Hamish Downie has Five Questions With Rick Caplan
Editor Note: Hamish has another in his series of Five Questions With…
Hamish came up with this idea because he was accumulating too much material for his Famous News Sushi column and asked if he could do these mini-interviews. Why would we say no?
Thank you Hamish for being such a trooper for us. We really appreciate all for your hard work.
Let us know what you think of these interviews in the comments below.
TGG: Thanks Rick for agreeing to be interviewed today. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
RC: I’m a compulsive creator living in Los Angeles. If I go a few days without writing, drawing, editing, or doing something creative, I get restless. Initially, the prospect of screenwriting drew me to L.A., but I got tired of waiting for Hollywood to knock on my door and decided to create my own opportunities, starting with some animated shorts and moving on to several live action ones. My latest film project was my first feature, Mr Misfortune.
When I’m not working, I’m usually watching movies with my wife or hanging out with my dogs.
TGG: Before I ask you about your latest film, I’d like to ask you about your new website. Could you tell us about Indie Film Junction?
RC: After completing Mr Misfortune and flying blind through the marketing and distribution landscape, I noticed there weren’t a lot of sites that helped to raise the profiles of indie films and filmmakers that weren’t already part of the upper echelon of the independent film world. What I mean by that is a lot of the projects that got exposure through existing sites were made by known entities or already had distribution deals lined up, along with which came publicists that hooked the filmmaker up with the opportunity. I understand why and how that machine functions, but it came off as gatekeeping to me. I understand that neither myself nor my nano-budget feature presented a lot of value to these sites that have to make payroll or answer to a corporate entity. It’s symbiotic, but in kind of a toxic way. I created IFJ to fix the signal to noise ratio. The site does not publish filler or clickbait. It’s imperative to maintain a high standard of content that achieves symbiosis in its own way: presenting the filmmakers with the opportunity to connect with indie film fans and also serving as an educational resource for other filmmakers.
The things I love the most about interviewing all kinds of filmmakers dealing with every budget range you could imagine are the similarities between their stories of what went into making their movies. In a sense, it’s proven the theory that money only affords you more days, more gear, more (or more expensive) actors and crew, etc. All filmmakers are in a race against time and a war against evolving logistical realities.
TGG: That’s a nice way to think of it. As if we are in a community all fighting a battle together. Speaking of old battlers (only Australians will get this reference)… What inspired you to make the short, “Old Stud”?
RC: Going back to what I said earlier about making my own opportunities, Old Stud was initially conceived as a pilot for a half hour comedy series, but I wasn’t content to just write it, only to have it end up as one more script on the shelf. I was going to animate it, because I had little experience producing live action work (except for some terrible student films), but the prospect of shooting it live action was too appealing. With the help of a lot of friends, I managed to shoot the 25 page pilot in 2.5 days, and for $10,000. I called in as many favors as I could. The crew for Old Stud was the largest I’ve worked with yet, and I couldn’t have completed the project without everyone’s hard work and talent. I ended up cutting it down to a more character-centric short, which played in the HollyShorts Film Festival, giving me the opportunity to see something I made on the big screen for the first time.
Old Stud from Rick Caplan on Vimeo.
TGG: I would love to see the full version! I think it has interesting potential. So, now the time has come… Could you tell us about your feature film, “Mr Misfortune”?
RC: Mr Misfortune is a neo-noir about Max, a veteran suffering from PTSD, whose misguided plan to protect his friend by hijacking a blackmail attempt endangers everyone he cares about. I wanted to explore characters trapped by their own perceptions of what is possible and who resign themselves to functioning within the parameters of such limitations. The setting is intentionally ambiguous. I wanted to give the movie a 90s feel, in part because I didn’t want to have to factor technology like smartphones into the story. The world of Mr Misfortune is very much an analog one.
I’ve always been a fan of the film noir and neo-noir genres. The verbal sparring, dark comedy, and suspense really land with me, and I appreciate how contained the films are. I decided to write a noir-inspired film and engineer it around available resources, and I ended up with the screenplay for Mr Misfortune.
TGG: I have to ask you one more question before you go… You’ve found some actors with star quality, such as the lead in “Old Stud” and Ryan Cafeo. What advice do you have for other indie filmmakers looking for that special quality?
RC: Before casting begins, you really need to know the tone and energy you’re going for, and you need to be willing to look at thousands of auditions to find the diamonds in the rough. Old Stud was unique in that I cast a real porn star, Randy Spears, as the lead. A friend had shown me a porno musical comedy called Misty Beethoven. It was a remake of an older movie with the same title, and Randy Spears performed a ridiculous song with incredible deadpan delivery. I got his manager’s email from IMDB pro and sent off an introductory email, asking if he was interested in mainstream projects. They thought I was messing with them, because Randy had just retired from the adult entertainment industry, which made me feel like the script really nailed the concept. He was the most gracious, professional, prepared, and generous performer I’ve ever worked with. A singular talent and a joy to be around. We tried to raise money to turn Old Stud into a feature, but Kickstarter buried the campaign and instead promoted a bunch of projects involving puppets (not kidding). The failure of the campaign was kind of devastating, and I regret not making more shorts immediately.
Ryan Cafeo was one of over 1,300 self tape auditions I watched when casting Mr Misfortune. He actually auditioned for the Max role, but when I saw his performance, I knew he was perfect for the Kester part. The whole cast really put everything they had into the movie, but Ryan’s performance is the glue that holds it all together. He really got my humor and was a joy to work with. I also want to thank Michael O’Neal, Hari Williams, Kelsey Fordham, and Eliot. They were all tasked with getting a lot on screen in very little time.
In the two cases you mentioned, it really does boil down to tone and energy. For better or worse, my dialogue has a certain musicality to it, so I find it’s critical to not only hear an actor’s voice, but to make sure they understand the rhythm and subtext of the dialogue. I always make time for a table read and to have individual conversations with actors prior to shooting, but there isn’t always a lot of time for rehearsals, so you need to arrive on set confident that everyone knows the movie they’re in and what the character means when they say their lines. Some of the subtext in Mr Misfortune is very subtle, so these conversations proved to be invaluable.
The other piece of advice I have is this: if someone seems like they’re going to be a pain in the ass, and their participation in the film isn’t the aspect that drives foreign sales or a distribution deal, don’t work with them. Over all the films I’ve shot, there have been people like this that pop up from time to time, and I never cast them. If it means delaying the shoot to find a better collaborator, that’s fine.
TGG: Thank you for your detailed answers! Now, how can we best support you?
RC: Mr Misfortune is available for purchase and rental, and is also free for Prime subscribers. You can find it here:
I spend a lot of time (too much) on twitter. That’s the best place for people to find me: https://twitter.com/rick_caplan
And please check out Indie Film Junction at indiefilmjunction.com