Wednesday, February 20, 2008

10 Questions for...Jerry Murdock

When most people think about B-movies or low-budget movies in general, the last thing they typically think about is stellar acting. But one glimpse of my next guest will have you thinking differently if you catch one of his groundbreaking performances. Equally adept at playing a bit part or an incredible dual role, Jerry Murdock is nothing if not consistently great! His latest role, as Sheriff Brogan in The Blood Shed is just another fantastic portrayal for the epitome of versatility that is Jerry Murdock! Now, without further ado, here are 10 Questions for…Jerry Murdock.

1.) Dave: How long have you been acting and how did you break into it?

Jerry: I “broke into it” when I was 26, by accident. I was bartending at a restaurant in upstate New York as a summer job where the owners put on dinner theater productions. The woman who ran the production company asked me if I was interested in trying out for an upcoming play, SHIP’S AHOY. The character was an all-American college football player, and I seemed to physically fit the bill. Actually, I found out later I was a desperation choice. She couldn’t find anyone else to do it! She didn’t even know if I could act my way out of a wet paper bag. Fortunately, I guess I had a knack for performing and after that show I continued on, doing comedy, drama, improv, in the regional theater circuit, really testing my chops. After a few years, I thought I would head down to New York to see if I could do film, television, or anything else. You can only kick around the upstate theater circuit for so long before you become a bitter community theater has-been with a drinking problem, complaining about your missed opportunities.

2.) Dave: How do you prepare for a role?

Jerry:
I read the script a few times, picking up on little clues, and then sit down with the director and toss ideas at them. My goal is to make it interesting, whether it is speech, mannerisms, physical appearance or whatnot, when I end up on set, I try to be under the character’s skin. I’m not an obsessive planner, but I do give it ample thought. The one thing I try to be very cognizant of is to never repeat myself. I try to throw some dynamic into the performance that is different each time. I really don’t want to end up being a one-trick pony, doing the same bit over and over again.

3.) Dave: Your dual portrayal of twin brothers Jake and Mitch Geraldi in I'll Bury You Tomorrow was incredible. I actually had to wait until the end credits to make sure that both characters were played by you. How did you manage that memorable performance?

Jerry:
I’m flattered that people enjoyed that performance, because Alan Rowe Kelly will tell you that I never thought we could pull it off. You know, the wig, make-up, contact lenses and all that can only take you so far. The performances could have very easily fell into some bad characterization, and the whole thing would have made the film and myself look foolish, which is what I was convinced was happening while we were shooting it. Alan deserves a lot of the credit because he not only guided me on what was working and not working with the two characters; he was constantly re-assuring me that the whole concept would be effective. I didn’t believe it until it was finally screened and I realized we did fool people. I think all that doubt I had when shooting helped tremendously.

4.) Dave: What inspires you creatively?

Jerry:
People, all kinds of different people. I could sit in a park all day and just check out the way people act, talk, and carry themselves. You sit back and try to figure out their story. The couple arguing, the guy talking to himself, the girl crying, the old man laughing, they all have a story. I find it interesting to wonder why, which leads to all kinds of creative impulses when it comes time to “create”. Also, great films, great music, great art, it can all be inspiring.

5.) Dave: You've acted in soap operas, independent horror movies, commercials and a wide range of other projects. What is your favorite genre of work and why?

Jerry:
Horror movies, by far. You really get a chance to let loose, and the more outrageous the character, the better. I have to say, though, that I really haven’t had too many opportunities to do a drama, or other serious pieces. I would like to tackle something like that, eventually. I do love comedy. I did a short film last year called DING DONG DATE, and it reminded me how much I loved comedy when I was doing the theater work. I would love to do more. The soap opera and commercial work were less gratifying because it was usually just minor scenes; say your few bit lines, hit your marks and take your check. No input, no creative freedom. The benefit, however, was the money!

6.) Dave: Are you more comfortable in front of the screen, or do you have a desire to work behind the camera at some point?

Jerry:
I’m comfortable in front of the camera, but I’m one of those guys that would like to direct one day. Right now, I’m not sure I’m ready to take that leap. What I do when I’m on set is to watch and listen to the creative processes of the filmmakers that I work with. That’s the best film school there is, in my opinion. Whether it is Alan Rowe Kelly, Bart Mastronardi, Stolis Hadjicharalambous, or Anthony Sumner, I have learned something from each of them. So one day, I’ll try to tackle a project of my own, and try not to beat the actors with sharp sticks, like those clowns do.

7.) Dave: What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the acting process?

Jerry:
Shooting with other amazing actors. When working opposite a strong actor, it really ups the ante and pushes me to be better. When they are right there with you, it makes me, the scene and the film better. Fearless actors; that’s the best part, and I’ve been quite fortunate to have had the pleasure of working with my share. The least favorite part of the acting process is actually finishing a project. If it’s a part I really enjoyed, I go through withdrawal when it’s all over.

8.) Dave: What will we be seeing you in next?

Jerry:
Well, this is going to be an interesting year. It’s as if the floodgates have opened. I have two films I’ve appeared in and I’m quite proud of; Bart Mastronardi’s VINDICATION and Stolis Hadjicharalambous’s CROSSED which are going to be phenomenal. Be sure to keep your eye open for those.
I also finished Anthony Sumner’s BY HER HAND, which is going to be teamed with Alan Rowe Kelly’s long-simmering A FAR CRY FROM HOME for a yet-untitled anthology piece. Alan will be shooting the third chapter of the anthology, DOWN THE DRAIN, this spring, where I’ll appear as a nebbish down-on his luck teacher. Also, we have the web series THE HOLLOWS set to roll sometime this year, where I’ll play an alcoholic minister. There are a few other potential projects that aren’t confirmed yet, but it would be great if they panned out. As you can see, it will be a busy year, and will certainly keep me off the streets.

9.) Dave: If your life had taken another road, what do you think you would be doing if you were not an actor?

Jerry:
Well, my life has taken another road. I’m a teacher, and consider myself an actor part-time. I essentially perform five times a day. Just imagine trying to make history entertaining for kids! I’ve got my bag of tricks, and the kids seem to enjoy my class, so it’s gratifying. Right now I’m finishing up my master’s degree and am considering going on to get my doctorate. Perhaps I’ll teach at the university level one day. So, first and foremost, I’m a teacher, but the acting aspect will always be with me. I look forward to doing it as I age rather gracefully, I hope.

10.) Dave: If someone was interested in entering the acting profession, what would be the best advice you could give that person?

Jerry:
Get involved and just do it. That’s the only way to get ahead. I’m not a big supporter of acting schools and teachers to help you “act”. Granted, there are a few who are worth their salt, but most of them are scams, with bitter failed actors who are forced to teach to pay the bills. The problem is, there are so many of them, you’re more than likely to fall into a meaningless class with a failed “professional” actor as a teacher. They won’t give you an honest assessment of your talent or potential, because you pay their bills for all the priceless wisdom they bestow upon you.
The harsh reality of this business is: you’ve either ‘got it’ or you don’t. The only way to find out if you’ve got the chops to make a go at this profession is to get out there and audition for any kind of role you can get your hands on (except porn, the career killer!). You’ll find out rather quickly where you stand in the acting food chain. Be patient, thick-skinned and persistent. If you’ve got the talent, let the chips fall where they may.


I want to thank Jerry Murdock for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. If you haven't had the pleasure to witness one of Jerry Murdock's performances, then you are missing out on the work one of the better actors in the industry. Memorable roles, remarkable performances and quite frankly, a hell of a guy, discover more about Jerry Murdock by visiting his Myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/jermrdk.

DVD Review: Primal

When my email inbox notified me that I was getting the new release Primal, I was excited to say the least. As you probably already know, I'm a Bigfoot freak. I try to see every film, every documentary or television program about the beast and I try to read every book I can find on him as well. And while I love researching the big guy, I cannot say that I'm an expert on him. But of this I am certain, the monster in Primal is about as far away from Bigfoot as the Loch Ness Monster is! I actually had to reverse the DVD to make sure I saw what I thought I saw!

That being said, the monster is not just the film's weak spot, but it's also what makes the film so endearing. No, I'm not smoking Bigfoot dung! You have to watch the movie to see what I mean. Upon first glance of the beast, I was ready to take a hammer to my DVD player for displaying such a contrived juvenile monstrosity such as this before my eyes. But alas, my garage is in such a shambles, I had no choice but to let the disc play (what, get up and turn the disc off manually? Never!).

Once I settled into the movie, I was surprised to discover that I was actually liking this thing. I wasn't loving it, but I was sitting there with a stupid look on my face like the look I make when I actually get a warm Big Mac from my local McDonalds. A rare, nice surprise.

Oh, as for the plot, a bunch of kids venture into an unchartered part of the forest as they are doing a survelliance mission for big oil, and they get knocked off one by one by you know who (in a series of repetitive attacks). A small film that's big on ambition, Primal won't be winning any awards, but it was fun nonetheless. I give Primal *** out of *****.





Monday, February 18, 2008

10 Questions for...Tom Burns

Have you ever noticed how a film's score can add to the experience of watching a memorable movie? With subtle undertones, skin-crawling crescendos and light melodies composed to get the hair on the back of your neck to stand, Tom Burns has been stamping his fingerprint notes on many award-winning independent films like The Blood Shed and I'll Bury You Tomorrow as well as with his indie rock group, The Kimballs. A musician since the tender age of five, Tom Burns is also the founder of his own music production company, Really Horrible Music. It's truly my pleasure to give to you, 10 Questions for…Tom Burns!


1.) Dave: How did your career in music begin?

Tom: My Dad worked as a double bass player, and my Mom had done some singing, so music and musicians were regarded very highly in our house. When my aunt bought me a tiny drum kit for my fifth birthday, I realized that making music was what I wanted to do.

I played music in school every chance I got, and in my teens I played in bands with my friends, including drummer Michael Mark, my partner in THE KIMBALLS.

I also studied privately with the late Jack Winters, a brilliant percussionist and composer from the Manhattan avant-garde music scene. He introduced me to great 20th Century composers like Gy├Ârgy Ligeti, Krzysztof Penderecki and Iannis Xenakis, whose works inspired me to write and record my own compositions.


2.) Dave: Can you explain your process of scoring a film?

Tom: I start by watching a final cut of the film, and I talk with the director about what stylistic direction he or she wants to take the project in. We make notes regarding specific cues. Then I decide on the instrumentation and sound design, write some parts and record the music.

When I work on film projects with Alan Rowe Kelly, the process starts a lot earlier. I often go location scouting with him, so I start to get ideas for the score by walking through the “movie” in real-life!


3.) Dave: What inspires you creatively?

Tom:
Listening to great, recorded music and watching great musicians perform always helps.


4.) Dave: What musical composition (either in film or outside of it) are you most proud of?

Tom: I’LL BURY YOU TOMORROW
, “Main Theme. ” Orlando Wells is a world-class violinist and violist, and is also a good friend. He performed all of the live string playing on the recording. His virtuoso technique and his knowledge of extended techniques gave my score the balance of pretty/scary that I was shooting for.


5.) Dave: What is your all-time favorite film score (not your own) and why?

Tom:
Max Steiner, KING KONG, 1933. The vivid musical themes make all of the characters bigger than life; the instrumentation is so rich, from Manhattan to Skull Island and back. It’s the template for the modern Hollywood blockbuster score.


6.) Dave: In most B-movies, the audio typically suffers, but not in the films where your music appears. How does your music remain so crisp in these films?

Tom:
I was fortunate to learn from some of the best recording engineers in the industry, when I worked as an assistant engineer at Axis Studios in New York City. Pioneer, dance music producer Francois Kevorkian owned the studio, and his attention to detail is legendary!

After Axis closed and I started working as a freelance editor/engineer, I was able to put together a good project studio of my own, which is how I started Really Horrible Music. My dear friend Alan Rowe Kelly was my first client, and the first project we did was his film I’LL BURY YOU TOMORROW.


7.) Dave: Do you ever find yourself creatively blocked and if so, how do you get over it?

Tom:
Get out of the studio! This weekend I went to a punk rock show with my wife, scream queen Katherine O’Sullivan and my good friend actor Jerry Murdock – we had a blast! After I’ve had some fun, I’m usually ready to get back to work.


8.) Dave: When you score a film, how much musical direction do you get from the director?

Tom:
I think a good director knows he or she is working with a good composer when they can give you a final cut, tell you what they’re aiming for and then leave you to it.

Working with Alan Rowe Kelly is a special situation for me, because we’ve been friends for so long, and we have a lot of the same ideas about what’s cool in a horror film!


9.) Dave: What upcoming projects do you have in the works?

Tom:
I just finished the score for Alan Rowe Kelly’s upcoming horror short, A FAR CRY FROM HOME. I used all vintage, analog equipment to convey the 1970’s grind-house feel that Alan had in mind. Now we have to sync everything to picture and mix the sound, so there’s plenty of work ahead.

I’m also expanding my Really Horrible Music studio to include post-production services, which is exciting but requires a lot of planning.

In March, I’m recording a free improvisation session with my old friend Richard Kimball; that should be fun. His band, Panic Attack Pills, has a terrific song in A FAR CRY FROM HOME.


10.) Dave: If you were able to pick a project, any project, what would your dream project be?

Tom:
My dream project is always my current project. I hope they keep coming!



Between composing films, writing or performing with The Kimballs and managing Really Horrible Music, Tom is incredibly busy, so I am truly honored that he has taken the time to spend with us here today. To learn more about this magical composer, check out his Myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/reallyhorriblemusic. For more on The Kimballs, visit http://www.myspace.com/thekimballs or the band's official website at http://www.thekimballsrock.com/.

*Photo by George Schaller