Michael Kehoe
Michael Kehoe
Director (USA)
Kehoe is an award winning filmmaker whose debut as a writer, director & producer received critical acclaim for his short film "SECOND DANCE" and was accepted to The Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival. While at Sundance he was approached by Prism Entertainment to direct an action/thriller he wrote titled "DOMINION" now on Amazon Prime. He went on to direct and produce another award winning dramatic short titled: "NOW DEPARTING". His next film, he wrote produced and directed, was a drama/thriller in the vein of film noir titled "THE ART OF A BULLET", which was highly successful in the foreign territories.
His film "99 Problems" is part of our festival. So we asked Joseph to share his filming experience.

— Tell us a little about your experience? Was it only a film connected or you did/do something else?
— I was involved in theatre early on in high school and began with an intense passion for filmmaking. I directed a number of plays and went on to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.
I then moved to California and wrote a short film that premiered at Sundance and the Berlin Film festival. From there I directed my first feature and continued to work in production on major films and building a relationship with highly skilled technicians. I
continued to direct short films and 2 more features as well as a television show.

— What inspired you to make your short film? How did you come up with that idea?

— I developed the idea in a meeting with my lead actress and producer. We wanted to create a setting with a small cast in a closed setting. I was always inspired by the original Twilight Zone series and wanted to create something with a sharp twist and trick the audience. Within a day or so, the idea came together and I wrote the script in one night. I contacted my DP and we created a style for the film.
—Tell us how it was to produce your film?

— Producing the film was a challenge. We shot in the middle of Covid before there was a vaccine. We had almost 70 crew members that supported me in the past and stepped their game up on this one.
The lead actress Tori London pulled the financing together keeping in mind that her role was crucial to the project. She worked with Rob to insure that we had everything we needed to make this happen.
My close friend and producer Rob Harper organized the physical production. His dedication to detail was extraordinary in the making of this film. He was the backbone of this project.
Another producer was Richard Joel who knew the details of contracts and the distribution of information with actors and crew. Together Rob and Joel created an atmosphere that was stress free.
However, Covid was a constant ghost haunting us. My comfort zone was to be with my right hand man John Connor my illustrious DP who was a master at painting the picture that told the story. We work like Siamese Twins always knowing what the other was thinking.
— What was the starting point, funding, script, shooting, casting, edit etc.
— After the initial idea was set. Our producer Tori London, Rob Harper and Richard Joel started to pave the way for us to get the physical aspects of the project underway.
It was then time to cast. Tori was already cast in a major role and she did her homework on the character. I gave each actor a background and life of the character that was never shown on screen. A history and moments that led them to this scene that was about to bring them all together.
I wanted a friend of mine by the name of Cory Hardrict who had been in many major films. He was concerned about Covid and we spoke every day so I could answer questions and assure him that we were going to abide by strict rules and assure the cast and crew of the utmost safety. I then called an actor friend of mine Yan Birch. Yan acted in countless films, one particular film was "The People Under The Stairs" directed by Wes Craven. Yan read for me on a feature I directed and I was taken by his audition but was unable to cast due to a producer's decision. I knew that I wanted to get him in this certain role and he wanted to work with me. His biggest worry was Covid and I made sure that his concerns were met. I then brought in another friend and actor Sala Baker. Sala and I met in New Zealand and he moved to the states and created a world of work for himself. Sala has been in such films as "Jungle Cruise", "Mandalorian", "Lord of the Rings", just to name a few. I then cast Dennis Keiffer who has been a stunt man/actor in hundreds of film with an incredible look. I had to have him. I called him and he said "What's my call time?". Two more actors I found; Michelle Allaire and Will Dixon who both attended an incredible acting class.
The night before shooting, I received a call from Cory that due to personal reasons he would not be able to be part of the project. I was not angry as this had happened in the same exact manner in my very first short film and I made it work. So, I called an actor friend of mine whom I have had coffee with at Starbucks, Richard Leacock. I asked him if he wanted to play a major role in a film I was directing and he said; "Yes, when?" I answered; "Tomorrow morning".
It was dead silence and then he said: "I'll be there". All systems were GO!
John Connor and I decided to put the camera on a crane throughout the entire shoot. To John's credit, his idea was to create a feeling of the audience being right there with the cast and experiencing every thrilling moment. John is a master at what he does. We story boarded every shot and John played the film in his head and made sure we stayed on track with the tone and story. The crane shots elevated the moments and created more of a dramatic setting. We both wanted to create a throw back to a film noir feel and I John put his stamp on every frame.
My editor was not available and I really didn't trust anyone. However, John Connor suggested that our DIT technician could do it. At first I was a bit hesitant but Fabricio Di Santo knocked it out of the park. We sat together creating the feel and flow and to his credit, he made it happen.
— Do you have a dream?

You have to dream it's the foundation of every filmmaker. Where would we be without dreamers? My dream is to create stories that embrace all cultures and languages to tell stories that make the audience lean forward in their seats and jump back from the wild twist!
— Were there any funny or memorable moments on the set?

— COVID was the main concern but we got through it.
— What is your favorite film(s)?
— I have too many to mention. Each genre holds a favorite for me. So, there really isn't one particular film. Filmmakers like Kurosawa, Scorsese, Abrams, Zemeckis, Bigelow, Cameron, Spielberg, Nolan, Miller, the list goes on. Filmmakers that bring you into their world and make you forget about the life outside the theater.
— Give advice for those who want to make a film, but don't know from where to start?
— Start with a great idea. Let it grow within you. Dream it. Listen to music that inspires each scene. Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. Know a little about each department and everything about communication with actors and seeing the scenes through a lens not just your eyes. Take acting classes to learn the language of an actor. Study camera and each lens as each lens can elevate your story.
Remember to pay it forward. Help someone get a leg up. Be generous to your cast and crew and most of all communicate!!
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