CULT CRITIC : Hello Sir. Welcome to Cult-Critic Magazine. Hope you are doing great. Tell us something about your early life.
MICHAEL: Greetings, CC! Thank you for this interview and your festivals and your commitment to filmmakers across the globe. I feel very fortunate to have some wide-ranging exposure on our latest film, Velvet Crush! I grew up in a very low-income atmosphere with broken marriages. One of seven kids, raised by a single mother who I came to honor as the most important person in my life. I was pretty much a good student and participated in athletics growing up, shifted to theatre and film in my early 20s.
CULT CRITIC : How does the passion for filmmaking grow within yourself?
MICHAEL: Well yes, still growing! I’m so passionate of the whole process on making a film from start to finish and as the days, months and hopefully, years, pass I will continue to grow as a storyteller of unique ideas. I never thought I would dive into the comedy genre but this is my second in a row for that genre but I think I will still always love the simple small real-life stories of people void of high concepts. I just love simplicity of human nature while not taking us for granted and exploring how we will react when faced with challenges.
CULT CRITIC : What is your favorite genre for filmmaking?
MICHAEL: I really love dramas and all it’s sub-genres. Really ready to get back to such.
CULT CRITIC : The story is all about Obsession, Sex(and gorillas, toilets). So, how did this story of “Velvet Crush” come into your mind? And how did you create the characters to be played in your film?
MICHAEL: In simple terms, I was blind-sided by this idea. I had just gained a collection of velvet shirts. I had one original that I had bought from a thrift store so many years ago and had three more made off of this shirt and it’s pattern by a local cleaners that offered alterations in Los Angeles and I realized, hey, I’ll never have the opportunity or time to wear these lovely garments so I wondered if I could base a story – obviously a comedy, haha – around them. And lo and behold, I can almost say the script wrote itself. I got out of my way, if you will, and ironically those lovely shirts were the lone survivors in the story. I’m cracking up because I just realized this. It was fun to get silly about all of this.
CULT CRITIC : Tell us some memorable/funny incident that happened during the shooting of “Velvet Crush”.
MICHAEL: Once we brought on actress Dani Savka to play opposite Mike the Plumber, the game changed for us in a very positive way. One of the first scenes was a sex scene and she was fearless! She played Basil rather nonchalant and took charge. Let’s just say, men would appreciate an experience like that and once the cameras stopped, the crew was laughing hysterically. They knew we had something special with her.
CULT CRITIC : As an independent filmmaker and the director of the film, what message do you want to give to your audience through this film?
MICHAEL: Oh, relax and enjoy this dark comedy for all of it’s quirkiness and subtle moments. We played it straight all the way not for a laugh every 15 seconds. It would not be slapstick comedy or physical comedy by any means as well. I’d say give it a chance.
CULT CRITIC : “Little Boy Blue” in 1997 was your controversial feature film. So, what makes this film a controversial one?
MICHAEL: I’ll always be proud of this, my first totally-completed screenplay. We took chances and shot it how I wrote and envisioned this. I’ve been told that this film was twenty years ahead of it’s time, which I take as a huge compliment. Essentially, we had taboos and audiences had pre-conceived ideas about the relationship of the family members and we didn’t back down from them. Entertainment Weekly gave us a glowing review when it went to DVD because it was just too much for theaters too handle – only lasting two weeks and void of an advertising budget. Now jumping ahead 20 years later, we have a film like Three Billboards outside of Ebbing, Missouri with almost the same storyline but not as bold as us and this film wins the Academy Award. People don’t like it when you put a mirror up to the dark truths of some families.
CULT CRITIC : After Little Boy Blue(1997), your next project was Dress Rehearsal in 2017. So, there was a long time gap between your two projects. Can you tell us the reason of this long time gap?
MICHAEL: I fell in love with alcohol and it became the most important thing in my life. Powerful comforter that will kill you. I’m fortunate to be past this, almost 12 years sober now. I think it took me several years after stopping the abuse to actually write again so now I write with a clear head.
CULT CRITIC : Your film “Velvet Crush” is a dark comedy. Your previous project “Jesus Rides A Harley”(2019) is a romantic comedy. What you are more into comedy genre and not into any other?
MICHAEL: Again, no, I really really enjoy the dramas where the stakes are probably higher and the resolution must be stronger, I feel. But I am a big fan of romantic comedies. I thought Neil Simon was the master of this and The Goodbye Girl is a film I can watch ten times a year!
CULT CRITIC : What do you suggest to the young filmmakers for making good films during this pandemic?
MICHAEL: If this continues on, and I know it’s more devastating in a country like India, I would say simplify your locations, props and focus on the the relationships of a small group. Just because it’s a small setting doesn’t mean it can’t be big on heart and can’t move us.
CULT CRITIC : Last but not the least, please let us know something regarding your upcoming projects.
MICHAEL: We are fast-tracking a short film, based on the first-time book of writer Sara Sepulcri out of Italy. It’s called SKAT and takes place in Queens, New York. We are sharing the writing on this. Very thrilled she trust me. It will be a very emotional ride in a few short minutes and deals with narcissism, suicide and the human soul.