Starting something new on my WordPress blog. If you have checked out my website (wwwsandrajjackson.com) then you will have noticed that I have a blog there too. One of the things I do on that blog is host a guest author once a month. This year I am also posting my guests blog on this site as well. If you are an author interested in being a guest on my blog let me know.
In the past, my guests posted about whatever they’d like. I’m changing things a bit by adding an interview portion. My guests can choose to answer whatever questions they’d like and they are always welcome to write a blog to include with the interview.
To start off 2018, my guest for January is Author/Director/Producer John Callas. John has written several books, his latest, No Solicitors, was released by Fountain Blue Publishing in November 2017. John also directed the feature film “No Solicitors” starring Eric Roberts, which was also recently released.
I hope you enjoy John’s interview answers, his interesting bio facts, as well as his interview on his film “No Solictors”.
- Do you remember the first book you read that had an impact on you – in what way and what was the name of that book?
If my memory serves me, it was Peter Pan. The impact is that the child inside me got to come out and play. It restored my belief in magic.
- When did you first realize you wanted to write?
For many years I tried to get project to direct and never seemed to get anywhere – Then one night I realised that one of the ways to get what I wanted (being attached as the director) was to write my own scripts…then it turned into writing novels, and I have never looked back. I found writing to be very freeing.
- Who is/are your favourite author(s)?
So many it is hard to list them all but: Billy Wilder – Robert Towne – William Goldman – Dan Brown – Nora Ephron – Aaron Sorkin – Stanley Kubrick – Bo Goldman – The list goes on and on.
- What is your favourite thing about writing? What is your least favourite thing about writing?
My favourite thing is to create stories with well-developed characters – I like getting lost in their world and watching how it changes. At some point in my writing I am not in control…it just takes over and off we go. – My least favourite thing is when I know I have an idea but the words don’t want to come out where I am happy with the material – that is where the rewrite – rewrite and then rewrite happens.
- Where do your ideas come from?
Some from life’s experience and some just pop into my head – Those are the ones I don’t question; just thank the idea for coming to me.
- I’ve often found that creative people have more than one talent, what is yours?
Besides writing, I love directing films, playing music – guitar, sitar, saxophone, and harmonica (recorded 6 original songs), and building things (love wood working).
- If you could jump inside of a book for one day (as an observer) what book would it be?
– I gave this tons of thought and came up blank – Writer block? LOL
- When you create characters are they completely made up or do they resemble or remind you of people you know? It is usually a mix of both – My life has been rich with characters entering and leaving so I have a wealth of traits to draw from. When I was young, I use to sit in Washington Square in New York City and watch people walking about – I would make up stories about their lives.
- Have you ever created a character “out of thin air” only to run into someone in real life that reminds you of that character either in personality or their features?
- What are you working on now and can you tell us about it?
I recently released two novels. “Christmas Voices” – A cross between “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and “A Christmas Carol.” The other is “No Solicitors,” which I also wrote, directed and produced the film (recently released and available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Wal-mart, Target and other outlets). My newest novel (in its last stage of polish) is called “When The Rain Stops.” The best way to describe this book is what I wrote as an Author’s Note:
This is not a book about a movie-star, a famous athlete, a celebrity, or a hero. I’m just a guy living day to day who survived childhood traumas that cut deep and left permanent scars.
This book is about how I dealt with my pain and what lead to my decision to have a healthy and wonderful life. I have tried my best to be truthful and honest.
I want to reach everyone who suffers or knows someone who suffers from abandonment issues, depression, loneliness, and/or suicidal thoughts. I understand what you are going through and want you to know there is hope. I believe that only you can change. I did.
I did not write this book to make money, but if I save one life then I will consider it a best seller. Be strong and know others have risen from the darkest depths to live a happy, loving, and successful life. Above all, never give up on yourself.
I have changed many of the name(s) to protect the innocent and some of the not-so-innocent. The greatest gift is to enjoy your life fully. This, then, is my story.
What can we expect from the film?
A fun night of entertainment – a laugh here and there – and a taste of blood for those who expect it in a horror film. There is a statement about consumerism as well. I started out to write an intelligent horror film and I hope I am giving the audience memorable moments.
What was your inspiration for writing No Solicitors?
I was having lunch with a friend from Warner Bros. and he asked why I seemed upset. I explained that over my door bell is a sign “No Soliciting” (In the States Soliciting is a term for someone who is selling something and doesn’t mean an attorney) but they keep on ringing my door bell. He sits back and then says – why not write a story and kill them. I liked that idea and took it from there.
Why did you decide to give the film a dark comedy edge, rather than making it a straight forward horror?
I looked at a lot of horror films and came to the conclusion I didn’t want to do “another” guy chasing half naked women through the woods with an axe. I came up with the idea of making this family model citizens of their community. Then it hit me to style the family after a Norman Rockwell type of family but in this case with dark secrets – The comedy aspect came from my studies (Master Degree in directing from Occidental College in California) in literature. Drama plays far better when the audience is given some type of relief in the curve of the story – Meaning you can’t just keep doing drama or the audience will lose concentration – I decided that a modulation of sprinkling some dark comedy into the dark side of the film would be interesting.
You have assembled an impressive cast which includes Beverly Randolph, Felissa Rose and Eric Roberts. What where they like to work with?
They were all amazing to work with – I must give credit to Felissa who brought Eric and Beverly in on the project. At a table reading we had, Beverly starting reading her part and I immediately knew I was casting her. On set she was relaxed and focused but always having a good time – She was kind to all – cast/crew – As far as directing her – I only needed to point her in a direction and as a talented actor she would take it and make it her own – She brought a lot of subtleness to her role that I didn’t plan but loved. The same night of the reading, Kim and Jason were reading and I knew I had the making of a great cast. Kim and Jason worked very well together and played the brother/sister relationship perfectly – I have to share a funny moment at the table reading – After we all met and sat down, Kim and Jason asked if they could inquire about their characters – Of course I was interested – (Now before I go on, what came out was nothing that I had expected nor did I intentionally add in the writing but after reviewing the script I completely saw it – even writers get gifts at times) – Okay so Kim says to me – Even though they are brother and sister, they are screwing right? – Well I almost fell off my chair – Then the rest of the readers all chimed in agreeing with her comment – They all looked at me so I had to come clean and told them I didn’t intend it that way but I see their point – THEN the challenge hit me – Now that that is in the air, it is essential that we “tell” the story and not play the effect of them having sex together – So when certain lines or action came about I had decisions to make to assure that we weren’t over playing their intimate relationship.
Eric turned out to be not only a consummate pro but intelligent and fun on the set. He never stops working but is so full of love of acting that it is infectious. He also engaged with the crew which made the set a happy place to be. Felissa – Well, she is a horror icon and needed very little direction – She brought tons of laughter and joy to the set – Always laughing and making all feel part of something special. When it was time to act – then the pro in her leaped out and off we went.
Were there any elements in the finished film which were different to your original script?
My script supervisor would have a lot to say about that – I’ll just say that my pencil was constantly re-writing as we shot – Sometimes as a writer I set down a line of dialog that works on paper but not for the actor – So instead of forcing the actor to say my line I let them use whatever they want as long as the content is the same – I think that way you get honest performances from an actor and not a forced line.
What was one of your favourite scenes in the film?
Boy that is a hard one – There are several scenes that I love so I think this question I will leave up to each audience member.
You have a novel also being released for No Solicitors. Does this follow the events of the film or is this a standalone story?
It follows the film but with some additional material –
Do you have any new projects which you are working on?
Yes – I just released a novel called “Christmas Voice” which I am seeking financing to produce into a film (script, schedule, and budget are all completed along with an investor power point). I am also involved in a project that I adapted from New York Times Best Selling author William H. LaBarge – After I adapted the novel Bill and I went to the Navy and after 5 month got the script approved – meaning that once financing is in place we will have access to Naval assets. It is a high powered action movie that I also turned into a series so we are looking at either approach for this film.
I am also releasing my next book early winter called “When The Rain Stops.” Lastly I am writing a Sc-Fi novel called “The Myth” which redefines our mythology on Earth –
If someone is looking to direct their first film, what advice would you give them?
Always start with a great script – that is the foundation – Here are a few things I also would mention.
- The first thing you say to an actor is the most important thing they will hear – speak wisely
- For me – every element is a character – An example would be that wardrobe must be to the actors liking or it will not feel good to them and the performance will show
- Don’t over direct – Keep it simple – I want you to cross to the window because…….
- Trust your actors
- Come prepared – Do storyboards on important or complex scenes and always know what your blocking is so you can explain it to the actors.
ALWAYS: Block the actor (then send to makeup and wardrobe), light the scene then shoot – Seems obvious but you’d be shocked at so many directors not doing it the correct way and costing the production company valuable time and money.
John Callas – Bio
John Callas is a veteran writer/director/producer in the entertainment business. His experience ranges from the worldwide release of feature films to numerous motion picture trailers, national and international commercials, live action title sequences, laser disc projects, a documentary shot on location in Russia, as well as having been the Worldwide VP for The Walt Disney Company while working at a large post production facility. John recently wrote and directed the feature film “No Solicitors” starring Eric Roberts and has adapted NY Times bestselling author, William H. LaBarge’s book, “Lightning Strikes Twice.” John is also a published author which includes: SECRETS, WHEN THE RAIN STOPS, CHRISTMAS VOICES, NO SOLICITORS, AND FIRST TIME PARENTS SURVUIVIVAL GUIDE TO UNECCESSARY AND WILD SPENDING.
John’s prowess can be seen on live action teasers for Ransom, Dennis The Menace, Body Of Evidence, The Golden Child, Spaceballs, The Glass Menagerie, Cocoon II, Poltergeist III, Betrayed, My Girl, Glenngarry Glenn Ross, As Well As Title Sequences For The Two Jakes and A Few Good Men and a promotional film for an amusement ride from Showscan. John also directed an award-winning short film THE WHITE GORILLA.
While creating live action teasers for feature films, John had the opportunity to work with notable actors including Mel Gibson, Walter Matthau, Jack Nicholson, Madonna, Eddie Murphy and Mel Brooks.
In addition to working on feature film teasers, his work can be seen in projects for HBO, The Disney Channel, Show Time, the Broadway Play Phantom Of The Opera and the 1993 redesigned TRISTAR LOGO.
John’s extensive background also includes over 200 commercials for such clients as Kellogg’s, Dodge, Sunkist, Sprite, Toyota, Fuji, Volkswagen, Honda, McDonalds, Mazda, Minolta, Jedi Merchandising, Kraft, Jordache, Sea World, Givenchy and Sonassage with celebrity George Burns and industrial projects for Corporations including Vidal Sassoon, Salomon North America, Nissan and The Kao Corporation Of Japan.
John’s television experience includes directing a 14-week series entitled Potentials, with guests Buckminster Fuller, Norman Cousins, Ray Bradbury, Gene Roddenberry, Timothy Leary and others. He also directed 80 segments for Bobby’s World, which has been rated the #1 show on Fox 11 Television in its time slot; garnering John an Emmy nomination.
A multi-faceted filmmaker, John’s work can be seen in music videos for Glenn Frey Of The Eagles, Bill Wyman Of The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Starship, Sammy Hagar, Rick Springfield, Doobie Brothers, Styx and more.
John has been recognized with: An EMMY nomination for Bobby’s World, THE NEW YORK CRITICS CHOICE AWARD for Lone Wolf, BEST FEATURE at Fright Night Festival & BEST DIRECTOR at Scar A Con festival for No Solicitors – Several awards for his short THE WHITE GORILLA, A CLIO and BELDING for his work on the Sunkist campaign, BEST OF THE WEST for directorial work on a one-woman show, and an MTV AWARD FOR BEST CONCEPT for Glen Frey’s Smuggler’s Blues.
John holds a Master Degree from Occidental College, and is a member of The Directors Guild Of America.
YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch
DVD and NOVEL: https://smile.amazon.com