Under the Microscope: The Feo Amante Interviews Eddie McMullen Jr. Intervview by
E.C. McMullen Jr.
Mine Games
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The fans of Horror are more knowledgeable in their genre than anyone I've ever met. So there's your first major challenge.
- Richard Gray

Mine Games poster variant

ECM: Tell me about working with the actors on MINE GAMES.

Richard Gray: On MINE GAMES we tried to set up a friendship group that looked as organic as it could. Someone like Cross, who worked on Milk and Lincoln. Or Alex Miraz from TWILIGHT, Briana – Step UP, Julianna, Ethan, Rafi, Rebecca – they all had such different upbringings and careers it just felt cool to throw them together and they got along so well!

To bring these people together, have them live together, and have this experience that comes to the screen. Giving them the best opportunity, despite the budget, that allows these people to perform, is just beautiful. We all lived, ate, drank and BBQ'd together. Life long friendships were formed and I think you can tell they were great friends on screen.

ECM: Tell me where MINE GAMES came from for you.

I read the script from Ross McQueen's a couple of years before we made it. It had a Lord of the Flies feel to it, where a group of friends could implode because of hidden prejudices, appealed to me. The idea that it could all hinge on mental illness was something I wanted to explore. We loved the idea that there wasn't a monster, serial killer, a beast – that the antagonist would come from within the friendship group – but only because of their mistreatment of mental illness. That felt fresh to me and the twist, although we've seen most before, it felt fresh too.

We wanted a slow burn that was more of a ticking clock than outright horror. We did a lot of research on medication and what happens when schizophrenics stop taking their medication. In MINE GAMES, it's not his delusions that bring them down, so much as his friend's misunderstanding of it.

ECM: So you were going more for a Suspense Thriller.

Richard Gray: Yeah, or Psychological with horror elements. Which is hard! I love all genres of film. I started with the romantic drama. But I really wanted to challenge myself on a low budget with MINE GAMES. The challenge is the juice for me.

The fans of Horror are more knowledgeable in their genre than anyone I've ever met. So there's your first major challenge.

Mine Games Smile
So, you like One Direction? Yeah. One Direction's cool.

With the new film that I'm doing, Audition, it's the ultimate, remaking a film that has such a strong following. The knives are out already!

With remakes, some movies are just so sacred and they have their rule set. Look at the OLD BOY remake to see the pitfalls – with an amazing director and super cast! When you have a fan base that adores the original, you better bring something special to the party.

But at the same time, I have a good friend who saw the RoboCop remake – and while he didn't love it as much as the original, he enjoyed it and it reignited interest in the original. It starts conversations, brings opinion. That's always a good thing.

I believe you need to take what was special in the original, think about what made you feel the way you felt, and recreate it in a whole new way. You have to have your own voice. But you've got to keep what was amazing in the original – but different. Otherwise, what's the point?

ECM: Re creating something fresh, that's Cameron's formula for success. With TERMINATOR 2 and ALIENS he didn't merely retread the previous story, he took what everyone loved about the first two and took them to logical extremes.

Richard Gray: I agree completely.

ECM: What exactly was the budget on MINE GAMES?

Richard Gray: IMDB says 1.5m but I think the budget was closer to 1.1m all in.

A third of that went into Post Production and delivering. We never had that on set! But that said we were working in such beautiful locations, it made things easier on us. North Bend, Washington. I believe where Twin Peaks was shot. When we don't have much money we always try to head to the most spectacular locations – because you can get those for free if you work it right. And then it's an adventure for your cast and crew. It might even be a bucket list thing. I just finished shooting Sugar Mountain in Alaska and I can tell you the crew were there for the love of the game, completely.

The most difficult part of Mine Games, was learning that finishing the film is only 50% of the job. The decisions you make, after you finish the film, can be even more important than the ones you made while shooting the film. It's only something that can be learned through experience – horrible experiences actually. You can read or listen to anyone, but until you've experienced it, you just don't know. Like a back injury. You can read about it, someone can tell you about it, but until you go through it, you're a rookie. And I think it's the same thing with indie filmmaking. So you learn, and you learn, and you never stop learning.

ECM: You mentioned how long it took to get a distributor, tell me about that.

Richard Gray: Well, it's a combination of a sales agent, delivering, re shooting, re delivering, and then finding the right distributor and we're very happy with Phase 4. But then you go into a pipeline leading to a release, a title change, a title change back and then finally a release date and 18 months goes by so quickly.

ECM: What attracts you with the film festival circuit?

Richard Gray: The chance to play at a city you've never been, meeting lovely people you wouldn't have otherwise met and the opportunity to drink with other filmmakers and tell the stories behind the stories.

Indie filmmaking can be so difficult. You don't make any money, you spend your fee on making the film better or doing a reshoot and really all you have is the love the game and the people around you. And the hope you're making something that's not crap!

ECM: Is there any story behind the story of MINE GAMES or the upcoming AUDITION you'd like to share?

Richard Gray: In MINE GAMES part of the crew and all of the cast lived at an extended stay type place in a place called Factoria. And the name of the place perfectly describes it. Factoria. It was concrete. But they treated us like kings and queens and I'll never forget it. When we shot nights and got home at 5am for two weeks in a row we'd have BBQs with the cast, bake eggs, drink beer, play music. Between the hours of 5 and 8 am we bonded and talked about all our aspirations, hopes and past experiences and it was the most memorable part of the experience for me. No one was there for the money, we were all just doing the best we could.

With Audition, it's far too early for stories, but I will say it's the biggest undertaking of my career so far, and I enter it with open eyes.

When you make an indie film for little money you have nothing to lose, everything to gain when you remake a classic you have everything to lose. BUT, if you can bring something to the table, if you can make something special well then it's worth it in a big way. But you're certainly putting your head on the chopping block.

ECM: Sounds like you're knowingly taking a pretty big gamble. Tell me how Mario Kassar got involved. What brought him along for the ride with you?

Richard Gray: Mario has been working on this for 10 years, I had the fortune of developing something else with him when he asked me: What do you think of the film Audition?

My eyes lit up. I adore the film and have thought about a remake for many years and so I was in a good place to pitch him my thoughts. I'd always thought there was a tremendous opportunity to adapt this and that it would work, as the key themes I think are incredibly relevant in the western world but of course we need to bring a fresh insight. And the option we have is the book. The book is an amazing canvas. There is so much to utilize and expand upon. We're not making a remake of the feature, we're making an adaptation of the Ryû Murakami brilliant novel. And to be with Mario Kassar: Rambo, Basic Instinct, Chaplin, Stargate, T2! We're in good hands. It's his baby and a passion project for a decade. Since he first saw the original.

ECM: Cool. I think that will be an intriguing point for the fans, many of whom have not read the novel.

Richard Gray: There's no need to mess with a classic movie without a fresh insight or a new way to intrigue and surprise. But if you go back to the source material there's things on offer that the vast majority have not yet seen and then to take those key themes and play them out modern day in the US is really exciting.

ECM: Lastly: Is there any question you wish interviewers would ask but they never do?

Richard Gray: What 5 movies would you take if stranded on an island - but an island that had electricity and still allowed you to somehow play these movies on a nice screen...

ECM: Yes, a source to play those movies, on a desert island, is always the kicker.

Richard Gray: For me, I'd take: Boogie Nights, GoodFellas, Heat, Fargo, The Big Lebowski. ...and that's not a top 5 list btw, it's just what I'd like in that situation! Ha!

ECM: Thanks for talking to me amigo! Best of fortune on AUDITION, I look forward to it.

Richard Gray: Thank you mate, if I do our next interview under a different name, from a secret location... we'll know it hasn't gone well! In the meantime, I'd love to hear what people think of Mine Games which is on iTunes and Amazon right now. And The Lookalike, which stars Justin Long, John Corbett, Jerry OConnell, Gillian Jacobs, Gina Gershon, Scottie Thompson, Luis Guzman, Steven Baurer is out NOV 7th! Support Indie films. Apologies for the shameless plug Feo. @_richie_gray twitter, @happydirector instagram.

End Skull

This Interview copyright 2014 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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