Your new movie Mother's
Day Memories - in a few words, what is it about?
woman's Alzheimer's is the eye of the storm of family conflict
swirling around her.
how did the project come together in the first place?
conceived this project as a way to honor my mother and her love -
despite her decline. Hallmark had my original script in development
meetings, and suggested I add the character of the caregiver. But
they never moved forward, so I decided to produce it myself.
an actor first, what made you pick up writing and producing for Mother's
Day Memories - and is that something you could be persuaded to do
always loved writing, so that part came naturally. Further, as a
screenwriter with an acting background I can visualize and
"hear" the dynamics of the relationships. I also figured I
could use Mother's
Day Memories as a showcase for my acting AND writing.
What were your sources of inspiration when
writing Mother's Day
Memories, and is any of this based on personal experience?
ALL of this is based on personal experience with my mom! The
incidents that happen and even much of the dialogue are drawn from
her story. Jody Jaress [Jody
Jaress interview - click here], who had played a woman similarly affected by the
disease in Fragile Storm, suggested Mother have a burst of anger -
hence her aggression toward the caregiver. Only after my sister saw
the completed film did she reveal that our mom had once pulled a
knife on her attendant! Apparently she had sneaked it off the dinner
table and hidden it - but fortunately it was only a butter knife!
Alzheimer being one of the central themes of Mother's
Day Memories, what kind of research did you do on the subject?
didn't have to do much research. The character is so true to the way my
mom actually was. One of the heart-rending lines she delivers is one I
overheard her say to reassure my father, who'd been such a stern
taskmaster at trying to get her to remember: "It may not seem like I
love you, but I do." You know, Mike, this really applies more
universally, too: How often is our love for someone tied to our
expectations of them?
can you tell us about your co-writer and director Matthew Michael Ross,
and what was your collaboration like, both during writing an on set?
was great to partner with! He offered to help me polish the script,
which entailed not only adding dialogue, but letting me know the
original version didn't grab him. He wasn't specific about WHAT he
didn't like, so I reworked it, then reworked it again. I was
starting to get frustrated, then finally hit on including "the
elephant in the room" - the Father character! Yes, at last the
unseen presence would be seen from Mother's AND John's perspective.
Matthew's dissatisfaction with the earlier versions led me to
soul-search and come up with the answer!
set I worked well with Matthew, too. I wore only my
"actor" hat as much as possible, deferring to him as the
"director" who's in charge of the set. And Matthew's
direction to each of the actors was spot-on!
post-production skills in editing and music and creation of a
trailer were perfect for the project. He really "got"
exactly what I was looking for! I absolutely felt I was in good
were the challenges of bringing Mother's
Day Memories to the screen from a producer's point of view?
made things tough on myself by planning a first-rate production AND
handling so many details myself, as a learning-by-doing experience!
(Usually it's either one or the other!) Also, I learned later that a
director generally hires cast and crew, not the producer. Oops!
Anyway, here were some challenges:
first project as an executive producer
my own line producer - handling locations, catering, craft, sending
call sheets, tax & DHS forms, etc.
a veteran director AND cinematographer
veteran costume designer, hair/makeup, and others
a SAG signatory producer (paperwork!)
actors up-front, not "deferred"
a payroll company (paperwork!)
an insurance company (paperwork!)
Uber business account
lead actors' transport
cooking and bottle-washing
also play one of the leads in Mother's
Day Memories - so do talk about your character, what did you draw
upon to bring him to life, and did you write him with yourself in mind
from the get-go?
I know John because I am John! It felt weird to me: walking the line
between documentary and narrative. Gotta say, I didn't have far to
go to feel, as an actor, what the character is feeling! Familiar yet
strange. The main difference is the ending - which was not drawn
from my life. Spoiler alert: John is adopted!
What can you tell us about the rest of
your cast, and as a writer/producer, how much say did you have or demand
in casting Mother's
asked Jody Jaress [Jody
Jaress interview - click here] to play Mother, based on the recommendation of my
friend, veteran actor Hal Alpert. Jody was ideal to work with - and
conveyed so well Mother's emotions of love and confusion. Matthew recommended Kat
Kramer [Kat Kramer interview -
click here]; the three of us had lunch and were
simpatico. Kat was "the perfect wife". She recommended
Conrad Bachmann - the embodiment of a man more comfortable with
actions than emotions. And Jacky Park (Doris) was recommended by my
great acting teacher Abbie Cobb. Everyone did an outstanding
portrayal of their character - and the interactions were just right.
Do talk about the shoot as such,
and the on-set atmosphere!
had a three-day shoot at three locations in Highland Park, Los
Angeles. It was a good feeling on set. We knew what we had to do,
and everyone was part of the team. We had one accident when a
lighting "barn door" dropped on Kat's head, drawing blood.
She COULD have insisted on medical treatment. The insurance I'd
purchased covered this - but it would have put us behind schedule.
But Kat was a real trooper; she cleaned up and insisted on carrying
The $64-question of course,
where can Mother's
Day Memories be seen?
your readers are in luck! For the time being there's a link on the
website - https://mothersdaymemories.com
where's my $64?
Anything you can tell us
about audience and critical reception of Mother's
reaction has been universally positive. For example, whenever a
macho-type guy approaches me quietly after a screening to tell me he
cried, I know we're doing something right!
Any future projects you'd like to
out my ongoing podcast But You're Not Funny! on YouTube
and all audio podcast platforms. It's entertaining, informative
interviews with experts on useful topics: sexuality, relationships,
self-defense, building community, and finding purpose in life - https://butyourenotfunny.com
What got you into acting in the first place, and
did you receive any formal education on the subject?
began doing Gilbert & Sullivan and other musicals in community
theater in Boston. That got me excited; I wanted to learn more and
do more! So I studied at Actors Workshop, the Institute of
Contemporary Dance, and singing-voice at the Boston Conservatory of
Music, then (after I was in SAG) SAG Conservatory, plus commuting to
classes in NYC ... After I moved to L.A. I took classes here, and
continue to do so: Second City (Rob Belushi), AFA Studio (Abbie
Cobb), Kimberly Jentzen, and TVI (Ron Orbach).
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Mother's
when, I had a couple comedic scenes as a paramedic in a cult
favorite, One Crazy Summer. Here in LA I've done a
slew of short films: USC and AFI student films and independents,
couple features, Tosh.0, TV movie for Mark Brown
(Barbershop), virtual reality, couple music videos, and
a web series (S.K.C.) written/directed/produced by Matthew.
How would you describe yourself as
an actor, and some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
are two stars I sometimes get mistaken for: Byan Cranston and
William H. Macy. I've been described as combining Cranston's
intensity with Macy's quirky edge. If I can even partially live up
to those comparisons, I'd be honored.
writers, filmmakers who inspire you?
Zaillian, Tom Hanks, Jodie Foster, Steven Spielberg
Schindler's List, Forrest Gump,
Avatar, Star Wars.
... and of course, films you really deplore?
Madness, maybe? I'm not sure; I was high at the time ...
movie's website, social media, whatever else?
Day Memories site above, Facbook.
also Facebook and Instagram.
else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
forgot to ask me about Jess Franco - but hit me up another time!
for the interview!