Your new movie Poetic - in a few words, what is it about?
is an intense, sexy, character driven psychological horror
film that centers on a world full of deceit, passion, and revenge.
One couple finds themselves caught in the middle of this when they are
kidnapped by Cowboy, a mysterious and merciless renegade killer who
takes karma in to his own hands. Now prisoners in their own home, the
couple is turned against one another and forced to relive their dirty
little secrets. Their domestic quarrel turns in to a nightmare they
might never awaken from.
initial inspirations when writing Poetic?
came about from a conversation I was having with associate
producer Jonathan Wright. We were talking about victims of
circumstances. Something bad was happening around them and through no
fault of their own they were somehow sucked into this unfortunate
situation. The idea stuck with me and I kept thinking of a way to turn
that into a screenplay. The key, to me, was using that concept in a
more character-driven story. I knew that people had to care about
these characters or the film would ultimately fall flat. I believe we
accomplished that with the film. There is no good versus evil. No
black and white. Everything and everyone is one big shade of gray - much like real life.
can you tell us about your directorial approach to your subject at hand?
were many, many conversations on how we were going to shoot this
film. The subject material is very sensitive and knowing that it had
to be shot in a way that not only hooked the viewer, but also didn't
take them to places they were not meant to go. Meaning we didn't want
to go too far, shoot it a certain way just for the sake of doing so. I
felt that would lose the integrity of the story we were trying to
tell. Initially we wanted to take the film in a different direction.
The original idea was to use the shaky cam, where the camera is
constantly moving and you, as the viewer, almost feel as if you are a
Peeping Tom in the room with these characters. As we neared production
I started to feel as if the shaky cam was going to ruin the
performances of the actors. The raw emotion, and story, the actors
told through facial expressions would be lost with the more stylistic
camera shots. It was essentially being flashy for the sake of being
flashy. So in an effort to focus more on the characters and the
emotional aspect of the film, we opted to go with a very straight
forward, in your face steady shot. That way we truly kept all of the
raw emotion the story needed, but we also force the viewer to face the
unthinkable things our characters endure head on. Trust me, this will
make much more sense when you view the film.
my opinion, with films like Poetic
it's important to find the right
balance between psychological and physical violence - so how did you go
about that in your movie, and (since there are gorehounds among my
readers) how far do you go in terms of blood and guts, to what extent do
you restrain yourself?
This was probably the hardest
decision we had to make when it came to
this film. How far can we go before we go too far? Poetic
definitely a character driven suspense flick at heart, but when you
are making a home invasion, or revenge film, both of which are aspects
of Poetic, the audience is expecting something bloody to happen, and
truthfully, the story does require it. But the question we had to
focus on was "How far can we take this before it becomes over the top
and not as grounded as the rest of the film is?" We tried to keep the
film as real as possible. So we didn't do any "over the top"
film deaths, but with that said, we did have someone get stabbed
nearly ten times in a row. After all, it's a horror film, and we had a
very talented special FX artist in Travis Legge [Travis
Legge interview - click here]. He had a vision for
the death scenes as well. He knew what he wanted, and I knew what I
wanted. Eventually we were able to find that balance, but it wasn't
easy, I'll say that.
The central character Cowboy - what
was he based on, and to what extent was the role (trans-)formed by Ty Yaeger [Ty
Yaeger interview - click here]? And a few words about Ty Yeager to begin with, and how did you get
Ty Yaeger is such an amazing actor. I've worked with
him on three
other films before this one so I knew when writing the script I wanted
to work with him again. I didn't know, however, it was going to be as
Cowboy. I originally had the character of Cowboy based more in the old
school western style. Think a very pissed off and sinister John Wayne.
But the original actor and I couldn't really make that vision come to
life, so we parted ways. Don't get me wrong, the original actor is
great, but I think the vision I was going for just wasn't realistic or
enough. So we made a few tweaks to the character, made him even darker
than before and brought in Ty for an audition. I immediately knew that
he was going to be great in the role. He took what I had written and
made it so much more. Not only did he bring the dark and sinister side
of Cowboy to life, but he added this dark humor to the role that comes
out so effortlessly and just works perfectly. It really takes the
character to a level I didn't even imagine.
What can you tell us about the rest of your
The other two primary leads were Marc
Edwards and Talena Caza. If I
told you how much I loved working with them I'd probably be here all
day. I can't say enough good things about them, not only as actors,
but as people. There were times, like on any other film set, things
were not going as smoothly as we would have liked, but they were
constant professionals and were always doing whatever they could to
ensure the film looked the best it could. That was always the number
one priority. Not only for them, but for everyone on set. It didn't
matter what we had to do, we were going to get the film to be the best it could be. I am so thankful for the entire cast because they
really brought out the best in the script. From the lead role down to
the cameos. Even the smallest roles come off as great. Two of my
favorite scenes involve actors who are barely in the film. Just wait
until you see Tony Lee Gratz. That guy is really, really good at what
What can you tell us about the actual
shoot and the on-set atmosphere?
The funny thing about the
set is we were shooting a horror film, but
you'd think we were shooting a comedy the way we all acted. It was
non-stop laughs on set. Like many other independent films, we went way
over budget and our shoot ran much longer than we originally
anticipated, but again, that comes back to us not willing to settle
for anything less than perfection. I know that sounds so egotistical,
but it's really the truth. From me, as the director, down to the
lowest of crew members, every single person wanted this film to be
perfect. But the key was for us to keep our sanity, we had to make
sure everyone was having fun on set. Good meals, good laughs, good
times. The rule
of thumb for me has always been 'the day this starts to feel like
work, I'm done.' Luckily, the set never felt like that. Sure there were
a few moments here and there that were stressful, but what film set
doesn't have that? When I look back on the shoot, all I can remember
is laughing and having a good time and making a feature film I am
extremely proud of.
The $64 question of
course: When will Poetic
be released onto the general public?
will be having it's World Premiere June 30th in Rockford
Illinois. More information on that, as well as a place to buy tickets,
can be found at www.PoeticMovie.com. After the premiere the plan was
originally to send it out to different film festivals, but we actually
already have four different distributors interested in viewing the
film. So God willing we'll have the film out nationwide by year's end,
in either theatrical or DVD release.
go back to the beginnings of your career: What got you into filmmaking in
the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
never had any formal training, but honestly, I don't think you
really need it. I think filmmaking school is a bunch of theories. I
can learn how to use the equipment by myself. I self-teach myself
everything so filmmaking was no different. But for me, I've always
been what some would call a dreamer. I guess you could say as a child
my head was always up in the clouds. I always felt like there was
something else out there for me. So I think it was only natural that I
eventually found my calling in writing screenplays - living in a
fantasy world I could create. Things could be as good, or as bad, as I
wanted. It was natural progression, I think, to want to see these
stories lived out in some capacity. Unfortunately being from Rockford
Illinois no one was going to make my movie for me. It just doesn't
happen that way. So as the old saying goes, if you want something done
right ... do it yourself! So I did.
can you tell us about your directorial prior to Poetic,
and how would you describe your evolution as a director?
directed my first short film back in 2006. I was very inexperienced,
but gave it everything I had. Unfortunately it didn't turn out the way
I had hoped. A lot of things went wrong on that production, but it was
a good learning experience. Shortly after that I was signed to a
company in Chicago to work on a horror film for them. They had a nice
sized budget and I wrote them a new script to produce. Of course when
something seems too good to be true, it usually is. It was a con job of
sorts and never panned out. Probably for the best, because right after
that I went through some serious personal problems and I didn't step
behind a camera for another four years. It was June of 2010 when I got
back to directing, writing two short films, Innocent Looks and Famous. Both turned out exceptionally well, given the lack of
resources and considering I had not done anything since four years
earlier. The best thing about those two films is I was able to pick
them apart after production had ended. I analyzed them down to the
smallest detail and found ways to correct the things I had done wrong
as a director and as a writer. I wanted things to be perfect next time
around so I spent nearly a year after that learning new tricks to the
trade. As a director I think we need to always evolve. Always work to
improve in our craft. I have improved so much since my first short
film in 2006. It's like that was a completely different life.
What can you tell us about
your production company Never Submit Entertainment?
I mentioned how I quit filmmaking after a rough start in 2006.
I was pretty burned out with the way my first two efforts failed and
then going through personal problems didn't help much either. As
far as I was concerned I was done with filmmaking. After all, it was a
dream, and not all dreams come true, right? Only a select few ever
really make it and why would I be any different? So I just called it
quits. The problem with that is, my motto my entire life was too never
tap out. That means, metaphorically, you never give up. And after a
few years I knew I had given up on one of the only things I had ever
truly been passionate about. I had walked away from my dream. And I'm
not going to preach to you, or anyone else, but I'll say this: When
life brings you to your knees, remember you are in the perfect place
to pray. Through the course of many actions, and perfect timing, I was
given a sign that it was time to follow my dreams again. And I knew
that this time I would succeed because never again would I count
myself out. I was never going to tap out ... never going to submit to
failure. Hence the name, Never Submit.
projects you'd like to talk about?
Absolutely. I've got a
few films in the works right now. Not certain
which one will take precedent and be the next one we shoot though.
We're waiting to see how Poetic
does before we make a decision on
that. Without giving too much away, I can tell you I do have plans for
a sequel to Poetic. A much more action-oriented film than the first,
but that's really all I can say about that. Also, I am planning on
taking my short film, Famous and turn it into a feature
It's called InFamous and it brings back the lead character
from Famous, Jimmy Stevens, but the rest of the story is completely
different. The film focuses on the underworld of Hollywood, namely the
"casting couch" and how far inspiring actresses will go to get
big break, and what happens when the director takes them one step too
far. The character of Jimmy Stevens is one of my favorite characters.
He is so much fun to write because he is everything I never would be,
nor do I want to be. He's egotistical and self-indulgent, but he's got
that "IT" factor that makes it impossible to turn away from him.
hopeful to do that film sometime in 2013.
I actually don't have a favorite director. I
know that sounds funny
considering the field I am in, but it's true. I don't really look to
any other film for inspiration or for ideas. I pride myself on being a
very creative individual and with that I look into my own creativity
for my ideas, concepts and thoughts. Most of the inspiration I find
comes through my own life and things I have been through. The people
around me inspire me in different ways though. It's amazing what you can
and use as inspiration. A certain moment in your life can inspire a
specific camera shot. My mind works crazy like that. I see most things
like I'm watching a movie. To me, my life is one big movie.
Your favourite movies?
I'm going to lose any and all street cred I had right now. My
favorite movies are like a melting pot of films. It ranges from horror
to comedy to even chick flicks. I've always divided my favorites into
two categories. Films I find fascinating and are just beautifully shot
and have top notch stories behind them, and then the films that are my
guilty pleasures that, no matter what, I will always watch them if they
are on TV. GoodFellas, Pulp Fiction and A Time To Kill are three of my
favorite films from the first category. They are just terrific films
in every way imaginable. Now here is where I lose my street cred. My
guilty pleasure films would be Out For Justice, Harley Davidson and
The Marlboro Man, The Heavenly Kid, No Holds Barred, Friday the 13th
Part VI and VIII and City Slickers. Yes, the Billy Crystal flick.
and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
The Ninth Gate!
Hands down. I HATE that film. I was so excited to see
it on opening day and it was such a huge disappointment. One of the
worst films I have ever seen. Anything by M. Night Shyamalan can go in
this category too. With the exception of The Sixth Sense, that guy
can't write his way out of a paper bag. He's horrible. I hate to do
it, but I'd have to throw Jason Goes to Hell in there too. I
absolutely love the Friday the 13th-flicks, but
Jason Goes to Hell is
Nothing could save that piece of crap.
Facebook, whatever else?
You can find me at www.Facebook.com/MatthewCichella,
Anything else you are dying to
mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
I think we've
about covered everything I could imagine. I just want to
take a moment to thank you for allowing me to do this interview. It's
been a real pleasure and hope to be able to do another one with you in
the future. Oh, and don't forget to check out Poetic
when it comes out
later this year!