1. What is your favorite Brian De Palma movie? And have you met him in person?
Well, I’m a big fan of Brian De Palma and he was definitely an influence on The Perfection. My favorite Brian De Palma movie is called Dressed to Kill from 1980. It’s a deeply, stylish, incredibly weird, dark movie. I think it’s his best movie.
2. Have you met him in person?
I haven’t though I’m a big fan. Have you?
Me (Interviewee): No, I haven’t.
Mr. Richard Shepard: What’s your favorite De Palma's movie?
Me: Um… I have to say, probably, Carrie.
Mr. Richard Shepard: Have you seen Dressed to Kill?
Me: I’ve seen it on YouTube, clips of it, but I haven’t seen the whole movie.
Mr. Richard Shepard: You should really watch it. It’s pretty cool. It’s a pretty crazy movie.
Me: Awesome. I’ll definitely check it out.
3. Was The Perfection the original title or were there other titles?
That’s a good question. We didn’t have a title for a while when we were writing it. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with a title, but as we were writing it, we used this piece of dialogue in the film when he was talking about The Perfection and then we were like, that would be a good name for the movie. So, we named it The Perfection and then we worked it in the script even more so that it was all sort of tied together. Titles are strange. You never quite sure about the right title until it happens and then you’re like, oh yeah it could be called nothing else but this.
4. If you had to describe The Perfection using three words, it would be…
Um… totally, crazy, bonkers
5. What drew you to direct The Perfection?
Well, I co-wrote the movie. I’m a director and a writer. For me, as I was writing the film I started falling more and more with the possibilities of what we could do with this film. So, by the time the script was done, I was like, oh I have really, really have to make this film. Of course wanting to make a film and getting the movie made are two separate things, because it’s so hard to get a movie made, but I’m very thankful that we were able to put it all together. So, because I wrote it the whole time, I was expected to direct it.
6. What is your writing schedule in general?
When I write a script on my own I try to write five pages a day. It’s not easy. When you’re writing a script with two other people, like I did on The Perfection, with Eric Charemelo and Nicole Snyder, we spend a lot of time breaking the story and figuring out all the twist and turn of the story. Then we wrote the script very, very quickly. We sort of divided it and wrote it. When I do it on my own, it’s five pages a day because I feel like it’s a doable amount, but yet when you put your head down and view it you can have a first draft in a month. It may not be very good but you, at least, have something to work with.
7. Are you a morning writer or night?
I write anything, anyplace, anywhere. I can write in a crazy, crowded coffee shop or absolutely quiet room. I can write in the morning, I can write in the night. Sometimes I’m inspired late at night, sometime I’m inspired in the morning. When I’m trying to do five pages a day I’m motivated to try and get it done as quickly as possible. So I tend to do it in the morning so that I can have the rest of the day free to go to the movies or whatever. In general, I’m a morning writer.
8. What is your favorite line from The Perfection?
That’s a toughie. As a filmmaker I love every single moment of my movies, so it’s hard to pick one in particular. So, it’s just very hard for me to just pick one line of dialogue. This movie is just so filled with twists and turns. It’s like there’s five movies in one movie in a way so it’s hard for me just to pick just one.
9. What has been the best compliment you heard about The Perfection?
The Perfection has been very polarizing. Some people really loved it and some people really hate it. What I’m most proud about is that there are not many people in the middle. I’m very happy with all the nice reviews the movie has gotten and some of the reviews have not been so nice. In general, people seem to have a strong opinion about this film and I think that movies that cause a strong opinion are the ones that actually are the most interesting so that was what I think is the best compliment I’ve gotten.
10. Could you give an interesting fun fact about working with Allison Williams and Logan Browning?
I asked both of them to learn how to play the cello to do the movie. They both play cellist in the film and I really thought it would be interesting if they play the cello for the movie so that they have a understanding of what it was like to be a professional musician and the amount of work it would take and also they would understand the sort of painful art thing that goes into learning an instrument from your fingers bleeding to your back hurting. So, both actors set out to learn the songs in the movie and they trained several days a week for months until we shot the film. That’s why their scenes where they were playing the cello in the movie were so authentic-looking. We didn’t use hand double or special effect; it’s really the actors playing the instrument.
11. What was your reaction when you first watched the trailer?
Well, I’ve seen the trailer, obviously, because I am the director. Netflix showed me various cuts of the trailers until we found the version that we liked and there was a big question of how many spoilers we would show on the trailer. I have them remove a few shots that I thought would give away too much. We still gave away a little in the trailer, but we have to do that in order to get people interested in the movie. I’ve seen a lot of people on the internet that they don’t watch the trailer and just go in blind. I think you can watch the trailer and still completely enjoy the movie. I’m very proud of it. It’s a very cool trailer for the film.
12. What TV show have you binge-watched lately?
I love Escape at Dannemora which is a ShowTime show that Ben Stiller directed. It’s a true life story about a prison escape that Benicio del Toro was in and Patricia Arquette. I thought it was fantastic.
13. What advice do you wish someone had given you when you were younger about the industry?
This is a tough question. It’s one of those decisions where you really have to be able to endure the ups and downs of it, because you can have real big highs and then real big lows. You have to manage that. You have to understand that there’s going to be times where you may not make any money and work for a period of time and it could get very depressing. Then there are moments when you’re busy all the time and it’s amazing. You have to understand it’s a real marathon and not a sprint. I’ve been basically lucky enough to be working in the business for close to thirty years now. I have my ups and downs without a doubt, but, you know, If I’ve known then that I would’ve survived those down moments it would’ve help get me through them certainly. It’s all about doing the work. I’m a writer as well as a director. And being a writer, I’ve been able to write when no one else would hire me. I could write and that was a big thing that helped me get through the period of time when I wasn’t getting employed. It’s a marathon and you can get through the dark period.
14. If a self-published author is seeking a screenwriter or producer, how would one get you to read his or her story to see if it would make a compelling movie?
It’s very hard to get stuff send to the directors because, in general, we tend to not want to read something that was just send to us in the mail. You never know who might sue you later on. I know that sounds crazy, but if you wrote a book about a kidnapping and then I made a movie ten years from now that has a kidnapping in it. There is a rule where you say, “Yeah, I send you this book and you read it and there are similarity in your movie.” So, in general, it’s very tough to kind of send unsolicited material to directors. Now that said, we are always on the hunt for stuff. So, it’s a double-edged sword in a way. I think it’s always helpful to try and get an agent for your writing so that there’s a buffer between you and the artist you are trying to send it to, because if an agent sends the material to a director then he’s, at least, sort-of protected from a lawsuit. The fact is if a person is a writer and there are writing short stories or books if they keep writing them at a certain point, they would attract attention, because Hollywood is always looking for new stories. It’s sometimes hard to break in, but I always recommend to just keep writing, and at certain point, Hollywood will find you.
15. The movie that you wrote and directed, The Matador, got Mr. Pierce Brosnan nominated for the Golden Globe Award, could you express your experience working with him?
That was amazing experience. He (Pierce Brosnan) had just finished playing James Bond and The Matador was certainly a movie that sort-of rip from the idea of that. He was perfect for him to play that role. It was comedy and it was different from him than stuff he was doing. He was excited to do it. I only had pleasurable memories of doing that film. And, actually, he wrote me after seeing The Perfection to tell me how much he liked it and that was a real thrill. He is still one of my favorite people I’ve worked with.
16. In the memorable scene from The Matador when Pierce Brosnan was walking in his underwear in the hotel, was that in the first draft of your screenplay or after revising it?
There was a version of it, originally, and then I cut it out. Then, when we were at that hotel I said to Pierce, “You remember when we had an idea that he is drunk in the morning. What about the idea that he was walking in the lobby in his underwear?” And he was like, okay I like that idea, but I’ll only give you one take. So, we did it in one shot, and in fact, some of the people in the background were real guests of the hotel. No one knew it was going to happen. He took off all his clothes and just did it in one take. It was really fun to do. It was obviously one of the funniest moments in the movie. You know, that was certainly the situation where—at that point of the process—he trusted me and was willing to do it. It became an iconic shot without a doubt.
17. What was your overall experience directing The Wunderkind episode of The Twilight Zone?
I’m really a fan of The Twilight Zone. It’s one of my favorite TV Shows and I was excited to be able to direct an episode of the new version of it. The finished product is not necessary the episode that I wished it was, but you know, sometimes that happens, because the producers end up re-cutting and turning it into the episode that they want. So, for me, it was not the greatest experience, but I’m still glad that I got to do it.
18. Last question, if you could meet Park Chan-Wook, what would you ask him?
I would be out-of-my-mind excited to be able to meet him, because he is one of my favorite filmmaker of all time. I think I would always be nice to just hear stories as oppose to asking a specific question. So, I would just like to hear him tell me how he came about writing Oldboy and what his experience making that movie was like. Every director goes his or her own challenges making a movie that it’s almost impossible to understand or impossible to ask specific questions. I tend to like to hear directors tell stories about the making of the movie especially something as ambitious as Oldboy. I’m sure he got a lot of interesting stories.
I really like to take this time to thank Mr. Richard Shepard for having the phone interview with me. . I hope everyone is having a fantastic fourth of July and to my international readers I hope you have an amazing day. Thanks for stopping by here and I hope to do so again.