Hello, readers! As always, welcome back! And, if it’s your very first excursion to the site, an even bigger welcome to you and thank you for hopping onboard the ongoing, growing project that is OneFilmFan.com! In this outing of my expanding number of interviews brought courtesy of the independent film world, I take the chance to “go local” in my home State of Ohio and touch base with Cincinnati-born indie actor/writer/producer/ director Michael Peake. Having recently completed his most recent short film, “Jacob’s Paradox” (reviewed here), Michael was kind enough to not only offer his time to do this interview, but also notify me this was his very FIRST interview–EVER! So, apologies Cinci, but this Columbus boy just poached the first shot at your local filmmaker! LOL Playful jabs aside, Michael weighs in on life, career, “Jacob’s Paradox”, and what the future holds! So, let’s get to it, then!
One Film Fan: Let’s start with a little about you, Michael Peake, as a person. Born and raised in the great State of Ohio, correct? How was it that film became a passion overall?
Michael Peake: S0–a bit of background on me. I am, by trade, not a filmmaker. I have a normal day job where I have been working in banking and finance for the past 20 years. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, I have a wife, two kids, a dog, and a mortgage. I have no formal or professional training or schooling in acting or filmmaking of any kind.
About 6 years ago, I had a silly idea to just start auditioning for acting gigs around the area. It’s something I have ALWAYS wanted to do, but my practical side kept getting in the way. I had no idea where to start! So, like most in my shoes, it was a slow and bumpy process. Being very new to the local indie film scene, I made my way onto all sorts of different types of sets. Lots of Craigslist and Facebook casting notices where it was very difficult to tell what you were really getting into.
O.F.F.: How did you further learn the art (ie: mentors, influences, etc.)?
M.P.: Like I said above, no schooling or anything like that. Just on the job training. My mentors growing up–Spielberg, Scorsese, and Jon Hughes are probably the holy trinity of my cinema influences. And still are. I look to their films more than any other for guidance and inspiration. Over the past 10-15 years–Tarantino, Nolan, and Fincher play a major role in the films I am inspired by lately.
O.F.F.: From your bio, you began your real adventures on screen via acting in several short films including “The Diary of Randy Rose”, “Boys Will Be Boys”, “The Ides of March”, and “The Villainy Legacy Glixmas Christmas Special”, and “Only Human”. How did those initial experiences help in furthering your passion to be involved in film?
M.P.: As you could imagine, the films you get cast in vary greatly from one set to another. I’ve worked on super low budget indies and student films to major Hollywood sets. The experiences I found most gratifying were the ones where most involved were also new to the film scene. For me, seeing other new filmmakers learn the ropes proved more valuable than any training or schooling could offer. You learn–really learn–what NOT to do. Seeing what doesn’t work on other sets has been one of the greatest learning tools I have been given.
O.F.F.: Come 2012, you began dabbling in producing and writing as well. How did those aspects of your career come into play?
M.P.: The aspect of writing and producing my own films came out of the desire to act in things that I wanted to push myself in. I was getting decent roles, but nothing that really felt satisfying. So I took some advice from another local filmmaker and started writing roles for myself.
O.F.F.: Since then, you have remained steadily busy, especially this current year, with multiple feature length and short films. Has to be a very affirming place to be to stay working, eh?
M.P.: I suppose it probably looks like I’m constantly busy, but man, does it feel like long stretches of nothingness at times. But that’s the name of the game I guess. A lot of hurry up and wait. But you’re right. For the most part, in one form or another, I have been consistently involved in some aspect of film production–from writing to pre-pro to filming to post pro.
And that’s only because I have primarily been working on my own films. Films that I have written and produced myself. Every now and then, when time allows, I get to take a small acting role in someone else’s film, but that’s becoming more and more hard to do with a full time job, and all the kids’ extracurricular activities.
O.F.F.: Back to acting in particular, have you found that it is still where your primary passion lies, or has being behind the camera started to grab more attention for you?
M.P.: That’s a tough one. It’s probably a cop out, but I’d say it’s about even. I love both sides, but for me they’ve become one in the same. I generally am not acting unless it’s for a part that I have written myself and will be producing myself.
O.F.F.: So, onto your recently completed project, the short film “Jacob’s Paradox”, which is currently on or getting ready to hit the Film Festival circuit. What was the catalyst that brought this story into fruition?
M.P.: The time travel genre has always been an area of interest in film for me, but never liked that it typically comes across cheesy or unrealistic. Then I saw a fantastic indie film, Primer. This film was/is a HUGE influence on me. Basically it showed you can make a super low budget time travel film and still have it feel realistic and plausible. My intent with “Jacob’s Paradox” was to make a character drama where the time travel was secondary to the real story.
O.F.F.: When writing, are you automatically envisioning it all as a film? Or does that only come after the fact and then realizing it might make a good on screen project?
M.P.: When writing “JP”, I definitely had a clear vision on how I wanted it to look. Dark, haunting, noir aspects with a definite Fincher tone. I spent a lot of time before filming with my DP, Michael C. Potter, who immediately got the vision and executed it to perfection. What you see on screen is exactly how I saw it play out in my head.
O.F.F.: Several directors I’ve interviewed indicated just directing a film alone is hard work, with some taking on further involvement. Here you are with “Paradox” having written, directed, produced, acted in, AND designed it! I mean, let’s be real, HOW did you manage all of that and not go insane?
M.P.: I’m a bit of a control freak, and I just felt that I wanted to have a hand in as much as I could to make sure it came out how I wanted. It sounds like a lot of work, and it was, but the way you do that kind of thing is to surround yourself with a group of filmmakers who are better than you at everything.
Almost everyone involved behind the camera, and some of the actors as well, were already established filmmakers in their own right. They all knew from the get go that they’d have to be patient with me, as this was my first time directing, and they were simply amazing in how they dealt with a new filmmaker like myself.
O.F.F.: There are strong themes that address the concepts of choices we make, wanting to change past mistakes, and the consequences that can some from it all. How important do you find it to address the human condition so to speak in your films?
M.P.: For me, addressing the human condition is an absolute must. Otherwise what’s the point? Sure, we could make something that looked and sounded amazing, but if it had no soul, what’s the point?
O.F.F.: How was it acting opposite co-stars Amanda Miller, Keith Kar, Mindy Heithaus, and Amber Lynn Potter, as well as directing them in the process?
M.P.: Acting opposite everyone in this cast was a dream job. They ALL shined so much more than I could have asked for. I actually wrote each part for each actor you see in the film. We didn’t audition anyone aside from the part of Professor Andrea Montgomery, played by Mindy Heithaus. That role was actually written for a Michael C. Potter (a fantastic actor in his own right), who eventually took on the role of DP. And man, did that change payoff big time. Not only did we lock down an amazing DP, but changing the role to a female part completely changed tone and feel of the film. I think you’ll agree when you see it.
O.F.F.: What is the current “life plan” for this film?
M.P.: As you noted, we are in the midst of our festival run. That’s pretty much the only plan right now. Hope to make it in as many festivals as we can and gain some exposure, which will hopefully lead to interest in funding our next project.
O.F.F.: What other projects are on the horizon or would you LIKE to be involved in?
M.P.: Nice segway! Currently, I am not actively involved in any productions. However, I have recently written my first feature script. It’s a comedy called “The Goldenhill Fortune”. It’s definitely a departure from that last couple scripts I have written. Nothing set in place for any production right now. Just taking it slow–getting it out to a few screenplay festivals and getting feedback from other peers. Once I feel I have something I’m comfortable with, I’ll look into beginning the pre-production process on what will hopefully be my first directed feature film.
O.F.F.: As I have been more and more exposed to the independent film community, it’s very evident that the passion, heart, and drive of those involved is so great and mutually beneficial to everyone around them. How has your experience in indie film overall been and how important is it to you that the genre gets more exposure and recognition to the great movie-going masses?
M.P.: The indie film scene, at least here locally in Cincinnati, is a pretty tightknit community. You’ll have good and bad experiences across the board, but for the most part it’s been an incredibly positive series of productions that I’ve been lucky to be a part of.
O.F.F.: What advice would you give to someone looking to get into the film industry in general?
M.P.: I actually have a bit of a memoir of my first time directing that I plan to publish online in some capacity in the near future filled with everything I learned along the way. I’ll be sure to send it your way once it’s up and you can post it to your followers. But for now, I’ll say this–surround yourself with people who are better than you are. People who will push you. Don’t stay comfortable.
O.F.F.: Gotta ask this as the final question! What is YOUR favorite film of all time? Why?
M.P.: This is IMPOSSIBLE to answer. So, I’ll take the easy way out. I’ll give you my THREE favorite films of all time. “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”, “Goodfellas”, and “The Three Amigos”. The why? Simply because I love them.
One cannot say it much simpler than that! Another insightful viewpoint from a first time director, but hard-working and accomplished filmmaker overall who is most certainly striving to illustrate his commitment and drive to keep learning, move ahead, and showcase his efforts to the independent film community locally and, we ideally believe, all over the country and world soon enough! So if you have a chance and see a film festival near you carrying “Jacob’s Paradox”, do yourself a favor and check it out! In the meantime, keep up with the comings and goings of Michael Peake via:
“Follow” his Twitter account: here
“Follow” the film’s Twitter account: here
“Follow” his Facebook Page: here
“Like” the film’s Facebook Page: here
As I make it a point to do each time, another heartfelt “Thank you!!” to Michael Peake for taking the time out of his family and work schedules to provide us with a fantastic first interview!! May it be the first of MANY for this talented denizen of the indie film genre and we expect to see more of him in the future! Readers, I hope you’ve enjoyed this interview, please spread the word, and until next time, thank you for reading!