Saturday, December 17, 2016

(Re)Search my Trash Interviews CJ Wallis

An Interview with CJ Wallis, Director of BB
by Mike Haberfelner | December 2016

Your new movie BB - in a few words, what is it about?

BB is about doing any and everything, inside and outside your means, for the person you love.

Basic question of course, why make a movie about a camgirl, and - even if this might sound silly - did you do any research on the subject?
I often have a bunch of 20 minute chunks of films in my head and as new fragments or elements occur to me, they get added to the pile. Occasionally the pieces fuse themselves together and become something that people haven’t really seen before.

A lot of stories I enjoy, things like Taxi Driver, involve the dark-side of the world willingly invited into the lead character’s life for one reason or another.

I hadn’t spent any time on web-cam sites previous to writing this or meeting Jen, our lead. If you’re looking for porn, watching a web-cam girl is like putting on Stairway To Heaven when you want to hear some heavy rock music quickly and just carry on with your day.

Other sources of inspiration when writing BB? And since you wrote your movie's story together with your lead actress Jennifer Mae, what was her input like?

One of those chunks that was in my head was several tapes I saw in high school featuring Ricardo Lopez, who filmed 18 hours of himself building an acid bomb to mail to his true-love - Björk. There are mash-ups of the tapes on YouTube, but watching the un-cut footage is fascinating and horrifying.

This mindset introduced into a world where people serve up their lives minute to minute to the world on social media with the ability to hack into embedded laptop cameras, mixed with our most primal urges seemed like a modern version of a peeping tom.

My only direction in the script for the Candy Cummings character was the rainbow colors & pink wig. After we had a few discussions, she came up with all the looks, wardrobes and is a web cam girl in her daily life, so seemed only fair to share a credit for the creation of the character.

To what extent could you actually identify with both of your lead characters, Leah and Hal?
I’ve never stripped or filmed porn like Leah, but I’ve sacrificed a lot and worked with people who became two-faced and vanished. Things that felt like the professional equivalent of covering up a mohawk with a pink wig.

I think it’s a fairly universal experience for people to hook into. Same as Hal projecting his ideals onto a dream-girl assuming she will be the answer to everything that’s missing.

Do talk about your directorial approach to your story at hand for a bit!
I wanted to show people what I could do and with the least amount of resources possible. Everyone in the cast was first-time or non actors, I had a 2 person crew and performed all the jobs myself from marketing to making it.

I’ve done a lot of work as the Robin to someone else’s Batman - ghost-directing projects or re-editing films and trailers for studios that get a lot of attention and praise for the filmmakers.

I’ve always been happy to do it. Every project always taught me a new trick, but it was 18+ hours a day for years and drained my energy. I felt like my own projects suffered by the time I got around to them.

A few words about your movie's rather impressive soundtrack, and how did you even get all those acts?
I’ve done 60 or more music videos and over 9 features film’s worth of documentary work in hip hop, so over the years I’ve met and worked with the best and biggest names in the industry, so it was just a matter of handing them a joint and asking.I spent a lot of time in New Orleans doing all the visuals, design & marketing for Atlantic artist Curren$y and the roster on his record label Jet Life.

What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
Most of my projects I’ve made completely on my own, so having John Sovie, Russ Matoes and Kristian Hanson around every day helped a ton. The film is dark and claustrophobic to film so some days were better than others, but I am a marijuana advocate so anytime things could get tense, there’s always a simple way to relax and bounce back quickly.

The $64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?
There are deals in the works to get it around in stores. Today, the film can be downloaded exclusively from Bit Torrent Bundle. For $9.99 you legally download a torrent file with the film, 37 song soundtrack and score, 2 music videos, several art prints and more here:

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of BB?
Every once and awhile on Twitter, I’ll offer to send the film to a handful of my followers and their reaction has been universally enthusiastic - for a film I thought might turn off as many people as it turned on.We screened a cut for market at Cannes earlier this year, and we have about 20 write-ups so far and I can objectively say we are one of the best reviewed independent films of this year.

Any future projects you'd like to share?
Right now I am in pre-production on my second film called Umerica(pronounced you-merica) - which is sort of a satirical love letter to conspiracy theories and the media’s role in it all.

It’s a big ensemble cast with faces you know and love. Cannes deadline is March 17th, so we are aiming to shoot towards the end of January 2017 to be able to get a cut over to them in time.

What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
I am self-taught and quit a professional hockey career in the 90s after drinking the Weinstien Kool-Aid - believing all their rags-to-riches marketing fairy tales they seemed to tag onto all their young directing talent at the time.

How would you describe yourself as a director?
BB was delivered in June almost to the day I started my career ten years ago and I consider it my “compromises” decade. Certain things I let slide or choosing to work with people despite knowing they were high-disaster-risk would always come back to haunt me or the end result of the project time and time again. I’ve escaped all this largely injury-free and will make sure the next fifty years or so are described as “uncompromising”.

Filmmakers who inspire you?

This is the question that ends up haunting every future film review ever, haha. Uhhh...everything from Stanley Kubrick to Tom Berninger.

Your favourite movies?

I have about 100 movies that I love that I watch over and over. Dancer in The Dark probably influenced me the most with everything leading up to, and including BB. I watch King Of Kong: Fistful Of Quarters a lot.

... and of course, films you really deplore?
I don’t despise any film. Except Boyhood.

I've never got into the made-for-retweet cinema thing that's been taking over the last while. I feel like if I wrote a script called “Cocktapus” about an evil octopus with dicks for arms, I’d be a billionaire, but I’m not ready to go to the dark side yet.

Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
All social media handles and websites are fortyfps

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

The producer of Sharknado follows me on Twitter, I DM’d him about Umerica and he read it and didn’t reply, so if he wants to work within his wheelhouse on #Cocktapus someone tell him to hit me back with some figures and let’s get after it, haha.

Thanks for the interview!

Check out the original review here.


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