Thursday, July 31, 2014

Must-See Documentary Chronicles Fimmaker's Revolutionary Grandfather

Documentaries come and go, some hit theatrically, some air on PBS, and then some actually never see the light-of-day until they make it out into the world on home video via DVD.   In the age of D-I-Y filmmaking and the ability to make a film for almost no money whatsoever, how do you find the films that are worth your while when the creative output of filmmakers is up and outlets to show the films are increasing just as quickly?   Do you comb the internet and read reviews hoping to find some good recommendations?  Or do you click through the Documentary category on Netflix Instant and hope that you'll find something that may peak your interests amidst their vast catalog?  It can be a challenge, especially if you're not into the current trend of documentaries on music groups or on films that were never made, almost made, or never released.    Perhaps, the answers aren't known yet, so for the time being I guess we can consider ourselves lucky that WEAVING THE PAST (2014) somehow and someway has shown itself public and is on the path to finding a audience.

Set to be released this August, WEAVING THE PAST,  written and directed by Walter Dominguez and Executive Produced by actress Shelley Morrison (Will & Grace), tells of the filmmakers own personal promise, made to his dying grandfather to search out his long lost relatives. 

Along the way, director Dominguez discovers not only that his grandfather, Emilio "Tata" Hernandez was not just a philanthropist and well respected Reverend in his community but that he too, as a young man had ties to the Mexican Revolution which brought major social and economic justice to the people of the impoverished country decades prior.  

WEAVING THE PAST is a worthwhile film, but more importantly, it is a personal film above everything else.  Director Walter Dominguez has really captured the soul in PAST, and the beautiful thing here is that he has not only captured the soul of his Grandfather Tata but that of himself the journeyman as well.   WEAVING THE PAST leads us on a journey of discovery of family, faith, and hope. It rewards its audience in spades.  Films are art, and Dominguez has really taken this idea to heart.  With PAST he has created something so personal and something so true that it is difficult to resign to any preconceived ideas that one might have about what a film is "supposed to be".  Dominguez explores and tinkers with the traditional documentary format in PAST by including dramatic recreations of emotional moments, while at the same time including talking heads, one-on-one encounters, and dream-like aesthetics.   This is a beautiful work, and Dominguez has really captured an unspoken emotion in his film, and it is really something rather difficult to articulate in words.  Experience WEAVING THE PAST.

For more information about WEAVING THE PAST and to see the trailer click HERE:

What follows is a interview conducted with Walter Dominguez and Shelley Morrison last month:

TV STORE ONLINE:  Thanks so much for the opportunity to take a look at your film before it gets officially released.... I thought the film was just wonderful.

WALTER & SHELLY:  Thanks.

SHELLEY:  You know, this film is our child.  We've been working on it for about thirteen years actually.  We financed this film on our own so we could make it our way.   It is really Walter's film, I'm just the Executive Producer and chief cook and bottle washer.

TV STORE ONLINE:  It's a great film, and for me it really transcends the traditional documentary that we're all familiar with because of just how personal of a film it actually is, and I love the dream-like quality that the film has as well as the reenactments used to tell the story...

WALTER:  You know, so much of the film and the making of it, we were making decisions surrounding the film that were based on deep, powerful and intuitive gut feelings. We just needed to put ourselves back in the time that were looking at in the film.   I really wanted to feel what it was like for those people in that time. I cast professional actors as well as family descendents in the film so we could re-create the feeling of that time.   As I was exploring, I heard some amazing stories and there was just no way to convey those through talking heads and there weren't any photographs to help us either, so  we had to recreate some of it to help convey the drama that these people had to endure.

SHELLEY:  It really was a journey for Walter.   He was led to the people that he needed to be with.   The young boy who plays Walter's Grandfather in the film is fourteen-years-old now.

TV STORE ONLINE:  When you're traveling down these different roads exploring this story...Did you run into dead-ends?  What were some of the obstacles you encountered as you were making the journey to uncover the story of the film?

SHELLEY:   We did.   We hit some very expensive dead-ends.   During a great portion of the shooting, I was still doing Will & Grace (NBC; 1998-2006)  and Walter was traveling back and forth to Mexico with our Cinematographer.   Seventy-five percent of the people that worked on this film with us, either behind the camera or in front of it, we have known for over twenty-five years. 

WALTER:  The film really was a spiritual journey for me, and I really felt that I was being guided in some way.   There were certainly times when I thought that I had reached a dead end.  There were also times when I didn't know where to go next, or how we were going to locate the descendents of our ancestors.   When I first went down to Mexico, I was only in touch with one person, he was a historian that I was planning to interview and that was all.      The rest of the people, were found because I chose to trust my gut and pursue the story. I had to tell this story.    I'm a very spiritually oriented person, as I'm sure you can tell from watching the film, and I put up photographs of ancestors around me with the idea that I was going to need help from the other side, and I do think that we do get help on different levels.   Life is a multi-leveled experience.   It really became a detective story for me, and the help I got was mind-boggling.  People started to come forward and they'd give me some information and that would lead to even more information.  I was really running on blind faith in order to complete the film.

TV STORE ONLINE:   One of the most powerful moments in the film is when you get to see the diary of your Grandfather from the early '50s....What do you think was the biggest surprise that you learned about your Grandfather while you were making the film?

SHELLEY:  I think that it was when Walter realized just how much he was exactly like his Grandfather.   My job was to direct his narration because Walter takes you on a journey in the film.  He really has a remarkable ability to attract all types of people and animals to him in his life and I really wanted that to come across in the film as well...

TV STORE ONLINE:  You know, I think that worked out well...  As I was watching the film I did remark to myself just how calming his voice was...

WALTER:   Thanks.  I was very worried about having to do the narration.  I had considered getting someone else for it, and then I just realized that it was my journey and that I had to do it myself.  I was worried that people would get tried of my voice over the course of the film but I tried to make it as compelling as I could.   I think it worked out well.

TV STORE ONLINE:   I know editing a documentary can be quite a long process considering all of the footage you may shoot over the course of the journey....

SHELLEY:   Walter's first cut of the film was over four hours long..

WALTER:  Well,  we had hundreds of hours of footage.

SHELLEY:   We butted heads on the editing of the film, but we really listened to each other.   We worked on the edit of the film for over six months.   Finally, he came into our bedroom and put a DVD into the player one evening and said, "Honey, this is the last one."  

TV STORE ONLINE:   Was it difficult to trim it down?  Was it instinctual in regards to the footage used versus what was important to the story?

WALTER:   I did go a lot by instinct and by what footage was the most interesting to me.  I knew we couldn't release a four hour movie.   The film is called WEAVING THE PAST (2014) and I wanted the editing to weave the story.  It was a really difficult process to get through all of the footage.  I was able to do most of it without turning to others for guidance, and when it really came down to it, you ask yourself about what is most important regarding the story.  After a while you can get lost in the weeds when you're working on something like this, so thankfully, I had Shelley to take my edits to.  She is very good with story structure and she pointed out what were key and important moments, but also the things that were fascinating while at the same time would be able to exist as something like a extra feature on the DVD release. So that was really helpful in cutting the film down.    It was a very collaborative process.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

INTERVIEW: Guillermo del Toro talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his new FX Network series The Strain

If you are a genre fan, or even a fan of movies like HELLBOY (2004), the majority of people out there know the name Guillermo del Toro. I have been a massive fan of del Toro ever since I saw a vampire film many years ago that he wrote and directed called CRONOS (1993).    As I grew as a person and later as a artist myself, I followed everything that Guillermo del Toro put out, and I also paid attention to his words too.  Like most, I have been sucked into the vivid worlds that he has created for both the mainstream and the arthouse. I adored PAN'S LABYRINTH (2006), I was in awe of the giant robots in PACIFIC RIM (2013), and was just recently sucked into the literary and comic worlds of del Toro's  The Strain (2014-)

Guillermo del Toro has made a jump onto the small screen with the latest FX Network show, The Strain.  If you are not aware of this franchise of books and comics that involves a modern twist on the supreme vampire takeover, get ready for the television series because it is nothing like you've ever seen before.

Guillermo, as well as his writing partner Chuck Hogan, have brought their story to life with nothing but love for the genre.  The Strain offers us incredible cinematography, and vampires that are once again given love by a man who sees them as nothing but vicious, ruthless killing machines, and it's about time something like this came to television. 

In this EXCLUSIVE interview with del Toro , TV STORE ONLINE discovers the real inspiration behind The Strain... 

TV STORE ONLINE:  Guillermo, thank you being a part of this with me. And let me tell you without sounding like too much of a gushy fanboy, what an honor it is to be speaking with you right now... Let's get right to it and talk about The Strain.   My first question would be what is the most promising thing to you when it comes to portraying this epic story on the small screen?

DEL TORO:  Well, the thing I am looking most forward to is the Mexican wrestler that you probably know from the books. (Laughing) I am a Mexican geek, so I love the fact of watching a Mexican kick the ass of vampires.(Laughing) But I'm most looking forward to giving watchers of the show a chance to watch a fast paced, fun summer series that I think, or hope people will think fucking kicks ass!

TV STORE ONLINE: (Laughing) I think you achieved that goal with flying colors, sir! When it comes to FX, was there anything that was too intense in the literary world that you had to cut out, or have they been totally accommodating to the entire vision?

DEL TORO:  They have been great! In fact, the only censorship we had was from Chuck Hogan and myself. (Laughing) There was a scene involving Ephraim's wife which was described in the book series we just thought was too much. (Laughing) So that was the only problem we thought there was while FX wanted everything in the show.

*POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING* 

TV STORE ONLINE: So they didn't have any issue with the scene where one of the characters d**k falls off and splashes into the toilet? (Laughing)

DEL  TORO: Well, we wanted to sow the dick as well as the balls drying up and falling off. (Laughing) FX was actually okay with the idea, so we even created scars where the dick was. Nothing worked! We did about three or four different versions of that scar. We made patches, none of it fucking worked. (Laughing) So we ended up with the "Barbie Doll" look you see in the episode.

TV STORE ONLINE: Yes, the effect did turn out to be very "Ken Doll-ish". But at least the sound effect of the plop into the toilet was left in, right? (Laughing)

DEL TORO: (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE: 
Upon reading The Strain book series and finally seeing their form in comics...Did you ever see any physical connection between the vampires in The Strain and BLADE 2 (2002)?

DEL TORO: I have made vampires for CRONOS, BLADE, and The Strain.  But the dimensions for each vampire are very different to me. These vampires are from notes I have had since I was fifteen or sixteen years old. The BLADE vampires I had taken from Filipino lore where they had elongated appendages (sidenote: commonly known as a Proboscis) which they used to ingest the unborn fetuses of pregnant women.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Holy sh*t! That's intense!

DEL TORO: (Laughing) Yeah. The BLADE vampires are taken from the Strigoi, where vampires had two barbs in their mouth to attack their prey.  At my "man cave", or my office (sidenote: called "Bleak House" located in Los Angeles) I have been reading about the vampire obsessively. I think I can compete with any vampire scholar on the subject. (Laughing)   

Blade 2 (2002)
The Vampire Tapestry book also has great, interesting vampires. When Bram [Stoker] writes about the vampire, he decides it is a killing machine who has romantic notions. I have never been into the romantic vampire, I have always liked the vicious killing machine, and that is what I wanted with The Strain.

TV STORE ONLINE:
I love every rendition of your vampire, but most of all I have to thank you for getting away from the fucking loving, sparkly set. (Laughing)

DEL TORO: (Laughing) Don't get me started on that.

TV STORE ONLINE: That's interesting that you touch on history. My next question was right on that same point... Would you consider The Strain to be an old world story told with a more modern technological edge? I definitely see shades of Van Helsing in the older character of Setrakian. Would you agree with that comparison?

del Toro at his "Bleak House" in Los Angeles
DEL TORO: I have to thank Carlton Cuse (Executive Producer) for that.  When Chuck and I wrote about him, he was more reserved. But in the show, he is sort of a hardcore motherf**ker, isn't he?  When Bram Stoker published 'Dracula', he was using voice recorders, telegraphs, stuff like that in the story. What Stoker was trying to say, was that his creature can come back to life in any modern age.   I guess in a way, that is true with The Strain, because as time goes on, it will be considered a classic as well. (Laughing) It's funny to think about, really.

When you realize that 'Dracula' is a modern novel for its time, it does make you think about time itself, and what holds true today won't be the same years from now when it comes to styles of horror and technology. But I am not trying to do that. The one thing I wanted to do with the show was give fans the feeling I felt when I watched shows in the '70s like Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-75) or Trilogy Of Terror (1975).  The fun of the series is what you go with, you know? Or, at least I hope it does. (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE:  Was there any doubt in your mind when it came to putting your vision on the small screen versus making feature films? And would you say that you only wanted to attempt this because there seems to be a "horror renaissance" on television, so to speak?

DEL TORO: I don't know if you know, but I first pitched the show in 2006. There were no horror series on the horizon at that time, and I was very much hoping that this show would happen back then. FX has been a channel where I have always liked most of their shows, and that is why Charlie [Hunnam] was cast for PACIFIC RIM.

TV STORE ONLINE: You're a Sons Of Anarchy fan? That is why you cast Charlie? That is just too awesome for words, man!

DEL TORO: I'm a huge fan of that! But with The Strain, we are starting by building the characters, and then I wanted to show in the first human kill how these vampires think of humans as food. And when they crush the head of the guy, it's almost like a box of juice. What do you usually do when you drink a box of juice? You crush it, right?  So, that is what I wanted to really show. That humans are nothing but drinks to these vampires. They don't give a shit about them, and I think crushing the guy's head shows that. (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE: I have to know about what's going on with IN THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS. I am a massive fan of yours, as well as the work of H.P. Lovecraft, and to just think about the possibility of you doing something that material really has me excited.  Is there any good news on the horizon regarding that project?

DEL TORO: No, nothing to say on that. But stay tuned. I am working very hard on making the movie happen.

TV STORE ONLINE:   That is so good to hear. And my last question involves your book, 'Cabinet Of Curiosities'...  I own it, love it, and swear by much of it when it comes to creation and advice regarding the film industry. You have so many great things to say, so I was wondering if you can leave the readers who want to get into this crazy, hard, worthwhile world of filmmaking or other forms of entertainment any advice?

DEL TORO: The book was done as a very candid book. I talk about a lot in that book, and got into trouble with some of the things I said, you know? (Laughing) Not everyone was happy, I mean I write about family in that book too.  When you are growing up and want to be a filmmaker, the best thing to have is someone who tells you the truth. You need to talk to someone who has made a film, someone who had succeeded at it, and someone who has failed as well. That's what I did with the book. I showed you my successes, and where I f**ked up too. (Laughing)

If someone gets something from that, it makes me very happy. But I think you just have to go for it, and be willing to make mistakes. Not everything is going to be good, and you need to be able to have that ability to f**king fail, and also succeed.  I wish everyone luck if they attempt to get into the world of movies.

TV STORE ONLINE: Guillermo, this has truly been nothing but an honor, and you're such a cool guy to just talk about everything with. Thank you so much for doing this.

DEL TORO: Thank you for watching the show and the love of my work. I wish we could talk more, and I look forward to talking to you again in the future.

You can catch The Strain Sundays at 10 PM EST / 7PM PST on FX

This interview was conducted by Rob DiLauro. Rob is a Georgia based filmmaker, author, screenwriter, and podcaster. His work can be seen on such websites as Dread Central and Horror News. You can follow him on Facebook HERE:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Actor/Director Gregg Daniel talks with TV Store Online about the final season of HBO's True Blood

New York born actor/director Gregg Daniel talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his character Reverend Daniels on the final season of the hit HBO series True Blood.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Boy, that sure was a great episode with you a couple weeks back...That monologue in the church with Sam Trammell was just great...


DANIEL:  I'm so glad to hear you say that... I'll tell you...After we finished shooting that  I sent an email off to the writer of the episode and thanked him for that.  It was the first time that I had done that, but I felt like I had to email him to thank him.    When we were doing the table read everyone was saying, Wow...Gregg's got this great speech."    So I wrote the writer and told him thanks for the speech and for caring about 'Reverend Daniels'.   It's pretty rare that a character like Reverend Daniels gets such a moment on primetime television.   I came onto the show during Season 3, and for him to go and reach back into that character's past and give him a back story really meant a lot to me.   The quality of that scene too...The fact that Reverend Daniels taps into his past and gets to his pain....I, as an actor, was just thrilled to get that.   I have a theater background, and for me, that speech was like having something to say from a Eugene O'Neill or Tennessee Williams play. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   I saw that your audition tape for True Blood just popped up on the internet recently...

DANIEL:  I saw that!  (Laughing)


TV STORE ONLINE:    Looking back at that audition tape what are you thoughts on it now?

DANIEL:   Well, when I made that -- I never thought that I'd get the role.   When the Producers contacted me I was in Cape May, New Jersey doing a play.   The Producers contacted me and said, "Can you put yourself on tape?"   The first thing you think of is -- Okay, who can I find that will film me?  It wasn't like I was in New York City proper. It's always better to be in the room with the Producers for something like that because they can feel you and you can feel them -- there's a great alchemy in something like that.      I really loved the simplicity of the scene I was given for that too.  I didn't want to approach the character as a typical fire-and-brimstone southern preacher.  I thought that that would have been too histrionic,     and when I sent it to the producers I didn't think that I'd get the role.   It was about a week after I sent them the tape that they called me and told me that I had gotten the role.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  The Reverend seems like a patient and wise man and I really like where the show writers are taking the character and "Lettie Mae" as a couple...

DANIEL:  Yeah, it's been wonderful.    I'm very pleased with where it's going.  We know that the Reverend has endured loss and he's suffered, just as much of us have in our lives.  Now he has to figure out a way to save Lettie Mae and how does the Reverend save a community that is losing their faith?   Those are nice, big questions for an actor to get behind.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Being on the set for True Blood down in New Orleans...Does the set or the costume help you find the character?

DANIEL:  The sets are amazing.  So, Yes!  Every time I walk onto a set...You wouldn't believe the detail that goes into those sets.  These sets and that environment aren't one that I visit every day.  Costumes, sets, and lighting help a great deal, especially when you as an actor give yourself over to it.   I still remember the first time that I visited the set for Lafeyette's apartment.  I said, "Wow!  Have I ever been any place like this before!" 

TV STORE ONLINE:  I'm sure you're getting questions from fans about what is going to happen throughout the rest of this final season of the show...But have you ever been tempted to just make something up when you're asked about it?   Have you ever been tempted to tell fans that the show is going to end in a big musical number and it's all a dream?

DANIEL:  (Laughing)  I love our fans.  They show up on location, and not only are they very respectful but they know everything about the show.  They know every detail about the True Blood universe.   If anything, I'm sort of hanging onto what they're saying about the show!  If anything, I tell them, "Keep the faith. There will be a ending.   There may be sacrifice, but you will have a sense of closure."  This is the final season of True Blood, we're on top and we're for sure going out with a bang.  

Follow Gregg Daniel on Twitter HERE: 
True Blood airs on HBO Sundays at 9pm EDT.
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung