Your new film Indemnity
- in a few words, what is it about?
is about man
fleeing from his past, in particular, a woman who believes that he has
wronged her – but not in any way that you might expect. He takes refuge
from her relentless pursuit in a rural honky tonk bar, where (after much
prodding) he unloads his problems to the local bartender. As the mystery
man relates his tale, the woman (his ex-lover) quickly closes in on him.
At its core, though, it’s
about how dangerous (and deadly) secrets can be.
What got the project
off the ground in the first place?
wrote the original script while I was in college in late 1980s. Back then,
I had the mad idea that I wanted to produce an anthology sci-fi/horror TV
series – like The Twilight Zone
or Tales from the Darkside –
for the college TV station. I actually wrote three complete scripts, and
we actually shot part of one (not Indemnity,
though). But sadly, the show never went any further than that. And, as far
as I know, the footage from that other shoot doesn’t exist anymore.
2006, I met a bunch of indie filmmakers who were producing stuff using
small commercial video cameras. It seemed to me that, as George Lucas once
opined, the technology had caught up with my vision. I decided that if
these indie guys could do it, why couldn’t I? So, pulled out the old Indemnity
script that I had on my shelf, dusted it off, revised it,
and ultimately began shooting it two years later.
being a vampire movie, is that a genre you're at all fond of? And some of
your genre favourites, and did any of them influence you when making Indemnity?
I was always a sci-fi/horror geek. I love that you can use the genre to
tell entertaining, imaginative stories that carry a slight (but relatable)
moral undercurrent. I already mentioned a couple shows that influenced Indemnity’s
tone and structure. But I was also always a fan of a rather underrated
vampire flick called Innocent Blood
– mostly because it was shot in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. It sort
of proved to me that you could make a decent film with the steel city as a
sources of inspiration when writing Indemnity?
Rod Serling always influences my writing. In my opinion, he was one of
the great genre storytellers of the 20th century. I’m not
sure if he really gets his due as a writer because he primarily wrote for
television and feature films.
David Dietz (center) and crew at work
would you describe your directorial approach to your subject at hand?
One of things
I’ve noticed about a lot of indie directors is how concerned they seem
to be with the mechanics of
shooting a film. In other words, they get so caught up in all the
technical stuff (lighting, special effects, etc.) that their story,
characters, and actors (and ultimately, their films) suffer. I, by
contrast, always try to focus on producing a good
story with good actors.
Although, when it comes to Indemnity,
it’s really hard to say if I had any “approach” at all, because I
was really just trying to get it done! Acting and
directing your own film is not the easiest thing in the world!
Fortunately, surrounding yourself with good, competent people – both
actors and crew – helps make it a little easier.
also play the male lead in Indemnity
- so how did you approach your character, and why did you choose exactly
that role for yourself?
chose the role for myself because I knew that I would show up every time!
Dan Radakovich, David Dietz
Seriously though, when
you’re working on an indie film like this – and not paying anyone for
their time – it can be a challenge to keep cast members as interested in
the project as you are. And with this being my first real feature, I
wasn’t sure who would want to be cast in the two main roles, given the
haphazard shooting schedule of indie flicks. “William” and “Joe”
have such a huge amount of on-camera time that any actor playing them
would have to be very passionate about the project to stay interested.
Luckily, I knew Dan Radakovich (who plays “Joe”) was one of those
actors. And, for my part, I genuinely thought, “How hard could it be? I
can do this.”
Crystalann Jones with David Dietz
David Dietz, Seth James
A few words about the rest of
your main cast and crew?
Jones (“Angela”) actually came into the project later in the shoot.
Our original “Angela” was one of those actors I mentioned who just
couldn’t stick with the project. (And, by the way, you can watch the
actual footage we shot with her on the Indemnity
DVD’s special features!) Crystalann brought the project some much-needed
horror cred, having appeared in several other indie horror flicks. She’s
just a hoot to have around on the set and actually brought a quiet
sexiness to the role right off the bat that our original “Angela”
didn’t really have time to develop.
I cast Seth
James via a mutual friend online. I wanted to have a big, intimidating guy
play “Bubba,” the town troublemaker, and who better than a
professional wrestler? It was actually Seth’s first time in front of the
camera on a film set, and we had a phenomenal time shooting –
particularly our fight scene, which he and I choreographed.
By the way,
if anybody tells you that you can’t get hurt working in pro wrestling,
I’m here to tell you that they’re wrong! I got really nice bruise on
my forearm while we were doing a take (when I slam into the door during
our fight). But Seth’s a really great, down-to-earth guy who’s a lot
of fun to work with. And he brought CJ Sensation (ne: Craig Stephenson)
in to play Bubba’s comrade, which was awesome. CJ was so funny that we
added some bits into the film specifically for him! Seth also got a couple
other friends of his (both wrestlers, as well!) to play bar patrons.
I had a minimal crew who
were all wearing multiple hats during shooting. But, I couldn’t have
made Indemnity without John
Iwanonkiw (my co-producer and the “Man in the Truck”), Brittany Danae
Jones (my lead cinematographer), John Briscoe (my main sound man), and
Henry Tjernlund (our “Deputy” and on-set still photographer).
What can you tell us about the
actual shoot and the on-set atmosphere?
I like to keep things light-hearted when we’re on set. I want everyone
there to have fun because, as I might have mentioned before, there was no
money to pay anyone for their time. But with Indemnity,
I also had to churn out as much material as I could because of the limited
time we had to shoot. Our main location (The Smiling Moose Bar in
Pittsburgh) only let us shoot three hours at a time on Sundays. So I
really had to plan our shoots carefully so that we had enough time to set
up and tear down quickly, and still get the shots we needed. Everyone
really had to be on their toes, and they were! I actually liked it,
though, because it kept me (and everyone else) focused on the task at
hand. And, I think the sense of urgency we all had on set made it a better
product in the end.
We still had fun, though!
you've done it all, writing, acting, producing, directing and whatnot. In
general, which do you enjoy the most, what could you do without?
consider myself an actor first. It’s what I’ve loved doing ever since
I was a kid. The problem with being an actor, though, is that your
livelihood often depends on the whims of others (directors, producers,
etc). And that can be great if you’re in demand (like, say, Ryan
Reynolds). But, if you’re like a lot of actors out there (myself
included), you have to be the one to create
that demand on your own. That’s what’s so great about being a director
and producer: you create opportunities for both yourself and
I guess what I’m trying to
say that I enjoy every aspect of
filmmaking. I love the acting for the performance. And I love writing,
directing, and producing for the creative expression. That being said,
though, I’m not sure if I’d ever be the lead
in a film I’m directing again. There are so many things to worry about
on both sides of the camera. I
think on my next film, I’ll probably just do a smaller part, like what
Quentin Tarantino does in a lot of his films!
far as I know, before Indemnity
you have mainly directed documentaries - what can you tell us about those,
and how does making a documentary compare to directing a feature film?
You make it
sound like I’ve directed a lot
of documentaries. But nothing could be further from the truth! I did
finally put out a documentary about Amelia Earhart this year (called Resolution: A Portrait of Amelia Earhart,
which you can watch at
film was actually “in the works” long
before I decided to take a crack at Indemnity.
came to be is sort of a long, complicated story. But basically, it began
as someone else’s project. I was just supposed to play a role in the
dramatized segments, but ended up doing a lot of the actor casting and
behind-the-camera work (because I was sort of the only one who had the
know-how to do it)! Anyway, there was some disagreement over the film’s
direction, and the producer and I ended up splitting. She went on to make
her own film, and I was left with this footage I had shot. Well, rather
than let it go to waste, I decided to do something with it, and that’s what became
To answer your question,
though, documentaries differ from feature films in that you actually have
to find and use just the right archival footage and photos to help tell
your story. Whereas, with a feature, you’re shooting all original
material. I like to think of working on movies as being like working on a
jigsaw puzzle where you only have a vague notion of what the final picture
is going to look like. When it comes to documentaries, however, that
“vague picture” becomes even more
vague, if you can believe that! I honestly wasn’t sure what Resolution
was going to be like when it was done, but I’m very happy with what it
turned out to be!
go to the beginnings of your career: What got you into the filmworld to
begin with, and what can you tell us about your early days?
I don’t know if everyone starts out like I did, but I started acting in
community theatre. Then, as I got more acting experience under my belt, I
wanted to take a crack at films (because I grew up on TV and movies, and
always wanted to be a part of them). So, I auditioned for some student
films at a couple Pittsburgh-area universities, and that’s really where
I cut my teeth in film acting. Of course, because I was working with
student filmmakers, there was a lot of downtime on the sets. But I used
that time to absorb as much information as I could about the technical
stuff. And that’s what served me later on when I got Indemnity
off the ground.
to talk about some of the films you worked on over the years (in whatever
Well, as I
said, there are quite a few student films that I worked on… and some of
them are really quite imaginative! I have a few of them posted on my web
site. I also worked as an extra on the Melanie Griffith/Ed Harris movie Milk Money
(but don’t look for me in it - I don’t think I got in
front of the camera once!)
I had small
featured roles in the first indie features I worked on. I played cops in
both Strange Girls (which you
can buy on Amazon) and Dark Wake
(which hasn’t been widely released yet). I was also brought in to redub
all of Aaron Jackson’s dialogue in Biophage
(also on Amazon), but then the producers actually convinced Aaron Jackson
himself to do it! (Funny how that works sometimes! Nevertheless, I’m
still credited in the “sound department” on that film!)
Some of my favorite
significant roles, though, are in a pair of dark comedies by my friend Joe
Giacabello: Doing Therapy and Ultimate
Reality (both available from his website www.bellofilms.com).
I play a crazed stalker
in Doing Therapy and a con
masquerading as a priest in Ultimate
Reality! (I also helped Joe with the production and casting on both
films!) Probably my biggest role to date, though (apart from Indemnity)
is as the dance company director in End Game with wrestler-cum-actor Kurt Angle (also on Amazon). I have
a nice scene in it with Jenna Morasca (who won Survivor a few years ago and is now a TV host)!
Any future projects you'd like to share?
off another one of those scripts from that ill-fated college anthology
series I mentioned before and hope to start shooting it next year.
meantime, I’m working on a bunch of other projects that will be out next
year. I’m acting in and editing a film called Driving
Nowhere (http://drivingnowherethemovie.com) for
Poet’s Labyrinth Productions and Silver Springs Films, as well as one
called I, the Killer for Kiss of
Death Productions (the people behind Meat
for Satan’s Icebox and Fetish
Dolls Die Laughing – both available from Amazon).
be able to see me in another Kurt Angle vehicle called Death
from Above coming to DVD in January. It’s a fun, low-budget
supernatural action thriller basically starring half of the Total Nonstop
Action (TNA) wrestling roster! If you like Druid mythology mixed with
rednecks in monster trucks, you’ll get a kick out of it!
You can also catch me (and
Crystalann!) as regulars on the web series Battle
movies, you have also done quite a bit of theatre - how does acting on
stage compare to acting in front of a movie camera, and which do you find
more inspiring and why?
A lot of
actors talk about this, but it’s true. With live theatre, you perform
the story one time, in its entirety, in front of a live audience. There
are no re-takes. You basically have to do it right the first time; or, if
you screw up, cover it in such a way that the audience doesn’t notice.
But it’s also fun to actually hear the audience laugh at a line of
dialogue you say or sit at the edge of their seats as some heavy drama is
going on. With theatre, the feedback is more immediate. Whereas, with
films, you may not ever hear
what the audience thought of the production or of your role in it.
I would say, though, that
both mediums have their pluses and minuses. For instance, I do a lot of
live, improvisational-type dinner theatre, where there isn’t even that
mythical “fourth wall” between you and the audience. In fact, you
actually have to acknowledge the
fact that there’s even an audience there
and even interact with them!
That’s where you really get
the most immediate kind of feedback. It’s almost like being a stand-up
comedian: when you’ve got 'em, you’ve got 'em. And when you don’t…
it can be a looong night! I really like that immediacy, though. It helps me feel
like I’ve made the right choice in my chosen profession!
In general, how would you
describe yourself as an actor, and some of the techniques you use to bring
your characters to life?
A lot of people have said that I follow the Spencer Tracy school of
acting: show up, say the lines, don’t trip over the furniture,
acknowledge the applause, and go home. I don’t get too hung up in a lot
of the hoity-toity, artsy-fartsy “method” stuff that some actors do (and I know a lot of my actor friends would be shocked if they heard me
calling it that). But basically, when I read a script, I draw on what I
know from other performances of similar characters and then funnel that
essence into my own performance. I mean, why try to reinvent the wheel?
All you can basically do with it is give it your own paint job. And
that’s what I try to do!
Actors (or indeed actresses)
and filmmakers who inspire you?
this doesn’t sound too strange, but in my opinion, Robert Englund is
probably one of the finest actors out there [Robert
Englund bio - click here]. I watched him play the meek
alien “Willie” in V back in the 80’s and was absolutely
flabbergasted to find out that he was Freddy
Krueger too! Talk
about range! You can talk all you want about the great leading men of
cinema - but for my money, character actors like Englund, Kevin Spacey, and
Stanley Tucci are the real
actors! I’m also a big fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt – I’d love to see
him in more leading roles!
always had a thing for Sally Kellerman – and not because of “Hot Lips
Houlihan” in M*A*S*H (never seen it, actually)! I loved her in
Rodney Dangerfield’s “Back to School” and, of course, as Doctor
Elizabeth Dehner in the second Star Trek
(See? Told you they would sound a little strange!)
I also love Chloe Grace Moretz! If there was a young actor in Hollywood
I’d want to work with, it’s her!
As for filmmakers, I’d
have to go with Tarantino (of course), Christopher Nolan (although, to be
honest, his Batman-movies leave me a little cold), J.J. Abrams (loved what
he did with Star Trek, but
what’s his deal with lens flares???), James Gunn, and Wes Craven.
Your favourite movies?
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, A Nightmare on Elm Street
(the original version!), A
Fish Called Wanda, Kick-Ass,
Slither, Splinter, and Let
the Right One In (and its American version Let
and of course, films you really deplore?
Any of the Twilight-movies! They give vampire flicks a bad name!
I’m also not a huge fan of
all the “re-imaginings” that have come out of Hollywood in the past
few years. Did we really need remakes of Friday
the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Dark Shadows,
Fright Night, and Total Recall? I mean, from a purely commercial standpoint, I
understand why they do it – they’re easy money makers. But,
creatively, it’s disappointing that producers feel they have to try to
squeeze more money out of a possibly dry well!
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Indemnity on Facebook,
http://zd3-productions.com (and on
Facebook), http://dietzthethird.com (and just
look me up on Facebook)!
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
available for concerts and bar mitzvahs…?
(I felt like I should say
something clever here, and that’s the only thing that came to mind…)
for the interview!
Thanks so much for interviewing me and supporting the films!