An Interview with Linda Palmer – By Philip Smolen

 

One of my favorite movies from 2016 was the short film “Our Father”, an intense, heart-wrenching tale about a young man (Michael Worth) who is trying to take care of his aging demented father (Michael Gross) who beat, tormented and then abandoned his family decades before. Riveting, tense and emotionally shattering, “Our Father” is a wonderful indie flick that received a ton of accolades and awards from the indie scene. I recently reached out to writer/director Linda Palmer to find out more about this incredible indie project. The California native graciously took time out from her busy schedule to answer my questions about “Our Father” and about her career in film.

RC: Linda, how did your passion for film develop? Did you have a primary cinematic influence growing up?

LP: My love for film came late in life. Originally I studied journalism and wanted to be a reporter. I started writing features in the early 90’s and wrote/directed commercials prior to film. Nora Ephron was (and still is) a big influence for me.

RC: What was the greatest challenge that you faced when you were trying to make your mark in movies?

LP: Money! But aside from that, the biggest challenge was just learning more and more about the entire filmmaking process. I had little experience in post production and music for the first two features I produced, so when it came time to produce “Halloween Party”, my husband and I had a crash course on making a film from script to delivery. We also had the amazing opportunity to have our opening title song, “Voodoo” on the “Oscar” contender list in 2013! At one point our song was even predicted at #17!

RC: Tell me more about Runaway Productions, the production company you created.

LP: I started my company Runaway Productions with my first short film, “Switch”. I ran away from home when I was 15 and a friend’s family took me in and raised me through high school. I was very fortunate, and that changed my life. It was a significant turning point in my life. That’s the reason I named the company Runaway Productions.

RC: Tell me how the film “Our Father” developed?

LP: “Our Father” is based on a true story in our family. My brother and his family were taking care of our estranged father who we hadn’t seen in 30 years. He had friended us kids on Facebook and my brother didn’t really use social media, so he called him and realized something wasn’t right with him. He took a trip to see him, which led to their family caring for him until his death two years later. I encouraged my brother, Dave, to write a book about it in order to deal with the emotions, but ultimately he didn’t want to do it. When he told me about the conversation our father had with him in the bathroom I mentioned it to my husband (and producing partner) and both of them encouraged me to write the script. Ultimately, I only decided to tell the story after Dave and his family agreed it needed to be told.

RC: The cast of “Our Father” is perfection. How did you go about selecting the actors for the film?

LP: Thank you! We put a breakdown out and Michael Gross was submitted. His manager knew he might be interested in the material because he and his wife took care of her mother who had Alzheimer’s for nearly 10 years. Once Michael read it and met me, he was on board 150%! We then cast another actor for the son role but literally 2 weeks before shooting over the Christmas holiday, he backed out, so we had to recast and found Michael Worth. Eileen Grubba (wife) and Julia Silverman (grandmother) were friends of mine who I brought into the project and we had casting sessions for the son and young actors in the flashbacks.

RC: “Our Father” is emotionally shattering. It must have been tough to write the screenplay.

LP: For me, I was very detached. We hadn’t seen our father in a very long time and he wasn’t there for us in any sense of the word or position. It almost feels like I’m telling a story about someone else. It was very difficult for most of the family to watch because the acting and all other elements are so realistic. After some time, each of them has been able to watch it a few more times and has come to appreciate it without being as affected. One of the greatest compliments I got was from my brother who the story is centered around (and I’m quoting him):
“Both Michaels (Gross and Worth) absolutely recreated clear memories I have, to the point that it was as if they were flies on the wall. David Topp captured Jonathan’s loving approach with the old man to the extent I fought back tears, unsuccessfully. Eileen Grubba as Kate was the quintessential Karen. Your care in producing this piece, as well as those who portrayed the roles was nothing short of astounding to me. Not to say that I was surprised by your talent, but impressed. I’m very impressed and proud to be your brother.” (David Mayhak)

RC: Wow! That’s incredible. How hard was it to complete the film? Did it take a lot out of everyone?

LP: It was actually a very magical experience. Most of our team was involved because they had someone in their family was dealing with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, and our cast & crew was pretty small so relationships developed and everyone had a great time making this piece. I think seeing the affect it has on audiences, has been the most rewarding experience for me. We crowd funded, not only to make the film, but also for all the festivals, and nearly 90% of all the money came from caretakers that wanted the story told.

RC: Who were your unsung heroes on the set?

LP: Michael Gross and Michael Worth were phenomenal. They were real leaders and easy to be around and talk to for everyone. Michael Gross, especially with the other actors, was like the Captain of the ship. Michael Worth, for me was very encouraging as a fellow filmmaker. We had a lot of things to cover in four days and he really reassured me, I was more than capable of telling the story with all my prep work etc.

RC: You must be very proud of the finished film. I know it garnered a lot of attention at film festivals.

LP: Yes. It’s tough making a film like this because you wonder how you can live up to it in future endeavors. We feel like there isn’t really anything we would change.

RC: “Our Father” was completed a few years ago (2014). Tell me about some of your most recent projects.

LP: I’ve been a little busy! Michael Gross starred in my next feature film, “Last Call at Murray’s” with twelve other amazing actors and the film has been winning all kinds of acting awards and recently a Best Director award as well. I also co-produced and co-directed a web series called “Carbon Dating” that Michael was a part of (both acting and producing) which was in Emmy consideration, and I produced/directed two other short films currently winning awards at different festivals called (“Sienna’s Choice” and “My Name is Lamar”). I’m also a production designer and am designing a short we are filming in April, and then I will direct/produce another short I recently wrote called “Passage”. And later in the year, I’m directing / producing a feature I wrote called “Turnover”. And if that’s not enough, I have two partners in another franchise we are developing that is a huge action/adventure and we are releasing our novel this year. It’s called “Cat Dexx – The Quest Begins”.

RC: Will any of these films be shown at festivals this year? And is “Our Father” still hitting the festival circuit in 2017?

LP: “Last Call at Murray’s” is in the Maryland Film Festival taking place this month and it should be in distribution soon after. Both “Sienna’s Choice” and “My Name is Lamar” are still in festivals this year. “Our Father” is no longer in fests, but can be seen on Vimeo anytime: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/ourfather

RC: Where can Rogue Cinema readers find out more about you and your films?

LP: The best place is my website: RunawayProductions.tv

RC: Thanks a lot Linda. I’m looking forward to catching more of your movie magic. And I know that a lot of our readers are too!

LP: Thanks a lot Phil!