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Sep 14, 2009

A TASTE OF KING - An interview with director Gary King

For one to be a director it takes a stern attitude, a keen eye for detail, a vast imagination, and the ability to emanate an aura of benevolence and seriousness. When it comes to Gary King, this man does it all and always with a smile and a quick joke. While having only been directing, writing and producing films for about five years, Gary King has a reached a peak in his career where he can sit back and admire the accomplishments that he has under his belt; two feature films to be released at the end of the year, a handful of music videos, an action-packed thriller in progress and apparently conquering the world and then some, one film at a time.

Gary King, although extremely photogenic and highly personable, should motivate those to fill the shoes that Mr. King will eventually have filled to perfection. – by Melissa Moreno

Bite Me: I’d like to start off by congratulating you on your two upcoming releases; Dismal and New York Lately! You’ve been directing for around five years now, correct? How does it feel to have reached a certain level of success?

Gary King: First off, thanks for the kind words. I’m really excited about having the good fortune of directing two feature films in such a short time. I’m really looking forward to how audiences respond to them, since they’re in two totally different genres.

Wow, you’re right….it has been over five years now. It’s surreal to hear you say the words “success” attached to my directing career -- since my head has pretty much been down and full-speed ahead just trying to get things done. I’ve never really stopped to think about where I’m at now. I know there are a lot of people still trying to get ONE feature film done and here I am sitting with NEW YORK LATELY and DISMAL under my belt….it feels pretty damn good.

BM: Dismal was produced by Fearmakers Studios, and it was up to you to do the rest. How does one go about setting the feel or intensity of a film? Do you ever have any trouble or worry about letting your influences take over your work and ending up with something that just seems like a bad remake?

GK: DISMAL was a challenging project to take on for all those reasons you mentioned and more. Doing a horror film isn’t easy. When trying to build suspense, you’ve got to set up the right tone which comes from all the elements that make up the film….from the cinematography to the music – they’re all inter-connected parts that have to be carefully constructed.

Most importantly, I believe much of the intensity has got to come from the acting – if you’ve got strong actors giving believable performances -- selling the fear -- you’ve got the audience hooked. As a director, I try to surround myself with people who are damn good at what they do – because only then do we have a fighting chance. The scary part is there’s no correct formula to getting it right, or else every movie would be great. My fingers are crossed that people will respond to the film how everyone involved hopes. I’d like to publicly thank the producers for giving me the chance and having faith in me that I could deliver the film they wanted. They’ve contacted me to let me know the film is getting great feedback so far and the investors are pleased……which makes me happy.

I think avoiding the bad remake comparisons lies mainly within the script itself. Familiar storylines can be dangerous. You never want to make a film that’s already been done – and most likely better – unless you create something fresh about it. However, re-creating familiar shots or sequences in a film can be seen as an “homage”, so people won’t really mind it unless it’s a shot for shot reproduction.

I have so many influences that I let each project dictate which filmmakers I think about to help shape the story I’m working on. You’d actually be surprised who I pull from. I never worry about it because it’s the influences that make you who you are. To me, every filmmaker “borrows” from others…’s who you choose to borrow from that makes you unique.

BM: On that note, why don’t you let us know a little about what Dismal is about? And, what do you hope to show the audience?

GK: DISMAL is a horror film that is aimed at true horror fans. All the standard elements are in there – from the great death scenes to the T&A. What we’re aiming to set it apart from the rest are the unique methods of the killings and its creepy cool villains. It’s also grounded in reality a bit so we actually want audiences to care about the victims…er….I mean main characters. There’s some really surprising plot twists in there as well, which I think will keep the audiences on their toes. So, overall, we want people who see DISMAL to have fun, get scared, and be left with wanting more.

Bo Buckley (producer/screenwriter of DISMAL) has written some original “over the top” deaths that I think will please the target audience. That feels kinda weird to talk about – death scenes – but in the end that’s what the audience for this type of film is buying it for…and the hot girls.

There is one main villain in this film that I think is…I hate to say it….iconic. In my mind the performance that Bill Oberst Jr. (Dale) gives is amazing. It was inspiring to see it in person as we shot the film….and even more bone-chilling to see it on the screen. He’s that good, and I hope audiences will respond to him like other more famous cinematic villains. Now I know we may never reach the size of audience needed to really hit the “icon” status, but I hope that in time there will be a cult following for him. That would be uber cool.

BM: Have you ever clashed with producers or writers because of trying to put forth your vision?

GK: I’ve had the luxury of producing most of my own projects – including NEW YORK LATELY….so that problem has never really come up. On DISMAL, I did have some discussions about how I saw the script and what I wanted to do with it. It never led to any heated arguments, but there were definitely differences of opinion. However, being the hired director, I was well aware that I was brought on to deliver a product that the producers and Fearmakers Studios wanted… I had to juggle the fine balance of giving them what they wanted, while still holding strong to what I believed was the best way to tell the story. There’s always going to be compromise in a situation like that, but you have to choose your battles wisely. This applies to working with the crew and actors as well.

BM: I’ve always thought that I would be a horrible actress for two reasons: The first being that I can never be serious, everything makes me laugh and, secondly, scary movies really get me! Is it different staring in a horror flick than watching it? Have you ever found yourself lost in a production and the next thing you know the little hairs in the back of your neck rise and you get the chills?

GK: Horror movies are fun to shoot. But the mystique is taken away once you see all the nuts and bolts that go into making one….especially the make-up f/x -- our team from Scotchworthy Productions did a phenomenal job on the limited resources they had. The atmosphere of a set was not at all like the tone of the film, so it only got intense when the cameras rolled, but as soon as I said, “Cut” the mood would shift back to normal.

As we filmed, I was totally riveted by some of the acting –even though it’s all happening in front of a camera—the power of human emotion is still right there in front of you…so you are still moved or scared shitless if the actor is effective. This happened on several occasions during the filming of both DISMAL and NEW YORK LATLEY.

And come on, you totally could be an actress. We just have to find the right fit for you. I’m writing a black comedy set in the South called LITTLE DISASTERS and also a gangster film called GENTLEMAN, THIEF that could take your tendency to giggle and make it work for you. See, what I love doing is working with an actor on a project to learn about them professionally and personally….then write something specifically for them to play (in the next film) that matches their talent. So you never know, what are you doing next summer?

BM: Your second soon to be released film is called New York Lately. Could you give us some insight on what this film is about?

GK: NEW YORK LATELY is a drama ensemble that follows multiple characters as they weave through their daily lives struggling to find happiness – which is defined differently to each of them. It’s mainly a character study on how people deal with various relationships and goals. I actually shot it before working on DISMAL, so it’s my feature film debut.

Though it doesn’t follow as many characters, I compare the film to something along the lines of Robert Alman’s SHORT CUTS….and because of the romance and humor, others have compared it to LOVE ACTUALLY. I’ll gladly take that as it’s a favorite of mine as well. I was influenced by some of the more maverick filmmakers in Cinema, both American and foreign – so my approach both behind and in front of the camera was a potpourri of everything I love about film.

We filmed NEW YORK LATELY during December 2007 and January 2008 -- in the blistering winter cold -- the snowstorm in the film is real!!! I’m really excited to see how audiences respond to the various storylines and characters. During test screenings, I’ve been getting a lot of great feedback on the performances – which I think are stellar. I believe the actors in the film will go on to do great things if given the opportunity.

BM: While I was going through your myspace profile ( I was paging through your blogs and noticed that before the filming of New York Lately you had a casting posted on there with what the characters were based upon and requirements for those who wanted to try and fit themselves for the role. Was there a big response to this posting or did you rely on a different source for casting calls?

GK: I was amazed at the response I had to the casting call for NEW YORK LATELY. Over two thousand local New York actors expressed interest in this low/no budget indie film – as well as others from around the US and surprisingly overseas as well. We posted notices in several acting trade related magazines and websites – so we definitely tried to spread the word that we were looking to cast the film.

We saw more than two hundred people audition for roles, which made it really tough to narrow down the choices -- there’s tons of talent out there. What helped make the process a bit easier was writing some specific roles for certain actors I already knew.

I’m also very proud of the multi-ethnic cast in some of the lead parts…it’s something I was very conscious of when casting. I want to showcase people in a non-stereotypical manner. I think mainstream Hollywood still needs a lot of improvement in this area. NEW YORK LATELY shows everyday people living everyday lives – without calling attention to any stereotypes or mention of race. Even though I’m talking about it now, it’s never addressed in the film, which to me was an important statement.

BM: One more quick point out on your myspace page, why all the pictures of the serious face and the hand blocking the camera in a “Don’t look at me like that” manner. It’s very non paparazzi, are we practicing hmmm?

GK: You noticed that? Nice! It’s an inside joke that I hope to keep carrying on ‘til the day I die.

BM: You are also a founder of Kitchen Table Films. Tell us about this production company and its nifty name.

GK: I started Kitchen Table Films back in 2003 when I wanted to make my first short film. I’ve dabbled with changing the name as my productions have grown larger, but my close friends have told me to keep it. The name is inspired by the humble beginnings of an indie filmmaker who spends the late nights, long hours, and grassroots efforts of putting a film together….usually working alone and out of his or her own home or apartment – hence the company logo (which was created by my talented brother). And, I don’t want to really change that mindset….of needing to work hard for what you want to achieve, so every time I see that logo it reminds me of where I’ve come from and how far along I am now….and where I want to be.

BM: You also have a website for this work of yours besides your myspace profile and your personal website, which is and not to mention that you have several myspace pages for your movies and even an profile for New York Lately. I see that you work very hard on getting your name out as far as possible as much as possible. As a director, why do you feel it is so important to be out there in as many different ways as possible?

GK: In this day and age it’s all about self-promotion. It’s important to get yourself out there as much as possible so people know about you and your projects…in this case my films and my directing services. I landed DISMAL via networking through the web, and I’m sure that the websites of my work had a hand in that.

A good web presence has helped me meet actors, screenwriters and producers as well -- from seeing my projects they’ve all expressed interest in wanting to work with me on future films. It’s very humbling to get such a positive response from people. In fact, I truly believe that I wouldn’t have had the turnout of actors hoping to audition for NEW YORK LATELY if it weren’t for my websites.

I believe the more exposure you get, such as this interview, the more the public will know about you and your work. Ideally, it leads to people becoming aware of your films, spreading the word and ultimately seeing them in theaters or on DVD….and best case scenario it also leads to more directing work.

BM: Were there any other little websites or whatnots that I missed?

GK: I don’t believe so. I’m sure you found enough of them….and had your fill doing so. 

I do try to make sure that the websites don’t overlap too much in information – so that you’re learning about new things or projects based on which site you’re visiting.

BM: I saw on one of your millions of web pages that you’re working on a film called Grit. From watching the teasers I was able to feel two different emotions when trying to figure out what this film would be about. Mainly because of the music that was playing during the intense clips of violence and confusion. The first teaser was with music by the deep sounding and heart crunching Johnny Cash singing the remake of Nine Inch Nails “Hurt” and the second teaser’s music was a badass, in your face action movie that made me want to jump right in there and bust some karate chops! Now, am I a nerd or was there a point to the drastically changing beat of music?

GK: Ahhhh GRIT. You may be a nerd – which is cool with me -- but you got exactly what I was going for with the two teaser trailers. And, I have to say that I’m very pleased that you were willing to help RONALD GRITOWSKI aka “Grit” in his ass-kicking. So, I ask again, what are you doing next summer?

We’re currently developing the film and what you saw was promotional footage to show people what we are going for. GRIT has generated a lot of positive feedback…and the cool thing is people like to discuss which trailer is their favorite version. It’s basically an exploitation film, but the creators (writer/actor Jeremy Koerner and myself) want it to be more than just senseless violence. We want to give a reason for the mayhem and carnage. Hence, the two trailers (aptly nicknamed “Hurt” and “Cold Feelings”) are different in tone – done purposely to show that the film will contain both emotional substance along with very cool action sequences. You should see what we have planned for the feature version….your eyes would pop!

BM: Well Gary, to make this goodbye less painful, why don’t you leave us with a happy note and tell us where else we will be seeing you and please let us know when we can expect to see one of your intelligently directed movies on the big screen?

GK: Both NEW YORK LATELY and DISMAL should be done by the end of this year, if not sooner. DISMAL will hit the DVD shelves sooner than later, so keep your eyes peeled for it in your local stores and web retailers. We’re doing some sneak preview screenings before then as well – you can visit to see where it’s playing.

NEW YORK LATELY will hit the film festival circuit in 2009 – so be on the lookout for it in your city. I plan to tour with the film and visit as many screenings as possible to get it out there. The official website – will have all the latest screening and eventual DVD release information.

BM: Adieu Gary Adieu! And thank you for letting us into your overworking brain and the best of luck on your future endeavors!

GK: Thank you Melissa. I really appreciate your taking the time to help promote the films and me. Hope to talk to you again soon.

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