DVD/Blu-ray Pick of the Week: ‘The Stranger’

This week, Kino Lorber released a remastered edition of “The Stranger,” a tight political thriller from 1946, which also happens to be the third feature film directed by Orson Welles.

Welles also stars in “The Stranger” as Charles Rankin, a college professor whose life is a facade, created to protect his true identity: The Nazi mastermind Franz Kindler. Hiding out in America until the next war, which he believes is inevitable, the foundation of Kindler’s lies begins to crumble on his wedding day when he receives an unexpected visit from his former cohort Konrad Meinike (Konstantin Shayne). Sure enough, following Meinike is a war crimes detective named Wilson (Edward G. Robinson), who sees past Kindler’s guise.

Convinced Rankin’s the man he’s looking for, Wilson slowly puts the pressure on him, as well as his new wife, Mary Longstreet (Loretta Young). Without evidence, however, Wilson has to gradually feed Rankin enough rope to hang himself, but is it enough to best the crafty, manipulative war criminal?

The film doesn’t hold its cards particularly close to its chest, revealing bits and pieces of the story throughout rather than saving them to build the mystery. There’s no swooping, jaw-dropping reveal here, but it’s smartly structured in a way that keeps you involved, as you watch the battle of wits unfold between Wilson and Kindler. It’s a game of high-stakes chess. Or checkers, perhaps.

Welles is brilliant, as usual, in front of the camera as well as behind it, and if you haven’t had the chance to see “The Stranger” yet, I’d highly recommend picking up this release from Kino.

Follow me on Twitter @JoelCrabtree, or find me on Facebook.

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The Grand in Ellsworth to hold third annual LGBT Film Festival

Thure Lindhardt and Zachary Booth star in “Keep the Lights On,” screening at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at The Grand in Ellsworth.

This weekend, the LGBT Film Festival celebrates its third year at The Grand in Ellsworth with a new theme to inspire hope, building on the previous years when the festival highlighted the “It Gets Better” movement and “Sharing the Stories.”

“This year we come to another theme that could be applied to almost any year ‘Celebrating Diversity,’ said Robin Jones, director of film programming at The Grand. “The hope in each film is being celebrated as much as the LGBT community and that celebration has been there from the first year.”

This year, the festival will screen three movies all in one day, beginning at 4 p.m. Oct. 19 with Ira Sachs’ “Keep the Lights On,” which premiered at 2012′s Sundance Film Festival, and as Jones explained, has parallels to last year’s film “Weekend.”

“Instead of a weekend in London, this takes place over a 10-year period in New York, from the late nineties to the late 2000′s, covering a number of hot-button issues that one particular male couple faces,” he said.

“Keep the Lights On” will be followed at 7 p.m. by Jeffrey Schwarz’s “I Am Divine,” a documentary that looks into the life of transexual pop icon Harris Glenn Milstead aka “Divine.”

The festival closes with “Camp Beaverton: Meet the Beavers,” a documentary by Ana Grillo and Beth Nelsen about the only all women, trans-inclusive, sex positive theme camp set within Burning Man, and week-long annual festival held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. The film is for mature audiences and begins at 9 p.m.

“We had such a great success last year with the combination of the great 2011 American contemporary drama film ‘Pariah,’ about a 17-year old African-American teenager embracing her identity as a lesbian, and the late-night ‘mature audiences only’ show from Portland’s sex-positive, queer-positive troupe The Dirty Dishes Burlesque Review,” Jones said, “why not screen a film that somehow combines these experiences?”

So how will this year’s festival stack up to previous years?

“We always aim for doing better than the year before, but, seriously the real aim reflects The Grand’s mission statement: ‘To enrich the lives of people in Downeast and Eastern Maine by presenting diverse, unique, high-quality programs that provide entertaining, artistic, educational and social experiences,’” Jones said. “If one person sees the LGBT community as a group of people with similar hopes, dreams or sees something in this world they’ve never seen before, or if one member of the local LGBT community sees that someone in another country has a similar story they can relate to, or basically if anyone walking through The Grand’s doors during the festival has a great time, that’s success.”

This year’s festival, Jones said, would not exist without the support of the theater’s board, the LGBT community, and Grand staff member Kristie Billings, who found two of the films, “I Am Divine” and “Camp Beaverton.”

Tickets for individual showings are $7, $6 for seniors and students, and $5 for Grand members. For more information, visit grandonline.org.

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Movie Review: ‘Captain Phillips’

In theaters

“Captain Phillips,” written by Billy Ray (screenplay), Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty (based upon the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea”), directed by Paul Greengrass, 134 minutes, rated PG-13.

Paul Greengrass is one of those rare directors so good at what he does – frenetic, unsteady action thrillers best exemplified by the latter two Jason Bourne movies and “Green Zone” – that anything remotely in the same vein is merely labeled imitation. Though not a documentarian, Greengrass could also be described as a journalist of sorts, infusing his fiction with current political affairs, and recreating defining moments of our times, as seen in “United 93” and, despite recent controversy, his latest film “Captain Phillips.”

Based on the high-profile 2009 hijacking of the MV Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates, “Captain Phillips” stars Tom Hanks as the film’s title character, Capt. Richard Phillips, a family man from Vermont helming the freighter around the horn of Africa to Kenya. With the escalating number of piracy cases, Phillips is fully aware of the risks that come with navigating the unarmed merchant ship around the Somali coast, yet he and his crew cautiously continue on their route.

Their most feared scenario becomes reality, however, as Phillips and his crew spot two skiffs quickly approaching their vessel, and as Phillips’ notes: “They’re not here to fish.” Though the pirates’ efforts to board the ship are thwarted on their first attempt, one of the boats returns the next day, with four armed pirates (Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed and Mahat M. Ali) vehemently pursuing the merchant ship, and ultimately boarding it.

Greengrass works best with his characters under extreme pressure, drawing off the raw, authentic emotion that comes from that. He’s a magnet for stories that move like an out-of-control locomotive, picking up momentum with every scene toward a finale that is imminent, definitive, and more often than not, unsettling. In typical Greengrass fashion, it’s a thrill to watch “Captain Phillips” unfold before your eyes, lighting a fire inside you while keeping you arrested for the 134-minute duration.

Shortly after the film’s release, the authenticity of Phillips’ portrayal was brought into question by some of the crew. As with all Hollywood productions based on true events, audiences have grown savvy enough to take these stories with a grain of salt, whether it’s “Argo,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” or “Captain Phillips.” But does it diminish the integrity of the movie?

As with his previous films, Greengrass uses his characters here to speak beyond what’s on screen, digging into the mindset of our captors, as well as the origins of this era of Somali piracy, and problems plaguing the Third World. There’s also a very real fear here, as the crew of the Maersk Alabama come to terms with what lies ahead for them. In that, there’s a lot of truth to “Captain Phillips.”

Perhaps this film has fewer parallels to “United 93,” and is more akin to “Green Zone,” an exaggerated fictional Iraq war story with its feet firmly planted in reality, but its head in the Hollywood clouds. Despite any sort of controversies that have arose, “Captain Phillips” is another strong outing for Paul Greengrass.

Grade: A-

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment, let me know on Twitter @JoelCrabtree or find me on Facebook.

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DVD/Blu-ray Pick of the Week: ‘I Married a Witch’

Just in time for Halloween, The Criterion Collection has released Rene Clair’s 1942 supernatural screwball comedy “I Married a Witch,” a love story whose satire and wit still ring true more than 70 years after its initial release.

The films opens at a witch burning in late-1600s Massachusetts, where a young witch named Jennifer (Veronica Lake) and her sorcerer father, Daniel (Cecil Kellaway), have been found guilty. Of course, these two are indeed guilty of witchcraft, and have the magical powers to prove it. Bitter over her burning, Jennifer casts a spell upon her accuser, a Puritan named Johnathan Wooley (Fredric March), cursing him to have a miserable marriage. And so will his children, and his children’s children, and so on.

While the Wooley family line fails to find true love over the centuries, the spirits of Jennifer and Daniel are kept trapped underneath an oak tree to hold their evil spirits prisoner, until the 1940s, when a lightning strike frees the duo.

It’s here we meet the latest Wooley, Wallace, a politician running for governor of Massachusetts, who is set to marry the wealthy, bratty daughter of his primary political backer. With revenge on her mind, resurrected Jennifer conjures up a potion to make Wallace fall in love with her, so that she can deny him and crush his heart. But the plan backfires, and Jennifer drinks the concoction, falling head over heels for Wallace Wooley.

“I Married a Witch” is a lighthearted alternative to the scares, jumps and carnage that generally come with most Halloween film fare. Here, the dialogue is sharp and amusing, impeccably delivered by Lake and March. Veronica Lake is perfect as the mischievous Jennifer, playing well off March’s buttoned-up Wooley. Clair has fun with the visual queues, winks and nods to black magic cliches (think black cats and pointy hats), creating a charming picture ideal for this time of year.

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Movie Review: ‘Bad Milo’

In theaters and on demand

“Bad Milo,” written by Benjamin Hayes and Jacob Vaughan, directed by Vaughan, 85 minutes, rated R.

Stress can lead to any number of ailments, both physical and mental. From heart disease to sleep disorders, when you begin to buckle under life’s pressure, and are rendered incapable of managing it, bad things tend to happen.

Take Duncan (Ken Marino), for instance, the protagonist of “Bad Milo,” the latest film from Jacob Vaughan. Duncan’s anxiety comes from several sources: His boss (Patrick Warburton), puts him in charge of layoffs while the investment firm he works for is investigated for unlawful business practices; his mother (Mary Kay Place), pushes for grandchildren; his girlfriend (Gillian Jacobs) wants to start a family; and he’s never known his deadbeat father.

What at first appears to be common, yet intense, gastrointestinal problems turns out to be much greater. And the polyp discovered in Duncan’s colon? It’s actually a lumpy, ferocious creature with tiny daggers for teeth, who has taken up residence inside Duncan. Milo, as it comes to be known, is a manifestation of Duncan’s pent-up stress, and is now a part of him. When Duncan becomes unable to handle stress, Milo unleashes himself, putting a bloody end to the root cause of Duncan’s discontent.

Not knowing who to turn to, Duncan seeks the help of a loony therapist (Peter Stormare) with the hopes of controlling his stress and keeping Milo where he belongs.

If “Bad Milo” sounds a little out there, let me reassure you that it certainly is. Finding inspiration in creature features from the 1980s, such as Joe Dante’s “Gremlins” or Stephen Herek’s “Critters,” Vaughan strikes a tone that matches the absurdity of the story. Coupled with this off-beat homage is a quick, dry sense of humor that is in line with the brand established by Mark and Jay Duplass (“Jeff Who Lives at Home,” “Baghead”), executive producers on this film.

Of course, as any film about a murderous monster grown in someone’s bowels would, “Bad Milo” digs deep for some of its laughs, relying on a few rather shameless gags that will work for the right audience. With that said, there also is a straightforward message here that never gets lost – a warning to all of those who let the day-to-day emotional strain build up, and bury it instead of facing it.

Equally important, however, “Bad Milo” is silly, gross, mildly gory and occasionally funny.

Grade: B-

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Movie Review: ‘Gravity’

In theaters

“Gravity,” written by Alfonso Cuaron and Jonas Cuaron, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, 90 minutes, rated PG-13.

“Gravity,” the latest from acclaimed “Children of Men” director Alfonso Cuaron, lifts you up to the most solitary space imaginable, where the film sets up sequence after sequence of pure, relentless tension, creating arguably the most teeth-clenching, nail-biting experience ever to hit the big screen. And that’s no easy feat.

“Gravity” stars Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer working her first space shuttle mission alongside a small crew that includes Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), a veteran astronaut who regales the team and NASA’s Houston space station with his anecdotal failures in life, where the punchline is generally at his expense. There’s a reason he’s up here, 600 kilometers above Earth, away from the human population.

But Stone has her own reasons to escape the world. Her 4-year-old daughter died in a freak schoolyard accident, and she hasn’t yet come to terms with the loss.

While repairing the shuttle on the eve of Kowalski’s retirement, Houston warns the team of a cluster of debris on course to crash into the spacecraft. Sure enough, the debris swiftly swoops in, ravaging the shuttle, leaving Stone and Kowalski the sole survivors of the mission without a craft to carry them. They’ve also lost contact with Houston.

Facing impossible odds, Stone and Kowalski devise a Hail Mary survival plan to use Kowalski’s jetpack thrusters and a series of spacecrafts within a reasonable radius as stepping stones back to Earth. The barriers are endless, and with every victory an even greater challenge arises, as “Gravity” pushes its characters, and its audience, way over the edge.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the anxiety “Gravity” generates that on very rare occasions you almost forget the incredible technical achievements that are constantly right in front of you.

Since James Cameron’s “Avatar,” we’ve been waiting for a film to wow us using 3-D technology – a movie where the innovation actually adds a new dimension to the film, and not just lighten our wallets for a few gimmicky special effects pops. With the camera perpetually moving slowly around its setting and characters, Cuaron fully uses the backgrounds and foregrounds to enhance the 3-D experience, raising the bar and creating a cinematic spectacle unlike any I’ve seen before. When it comes to 3-D, this is what we’ve been waiting for.

But for a 3-D movie to truly succeed, it has to have substance behind all the visual “oohs” and “aahs.” Here, the story serves as a rather heavy-handed allegory for the hopelessness one feels after the death of a loved one. There’s a loneliness and emptiness Stone manifests, as seen in her location of choice, and the struggle she faces is a reflection of her emotional state.

There are several moments when giving up seems like the easy and logical option, though an epiphany happens upon her that keeps her fighting. In a moment of clarity she realizes she must endure. After all, without finding the will to live, “Gravity” wouldn’t mean much of anything.

Grade: A

You can follow me on Twitter @JoelCrabtree, or find me on Facebook.

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Movie Review: ‘Rush’

In theaters

“Rush,” written by Peter Morgan, directed by Ron Howard, 123 minutes, rated R.

What is it that drives two men to risk life and limb, racing each other in an open cockpit car at 170 mph, knowing full well that there’s a good chance when you step into that vehicle, it may be the last time you ever do?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, which Ron Howard explores in his latest film, “Rush,” recounting the heated 1976 Formula One season, which pit Briton James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) against Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl).

“Rush,” penned by the brilliant screenwriter Peter Morgan (“The Damned United,” “The Queen”), tells the story from both Lauda and Hunt’s points of view, starting at their meager racing beginnings in the F3 series. Though opposites on and off the track – Hunt’s an impulsive, partying playboy, Lauda’s focused and calculated – they both reject what their parents consider more reputable career paths for racing. As they meet in Formula Three, narrowly avoiding an on-track collision, Hunt bests Lauda and egos clash.

A rivalry instantly springs to life.

As their careers progress, Lauda uses a loan to buy his way into the F1 series despite his amateur status, leaving a bitter taste in Hunt’s mouth, who remains in a secondary division. Baffled and flustered by Lauda’s success, Hunt pushes himself to find a ride in the top tier division, eventually opting to go sponsorless into F1 with the eccentric owner Lord Hesketh (Christian McKay). While Lauda wins his first F1 championship, Hunt makes his presence known, but remains without a sponsor by F1 rules, and Hesketh steps out of Formula One, leaving Hunt without a ride.

Hunt becomes an emotional wreck, desperately making calls to find a team that will take him on for the ’76 season, letting his already teetering marriage to Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde) deteriorate completely in the process. A stroke of luck places Hunt with the McLaren team, setting the stage for a now infamous season of racing.

While “Rush,” first and foremost, is a movie that delves into the minds and hearts of these two competitors, Howard makes sure that we never forget this is a movie about racing. On more than one occasion, Howard gives us a full tour of the interior and exterior of a Formula One car, accompanied by a full-on engine roar that can surely get anyone’s adrenaline up and ready for some of the most intense and authentic race scenes in film history.

Though the racing scenes are incredible, and will surely bring in fans of the sport, it’s the study of Hunt and Lauda’s tete-a-tete duels that will keep audiences interested. What’s most fascinating about “Rush” isn’t necessarily the motivation for these guys to get behind the wheel in the first place, but what keeps them there. Name-calling and expletives fly across victory lane, as Hunt and Lauda dig deep into each others’ personal lives for trash to talk. It carries onto the track, of course, both men watching every move and decision of the other like a hawk. As their feud elevates race by race, an inexplicable bond develops, one that is frankly difficult for the everyman to fully comprehend.

It’s the true paradox of competition, and it’s that competition that drives both of these men. It’s knowing that the man next to him is relentless in his pursuit, and in that sense, “Rush” makes a grander statement beyond the story of the ’76 Formula One season, speaking to the very essence of sports.

Grade: A

Have some thoughts on “Rush”? Give me some feedback. You can leave a comment here, talk to me on Twitter @JoelCrabtree, or check out Joel Talks Movies on Facebook.

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Interview with ‘The Disappeared’ producer Walter Forsyth

It could be argued that a confined story, one that features only a few characters in a tight space for the entire duration, is one of the most difficult to adapt for the big screen. Generally speaking, there’s nothing to hide behind. Not only are the actors out in the open, almost as vulnerable as if they were onstage in front of a live audience, but the writers and directors are on display just as much.

Shandi Mitchell’s film, “The Disappeared,” which played at this summer’s Maine International Film Festival, is one such film. And, to add one more major obstacle to the film’s production, it’s set entirely in the ocean, something usually reserved for big-budget films. Not indies.

When Mitchell brought the script to Halifax, Nova Scotia-based producer Walter Forsyth, he thought the concept was simple yet brilliant. “The Disappeared” is about six fishermen lost at sea after their vessel sinks in the North Atlantic ocean.

“Shandi told me it was going to be easy to do because it was six people in one location,” Forsyth, who’s also a writer and director, said in a recent interview. “And I was like ‘That’s awesome, I’ll read it.’” The bad news, of course, is that the script took place entirely on the ocean.

“The Disappeared” was shot inexpensively off the coast of the historic fishing village of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and the three-week shoot presented challenges upon challenges. “[We were in the middle] of the open ocean forty five minutes by zodiac from the doc, which means you can’t come back to pee, the actors can’t come in for lunch, you’ve got union rules and SAG rules, it’s really restrictive,” Forsyth said of some of the obstacles while filming. “Just moving – ‘oh, let’s turn the boats around’ – everything moves slower on the ocean.”

Then there was Mother Nature, whom the filmmakers hoped could be the seventh character in “The Disappeared.” They got more than they bargained for.

“You can’t do anything about it. If the fog rolls in, go to a different script page. It’s hard on the actors, right? OK, it’s sunny out again. Back to this scene. We were going to shoot this in cloudy weather, but it’s gonna be sunny now.”

As impressive as it was for Mitchell, the cast and crew to overcome and work with those hardships, the film’s success rests on creating characters who are believable. Without that, the film would lose everything.

But here we have six actors, Billy Campbell, Ryan Doucette, Brian Downey, Shawn Doyle, Gary Levert and Neil Matheson, whose authenticity is never even brought into question. It’s almost as though they’re not actors at all, but Canadian fishermen who happened to have ended up in a movie.

Beyond that, “The Disappeared” gives audiences an up close and personal look at the beautiful North Atlantic ocean, though the context is treacherous in this particular tale. The inconsistent weather conditions will surely resonate with anyone who has ever spent time on the Maine coast, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island.

“The Disappeared,” though often challenging in its minimalistic style, is definitely worth seeing. With any luck, this film will come back to Maine for more showings, but until then, check out the trailer.

You can find “The Disappeared” on Twitter @Disappearedfilm, and Walter Forsyth @walterforsyth. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @JoelCrabtree.

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Movie Review: ‘Prisoners’

In theaters

“Prisoners,” written by Aaron Guzikowski, directed by Denis Villeneuve, 153 minutes, rated R.

“Prisoners,” Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up to 2010′s standout Oscar-nominated film “Incendies,” is a lot like its predecessor in that it builds and meticulously unravels a mystery, slowly dropping the pieces of a tragedy into place to deliver something that is both small and personal, yet grand and powerful.

Instead of the chaotic, scorching clime of Villeneuve’s horrifying Middle Eastern drama, “Prisoners” finds Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) in a cold, quiet suburban neck of Pennsylvania on the back end of autumn. Keller’s a steadfast survivalist whose demeanor is as imposing as his stature, and he uses that influence to assert his convictions onto family and friends. His life takes a turn down a dangerous path while spending Thanksgiving with neighbors Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard, Viola Davis), when his daughter Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) goes missing along with the Birch’s daughter, Joy (Kyla Drew Simmons).

Heading the investigation into the kidnapping is the solitary Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), whose only lead is a run-down, outdated camper parked down the street at the time of the abduction. The camper is driven by Alex Jones (Paul Dano) who, upon interrogation, is found to have the IQ of a 10-year-old, and completely incapable of conducting such a crime. The RV, meanwhile, contains not a shred of evidence, and after 48 hours Loki is forced to let Jones walk.

While the detective pursues other leads, Keller remains convinced that Jones has information about Anna’s whereabouts. He’s so certain and stricken with desperation that he sees no other option than to accost Alex, chain him up and torture him until he cracks.

Jackman is as explosive in “Prisoners” as he’s been in his entire career, taking his performance over the top to an intense and dispiriting place that feels right at home under Villeneuve’s direction. Jackman’s well supported in his efforts, surrounded by an ensemble of A-listers who are more than capable of bearing the weight of this material.

After all, “Prisoners” is a somber piece of cinema, and it requires precision in its delivery, something Villeneuve has demonstrated in the past. Gifted with the ability to reveal just the right information at just the right time, Villeneuve strings the audience along, unlocking one door as he almost closes another, leaving it slightly ajar just to keep certain points in the back of your mind. In that regard, “Prisoners” plays out a lot like “Incendies.”

Then there’s the final act, which is sadly a little too safe, contrived and convenient, mollifying the film’s emotional impact. Where “Incendies” violates your boundaries, saving its most gut-wrenching – and believable – punch for last, “Prisoners” builds tension, doubt and moral quandaries only to exit with a finale best described as complacent. It’s a disappointment for an otherwise powerhouse film. Villeneuve can do better, and the story deserves better. So does the audience.

Grade: B

Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @JoelCrabtree.

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Q&A with ‘Roommate Wanted’ director Stephen Parkhurst

Full disclosure: I grew up with Stephen Parkhurst. I’ve known him since junior high school, where he and I, along with my brother Tony, bonded over our love of the cinema. When it came time for college, it was no surprise when Stephen went off to Keene State to pursue his dream of becoming a filmmaker.

Last summer, Stephen continued his pursuit, marking a major milestone in his life and career by shooting his first feature-length film, “Roommate Wanted.” The movie is a light psychological thriller that is distinctly Stephen’s in its tone, storytelling and characters. In true Parkhurst fashion, the movie maintains the filmmaker’s strange sense of humor while its lead character’s life descends into madness.

The film stars Seth Holbrook as Sean, a traditional down-on-his-luck central character who’s hit bottom. Sean’s a recovering alcoholic whose compulsion has lost him everything, from his girlfriend and living space to his driver’s license and job. He comes upon a stroke of luck when finding a cheap apartment for rent while he attempts to get his life back on track.

The one downside is his new roommate, Matt (Matthew Nichols, also a friend from childhood), who is straight-up crazy. Not only is he socially inappropriate, but as Sean begins to do some digging, he begins to suspect that Matt may have killed his previous roommate. Living with a potential murderer adds to Sean’s surmounting stress of trying to land on his feet, while trying to unveil Matt’s hidden past.

With his first feature film, Stephen knows the boundaries that come with budget restraints, and he works with what he has to pull off something that, I have no doubt, he’s very proud of. As he should be.

It would be impossible for me to slap a letter grade on a film I’m so connected with, so instead, I asked Stephen a few questions about his experience making “Roommate Wanted.”

Q: When you were making “Roommate Wanted,” who were some of the filmmakers and/or writers who you found to be an influence?

A: I specifically wrote the movie as an ode to Roman Polanski, with a little Hitchcock thrown in there as well. Sort of “Rear Window” meets “The Tenant.” Polanski’s early movies are very dark and claustrophobic, and they’re also really grounded in character and tension. “Death and the Maiden” is a good example. That said, his films generally aren’t very funny, and when I first thought of the idea for “Roommate Wanted,” of a guy who thinks his roommate is a murderer, it seemed inherently funny. I mean, how would a normal person react to that revelation? I think if you put normal, everyday people in the situations portrayed in thriller films, you’d end up with some very absurd, funny results. There’s an old anecdote that when Kubrick went to adapt “Red Alert,” it was going to be a thriller, but the more he wrote, the more it naturally veered into comedy, until he eventually decided to just go with it. The result was “Dr. Strangelove.”

Q: When you set out to make this film, what sort of end-goal did you have in mind?

A: At the time, I’d been toiling away, like so many who have graduated with a BA, in customer service jobs and random gigs with very little to show for it. I wanted to make something that would showcase, at the very least, my abilities as a writer. I never expected the movie to be a money-maker, hence it being available for free on YouTube. I just want people to see it and hopefully enjoy it.

Q: What were some of the challenges on working with a shoestring budget? What were some of the advantages?

A: I’ve heard some filmmakers say that a lack of money encourages creativity. I’m not saying it doesn’t, but I don’t think there are any great advantages to working with a shoestring budget. It’s nice that I’m not really beholden to anyone. I don’t owe any loan sharks my firstborn, so I guess that’s an advantage. The challenges are all the ones you’d expect: you can’t afford a crew or equipment or to lock a location or have a proper shooting schedule. Any filmmaker who chooses the 10k budget over the 100k budget has probably suffered a head injury and should be rushed to the ER immediately.

Q: What projects are you working on right now, and do you think you’ll do another crowd-source funded indie film like this again?

A: Crowd-sourcing seems like it’s going through some growing pains at the moment. It’s an amazing innovation and has given a lot of people the opportunity to do projects they otherwise couldn’t have, myself included. That said, I think there’s a big risk of opportunists taking advantage of the platform, and of backer fatigue. I’m not going to rule out another crowd-funded project, but at the moment I don’t have any plans for one. I’m focusing more on writing screenplays and expanding my YouTube channel with more short videos. Obviously it’s hard to resist the allure of making a feature, but in terms of gaining exposure, it’s a lot easier for a 3 minute video to go viral versus a 90 minute feature. I’m actually shooting a short next weekend, so stay tuned for that.

Q: What do you have for advice to other young, independent filmmakers?

A: It’s crazy-cheap to shoot and edit a movie these days, but it’s still not free. If you really want to shoot something, there’s two things you absolutely should pay for: food for your actors and crew, and an on-set sound guy. I didn’t pay for the latter, and I spent 8 months of post-production regretting it. Get. Good. Sound. I found a great guy who helped fix up a lot of the sound issues in post, but it still isn’t as good as it should be, and it’s my own fault. Save yourself a lot of trouble and pay someone, ideally a professional with his own equipment, to record your sound. If you can’t afford a pro, get a Zoom h4n, a decent shotgun mic (they start retailing around $200), build your own boom pole (I used a paint roller extension pole) and a decent pair of headphones, and pay attention to how things sound. Get the mic as close to the actors as possible. Get room tone when you’re done at each location. If the dialogue doesn’t sound clean, re-do it. The time you spend to ensure it sounds right on the day will save you quadruple that time in post production.

Finally: Check your ambition. Ambition is important, just make sure it doesn’t overpower reality. I’ve been involved in a few productions that never saw the light of day because the filmmakers were attempting “The Avengers” on a “Clerks” budget. Work with what you have. I designed “Roommate Wanted” to utilize a few locations, a small cast, and a story that could be told without special effects. If you can afford an epic car chase, great! Totally do it! Car chases are awesome! If you can’t, focus instead on making your characters interesting, your dialogue engaging and your story unique. Get trained actors too. Not just your friends. It makes all the difference.

You can watch or buy “Roommate Wanted” at roommatewantedfilm.com.

I Tweet sometimes. Follow me on Twitter @JoelCrabtree.

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