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An Interview with Jason Ancona, Director of Dr. Cheapskate

by Mike Haberfelner

May 2016

Films directed by Jason Ancona on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Dr. Cheapskate - in a few words, what is it about?


It’s about a lonely, frugal guy who got screwed over in a divorce and is pushed by his friend to start dating again.


Was any of Dr. Cheapskate based on personal experiences, and to what extent can you identify with Dana (or any of the other characters, actually)? And your personal thoughts about your local dating scene?


Yeah, it was based on some personal experiences. After my divorce it took me some time to start dating again. When I moved to Austin, I didn’t know anyone. Like in Dr. Cheapskate, I ran into a friend from school that I hadn’t seen in a long time. The guy I ran into was Scott Dean (Dr. Cheapskate’s friend Beau in the movie). Hadn’t seen or spoken to Scott since we went to school together twenty years ago. We became good friends and started hitting the Austin social scene, which is really young. Being in our forties, we often felt out of place. Like old creepy guys. So we tried online dating and would debate about what to put on our profiles. What pictures to use. What to say. How much to say. And on actual dates, I stopped giving handshake greetings and went with the hug-hello. As to Austin’s dating scene it is great, but definitely better for people in their twenties and thirties. But that’s probably every city. Haha.


(Other) sources of inspiration when writing Dr. Cheapskate?


I have an uncle who’s a retired anesthesiologist and pretty thrifty. Super nice guy. I’m pretty sure he has clothes from the 70’s. Saves everything. My aunt has to throw things out when he’s out of the house. Secret dumpster runs.


Do talk about Dr. Cheapskate's brand of humour for a bit!


Yeah, it’s not yuck, yuck funny. And doesn’t have a ton of jokes. More situational humour. There’s a scene in the movie when he negotiates at a donation center over the price of a toaster. I actually bought a lot of our props from Goodwill. And gave them back. However, I returned the toaster too soon, forgetting that we had another scene with it. So I went back and bought another toaster from Goodwill and negotiated the price down a couple bucks because it had a scratch on it. They gave me the discount. But I donated it back to them after shooting the scene.


Was all the dialogue in Dr. Cheapskate acutally scripted, or did some of it develop on the spot?


It was scripted. I’m sure there were lines of dialogue that developed on the spot, but nothing that stands out that I can remember.


What can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?


The learn-as-you-go approach. It was my first time directing. Helps being the writer because I know exactly what I want from each scene. The actors all did a great job of giving honest performances, which I loved. And Michael Rodgers, the cinematographer, was very helpful with the composition of shots.

In terms of directing style, I have a gentle, encouraging approach. That being said, we were running way behind at a couple of locations when we were on borrowed time and rushing shots. At one location when someone spoke in the middle of a scene I yelled, “Quiet on the set!” Turned out it was a guy delivering pizza. Everyone talked about that—my dark side. Jason, the yeller. And our sound guy, David Riffey, and the cast, got a real kick out of me yelling, “Michael!” whenever he needed to do another lens change. So I’d do that sometimes for laughs. And Michael knew it was in good fun.


You have to talk about your key cast, and why exactly these people?


I cast my friend Scott because he’s hilarious, confident, and fearless. Knew he’d be great and he was. Met Ray Rosales (Dr. Cheapskate) at a business networking event where he had “Actor” on his nametag. He auditioned and beat out a lot of people. For the antagonist, we had gone through a bunch of people and weren’t crazy about anyone. Thinking we’d have to do another round of auditions. Andrew Key was our last person to audition for that role. He came in wearing a tank top and flip-flops and gave a great read. And the guy couldn’t be any better looking. Over time, the rest of the cast and crew started having body image issues after being around Andrew so much. Our DP Michael would always say, “Andrew, you’re so easy to light.” And Ray would tell Michael, “You never say that to me.”


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


We shot eighteen days over weekends, taking about a year to finish the shoot. On-set atmosphere was positive and fun. We had a small cast and crew, with everyone chipping in with everything. So we all became pretty close. For a majority of the days we shot, we had a crew of three: our DP/lighting guy, our sound guy, and our helper with everything else: Jordan Gass-Poore’. She’s a trooper, for sure.


The $64 question of course, when and where will your movie be released onto the general public?


That’s an answer I wish I had. I’d even pay more than sixty-four bucks for it. We’re trying to find distribution. We’re hoping that after our festival run we can create some buzz and find distribution. If we don’t, we’ll self-distribute through an aggregator to get on iTunes, Amazon, and other VOD services. If your readers want to find out when, they can join our Dr. Cheapskate Facebook page -


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Shooting another feature over weekends starting this fall. It’s called Tag Team Truckers. It’s about a twenty-something who’s kind of a dreamer. He can’t keep a job and is trying to figure out what he wants to do for a living. He sees an ad for team trucking, where two people work for a trucking company and travel together. He has to convince his straight-laced brother to do it with him. But first they try another job together to see if they won’t kill each other.


You entered the filmworld as a writer, right? So what made you become a screenwriter in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?


That’s right. It was on a whim that I got into screenwriting. I’ve always loved movies. Someone I worked with told me she took this screenwriting class with this amazing teacher, Chris Canaan, at UCLA. And he is amazing. Chris was complementary of my work and really encouraged me to keep at it. My first screenplay, Notch 22, which I wrote in his class, was a finalist in a contest out of over 4,100 scripts. And another guy, Oliver Tatom, who I met in that first UCLA class, worked as a reader at Fox Studios. He liked my work and was extremely generous reading and giving notes on so many drafts of the first six or seven scripts I wrote. Took more classes, and eventually enrolled and graduated from UCLA’s Professional Program in Screenwriting. After a decade, with ten more scripts under my belt, and no agent or manager, I decided to leave LA and move to Austin.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Dr. Cheapskate?


I was a co-writer and co-producer on a couple of creature features, Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan, which premiered on SyFy Channel, and The Burning Dead, with Danny Trejo. Both films were with writer/producer Jeff Miller, who gave me my first shot. It was so exciting being a part of a movie that’s actually getting made. All those years of scripts never seeing the light of day. To see an actor say a line of your dialogue is pretty cool.


As far as I know, you've also written a couple of young adult novels - so please talk about those!


Yeah, the book writing was kind of random, too. My former screenwriting teacher told me he was starting to write books because it’s so hard to get a script read by anyone. And for it to actually go anywhere. He suggested that I write a book. So I did. I turned a TV pilot I wrote into a young adult novel: Covert Youth Agency. It’s about an elite group of nerds who fight injustices in high school. The advanced placement A-Team.

I queried about twenty agents in New York. I got one within a month of those queries. I was shocked. I was thinking, man I’ve been writing scripts for ten years without getting an agent. Write one book - boom, an agent. I got notes from a lady at Harper Collins: Loved the story, loved the characters, the way the plot moved, BUT it reads too much like a screenplay - which it did. She gave me another chance at a re-write. But nope, still passed.

Wrote another book called, Debugging Tori Redding, a YA book about a girl who is gifted and cursed with a photographic memory after an incident that happens in a dentist’s chair. She uses her skills to help her detective father solve a missing person’s case. The last book I wrote, The Sext Crime, is book 2 of the Covert Youth Agency series, and probably the best in terms of my novel writing skills. Still plenty of room for improvement. Ended up self-publishing them all since my agent at the publishing company was gone and the new agent didn’t want to pick me up. Back to no agent. Square one again.


What urged you to pick up directing eventually, and could you ever be persuaded to direct another movie?


I started directing because I wanted to make sure the story I wrote is told in the way I had envisioned it. I’ve heard horror stories from seasoned, successful writers, who talked about how directors change the script so much, along with producers, and sometimes actors. Unweaving the narrative of their stories. Sometimes changing it to the point where they don’t even want their names on the script. I love writing, but there’s a lot of alone time. Directing allows you to be with people. And to be playing in the world you create. I love directing but doubt anyone would ask me since I’ve only directed one feature, which was crazy low budget. Since no one’s asking, I’m going to direct the next one I’m producing: Tag Team Truckers.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


Invisible. I want my movies to be thought of in terms of story. Won’t be any signature shots or anything like that. I’ll never be any kind of technical visionary. Want to tell an entertaining story in an honest way. Like to think I’m caring and inclusive. Want everyone on set to feel appreciated and part of the team. And consider everyone as equals.  


Filmmakers, writers, whoever else who inspire you?


John Hughes, Harold Ramis, Judd Apatow, Mark and Jay Duplass, Robert Rodriguez, Ed Burns, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and all the people fighting to make it, all of us unknowns, spending all our free time pursuing an endeavor with passion, against all odds.


Your favourite movies?


Man, so many. Shawshank Redemption, Dumb and Dumber, Ground Hog Day, The Breakfast Club, Star Wars, The Godfather, American Beauty, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Amelie, Vacation, The Bourne Identity, Old School, The Hangover, Usual Suspects, Animal House, Casablanca.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


As a sensitive person I have a hard time being critical of other people’s work. I’d make the worst critic. I will say that I hate reality shows, especially the Real Housewives of ... name any city.


Feeling lucky ?
Want to
any of my partnershops yourself
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x-rated  find Jason Ancona at

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And tweet to Dr. Cheapskate here:


Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Look forward to seeing the progress of your movie, Michael - There’s No Such Thing As Zombies. Thank you so much for your review and interview. Really appreciate it.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
content of sites from a third party.

Thanks for watching !!!



On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...


Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!


Bauliche Angelegenheiten
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Michael Haberfelner


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