping to finance short films penned by serious filmmakers. His goal is to identify films that are prevalent to today’s society, and to see the films to fruition.

We talked to Jeff, and here are the excerpts:

  • What do you love about being an actor?

I love that I can be a catalyst for someone feeling an overwhelming emotion. Those instances wherein we’re consumed with feeling are scarce. We don’t feel enough. We go through life being numb.

But in those moments in which we’ve fallen in love like Glen Close in Fatal Attraction or when we’re stuttering from shock after cheating death like Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, we’ve reached a level of living that is incomparable.

I love that the art of acting affords this to me. If I can stir an audience’s inner being, I’ve done my job and I’m happy because I know how rich it is to be moved by a performance. As an actor, I get that platform.

And, as an actor, I love having a makeup artist- and if you’ve judged me for that- wow!

  • Why do you think it’s important for actors to be involved in social issues? What are the causes/ things you are passionate about?

Without trying, actors influence. This holds for both actors who take action and those who are ok with inaction. None of those two approaches are more powerful than the other. For that reason, it’s the actor’s responsibility to be involved.

A certain somebody recently made the decision to break their career long silence on politics and it resulted in a surge in voter registration.

Our convictions on all issues are probably as unique as a fingerprint. Whatever our convictions are, we should be part of that conversation.

Something that plagued me as child was bullying. Here I am years later, an actor, and I’m active in the discourse on bullying. It’s my social responsibility. I can affect change.

  • Whats your practical advice, based on your own experiences, for other aspiring minority actors.

I always ask myself if I belong in certain rooms. I’m sure folks who aren’t part of a minority group don’t feel this way, at the same frequency.

Now here’s the issue I take; if I’m part of a minority group and I’ve merited access, then I must be pretty darn good. But I struggle with the practicality of this theory. Too often I’m inundated with thoughts that lead me to believe that I am not deserving. Instances in which I walk into a room not questioning myself are rare but feel great.

Being part of a minority group means overcoming a lot of hurdles but it really makes all the difference in the world to remember that you belong exactly where you are. Your work has earned you the right to be in that place. Embrace it.

  • What are your favorite films and filmmakers?

I like a lot of old movies. Its hard to find someone who will sit with me to watch Sophie’s Choice, Scent of a Woman, and other oldies.

Oh my god- I’m obsessed with Stanley Kubrick. I could watch The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut everyday! His films are hypnotizing. Maybe I just like an eerie movie score!

  • What’s your most favorite and least favorite things about NYC?

My favorite thing about NYC is that you can literally walk to any audition, in character, drilling lines, and no one will look at you twice. We all assume the next person is crazy.
My least favorite thing is the parking. The parking restriction signs are like reading an algorithm. There’s a fire hydrant every 20 feet and the traffic agents are relentless- God bless them. You don’t know true heartbreak until you’re running late to an audition and realize your car was towed.

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Here’s the full audio/podcast of our conversation with Jeff.

Chat w/ Sanjay Rawal, director of '3100: Run and Become'

What would you do to transform your life? How far would you go to change yourself? Would you drive, would you fly, would you run? These are the themes of a new documentary about why we run, 3100: Run and BecomeThis uplifting, intimate portrait of endurance runners and what motivates them.

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Sanjay Rawal is the director of the film. Sanjay worked in the human rights and international development sectors for 15 years and in over 40 countries before focusing his love for photography and story-telling onto filmmaking. His first two shorts Ocean Monk (2010) and Challenging Impossibility (2011) were screened at over 120 festivals including Tribeca, St. Louis and Locarno.

Sanjay then directed his first feature, Food Chains (2014), which premiered at the 2014 Berlinale and then screened at Tribeca before securing domestic distribution from Screen Media. The film chronicled the battle of a small group of farmworkers (the CIW) against large supermarkets and fast food chains. The film was produced by Eva Longoria and Eric Schlosser and narrated by Forest Whitaker. Food Chains had a robust opening release in 26 cities in November 2014 and went on to screen in 1100 more through its theatrical, semi-theatrical & community screening tour. It won a host of awards including a James Beard Award as well as the BritDoc Impact Award as one of the most important films of 2015.

A lifelong runner, Sanjay was happy to lose the pounds he gained eating Mexican food in farmworker towns and take on a project about running.

We had a chance to talk to him, here are the excerpts:

- What did you learn in process of making this film?

We wanted to approach documentary filmmaking and this story in particular as though we were making a narrative film. That approach allowed us the freedom to imagine we could stitch together incredibly different stories – from the world’s longest race where runners circle a ½ mile loop in New York City for 3100 miles to a Navajo spirit runner retracing a family journey thru the high deserts of Arizona. We were able to work with an exceptional director of photography, Sean Kirby, and focused our story telling thru visuals as well as deep character-driven storylines.

The final product doesn’t simply show people running; the film reveals the meditative reasons why people run long distances and the power of long-distance running to transform people.

It was an honor to spend time and document the stories of three remarkable groups of people all of whom have rarely shared their stories – the Navajo, the Kalahari Bushmen and the Monks of Mount Hiei, Japan.

- What inspires you as a director and storyteller?

My background is in human rights and international development and the projects I enjoyed most were ones where recipients of the programs had equal power in driving progress. Those projects allowed everyone to participate. In that sense, my style of filmmaking is no different. I really enjoy listening to other people’s stories and seeing those stories come to life in film.

- How being an Indian-American affects your storytelling? What's been your personal experience on this journey?

I had a traditional Hindu upbringing in California but after university I yearned to deepen my identification with India and I moved to New York to study at the feet of an Indian Yogi – Sri Chinmoy. He gave me an entirely new perspective on happiness and I began to understand how best to achieve happiness in the West. One can’t shun life – the Divine is in everyone. It is through the acceptance of life and of other people’s own journeys and perspectives that we can fully appreciate the breadth of the Supreme here on earth. Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy blended advaita, bhakti yoga and seva in very much a modern way. At the same time, he was an ardent proponent of physical fitness and running, and founded the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Run, upon which my film is based. So, in many ways, 3100 Run and Become is fully an Indian-American film.

- What's next on your plate?

I’m hoping to take some time off, my first break since my previous film started production in 2011.

- Who are your favorite filmmakers and few of your favorite films and TV show?

I really enjoy Wes Anderson’s films and his perspective on life. I tend to like dark comedies and Rushmore ranks as one of my all-time favorites. At the same time, I love crime dramas from the Godfather to more pulpy films like The Departed or Hell or High Water. As for TV, I love procedurals like Bosch and Southland.

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More about the film:

3100: Run and Become follows Ashprihanal Aalto, an unassuming Finnish paperboy, and Shamita, an Austrian cellist, in their attempts to complete the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, the world’s longest certified footrace, which takes place each summer June through August. The 3100 encourages runners to discover the limits of their capacities--and to try to go beyond them. And go beyond, they must: the small group of competitors come from all over the world to run a distance that approximates a US cross-country run -- a total of 3,100 miles in 52 days – 5,649 laps around one city block in Jamaica, Queens. 

Ashprihanal and Shamita’s 3100 quest takes viewers from the heart of this astonishing event in New York to places around the world where ancient cultures have held running sacred for millennia: the Kalahari Desert, Arizona’s Navajo Reservation, and to the mountain temples of Japan. Through the heroic stories of three other runners (Shaun Martin, a Navajo runner and Board Member of Wings of America; Gaolo of the San Bushmen of the Kalahari; and Gyoman-san of the Monks of Mt. Hiei, Japan) 3100: Run and Become presents a portrait of endurance and transformation. Beyond competitiveness and athletic prowess, they run not for glory but for spiritual enlightenment, universal oneness --or because they simply have the responsibility to run.

3100: Run and Become is directed by Sanjay Rawal (Food Chains) and produced by Tanya Ager Meillier (Alias Ruby Blade, Capitalism: a Love Story). It was edited by Alex Meillier (Alias Ruby Blade, Obscene) and shot in 4K by Sean Kirby (Racing Extinction, We are X, Long Strange Trip). The film’s soundtrack, composed by Michael A. Levine, features an original song recorded by Roberta Flack, her first after suffering a stroke in 2016. 

Running Time: 79 minutes

 Websitehttp://3100film.com/

Instagram: @3100film
Facebookfacebook.com/3100film

Twitter: @3100_film

Trailerhttps://vimeo.com/261386426

3100: Run and Become Festivals and Screenings

DATE                           CITY                             THEATER                                                                                               

Oct 26 New York                   Village East

Nov 9    LA/Santa Monica      Laemmle Theater   

Chat w/ Sara Zandieh, director of SIMPLE WEDDING

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SIMPLE WEDDING starring RITA WILSON, had it’s world premiere at Los Angeles Film Festival this year. It’s a romantic comedy about a young Iranian-American woman and the lengths she goes to in order to appease her parents and their need to see her settled down.

We had a chat with the co-writer and director of the film, Sara Zandieh. Here are the excerpts.

- What was the most challenging and most rewarding part of making this film?

Working with a limited budget is a huge challenge so when you overcome it, it’s rewarding. It forces you to be crafty and economical in how you execute the story. I worked hard to create a strategy with my shot choices and directing technique that would be compliant with our production and 20 day shoot. Since I couldn’t have all the jibs and cranes that I wanted, nor copious days to shoot, I designed a “simple” approach to the film language of SIMPLE WEDDING. The scenes in Nousha’s world—her apartment, her time with friends—are all handheld because her world is more “free.” The scenes with her family, we shot all on sticks to create a more formal shot language to speak to her parent’s world and contrast with hers. The shot language then changes again after one pivotal scene (I won’t give it away, spoiler alert!) I also tried to focus on my actors—one of my film’s greatest assets— to ensure we got the best possible performance for each character. These simple strategies made story and production work with our budget. Bringing my story alive within these constraints was one of my most satisfying accomplishments as a director. It was like solving an epic puzzle.

- What was the casting process for the film like? How did you find Rita and what was that experience like?

SIMPLE WEDDING is a mash up of the rom-com genre and the family comedy. I knew that I needed a great ensemble cast to pull off the familial world of SIMPLE WEDDING. This is the type of script that is all about character, character, character. I had Rita Wilson in mind for the role of Maggie from an early stage of writing. I had seen her most recent work on Lena Dunham’s GIRLS where she played a colorful mom character. My great casting director, Meghan Lennox, also suggested Rita. Given that the movie is both a multi-cultural story and a female story, it seemed like something in her wheel house and when she read the script, she liked it. In our initial conversation we clicked on so many levels. We both had multicultural upbringings and big ethnic families. We talked about how we had a similar experience in high school. We just connected on a heart and soul level and I think that’s what made the experience of making the film so magical. It was a heart and soul effort with so many wonderful, kind-hearted people. Rita is generous, good-natured, smart, talented, and spirited. She is truly a “model citizen.” I loved working with her everyday. It was such a joy. Rita also connected me to Shohreh Aghdashloo who I always dreamed would play Nousha’s mother, and then what was just as incredible was that Shohreh pulled in her husband, Houshang Touzie who I always hoped would play Nousha’s father. I knew this particular combination would be special for the Iranian audiences because they haven't been on screen together as a husband/wife couple for a long time. My entire cast Tara Grammy, Christopher O’Shea, Maz Jobrani, Peter Mackenzie, James Eckhouse, Rebecca Henderson, Aleque Reid, Angela Gibbs, RJ Hatanaka, Keon Alexander, were the best. We turned into a real family on set.

- How was your experience at LAFF?

It was fantastic. The film independent family and everyone at LAFF were super supportive, positive and professional. I really appreciate that they were willing to support my film and by extension my interest in making commercially viable films with diverse characters and storylines. They showed a wide array of films, great documentary films, fresh voices, and had great panels as well. We also had an amazing red-carpet premiere where Rita and her husband Tom Hanks attended. My entire family was there and sharing the moment with everyone I love felt amazing. Tom was so generous with my family. I think everyone posted a selfie with him on social media the next day. It was a special and lovely night. 

- What's next for you?

I would love to direct a studio comedy. If someone were to give me the “golden keys”, I know I could revamp a studio script so that it played with lovable, three dimensional characters, and a compelling “heart and soul” story. In the meantime, I’m developing my own pilot about a mother/daughter breaking bad and a new feature film comedy about a female con-artist. Both are comedies with drama.

-What are your favorite romantic comedies and favorite filmmakers that inspire you? 

My favorite romantic comedies are “The Apartment”, “When Harry Met Sally”, and “Annie Hall.” I also love the silent era comedy filmmakers like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Llyod. It’s hard to name my absolute favorite filmmakers, there are too many to name, but I can think of a few that have been particularly helpful in the last few months. Alexander Payne for his satirical wit and complex, tragicomic characters. Mike Nichols for his ability to work across a wide range of genres and for his skillful direction to get the best out of his actors. He’s an actor’s director and I aspire to be the same.

-What's your message to other aspiring filmmakers and storytellers?

It takes years to get something across the finish. Choose a story that you are passionate about so that you can take it all the way. Love your characters, know what you are saying and why it's important. And most of all, don’t give up! Making an independent feature film is like pushing a truck up a mountain. There’s no question it’s hard and it might seem impossible, but if you take it one day at a time you’ll find a way!

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You can listen below for the full interview with Sara Zandieh.