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Las Vegas Story
2015, 95m, drama, thriller
Maria is a single mother working as an Escort in Sin City, Las Vegas. Two people from the past comes back into her life, forcing her to re-evaluate the choices she made in life and what the future holds. Izzy is an alcoholic stripper having a mid-life crisis, and Doug is a mysterious drug dealer coming back to re-ignite old flames. When Doug gets into trouble with some local gangsters, Maria shelters him and lets him into her home and her heart. With a house full of kids, including her teenage daughter, can this dysfunctional family solve each others problems or will it lead to disaster.
Produced by: Kevin Boston
Cast: Eric Roberts, Christina Bocanegra, Wade Allain-Marcus, Francesca Fanti
10 questions with Las Vegas Story director, Byron Q at the half-way mark.
Thursday, February 4th, 2016
1What was the initial seed that made you want to make this film? This film is actually based on the true life story of the main actress who plays herself in the film. I met her randomly many years ago in Vegas and we became friends. I had wanted to make a female centric film since my last 2 films were about gangsters and brotherhood, and to change it up and challenge myself I wanted to tell a story about a single mother and her family, and it's a very personal story for me because I was also raised by a single mom.
2How big was your cast/crew and how did you meet them? The lead actress and the kids in the film are a real family, but the other actors were casted by my casting director Crystal Lujan. The producer was my friend and roommate at the time Kevin Boston, and we hired Buffalo 8 Productions to help with production servicing. They brought in the camera crew as well as some other key positions through the good ol' Craigslist. My editor and the composer were both talented folks I had worked with on my previous films. So it was really a mixed bag of new and old crew!
3How were you able to shoot inside a casino? We scouted the casinos to find the best lit casinos. And then we just guerilla styled the shit out of it by using the smaller DSLR 5Dmkiii. We had to be secretive and wear disguises and occasionally play a hand of blackjack or take a shot at the bar to "fit" in. But surprisingly, we didn't really have anyone bother us even though security was watching us. They couldn't figure us out really, I mean, we weren't counting cards or anything like that.
4The lead actress (Christina Bocanegra) felt so natural with all her kids in the movie. Were those her real kids? Why did you decide to go that route? Yes they are! Well, I felt confident in working with non-professional actors from my experience on my first film, and through making documentaries. And it would have been difficult to cast that family and to create the same chemistry and dynamic they already have. I wanted to create a hybrid film and thought that aspect of the film was interesting to me, the story behind the film.
5You also work with Eric Roberts in this film, how were you able to get in touch with such a big name? What was it like working with him? Eric was brought on by my casting director Crystal. He was great to work with, and I learned a lot from working with him about directing actors. He's also just one cool cat. His real life wife Eliza plays his wife in the movie.
6I loved the scene near the very end where Maria (Christina Bocanegra) is talking to her daughter about why she is so hard on her. The performances in that scene are incredible. How long did it take you to get that scene and what was involved? We got that in one take. They have a connection that is really incredible, and once they spoke the words from the script, it was like it just happened. We simply captured it. It was emotional and even my camera operator was tearing up.
7The cinematography is great in this film. How did you meet Akis Konstantakopoulos and how do you two work together? I had met Akis through my composer Alexis Grapsas awhile back...and Alexis was already referring him for the project, but I hadn't made a decision yet because we were considering some other DP's. But when by coincidence Buffalo 8 recommended Akis for the project as well (they have a close working relationship) I knew it was the universe telling me something.
We worked together really great, because him and his crew are really professional and hardworking and he also contributes great ideas. Usually how we work is we walk on set, block the actors, and then I tell him where to place the camera, and what type of shot we're doing. He lights it, and I tell him it looks perfect!
8What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? I don't know if there was one film... this is hard to say. I think it was just films in general that captured my fascination at a really young age. But... my favorite film growing up before I studied films, was Braveheart. I memorized every line in that film.
9Do you have any crazy vegas stories you can share? mmm... the car crash you see in the film was real. Looking back, it was not a good idea to do that chase scene on the vegas strip. No one got hurt, and the car was fixed without the owner even knowing..(until now). Oh, and RED #7 on roulette... other stories you can ask my 1st AD Ben Rotast.
10What's next? Lots of writing....I'm developing a genre horror action film that's going to be a re-invention of the big foot sasquatch creature genre, and also writing a one hour series hoping to pitch to networks.
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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