The Amateur: or (Revenge of the Quadricorn) is a gritty naturalistic musical exploring the chaotic journey of artistic pursuit in contemporary los angeles. joey takes his music seriously, the rest of his life, not so much. the amateur tells the tale of a broke — and sometimes broken artist – navigating the la music scene. riding the highs and nursing the hangovers, his journey leads him through various experiences, both personal and professional, that shed a new light on the things that really matter.
10 questions with The Amateur: or (Revenge of the Quadricorn) director, Carlton Sugarman at the half-way mark.
Wednesday, July 20th, 2016
1Hi Carlton! Thanks for being our opening film of our 2016 Summer Festival. First, I wanted to ask, what was the initial seed that made you want to make this film? The seed was planted on a six week road trip through Mexico. Along the way we met an architect who had been on the tail end of a beat movement and moved to San Francisco to join the psychedelic/Merry Prankster movement. I immediately began bombarding him with questions about my literary and artistic heroes of those eras, and what told me resonated. He said, the one thing that all of the people you’re asking me about have in common is that they never gave up on their art. It reminded me of my circle of friends in Los Angeles who will be remembered? I wanted to pay homage to them all, regardless of if they're conventionally successful or not. They made my life more beautiful and I wanted to share that.
2I really loved this film. There were so many times I thought this film would fall into one cliche or another but it avoided all those obvious patches and told a story that felt very true to life. How important was that to you? Very important. The Amateur was meant to be more experiential than directional - more about the journey than the end - and the only way I could figure out how to do that was to make it as close to real life as possible.
3Joey Baldwin does an incredible job as the lead in your film but he's also a musician in real life and all the songs in the film are his. Why did you choose to cast a musician as the lead instead of a more traditional actor? I didn't. Joey is a talented dude. I first met him as an actor when he auditioned for a short film of mine and then I became a fan of his music. So I knew that he could do both really well. I wrote the script with him in mind and never considered anyone else for the part. He really did do an incredible job, which is good cause he's in like 95% of the scenes.
4You wrote this script as well. How long did it take you and what was the most difficult part of writing this script? It took me about six months to write. The most difficult part of writing a script are the revisions. Revision after revision after revision after revision until it's finally right then another revision and again until you shoot.
5Can you share a war story from the shoot? People band together in amazing ways to pull off making a movie. One of the most stressful days for me, was when we were getting ready to shoot the gangbanger scene, and only one of the six gangbangers showed up. Our 2nd AD had to literally drive around the neighborhood and look for people to pull off the street. While she was doing this, our location for the following day fell through. So we're scrambling to find actors and a location for the next day while still trying focus on the scene we're shooting. Amazingly our 2nd AD found three guys off the street, our Make Up artist got her brother and a friend to jump in, and our Production Designer's cousin let us shoot at his loft. We were saved only by people's determination, kindness, and exceptional generosity.
6There's a subplot in this film that deals with Joey's desire to stay true to his art, yet at the same time he wants to try and make money as well. Is that something you face as a filmmaker yourself? What is your definition of "selling out"? Haha. Everyday. I have to freelance on commercials for two thirds of the year to be able to afford to work on projects like The Amateur. For me, selling out is when you stop being true to yourself.
7I loved the scene where Joey goes to Fiamma's house (played by the wonderful Carlotta Bosch) after he's been rejected, and they have a conversation about a topic I've never seen played so honestly in a film before. What is your favorite scene in this film and how difficult was it to get right? Yeah, I love seeing people's reaction to that scene. I think that one of my favorite scenes in the film is when Joey and his lead guitarist (played by Charlie Wadhams) get into a petty argument over a banjo. I think all collaborators have these bickering moments at sometime or another and they're rarely about the banjo. The scene was improvised by Joey and Charlie. I think they got it on the second take, so that one wasn't too difficult.
8What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? The Big Lebowski.
9Distribution now seems to be one of the biggest challenges facing filmmakers today. What are your thoughts on the current state of indie film distribution and the idea that filmmakers really need to promote their films themselves? It's tough. And when you don't have any money, it's even tougher. We missed out on a lot of opportunities because we couldn't afford certain things like a publicist, festival submissions, aggregators, etc. You really have to be equal parts businessman, artist, and publicist to navigate the world of indie film distribution. Which is why we want to thank you for what you're doing with Indie Rights.
10What's next? I'm trying to cram as many of America's problems as I can into an unlikely buddy story.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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