Cahuenga Pass (short) 2010
Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid 2009
Hollywood (video short) 2007
Visions of Violence 2007
Hi Chris, how are you?
Thanks for taking the time to interview me, I appreciate it.
When did you first get interested in films?
I would have to say it all goes back to when I was seven-years-old and my family got ‘The Movie Channel.’ My brother and I would sit there for hours and watch whatever was on. We were both movie junkies and just addicted to that channel. We watched everything we could, sometimes sneaking a peek at the R rated films. One day we’d be watching ‘The Black Hole’ and the next ‘The Last Wave.’ Watching everything from ‘Charge of the Model T’s’ (anyone even heard of that one?) to‘Terror Train’ and ‘Wanda Nevada’ (most are like what?) to ‘The Drowning Pool’ really showed us the peaks and valleys of cinema and in essence started my film education. Think about this for a moment - how many seven-year-olds do you know that are sitting and watching Roger Moore in ‘ffolkes’?
However, I never really thought about making movies until I was a senior in high school and I made a very bad movie called ‘Crushing’ on one of those big VHS camcorders. ‘Crushing’ was my stab at William Friedkin’s ‘Cruising.’ I saw that film when I was 15 and it just blew me away with how bizarre yet unique it was. I very rarely mention this movie now as it is so badly done but it was a start. I cast my best friend in the Al Pacino role and off we went to make this movie, obviously changing the milieu of the Friedkin film.About eight months after graduating from high school, I happened across an article on film schools and my plan was to end up at USC. But as time went on, I learned that I really couldn’t afford it, even with loans. I did get accepted to USC, but not the film program, the university itself, but I just could not afford it. And I decided to try another avenue. While attending a university, much closer to me in the northeast, I decided to try and write my way in, as I read about writers who became directors.
I picked up my pen and the writing began. My first few scripts were awful, just terrible. Although at the time, I though they were fantastic, Oscar worthy material, but in retrospect, I just didn’t understand how to write dialogue. After years of writing, in 2001, I finally had a screenplay optioned by a Producer in Los Angeles …let me just say that experience was a huge learning experience and a wake up call. I had a chance to learn how the whole ‘ Hollywood ’ system really worked. As well as the downside – how scripts can be taken away from the writer. Over time, the deal eventually fell through and I realized that I needed to try and make my own films. This way, I am in control. So, the writing continued and I had the privilege of dealing with managers and entertainment attorneys and that generated some minor interest in one of my scripts but nothing ever came of it. By this time, my pet project ‘Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid’ had been born and I was planning a way to make it.
Which film gave you the idea that you’d like to make films yourself?
‘Cruising’ and ‘The Warriors.’ To me, both of those films always had such power and energy to them. ‘Cruising’ challenges your senses and ‘The Warriors’ makes you want to run around NYC wearing a vest – well, both movies do that, I’m kidding.
Which film or films would you most liked to have worked on?
Apocalypse Now’ and ‘Aguirre: The Wrath of God.’ Due to all the trouble they both had in being made, I’d love to experience that – since the end result was so satisfying.
What is your favorite film?
Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now.’ A great film, made even greater with the Redux in 2001.
What is your favorite period in film history?
The last great period, which was 1967-1981. Chances and risks were taken and great films were made. The 2000s are a terrible period for movies – very few risks and very few films that will stand the test of time.
Who are/is your favorite film director?
It’s got to be a three way tie between John Carpenter, Brian DePalma, and Paul Schrader. Early Carpenter and DePalma were great. Schrader has been very consistent in taking chances and ‘Auto Focus’ is one of his best as well as one of the best films of the 2000s.
What is your favorite part of the film making process?
That’s a tough one but I’d have to say editing, because at that point, the movie is done and it’s you and the footage. Of course you hope you have everything you need, but it doesn’t always work that way. The best advice I can give, and this comes from experience, is to shoot more – at least you’ll have it. It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
Which part of the film making process is your least enjoyable?
I would say writing. Because once you cast and start shooting – you know your vision will be compromised and/or change. And this is due to many sets of circumstances. Some good, some not.
Where does the inspiration for your films come from?
Most of my inspirations come from real life experiences and stories I hear from people.I usually take elements from my life, my friends lives, and make it a tad bit more cinematic.
‘Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid’ just happened one night in the mid 1990’s. I had a bare bones outline and one night it just clicked. Over time, the script was tweaked, rewritten, and changed a lot over 12+ years. It even had numerous titles, including a pretentious one: ‘Once Upon a Summer in Connecticut ,’ which I guess that was my attempt at a Sergio Leone homage. The script that became the movie as you know it, really came from the 2001 version - and it dealt with me trying to prove a point to myself. I had a mystery script that had been optioned and the producer was giving me script notes that didn’t make sense, so I sat down one Friday night and by Sunday night - less than 48 hours later the new and improved ‘Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid’ was born. It was a mix of previous ideas and stories from the previous drafts, but told in a different way. Between 2001-2007, I tweaked the script, but the movie itself was born in 2001.
‘Cahuenga Pass’ was an idea that was influenced by the deceased adult film star, Savannah, as well as an idea I had in a script that would tell three different tales set in LA. I ended up taking out the adult film star idea and making that into a short as the other 2 stories weren’t fleshed out enough.
My latest script ‘Teenage Kicks’ started with an image of a guy and a girl talking in a car. And from that image came what I feel is a timely, yet
provocative tale taken from reality of how teens are today.
Your last feature film ‘Knock ‘Em Dead Kid’ won an award. Do you think this puts more pressure on you for your next project as well help opening some doors?
Regardless of the award, every project should always be about stepping up. You always have to go out there and prove yourself but you also have to make sure that each step is an improvement upon the last.
I am very glad that ‘Knock’ won an award, especially after how tough it had been to make (if you read through some of the trivia on imdb.com under the movie, you can find out more about this).
As for opening some doors – it does ‘kind of.’ Actors take you more seriously but to some producers, it’s no big deal. But it helps, trust me, it helps.
Did you learn anything from making ‘Knock ‘Em Dead Kid’ that you will be able to apply to the making of your next project ‘Teenage Kicks’?
What didn’t I learn? It was a tough deal – from start to finish. From writing to casting to shooting to editing – all along the way it was hurdle after hurdle. But in the end, it was worth it.
What I learned is that you will always need more time and more money. Some people just don’t realize what a huge commitment making a film is. As the writer/director, you are with this project longer than anyone else involved. Actors come in, do it, and that’s that. As the director, you are with this movie every step of the way and if you aren’t passionate about what you’re making then you shouldn’t be doing it. It’s very time consuming and it really needs all of you in order to be a succes
People can say what they want about my films but the one thing they can’t say is that they can be compared to whats come before. I make movies that are different.
And casting is the most important thing of all. It really is.
Cahuenga Pass Copyright - Golon Films
At what stage are you at with ‘Teenage Kicks’?
I have a finished script along with 4 very giftedactors and actresses attached. The talent have been in feature films in the past and are ready to go. I am just actively trying to attach a producer and an executive producer to the project. Finding that is proving to be the most challenging aspect of this endeavor. Everyone who has read the screenplay likes it and sees the potential of the project.
Being both writer and director on your projects, is it easy to switch from one to the other when you need to or do you find that you’re always considering both viewpoints?
The writer is an easier position. All the writer has to do is come up with the story. It’s your director side that has to create the vision and bring it to life. What you’ve dreamed up is from the mind of the writer and what you’re left with is from the mind of the director. Sometimes things can translate from the page to the finished movie.Scenes change as they go from the page to the screen, sometimes its by choice, other times its due to circumstance.
Would you like to direct a TV show or music videos or is it just film that interests you?
Music videos would be fun. As for TV, I’d love to do something for ‘The History Channel’ or HBO.
As an independent filmmaker, what are the biggest challenges in getting people to see your work?
Finding a distributor is the number one problem. Because the direct-to-dvd marketplace is flooded with product, it’s tough to stand above the pack unless you have name talent. But most of those direct-to-dvds are quickly made exploitation-esque movies trying to turn a quick buck.
That’s why you try to make something unique or different enough that it can stand out. Critics who reviewed ‘Knock’ liked the rawness of the finished product as well as the dialogue. To them it felt real. One critic wrote that he was glad I portrayed teenagers as they really are and not as ‘ Hollywood ‘ films often portray them. He pointed out that ‘Havoc’ was one of the teen films that felt completely fake in its portrayal. Those kind of
reviews made me feel at least some sense of accomplishment because even though the film isn’t perfect - very far from it in fact - it at least looks and feels like real teen characters. This is what can help me as I take on new projects.
Almost everyone now has some form of video camera and editing equipment on a home computer. Do you think it’s important for people to get some form of training if they want to make films or should they just go do it and learn as they go?
You really should watch movies, read about them, and make them. The best way to learn is to go and make a movie. Just make sure you finish the project, that always helps.
Not everyone needs to go to film school, some just have a knack for the craft of making movies.
It is so simple nowadays for anyone to go make a movie on their home computer and just like that - you have a movie. ‘Tarnation’ for one, is a perfect example of someone who had a computer and just up and made something. In the long run, making something really teaches you a lot, more than any book can. Film School is great to make contacts and friends who someday may be your bosses. You never know where someone is going to end up, right?
But, back to reading about film – what reading can do is open your mind up to how stories are layered or how certain colors evoke feeling or how the placement of the camera can mean this over that. When I really started getting into film, I read ‘Cult Movies’ by Danny Peary, all 3 volumes, and those books taught me so much. Professor Peary, as I like to call him, opened my eyes to certain movies I was unfamiliar with, and I would run out and rent these on VHS and watch them.
Titles that became personal favorites like ‘Cutter’s Way,’ ‘Two Lane Blacktop,’ ‘Aguirre: The Wrath of God,’ and ‘In A Lonely Place .’ I still use those books as great resource materials and anyone interested in being a filmmaker needs to read those books.
With websites like YouTube and Ustream that enable anyone to put anything online as a ‘film’, do you see it being harder for independent film makers to get work seen by a new audience as there are now so many entertainment options for people to choose from?
You definitely have your work cut out for you. However, most of the videos uploaded onto those sites are done for laughs or just the whole ‘nonsense’ factor. Putting your trailer on these sites, as opposed to the whole movie, can help get you notice. But again, that depends on what is appealing in the trailer. The trailer for ‘ Cahuenga Pass ’ generated a lot of interest and people would contact me through my website
(www.christopherlgolon.com) asking me where and how they could see it. It is for sale if people are interested (hint, hint) and I am also trying to set up some screenings for it in 2011.
You have to create the buzz for your movie and you have to push and continue to push if you are an independent filmmaker. Get people interested with either a trailer or a poster and make them want to learn more and watch what you have. It’s all about marketing and getting it out there. Try and create your own breaks. This is the toughest business in the world to try and crack, so give it your best shot.
Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid Copyright - Golon Films