Your new movie [Cargo] -
in a few words, what is it about?
is about the choices we make and how those choices
can come back to haunt us. Anthony Peterson (played by my good friend Ron
Thompson [Ron Thompson
interview - click here]) is a ruthless businessman who has set vicious examples for his
business partners over the years. One day he is forced to face the same
rules he made others live by when he awakens in a locked container with
twenty-four hours to live, a cell phone and a ransom demand of ten million
How did you get involved with the project in the first place, and
what drew you to it?
guess you could say I was involved with [Cargo]
before it existed,
ha-ha. Writer/director James Dylan [James Dylan
interview - click here] and I have been collaborating for
years. One day way back in January of 2012 I emailed James to ask if he
would be interested in making a feature length film set in a single
location. He responded that he had been thinking of making a film with a
single on-screen actor, and within a day or two of discussions we had the
original skeleton of what would become our story. James came up with the
idea of using a shipping container. I suggested the name "Cargo",
which James ultimately agreed with. Much later I suggested putting the
brackets around the title for a few reasons. First, we wanted to make it
stand out from the other films of that title, secondly I thought it added
to the claustrophobic, enclosed nature of the story and third because it
gives the impression of the title being stenciled onto a container.
contribution of mine to the project was the name of the main character. We
knew we wanted to work with our friend Ron Thompson, who is most famous for
playing the roles of both Tony and Pete Belinsky. As a placeholder, I
started referring to Ron’s character in the script as “Anthony
Peterson” (Pete being the “son” of Tony), and ultimately the name
stuck. In public appearances I like to cite that as proof to Ron’s fans
that we never considered any other actors for the lead.
What were the challenges of
to the screen from a producer's point of view, and how hands-on or
hands-off a producer are you, actually?
would have liked to have been on set a bit more for [Cargo]. During
our long pre and post production times I was involved to a subatomic level,
but for the actual shoot I was in the middle of a lot of things. I had
just gotten married and had just finished writing my first novel, so I
wasn’t as involved in the shooting itself as I was behind the scenes.
This is normal, however, as producers on set often meddle.
is where I need to give a big shout-out to our third producer on the film,
Mr. Christopher Gosch. Chris is a total pro. He managed the shoot and
scheduling with James Dylan and also acted as our cinematographer. I’ve
worked with Chris before and I can say that I’ve always been impressed
with the things he comes up with to get some of the best shots. If his
idea doesn’t make the final cut, so be it. The point is, it’s there if
it is needed.
of the big challenges, obviously, is having an entire film set in one
location with only one actor on screen the entire runtime. James Dylan came
up with the idea of having the camera simulate some of the off-screen
action such as the movements of the car, and Chris Gosch as camera operator
managed to make it happen. This added a fresh new dimension to James’
already fascinating script. I wish I could take credit for that, but I can
tip my hat to Mr. Gosch and Mr. Dylan for that added stroke of genius.
producer I also vetted potential distributors and negotiated the contract
we ultimately signed with Wild Eye Releasing, who released out our fine
film. In addition to that and working with Wild Eye on artwork and
theatrical releases, I also moderated and produced the actors’
commentary you can hear on the DVD of [Cargo]. I’m very proud of
that as well. Give it a listen.
What can you
tell us about [Cargo]'s
director James Dylan [James Dylan
interview - click here], and what was your collaboration like?
is one of my closest friends. We became friends over a shared love of film
way back in March of 2005. After a while we started working on film
projects together. James is excellent as a collaborator. He accepts
advice, sometimes taking it, sometimes using that advice as a springboard
for something totally new. Being friends as long as we have helps a lot
because even if we disagree on certain things it doesn’t impact our
friendship, and the films end up all the better for the discussion. Also
helpful is the fact that most of our collaboration is done via email as
opposed to bouncing things around and seeing what sticks. Each of our new
presentations is well-thought out before we talk about them.
was eager for my input on casting and other crewmembers and I was there
with him through all of that. I hesitate to take too much credit, however,
as James chose some of the very best actors for the roles, so my
involvement there, for the most part, was essentially me saying “Heck
also give James full credit for gaining the involvement of our excellent
score composer Thorsten Quaeschning. James had wanted a “Tangerine
Dream-esque” score for the film and posted an advertisement seeking
someone to write the score. Some helpful fan (or fans) out there managed
to get that word to Thorsten himself, frontman of Tangerine Dream.
Thorsten and his band Picture Palace Music amazed us with his brilliant
score that wouldn’t have come about without James Dylan’s tenacity.
few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
minus the torture (ha-ha), Ron practically lived [Cargo]. The
unique exercise of being the only on-set actor caused Ron to experience a
similar voyeurism to that which his character endured in the film. All
eyes and much responsibility was on Ron. He also endured a similar
isolation during the eight day shoot. Lucky for him we didn’t make him
sleep in the container itself, but he did live in the empty house where
the container was located for the full shoot.
that we shot the film sequentially, I believe you can see that progression
in Ron’s performance. The intermittent isolation and spectacle really
united him with his character.
other actors (including myself) recorded our lines separately from Ron
(who interacted with an off-screen production assistant while on the set).
Ron truly did have the weight of the film on his shoulders and I think he
pulled it off great.
are also one of the voices on the other end of the lead's line - so do
talk about that aspect of the movie for a bit!
I’m more than one voice. Hopefully the different characters aren’t all
obviously me. Ha-ha. I believe we always knew I was going to at least make
a cameo in the film.
very interesting thing happened as we came close to locking editing on the
film in 2017: Actual photography on [Cargo]
was completed back in
December of 2015, which is the same time most of the voices were recorded.
But we also had some re-recorded lines here and there to make the film
tighter. The biggest change came in the “emergency room” scene in
which Danika Fields, and I recorded an entirely new scene to interact with
both Ron Thompson on-screen and Mark Wood (as Tom) off-screen. Danika and I
play an emergency room team of doctors and nurses, but she and I recorded
our lines completely separately. The end result is a scene with our new
voices, recorded separately with new sound effects added by the editor
mixed with Mark Wood’s voice from 2015, mixed with Ron Thompson’s
voice and on-screen performance from a different day the same week. The
whole thing sounds like we were all in the same room together.
also written the novelization of [Cargo]
- so how did that come about?
I’m very proud of that book. [Cargo]
had a long production for an
independent film and by the time we were starting to wrap it up I had
published my first two novels. One day I suggested to James that I write a
novelization of our film because I had read every version of the
screenplay so many times as producer. James’ response was “So I
don’t have to do anything? I love it!”
he wasn’t the only one who loved it. British publisher Bloodhound Books
picked up the publishing rights and put the novel out in January of 2018.
How much artistic license
did you take or did you demand with your source material, and how closely
did you work with James Dylan [James
Dylan interview - click here] on the novelization?
question! As anyone who has read a novelization knows the book is always
different in some ways from the movie. My first draft of [Cargo]
followed the screenplay almost exactly and that made for a book that was too
short for publication. Bloodhound Books suggested I expand the novella to
full novel length which meant I had to add quite a bit to it.
had some discussions with James on how I might make that work. Should I
expand it with dream sequences? Should I add additional stories that we
had discussed for sequels? James ultimately said that he trusted me to do
it justice and agreed with me that I should have free reign.
I realized I had to (quite literally) get “outside the box” and tell
the story that Anthony Peterson doesn’t see. This forced me to treat the
screenplay like a “jigsaw puzzle”. Every time a scene left off I knew
something was happening in the background. Surely the police must already
be aware of some of these connections. So I took it upon myself to tell
the story of the police investigations and some more detail about the
kidnappers and mercenaries. Once I was sure everything fit, I sent it off
to Bloodhound and they happily published it.
future projects you'd like to share?
The most immediate projects I have on my plate are my upcoming novels.
I have a new novel called Hard Core, a sequel to my first novel Seven
Days to Die, that I am sending to publishers. I also have started the
sequels to [Cargo]. James
and I have decided that the [Cargo]
story will be continuing in both book and film form. You can expect a
larger world to come out of that small container. I’m also working with James Dylan on some new film projects outside
of the [Cargo] universe. I guarantee they’ll be worth the wait.
One fun side project I’ve been working on is a web series called Metro PD
with Will Pumpkinhead. It’s an animated spoof of cop shows in the
mockumentary format using CGI animation and very dry humor.
pretty damned funny: https://youtu.be/oQZc7pl4A4M
From what I know,
you've first entered the filmworld as an actor, so what can you tell us
about that part of your career, and did you receive any formal training on
was always an actor going way back to my childhood. I did a good bit of
stage acting before I moved to California to begin work in film. I did
study acting under some very good teachers including Richard Folmer, a
successful actor and director himself. I did a good deal of musical
theater including portraying the lead in A Chorus Line years ago.
made you branch out into writing and producing eventually?
many ways I’ve always been more of a writer than I am an actor. My
degree is in English Literature and I won awards for writing going back to
elementary school. My
first novel wasn’t completed until I was in my forties, but in the
meantime I kept my writing sharp with reviews of movies, books, music and
television for various magazines like PopMatters and
WorldsGreatestCritic.com. I also write the film column
The Next Reel and
have done a long list of celebrity interviews.
done some directing as well, so the producing came from a knowledge of the
industry and my skills with developing scripts. [Cargo]
first actual film I have produced but it won’t be the last.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to [Cargo]?
moving to California I did a scene with Drew Carey for an unaired pilot,
then acted in some short films. Coming somewhat full-circle (back to
music), I appeared as the main villain named “Scout” in the
horror-themed music video for Beat of my Heart by Natalia Lesz. They
had me in devil horns leading a gang of Mad Max style desert marauders who
attack the singer and her boyfriend after their car breaks down in the
desert - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cX5ONKVJNNI
the more comical side of things, I starred in a comedy short called New
Guy in Town in which I move to a new city where all the citizens have
a rather unique method of greeting each other. Painful shoot. You’ll see
what I mean.
writers, filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?
think I learned a great deal about getting into character from my stage
work. A great deal of it has to do with the repetition that is required to
memorize an entire play, but merely “saying the lines” isn’t exactly
thing that I always concentrate on is what happens with my character when
we don’t see him. The lines are on the page and (especially because I am
also a writer) I am loyal to the lines on the page, but those lines need
to lead me to things the audience never sees. How does my character react
in this situation? What led to his actions? What is he outside of what we
see? Who is he trying to be when he delivers these lines?
Zach, the lead character in A Chorus Line, I was on stage almost the
entire time, but I also had to interact with the actors from off-stage,
being the guiding, yet judging, presence of a casting director. I really
found that character when I vanished from the sight of the other actors
and surprised them when my voice boomed from elsewhere. Thus, my in-person
interactions onstage were also enhanced.
it came to Scout, I had no lines. I was simply a malevolent presence
with almost animalistic aggression and nothing else. I’m not sure if
Natalia knows this or not, but I was in virtually every scene with her and
the actor who played her boyfriend. I stood just outside of the camera
shot watching as Scout would, seeing them through the windows and
preparing to strike. A lot of the fear you see in the shot where the trap
is finally sprung is 100% legitimate. I was a barely seen force who
writers, filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?
to sound pretentious (and I hope it doesn’t) but my favorite writer is
still William Shakespeare. Absolute genius. Isaac Asimov is another
amazing wordsmith. Sticking
to film, however, my favorite writers are often my favorite directors.
John Carpenter, Robert Altman, George A. Romero, Francis Ford Coppola,
George Lucas, Stanley Kubrick, Quentin Tarantino, Coen Brothers, Martin
a big fan of Leigh Brackett as a writer. Ditto Edgar Wright, Dan
O’Bannon, Shane Black and Joss Whedon.
directors are Ridley Scott, Julie Taymor, Bob Fosse, Sam Raimi and even
though I’ve mentioned him before, I’m just CRAZY about John Carpenter.
Your favourite movies?
may be the biggest fan of The Thing (1982) who ever lived. I have
yet to tire of that film after possibly hundreds of viewings and I get
something new out of it every time I watch it. Other
big favorites are Apocalypse Now (1979), Psycho (1960),
The Exorcist (1973), The Long Goodbye (1973), 2001: A Space
Odyssey (1968), The Disaster Artist (2017) and Star Wars
... and of course, films you really
be honest, I generally find something to like in virtually every movie I
see. I’m a big fan of “bad Italian horror movies”, most of which are
terrible, but have redeeming qualities, be that gore effects or low-budget
some of the films I’ve been least impressed with include Return to
Sleepaway Camp (2008), Punisher: War Zone (2008), D-War
(2007), Corpses Are Forever (2003), The Amityville Curse
(1990) and Drag Me to Hell (2009) - which is strange because I
generally adore Sam Raimi.
Your website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
reviews, including some scathing indictments can be found at
Facebook page can be found at
else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
this hasn’t come up lately, but I am the first and potentially thus far
only critic to seek out and review all of the "video nasties" which were
banned in England back in the 1980s. That is a fun read to say the least -
for the interview!
Hey, it’s great to be on this side of
the table, ha-ha.