SMC Spotlight Series No.1 | Stephen David Brooks ‘Flytrap’ Director & Writer Exclusive Interview

By Candice Anne Marshall

There’s a new King in town and he is known as Los Angeles-based Writer/Director/Special FX mastermind Stephen David Brooks. I mean this quite literally. After watching the 2-hour sci-for thriller ‘Flytrap‘, a film that was well received on the film festival circuit, I am convinced that Brooks is the next creative film genius of our time. I spoke at length with Brooks a few days ago about some of his upcoming projects, his views on the film industry and his time working with horror book Novelist Stephen King. This is truly one of the most unique individuals I have met thus far, and it is apparent in this most recent film – its script is inventive, dynamic in visuals, and strong in composition. It comes as no surprise to me either that King elected Brooks to be the screenplay writer for his film adaptation of the book ‘The Mangler’. This earned him a place on King’s short list of “King Approved” Screenwriters.

‘Flytrap’ is full of humorous, chilling, and edge-of-your-seat dramatic performances delivered by Jeremy Crutchley, Ina-Alice Kopp, complete with epic creepiness by ‘whistle blowing’ Jonah Blechman. Overall musical score is by Simon Boswell with dance sequence and end titles by The Tearaways which add a unique balance between paranoia (the synopsis) and normalcy. The film is directed by Brooks and produced by Tamara Sayiner (Ellen Degeneres Show) and is a true reflection of this sophisticated and audacious film prodigy. I can not even compare him to any other because there absolutely is no comparison – Brooks walks to the beat of his own unique drum and it is this that will make his films a truly memorable work of art.

You can catch the thriller on most major media platforms since it has already circulated the Film Festival scene throughout 2016 earning Brooks several prestigious awards. Stephens films have screened & won audience & Jury awards at: ECU The European Independent Film Festival, The Chelsea Film Festival, Worldfest Houston, Dances With Films, The Monaco Independent Film Festival, The Idyllwild Festival of Cinema, Ramsgate International Film & Television Festival, Festival du Film de Strasbourg, and The Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.

In speaking about future projects, the idea of SMC being involved in a ‘behind-the-scenes’ editorial came up and Brooks was all for it, ‘Do that for my next film, sounds fantastic!’ We look forward to continuing our journey by documenting his career through our SMC Spotlight series and we begin with our exclusive interview today.

Enjoy this Director’s reel below and ‘Flytrap’ preview, sit back, grab a coffee and enjoy. We guarantee this IS the beginnings of a genius at work!

By Candice Anne Marshall

SMC – Hello Stephen! Welcome to the SMC Spotlight! We were thrilled when our friend Mr. Mike Rogers connected us. This interview has been a long time coming and we are so excited to dig into the questions here. First, can you tell us what your connection is to Mike?

Stephen – Happy to be here. I met Mike through John Ferriter. Mike was playing some Tearaways songs on his Japanese radio show and had questions about film festival strategies and sales for his film Ghost Roads. So, John turned him on to me. 

SMC – Mike also informed me that you are a multi-award winner at some of the most prestigious film festivals! Can you tell us which was most memorable for you and why?

Stephen – I have four festivals that stand out, each with a unique set of wonderful memories. ECU The European Independent Film Festival in Paris, The Chelsea Film Festival in the heart of New York City, the F.A.S.H. festival in Los Angeles, and the charming Ramsgate International Film and Television Festival in Ramsgate UK. ECU screened my first feature HEADS N TAILZ so I have a special place in my heart for festival founder Scott Hillier and everyone there. That’s why I chose ECU to be the site for the World Premiere of my second feature film FLYTRAP. The people running it are top notch film lovers and are very supportive of independent filmmakers. Plus, the festival is in Paris in early April. Nice time to be in Paris!

SMC – Your credentials as a Director/Writer are astounding. I have read that you have also worked with Horror Novelist Stephen King – can you tell us how that came about?

Stephen – That was my first professional writing job. I was hired to adapt Stephen King’s short story THE MANGLER. And Stephen King had script approval. So…no pressure.

I had supervised Visual Effects for director Tobe Hooper. He and I had a great working relationship so when he and his producers obtained the rights to Stephen King’s short story he called me to see if I’d like to pitch him my take on the adaptation. Tobe loved my pitch and called Stephen King. Next morning, I get a call from Tobe informing me Stephen King loved the pitch as well. So, I was hired to write the first draft. Six months and 44 drafts later we were in Johannesburg South Africa shooting. I went along as the Screenwriter/2nd Unit Director/Visual Effects Supervisor.

Brooks (right) on the set of Stephen King’s ‘The Mangler’ with Ted Levine (left, Silence of the Lambs)
Photo Courtesy: Stephen David Brooks

SMC -What was your experience working with King like? Can you tell us of one that is most memorable?

Stephen – It was actually a dream working with him. He understands the psychological aspects of horror better than anyone. We went back and forth on dozens of drafts of the script until he gave it his stamp of approval. He’s a perfectionist but one who knows exactly what he wants. Brilliant mind.

The most memorable moment happened when Stephen King screened the film. The short story is 5 pages long so I had to add a lot of detail that needed to be Stephen Kingesque but wasn’t actually in the original work. As he was watching the film he kept asking “Was that me?” and oftentimes Tobe would say “No man. That was Brooks.” No higher complement than that. Stephen King couldn’t tell what I wrote from what he wrote.

SMC – You then went on to seek your own adventures in Directing and writing – can you tell us what kinds of themes and stories you gravitate toward most?

Stephen – I gravitate towards characters who are out of their depth, in a situation they couldn’t have imagined and when we first meet them, have no idea how to extricate themselves.  Then again, I think that’s the basis of all drama. That sense of being out of our depth and unsure how to proceed to make things right. We’re all imperfect creatures and exploring that imperfection through drama is how we discover who we are as human beings.

SMC – As a writer myself, I know that we writers are a very eclectic group and our imaginations are pretty intense at times – tell me, are you also an insomniac too? Most of us are…. if so, what keeps you up?

Stephen – I have never had insomnia. I can sleep anywhere. On a plane. On a train. In a moving car. And some of my best ideas have come to me in dreams.

SMC – You and I have tried so often to connect by phone to no avail – our schedules are intense! Can you tell us what project you are working on at present?

Stephen – Well I’m quite superstitious about announcing anything too soon. Waiting for all the pieces to be forced into place. Let’s just say one film is intended to be an iconic holiday classic, like LOVE, ACTUALLY and IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. This film has a heart. A big heart. Another film will bring a beloved character back to the big screen. And another is the beginning of a Young Adult mega franchise…When I can say more I’ll let you know.

SMC – Before we get into discussion on your film ‘Flytrap’, can you tell us what it’s really like being among some of the world’s greatest screenwriters in Hollywood? Have you collaborated with any?

Stephen – I know some of those writing greats but have not collaborated with any of them. We screenwriters tend to be solo creatures.

SMC – Your bio on your website says that you have been ‘mentored by Oscar winners John Dykstra & Richard Edlund’ (Star Wars) – can you tell us what that experience was like and what the most important thing you absorbed in your experience being mentored by them?

Stephen – John Dykstra taught me to always have a backup plan for any specific shot or scene. He was so right! Things oftentimes go wrong during the intensity of production and having a ready backup plan has saved the day more than once.

Richard really taught me how to view dailies with a critical eye. That man sees absolutely everything. It’s astounding.

I also had a third mentor in my Visual Effects days…Harrison Ellenshaw. Harrison taught me another valuable lesson…one I have dubbed “The Harrison Ellenshaw Rule.” That is…everything will change. Go with the flow. Filmmaking is as much about reading the tea leaves as it is turning adversity into an advantage.

And in the end. IT. WILL. ALL. CHANGE. Sage advice.

SMC – What, in your opinion, makes a film ‘great’?

Stephen – For me it all comes from the characters. Do they have identifiable problems? Do they deal with those problems in a realistic way? Are the characters driving the story? Are there some larger more universal thematic issues being explored? Is the film well executed? If the answer to all those is “yes” then you probably have a great film. Ultimately, it’s the test of time. If we’re still watching a film 50 years later. It must be great.

Brooks speaking at the European Independent Film Festival
Photo Courtesy: Stephen David Brooks

SMC – I see you have also shot music videos as well. Can you tell us which projects you have worked on past or present that are most memorable and why?

Stephen – Back in my Visual Effects days I worked on an Ozzie Osbourne video. “No More Tears.” That was a blast. Ozzie, what a character.

I directed a couple of videos for The Tearaways: ”Bash” and “Hello Isla Vista.” I loved capturing the exuberance of The Tearaways sound.

I’m now working with Rochelle Vincente Von K on a new video for her song “Deal Me In.” Rochelle is an Austrian Australian recording artist from London now based in LA. Very exciting stuff. We’re exploring an amplified cinematic visual style not usually seen in music videos.

SMC – What do you think makes your art stand out among the rest in your field?

Stephen – I’m just true to my point of view. I trust my gut. I have a very specific idea how the universe works and I use that as my guiding light when creating.

I don’t over think what I’m doing. Rather I feel my way through it. When I’m writing I can feel when a situation, or line of dialog is right. When directing Actors, I can feel when a moment is right. All I can say is…Everything I do is very “me” as those who know me well can attest. My sensibility. My sense of humor. My sense of irony.

SMC – Let’s get into your film ‘Flytrap’ – I watched the trailer on your website – wow! It’s intense! Can you tell us where you conceived the storyline for this film?

Stephen – FLYTRAP came to me like all my ideas…BOOM. There it is. A complete concept just pops into my brain. There’s no method to it. The initial idea is pure inspiration. Then I have to craft the idea into a story and a script. That’s where the hard work comes in.

SMC – As for the Actors in your film, can you tell us whose performance most blew you away in terms of final result?

Stephen – I had worked with Jeremy Crutchley before. He was in THE MANGLER. So, I knew he’d be great. Although Ina-Alice Kopp and I knew each other we hadn’t worked together. But having discussed another project at some length I had a good idea what she could do. And she did not disappoint!

Billy ‘Sly’ Williams and I have worked together on three films. He is my Robert DeNiro. So, I knew he’d knock it out of the park.

The big surprise was Jonah Blechman’s portrayal of Gilligan. I had met him once. I thought he seemed perfect for the role but I didn’t really see his genius until the first day of shooting. His look. The creepy whistle thing he did. He absolutely blew me away.

Brooks (left) with Ina Alice Kopp (right) at the ‘Flytrap’ World Premiere
Photo Courtesy: Stephen David Brooks

SMC – Can you tell us where the public can see this film in the film festival circuit?

Stephen – We’re finished playing festivals. FLYTRAP is in wide distribution and can be seen on Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon Japan, Google Play, iTunes, and Fandango Now. And we recently sold the film to China so it will be available on various platforms there in the very near future.

SMC – Your bio states:

‘Stephen’s films have screened & won audience & Jury awards at: ECU The European Independent Film Festival, The Chelsea Film Festival, Worldfest Houston, Dances With Films, The Monaco Independent Film Festival, The Idyllwild Festival of Cinema, Ramsgate International Film & Television Festival, Festival du Film de Strasbourg, and The Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.’

Can you tell us which award ceremony/win stands out to you the most and which film it was for?

Stephen – I hate to pick and choose. Every festival award is a gift and a special moment. But the win at The Chelsea Film Festival was quite memorable. It was the end of the ceremony and they had given out all the awards. FLYTRAP was nominated but didn’t win. Fine you can’t win them all. And as everybody got up to leave the theater the lovely Ingrid Jean-Baptiste, founder of the festival, steps up to the podium and announces there is one more award. And the Special Jury Prize goes to FLYTRAP. I was floored. What a great moment!

SMC – I also noted that there’s some ‘Tearaways’ music included in this film. As you are aware, we recently interviewed John Ferriter for our SMC Spotlight. Can you tell us of your connection to John and what projects you have worked on together?

Stephen – Well that’s no coincidence! I went to high school with Greg Brallier of The Tearaways. So, I see most of their Southern California gigs. I had also seen John Ferriter’s band The Stingrays back in the day. So when John re-joined The Tearaways John and I re-connected.

I needed 3 songs for the dance sequence in FLYTRAP. John said he’d send me the new Tearaways CD’s The Earle Mankey Sessions Volume IV and VII. I got the CD’s at 8 am the next morning. Played them and found two absolutely perfect songs on Volume VII: “Keep Your Knickers On,” “I Love The Blues,” and then on Volume IV I found “The Last Goodbye.” I mean it is as if they were written for the film. They were thematically and rhythmically perfect.

Then I discovered the song “I Love My Life” on the Volume IV CD and realized it is the perfect end titles music. Sometimes when it’s meant to be it just works out. And this was the perfect marriage of film and music.

SMC – What do you feel is the most important thing to be ‘equipped with’ in terms of pitching an idea/concept to potential investors for your art?

Stephen – Passion. Period. Yes, you have to know the structure of a pitch and you have to have a compelling story. But if you don’t go into the pitch absolutely convinced it will be the best film/tv show ever then you’ll get nowhere. And you have at most 30 seconds to make an impression. If you fail in the first thirty you won’t last the next couple of minutes.

SMC – I saw that you shot this film in California in a matter of only 12 days! In my personal opinion, some of the greatest films or projects that I have seen have been produced in a very short time-frame. What are your thoughts on this?

Stephen – There is something to be said for working fast. I think the energy level you create on set having to shoot 10-12 pages a day shows up on the screen. There’s an intensity there that translates.

SMC – Can you tell me who your ‘dream team’ is or who you would like them to be?

Stephen – John Ferriter, Jamie Angelise and Rana Joy Glickman…I’m already working with them!

SMC – What do you want to aspire to?

Stephen – I’d love to make a cinema classic. A CASABLANCA. Or LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. A timeless story set against an epic struggle. Intimate and sweeping at the same time. I’ve got a few ideas…

SMC – Which of your other projects are you particularly fond of and why?

Stephen – My first feature HEADS N TAILZ stands out. I mean it was my first! And making a feature is infinitely more complicated than making a short. I’m very proud of that film. It did play festivals and win some awards. And there seems to be renewed interest in it…

I’m also proud of my short BINKY which I shot before FLYTRAP. It stars two of my actors from HEADS N TAILZ: Billy ‘Sly’ Williams and Lucy Jenner (Lucia Ballard). That film also won some awards including a Best Actress accolade for Lucia. BINKY is being distributed by Shorts.TV and can be seen online, via Amazon and iTunes as well as on select cable and satellite channels.

Last year I directed a short called IRIS. I didn’t write or cast the project which is a first for me. But it turned out really nicely. And has already won a Remi at Worldfest Houston. Other film festival screenings are in the future but we can’t announce anything specific just yet.

I recently directed a short called BURN BABY, BURN with the Irish sensation Emma Pyne. The film was an experiment in minimalism. Emma wrote it, produced it, and stars in it. I directed and shot it. No crew. We’ll be screening at a festival in LA this November…stay tuned.

Genius at work – Brooks on the set of his film ‘Headz n Tailz’
Photo Courtesy: Stephen David Brooks

SMC – If you had a chance to do anything in your career over again, what would that be and why?

Stephen – I don’t dwell on the past. I learn from it. Learn from my mistakes then move on. I’m always moving forward. Never looking backward.

SMC – What do you measure success in the film industry by?

Stephen – There are two parts to my answer. First, how your work effects the audience. You can make them feel bad or make them feel good. Make them feel afraid or make them feel loved. I’d rather go for the positive emotional response. Have them walk out of the theater feeling better about themselves and their fellow human beings. That’s success to me on a creative level.

On a professional level, success it’s all about box-office. If you make the industry a lot of money then you will earn the clout to get more projects off the ground. That’s a win/win for me.

And I don’t think the professional and creative definitions of success are mutually exclusive. You can have both.

SMC – What is the greatest compliment you have received to date from an industry peer?

Stephen – “I want to work with people who know what they’re doing. Like you.” Producer Rana Joy Glickman September 17th, 2015

SMC –  Let’s go way back: what was the pivotal point in your youth which lead to or was a result of where you are today in the film industry?

Stephen – When I was very young my parents took me to a re-release of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I had seen films and TV shows before, of course, but that film made me keenly aware that there is a vision behind what is on screen. I started to make movies, read about movies, and think about movies. It became my obsession.

SMC – Where do you think there are difference between the music and film industries? What do you think there are similarities?

Stephen – Both are tough but I think the music business is much harder. Touring is brutal. Much more exhausting than being on location shooting a movie.

Artists in both industries are judged by the amount of money they make for the business interests. In that sense, both are quite similar.

SMC – What is a ‘deal breaker’ for you?

Stephen – That’s an interesting question. Showbiz is a full contact sport. Everyone gets knocked around and kicked to the carpet from time to time. That’s business as usual. For me I’d have to say a personal attack on my team or an attempt to subvert the team would be a possible deal breaker. I’ve been personally attacked but have a heavy-duty Teflon skin. So it doesn’t bother me. But to try to attack or attempt to influence me by attacking a member of my team? That’s way over the line.

We live and die by our working and personal relationships. It’s all about teams and allies. You have to defend them to the bitter end even if it means walking away from a project. There will always be another opportunity. But there will never be another core team. A truly broken relationship can never be repaired.

SMC – What five things impress you (this can be in relation to anything and includes the film industry)?

Stephen- Loyalty. When a person chooses an individual relationship over personal or professional gain…to me that’s golden. And in my experience very, very rare. Relationships are permanent. Or at least they should be. Professional gain is temporary and fleeting. The personal capital of a relationship is worth more than all the gold in the world.

Unfettered intelligence. By that I mean someone who can always view a situation with an open and analytical mind. Think outside the box and find a unique understanding of a problem. Every day something (or many things) will go wrong and it takes an unusually agile mind to keep everything on track.

The ability to say: “I was wrong.” You’d be amazed how many people there are inside and outside of the industry who simply will never admit a mistake. They’ll deflect. Blame others or simply double down on the error. I do say to people when I first start working with them “I don’t care if you make a mistake. We all make mistakes. Just let me know when and what happened and let’s find a solution.” For me the cover up is always worse than the crime.

I am impressed with anyone who can take criticism at face value and not take it personally. There is nothing absolute in the creative world. There are an infinite number of ways to tell a story or define a moment. And all of us, writers, directors, producers, actors, and musicians need to be able to accept a note or a comment and not become defensive about it.

I’m impressed by superstars who stay grounded. Very easy to be a movie star or rock & roll icon and lose yourself and your sense of humanity. Easy to lose themselves in their public persona. I’ve met both those who can and cannot handle stardom. The ones who can are rare gems.

SMC – What is the most positive experience you have had in your career where you felt like it was an ‘Ah Ha’ moment?

Stephen – My first 2nd Unit Directing job on SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION. Usually 2nd Unit is just establishing shots of buildings, car drive-bys, shots that do not involve the principal actors. In the low budget world 2nd Unit also involves finishing scenes when the director has to move on to another location. Or shooting entire scenes when the schedule requires it.

This was my first opportunity to direct professional actors. And my first two actors where Academy Award Nominees…So, again, no pressure! I had to direct Melinda Dillon who was nominated for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and Brad Dourif who was nominated for ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST.

First up was Melinda. She played a ghost-like character who came back from the dead. So, there was a supernatural element to the scene. I setup the shot. And we did Take 1. It didn’t work. So, I walk over to Melinda and made a suggestion. I don’t’ remember what I said. I walked back behind camera and did Take 2. It didn’t work either.

I remember the next moments very clearly. As I walked away from camera towards Melinda the world slowed down and I was hit with a horrible realization: This is my moment. I want to be a director and I can’t get a performance out of an Academy Award Nominated actress? What the hell am I going to do…?

Then just as I reached Melinda it hit me like a bolt of the blue. I said, “You’re the wicked witch of the West.” Her eyes lit up. I knew she got it. I hurried back to camera and called action. Take 3 was perfect. “Ah ha” I thought. I can do this…

SMC – We would definitely like to begin a well-documented and chronicled SMC Spotlight Numbered Series on your career journey – what are your thoughts on this?

Stephen – Let’s do it!

SMC – Okay, final question:

Can you tell us what the next 6-12 months look like for you in terms of wrapping up current projects and new ones?

Stephen – FLYTRAP is in the rear-view mirror so all my energy will be projected forward. I’ll be moving one of my film projects from the development to the production stage. I just don’t know which one yet…Such is showbiz…

SMC – Thank you Stephen!

Stephen – Thank you!

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‘THE MEANEST MAN IN TEXAS’ FILM BEHIND-THE-SCENES GALLERY | MAY 11, 2017

SMC SPOTLIGHT Interview | Actor: Mateus Ward is ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’

By Candice Anne Marshall

How do you begin a review of an Actor who, at the age of only 18 has surpassed any milestone that the average young adult has? I mean, we’re not talking about the first car, first girlfriend, first job, and graduation kind of milestones here either…this is something on a much grander scale…..

I am referring to the kind of milestones that only Los Angeles, California-based Actor Mateus Ward has come to achieve in his short, but very accomplished acting career thus far. In fact, his very persona reminds me of a middle-aged Johnny Cash: cool, confident, and bonafide talented without ever giving an air of pretension. I have observed him in interviews since the launch of the film ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ in the Film Festival circuit, (where he plays lead Actor) and without fail, he exudes these aforementioned traits. I have also read interviews where he has been referred to as ‘an old soul’ and his responses are concise, sometimes cheeky, and brimming with mature sophistication. Ward has also mentioned his early talent for Elvis impersonations (he loves Elvis) at a musical theater debut which later earned him scores of wicked television roles (see film and television credits below his social media links) and an impressive roster of film credits under his belt as well. He has often played dark characters and delivers them with the kind of graceful, undaunted candor that, in relation to the acting realm, I can only compare to a young Marlon Brando. In fact, looking further into Wards’ background, I would never have guessed that his portrayal of Clyde Thompson in ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ was that of a man half that age. (see my interview with his Father, Director of the film, Justin Ward here)

In this true-story film of convicted murderer Clyde Thompson, Ward manages to take this role from an innocent boy, to an aggressive and hostile young man, to a redeemed middle-aged man of faith seamlessly all in a matter of an intense 105-minute thrill-ride. The accuracy to which he portrays Thompsons’ character in this film is genuine in delivery and fiery in emotional display. Because his performance was so historically accurate to the original Clyde Thompson, Ward (recently) earned himself the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the IndieFEST Film awards in Florida. This doesn’t surprise me, in fact, I predict this to be the start of a successful string of awards to come. It does take a lot for young Hollywood to impress me since the days of Molly Ringwald and the ‘Brat Pack’(and even the original ‘rat pack’ for that matter), but Ward has earned the utmost respect from me for his ability to take this role at such a young age and make it undeniably twenty-four carat authentic. If you have any opportunity to attend a Film Festival where ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ is showing, make sure you are there!

So, here’s my summation of Mateus Ward: undeniably, for me, he has earned the right to be compared to the reputable likes of Johnny Cash (even arriving to premieres all in black) and Marlon Brando (that confidence!). Yet, even with all comparisons to music and Hollywood royalty aside, there really is only one Mateus Ward, and he really is that predominantly paramount, remarkably distinguished, and naturally skilled. AND – he will always dance to the beat of his own drum.  Period.

I connected recently with Ward for an exclusive interview for our SMC SPOTLIGHT. Here is what he had to say:

 

(l-r) ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ lead Actors Mateus Ward and Alexandra Bard Photo credit and courtesy of: Joshua Shultz | Bellus Magazine

SMC SPOTLIGHT Interview | Actor: Mateus Ward ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’

May 9th, 2017

SMC – Hello Mateus! Welcome to the SMC SPOTLIGHT! We have been profiling some of the industry’s top Actors, Musicians, and Fashion celebrity profiles for a couple years now and are happy to add you to this roster. Let’s begin with an introduction: we discovered you via our friend and peer Joshua Shultz (Bellus Magazine) who also Directed the short film ‘STROBE’ which you have a starring role in. What are your thoughts on how the film will have in terms of an impact on society?

Mateus – I believe that STROBE will shock people into realizing the collateral danger of hard drugs.

SMC – Do you think that this film could be an educational tool on the effects of drugs and how they impact people’s lives?

Mateus – Absolutely! I really think it will wake people up!

SMC – What was it like working with Joshua Shultz (Director | STROBE)?

Mateus – Josh is a great friend of mine! He’s a true artist in every sense of the word. Working with him was a true pleasure and such a blast.

SMC – Okay, so let’s get into your film credentials – your film reel roster is impressive! Which films/TV shows are/were your favorite to be a part of and why?

Mateus – I have so many amazing memories from all of these sets, I’ve created amazing friendships with people. Tyrel Jackson Williams (Lab Rats, Brockmire) and I still hang out, and I’m always in touch with my onscreen sister Quinn Shephard (Hostages, Blame) I’ve kept in touch with most of the people I have worked with, but if I had to chose, the two best work environments had to be “Murder in the First” and “The Meanest Man in Texas.” The cast and crew on each of them were like a family!

SMC – What is it like for you to prepare for a role? You go from being a meth addict in ‘STROBE’ to being a hardcore criminal in ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ to a Disney XD role on Lab Rats…. this has to involve some devoted time to studying for these kinds of roles and becoming the characters you are portraying. Tell us what your process is like when preparing for a role.

Mateus – I think each actor has their own process.  I like to start with research of the world or time period, then answer all the motivation and intention questions of the character and get to know them, then find their physicality.

SMC – Let’s get into your role as Clyde Thompson in The Meanest Man in Texas – can you tell us how you landed this?

Mateus – Pure nepotism! Just kidding, my father was offered to direct the film and I set out to prove to him and the producers I could play this part.  I read the book, studied the history, learned the accent, and eventually won the part.

**Spoiler Alert**

SMC – There are some pretty intense scenes in this film that I have to give you a ‘hat’s off’ nod to. For instance, the scene where you took a ‘whupping’ from ‘Captain Colt’ (played by Actor Jamie McShane) – wow! These are things that not very many youth today know anything about. How did you prepare mentally for that kind of a situation?

Mateus – I focus on the situation, and play it as real as I can.  For that scene, I honestly don’t remember much. I was just going through it.

SMC – In terms of the emotion portrayed in your character…. scenes like when Clyde is told his father has passed away, how do you prepare yourself for that kind of emotional expression? What frame of mind do you have to be in to get the emotions right?

Mateus – For me, as an actor, it always comes down to being in the moment. I tend to stay away from “tricks” or “substitutions.” That is not to say that I don’t use them. I think an actor needs to utilize whatever is necessary to convey a moment. I have always had an intense imagination, so putting myself in someone else’s shoes was always easy for me, once I’ve put in the work to know everything I can about a character.

SMC – Some of the scenes were played so well, I had actual tears! What are your thoughts on the story line and events that happened in the life of the real Clyde Thompson?

Mateus – It’s hard to believe all of these things actually happened to him.  His story is unreal in so many ways, I felt an obligation to play it all as real as I could.

SMC – The scene where your father (played by Ben Reed) comes to you and encourages you to have faith in God…your reaction to him was pretty intense! (‘There ain’t no God! There ain’t no word!’) Can you tell us what filming scenes like that were for you? Religion is such a controversy these days….

Mateus – When playing any character, no matter who they are, you have to throw out all of your pre-conceived notions and beliefs. I believe I really learned this while playing a school shooter on “Murder in the First.” There is a certain level of separation that has to be done before you can play a character truthfully. I personally am not religious, but Clyde was. This story is about Clyde’s redemption he so happened to find through faith. Therefore, it is my job as an actor to put all my personal opinions to rest, so Clyde’s could come out to play. I always find that once I do that, I fall in love with every character I play. In that particular scene, it’s all about where Clyde is, mentally, at that point. So, I guess, in short form, I just played what Clyde was going through.

(l-r) Justin Ward, MateusWard, JamieMcShane
Photo by: Ryan Gunnerson

SMC – I love the ‘Got a Light?’ smart-alec comebacks woven in throughout…. you have one of those faces that can portray an angelic innocent young man and then a devilish hell-child (laughs)…. which of the two personalities can you relate to more?

Mateus – Depends on the day…

SMC- (laughs) Fair comment! Your on-screen chemistry with ‘Julia’ (played by Alexandra Bard) was also intense. Can you tell us a few words about your thoughts on her performance in this film?

Mateus – She made it easy to have that chemistry.  She is an amazing actress and we had a blast on set.

SMC – I am going to ask the inevitable: what was it like working with your father on this project? (Justin Ward: Director of The Meanest Man in Texas)

Mateus – It was incredible! We read each other’s mind the whole time! He would go “Hey MC, how about—” and I’d reply, “I was just thinking that!”

SMC – On May 6th, you earned the award for ‘Best Actor’ at the ICFF (International Christian Film Festival) – That’s impressive! What are your thoughts on that?

Mateus – It is such an honor to be recognized for my work.

SMC – Can you tell us which other accomplishments in your career you are particularly proud of and why?

Mateus – Getting a chance to do what I love is the best accomplishment.

SMC – Can you tell us the most memorable fan moment you have had in your career?

Mateus – I was in New York on Jerry Bruckheimer’s “Hostages” and we took a family trip out to Mantauk.  I tweeted I was there, and on our way back that night, my sister saw a tweet from a fan, so she got her address and we paid a surprise visit.  Our families met and it was really cool.  Another great moment, was meeting young women with scoliosis in Nashville during the film festival.  These girls are so courageous and it was great to meet them and their mothers and hear their stories.

SMC – What are five unique things about you that no one else knows about? (our readers love this one)

Mateus – I am obsessed with Elvis.  I love to draw and paint.  I play piano.  I have a 1953 Chevy truck.  I am unhealthily addicted to superheroes and comic books.

SMC – I read that you have lived in Hawaii for a few years before pursuing a career in acting. Can you tell us what lead to your family’s move to LA?

Mateus – I like to believe it’s because I wanted to pursue acting, but I think it was during the recession, it was a tough time and we moved back where there was more work.

SMC – What inspired you to pursue a career in acting?

Mateus – I have always been a performer.  I was super shy, and it was a way to hide behind characters.  I didn’t even need an audience.  I just liked pretending and using my imagination.  I was a little Elvis impersonator at like 5, and I think that sparked the acting thing.

SMC – Which of your peers in the film have you created a bond with as a result of your character in the film?

Mateus – Alex and I have become close because of filming and on the festival circuit.  But the most entertaining friendship is the bizarre “Tron” inside joke between Anthony Guerino and I, who plays Barney in the film.  On set he suddenly approached me and asked, “Did someone say Tron?” It became a running joke.  Now we text each other with Tron mimes, gifs and jokes all the time.  He’s so funny!

SMC – Your whole family has such amazing talent! I did read about your sister as well – has she been involved in any of the projects you have worked on?

Mateus – It was a family production.  Our company is Ohana Films, Inc. Ohana means family in Hawaiian.

SMC – That’s lovely! What has the family support been like for your career?

Mateus – I honestly couldn’t have done what I have done without my family and their support.  My mother is the best.  She used to own a salon and stopped working to make sure I could follow my dream.

SMC – Can you tell us your thoughts on your father’s work on this film?

Mateus – He did alright… I mean for his first film.  Just kidding!  Who gets to act in a film their father directs?  It was incredible.  He was so prepared, had such a clear vision, and yet, since we didn’t have much time, he was able to improvise and shoot on the fly in order to make the days.  All the actors and crew respected him, and went the extra mile for him.  It was an amazing experience.

(l-r) Justin Ward, MateusWard
Photo Property of ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’
Provided by: Justin Ward

SMC – For an Actor so young, did you feel intimidated by this role at all? You did so well!

Mateus – Thank you! It was one of those things that I was always worried about. I wasn’t necessarily worried about doing it. I knew that once I put in the work, I could get there. I was mostly worried about how people would receive it. The title of the movie has the word “Man” in it! I knew it would cause shock and a lot of doubt from the audience before hand, but the way the movie is formatted I think it works very well. I have always been told I have an old soul, and to be honest, it was more challenging to play the young version of Clyde.

SMC – Have you had any personal experiences that have shaped you personally and prepared you for the kinds of roles you have been playing as of late?

Mateus – Let’s see an evil robot who shoots lazers and is telekinetic, a smart-ass son of a drug dealer, an actual drug dealer, a school shooter and a 40-year-old man convicted of three murders?  Hmmm… can’t really say I’ve had any of those personal experiences…

SMC -Ha ha ha – fair enough…. Where can the general public see The Meanest Man in Texas?

Mateus – We are still on the festival circuit.  But check out our social media, all #TheMeanestManInTexas for updates.

SMC – Have you been approached for other roles as a result of this film?

Mateus – Not that I can discuss…

SMC – What advice can you give to new Actors pursuing a career in Hollywood?

Mateus – Work, work, work! Study film, watch as many old and new programs as you can. Challenge yourself! Make sure it is truly what you love, because it’s not easy.

SMC – Since we are also a Music website – can you tell us who the top five Artists are in your favorites playlist?

Mateus – Jason Mraz, Chance the Rapper, Elvis Presley, Childish Gambino, and Panic! at the Disco

SMC – We would like to continue profiling you via our SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series. This is a documented chronological journey of our most celebrated Artists throughout their career. Is this something that would appeal to you?

Mateus – Sounds great!

SMC – Alright, final question…finish this sentence: If I didn’t pursue a career in Acting, I would be………

Mateus – I don’t know what I’d be if I weren’t an actor… I’ve never had a back up plan!

SMC – Thank you Mateus!

____________________

Actor Mateus Ward is ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ Photo by: Deborah Kolb

Mateus Wards’ Social Media links (click to view)

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Actor Mateus Ward at the Red Carpet Premiere in Los Angeles May 5th, 2017
Photo property of ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’
Provided by: Justin Ward

Film and Television: Wards television credits include: Murder in the First, Hostages, NCIS, Disney XD’s Lab Rats, Weeds, Parenthood, Norn MacDonald Show, Outnumbered (Pilot), Criminal Minds, Pit Boss, and The Incredible Bean (Pilot). Film credits include: Lonely Boy, House Painting, The Afterlife, The Hall Monitor, Devil’s Eyes, Love in the Time of Flannel, STROBE, and now, The Meanest Man In Texas.

DIRECTOR: JUSTIN WARD ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ | Exclusive SMC SPOTLIGHT Interview

By Candice Anne Marshall

Recently, we posted a SPOTLIGHT on Director Joshua Shultz for his short film ‘STROBE’ complete with an in-depth interview with he and his leading lady for the film, Chelsea Debo. In researching the background on other Actors in the film a little further, I discovered Los Angeles, California-based Actor Mateus Ward (see Mateus Wards’ in-depth SMC SPOTLIGHT interview/review here). His role as a meth addict in this film was so convincing, I decided I needed to know more about him. That’s when I stumbled across his Facebook Fan page and discovered he was cast as lead Actor in the upcoming film, ‘The Meanest Man in Texas‘(just hitting the Film Festival circuit now). This lead me down the rabbit hole and what I discovered was a kaleidoscope of magnificent talent and that talent has a name: Justin Ward.

Ward is the Director and genius behind this compelling film and it is evident in every detail that was portrayed historically and thematically. ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ is a true story account (set in the late 1920’s and onward) following the life of Clyde Thompson, who, at the age of 17 was convicted of murder (self-defense) and sentenced to death in the electric chair. Within hours of his inevitable fate, Texas Governor Ross Sterling reduced his sentence to life in prison. This began the true account story (title of the same name) written in the early 1980’s by Author Don Umphrey who compiled a detailed and documented account of what turned this young man into what the media would later label ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’.

Photo still of Actor Captain Colt played by Jamie McShane at the Prison Farm where Clyde Thompson was placed.
Photo by: Ryan Gunnerson

Aesthetically, this film scores high in my list of epic true-story cinematography: I have always been a fan of vintage films and the imagery, costumes, sets and final produced result of this film is exquisite. Lead Actors Mateus Ward (yes, he is Justin’s son, also, plays Clyde Thompson), and Alexandra Bard (Julia, Thompson’s love interest and savior) bring depth and emotion with conviction. I admit, I was a blubbering mess each time their on-screen relationship was tested with inevitable challenges and hurdles.

Actor Jamie McShane lends combustible energy to his role as Captain Colt. Now, I don’t want to give too many of the details away (you’ll just have to attend the Film Festival circuit to see what I mean!), but let’s just say that the friction between Wards’ and McShanes’ characters was on-the-seat-of-your-chair gripping, explosive, sometimes humorous, and compassionate. Characters throughout the film such as Ben Reed (Thompson’s grief-stricken Father), and Casey Bond (Preacher) lend depth to this already intense story. My hats’ off to Casting Director Laura Ward who, clearly, has a true penchant for recognizing strengths and weaknesses in each Actor and has suitably matched them for every role in this film – brilliant! A full list of the cast and crew for this film can be found (here).

There aren’t a lot of films anymore that motivate me to head to the theater and feel inspired by their stories and I am also not the kind of individual to watch even much television these days. For me to sit more than 10 minutes during any film, whether it be in the theater or in the comfort of my office or home, it must be compelling in its content, visuals, and supported by stellar performances. ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ is this complete package delivered by a ‘Rolls Royce’ caliber cast and crew. Having a Journalist background, I am drawn to factual-based films where accuracy portrayed in the overall details, visual, and acting is congruent to the time/era it takes place in. In my opinion, Justin Ward along with Producers Casey Bond and Brad Wilson (Higher Purpose Entertainment, in association with OHAHA FILMS, Inc.) have brought truth, humor, emotion, and enlightenment to this otherwise dark story that I am certain will inspire viewers to look beyond misfortune to know that there is always hope and the ability to achieve a positive outcome.

If you haven’t heard about this film yet or the cast and crew mentioned, I encourage you to check out the social media links after this interview and stay tapped in to find out when it will be available for public viewing and where. In the meantime, spend two minutes of your day and check out the trailer to this incredible film below.

And did I mention the films ‘Rolls Royce’ caliber?

You’re welcome.

Director Justin Ward Photo by: Joshua Shultz Provided by: Justin Ward

SMC SPOTLIGHT Exclusive Interview | DIRECTOR: JUSTIN WARD ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’

May 9th, 2017

SMC – Hello Justin! Welcome to the SMC SPOTLIGHT! We have begun expanding SMC into other areas of the arts such as the Film Industry. We are thrilled to be talking to you today about your new film ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’. Let’s begin first with some background questions…. can you tell us about your role in the making of this film?

JUSTIN: Thank you.  I am the director and co-writer of the film. 

SMC – Can you share your career background with us?

JUSTIN: I began my career working for Mick Jagger at Jagged Films, his film production company.  I went on to work as an assistant to the producers on several studio feature films, and was fortunate enough to work with and observe such producers and directors as Robert Redford, Norman Jewison, James L. Brooks, Richard Donner, Ron Shelton, Arnon Milchan, Joel Silver, and Grant Hill.  I developed a documentary sports series for extreme sports for ESPN, and produced and directed over 300 hours of programming from 1999-2005 on that network.  In 2006, I was the Showrunner on a magazine TV series called “Inside the UFC” for Spike TV. I also created and was the Showrunner of “The BJ Penn Show,” and in 2011, I created, directed and Executive Produced the documentary film series “Rock Stars” on National Geographic.  In 2015, I directed the award-winning syndicated farm-to-table series “Localicious.” I have also produced, directed and edited for The UFC, The USSA, The ParaOlympics, Nascar, Warner Bros. Marketing, CBS, NBC, FOX, The Travel Channel and the NFL.  This is my feature film directorial debut.

SMC – What lead you to this story about the life of Clyde Thompson aka: ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’?

JUSTIN: Mateus Ward and I wrote an anti-bully film called REBEL in 2014, and I shot a teaser to help raise financing.  Brad Wilson, one of the producers of “The Meanest Man In Texas” read the script and saw my teaser.  He and his partner Casey Bond brought the project to me and asked me to direct it.  I worked with writer Don Umphrey on the script for a few months, then we jumped right into production.  It all happened very quickly.

SMC – Let’s get into the details of the film itself: how much of Clyde’s life story was accurate in this film? Sometimes in films, there is a true account of the biographical story and in others, it’s a ‘based on’ account….

JUSTIN: When I read the book, it was hard to believe any of this could have happened to one man!  I was blown away by this unbelievable story.  So, it wasn’t hard to stick to the truth—it was more dramatic and exciting than any fiction.  Don Umphrey had spent years talking to Clyde Thompson and others to get all the facts, and we felt it was important to stay as close as we could to his true story.  All the situations actually happened, and are true.  However, we flushed out a few characters that Clyde knew or mentioned, but didn’t give much detail about.  When I started on the script, I wanted to really explore more deeply Clyde and Julia and Clyde and Capt. Colt’s relationships. 

SMC – Can you tell us what the importance of telling this story though film was to you? How did it resonate with you personally?

JUSTIN: I was so moved by this story, I had to tell it.  There were so many themes that resonated with me in the story.  First, I think it is a powerful story about redemption.  That no matter how dark things get, there is always hope.  The other theme I wanted to explore is the idea of how a corrupt justice and penal system can change you.  Clyde went into prison a typical teenager, quite innocent in many ways, and soon gained the moniker “the Meanest Man In Texas.”  I wanted to make a film that asks the fundamental question: do circumstances define who we are, or can we become the person we want to be in life, no matter our circumstances?  Once I started re-writing the script, what really resonated with me in the true story was the unconditional love between Clyde and Julia, so I wanted to make sure we flush that element out more.  Society wants to put us in boxes, they try and label us, for example he’s “a killer” and she’s a “hunchback,” but this is a story about two people who didn’t accept those labels—in fact, they defied them—and loved each other unconditionally regardless of how society saw them.   So, for me, it became a powerful story about redemption, forgiveness and acceptance, and that was the film I wanted to make. 

(l-r) Justin Ward, Mateus Ward, Jamie McShane
Photo by: Ryan Gunnerson

SMC – I also see that Don Umphrey, the author who wrote ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ was involved in this project as well. Can you tell us how much of a benefit he was to have included in the making of this film?

JUSTIN: Don was a wealth of information. Having met and spoken with Clyde himself was a huge resource.  It took Don 39 years to get this story to the big screen.  I was very respectful when changing the script and ran everything by him, just to make sure it was historically correct.

SMC – Your Casting Director Laura Ward did an excellent job at assembling the Actor profiles for this film! Can you tell us a little bit about her background and what vision she had for the film also? (this could even be a question you could let her answer)

JUSTIN: Laura was amazing. Laura has a phenomenal eye and worked around the clock to find the best actors for every single role.  Every actor we cast was incredibly talented!  It was such a joy collaborating on this with my wife.  I knew we had little time for rehearsal with the actors, and most likely we would get no more than a couple of takes, so we were really looking at auditions and audition tapes where the actors were “performance ready,” with maybe a few adjustments.  

LAURA WARD:  It was really important for us to find actors that looked vintage, as if they were from that era.  We saw a lot of actors from popular shows, but it was important to find classic faces and great acting.  During the process, it was great to see how many actors came really prepared and embodied the character they were portraying.  I come from an acting background and have studied with some great teachers.  Being the mother of a young actor, and watching roles being put out on breakdown, cast and then filmed, I was able to use that experience in searching for our cast.  I was seeking actors who brought something special to each character.  I am so very proud of this cast!

SMC – In conversation with you, this past weekend you earned ‘Best Picture’ at the ICFF (International Christian Film Festival) Film Festival in Florida! What an accomplishment! What are your thoughts on this?

JUSTIN: It is such an honor to win a Best Picture award. The festival also gave Mateus Ward a Best Actor in a Feature Film award.  Brad Wilson, our producer, was in Orlando for ICFF, and said it was an extremely successful screening and festival. 

SMC – Tell us about your LA premiere? Can you tell us what some of the reactions to the film were?

JUSTIN: I was thrilled we were accepted to the Independent Filmmakers Showcase Film Festival in Beverly Hills.  It was great to show the film to our friends, family and industry peers.  The reaction was amazing, and many people stayed after the Q&A to continue to discuss the film, which was incredible.

SMC – The emotion that was expressed in this film was very intense and laced with some humor throughout (‘Got a light?’) – can you tell us if that was your personal touch to the film or if those were true accounts of the kinds of things the real Clyde would have said or done?

JUSTIN: I have to admit, the line “Got a light?” was my addition.  However, it was based on Clyde Thompson’s type of humor.  I like to think it was something he would have said.  I didn’t have much time, but I did my best to add humor and charm into the film where we could, since it was such a dark series of situations.  The casting director and I wanted to make sure that the actor Barney had a great sense of humor, and Anthony Guerino brought in a lot of awkward charm and humor to the role.

(l-r) Justin Ward, Mateus Ward
Photo Property of: ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’
Provided by: Justin Ward

SMC – What are your thoughts on Mateus’s skill as an Actor in this film?

JUSTIN:  I can’t explain how extraordinary it was to work with my son on this project.  I may be biased, but I believe he is one of the most talented actors of his generation.  The fact that he’s won 3 lead actor awards for this film, backs up my belief.  I don’t know any 17-year-old that could pull off what he did in this film, let alone many actors of any age.  Not only did he lose 17 pounds for the role, research for months, reached out to the family, but he also learned a very difficult accent and certain cadence, aged himself up physically and vocally, and carried the film.  The role required so much emotional, mental and physical range, and he nailed it.  I am extremely proud of his work on this film. 

SMC – I discovered your film through an industry peer – Joshua Shultz (Bellus Magazine, Director: STROBE), can you tell us what your connection with Joshua is?

JUSTIN: We met Joshua through an article he was doing on Mateus back in 2013.  We have all kept in touch, and Joshua asked Mateus to be in his anti-drug film STROBE.

SMC – With the SMC SPOTLIGHT, we have begun a ‘Spotlight numbered series’ with some of our high-profile clients and would like to continue following your journey and career. Is this something that would interest you?

JUSTIN: Yes.  Of course.  We would love to be a part of the Spotlight Numbered Series. 

SMC – What do you think is the value in having the support of media platforms such as SMC?

JUSTIN: SMC is such a great publication, with incredible talent and interesting interviews, I am honored to be included.  I think there is huge value in SMC sharing indie films to their audience.  Our goal as filmmakers is to make films so people can see them, and we are able to reach new audiences through publications like SMC.

SMC – Can you tell us which industry peers have been most supportive of your film? Who would you like to give a ‘shout out’ to?

JUSTIN: The success of the film is a culmination of everyone who worked on, acted in and helped support this film.  First, the executive producers Don Umphrey and Marshall Danby, have been incredible to work with on this project.  I have to thank the Producers Brad Wilson and Casey Bond, who hired me.  My wife Laura, son Mateus, and daughter Adiana for their constant support.  Shirley Roberts and Clyde Echols are members of the family who helped fill in the gaps.   It was my first film, so I reached out to a few people in the industry for advice, like Ralph Bertelle VP of Production at Paramount, Greg Berry an incredible art director and production designer, and Clenet Verdi-Rose a director and 1st AD.  So many people were so supportive, I’m sure I have missed some, but I am humbled by so much support by people like Dennis Lavalle, Eric Swanson, Andrew Morgado, PJ Ochelan and Joshua Shultz.

(l-r) Mateus Ward, Isabella Acres
Photo Property of: ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’
Provided by: Justin Ward

SMC – What are some of the projects you have coming up? Are you able to share that info with our readers?

JUSTIN: I have a couple of projects that I am trying to package right now, a feature film and a music documentary.  Mateus and I are also seeking financing on the anti-bully film we wrote together called REBEL.

SMC – Will you be including Mateus in on more future projects?

JUSTIN: This was such an incredible experience for both of us, we hope to continue to work on projects together.

SMC – Pardon my ignorance, but I have never asked this question before: what is the process of getting a film completed? Can you give us a play by play from first concept to final output?

JUSTIN: Basically, it’s like bearing a child.  For this film, we had a short window of pre-production which included budgeting, scheduling, re-writes, finding locations, casting and wardrobe.  Production was 11 days.  Post production included 4 weeks of editing, color, mixing and final output. 

SMC – You had mentioned to me that this film took only 11days to complete – wow! That’s some intense shooting! Can you tell us what a typical day would be like on set from start to finish?

JUSTIN: Having only 11 days meant everyone had to be extremely prepared.  I had every shot, every angle, every beat planed out.  Then, when we got pressed for time, I had to throw away the game plan, and in the moment, create a way to get the scene shot in just one shot, with no coverage.  This happened several times a day.  The cast and crew all had to adapt and be fluid, because I refused to throw out scenes, I threw out set ups and coverage instead.  We made every day.  I couldn’t have done it without my first Assistant Director and the Cinematographer Will Barratt, or with a different cast and crew.

SMC – Can you tell us what the next several weeks and months look like in terms of Film Festivals and promotion of this film?

JUSTIN: As of now, we are waiting on a couple more film festivals, and just trying to create some buzz and get people excited about the film.

SMC – I have to say that I was pretty impressed by the portrayal Alexandra Bard gave of Julia in this film. Can you tell us what working with Alexandra was like?

JUSTIN: Alex walked into the audition and had morphed herself into Julia.  I remember after she left, I asked the casting director for her headshot, thinking I found my Julia.  When she handed me Alexandra’s headshot, it was a glamor shot of this gorgeous woman, I said, “No, the one who JUST auditioned.”  Alex is one of the actresses every director dreams to cast.  She was 100% committed to the role, did her homework, transformed herself for the role, never complained, took direction, and gave a stellar performance that has left audiences in tears.  We lucked out that she walked through the door that day.  I knew from her first audition she was our Julia.

Alexandra Bard (Julia)
Photo by: Deborah Kolb

SMC – Some of the other Actors in the film had some pretty stellar skills presented in the film also. Ben Reed, who played Clyde’s Father was compelling! Jamie McShane as Captain Colt – that was also intense! How do you feel about the skills that these two gentlemen portrayed?

JUSTIN: I am proud of every actor in this film.  We assembled some amazingly talented actors, and they all stepped up and delivered strong performances.  I cannot say enough about Jamie McShane.  In New York, he won Best Supporting Actor at the Film Festival, and deserves many more awards for his performance.  Jamie was a pleasure to work with and he stepped in and accepted this part late in the game.  He didn’t have much time to prepare.   He was so respectful of the script and my vision, yet brought so much to the role. We had some incredible discussions about Capt. Colt and his journey. Besides being a great actor, he is an extraordinary human being.  Great example of the kind of actor / person he is, Jamie arrived on day 1, and it was over 100 degrees outside.  Hotter inside the Morgue.  Jamie shows up with 2 huge cases of water on his shoulders, and passes them out to the crew.  Then stepped in, and delivered that performance that left us all mesmerized. 

SMC – At the end of shooting, and it’s time to attend Film Festivals, do you feel like the cast has become a family? I mean, this is a story about a young man whose life was changed forever but there were key people along the way that helped to bring him to this epiphany in life…. surely this is the kind of thing that would connect people.

JUSTIN: Yes.  Well, some of the cast and crew are actually family.  Seriously, there is a certain connection with people when you make a film.  This team was especially special.  We were fortunate that the entire cast and crew were all really great people, besides being so talented.  It made an impossible task fun, and everyone has been so supportive during the festival circuit.  We have all gotten very close. 

Still from ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ with Cast
Photo property of: ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’
Provided by: Justin Ward

SMC – Can you tell us all the film Festivals that ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ has been a part of and which are coming up?

JUSTIN:  We have been accepted to 7 film festivals, including the Nashville Film Festival, The New York City International Film Festival, The Beverly Hills Film Festival, IndieFEST, The International Christian Film Festival, The Los Angeles Cinefest of Hollywood, and The Independent Filmmakers Showcase Film Festival.

SMC – What accomplishments overall can you list for us that the film has earned so far?

JUSTIN: It has been accepted to 7 festivals, with over 20 nominations and 10 wins, including a Best Picture. 

SMC – Where will the general public be able to see this film?

JUSTIN: We are still on the film festival circuit, but check our social media for any updates on distribution.

SMC – How can one of our readers reach out to find out where they can see this film?

JUSTIN: Follow us on social media for more information and updates:

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

SMC – Finish this sentence: If I was not pursuing my career in Film, I would have been a……

JUSTIN: Theater Director… or a scuba or kayak instructor.

SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us what your thoughts are on the future of film and the role independent films play?

JUSTIN: I think studio films play a great role as pure entertainment, but it is the indie films that filmmakers have a voice.  Films such as “Mean Streets,” “Momento,” “Resevoir Dogs,” “Precious,” and “Moonlight,”  are all independent films and have very unique cinematic voices.   I think Indie films are essential to the industry, it is where stories like this can be told.

SMMC – We couldn’t agree more Justin! Fabulous work!

_____________________

Film poster for: ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ Photo provided by: Justin Ward Property of: ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’

The Meanest Man In Texas Social Media Links (click to view)

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