Equity Press Conference: Anna Gunn, Sarah Megan Thomas, Alysia Reiner and Meera Menon

Equity premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. The film, written by, directed by, produced by and starring women made a big splash for its portrayal of women on Wall Street. Anna Gunn plays Naomi Bishop, a top executive trying to recover from one bad call. Sarah Megan Thomas, also a producer, plays Erin Manning, Naomi’s assistant trying to work her way up. Alysia Reiner, also a producer, plays Samantha, a reporter investigating Naomi’s firm. Meera Menon directs.

We got to meet Gunn, Thomas, Reiner and Menon at a press conference in Los Angeles to discuss the film. The filmmakers shared some insights into the business of Wall Streets and parallels with Hollywood. Equity opens in theaters this weekend.

Sarah Megan Thomas in Equity

Sarah Megan Thomas in Equity

Q: With movies like The Big Short and now Equity, what is your view of Wall Street? Are they a necessary evil?

SMT: I would say they’re not evil as a whole. That was something that was really important to us and it goes back to a lot of the people I personally know on Wall Street. There are good and bad people in every profession and there are really bad Wall Streeters and there are really good Wall Streeters. Most of Wall Street is very boring. But I think the only press we hear about is the negative and the crooks and the financial crisis. That was part of the decision to make this a post-financial crisis movie where there are new regulations in place. A lot of the crooks have been weeded out. Going back to a broader idea we think everyone can understand, which is How far would you go in life to get what you want? What grey lines would you cross – whether or not you’re on Wall Street, or a lawyer, or a doctor? It was really important to us. One of the reasons we chose Meera is because Meera came into the interview and, not only is she a fantastic interview, but she came in and said, “I’m so fascinated by people and grey lines.” She didn’t come in and say, “Wall Street is evil” because I don’t believe you can tell a good story if you just blanket it with evil.

Q: It’s been 20 years since The Boom Boom Room lawsuit. Did you find in the research for the film that the bias against women in this business still exists?

AR: Absolutely. One of our investors actually is a very established woman on Wall Street. One of the things she said to us was when she started in the industry, which was?

SMT: I think 1979.

AR: She said, “I’m not leaving this industry until it changes.” She’s still working.

SMT: She actually said it’s worse for women on Wall Street post financial crisis than before the financial crisis because a lot of women’s heads were on the chopping block in high positions of power at that time. We felt like it’s very similar to women in entertainment, the statistics, and we want to change that.

MM: And it’s also a very selective, competitive industry to even enter into to begin with. You’re already entering a selective pool of people and to be fighting against those biases on top of that I think is what makes the situation that much more severe.

Q: The film really captures the double standards that exist in the financial industry, behaviors respected in men but condemned in women. How do you find those double standards paralleled in Hollywood with your experiences?

AR: Oh, there are no parallels. I think they’re quite obvious. Equal pay is something that  is being talked about across the board for women and something that we wanted to explore obviously. We got very lucky in a way that the Sony hacks happened when they did because they showed that truth in a way, the disparity. And it’s really exciting to see how more and more, I think it was just Robin Wright-Penn who said she wasn’t coming back until she was paid equal to a man.

SMT: And the women in this movie made more money than the men which is really exciting.

AR: Yeah, yeah, great point.

MM: Yeah, I think it’s absolutely true. As a woman in this business, you have to work twice as hard to get half as far. I definitely feel like, I mean, I went to film school. 50% of the graduates were women, 50% were men. A lot of the men got representation and those basic things you need as a filmmaker right out of film school with their crappy short films. Some of them were all right. It’s a bit of a boy’s club. A lot of times, these guys get ahead because they find these mentor figures that see themselves in these young guys in baseball caps, and give them an opportunity. There aren’t many women at the top that have been doing this for decades in the same way that would do the same for younger women. So there’s absolutely a similarity.

Anna Gunn in Equity

Anna Gunn in Equity

AG: The other thing I found fascinating is that in a way there’s a game you have to play as a woman in both these industries. I found it really fascinating talking to Barbara Burn, talking to Candy, talking to all the women who were kind enough to share their experiences because so many of their stories and experiences fed into this movie and helped create and shape these characters and the story. Listening to them talk about having to massage a room, having to ride that very thin line between being tough and being soft. I remember one person telling me that when you get your performance review, what they were saying is when you go into a room and you’re trying to show that you’re not a pushover and that you’re not so sweet and you’re not going to be the girl who just nods and says yes, then you are perceived as, you’re kind of pushed out of the way. If you are on the other side and you come in and you have your own ideas and you have your own opinion and you’re tough about it, then you can be perceived as a bitch frankly. I think the same thing occurs when you’re trying to navigate sometimes your behavior or yourself in a room or on a set in Hollywood. You know that you’re riding a line that men don’t have to really think about. If you have an opinion and you want to voice it and you feel strong about it, you have to be careful in terms of how you present it. That was something that they talked about a lot. Those similarities really helped me in terms of creating the character of Naomi. She knows how to handle the boys in essence and she also knows how to handle the women that she works with. That’s a real fine line.

Q: What do you hope for this movie to say to men who may be ignorant about the challenges facing women?

AG: I think that’s why the three women and the interactions they have and the intentions and the motivation they have, and then the personal situations and the kind of personal lives that they have to balance with work is something that I don’t think men — it’s not to say that men don’t have, if you’re married and you have children as a man you’re not worried about if you have a job that takes you on the road a lot or you’re working incredibly long hours. That’s tough as a man but as a woman, there still is a gender situation going on where women really feel guilty when they are working these kinds of jobs. On set in Hollywood you’re sometimes working 15, 16 hours if it’s a really long day. Your kids are waiting at home and sometimes you’re not there to put them to bed. Sometimes you have to leave at 5:30 or 4:30 in the morning to hit your set call and you don’t get to say good morning to your kids. And I think that wears more heavily on women than it does on men. It is something that women have to think about as they’re going along. If I have a baby, if I take time off, if I’m not pushing as hard as I feel I need to, will I lose my career? Will I not get the next promotion? Will I not get the next step up? I think it’s similar. We all have children and it’s something that I know we all talked about and thought about when we were filming. It’s a balancing act that is something I think that men don’t necessarily have to deal with. Would you agree with that?

SMT: I would totally agree and just to add on to what you said, we are all mothers and it was really hard for us to be on set of an independent film and not get to see our kids, none of us did. The true story aspect of some of this stuff is we put into this script a pregnancy because so many women who work on Wall Street told us they had to hide their pregnancy in 2015 until they got to a certain level. For example, Naomi could have a kid because she’s super powerful now, but she couldn’t have had a kid at Erin’s age and Erin is pregnancy and hiding it because she knows she won’t get that promotion. It’s something that, again, men don’t have to deal with in their working lives.

Alysia Reiner in Equity

Alysia Reiner in Equity

AR: And many of the women that we interviewed experienced a very similar story to Erin’s. Where they hid their pregnancy or there were a lot of issues around their pregnancy, being fired because they’re pregnant. I was reading an article recently about women in the work force and a totally different work force but it was about stewardesses. When stewardesses were first created, they were all fired at the age of 32. It was a known and it was fine. This was in the ‘60s and it just was. On your 32nd birthday, you got a letter. That is where we come from. As a modern woman you’re like, “What?” But that’s where we come from and that’s what we need to change.

MM: It still happens all over the world, I’ll just say. Like in India, in Bollywood culture, actresses for example, it’s pretty much understood that an actress, once she gets married and definitely by the time she has a child, she’s out of the business. Aishwarya Rai is one of the most brilliant, beautiful Bollywood actresses of all time and her film career has significantly slowed down since the minute she got married, and then once she had a child. In places outside of America, this is very, very standard I think.

Q: Did you intend there to be a message that the women were corrupted by the dog eat dog financial world?

AR: I would say corrupted is a very tricky word. Our goal is this film is that nobody is necessarily corrupt. One thing we were really curious about was gray lines and moral ambiguity. In our first conversations with both Anna and Meera, that was something they were really interested in. That was something that Sarah and I developed from the minute we talked about this. One of the things we completely jibed with with both of these women is that they too were curious about that. So it’s my personal goal and I love to hear from everyone that people finish the movie and talk about moral ambiguity, that by the way is not about sexuality and is not about being a woman or a man, but the moral ambiguity in choices we make? When do you cross that line and those gray lines?

SMT: And why can’t women play these roles, which I think is the broader thing that we were interested in is complex roles for women. So it isn’t oh, women can be cutthroat too? It’s an obvious thing. We can play characters that you may or may not like and that’s okay.

Anna Gunn in Equity

Anna Gunn in Equity

AG: And I think also, it’s the idea of mentorship which you were talking about before. When I talked to, again, all the women who not only invested but invested their time in terms of sharing their lives with us. It was something that they really pointed out as being very, very important that women supporting other women and mentoring other women and helping to bring them up is very important. However, there are very few positions for women as you move up the ladder. So that cutthroat world exists and it exists in a way even more. And it also does, to me, say something that still occurs in the female culture sometimes because if there’s only three roles or three positions open, what are those gray lines that you’re talking about. What would you do to get where you want to go? What would you give up? With Naomi, she gave up that moment I think where she discovers hat Erin is pregnant. It’s not: how dare you get pregnant? It was more of: Oh, I could’ve done this. I didn’t do it. I chose the other path. What did I miss out on? For Naomi, her journey starts to become more and more about this has been my sole focus in my entire life. I haven’t seen my family. I don’t have friends. I have a fish. My fish is my closest friend. My fish is my child. There is that moment that she has of the road not taken, essentially.

Q: Anna, what sort of research did you have to do on the financial industry and how much time did you have to do that?

AG:  Well, I didn’t have a lot of time and I’m a research junkie, but I had enough time. I first had a conversation obviously with Meera for a long time and I had a really good call with Alysia and Sarah before we met in person and got to know a lot about their development process and how they came about telling the story. And then again, they put me on the phone with Barbara Byrne who is a lioness. She’s sort of a legend in her own time in the financial industry. She spent two hours on the phone with me. Right before we started shooting, we went to New York and we had a wonderful day where we were taken around and shown the ins and outs of everything we were doing and talking about in the movie. My father was actually a stockbroker way back in Cleveland before we moved to New Mexico so he was able to help me as well, which was nice and he was very excited I was playing this role. It was very lucky to be able to talk to a variety of women both in the professional setting and then we had dinner all together.

The female investors in Equity. Many also advised the film's portrayal of finance.

The female investors in Equity. Many also advised the film’s portrayal of finance.

So there were two different sides I got to see to everybody. I really relied on them to let me know if I was going down the right path with certain things in terms of how you present yourself professionally, how you pitch an IPO, how you take that to fruition, how you balance those things we were talking about before, how do you seduce the room without being too girlie. It’s that whole balancing act. That was tremendously important. And then watching each of their personalities. There are certain similarities they all have and there were differences in terms of how they each went about going through their journey and how they each found their way to the top because they were all at the top, all the women we talked to.

AR: It was neat. They actually did a mock IPO for us, which was really exciting. That evening, as Anna said, the difference between, like, the work persona and the more relaxed persona.

AG: And also listening to people’s stories about how they got into the industry in the first place. That was really important to me for the character because knowing that you’re going into a profession that’s dominated by men and wanting to go into that and the reasons for going into that. And they were very specific. Everybody was really specific about how they got into it. What’s interesting was I think one person said that generally there’s the person who came from very little and had not a lot growing up so that money speech meant so much because it is true when you grow up with nothing, that drive to have something is built into you and8 is a driving passion. There are other people who may have family members or legacy situation where they come into it, but I don’t think any of these people necessarily – especially Naomi – she came from nothing and had to support her family and so she found a way to do it.

Wally West is KID FLASH, for now…

Wally West does don the Kid Flash suit in at least the first episode of the new season.  Barry Allen warped reality when he went back in time to prevent his Mother’s murder.  So the first new episode of the third season is named “Flashpoint”, and it deals with the new reality that Barry creates.  And in that reality, Wally is a speedster.  Whether he remains that way when, or if, reality is restored to normal is unknown.  So lets take a quick look at his new suit.  It pretty much matches the design from the comics, which is great for us die-hard fans.  But it seems to made of the vinyl or leather material that the show’s designer’s like to use, which makes it look ill-fitted and awkward. Lets hope thay make some costume adjustments if they move foreword with Kid Flash past the first episode… And in case you missed it, here’s the Comic-Con preview for ‘Flashpoint’ which gives you a glimpse of all the  changes Barry caused… Continue reading

1st look at CW’s version of SUPERMAN!

Well here it is, the first look at Tyler Hoechlin as Superman.  As you already know, Superman will appear on the CW series “Supergirl” this season.  And my first reaction to seeing the suit is; “It’s Okay.”  I’m not blown away by it, but I’m not disappointed either.  I like the bright yellow field surrounding the ‘S’ on the chest emblem.  And I also like the way the cape comes over the shoulder.  But the cape itself looks plastic or vinyl, as does the clunky belt and boots.  If you look at Superman and Supergirl together though, it works, and that’s what matters.  My only problem going forward is his height.  Jimmy Olsen is going to tower over him, which will be weird.  Having a Jimmy Olsen that is taller and more muscular than Superman is going to be a unique dynamic.  Let’s just hope they can make it work.  So next, how about a look at his version of Clark Kent…. Continue reading

Scott Adkins Interview: Criminal on DVD/Blu-ray And The Ukranian Ben Affleck

I was excited to see Scott Adkins show up in Criminal. I of course follow his work intimately from the Ninja, Undisputed and Universal Soldier films to the latest, Close Range. Criminal is Kevin Costner’s film, but they still need a tough guy to look good in a suit chasing him and that’s where Adkins comes in.

Costner plays a sociopathic convict who is given the memories of a secret agent (Ryan Reynolds) who died in the field. Of course they can’t control the criminal, so agents like Adkins and Alice Eve have to chase after him. Criminal is on DVD and Blu-ray now and I got to catch up with Adkins about his latest film.

Available Now

Available Now

It seems like you’re busier than ever, not only showing up in Criminal. Have you been?

I try to say busy. I like to work. I think it’s really hard for me to turn down jobs but I do turn down jobs. I only take the ones that I’m passionate about. I’m passionate about working really.

Well, I was really excited to see you show up in Criminal.

Yeah, thanks. It was great to be part of it, to be around those wonderful actors and to act and play with them. It was great.

I imagine the audience who usually goes to see Kevin Costner movies don’t know how tough you are like I do.

That’s fine. We don’t want them all to know. That way I can play different roles.

Was Criminal a case of Millennium taking care of you because you starred in some of their other films and they threw you a role in this?

Yeah, definitely. They like me. I’ve obviously got a history with them. It was shooting in the UK and I live in the UK so they think about what actors they know. “Scott’s there, we’re not going to have to fly him out and put him in a hotel.” Actually, they did put me in a hotel but they look after me. I’ve got a great relationship with those guys at Millennium. Obviously we did Boyka last year and I’m sure I’ll do some more stuff with them.

It was in England. Was it close to home for you for the most part?

It was shooting in London. I live in Birmingham which is two hours north. So when I was working I’d be in a hotel. When I had time off I could go back adn see the family which is always great because obviously if I’m in a different country, I can’t do that. Always if there’s an opportunity to work in the U.K., if I have two films I’m offered and one was in the U.K. and they were both similar, I would take the U.K. one so I can be with the family a bit more.

Did they still make you audition even though they knew your work?

I auditioned for the director, not for the producers. Obviously a matter of courtesy to do it for the director, Ariel [Vromen]. I came in and auditioned for Ariel and he was suitably impressed and was happy to give me the role.

Do you remember what scene they had you do?

It was the opening scene, the stuff with Ryan’s character. There was more dialogue. Stuff gets cut out here and there, scenes get changed around by the time you shoot it, but that was the crux of it really.

Of course it looks like a very difficult movie for Kevin. Compared to what you’ve had to do in other movies, was Criminal relatively easy for you?

Obviously physically it was a lot easier than it normally is for me. It was little bits here and there. There was down time. You get to relax. There’s not as much stress or pressure of having to be in every day and perform. You can just be up to speed with what you need to do for the coming week. Yeah, a lot easier but generally on a bigger film it’s a lot easier even if you’re the lead because you have more time to do stuff. So it’s always a bit more comfortable.

You’ve always been able to do roles in big Hollywood movies like Bourne, Wolverine and Zero Dark Thirty, and do your own films where you get to do martial arts. Have you been doing a lot more of the Hollywood movies lately? I also saw The Brothers Grimsby. We know you’re in Doctor Strange for Marvel.

Yeah, I want to do more A-list movies if you want to call them that, more studio pictures. Of course oftentimes I’m offered a supporting role rather than the lead because I’m not Matt Damon. I’m not at that point. Yeah, I want to do more of those sorts of films but also I don’t want to turn down the stuff that’s gotten me to this point. Listen, I would love to be starring in action movies with a bigger budget. Hopefully that day will still come but the reality is I need some studio to take a bit of a chance on me. It’s a tough business. I’m just trying my best.

It cracked me up in Brothers Grimsby when Sacha Baron Cohen called you the Ukranian Ben Affleck. Did he run that line by you beforehand?

Well, he improvises and he said different things. He probably just came out of it at once. I didn’t think much of it at the time. He’s calling me various other names. That was the one they went with. I think it’s going to stick with me now. I think I’m stuck with Ukranian Ben Affleck, bastards.

Or maybe Ben has to be the American Scott Adkins.

Yeah, he can come and be my butt double or something for one of my movies.

Did you crack up when he said it?

I enjoyed it. We did a lot of improvisation. Before I had the fight with him, we did quite a bit of improvisation. It’s unfortunate it didn’t make it into the movie because they did show me a cut. I thought it was pretty funny but with a comedy film, you want to keep the runtime down. It’s no good having a two hour movie so that’s one of the things that got left on the cutting room floor, but it was a good experience.

In Jarhead 3 I was impressed what an impeccable American accent you do.

Oh brilliant. Thanks for saying that. I try my best. I went for a little bit of a Texan drawl on that one just to mix it up a little bit.

What are you shooting right now?

I’m shooting a film called Savage Dog with the director Jesse Johnson. We have Marko Zaror, Cung Le, Juju Chan, Vladimir Kulich. We’re just coming to the end of that shoot at the moment.

So we’ve got Hard Target 2, Boyka and Savage Dog coming up. Sounds like we still have a lot more Scott Adkins to see this year.

Yeah, I hope people don’t get sick of me because I’m cranking them out.

You keep bringing it so we don’t get sick of it.

I give 100% every time, believe me. I feel privileged to be in this position. There are times when I want more for myself but I can look back at where I am, the dreams I had when I was younger. I’m definitely living the dream and that is not wasted on me. I give 100% every time.

And now people who see Criminal will know you’re a tough guy too.

Yeah, the whole backstory there that you try and create, my character I felt had a crush on Alice Eve’s character. She was having a little affair with Ryan Reynolds probably so I was playing on some things like that which you wouldn’t necessarily know but you can feel that as you’re watching it that there’s a little bit extra going on. That’s what it’s all about really.

That’s fun. They let you do that?

Well, they don’t even have to know that I’m doing it. That’s for me to know in my head.

Did Alice know?

I don’t know. No, she didn’t know. That’s my motivation as a character. That’s part of my backstory. Just don’t tell my wife.

Well, she knows it’s acting.

It’s Pete Greensleeves, not Scott Adkins. You’ve just got to understand it’s Pete Greensleeves.

Lights Out Interview: David F. Sandberg and Lotta Losten

When I saw Lights Out at the Los Angeles Film Festival, I felt like I’d discovered a new voice in both horror and cinema in general. One month later, I got to sit down with director David F. Sandberg and his wife Lotta Losten, who appears in the film and developed the concept with her husband for their original short.

The monster in Lights Out is Diana (Alicia Vela-Bailey), a creature who can only appear in the dark. You’d think it’d be easy to keep the lights on but Diana always finds ways. She’s been plaguing Sophie (Maria Bello) all this time but now she’s moving on to her daughter Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) and son Martin (Gabriel Bateman). Lights Out opens this weekend.

Do horror movies take fear of the dark for granted?

DS: I think so. I think a lot of horror movies aren’t dark enough, just in their lighting and how they look. A lot of horror movies could be scarier, because you just see everything in most movies.

LL: I think when we did the short film, we didn’t know if the concept was big enough. We jus thought it was cool and something we experience often. We thought maybe other people experience as well, but I don’t think we could have known it was going to be such a big thing. Now afterwards, we can really see that everybody all over the world can recognize themselves in this feeling. That’s why it works, because it’s such a universal fear.

DS: People keep saying that. “How come no one thought of this before?”

LL: I think it’s so simple that people don’t think it’s enough, but we tried. We tried with the simple thing and it worked so well.

LIGHTS OUTYou wrote it with Eric Heisserer. Did you have a list of things you wanted to do with the dark, like car lights, candles, crank flashlights, etc.

DS: That’s exactly the thing. Even before I wrote the treatment of what I wanted the story to be, that was something actually my agents and managers said. “Write down some set pieces.” Okay, so what can we do? Car headlights. We can have gunfire flashing. We can have candlelight. I had this big whole list of things I wanted to do. Not even everything made it into the film.

Did you have more that didn’t make it into the script?

DS: Yes.

LL: And something that got cut as well, a really great refrigerator scene.

DS: Oh, yeah, the fridge light.

LL: I miss that in the movie.

DS: So if it does well and there’s a sequel, there’s certainly more stuff to do.

Was that last 20 minutes a major portion of the shoot?

DS: Yeah, and it’s the one that I love the most just because that’s where everything happens. The movie turned out to have more stunts and things than I originally intended, but it was just so fun. Alicia is a stunt woman and we had a stunt coordinator who said, “Oh sure, let’s have someone on wires and let’s throw someone off the balcony.” It was just so fun. My original concept for what the feature would be I think was a little bit more arthouse horror because it was really playing into this being an analogy for mental illness. Then as it went on, it became more of a fun, popcorny horror which is not necessarily bad. It was just having fun with it.

How challenging was it to light Diana’s silhouette and keep her in the dark?

DS: Very challenging because I didn’t want to cheat. I had to storyboard all of it just to make sure that she was truly a silhouette. At first I was working with a storyboard artist. He would draw her with a rim light on her and I was like, “No, we can’t shoot it like that because that’s cheating.” So I had to do my own storyboards and really figure out how we could always keep her as a true silhouette. When she grabs Bret, I had to think about, “If he uses his flashlight like this to bang on the handle, if she grabs him when he’s up here, then the flashlight is pointed backwards creating a silhouette so that she can actually grab him.” It was really hard to figure out exactly how to get her on film.

LL: And also to show the studio that you knew all these things, that it could be done and you had ideas for them to make sure to be doing them correctly without any cheating.LIGHTS OUT

Since you played Diana in the short, did you both work with Alicia Vela-Bailey on the body language of Diana?

LL: No, there’s not really any body language in the short. It’s just me standing still.

DS: And to be honest, that was again something for the feature. I figured she would be pretty still but once I met Alicia, we met Alicia just to have her as a stunt person for whoever would play Diana. But when I met Alicia and she showed me what she could do, because she’s a dancer and she has full control over her body, it was like, “Oh, this is really awesome. So let’s have Alicia play Diana the whole time and we can really turn her into this ferocious, animalistic creature almost.”

Did you have the backstory for her in the short?

DS: No. The short was..

LL: … just for the short. We had no plan to make it into a feature until it went viral and Hollywood started calling us. So it was just that scene for an online competition we entered into.

DS: Even when I started writing a treatment for what the story would be, my first version had her be more of a demon really, a demonic presence. It was actually James’s idea to have her be someone who used to be a person so she could have that relationship with Sophie, that they knew each other when they were younger.

LL: That makes it even more personal and more connected to the family as well.

LO-00185rI was going to ask, what was a James Wan suggestion that he was right about?

DS: That, and also the neon light scene with the tattoo sign. The scene played out the same in my original idea but instead of a neon sign it was cars passing by outside and the headlights would sweep across the room. It was his idea to instead put a neon sign out there because then you would get the on off effect.

When we’re learning the backstory of Diana, was it yours or Eric’s idea to mix it up so it’s not all exposition? We listen to tapes, there are some 8mm style flashbacks…

DS: The first version we shot, it was actually only the tape but it felt like people would need a little bit more, that the tape was maybe not enough. So we shot the 8mm stuff which was actually something I shot myself with my old camera just to make it look like 8mm.

Was there ever more about Rebecca’s biological father? 

DS: Not really. We did have a cut scene where she talks to a police officer that sort of raises the idea that makes her suspect that maybe Diana killed her father as well.

LL: I think it’s more powerful now that it’s just something that adds to the anger in the end of it.

Was Billy Burke your Drew Barrymore/Janet Leigh?

DS: Absolutely. I wanted to have a recognizable face in the beginning where you think, “Oh, it’s going to be about this guy” or he’s going to be in it for the whole time.

Do you have to do it carefully where he’s recognizable but not too big because that would give it away.

DS: Yes, obviously we can’t afford him. Lawrence Grey suggested Billy Burke and I think it worked great.

How has it been taking on Annabelle which wasn’t your original mythology?

DS: It’s really fun actually to be in that Conjuring/Annabelle universe they created but still putting my own spin on it. Annabelle 2 is sort of its own separate thing. It’s not a straight up sequel to the first one. It’s more of a prequel which drew me to it. It’s a period piece and it’s perfect for horror. No cell phones and stuff like that.

Which era?

DS: It’s the ‘50s.

What fun can you have in Annabelle’s world?

DS: Some of it is a bit limiting which I actually kind of like these limitations. It makes you more creative. Like in Lights Out, we have a character who can’t be in light. What can we do instead? In Annabelle you have this doll who is possessed but can’t really move. You can’t show her walking around because it would just turn silly. So you have to come up with all of these things around her or how do we do things scary without showing her move? It’s fun.

LL: And it has to still feel like it’s coming from her.

DS: It’s hard but fun.

If you do two successful horror movies, are you okay with being a horror director?

DS: Yeah, that’s what I want to be.

Do you only want to be a horror director?

DS: I like other genres as well but horror and sci-fi, I really love science fiction. If that’s all I do, I’m happy.

What were the ones that inspired you to become filmmakers?

DS: Where horror and sci-fi meet pretty much. Alien is one of my favorite movies ever. The Thing, Terminator, a lot of those ‘80s movies. The Shining as well.

LL: I’ve done more theater acting so I’ve been into drama and comedy more than horror. He’s the one that’s kind of dragged me into the horror world. I’ve realized that horror and comedy are kind of similar. It’s instant gratification. You get a reaction from the audience straight away. If they like it, they get scared or in the comedy world they laugh. I love it now. What I would love for horror, if you go for the more thrillery aspect that I love, it’s Se7en that I really enjoy. A more recent one is Green Room. That was awesome.

DS: Yeah, I love Green Room.

Star Trek Beyond Press Conference Highlights

The cast of Star Trek Beyond and the filmmakers held a press conference last week to discuss the new film and Nerd Report was there. Simon Pegg did double duty playing Scotty and cowriting the script with Doug Jung. Justin Lin took over as director, directing cast members Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Karl Urban and the late Anton Yelchin. Here are some highlights of the press conference .

Q: How did you honor the 50 years of Star Trek and make a movie new fans could enjoy?

Simon Pegg: It was a question of combining an existing mythology and embracing that mythology wholeheartedly, and also making sure that nobody felt shut out. so if you were coming to Star Trek for the first time, you didn’t feel like you weren’t in on some kind of joke or something. Not a joke. It’s very serious. It’s a difficult tightrope to walk, really. If you fall on either side of it, you risk alienating a large portion of your audience. We were always aware of the fact we were walking across a gigantic precipice.

Q: What was the decision to use Sabotage by Beastie Boys?

Simon Pegg: We just love the idea of them foiling a technologically terrifying threat with something very analog and old, VHF. It was like radio. The initial idea was that they fired an old radio into the middle of the swarm. It took many shapes as we wrote it. We realized since there’s obviously no sound in space, we had to abide by physics some of the time. We like the idea that Jaylah has discovered this old ship that had an archive of music. She discovered rap music and liked it. She says she likes the beats and shouting. I like that they all have the idea together about what it can do. Sabotage was a song we used in ’09. It was part of Kirk’s childhood. All these things link back to his past and his dad. The motorbike, the song, it’s all kind of him letting go of these things and moving on as a man as well. So it’s important for Kirk’s character as well. It’s just a kick-ass song. If anything’s gonna blow up a swarm of spaceships, it’s gonna be the Beastie Boys, come on.

Left to right: Zachary Quinto and Director Justin Lin on the set of Star Trek Beyond from Paramount Pictures, Skydance, Bad Robot, Sneaky Shark and Perfect Storm Entertainment

Left to right: Zachary Quinto and Director Justin Lin on the set of Star Trek Beyond from Paramount Pictures, Skydance, Bad Robot, Sneaky Shark and Perfect Storm Entertainment

Q: Was there initial thought that Leonard Nimoy might have appeared, and how did you decide how to include him after his death?

Simon Pegg: When did Leonard die, Zach? Was it during the writing process?

Zachary Quinto: Yeah, he died on February 27th. I think if Leonard was well enough to be a part of this film, I’m sure he would’ve been and I know that there were early conversations with him about that possibility. True to his incredible self, he knew himself well enough to know that that wouldn’t be possible at a certain point. And then I think it became important to all of us to figure a way to honor his legacy and I thought Simon and Doug did a beautiful job of incorporating it into the narrative of the film. We all carried him with us through this production for sure and it was definitely a different kind of feeling to make this movie without him, for me in particular. But I think he was very much a part of it in spirit and certainly in the film now, and will be a part of anything we do moving forward for sure.

Simon Pegg: We wanted to make him part of Spock’s arc, Zach’s Spock’s arc as well, not just as a reference to Spock Prime or what we did eventually of course, which was to dedicate the film to him. We wanted his passing to be something which inspired our Spock to move on as well, so it became an integral part of the story.

Q: Was it Justin’s idea to blow up the Enterprise?

Simon Pegg: I hated the idea at first. I swear, we had rows about it. I was shouting about it. “We can’t do that. You can’t destroy the Enterprise.” My problem was if you think it’s something new, then we’ve seen it before. It happened in Search for Spock. It happened in Generations but Justin was very, very determined and as we spoke about, I realized what he was doing brilliantly was he was not only taking out a main character, but he was removing the physical connective tissue between the crew to see what happens when you take away the thing that physically bonds them together. If you take away that thing that necessitates their being a unit, do they dissipate or do they come back together? That was the genius of that thing. You take it away very violently and dramatically, and then you wait and see if they all come back together to be this family which is essentially what they are. And of course, they do. And I realized I backed down immediately and said, “Yeah, you’re right.” I do occasionally do that. Not always. But in this instance, I realized it was a brilliant idea, but yeah, initially I was opposed to it.

Q: As co-writers, were there ever any points of contention in the co-writing where Doug won?

Doug Jung: There’s no good way to answer that question. No, I don’t think there was anything that we had fights over or tried to get in. It was difficult. I had never cowritten anything before and it kinda helps when your partner’s right more than you. So that was always good. So no, we had a really productive couple weeks where Simon and I were off in Simon’s place in London where it was this kind of magical time I think where we just got to shut out all the pressure that was going on around us and the huge machine that was starting to get geared up. We just were able to sit down. I think those were the moments that I remember we were just laughing and really enjoying the idea of we were writing 20 page Spock/McCoy scenes. We were just like, “We’re writing a Star Trek movie. This is amazing.”

Simon Pegg: We’d watch episodes in the evening.

Doug Jung: That was your idea. “If we do good today, we can go watch some.”

Simon Pegg: But we’d take our notepads down and we were writing down the names of Red Shirts and little details that we could feed in so the universe had continuity.

Doug Jung: I remember when we finally wrote the final voiceover, “Space…” we actually went back and were like, “I think we left a part out.”

Simon Pegg: I think it was “To boldly go where no one has gone before.” It was such a greta pairing, if only because we were always on the same page. Doug has an incredible awareness of structure and overview which is so vital when you’re trying to track a story like this. We had disagreements. I totally was like, “No, you can’t destroy the Enterprise at the beginning.” But when I realized the genius of taking away that thing that bonds them to see if they remain together, I realized that it wasn’t a gimmick. It wasn’t like let’s just do something spectacular. It was let’s do something really incredibly thoughtful that will drive the story. So yeah, we always had disagreements. Some of them were a bit shouty, mainly from me. JJ talked me down from at least three ledges and here we are. I’m so proud of it. I couldn’t hope for a better team than these guys.

Left to right: Chris Pine and Director Justin Lin on the set of Star Trek Beyond from Paramount Pictures, Skydance, Bad Robot, Sneaky Shark and Perfect Storm Entertainment

Left to right: Chris Pine and Director Justin Lin on the set of Star Trek Beyond from Paramount Pictures, Skydance, Bad Robot, Sneaky Shark and Perfect Storm Entertainment

Q: What was the dynamic with Justin compared to J.J.?

Zachary Quinto: I mean, Justin has a very different energy about him. I’d say he’s a little more internalized just as a person. He’s a little quieter but he’s no less confident. He’s incredibly gifted as a visual storyteller and I think he’s very sensitive to character dynamics as well. He brings a balance of both of those extremes and he came in on an already moving train in a lot of ways. He didn’t have a lot of time to prep for this film. I think all of us were incredibly impressed by his sense of leadership and vision. I think also it was really great to have Simon in a position of creative influence on this film because he was a tremendous conduit for us early on before we kind of forged our own relationships with Justin. But all in all, he was a really welcome addition. I would say very different from J.J. but also really exciting and really unique in his own ways. And reflective of this experience which was different and new for us to be away from the past and the configuration of the last two films. We all had a great time working together. We really enjoyed him and seeing what he was able to create in the final product is really exciting for all of us.

Q: Was it challenging when the previous director is one of the producers?

Justin Lin: It’s been a pleasure. JJ has been nothing but gracious and generous. I feel like I couldn’t ask for a better experience. The one thing that was a fact was that going from idea to production in six months, that was the challenge. But having a group of people that really are trying to be respectful and try to build things the right way, I feel very fortunate. To have the support as we were building it, it was never easy but filmmaking is not supposed to be easy. We were just in London. I remember just looking at Simon. The four of us were in this room in Soho with nothing. At the end of January, we were like, “We’re going to be shooting in June with a whole crew waiting.” To really have a group of people to try to do it right, I feel like it’s very rare but at the same time I’m very thankful.

Q: The costumes are tight.

Simon Pegg: Tight around where?

Q: Did you have any difficulties?

Simon Pegg: I think the pants were loser, right?

Chris Pine: Yeah, the pants were fantastic this time. So much movement. A lot of space in the hips which I appreciated. I don’t know how to answer your question but I’m going to make up my own question and answer that. This is like the retro super future version of Star Trek so it’s looking way ahead into what Star Trek can become and also having very specific nods to the past. It was very small things throughout the three iterations of the film so far. There have been a lot of discussions about colors of yellow for instance for Kirk’s shirt and the cut of the shirt. This one is a specific nod to the original series. It’s not the kind of bright fantastic yellow of the first and the second. It’s this lovely Kirkian mustard green.

Karl Urban: Sanja did an extraordinary job, our costume designer. One of the things that I was most proud of is the fact that on the previous two films we got to do with J.J., for whatever reason, I don’t know what the reason, but the women in Starfleet uniforms in Star Trek Beyond all had ranks on the uniforms which I think is a fantastic thing. A fan pointed it out to me and I was shocked that it wasn’t the case. One of the first things I did when I got to Vancouver was go and talk to Sanja about that. She goes, “Oh yeah, don’t you worry. Women will have ranks.” I think she did a great job. Also bringing a bit of a ‘60s throwback to the costumes but then also making them slightly new. I had massive envy for Chris Pine’s survival suit.

Chris Pine: You get that just wonderful shade of blue, Karl. It makes you look lovely.

Q: How far do you see the franchise going? Any thoughts of a spinoff or next generation?

Simon Pegg: Well, I hope it goes on for another 50 years. We’ll keep going as long as we can until we’re old and inappropriate. Actually, the thing is about the new timeline is that Picard, Janeway, all those guys, they don’t exist. I’m kidding! I’m kidding! Man, would I be in trouble. Yeah, I hope it goes on. There’s a new CBS series starting. The galaxy, let alone the universe is a boundless place. There’s so many adventures to be had. As long as we have this idea that you know what, we might not just all kill ourselves and die in a big fire, we might actually become slightly more enlightened, slightly more tolerant beings and go off into space, that is a lovely idea I think secretly, the vast majority of us want to achieve.

Zoe Saldana plays Uhura in Star Trek Beyond from Paramount Pictures, Skydance, Bad Robot, Sneaky Shark and Perfect Storm Entertainment

Zoe Saldana plays Uhura in Star Trek Beyond from Paramount Pictures, Skydance, Bad Robot, Sneaky Shark and Perfect Storm Entertainment

Zoe Saldana: You just said something about the next generation. Are you calling us old? We just got here.

Q: I’m such a fan I’m thinking all the way into the future.

Zoe Saldana: No, no, here’s cooler. It’s good to be present.

Q: Star Trek was always a social commentary of its time. Now that we’ve evolved so far in the past 50 years, what can the social commentary of Star Trek be now?

Zachary Quinto: I think the message is the same as it was when it began. It’s just that we have more room to explore and express it than they did at the time. It’s shocking to me how divisive our culture has become. I feel like Star Trek maintains a position of inclusivity and unity that is as resonant today as it was in the late ‘60s. This film in particular explores that idea, one side of that being about the unity and inclusivity and the other about breaking that apart. I think that’s in a way really reflective of the society we live in today. It’s troubling to me on such deep levels that we’ve gotten to this point of unwillingness to see varied points of view or feelings or opinions or perspectives. And I think that Star Trek remains in a landscape of popular culture entertainment something that is a beacon of inclusivity and progressive thinking. I think it just takes on different forms now than it did 50 years ago.

Simon Pegg: I think it’s become more so even since we shot it, the message of this, the social commentary in this iteration of Star Trek is we’re better together. That’s what it’s about. It’s about collectivism. And in this era of Brexit and talking about building walls in certain places, now more than ever we should be thinking about the value of collectivism, about cooperation and unity. That can be and is our strength. The more fractured we become, the less secure we all feel. The villain in Star Trek, we could’ve called him Brexit. That’s quite a science-fiction name.

John Cho: In the Star Trek setup, you’re going into space and seeing so many different kinds of species, it does become comically apparent when you look around the planet Earth that we live on that we do have so much more in common than we don’t. So the little things that seem to divide us here in our present time seem even more exaggerated, exaggeratedly small after seeing an episode of Star Trek.

Simon Pegg: We’ve all got one head, you know what I mean? Let’s live together?

Q: Do you have a favorite Anton Yelchin moment you can share?

Justin Lin: I think it’s still very raw. I’m still processing. I actually went back. I think there was a group of us who were still finishing the film. We had a few weeks to go and we went back and I went through all the footage again. The one thing that when I was going through it, the interaction with Anton for me, it just is so clear that when he shows up every day, he does it for the right reasons. We’re making movies. Sometimes you make movies and a lot of these petty, weird, stupid stuff happens. He just shows up with a smile on his face and just has ideas. I always just look forward to every day he’s on set, we’d huddle up and he’d throw 100 ideas even though maybe he’s just in the background. That’s just the way it should be. I know for a fact that it will live on with me and he will live on with me and I know with everybody that he’s worked with or he’s interacted with.

Q: Kirk was a father figure to Chekov. Chris, what made Anton special to you?

Left to right: Anton Yelchin plays Chekov and Chris Pine plays Kirk in Star Trek Beyond from Paramount Pictures, Skydance, Bad Robot, Sneaky Shark and Perfect Storm Entertainment

Left to right: Anton Yelchin plays Chekov and Chris Pine plays Kirk in Star Trek Beyond from Paramount Pictures, Skydance, Bad Robot, Sneaky Shark and Perfect Storm Entertainment

Chris Pine: He was a good guy. He was very sweet. He was very beautifully, authentically Anton. There was not much of a censor on the boy. I remember one of the first times I met him, nine years ago, he was 17. I invited him back to my trailer to play guitar because I knew he played guitar and he played guitar really, really well. And he said, “I can’t, man. I gotta go back to my trailer.” I was like, “Okay, why?” He was translating an esoteric Russian novel into English because that’s what he wanted to do. Eight, nine years later, I talked to him and he was still translating it. He was still reading a book on physics that this French philosopher had written. He would still try to get all of us to go to these, like, we were in Vancouver and he wanted to see some German neoexpressionist film. He would talk about it as if everyone has or should have seen it.

John Cho: I ended up going that night, I think.

Chris Pine: He was a great guy. He was just totally fearless and we try to grasp something that’s positive about him. He was such a good guy. I think it’s just the fearless creator that he was always working on stuff. He had music projects and photography projects. He was going to direct his first film this summer. He was just spectacularly interested in life in really a great way.

Q: What was it like doing so much of the movie on land?

Zoe Saldana: I like being on the ship. You don’t understand, we were in a quarry and dust everywhere and helicopters flying really low. I like being on the Enterprise. It’s clean.

Karl Urban: The spirit of exploration.

John Cho: On the upside, it was cooled to be paired off. Zoe, even though you were having a miserable time, I enjoyed spending time with you.

Zoe Saldana: You heard how much I was complaining but I was so happy that I was complaining with you.

John Cho: To get fractured off, typically you’re as characters relating on the bridge. Everyone’s relating to Kirk so there’s less talking to one another, so just getting that opportunity brought out some different colors and vibes so it was good.

Simon Pegg: Doug and I realized this a couple of times. Had Checkov ever spoken to Sulu at any point in the other two movies, directly to? We realized a couple of the characters hadn’t really interacted at all.

John Cho: It was a lot of panicking.

Q: Was there anything you shot that had to cut out?

Justin Lin: I don’t think so. Personally, I always think I’m pretty relentless, but working with JJ and Lindsey and everybody, the whole process was really cool. It felt like it was just alive all the time and we’re just going and going. For me, a lot of the stuff we enjoyed talking about the Krall backstory and also the marauders, the swarm soldiers and stuff. We actually had sequences of much more backstory but we never got to shoot those. It was a pretty tight schedule on this one. Basically everything we shot is pretty much on screen.

Franchise Fred Review – Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition

I liked Batman v Superman in theaters. It was the Man of Steel 2 I expected. The three hour ultimate cut was supposed to improve it for people who had issues with the movie, but for me it took a movie I liked and threatened to make me hate it. All the good will I had towards the movie disappeared when they added more of the stuff that didn’t work back to the movie.

Out today

Out today

Zack Snyder had already revealed his plans for an extended Jimmy Olsen scene. It’s a clever idea, but when actually included in the movie it hurts the pace because we’re spending precious act one time on a side mission. The side mission expands further with extra military action that ultimately has no impact on the plot.

Jena Malone’s two scenes are reinstated and it is disappointing to find out that all she plays is one of Lois Lane (Amy Adams)’s sources, giving her exposition about the bullet Lois was investigating. More explaining does not make the conflict stronger. This movie needed to be shorter, not longer. Batman and Superman have beef because they each see the other as taking the law into their own hands. The hows and whys don’t need any more explaining, and the fact that the movie thinks they do is damning. It was better when the plot was loose and you could forgive it lacking connective tissue. Having the connective tissue is worse because it’s a boring drag.

There’s a prison shivving. If you really like the story of Batman branding victims, I suppose you’ll like seeing the inevitable conclusion of that. I don’t know anyone clamoring for it, but it’s included. One nice additional scene is Superman helping after the Senate explosion. This could have been in the theatrical cut because it is less than a minute long. batman-v-superman_612x380_0

Now it is two hours in before the Batman vs. Superman fight happens, and two and a half before Wonder Woman teams up with them. So now we’re waiting even longer for Gadot. The great thing about DVD and Blu-ray is you can just skip right to the good part in either cut. The last hour of either cut is an actual movie, from the fight promised in the title to the Bat rescue and trio finale. Just watch that.

Honestly, a longer cut was not the answer. Batman v Superman was okay at two and a half hours, but really a shorter, simpler cut is what’s needed. Keep it under two hours and the film would have a visceral energy that could forgive any of the holes in the convoluted plot. If I ever watch Batman v Superman again, it will frankly be the theatrical cut, but I like my idea to just skip to the final hour..

I can’t even say the movie looks that good on Blu-ray. The grimdark aesthetic struggles to hold up in HD and frequently flares up with digital noise. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, because if you turn up the brightness you see more digital noise, but on standard the movie is too dark. Franchise Fred disapproves.

Podcast- TAKE 2 Episode 112 Poke Fever

Take 2 is the Podcast that talks about all the minutia in pop culture of the week.

In this exciting episode, Chris and George talk of the latest craze to grip the country: Pokemon Go.   The duo then breaks down news from Wreck It Ralph 2, the Flatliners remake, and a round of news out of the DC Warner Bros camp: Supergirl, Flash, Wonder Woman.  Finally, they wrap things up with a break down of the schedule of the San Diego Comic Con.  Oh, and if you’re going, don’t miss the Kaiju Kingdom Podcast panel on Saturday.

*This podcast contains language NSFW

THE NERD REPORT PODCAST Ep 22: Vannessa Vasquez Interview, Free Passes to Star Trek: Beyond & More!

13631652_1224993444178413_1021921128785569106_nOn this episode of The Nerd Report Podcast, Louis Love with his co-hosts Lisa “Grywuff” Grayson and Robert Garcia interview Vannessa Vasquez (Camila Barrios) from Hulu’s East Los High, talk about the latest Star Wars news, discuss Star Trek vs Star Wars, Horror movies: Lights Out, Comic Con, Nuke the Fridge After-party, and much more!  We’re also giving away FREE advance screening passes to Star Trek: Beyond.

Listen to the Podcast below for details!