Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Liberal Dead New Interview With Director CJ Wallis

Mitch Reaves reached out and mentioned he was now writing for The Liberal Dead website and asked some questions about BB before the release of the film.

For any of you who may still be unfamiliar, BB is the new project from CJ Wallis, owner of FortyFPS Productions. His work is synonymous for outstanding camera work and cinematography, as well as a signature modern, yet classic look. BB is his return to the horror/thriller genre after taking time away to do documentary filming for hip hop artist Curren$y and his JetLife record label. 
BB synopsis from IMDB: 
BB is the provocative story of a girl named Leah who, under the name “Candy Cummings”, performs strip shows online from her apartment for thousands of strangers every day, never fully knowing the extent of evils that could be watching on the other side of the screen.

When I saw the first teaser trailer for BB, I was immediately hooked. After watching, I reached out to CJ, asking for absolutely any info I could get on the project. Being that he’s not only incredibly talented, but an approachable, all around good dude, he hooked me up with the exclusive stills you see below, and even better, also offered to do an interview. 

Q: Tell us a little bit about how you came up with the concept for BB? 

A: While on tour, the house I was staying at was robbed. They grabbed literally everything. All hard drives & back-ups I was working on at the time are now somewhere in the bottom of a New Orleans ravine. Two of these projects were feature length documentaries that were in their final stages/pre-sales (“Please Subscribe” and “This Is The Life”). It was like the Wooville kids walking in and seeing the shit the Grinch did to their X-mas. BB was largely a knee-jerk reaction to that. 
I knew the money that my other scripts would need could take X amount of time to come through and I really didn’t want to wait. So, I challenged myself in November to make and write a feature length film for a X amount, work with all new faces and/or first time actors and perform the majority of the tasks myself from script to screen to deliver the film to Cannes to meet the March deadline for submissions. 
It is how I worked on all my other projects I’ve made or been involved with, so there seemed to be no reason to branch away from that method at this point. Prior having the concept for any of this, my friend Jennifer Mae – a web model at the time – confessed that she didn’t care much for the flirty term “BB,” so naturally, I abused this information endlessly. 
One night, sent her a sort of ominous/mock super-fan text message in broken English carrying on and on and saying all sorts of backwards, bizarre things all punctuated with “BB”s. I sent it and we laughed then when I re-read it a minute or two later, it instantly dawned on me how terrifyingly vulnerable and ominous the web-cam world could be. 
I had always wanted to make a film about Ricardo Lopez, the Bjork stalker who filmed himself for a year building an acid bomb and rambling confessional love and madness to her and once an overall concept like that reveals itself then 4 or 5 other half-ass ideas in your head instantly combine themselves to it to become Power Ranger like.

Q: What was it like working with first-time actress Jennifer Mae on her debut? 
A: Just being friends for a short while before the film and talking, I just had that gut feeling I have with anyone I invest my time into – that she had the energy, charisma and ability to be completely intoxicating on screen, and that’s what’s amazing about working with a first time actor. 
You get these raw emotions and unexpected twists in a performance that give it a very unqiue, raw execution that makes it much easier to edit and present an authentic, believable world for the audience to eavesdrop in on.  

Q: You’ve worked previously in the horror/thriller genre. What is it about this type of film that inspires you to create? 
A: I don’t think it’s necessarily the genre specifically, I just think for me that whether it’s reaching out to an artist to do a music video or writing a part for an actor friend of yours, 95% of what motivates me is wanting to create something interesting or show off for my friends or people I respect or want to work with. However and whatever form that takes shape in, I will run with full steam.
Q: Your eye for cinematography is outstanding. How do you approach a project like BB visually? Do you think your style makes working in this genre easier or more challenging? 
A: Shooting documentaries and live events for the majority of the last 3 years helped endlessly because if there was ever a situation where we only had time for two takes, I felt oddly relieved that I had two cracks at it instead of just one. Plus I knew very early on this wasn’t a film that would benefit from glossy dolly shots or elaborate one takes, so the loose/documentary/jump-cut style would both greatly add to the fractured tone and also act as a style comfort zone to hide within during the madness. It’s as close to the Dogme 95 Manifesto as I could get. 
I think when you shoot and do the post on your projects, it eventually conditions you to a way of thinking that invaluably helps spin any short-comings into strengths. Whether in a moment of chaos on set or on day one writing the script because, at all times, you are prepared for all the different ways things could go pear-shaped from all the different perspectives of people’s tasks. 
It makes you able to instantly re-evaluate an approach or re-write any moment in the moment, and know it will fit with the edit you’ve been building in your head the entire time you shoot. It can be a potentially overwhelming concept in the beginning for someone starting out, but after a few projects and time, it gives way into a calming sense of freedom and confidence that makes you feel like no moment or challenge is ever unconquerable.

Q: BB looks like it’s going to bring something a little different to the table, it doesn’t look like the average thriller. What are your thoughts on the current state of the genre in general, and why was it important to you to have BB not just fit into the “safe zone” that’s already been established? 
A: BB was a bit of a experiment in this sense as well because after making and selling 2 previous genre features over 4 years, I had the luxury of learning and seeing what the buyers & studios were and were not looking for, what other sorts of films were being championed or ignored and – more importantly – what audiences seemed to be gravitating towards.

It is very difficult to capture or sustain people’s attention span at the moment, so I really wanted to get those ingredients into the stew to give it it’s best chance to be seen without interrupting or cheapening the concept in anyway. Part of that formula is to give people something they feel they shouldn’t be watching and also incorporate unknown worlds or concepts in a relatable way. 
You or the people you know may not strip online and have obsessed fans that infect your life, but you do have a laptop camera looking at you 24/7. A large number of people who I’ve shown the film have since told or anxiously shown me a piece of tape across their laptop covering the camer and if you can get an audience to hook and invest into worlds or concepts they didn’t know existed or leave the theatre with their head buzzing about the things you’ve shown them, then as far as I’m concerned, you’re winning.  
Q:Working on a smaller production like BB, was there anything you wanted to do that you didn’t get to/ couldn’t fit in? 
A: Not really. When you are drafting something in advance knowing the pieces and time and money you have to work with, you don’t start writing in helicopter shots or scenes involving 100 extras. 
I wrote a couple Act 1 scenes involving peripheral events/characters to show various aspects of Leah’s personality or attitudes, but the location didn’t allow for them, so, again, knowing in advance as an editor and as the writer that we have captured those moments elsewhere instantly affords the freedom to cut them and know nothing will be lost. Plus, it’s more interesting in a film like this and the character to give Leah no one else around to count on but herself. 
One thing I can say we didn’t get that I was a bit sad about was I wrote a reality show bit that was going to run through the movie called “Daz My Bitch!” – sort of a Flavor Of Love thing but starring Daz Dillinger but the timing didn’t line up. When I see the film now, I don’t know where the fuck it would’ve gone but it would have been a helluva lot of fun to film. 
Q: Did you take anything away from your experience touring with with Curren$y that you applied to BB? 
A: Countless things. Perhaps not as much on the film-making side, but more the development of my entrepreneurial brain from Mousa Hamdan, Curren$y and all the artists on the label. New Orleans altered my DNA 100%. Getting first hand access and methods behind the business of being a celebrity, growing and maintaining a fan base and how to carry yourself within all situations – which have nothing to do with making a film or writing a rap – are/will be critical blueprints going forward. 
One recent video “AD4,” I shot with Curren$y in Reno in the dressing room before his show around 11pm. During filming his performance, I pulled a girl from the crowd who vaguely resembled Ginger from ‘Casino.’ for a hallway scene. We did a take outside a nearby hotel and two performance takes while we smoked in the truck. He went to his room and I went out and got B-roll, cut the video in the airport a couple hours later and we released it that afternoon.

Almost every music video or documentary clip I’ve put out with them was done this way. This is how he likes to work and how he made his millions. Write, record, quick mix then out to the audience. No fuss or too much overthinking was definitely something I needed to adapt to and apply more in my own projects. 
Q: What are some of your favorite horror/thriller films?  
A: Admittedly, I arrived a bit later in life to horror and thrillers but after sifting through the majority of it, I ended up spending alot of time with Fulci and Argento’s movies. If I’m going to watch something horror, I’d rather watch “The New York Ripper” or “Deep Red” or something along those lines and just enjoy every wonderful second versus one of the usual mainstays. 
That being said, “The Shining” is obviously film school and I very loosely consider “Dancer In The Dark” a horror and that is easily the project that has had the most film-making influence on me in the last several years. “Let The Right One In,” and “Suspiria” were artsy references. Things like “Pieces” are really great too – I’d never have the balls to make something like that on my own but sure as hell love watching them. 
Q: Where and how can we see BB? Are there upcoming festival screenings? Is there a VOD date that you can reveal yet? 
A: We were meant to have our world premiere on the 18th of October in Vegas, but at the last second Cinemark banned the festival & the films so things were cancelled. BB was called “softcore pornography” which I think was code for “I fast forwarded through your disc and saw two girls kissing and some breasts.” 
I have a pretty cool idea for the release of this movie which we are in talks with my sales agency, Industry-Works, to see if it is practical for this film or do it on the next one. Regardless, the film should be around someplace by the end of November and through December and will definitely be hitting all the usual home video/streaming places after the screenings run their course.  
Q: Fortyfps looks to be making big strides lately, with all sorts of multi-media projects either out or on the horizon. Is there anything upcoming you can tell us about? What’s next after BB? 
A: I have a bunch of videos, designs and things lined up with my music circle that I’m pretty excited about and am also currently doing all the post-production on a new feature from Industry-Works Pictures while BB is in it’s birthing phase. 
The next major priority will be the second ensemble feature called “Umerica” which I can’t say too much about at the moment other than it will officially retire the documentary/home-made style most of my projects have had the last several years. It is also slated to feature (namedrop) and (namedrop) in the cast, which I am beyond thrilled about. I think it’s going to be the first project to fully show what myself and newly formed production team are capable of going forward.  
BB is one of my most anticipated films right now, and I can’t wait to check it out. Rest assured a review will most definitely be coming as soon as I have a chance to see it. Huge thanks go out to CJ Wallis for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this interview. 
We’ll keep you posted on all things BB as details are released.

Venture over to The Liberal Dead to view the original interview "BB - Exclusive Interview With Writer/Director CJ Wallis."


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