Actress Cindy Maples is no stranger to the pages of Rogue Cinema. The actress has appeared several times to celebrate and discuss her appearances in indie films such as “Wireface” (2011), “The Creepy Doll” (2011), and “Hell is Full” (2010). But this year Cindy has unfurled her wings and taken on the additional chores of an indie film producer with the hysterical sci-fi short “The Telemarketer” (2013). An eight minute fish-out-of water movie with a definite Abbott and Costello flavor, “The Telemarketer” is a frantic and funny short that will go live on YouTube on July 20th (For my Rogue Cinema review, please click here). Wanting to find out how Cindy got herself involved in producing, I placed a call to Indiana and spoke to the actress about her first foray into film production.
* * *
PS: Is “The Telemarketer” your first producing credit?
CM: Yes, it is. It’s the first time I jumped into that big giant pond!
PS: And that’s a totally different pond than acting!
CM: It is and I jumped into it thinking ‘Oh I know I can do this. This is easy. I watched, I paid attention on all the other shoots I’ve been in.’ And even if you think you know everything, you don’t (laughs).
PS: So what gave you the producing bug?
CM: I don’t know if I necessarily had the bug. This opportunity just fell into my lap and I couldn’t pass it up. I’ve had a lot of people send me scripts before, but in this particular instance “The Telemarketer” was something that was attainable for me. We had a small crew and only two locations. And I knew almost immediately who I wanted to cast in it. So it was just one of those things that I said that if I’m going to do this, this is the one I’m going to attempt. It was a relatively simple script. I just went ‘OK, I can do this.’
PS: Well I just loved it. I had a smile on my face the entire time.
CM: Thank you! I told the cast and crew from the very beginning ‘This is what we’re doing. It’s an eight minute set up for a joke. That’s what we’re doing here.’
PS: Hey, a lot of classic routines do the same thing.
CM: I agree!
PS: This was the first movie that you produced and acted in then?
CM: Yes and I don’t know if I would put myself in that position again anytime soon (laughs)! Because when it came time for me to do my part (Chloe Crumb), which was late in the day, I was frantic. I was still thinking like a producer – ‘Did everyone get food? Does the set look the same as it did in the last shot? Did we do this and did we do that?’ And then I was like ‘Oh my God – I’ve got lines. I’ve got to be this character now.’ I was nowhere near this point yet. And as an actor you never want to be at that point. You want to be thinking about – ‘This is who I am. This is what I need to do. This is the way I feel at this moment.’ And I had none of that. I just kind of jumped in. It wasn’t a great feeling for me!
PS: Did you feel a little insecure?
CM: Yeah, and it probably was the first time ever on set where I was not completely comfortable with who this character was, because I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about her, because I was too busy thinking about everyone else’s character and everyone else’s needs. I wasn’t concentrating on who I’m supposed to be at that moment. So it was tough. From an acting standpoint it was probably one of the toughest roles simply because I wasn’t where I was supposed to be in that moment.
PS: So it was frustrating for you to act in the film as well as produce it?
CM: Yeah. It was very tough. I don’t know if I would ever put myself in the lead again, because I don’t think I devoted enough time to the character that I should have. It’s a lot harder than you think it’s going to be. I was the only character that I didn’t cast. John Cosper (the writer) cast me in that part and he was adamant about me doing it, so there was no getting out of it.
PS: As an actress who’s done a lot of horror, what’s the difference (for you) between horror and comedy?
CM: For me, comedy will always be my first love. The first thing I ever did was back in 6th grade and that was speech competition, and the very first speech I ever did was Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First.” And I loved Abbott and Costello growing up. Any of their monster movies was my favorite. To this day, if there’s an Abbott and Costello movie out there, I will always watch it.
I kind of got pigeon-holed into the ‘Oh, she does horror movies’ thing. A lot of us (in the business) would kind of joke about indie film and how the perception out there is that indie films are primarily horror films. And that’s just not true. There’s so much other great stuff out there. But for me, my background is in comedy. Anytime I would do a play, I would want to do comedy. Because if I’m going to be on stage, in front of people night after night, I want to hear them laugh! That feeds me. That’s what I need to hear. So doing horror was actually a little tough for me, because you have to be so intense and it’s so tragic. I mean I’m a goofball in real life and it’s hard for me to make that switch. So for me “The Telemarketer” was a great opportunity. I loved it.
PS: So tell me the story of “The Telemarketer”. How did it come about?
CM: Well, it’s a really odd story. John Cosper who wrote “The Telemarketer” had put out a casting call for a short film he was doing called “Til Zombies Do Us Part.” So I applied for that part, but John sent me an email back saying that he loved my work, but had cast the part already. Then he said that he had this script and that I would be perfect for the main female character. And he mentioned that if you can find somebody to get this made, I would give this to you and let you have it and you can run with it. So John sent me the script and of course I fell in love with it and I was determined to find a way to get this made. It was originally a short story in a book that John wrote called “This Would Make a Great Movie” – a book of 20 short stories he wrote. Most of his stuff is comedy and it’s just amazing.
PS: Were you involved in getting the funding together for “The Telemarketer”?
CM: The funding all came from my wallet! Anything we need came through me. I fed the cast and crew. I made sure that any props we needed were taken care of. I also paid the fees for sending the film out to festivals. That costs money too. So everything is being funded through Cindy Maples Funding Inc. (laughs).
PS: Well that’s one way to ensure that you’ve got the final word on everything!
CM: That’s right! That’s right! Total Control! That’s me! I didn’t have to go to the well so to speak to make sure that we had everything that we needed because I went out and purchased it myself and made sure it was there. And of course this was a short film, which made things easier.
PS: I got a strong Abbott and Costello vibe from the film. Was that in the script already or did you put that in there?
CM: Pretty much what you see was on the written page, but I was blessed with amazing actors. The first time I read the script, I knew I wanted Joe Atkinson to play the part of The Telemarketer. For me that was a major coup. I knew he was that character. It was the same way with Mark Dessauer (who plays Joe’s boss). I just saw him in that part. And having Rusty James (my husband) there was wonderful. My biggest challenge was casting Bruce Crumb (the husband played by Sean Roberts). I originally had cast somebody else in the role, but there were communication difficulties and time constraints with his job, so that didn’t work out. So I went to Sean Roberts, who is a good friend of Rusty’s. He’s a DJ on the radio. He was hesitant, but he’s on the radio every day and he plays a character every time he talks into that mike. When you hear him on the radio you think ‘who is this crazy man?’ I convinced him by telling him ‘look, we’re only swapping out a mike for a camera.’ It took a lot of convincing and he was scared to death, but it doesn’t show at all.
PS: Did your husband Rusty make any suggestions to you?
CM: Yeah, he suggested that I give him a bigger part (laughs)! Unfortunately, I already had other people in mind and I knew he could pull off the guy coming out of the closet without a lot of effort on his part. He is my strength.
PS: How long did filming take?
CM: We actually shot it all in one day! We had come in on a Friday night, set up the office scene and shot them during the first part of Saturday. Then we moved to the second location which was my house and we shot the rest of it. We finished up around 2AM. We did have to go back for a few pick up shots, scenes we thought we might need, but nothing major.
PS: How much post production did you have to do?
CM: A lot. That was the challenge because that’s not an area of expertise for me. Jon Higgins (the director) was the one that was going to edit it for us, but he had time constraints on other projects he was working on. He cut around four minutes of it. Joe Atkinson then stepped up to the plate and that’s his kind of his thing. He’s a producer/ writer/editor/director and he did it. So we had some challenges and it took a little longer than we wanted, but we finally got it done. After the first edit we realized that we needed more, shots that we didn’t have. We then decided to go back and do a little bit more.
PS: Who or what was your secret weapon for the film?
CM: I think Joe Atkinson was my secret weapon, he and DP Bonnell. DP came back and did the second unit photography for us. And he added in all of the special effects. He also played a big part in choosing the music for it which was great.
PS: The music was pitch perfect. Just the right tone
CM: DP just did an awesome job with that.
PS: You knew who you wanted to cast before you started?
CM: Yes, and I had a hard time convincing Joe Atkinson. He’s a producer/writer and an editor, but he doesn’t see himself as an actor at all. So it took quite a bit of convincing on my part to get him to agree to do this. I knew he could pull it off though. I had seen him act, and he always puts himself in his own projects, but they’re always very small roles. I knew that he was my guy. I just needed to convince him.
PS: How did you choose Jon Higgins as your director?
CM: I had worked with Jon in 2012 at the 48 Hour Film Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. Going into this project I knew that we needed someone who could turn this around pretty quick. And since he did the 48 Hour Film Festival, he was perfect. We were always looking for projects that we could work on together. So when this fell into my lap, he was my first choice. I thought it was a good vehicle to show people what he could do. I was very happy that he agreed to do it.
PS: You’re taking “The Telemarketer” to festivals. Where have you shown it and what other festivals are you attending?
CM: It premiered at the May Day Film Festival here in Evansville, Indiana, which is my hometown. I wanted to premiere it at Evansville. And everyone loved it. It played at the Indy Film Con in Bloomington last month, and while I wasn’t able to go there, the reports were really wonderful. Then it played at the Cinematic Film Festival in Madisonville, Kentucky. We also showed it at Unscripted 2 which is PJ Starks project. This is a great thing that he does where you show the short film, then the cast and crew (whoever can be there) takes questions from the audience and then you show it again and you do a live audio commentary. It’s a great experiment.
PS: What else is coming up? I know you said that “The Telemarketer” was going live on YouTube on July 20th.
CM: Yes. July 20th it will go live on YouTube and we will put it on our Facebook page and hopefully it will go viral.
PS: Are you going to produce again?
CM: Yeah! Actually I am currently working as an associate producer for the next Jakob Bilinski film that Joe Atkinson wrote and is producing, so I must have done a good job on “The Telemarketer” since Joe asked me to come on as associate producer for this film. It’s a feature and I also have a small part in it and it starts filming very soon. But I can’t reveal too much about it yet. Of course my first love will always be acting so I’m also currently shooting a web series called INTERVENTION, for the production company River Front Films out of the St. Louis area FB page https://www.facebook.com/InterventionWebseries and I am currently scheduled to play an attorney in the feature film VANISHED by Dreams Come True, LLC out of Terre Haute, IN FB page https://www.facebook.com/vanishedfilm.
PS: Anything you want to add in about “The Telemarketer”?
CM: Watch it when it goes live and like it on Facebook. Give us some love. Share it with everyone you know. The bottom line is that it seems to makes people happy. If it can bring some joy to somebody’s day and put a smile on their face for 8 minutes, then that makes me happy and does my heart good. People have enough drama in their lives.
PS: Well Congratulations and good luck with “The Telemarketer” Cindy!
CM: Thanks so much Phil!
For more information on the Telemarketer, please visit these sites: