Thursday, April 01, 2010

Taliesin Meets… …George Anton (plus Dan Martino and Derek Baker)

Born in Romania in 1977, George Anton graduated in film directing from Media University.

He moved to Hollywood permanently in 2007 and started making movies with, as he puts it “basically no budgets”. Again, in his own words, he has “haters and fans and I love it as long as my movies are seen.” We looked at his film Dracula (2009) and George consented to do an interview for the blog. The interview answers were supplied on 26/3/10.

George suggests during the interview that I contact Dan Martino, which I did and he kindly added to the interview on 29/3/10.

Also Derek Baker consented to answer some questions regarding his role in the Dracula 2009 production, his responses were supplied 30/03/10. Derek was born in Seattle, Washington and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona. He played three varsity sports growing up. Football, Baseball, and ran track. He was always constantly staying active and involved in various organizations such as young life, and church. He first started in the entertainment industry, modelling in Arizona in local print ads and shows. He decided to further his sports career and decided to run track in college. He majored in Business Management and Marketing at Whitworth University in Washington State. He also studied theatre and acting at Whitworth to hone his skills while he was getting his degree. He knew after college that he wanted to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. His business background and acting training have allowed him to be flexible and versatile in his pursuits in the film industry. He recently finished an Independent film called the Occultist and is currently working on another independent film called August.

Taliesin_ttlg Dan Martino and George Anton firstly I asked George: You used cut-up technique on the short film Pop’s Piece to create Dracula…

George AntonI had several parallel stories going on and partially inspired by some of David Lynch's work, it seemed the natural way to go.

Taliesin_ttlg Where do the initial idea for this come from?

George AntonI'm an independent filmmaker with no money and no chance to get a decent budget from anybody. So, no star attached nor a chance to secure any kind of distribution. I do need some characteristics attached to my projects, so I can try to stick my head up from the crowd. In this case was the title. Without this title, you would never even asked me for an interview. :)

Taliesin_ttlg What was the thought process that lead to Dracula?

George AntonDracula started with a pretty strong script written by Phillip David Lee. Very nice locations were secured, the shooting dates set, so I went ahead and I started shooting the Dracula/Reinfield scenes in the garage.

After that the production started to crumble. This was the first movie I've made where the cast was dropping like flies. I have never experienced something like this and I think one of the reasons was the depleted US economy. Actors would not be available because they would rather take a $50/day background job, instead of a non-paid Principal Role in a feature film... true, with a low, but active chance to bring them exposure in the business.

The tsunami hit me when I called Juan R. Caraccioli playing Dracula and I found out that he left Hollywood for an indefinite time as he filled for Bankruptcy. Nice guy, really good actor, felt sorry for him I said "Hey, if you come back in town, give me a call so I can shoot a scene or two with you to be able to give a closure to the script". I knew it will never happen, so I begin the thought process of changing the script. I start shooting now and then scenes from the original script, go back at the drawing board and rewrite scenes, write new scenes, shoot again, think how to mix them up to make some sense and so on. Caraccioli was gone, so I had to move Dracula's spirit from body to body. :)

Then Dan Martino came to me with the Pop's Piece script and he asked me to shoot it for him. I agreed and cut a deal with him were I will integrate his short in my Dracula feature, give him writer credits and he will own in totality Pop's Piece and I will own the feature Dracula.

I like Dan, I worked with him before and I wanted to give him as much exposure as possible. So I shot Pop's Piece, wrote and shot all the Dracula scenes I had left, based on the footage I already had in the can. Philip David Lee respectfully refused to be credited as writer after he did see the film.

Taliesin_ttlg How easy was it to get actors to return and play alternate roles?

George AntonHmm, let me see. First of all, the actors that you see playing the alternate roles were the most devoted to the project and to their love of acting.
Because in the end I was creating the script while I was shooting and editing, their call times where with extremely short notice, sometimes the same day. They had to push hard to learn the lines, understand the characters and act appropriately based on my directions in this extremely complex plot, even my brain would need some time to decrypt.

Kelly C. Ryan as Linda / Matt's Mother sacrificed her family time to stick with the project for a long time, such a great girl; Gary Miller-Youst as Van Helsing / Jon Matt's Father / Jailer came all the way from San Francisco every time and what is memorable, one day he worked from 6:00AM to 11:00PM, sticking me in the studio and helping me out as different crew member every second.

Derek Baker & Dan Martino they were all into it, Alex Arleo (voice over in the trailer as well), Kaleti Williams and Greg Williams drove from San Diego and to not forget the most intriguing Ivan Crasci as Vinnie :)

I don't want to mention names too much, because all of them did a great job.
You can see them all on IMDb here.

Taliesin_ttlg Is there a plan to use the concepts behind Dracula to make a film with a more standard narrative?

George AntonI would love to Andy :). For me, directing a movie is a privilege and an honor every single time.

Physically speaking, I'm just an organic mechanism. In the end I will brake down and die, but my movies are going to live forever on some recording medium or another. I would love to make "Dracula Returns" if the chance will arise. It only depends on the viewers to ask for more. There is a particular scene in the original script I would love to shoot, when Vlad becomes Dracula.

When he arrives at the castle and finds Mina dead and the priests telling him he can do nothing about it, he goes berserk. He kills all the priests and takes it up with the appearance of Jesus himself, who is sitting in the corner crying for his lost soul. Now Vlad goes to Jesus, bites his neck and sucks his blood. That's how he gets his immortality and becomes a vampire.

I need to see that religious sexual tension between this two guys. The pain, the cry, the kiss, the bite.

Taliesin_ttlg Why Dracula (the character/story)? What drew you to it?

George AntonI had Dracula in my mind for a long time.

First of all because I'm Romanian born and raised and I know the history of Vlad Tepes aka The Impaler. I got tired of this Bram Stoker story to be told and retold, written and re-written; like the Bible really, where the myths would mix up with the real history too much and become past reality for most people.

My intention with this film was to create a different Dracula character that would feed directly from what we know as facts about the man, Vlad Tepes, and insert it in a fictional blood sucking story. I did not succeed and nobody did it to date. Not even Francis Ford Copolla.

Taliesin_ttlg How did Dan Martino feel about the experimentation with Pop’s Piece?

George AntonHe was personally satisfied; at least that's what he told me :)

His need is to act. I felt his disappointment during the production because he was imagining more production value than I had to put on the table. It was hard for him I think, until he saw the final product. That changed everything and the smile was back on his face.

Ask him for more because I might be wrong.

All the scenes from Pop's Piece were integrated in Dracula, so Dan and Derek set up a premiere in North Hollywood. We had approximately 70 sits, full house. I could tell they were filled with emotions and only that would be enough of a pay off, for any actor's ego.

It was a unique experience to feel the energy and reactions of the audience, for them, and the rest of the cast.

I had to thank everybody at the premiere, after the movie ended, that nobody left home and mostly nobody was actively kicking my ass for wasting their time.

Taliesin_ttlg At this point I want to break from the interview with George and add a couple of questions I put to Dan Martino and the answers I received

Taliesin_ttlg One question I asked (George) was 'how did Dan Martino feel about the experimentation with Pop's Piece?' George suggested I ask this of you directly.

Dan Martino George Anton and Dan MartinoTruthfully, I thought George Anton was out of his mind! LOL! But seriously, he brought the idea to the table and told me, "Dan I'm going to insert clips of the short "Pop's Piece" into my current feature "Dracula 2009" and going to make this a story within Matt's mind. I recall thinking that will never work b/c these are two completely different movies. But honestly, I was just happy to be getting another part especially a billing in a feature, so when George told me that the story of "DRACULA" revolved around me I quickly signed on the dotted line.

Taliesin_ttlg I guess the reason for my question was because, more than anything, Pop's Piece felt like a very personal project…

Dan MartinoI wrote this from the pages of my own personal journal based on the relationship or lack of between my father and I. I wanted to express the lows and the highs in the relationship. As well as put my own life out there b/c "Hell I don't know maybe there's someone out there too who is experienced/ing the something whether it be in pursing the arts, sports, or other endeavours". And just maybe they see this and realize "Damn, I'm not the only one who has dysfunctional relationship with my own dad b/c Dan Martino does too".

I brought this project to George b/c he's probably one of the few film-makers in LA, who can make it happen on a shoe string budget and bring it in within a fast completion. He's a very talented individual who like Robert Rodriguez (Trouble-Maker Studios) writes, casts, directs, produces, and does all post-production single handed.

Taliesin_ttlg Any other thoughts on the experience?

Dan MartinoI watched "Dracula 2009" 3X now (Up to date). The first I watched just as a viewer w/ no affiliations. The second time I watched as a film critic. I must say for the limited resources (Sets, Time, Locations) Derek Baker and Dan MartinoGeorgie made it happen! He successfully merged two completely different movies and made it into one shooting around both projects and recycling our stable of actors with dual characters. Only a genius Director like a Hitchcock could pull this off as a studio director would of not even attempted to tackle on something like this. In the end, I'm satisfied with how "Dracula 2009"s storyline intercepts the short 'Pops Piece" and runs with the concept. Good Job, Georgie!

Taliesin_ttlg Now Turning to Derek Baker. How did you become involved in George Anton's Dracula?

Derek BakerAndy, Well first off, I met George when he was shooting another film called Robinson Crusoe: Great Blitzkrieg. I had a small role in it and I noticed a few other actors in his film that I had worked with in the past. I really like George's style and ability to produce a finished product. In Hollywood you don't see this that much from independent film makers. You hear everyone saying that they want to make a movie and lots of times they just stop the project due to problems in production. So I liked George from the start. George proposed to me that his next project would be a Dracula film. I immediately was interested because of how much hype all the vampire movies and shows were getting such as Twilight, True Blood, and Vampire Diaries. I then sat down with George and we started planning out character development and a storyline.

Taliesin_ttlg What was the project like to work on from an actor's point of view?

Derek BakerDerek BakerWhen we first started shooting we had all the actors committed and we would shoot as much as we could in a day. As time went on we had a few availability issues from the actors that we had to get past and so we just had to keep moving forward in the project. It was a pleasure working with the committed actors that we did have and we always had a good time on set. Gary Youst who played Van Helsing/Matt's Father in the film, was one of the actors that I was able to have the privilege of working with. He brought a great presence to the set everyday. It was a very relaxed and professional working environment.

Taliesin_ttlg You were also co-executive producer of Dracula, what did that entail?

Derek BakerWell I got involved into more of the administrative, casting, and location side of the film. I was involved directly with finding locations and implementing budget factors. I also helped with the casting side of the film. I sat in during all of the pre-reads and final callbacks and helped in assisting George with the final cast. Since, George is multi-talented and is able to due all aspects of editing, lightening, and DP work, it made my job easier because I didn't have to go out and find a huge crew.

Taliesin_ttlg Would you like to reprise your Jonathan Harker role in the future?

Derek BakerAndy, Yes, I would love to reprise my role of Jonathan Harker in the future. I really like the nature and positive outlook that this character has. He is also driven, and highly motivated to accomplish what he needs to do to get the job done. It was fun developing this character into a modern Hollywood style version of Jonathan Harker’s character. But I would even like to take on the traditional Jonathan Harker Englishman style approach in a future film.

{Re} Dracula (2009) - I would like to thank our cast and amazing director George Anton for taking risks, making and producing a unique and experimental film that I had the privilege of working on. Lastly, thank you Andy for taking the time to interview us!

Taliesin_ttlg Turning Back to George. Are there any on-set anecdotes from the shooting of Dracula that you’d like to share?

George AntonI don't know if this is funny but never the less was memorable when I called the actors on the set for the jail scene. They were startled, seeing the wooden gate from my baby's bed, hanging in my tight kitchen as jail bars. I guess I must posses some creative authority on the set, because I did not even had to convince them to go with it.

George Anton and Derek BakerWhen Van Helsing was at the tree reading the letter, the voice over is mine, speaking clear and true Romanian. In all other Dracula I've seen, all the Romanian spoken words are in other Russian or Hungarian language or broken Romanian.

When Sutton is eating raw meat in the background runs a scene from the movie Deception that I shot for the same director who made Last Vampire on earth.

I improvised the bite make up on Jonathan's neck on the spot with mud and water.

Taliesin_ttlg What do you find to be the biggest challenge in respect of indie filmmaking?

George AntonFinishing the picture and being able to move on to the next project.

I see so many aspiring filmmakers in Hollywood trying to make their first feature film, most of them with quite a budget. The majority will never finish the film. Some will, and spend the time to promote it for years without success.

Promoting would not be a bad thing, but in the time used to do it depleted all their creative energy, until the disappointment in the film business settles with them for good, making the next project to look nonviable.

I can only imagine how much talent is lost there forever.

One film-making secret I learned, is to write or adapt the scripts to whatever locations and props you have available. Maybe even conceive the characters based on some of the actors you know you are going to use. There is so much interesting reality around us.

Godard once said something like: "The only way to beat the Hollywood studio system is to lock them inside their studios and go and shoot in the street, because the whole world is a soundstage, and they are pretending it's all on their lots." I think this quote should be a driving force for any independent filmmaker.

If one thinks to become a filmmaker for fame, money or both, I say forget it. Just get into real estate or go on Wall Street. Paris Hilton, Donald Trump and others did it. They produce shows, have fame and money without possessing any entertainment values or star quality.

Getting back to indie film-making; the fact that you have a chance to get the reality around you and amplify it with your imagination, is the pure independent filmmaking freedom.

Not to mention the HD technology now available to everybody, everywhere and the emerging internet distribution like the YouTube Partner and YouTube Rentals where you can showcase your work without being limited to 10 minutes clips and possibly make some tiny money, even though that should net be your main concern.

Taliesin_ttlg You were in the 2006 film Witches Hammer as a vampire and played a cameo role in Dracula. Do you prefer being in front of or behind the camera?

George AntonEven though I take a chance in front of the camera and I do enjoy a cameo in my movies, from time to time and I get credited wrongly on IMDb mostly with the British bald actor George Anton (I).

Just to make it clear, I am George Anton (II) and Witches Hamer (2006), Nezhnyy vozrast (2000), Tough Love (2000) and O lyubvi (2004) should go to his credit. I submitted numerous times to IMDb to remove these credits from my profile but they never listen. I stopped believing the credits on this website long time ago.

To finish answering your question: I've heard somebody say: "every Director is a failed Actor." I believe I'm one of them and I still have to burst occasionally in front of the camera to deny it.

Taliesin_ttlg You were part of the crew for the 2003 film Vlad, can you describe that experience for us?

George AntonI was still in film school at that time and I would occasionally work on different movie sets to gain experience.

I remember I was always driven to be a part of American B-Movies that would occasionally come and shoot in Romania at Castel Films or Media Pro Studios.
The real deal breaker was when I arrived to los Angeles and had the chance to see the Hollywood System at work with my eyes, how they shoot scene after scene, how they take the coverage they need trying to diminish step by step the chances for the project to fail by keeping it up close to 100% of the film formula they started with.

Were the old European filmmaking, they taught me in school, was to plan every shot based on the characters actions and feelings. Dream with the eyes of the camera and make sure every single thing in the shot have an expression. Shooting the actor thru a framed object means the difficulty he has to surpass in his life and so on... I did believed them for a while. It's all bullshit unless you are gonna be all the time with your film's viewers and explain them what you meant.

Never the less they had a brain washing impact on me and that terminology stays in my subconscious.

I do use it sometimes and move, add or remove things in the shot, but I don't sweat on it. If people get it, get it. If they don't, they don't.

Even though the Hollywood Film Formula will make money if done properly, it will fail in an artistic sense and be forgotten after the marketing promotion; where the European type filmmaking will fail as well at the box office and artistically, because is shot way too personal.

The best option is two learn how to combine the two and improve your story telling with every new movie you make.

Taliesin_ttlg You were both camera operator and director of photography on Last Vampire on Earth, and I specifically praised the photography on that film. But how different, and indeed difficult, was it to be involved in the project but not as director?

George AntonIt was easy. The guy paid me and paid for the plane trip as well to go to Youngstown, Ohio and shoot this movie for him. Not only that I shot guerrilla style, but I consider myself a Mercenary Filmmaker and the camera is my gun. Just show me the target. The most interesting part for me with this trip was not the payment, which was peanuts money anyway, but the opportunity to shoot another feature there.

Long story short, I went there for 10 days, I shot and edited for him "Last Vampire on Earth" for 7 days and the deal was to help me to shoot in the remaining 3 days my latest feature film. It was the CHALENGE to shoot a feature film in only 3 days and I succeeded, but with a price:

  • I worked from 6AM to 11PM - just shooting (no different that the previous 7 days on LVOE only that from 5:00PM to Midnight I would do the editing.)

  • Drained the actors from all of their human power they had

  • Completely broke the connections with the Director of Last vampire on Earth because he pissed me off by not giving me 100% so I fired him.

  • I don't want to get into that because I'm still pissed, but if you want to make a nice show, record a live webcam show between us with you as a moderator. I'm up to it anytime when he will be. You will post it on YouTube, uncut. That would be interesting to watch. Exempt this proposal, I need nothing to do with him even though I wish him luck. Here is some of his LVOE coverage on TV. I thought that's interesting.

    He is gonna shoot 5 to 10 movies a year? I want to see this happening and I'm not kidding. I'm all for any independent film to be produced.

    Taliesin_ttlg What is your latest project?

    George AntonSherlock Holmes, the one that I shot in 3 days mentioned above. Is still in Post Production, it looks great, I don't want to rush it and I plan the release for 2010 Christmas or earlier maybe.
    Keep up with and

    Here are two unfinished clips from the movie (keep in mind that the music & sound is temporary, not even equalized, I have no rights on that audio and it is not the final cut). click here and here.

    The only regret for my Sherlock Holmes is that I can't work with the talented music composer, Jasha Klebe who did the soundtrack for Dracula. He respectfully declined my offer as the company he is working for did the soundtrack for the Robert Downey Jr. / Guy Ritchie, Warner Bros. version and it would be a conflict of interests. But for his fans out there, he is open to work with me on my all other projects.

    I'm currently working with YouTube as "partner" on the new released YouTube service, YouTube Rentals.

    I'm still in the process of uploading my movies and YouTube is still in the process of video converting (so the quality will improve to High Definition 720p and eventually 1080p).

    In the future I will run/rotate a different FREE MOVIE every week or two weeks on my YouTube channel leaving all the others left for rental. The good news is that I will leave ALL my movies for FREE as a promotion for a limited time before activating the rentals.

    Taliesin_ttlg Do you intend to return to Dracula and, perhaps, make the vampire film that the character Matt was writing?

    George AntonNo. But Dan Martino definitely can if he wants to. What I can promise you right now is, I will insert at least one vampire in the screenplay I'm currently writing: "Karate Jesus". I will try to get it done and release it in 2010.

    Taliesin_ttlg I’d like to thank George Anton, Dan Martino and Derek Baker for taking the time to answer my questions.


    Anonymous said...

    I really enjoy the interview and found it insightful as I know nothing of making films. Thank you.

    Taliesin_ttlg said...

    cheers Vamplit - glad it was useful