I recently had the opportunity to chat with Michael Anton of Potheads the Movie fame about his life in film, politics and a variety of other topics (is he War Eagle or Roll Tide??) – read on to learn more about a Mr. Anton’s previous and upcoming projects.
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ML: You’ve had a highly varied and prolific career, wavering between the film industry and politics. Was this your childhood ambition or simply something you stumbled upon?
MA: I never lacked ambition as a kid, but my imagination always got in the way of actually defining what I wanted to do. I was caught up with being a kid and I always loved a great story. I remember when I was sixteen and I saw the film “Heaven Can Wait.” In the beginning of the movie, the main character (as an old man) confronts the devil at the gates of hell, which looks more like the first and second floor of the Standard in downtown LA. Laird Cregar, who’s playing the devil, says to Henry Van Cleve, played by Don Ameche, “If you meet our requirements, we’ll be only too glad to accommodate you. Would you be kind enough to mention, for instance, some outstanding crime you’ve committed ", in which he replies “Crime…crime…I’m afraid I can’t think of a crime, but I can safely say my whole life was one continuous misdemeanor."
I think at that point, I knew that I wanted to make films like that. Politics was never a thought; I never had a hard time speaking my mind and for some time it was a significant part of my life, but never the ambition to be a politician, just to be a part of something more than myself.
ML: “Potheads the Movie” was your first film – can you tell us about it? Where did the idea originate? How long did it take to make and what was the reaction?
MA: Potheads The Movie was suppose to be great. Heck, all great films start with a great idea and we had just that for the concept of this film. When I first wrote the film I was 21 years old and it was at the request of my best friend and roommate Chris Leone. He had been pitching a script I wrote entitled “Raver” for a year or so and was not having a lot of success outside of acquiring a verbal interest from a relatively well-known actress at the time.
He wanted me to make any film, micro budget style that we could shoot with $20,000 in which he could co produce and star in it. With that request I wrote Potheads The Movie. At first there was a script, a funny script. But as time quickly passed and we needed to attach some talent I decided to wipe the dialogue from the script and make the concept more appealing.
"How about a totally improvised film, where actors are banned from seeing the script. Basically they would know what was happening when they showed up on set that day.”
Sounded like a great idea and fortunately it worked in acquiring the stars we had, but was very difficult to execute. In the end I was not happy with the finished product.It still does not feel finished to me, but the concept was a success as the performances were quite brilliant.
ML: How did it feel having High Times call you and your “Potheads” cast the “21st century answer to Monty Python”? Monty Python is legendary – after that did you feel any pressure to live up to them in any way?
MA: I am glad High Times saw potential in our film and there were some great performances by some incredible talents. But our post execution, among a plethora of things, was horrible in my opinion.
The first cut should not have been released and should not have been given the reviews it received. There were a few bad ones as well, unfortunately some from people who saw an unofficial trailer and not the actual film.
I wonder what they will say when the director’s cut version is ready with 20 more minutes of footage. Hopefully we can live up to those reviews because I still feel we never lived up to our ones from the past.
ML: You’re also known for discovering the comedic acting talents of Stefan Gordy, aka Redfoo from the musical group LMFAO. How did that come about?
MA: Actually Stefan explains the simplicity of the casting on the behind the scenes portion of the original dvd, but basically it went like this – one of our actresses, Lindsey Labrum, knew Stefan and told me he would be perfect for the part of Loco. He called me after I saw his pic and I talked to him, but in truth I really did not know how good he would be.
I worked a lot with Stefan on Potheads; we even trained with famed fight choreographers Theo Kypri and Ray Park for the last scene of the film. Stefan was such a natural talent, and he was humble enough to take my direction, each scene had to be explained by me that day so there had to be a lot of trust on that set.
ML: In 2006, you left the film industry to go into politics? Why was that and what all did you accomplish in the political arena?
MA: I left in 2006 because my focus was not away from film or the idea that I would stop making films, it was on helping people, trying to make a difference, typical 23 year old idealistic stuff. I also needed to return home so that I could ground myself from some of the early success and failures of the past 3 years.
I did what most soul-searching 23 year olds do; I wrote a book, an album, even had time to go back to school. I also began working in home health care as a Marketing Director. I left after a year and a half to run a state senate campaign and amongst the chaos of life, I had the happiest day of my life watching the birth of my little girl who I named after my grandmother Lucy. I ran for Pennsylvania State Committee in 2009 and won, although I left before finishing my first term in January of 2012.
ML: In 2010, you were named VP of Key Care Hospice and in 2011 you won the Aster Award for creating the top hospice booklet in the world. How did you get involved in the world of hospice care?
MA: My grandmother, Lucy Dishington, was an amazing woman and my best friend. She passed away from pancreatic cancer not too long after I returned. I remember what it was like going through the hospice process with her. It is very difficult watching someone you love go through that. In the end she passed away peacefully and I knew I had found another avenue of purpose. I began working in home health care and then personal care homes soon after that. In 2010 I had an opportunity to join a great company, one that I had been a part of as a Marketing Director 5 years earlier and I knew that this was the right decision for me at the time. When I designed the Hospice booklet I brought a lot of what I used in the film business to the table. I wanted to diagnose what it is was that people were looking for when they were at that stage of inquiring about using hospice for someone they loved. In my experience there are some Hospice companies out there that are down right scary, but we were providing something special and different, so I wanted the materials to reflect that.
ML: It seems you attended Auburn University (I’m from Alabama originally) – so what do you think about the Auburn/Alabama football rivalry?
MA: Well I actually played for the Tigers for only my freshman season and it was an amazing, but humbling experience. I was a WR in high school and I got the bright idea of convincing the coach that I was fit for Defensive End. I gained a ton of weight putting myself at 6 ‘4 248 before I decided it was just too much and I was not a Defensive End…at all. The rivalry is different for me, of course I am going to root for Auburn, but my great uncle went to Alabama and I am an east coaster so no beef here.
ML: What is your top passion between filmmaking and writing?
MA: I do not think I have one; it all depends on the story. I was a little naïve at 21, when I first started I only wanted to produce my films, I learned that when the right project comes along you take it if you believe in it. I enjoy producing and I have been fortunate enough to work with some very talented and experienced writers and filmmakers.
ML: What projects are you currently working on? What can we expect to see in the future from Michael Anton?
MA: I have three projects. The first is a road trip comedy. I am producing the film, which was written by a relatively unknown, but brilliant writer named Stan Ash. We are looking at shooting this film by the New Year, preferably in Louisiana and I am pretty optimistic about the level of talent we plan on bringing to the table.
The second project I also have very high hopes for is a Vampire Movie, A Mockumentary, and a Dark Comedy all rolled into one. The movie AS:VS or At Stake: Vampire Solutions showcases the talents of two very talented young artists writer Duane Craig and director Jim Weter. I did not come on to the project until after they were done filming, but when I saw the screener I knew they were on to something.
I made a few suggestions moving forward and they were nice enough to listen to them. I am looking forward to pitching to the networks for an October release, it’s kind of like “Spinal Tap” meets “Twilight” without the shiny skin and the cheesy love scenes. There is also an awesome sequel, which is already in its final post stages and has a trailer up on YouTube as of August 26th.
The third project is the director’s cut of Potheads The Movie. I really do not know what we are going to call it, honestly I would rather call it Potheads The Movie because at least this time we know we are going to do things right. The film has a talented group of filmmakers in Florida who are working around the clock and keeping me reprised until the film is ready. All I can say is yes there are new scenes and yes there is a rap musical called “Need More Time for Distribution”…enough said;)
ML: Is there anything else you’d like mention before we wrap this up?
MA: Nope, thank you, Ms. Layne for keeping me on my toes and Rogue Cinema maybe if we are lucky we could get an AS/VS: At Stake Vampire Solutions review from you…that would be great.