Your new movie Is This Heaven? - in a few words, what is it
Frank Meeink is a former skinhead turned civil rights activist. All his
life he has been a Christian (even during his skinhead years). In the last
year, he has been very conflicted about what his beliefs really are. There
has been a lot of hate talk in politics against the gay communities around
the United States. The words "The way God intended"
have been used a lot. There was also the shooting in Wisconsin of a Sikh
Temple that was done by a neo Nazi. These beliefs have been focused around
Christianity and so we are going on a road trip through Iowa to see what
else is out there.
What were your initial inspirations for making
the movie - and your take on religion and spirituality?
Well I think that there is extremism in everything. You have far right
and you have far right. I don't believe that hate comes from any
religion. Religion is a way to unify people spiritually and give them
some type of support system that they can always count on. I am an
atheist personally, but I am not an angry atheist like many are. I found
inner peace from walking away from all of that and living my life from
that perspective. I have a lot of respect for those who are spiritual
and have faith. If they find peace in a specific belief or ideology then
they should stick with it.
I love Iowa. This state is so unique and diverse that I think the locals
some times forget what we really have and I am not 100% sure if people
outside the state are aware of what we have. We have the oldest standing
Mosque in the United States. It's called Mother Mosque and it is located
in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We also have the Maharishi University of
Management in Fairfield, Iowa. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was The Beatles'
personal guru. The town itself is like the central gathering for people
who practice transcendental meditation. David Lynch has his television
studios and foundation located there. There are so many places like this
in Iowa. This film is giving me a chance to show these locations to the
rest of the world.
can you tell us about the central character of Is This Heaven?,
Frank Meeink: How did you two meet, what kind of a person is he, what was
your collaboration like, and what caught your interest in exactly his
life's journey in the first place?
Frank is a wonderful
man. Frank and I worked on my unreleased film, Vessel, on his first
day of shooting we shot an acid trip nightmare and covered him in blood :)
He is a good sport. Frank and I have been good friends for almost four
years. We double date a lot. On my birthday last year the four of us went
to Zombie Burger and before that we attended their End of the World-party,
where, as my girlfriend and I say, "We got Meeinked" - they throw one hell of a party. Frank doesn't drink and has been sober for
over ten years. He is one of the best guys to work with. We have an
agreement that a "No" from either of us overrides a
"Yes" from anyone. We have always wanted to make something
together. He was involved with a TV pilot for AMC for almost two years and
during that time he used to tell me "Wouldn't it be cool if we just
stayed here and made movies together?" - and this past April his show
got axed at the top tier of executives. We were in production a week
Frank Meeink has,
shall we say, a dark past. To what extent does this factor in your film?
lot of the Christian Right rhetoric that we hear today is exactly the same
as the propaganda he heard back in the Neo Nazi movement. The whole "This is
about love and not about hate" or "We are not racists, we are
racialists" - it's all the same. Frank can smell hate from a mile away.
He is able to see the very deep details of a situation.
would you describe your directorial approach to your subject at hand?
have already put a rough cut of the film in my mind. We are never showing
who the villan is. You are going to hear stories and hear hate speeches
that have been used by politicians/religious leaders. But we are never
saying by who. The fact of the matter is hate is not created in politics
or religion. Both hate and love is created by individuals who use politics
and religion as a vehicle. If people learn how to hear hate and smell
hate, there might be chance to fight it. The moment you label someone as
Republican, Democrat, Catholic, Muslim, Jew, etc, you are going to get an
instant judgement. So by not naming or labeling these people we can
connect with a much larger audience. These people don't just live in Iowa,
they live in every state and every country.
would you compare/put Is This Heaven? in relation to the
other films of your Made in Iowa-series of documentary movies?
is more like Hybrid Pioneer in a way as I am capturing this as life
happens. Capone's Whiskey was a historical piece. I even have a
part in this film, which is why you see me in the trailer. Frank and I
have two different perspectives on things. Frank is a spiritual guy and I
am not. I just don't think like that. I am more analytical which I think
makes us a perfect team. I will say that I feel very consumed by this
movie in comparison to my past films.
$64-question of course, when and where will Is This Heaven?
be released onto the general public?
We want this done in
two months - so late October. It will hit theaters after that and follow
with Video On Demand.
Any future projects
beyond Is This Heaven?
I have a few things in
mind. I have been wanting to work with a local producer named Sam Tuomi
who has done some amazing work. He produces the 48 Hour Film Project here
in Des Moines. I have also been talking with actor Jeremy Ray Smolik. He
is the young farmer guy in the reenactment scenes of the Templeton Rye
project. Both these guys have been on my list for awhile. A little piece
of trivia, Frank Meeink was in the movie The Experiment starring
Adrien Brody. Jeremy was Frank's stand-in on that.
Feeling lucky ?
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A few words about
your production/distribution company Modern American Cinema?
We just picked up two films for distribution that I am very
excited about: Kung Fu Graffiti and
My Name Is A by
anonymous. Which to be honest, I couldn't have picked two
more opposite films. Both films are coming out in October and
will tour for about a year. We have already booked both films in
theaters in Iowa and Oregon (we just made them available yesterday).
We are still looking for new releases for theatrical distribution so
any filmmakers out there with movies should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
My company is also sponsoring the Home Movie Day Des Moines celebration
on October 20th at the Iowa State Historical Building. People will bring
in there 8mm, Super 8, and 16mm film reels and we will screen for the
public. It will be a great event. For more info on Home Movie Day DSM
please visit: http://www.facebook.com/hmdsm
or view the commercial online: http://youtu.be/StFSgDjSj4A?hd=1.
movie's/your company's website, Facebook, whatever else?
My company's website is www.modernamericancinema.com
... or find me on Twitter: @kristianmday
for the interview!