An Interview with Joe Gold – By Duane L. Martin

Joe Gold both co-wrote and starred in a brilliant comedy that I reviewed here in Rogue Cinema last month called Never Say Macbeth. The film was so much fun that I didn’t want it to end, so as a natural extension of that feeling, I hit Joe Gold up for an interview, which he kindly agreed to. I asked Joe about the film, his theater experience, and a previous endeavor of his…a Fartman short. He had a lot to say, so read on to find out all about Joe Gold and all of his amazing talents.

* * *

 Let’s start off as always by having you introduce yourself and tell everyone a little bit about your background.

Hi, I’m Joe Gold. I grew up in Stamford, CT, and I actually started out as a magician, performing magic at birthday parties, comedy clubs and once I even got hired to do close-up magic at a hair salon.

Before we get to Never Say Macbeth, I want to find out a little more about you. When did you first decide you wanted to be an actor, and was there any specific thing that really pushed you over the edge to just do it?

I went to the University of Michigan originally planning on being a business major. I wanted to produce magic shows. But the acting classes were more fun than the accounting classes, and the girls in the acting classes were more fun than the girls in the accounting classes – anyway, I switched to a theatre major. I directed a number of plays in college, and originally that was my goal, but just before graduation, the acting bug hit hard, and I knew I needed to give it a shot.

What were some of the more memorable productions you’ve appeared in?

When I was acting in Chicago, I was in a production of Steven Berkoff’s “Agamemnon” at the European Repertory Company. It was a very physically demanding show. Every night, it felt like a workout at the gym. I did the show for 6 months, but it ran for 2 years which was extremely rare. My first play was in sixth grade, the musical “My Fair Lady.” I only had two lines, but then the guy playing Mr. Doolittle had to miss opening night, and I was asked to play the role with only one day’s notice. That was my first big break!

The whole premise of Never Say Macbeth is that if an actor says the name, "Macbeth" backstage, it curses the production. Have you ever been in a production like that where it just seemed like it was cursed and nothing went right?

I did “Two Gentlemen of Verona” with the Tripaway Theatre outside in a park in Chicago. We used to have homeless people and dogs walking through the production, and it rained like every other show. Crew members would hand us umbrellas, and as long as the audience stayed, we’d keep performing in the rain. One time, the ground was so wet, we had nobody in the audience – I mean not one person. Most of the cast wanted us to cancel the show, but the director insisted we start the show anyway. It felt really weird, like a rehearsal. But after a little while, people started coming over, and we ended up with a really big enthusiastic crowd.

You’re a member of the Circle X theater company. Tell us about them, what they have going on this season, and what’s coming up for them.

I’ve been with them for almost ten years. They are one of the most respected companies here in L.A., and do some of the most exciting theater in town. We do mostly new plays. Working with a very limited budget, and we try to present very unique, theatrical productions. Last winter, I was in their production of Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl. The L.A. Times called it one of the top ten productions of 2006. Our next production will be Jeff Goode’s new play “Love Loves a Pornographer”. It opens this fall, and will be directed by Jillian Armenante.

There are some big differences between stage acting and film acting. Do you prefer one over the other, and which do you find the most challenging?

I honestly really like them both. On stage, it is very exciting because you get the immediate gratification of hearing and feeding off your audience. Also, in live theatre anything can happen, and the actors have to deal with all sorts of unexpected events. It’s also nice to be able to do a role over and over. I like to make small changes every night, to keep it exciting for myself, and also to find what works best. In film acting, there is no audience and frequently you are acting in a very realistic space, so it is possible to really lose yourself in the role. I like that.

Now moving on to Gold Cap Films, let’s talk about the Fartman film you did. That was a Howard Stern related character, but you and Tammy Caplan wrote the film and you starred in it. How did this film come about and what was Howard’s involvement if any?

Howard Stern had a film festival asking for five-minute short films that involved the world of Howard Stern. Tammy is a huge fan of superhero movies, and I’m a big Howard Stern fan, so we decided to make a Fartman movie. Out of over 2,000 entries, we were picked as one of the finalists, but then we were disqualified because we used union (Screen Actor’s Guild) actors. We were working so hard on the film, we never read the rules! But they loved the film so much, they aired it on Howard Stern’s In Demand cable channel, Howard TV. This was the first live-action Fartman movie ever shown on TV. Howard TV gave us permission to have the film distributed on the internet through Atom Films. Atom Films is a very selective website for short films where the filmmaker actually get paid every time their film is played. People can watch it for free at http://www.atomfilms.com/film/fartman_caught.jsp where we’ve had over 250,000 plays. For more information about the film, go to http://www.fartmanmovie.com.

 Were you nervous at all about running around in the Fartman costume considering its, lack of a back door, so to speak? I guess if I wanted to make a real groaner, I could ask you if you were the "butt" of any jokes because of it.

It was really fun wearing the costume. We actually had it built by a stripper shop on Hollywood Boulevard. I tried to wear a bathrobe when the camera was off, but sometimes I forgot, and got some pretty strange looks from people. Tammy wanted me to walk around Comic-Con wearing the costume, but with hundreds of kids there, that’s where I drew the line! I don’t think getting arrested would be worth the publicity.

Now on to Never Say Macbeth. You and Tammy Caplan worked together on this one as well, only you wrote this one by yourself. What gave you the idea for the film, and how long did it take you to come up with a finalized version of the script?

When I came to L.A., I was in a production of “The Scarecrow” at the Pacific Resident Theatre. It was a big cast, and one night the topic of ghosts came up. I discovered that I was the only person in the large cast who did not believe in ghosts – in fact many of the actors had seen ghosts inside of that very theatre. This was the inspiration for Never Say Macbeth. First I wrote it as a screenplay. I tried to get it to some agents and production companies to see if I could sell it. But anything with Shakespeare is considered too indie. So I converted it to a play for the stage. And by doing that, I eliminated a lot of locations, and characters. It was a tough sell as a play because it still had some very difficult special effects, and a huge cast. But now it all took place in the theatre, so it became a great prospect for a low budget film that I could produce myself. So I converted it back to a screenplay. The whole process took about three years.

Many of the players in this film were people you’ve been working with in the theater. Did you have trouble casting any of the roles, or was that whole process really smooth because of your large cadre of fellow actors you work with?

We held auditions for three days, and hired quite a few actors that we didn’t know, as well as many that we had worked with before in various plays, acting classes, etc. We looked for actors with experience in theatre and stage combat. We knew we were going to have to shoot very fast, and we wanted theatre actors who would come in very prepared, and would be willing to participate in a six-week rehearsal period.

The film was brilliant, and highly entertaining. What kind of reviews has it been getting? What about the response from festival goers?

Thanks! We’ve had three reviews so far, and they’ve all been positive. So far, we’ve been in one festival – Dances With Films, and we had a terrific response there.

The film had a really cute and fun animated title sequence at the beginning. Any animation like that in an independent film is pretty rare. In fact, I can’t think of a single film I’ve reviewed over the last three-plus years that has had anything like that. What made you think to do that and who did the artwork and animation on it? Also, what software was used to create it, and how long did it take to put it all together.

In watching rough cuts of the film, people kept asking for more exposition on what went on with Danny and Ruth (Ilana Kira) before arriving at the theatre. We wanted to find a creative way to do that without having to shoot more footage. Also we didn’t want to start the movie with a dramatic break-up scene. By using animation, we were able to give this exposition in a fun way. We hired Tom Sito of Gang of 7 Animation. Tom is highly respected in the animation world, having worked on “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast”, and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” Not sure what software he used, but the end product was a few thousand high-resolution tiff files that I placed in order into my Final Cut Pro sequence. It took them about 6 weeks to complete.

It has to be hard writing a film with so many characters. This film was really character driven, with really great performances all around. Do you feel that in such a large cast that any of them maybe got pushed aside a bit too much in favor of the others, or that certain characters could have been utilized more in the story than they were?

Well, it’s a 86 minute movie, and you can only do so much. Since the movie has a fish out of water love story happening simultaneously with a haunted theatre ghost story, I felt the script was already pretty complicated so I tried to keep it from Danny’s point of view with the other characters adding comedy and context. But I just didn’t have the time to get inside the world of the other characters – maybe if we did a sitcom version some day…

 What were some of the most fun moments you had shooting this film?

Shooting the big battle scene was really fun. We had two very talented fight choreographers (Mark Deklin and Melodee M. Spevack) so the actors were very prepared. When we shot the scene where an invisible ghost throws the character of Doug (Bayard Crawley) across the stage, the whole cast and crew were laughing hysterically. Shooting the roof scene with Danny and Tamara (Tania Getty) was quite cold, but doing a scene on the roof of the theatre with the lights of Hollywood all around us was really cool.

It really seemed like you guys had a lot of fun making this film. What was the mood like on set during the final day of shooting? Were people sad that it was over?

Well the final day of shooting was really tough. We blew a fuse, and lost power for almost four hours. And many of our actors had scheduling conflicts that day making it even more stressful. But we got through it, and got all our shots in. The cast and crew really did bond over our 12 days of shooting. People were sad to see it end. But we were also exhausted, and relieved that we were able to get it all done.

What experiences have you taken from this film that will help you with the projects you work on in the future? And speaking of future projects, what are you working on now, or what are you planning to work on in the near future?

I never went to film school, so for me, this was film school – a real crash course. I learned that paying somebody a little bit is a lot better than paying them nothing. I learned all about editing and special effects, and that everything costs twice as much as you expect it to, and takes twice as long to finish. I have another feature comedy that I’m trying to find investors for. It’s an ensemble movie about senior citizens in the vein of “Cocoon”. We also have some other scripts we’re working on.

Will Never Say Macbeth be made available for sale any time soon? Are there any prospects for a distribution deal, or have you thought about independent distribution? I’ve talked the movie up so much to people, I know they’d love to get their hands on it.

Thanks so much. We really appreciate your enthusiasm for the film. Zac Reeder of Circus Road Films has come on board as our producer rep. He’s speaking with distributors, and hopefully he’ll be able to get us a deal. If not, self-distribution is also an option that we would consider.

Are there any upcoming festival appearances you’d like to mention where people will have a chance to see the film?

We’re playing at the Audience Choice Film Festival in Hobart, Indiana on August 3rd at 7pm. Go to http://m-mproductions.com or call 219-947-4922 for more information. We’re also playing at the FAIF Film Festival at the AMC Theatres at Downtown Disney in Anaheim, CA from October 26-November 2nd. Go to http://www.indiefestusa.com for more information. We will list future screening on our website, http://www.neversaymacbeth.com.

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

Thanks Duane for all your support.