1. How did you first get your start in film?
My first start in film was a non speaking part as a troubled teen in a feature called Willfull Blindness directed by Calgary Lawyer Anita Szabo. The film was about young people who fall through the cracks of society. I played a young man who is processed into the young offenders system. We shot at the jail on Spyhill in Calgary and it was thrilling. It was one of those experiences that changed my idea about what acting was all about. It became more real for me. I mean our set was an actual operating prison. We had the chance to speak to some of the young inmates and they shared their stories with us which were so powerful. A thrilling first step.
2. What are you most passionate about in the world of film?
Right now is such an exciting time for film. I’m excited about the resurgence of being able to shoot on film. There is something magical about film compared to digital. Film is in our dna. I think we respond to it emotionally in a different way than digital. I’m hopeful that as a director I will be able to shoot on film very soon. It’s what I grew up on. It’s what I get excited about. I have an app on my phone called 8mm where I can shoot a video and then put a film filter on it. It’s awesome.
3. Your favorite inspirations, films and people?
I had a very profound moment when I was a eight-year-old kid and I saw the original Star Wars. It turned on my imagination and changed how I looked at the world. My favorite film is The Godfather Pt 2. It has all of the right ingredients in a movie to make it so amazing. Gun fights, deception, and some of the best acting on film. DebNiro is so believable and gives one of the best performances of his career.
I am inspired by Canadian Director Grant Harvey(Orphan Black, Heartland). Not only is he a great director with a keen eye and a gift for story telling he is also a good friend. But I covet his career like crazy. 😀
4. Something we don’t know about you?
I love hockey especially the San Jose Sharks. I learned to skate when I was 41 and I absolutely love it. We had only been here in the USA for 5 weeks and I was skating at Staples Center. A huge thrill and a wonderful experience. I’m also working on an Alec Guiness impression that is almost ready to share.
5. Tell us a time that you had to over come an obstacle to make a project happy but prospered?
This happens all the time! The balance of time vs art is a cruel equation. It’s always something on a set. If you are prepared it’s almost always possible to solve it. That’s why I have my buddy Rob on my team. He’s the best grip In the business. We call him Mcgyver. He can solve any problem. The work should always be the focus. Maybe it’s an age thing but I’m there to Get er done! It has to be about the work and nothing else.
6. What was the first project you directed and how did it go?
The first project I directed was a short film which I wrote and directed called Insomniac. We shot it in 2002 on the Panasonic Varricam in HD. I was blessed to have such an amazing crew with arguably one of Canada’s best DPs Craig Wrobleski. It was an amazing experience which we shot in 2 days. Insomniac was nominated for 3 AMPIAs and it won for Best Overall Score for Michael Shields and Russell Broom. That worked out pretty good.
7. What is you like about being a director?
I love working with actors. That’s the best part of the job. Nothing gets me more excited than working through a scene with actors. I love asking the questions that provide insight so that a performer can get to the promised land.
8. What is the job of a director and challenges you face?
It is the last surviving dictatorship in the world. You are the Captain of the ship and you have a crew that need to be confident that you know what you are doing. You answer over 1000 different questions a day from all the different departments so you have to be prepared. You have to know what you want and how to get it. A good director is able to manage all of these nuances and still get what he wants.
The challenges are different from hour to hour. Are you making the pages for the day. Are you on budget. It’s never-ending but it’s thrilling. That’s why it’s a huge accomplishment when you complete the thing.
9. How do you balance family and work?
It’s tough. I think just being present is the key. Also I shut off my iPhone.
10. What do you do, to unwind?
I love hockey and I’m always trying to become a better skater. But soccer was a passion for me for many years but regrettably my hamstrings didn’t like it. So I officially retired 5 years ago.
Typically we would fly down to LA but now that we live here we have become intrepid explorers of this amazing place. I think my favorite place is The Huntington Library in San Marino. They have a copy of Shakespeare First Folio which I love to spend time with. However their Japanese Gardens are so serene and sublime. This is a great place to relax and recharge my creative battery.
11. What is your radio show The Directors Cut about and who do you have on your show?
Basically The Directors Cut is an exploration of the film industry from a different angle.
Initially I was asked to go on the radio and talk about my passion for movies. The next thing I knew I was in charge of my own content and building out each episode. It was never meant to be a permanent gig more of a portal to share my love of movies that people may not be familiar with. We will take a break in March as I focus on my directing career. I hope I can return to it but you never know when Spielberg calls I want to be ready. We’ve had some remarkable guests that really inspired me. My interview with Madison McKinley was a real highlight because not only is she an incredible actress she is so smart and witty and of course an extraordinary beautiful woman. Her interview had 50k views on YouTube. That was real highlight. Of course each interview has its own life and like a Director you must be very prepared to guide it to where you ultimately want it to be.
12. What Directors did you learn from and that made you your style today?
I am an old soul when it comes to cinema. I have been hugely influenced by Coppola and Spielberg. Jaws and The Godfather Pt 2. David Fincher is one of my favorites too. His work in Fight Club and Seven is cinematic art. Exquisite and crafted. I love Kubrick as well for the amount of detail he puts into the work.
13. What schooling goes into being a Director, how did you learn your art?
I didn’t go to film school. I went to theatre school and became an actor. Years in the theatre and working for my own company gives you that confidence to try and direct. I directed a play when I was 18 years old. It was a one-act play called The Actors Nightmare by Christopher Durang. I learned that preparation for a director was key. I had done some prep work but not enough. A director has to know all. If you don’t it can be a long and frustrating rehearsal process for everyone involved. Also director and friend Grant Harvey invited me to set whenever he was shooting a commercial. He was one of the few directors that saw the benefits of sharing the experience. This ignited my excitement for the profession which kept me motivated to work as a director.
14. What kind of projects interest you?
Short format, feature films and episodic tv. I’ve done a lifetime of corporate videos and I don’t think I’m able to approach that kind of work with a clear vision. That’s why I don’t do it. However I have been working with a fantastic charity in Calgary called UP(Unlocking Potential). I shot a PSA two years ago for them and it was nominated for a Rosie Award for Best PSA. I’m currently working on another project for them which I’m prepping to shoot in late March. I love the personal stories. They make each project exciting and fulfilling. I’m also working on a very ambitious slate of 12 projects to be completed in the next year or so. Short format is a great thing and I have some challenging shorts for this year. As my friend Grant Harvey says You have to create a critical path for each project. I love that phrase -critical path. It gives the work a sense of urgency. I’ve worked with too many people who don’t understand this concept. The critical path controls the work flow and focuses the work. Isn’t that the definition of being a director? If you don’t have a critical path you won’t make a movie.
High school was an interesting time for me. I had a hand in both the Jock world and the Drama world. But my initial intro to Shakespeare was not a good one. I was taught Romeo & Juliet by the weightlifting teacher. He wrote on the white board two headings one said Montague and the other said Capulet. He then proceeded to write down the major characters with a line connecting to their counterpart. It was so poorly taught but I survived it. It was only until I met my Gr 11 English teacher named Donna Mangone. She was a passionate and fiery Italian who ignited Shakespeare for me. She taught it differently with a real knowledge and love for the words. I was hooked. Ever since then I have learned and read as much about Shakespeare as I possibly could. In 1990 I was introduced to Neil Freeman a professor at UBC and we became good friends. He taught me so much about Shakespeare that I can’t imagine him not being here. He died in Oct last year and to be honest I haven’t really recovered from his loss.
16. Tell us about your Shakespeare theater productions you created.
I co-founded and was the first Artistic Director for The Shakespeare Company in 1996 in Calgary. In my tenure we did over 40 productions, we started a Festival each summer in Canmore AB and we produced a festival of inspired Shakespeare works for 5 years. We were busy and because of that we have established ourselves as a major classical theatre company in Western Canada. 20 years old and I couldn’t be more proud of the work TSC has done. Some of my favorite shows were Taming Of The Shrew playing Petruchio opposite my wife as Kate. Playing Hamlet and Macbeth in a calendar year and directing Measure For Measure. They were all thrilling productions and I’m proud of everything we ever did. I would love to get back in the theatre and direct a Shakespeare. You can’t leave the theatre, it always remains with you.
17. Why do you do what you do?
Because I have to.
18. What is your clothing style would you say?
On a good day I have some pretty good style on a bad day not so much. I love J Crew but I really rely on my wife’s guidance and good taste. She always tells me what I should wear and I’m happy with that arrangement. Although I do love my Doc Martens.
19. What do you want to accomplish in life this year?
We are on a critical path with lots of different projects. I’d love to have one of them get into one of the big 5 film festivals. Sundance, TIFF ,Cannes, Tribeca or Berlin. You have to shoot for the moon.
20. Where can we find you on social media?
I’m on Instagram @directorich or my website www.directorrich.com