SideKickBack Radio

Latest Posts

Episode 42: Persistence Pays Off with Julie Lynn and Bonnie Curtis

About a year and a half ago, I had the great pleasure of attending the world premiere of Last Days in the Desert at the Sundance Film Festival 2015.  Written and Directed by Rodrigo Garcia, this stoically beautiful, captivating film features an incredible performance by Ewan McGregor in two roles (Jesus and the Devil), mesmerizing natural light cinematography from Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki (winner of the last three Academy Awards), and this week I got to chat with the two amazing ladies who helped bring it all together.  Julie Lynn and Bonnie Curtis of Mockingbird Pictures have been making movies long enough to know how to make a damn good one, and with some incredibly exciting projects in the works this is one juicy episode that I hope will inspire you to check out/stay tuned to their work…you will not be disappointed.  We talk about the effect that digital media had on their business model, what their favorite part of moviemaking is and which one of them is “Spendy Wendy?”

Last Days in the Desert is in select theaters now! Head to www.lastdaysinthedesert.com for more info.

Also coming soon from Mockingbird Pictures…

Wakefield – in post-production, starring Bryan Cranston as a man whose nervous breakdown causes him to leave his wife (Jennifer Garner) and live in his attic for several months. Written and Directed by Robin Swicord.

The Sweet Life – premiering at the LA Film Festival, this romantic dramedy road trip film stars Chris Messina and Abigail Spencer as two depressives who first meet by chance in Chicago and form a pact to travel across the country to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge together. Written by Jared Rappaport and directed by Rob Spera. Also might feature a cameo from yours truly 🙂

To the Bone – in post-production, Lily Collins stars as a young woman dealing with anorexia who meets an unconventional doctor (Keanu Reeves) that challenges her to face her condition and embrace life. Written and Directed by Marti Noxon.

Julie and Bonnie are also producing Life alongside David Ellis of Skydance Pictures. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson, Life tells the story of a crew on the International Space Station discovering life on Mars.

Episode 41: I’m Gonna Frame It with Jenelle Riley

jenelle riley variety editor sag foundation

SideKickBack is back! This week I sat down with Variety’s Deputy Awards and Features Editor, Jenelle Riley.  You might recognize her from almost any SAG Foundation screening Q & A, as she has moderated discussions with some of the best and brightest talent in the film industry today.  We chat about the politics of Oscar nominations, the common thread between the immensely talented folks she interviews and why it would be unwise to make a bet with her.

Not surprisingly, in addition to Jenelle’s journalistic excellence in covering the entertainment industry, she also writes on the creative side of things, having worked on quite a few scripts in her day. She even directs! Some of you may have seen her short film/sketches such as Grand Gestures on Funny or Die.  She also frequently partakes in Sacred Fools Theater Company’s late-night smash-hit playwriting incubator, Serial Killers.

Check out Jenelle’s writings here!

Mind Groan: Ready Player One Open Casting

There are a few things I want to make very clear from the very beginning of this entry.

  1. I loved the book Ready Player One.
  2. I was thrilled to find that the film rights to Ernest Cline’s awesomely geeky and adventurous novel were in the hands of one of (if not, the best) blockbuster film director/producers of all time.  I mean, come on…this has all the makings of a new Goonies kind of journey with a completely fresh and modern source material.
  3. I couldn’t contain my excitement when it was announced that I was up for the lead role of Wade Watts…yup, the casting for the part was open!
  4. When Deadline Hollywood broke the news that Tye Sheridan landed the most coveted young-male role in recent history, I was beyond pleased…I love all of Tye’s past work and I am so excited for his future performances; if I lose the part to anyone, I’m so glad it would be him…

But I gotta call bullshit.

I was cleaning out my email inbox today and found two messages regarding my participation in the open casting call for Ready Player One. One was a confirmation from Cast It Talent (the service that hosted all entries via a website they built) of my video submission, and the other was a free one-month subscription to Cast It’s parent site.  Free subscription, you may ask?  For those unfamiliar with the casting processes for “emerging talent” today (aka “actors starting out”…regardless of their level of passion, training, expertise, connections) there are numerous services we “have to” subscribe to so that we may be considered for acting jobs. Imagine a semi-private social network…each actor has a profile, complete with headshots, video clips, and resumes.  A job listing goes up, actors or their Agents/Mangers click “submit” and their full profile goes through to the casting team for further review.  There are a couple major must-have service providers, and it costs about $15 to $20 per month to maintain a profile on each…this does not include the added cost of uploading new photo/videos which can run anywhere from $15 to $60 for each individual upload. There’s a bit more to this process, but you hopefully get the idea: actors shell out decent portions of their monthly income for the opportunity to have their profile land in a digital pile of headshots that can be at least 3000 deep for a paid gig.  And this isn’t the only area in which actors are “encouraged” to pay-to-play…see the Hollywood Reporter’s Casting Workshops investigation for a whole other side to the shady financial equation of pursuing an acting career in today’s film industry. Anyways, there is a revolving door of new “must-have” services for the modern day actor and it appeared as though Cast It Talent had suddenly become the latest now that they were running the RPO search.

Around the time of the casting call announcement, I noticed Cast It Talent ads were popping up on my Facebook news feed…a lot.  Banner ads on websites too. It’s as if Cast It Talent paid for a major digital marketing boost targeting Andrew Fromer.  Or perhaps young actors just like him, that displayed a digital interest in being a apart of the Ready Player One movie.  And by the way, when I did submit, I followed their odd video encoding procedures.  What I ended up with was a two minute scene/slate as requested that (in my opinion) was so low resolution it completely distracted from the performance; the video/audio bitrates were so reduced and displayed in an outdated frame size that it felt like I had converted a BluRay to VHS. It is understandable to think that each actor’s entry would have to be limited to a certain amount of data when there are thousands of submissions coming into their servers…but then I asked myself, what’s the point? Now that free one-month subscription starts to seem more and more fishy to me. And as we all know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch…especially in Hollywood. Unless its craft services. But that’s after you book the gig…I digress…

Now, I want you to imagine you are a casting director of a big budget movie directed by Steven Spielberg; you have an incredibly juicy and super cool role to fill.  You could practically pick anyone you want, right? Don’t forget to take into account that you’re in an industry where social media presence is an increasingly important factor (projects are literally casting based off of who has more Instagram/Twitter followers). And the margin for error in filmmaking is slimmer than ever.  You could cast any rising Disney Channel/Nickelodeon star, or an independent film darling.  Now go check out some of the Wade Watts auditions on YouTube and ask yourself…would you and your team comb through thousands of these to find an unknown star from Middle of Nowhere, USA or would you rather start going through your inbox packed with emails from Hollywood, USA’s top agents? Who is really going to sell this movie at the box office?

Now maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Cast It Talent wasn’t trying to tease thousands of unknown looking-for-stardom-actors and passionate RPO fans into subscribing to their services. Maybe it wasn’t a charade, even though the Tye Sheridan news conspicuously broke one day after the submission deadline for the open call. But it wouldn’t be the worst marketing move by Cast It Talent if their goal was to up their game in the ongoing exploitation of fledgling actors…and the Ready Player One PR team certainly earned a spike in internet traffic for their film.  Do I blame either of them? Absolutely not…I recognize that this is indeed show business.  But I feel Cast It Talent set out to prey on those who believe in the age-old lie of instant success; thousands, maybe even millions of people who believe they can just show up and carry a $100 million dollar movie without putting their nose to the grindstone.  It is no easy task and one I am happy to see Tye Sheridan take on.

I can’t wait for this movie!

Episode 40: Keep Your Eyes Open with Jessica Howell

My guest on this weeks episode is the lovely actress, writer, producer Jessica Howell. She’s been a part of such great projects as Eleanora: The Forgotten Princess, the phenomenal stage production of Re-Animator: The Musical and Showtime’s Masters of Sex. Her latest short film, Susie Sunshine, will be premiering at the LA International Women’s Film Festival on March 25th. We chat about running a successful Indiegogo campaign, the quality of life in Los Angeles vs. New York, and how we have both always been old people.

Grab your tickets to Susie Sunshine at LAWIFF here!

Episode 39: See You at the Maccabi Games with Jessie Kahnweiler

This week’s episode of SideKickBack Radio features Jessie Kahnweiler, creator, writer, director and star of The Skinny. Her well-crafted, dark-comedy web series premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and it’ll take you places you might not expect.  Jessie and I chat about why listening is better than trying to change people, why being rejected as oneself is more important than being accepted as someone else, and man bun executives.

Check out The Skinny at Refinery29 here!

Mind Groan: Cam Newton is a Bad Sport

I know…sports. Doesn’t seem like it belongs here but I will save the parallels-between-sports-and-the-arts-discussion for another time.  One thing I will say is that the biggest stages can bring out the greatest performances, while also highlighting incredible shortcomings of our society. And the NFL is a pretty big stage.

When a football game is on, I hear a lot about how great Cam Newton is for the sport.  Even if its not a Panthers game being watched, there would likely be a game-break with Cam Newton highlights of him flipping over linemen or something, the commentators saying how he plays with a smile on his face, an enthusiasm that is welcomed and makes things fun for all…but now the season is over. I kept quiet to see how things would play out and I hope we can all now realize that Cam Newton is a bad sport.  Like in Week 15 of the regular season…oh, did you think I was going to talk about THE Cam Newton press conference walkout of Superbowl L? Not quite…

When the Panthers were playing my NY Giants (who are by no means bastions of sportsmanlike conduct themselves) Carolina was up 35 to 7 towards the end of the third quarter. Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw an errant ball out of bounds towards the Panthers’ sideline and Newton rushed over to grab the ball and feign like he was picking off the play. Everyone had a laugh, commentators said how he plays with a smile on his face, an enthusiasm that is welcomed and makes things fun for all…and then the Giants tied the game 35-35 with 1:51 left in the fourth.  “But Cam wasn’t responsible for the defense’s mistakes that led to the Giants’ 28-point comeback.” You mean to tell me you don’t think a franchise player dropping his focus will cause his teammates to loosen? I will be the first to tell you…the 2015-2016 NY Giants were bad at football.  There was no reason for them to get anywhere near 35 points. As the saying goes, the game ain’t over til its over and that one was a close call that Panthers fans should have been irked by even after Graham Gano’s game-winning kick.

“But Cam is young, still learning and growing.” OK. To take the heat off him for a sec, when Richard Sherman trash-talked his way to fame after the 2013 NFC Championship, a lot of people rushed to his defense, claiming he was speaking his mind and reacting off the heat of battle. A year and a Superbowl ring later, I vividly recall Sherman on the sideline celebrating to camera after a seemingly key turnover against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX as if the game was virtually out of reach for the Patriots. It awoke within me a stirring feeling, and then came odd satisfaction when I saw Sherman’s reaction to, you know…that play. And let me be clear I categorically hate the Patriots.

Now these two men are not all bad. I’ve seen Newton celebrate touchdowns with terminally ill kids. I’ve seen Sherman shake the hands of his adversary even after a loss.  But I’ve also seen a growing acceptance of their bad sportsmanship, writing it off as “Cam will be Cam” or “Sherman will be Sherman” as if success can justify showboating yet a loss brings little accountability, all in the name of passion.  As the pundits discuss the aftermath of an unsporting act, its an actual debate as to whether or not what they did was justified. There is no justification for bad sportsmanship, no matter how passionate an athlete may be.  Sure, mistakes can be made, players can go overboard but they should be acknowledged as mistakes and then we move on.

Now…where do we draw the line between genuine celebration and showboating? How can we distinguish hyping up one’s teammates vs. trash-talking? What is the acceptable limit of passion a professional athlete can display? Maybe this is a good guide…if a kid who looks up to these athletes did the exact same behavior, would it be OK for them to say to their coach “who are you to say that your way is right? I know who I am.”

Episode 38: Band of Robbers with Adam Nee

In the triumphant return of SideKickBack Radio, I sit down with half of the writer/director/editor team behind the superb and fascinating film known as Band of Robbers. Adam Nee…oh and he also stars in it too…and I chat about the odd yet ballsy process of financing this independent film, the nuggets of wisdom he would tell his younger self, and the food groups of model.

Rounding out the cast of Band of Robbers  is Kyle Gallner, Melissa Benoist, Hannibal Buress, Matthew Gray Gubler, Stephen Lang and Eric Christian Olsen.  This modern retelling of the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn should not be missed! Available on VOD now 🙂

Highway to Havasu Trailer

Today is a very special day…so special that I decided to cancel my trip to the Sundance Film Festival so as to better serve this gem of a film that myself and countless others (mainly Jeff Janke and Amber Goetz) have poured thousands and thousands of pounds of heart, soul and radass humor into.  Not only do we release our trailer today, but it has been announced that we were awarded Best Comedy at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival and it will screen February 18th at 10:45pm at LA Live. I can’t wait for you all to experience the film when the time comes and if you can’t make the festival, don’t you worry, it’ll come out somehow in a theater near you or direct to your streaming devices. But for now, thank you for your support friends new and old, family, podcast listeners, total strangers, hearing me go on and on about the innumerable stories and experiences that this film has brought into my life…and this is only the beginning. Please enjoy:

Mind Blown: 99 Homes

For those who know me, I am not a fan of New Year’s Eve.  A night usually filled with grand plans later supplanted by disappointment (I knew I was not alone!), I decided to take it easy and watch a New Year’s Eve movie or two with one of my roommates.  After Bridge of Spies, a solid film starring one of my favorite actors, we still had a few hours to kill before midnight and I was running out of options in my collection of SAG screeners.  Despite its not so festive nature, Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes was sitting there intriguing as hell and featuring one of my other favorite actors, Michael Shannon (especially after his little surprise turn in The Night Before, the Gatsby moment being one of the top comedy movies moment in recent memory). Grim looking vibe aside, we went for it agreeing that if we weren’t feeling it we would turn it off. But this film is just too damn provocative.

It follows blue-collar, single-father handyman Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) who loses his house to foreclosure and attempts to get it back by making a deal with the possibly sociopathic real estate broker Rick Carver (Shannon), an accomplice in the eviction that took Nash’s family home. Nash’s end of the deal? He only has to evict people from their own family homes.

Despite some moments of a-little-too-forced improvisation and “just because emotion” shouting, the film buzzes with a gut-wrenching authenticity, especially evident in the expected montage of Nash having his first run-ins with his prey.  Casting Directors Douglas Aibel and Tracy Kilpatrick did an incredible job in finding hauntingly real-seeming actors and combined with Bahrani’s scintillating direction, their woes pack so much gravitas onto this film.  The feeling it gives reminds me of what beachgoers feel after Jaws.  Owning a home today seems absolutely terrifying, especially for this generation, and as the fallout of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis settles, stories like 99 Homes and The Big Short have emerged, making it clear that there are far more dangerous sharks than great whites.  Without giving too much away (but still, just in case, slight spoiler alert) the ending is rather vague and doesn’t give much of an explanation as to where the hell we should go from here. There is one thing though…

“Don’t get emotional about real estate.”

Carver repeats this as a sort of demi-mantra for Nash and his devilish nature is frequently slightly outweighed by Shannon’s inherent likability as a very smart actor; he fools you for a second or two into thinking these and some other great quotes he rattles off are sage words as to how to stay afloat in the fraudulent system that ruined the lives of millions (that system fascinatingly portrayed in the already mentioned The Big Short by the way…seriously check that one out too). As far as 99 Homes is concerned, many families became homeless by trying to hold onto unaffordable real estate because of emotional attachment. But of course these poor people were being completely and utterly dicked over.  And therein lies the conflict that holds you steady for the entirety of this movie, that those responsible for the crisis are kind of smart men and women who took advantage as a means to succeed and survive.  Sometimes they seem right, most of the time they are completely wrong but trying to survive financially in a society led by the morally f**ked up while maintaining a healthy/happy life is an increasingly immense balancing act, isn’t it?

Episode 37: HOLIDAY MIX TAPE!!!

To end 2015, I decided to gather together a musical treat for your ears as you go off on your various flights and drives and other holiday travels. Check out some of the performances from previous episodes as well as tracks off of the albums from some of my incredibly kind guests. Happy holidays everybody!!!

Track List:

01:36 Katie Boeck – The Brighter Side

06:07 Wardell – Funny Thing

10:14 MEST – Rooftops

15:28 Hollywood Undead – Bullet

19:40 Skating Polly – Kick

23:42 Katie Boeck – Victory

28:36 Rachel Mylan – New Growth

32:08 Special holiday treat outtro Guster – Mamacita Donde Esta Santa Claus?