An Interview with Gary King – By Duane L. Martin

 Please introduce yourself and give us a little background on you, both personally and as a film maker.

My name is Gary King and I was born in the Midwest in the early 70’s, but pretty much was raised my whole life in the Bay Area (Northern California). From a very early age, my parents exposed me to the magic of movies, so my love for film pretty much stemmed from there. When I was very young, I always had an interest in the technical aspect of making a film and found myself watching the behind the scenes specials all the time to the blockbuster films of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Typical of most filmmakers, I also made my own Super-8 films with friends from the neighborhood.

Since beginning my film career in 2003, I’ve shot two short films and dabbled in several music video and commercial projects. I’m now preparing to shoot my first feature film.

Let’s start off with a bit about your first short film, Favors. What inspired you to actually get out there and start making films, and what did you want to achieve with this one?

In 2001, I finished grad school with a Psychology degree and began a professional career outside of the filmmaking world. Around the dot-com burst in 2002, I faced a massive layoff at my company that forced me to evaluate my true passion in life. At that point, I realized that even though I worked in a totally different industry, I really never stopped thinking about wanting to create a film of my own because I loved them so much. It was what I always wanted to do, so I decided to stop dreaming about it and go for it.

The main intent of my first short film was to learn about filmmaking as much as possible. Since I’d never stepped on a set before, I wanted it to serve as my film school on all the aspects and stages of production. Its storyline was inspired by the friendship with my best friend. I wanted to make a film based on our relationship, but aimed to set it in a totally surreal and interesting scenario. It was also shot in HD which gave me an invaluable lesson in learning how to deal with that technology. Anything on top of those goals I considered to be icing on the cake.

Favors had a run around the film festival circuit. How was it received and were you surprised by any of the reactions to it?
The film had a very limited run. Most viewers were left confused from the storyline and it received very lukewarm reviews. I had higher expectations for the film, but it was my first and I learned many valuable lessons from it. I believe the script was very tight, but the way I translated it to screen suffered from many first time directing mistakes. Trust me, the trailer is probably the best part of the film.

What were some of the most important things you learned from making Favors that helped you out in making your subsequent works go a lot smoother?

I learned many things from making that film. The first and most important lesson for me was how to work with actors. I had never done it before so it was difficult for me. I’d taken a dramatic acting class in college, but one course doesn’t prepare you on how to communicate with performers and create a positive and relaxing environment for them to feel comfortable.

I think the schedule was so tight and I was hurrying along to get my shots that I never really stopped to make sure the performers were comfortable and we were getting what we needed. We had many discussions and rehearsals, but on the shooting day I never gave too many options for them to play around with the characters and each other. I learned that the next time around to really take my time to make sure the actors feel that they can really relax and do what they do best.

The other crucial learning lesson came from editing Favors myself. I really learned the invaluable lesson of knowing what type of coverage is needed and what isn’t to tell a compelling and complete story. For Favors I overshot some scenes while undershooting others, which left me in a difficult position in trying to piece together the film’s storyline when I went into the editing room.

When I created the shot list for Hubris, I knew exactly what needed to be filmed to be able to tell the story effectively. Because of this, I believe the Hubris set ran much more efficiently as I knew what were the essential shots I had to have and which ones I could cut if needed. Basically, I had the whole movie edited already in my head so I knew the coverage I had to get.

On the basis of your first short film, you were actually contacted to do some music videos because of your visual style. Tell us about those and some of your experiences in making them.

Making music videos is a whole different animal for a number of reasons. To go into it would take up too much time, but suffice it to say that I don’t really enjoy the process as much as making a film. I’m now very selective in discussing any potential music video projects because it definitely has to be the right mix of chemistry from many parties to have a successful experience and end product.

When making the music videos, did you basically have full creative control or did the band(s) basically tell you what they wanted and then left it to you to make it happen?

I actually was able to film pretty much what I envisioned the song to be when I heard them. I submitted treatment proposals and the artists and their managers selected mine over other directors’ ideas. But, I also work the artist and management to tweak it based on their feedback.

Gary and the gorgeous girls of Hubris. Man, what a tough job he has huh?

Moving on to Hubris now, tell us how this one came together. When did you have the idea for it and how did you go about getting it all organized and under way.

I came up with the idea for Hubris after finishing some music videos and commercial projects and felt the need to get back into making a film. I had formed a great working relationship with the actor Jeremy Koerner on my first film and felt that I underutilized his talents the first time around. With him in mind, it only took me about a month or two to get a complete script into his hands. I wanted only him in the lead role as Jeremy or would have otherwise scrapped the project.

The concept of speed dating came into mind for two main reasons. First, I wanted to work with a larger cast and play around with actors and have fun. It was something that I felt was lacking with my first attempt at directing. Second, I wanted to take the element of speed dating and really put a twist on it to show audiences something new. Usually, most movies show a main character rotating through a speed dating session meeting a bunch of weirdos and that is where the comedy stems from. For me, I wanted to take that a step further with the notion that the weird characters are doing it on purpose. And then on top of that, what if the whole speed dating session is actually a set up. Basically, I wanted to keep raising the stakes and really elevate the conflict and heighten the comedic potential.

Audiences of all ages seem to enjoy it so I think I have done something right this time around as opposed to my first film.

The actors in Hubris really made the film a joy to watch. Where did you find so many great people?

As I mentioned, I met Jeremy Koerner on my first film project and knew he was a special talent to be showcased. He introduced me to Frederik Goris who played Barry in the film. Frederik auditioned and won me over with his comedic timing and his unique chemistry with Jeremy. The remaining cast was formed from a mixture of referrals and auditions for the most part. Casting took a grueling four months to complete because I was very particular in the type of talent needed, both in appearance and skill, to pull it off.

I must say that working with all the actors was a pleasure. They were all willing to take risks and really go out there when I asked for it. I’m really pleased with the performances they came up with. Everyone had fun on the set and the atmosphere was like a family get-together. I hope all my sets will be as fun as this one. They all simply rocked.

How long did it take to create Hubris from start to finish and what kind of a budget did you have for it?

Hubris took almost a full year to complete. I began developing the script in January 2005 and shared it with Jeremy Koerner and some close friends by February. Pre-production lasted from February 2005 to June 2005 which mainly consisted of tweaking the story, casting performers and finding the right location for the setting of the film. We finally found a location only a few weeks prior to shooting thanks to my former high school English teacher, Tom Alessandri, and my alma mater Bellarmine College Prep. This film wouldn’t have been the same without his support and those great locations.

We shot the film over four straight days in early June. I have to give a special shout out to my wife, Sujata King, for helping pull together many of the UPM duties and sailing a smooth ship during the shoot. In fact, the whole crew was phenomenal in the efficiency of keeping things moving as fast as they did. I had a huge shot list for the movie and on top of that, about 95% of the speed dating was all improv so that in itself took a full day to shoot. My DP, Jason Varner, was incredible in helping make the day go faster with many of the lighting setups ready to go at the snap of the finger.

I can’t say enough about how great entire crew was in making the film shoot go as smoothly as it did. I don’t think we ever went over schedule or budget ($7000)….and that’s always a nice thing.

Is Hubris making the rounds at various film festivals right now? If so, what are some of the ones it’ll be showing at?

Yes, at this time it will be making its premiere in October at the FAIF International Film Festival in Hollywood. I am extremely excited as it will be playing at the world famous Mann’s Chinese Theater. Hopefully, there will be additional screenings at other festivals. Please let your readers know that they can visit www.hubristhemovie.com to find out all the latest screening information as I hope it will play at festivals across the country over 2006 and 2007. I also just recently found out that we’ll be screening at the Long Island International Film Expo in July 2006!

You have future plans for the two stars of Hubris. What sort of an adventure will we see them on next, and will "the boys" be making a return?

Yes, there are plans for a full-length feature film version of the main characters (Jeremy and Barry) getting into further misadventures. I am currently developing the script with Jeremy Koerner. I am sure that “The Boys” are never far behind wherever Jeremy and Barry go, as they seem to be a collective.

We actually already have a trilogy in mind for the characters and the journey they will take in life that should provide for some great entertainment.

 You just recently moved to New York. What were the motivations behind that move and how difficult has it been to basically move all your stuff and get it all set up in the new space?

The reasons for my move to New York are plentiful. I needed a change in environment and wanted to be in a market that has a lot more production work going on. I also knew that New York has a large independent filmmaking community that I wanted to tap into and collaborate with others on both their projects and mine.

Where I came from, there were probably only a handful of filmmakers and projects to be a part of so New York seemed like a good fit. I made the drive with my wife from California so needless to say I was a little burnt from the trip for the first few weeks after being here. One of the things that I hate is that it has been really slow to get my internet/phone services set up at the new digs so it feels very weird not to be “connected” at the moment.

Are there any film makers or genres / eras of films that have particularly inspired you over the years?

I am a lover of many films from many eras and genres. I guess that’s a very generic answer, but it’s true. I find that I’m most drawn to drama, comedy, romance, film noir and suspense/thrillers. However, I want to make all types of films and don’t want to limit myself as a particular genre director. That’s why I really admire directors like Howard Hawks and Billy Wilder who could do all types of film really well.

I’m also a big fan of Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Steven Soderbergh, Pedro Almodovar, P.T. Anderson, John Carpenter, Brian De Palma, Ingmar Bergman, Francois Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock, …I could go on and on. But my taste is all over the place and that’s why I enjoy so many different types of film. You just have to be in the right mood. Suffice it to say that I find myself being inspired by filmmakers around the world every single day.

What kinds of things do you like to do when you’re not working on film projects?

Good question. I always have movies on my mind. If it’s not my own film idea, then I’m probably watching a film or reading about one. I love to study filmmaking techniques and filmmaker voices. I just love the process of filmmaking that I eat, sleep and drink it. I like to keep up with all the Hollywood development deals, box office totals, who’s doing what project, etc…to try to stay informed on what’s going on with the business.

However, I definitely enjoy spending time with my wife, family and friends, without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. I also love to go to restaurants and cafes to just chill and people watch. I get many of my ideas just watching people’s behavior. The one thing I’d like to do more of is travel….so I plan to write some screenplays in exotic locations so I can shoot them there.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap this up?

I’d like to take this time to thank you for the support you’ve given me and the interest you’ve shown for Hubris. It really means a lot to me. I hope to speak with you again to share some more exciting news about it or a future project.

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If you’d like to find out more about Gary and his work you can check out his website at http://www.grking.com.