Your new movie Meme
- in a few words, what is it about?
is about Jennifer, an independent designer, who goes in search of the
creator of a surreal mashup VHS tape but finds herself instead.
One of the key plot
elements of Meme is
collecting vintage VHS tapes - do you at all subscribe to that trend,
and/or have you done any research on that subject?
am not a VHS collector myself - though I amassed a bit of a collection
when gathering props for the film. Part of the initial inspiration for
the movie came from meeting VHS collectors in Brooklyn. A friend texted
me a photo of a poster to an event called VHS Possessed being held by
the Horror Boobs group at Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn. I went to that
event and a few others they did, and it was a lot of fun and it was
really cool to see this passion for videotape, which Iíd grown up with
in the 90s and had assumed had pretty much all but died out after DVD.
After I got some of the initial ideas for Meme, I talked to some people
in and around the VHS collector community and I checked out the
documentary Adjust Your Tracking, and that influenced how I represented
for the un-initiated, do explain what mash-up tapes are?
mash-up tape is inspired by first the events I went to hosted by Horror
Boobs but also mash-up videos on the internet. Itís not really
something I observed much of outside of the Meme
events I attended, and in context of Meme
itís a bit more like a
mash-up video you might find on YouTube. The idea in Meme
is that it is
a collection of clips from various original videos that were recombined
on a new tape. Like a mixtape with only parts of the songs and on video.
sources of inspiration when writing Meme?
And is any of the film autobiographical?
little bit of everything I watched or read probably had an influence
somewhere, and I slip in some specific references. Videodrome has
influenced much of my filmmaking and thatís pretty prevalent as an
influence throughout the film. Actually, the original outline for the
film was based on an outline for a sequel to Videodrome, which
Iíd written as just an exercise. David Lynch, particularly Mulholland
Drive and Inland Empire, definitely influenced the film.
Other less direct influences from films include Savage Steve Hollandís Better
Off Dead and the films of Ralph Bakshi, particularly Wizards and
film isnít really directly autobiographical. Some of it, like the main
character using drinking as a crutch or the office scenes with the
clients who are unable to actually approve something for fear that
saying yes will be the wrong choice and just keeping a project running
indefinitely, are inspired by my own experiences. The film is
fundamentally about choosing to change and that is definitely
autobiographical. There are a lot of ways in which the film is
indirectly a representation of my own choice to walk away from my home
in Alaska and the career Iíd been establishing and become a filmmaker
in New York. The decision(s) came out of a lot of different feelings and
events and finally giving myself permission to change, and that is
definitely reflected in Jenniferís journey in the film.
To what extent
could you actually identify with Meme's
lead Jennifer? Or any of the movie's other characters for that matter?
of the jokes I would make on set sometimes is theyíre all me. That is,
all of the characters are just different parts of me, which I suspect is
true of most storytellers. I identify with parts of all of them. Not
always the best parts. I think for me Jennifer is definitely the one I
feel the strongest connection to, because sheís always a little on the
outside of things, which is a way I have felt many times in the past.
People are doing things and there are groups and sheís there to
witness whatís happening but often not a part of the group or the
action. There are a lot of situations where she feels like an outsider
or invader, and I think thatís me working some of my own feelings live
can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?
was an interesting experience, because we shot on weekends and whenever
we could get people and gear together over an 11 month period, so I had
a lot of time during production to think through a lot as a director,
which was nice. As a director I know Iím also going to be the editor
of the project so Iím approaching the film from that perspective.
Iím thinking about how the pieces come together as weíre on set. I
try to do as much as I can ahead of the actual shoot day. Consult with
my director of photography about the shots and provide my cast with as
specific notes as I can about the scenes.
ahead of the shoot day key cast get an email from me with extensive
notes about what weíre shooting and their characterís place in that.
in particular that was accompanied by scans of the script with
my handwritten notes on them. Sometimes we would discuss my notes,
sometimes the cast didnít have questions. On the day then I trust that
the cast understands where Iím coming from in the scene and what Iím
looking for and we discuss any final questions or concerns they have and
then we shoot. If I need to modify something, I do that, but usually I
donít need to do much.
talk about your key cast, and why exactly these people?
Schoofs [Sarah Schoofs
interview - click here] auditioned for the role of Jennifer early in the process when I
was approaching the film differently. Jennifer wasnít actually the
main character at the time, but I was having issues with the draft I was
on and decided to try something radical to see if it would work and
after meeting Sarah it seemed right to put her in the lead. I think it
worked out well. I
say audition but I donít have a typical process for it. I donít like
having actors funnel into a room and read lines. That works for plenty
of productions and Iíve done it before, but itís a lot and I donít
feel like it tells me enough about a personís acting or if I want to
work with them. So, instead of that, I review video reels or prior work
and if I think someone who submitted might fit the role I invite them to
interview over coffee. The interview and coffee is pretty much to see if
I feel like I can be in the same room as this person for 8-12 hours on a
shoot day. I know pretty quickly if I can do that or not. Sarah and I
ended up chatting for around three hours when we first met, so I knew
working together would be great.
and I repeated that process with multiple men for the role of Tommy. She
joined me and we met with multiple people in an afternoon. Shivantha
Wijesinha was among them and he was immediately a favorite. After Sarah
and I had met with everyone that day we discussed it and Shivantha was
the obvious best choice.
Ostapowicz was a similar process where we met and I liked her for the
role of Carrie. She impressed partly because she was hit by a car while
jogging the day before I asked her to meet and still got back to me
promptly and just needed about a week before we could meet up. While
some other actors had asked to push back our meeting because theyíd
done a poor job of planning travel time, Kitty had been hit by a car and
was still on top of things. She and I have since worked on multiple
projects and she also served as an assistant producer for Meme.
character of Lesley was written for Lauren A. Kennedy. Lauren and I had
met on the set of Christina Raia's Kelsey: The Series and
had shot a short, The Box, together. Lesley was just always
Lauren in my head and Iím very glad she chose to join us.
had a really hard time with casting Kyle. No one I was meeting with fit.
Then, while helping our art director Nicole Solomon with one of her own
productions I met Chaz H. Cleveland. He was there to play an extra in a
protest scene and we got on well and I couldnít help thinking heíd
be perfect for Kyle even though he had pretty much no acting experience.
To my mind he just naturally embodied this warmth that I wanted for
few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
shot a total of 22 days over an 11 month period. Seventeen days of
principal photography. One day of pickup shots and Brooklyn exteriors.
One day shooting the Wotan beer commercials. Three days shooting the
film-within-the-film Beneath the Black Moon. Weíre a ďno-budgetĒ
film which meant that everyone who was there was there really as a
donation to the film. We had fun mostly, I think. There were times of
stress and I certainly had my moments but everyone ultimately was
putting a lot of themselves into the work and we strove to make it as
easy and fun as we could.
$64 question of course, where can your movie be seen?
the short term, we are taking the film on a U.S. tour. You can learn
more about where to see the film next at
By the end of the year it will be available to watch on digital
streaming platforms. Keep an eye on
more on that.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Meme?
is a bit of an odd movie and it doesnít work for everyone, which is
fine by me. When it does work for people the reaction has been very
positive. Thereís an enthusiasm for the film when people connect to
it, which Iím really happy to see. People see their own experiences in
Jennfierís journey. They have questions and theories. Itís been
particularly interesting to talk to a few peopleólargely partners and
spouses of cast and crewówho werenít involved directly in the film
and have now seen it multiple times. Meme is designed to be
watched more than once and Iím seeing how that is working in the
enthusiasm of these viewers who are seeing it two or three times now
with their significant other at our screenings.
the reaction has largely been positive thus far. Again not everyone will
like the movie, but those critics that have have had some very positive
things to say about it and what spoke to them in the film.
future projects you'd like to share?
working on a handful of ideas for a next feature project. Weíll see
where that goes. In the meantime, I co-wrote a short film with my
business partner, Memeís
Nicole Solomon, a vampire short about the normalization of fascism
weíre seeing following Trumpís election called Itís Normal,
which we are currently submitting to festivals.
there is whoisrubberducky.com
What got you into
filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on
have always had an interest in film and I had considered film school
right after college, but then fell into what I assumed was a safe career
in software for a couple of years. When that career didnít prove all
that safe and considering the deaths of a few people Iíd known who had
gone much too early in life, I decided I needed to stop being afraid of
going after what I really wanted because it might not be the ďsafeĒ
choice and I signed up for the New York Film Academy and moved to New
York to pursue film.
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to Meme?
to Meme my work has been primarily shorts and web videos.
There are a lot of the same themes throughout those. I worked out a lot
of ideas in those shorts and learned a lot about the technical and
artistic sides of making a film. I did a little bit of everything from
shooting event coverage to documentary work to parody commercials and
weird short films.
would you describe yourself as a director?
guess Iíd like to think Iím a director who has the full scope of his
project in mind and chooses collaborators in front of and behind the
camera who will make the project better and tries to let them do just
who inspire you?
could probably fill up a book with a list of filmmakers who inspire me.
Every time I list them I miss people. The aforementioned influences on Meme:
David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Savage Steve Holland, and Ralph Bakshi
are definitely inspirations. Others are Rachel Talalay, Nacho Vigalondo,
Panos Cosmatos, Nicolas Roeg, Bob Fosse, John Boorman, and Ken Russell.
Also, Boots Riley and Jordan Peeleís work has been really inspiring
recently. Thatís just a few that are coming to my mind today. Tomorrow
Iíd probably list a bunch of others Iím not thinking of in the
Your favourite movies?
all depends on my mood when you ask me really and what Iíve been
thinking about recently. Iíll stick with some longtime favorites that
I tend to return to because they inspire me or just for the joy they
bring me: Videodrome,
Scanners, Naked Lunch, The
Fly, Heavy Metal, Zardoz, Lisztomania, American
Pop, Heavy Traffic, Wizards, Walkabout, Mulholland
Drive, Transformers: The Movie (1987),
of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Office Space, Better
Off Dead, Tank Girl, Superman: The Movie, Singing in the Rain, Wayneís
Re-Animator, From Beyond, A Nightmare On
Elm Street, The
Fifth Element, Nikita, and
the first six Star
with the original series cast. I could probably go on. I wonít.
and of course, films you really deplore?
I donít know that thereís a lot of specific ones I really really
deplore. I have been trying to get out of that mindset with films,
because I donít think itís constructive for me to do that as a
are films and filmmakers that arenít for me, though. Other people can
have them but I donít need films by Christopher Nolan, Zack Snyder, or
Michael Bay. I normally like Gaspar Noťís films but Climax wasnít
for me (except the dance sequence at the beginning, that was great). I
love horror but just random misogynistic gore fests donít interest me.
I can watch a misogynistic gore fest as long as it feels like the
filmmaker had something they were trying to say with it. Even if that
thing was dumb or I donít agree with it. I also donít much care for
mob movies or movies about assassins that arenít Nikita or Leon.
I donít love Star Wars movies, which seems to be a serious
offense to some.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
am @unclesean on Twitter and Instagram.
company is @4milecircus on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
@memethemovie on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
any aspiring filmmakers or filmmakers considering going the ďno
budgetĒ route I encourage them to check out my blog post series Making Meme on the filmís website, where I go pretty in depth
on the process and ups and downs of making the film. Hopefully others
can learn from our process. The series is still in progress and people
can start reading it from the beginning here:
I am quite fond of roadside diners. I judge diners by how well they can
make a bacon cheeseburger and the quality of their coffee.
for the interview!
for having me!