Tuesday, June 7, 2016

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Director Jason Ancona Talks About His New Film 'Dr. Cheapskate'

Recently, I had the plesure of interviewing the writer/director of the upcoming film, Dr. Cheapskate, Jason Ancona.  He gave me some great answers and insight into his filmmaking process.  Check out the interview below:

JAMES DE BELLO:  Hello Mr. Ancona, James De Bello here, writer for Merc With A Movie Blog. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.  As an aspiring director it is a pleasure to be able to talk to active filmmakers who get to make feature films.

 Hey James!

JDB:  How did you come up with the idea for Dr. Cheapskate

JA:  I have a family member who's a doctor and pretty frugal. I wondered what it would be like for him to date, knowing how thrifty he is, and how he doesn't like to spend money. How would that work if he met a date for dinner or for drinks. What would the reaction be when the check came. And would he expect it to be split down the middle.

JDB:  As the writer of the film how was the process of getting the screenplay finished, how much did it take and how many drafts did you go through? 

JA:  I've been writing screenplays for over a decade and really love doing it. I wrote 3-4 drafts of 'Dr. Cheapskate' over the course of a few months. Made more changes, not as major, for another few months. Did about 10-12 more drafts with minor changes after the first 3 or 4.

JDB:  A question I'm always very interested to ask is: what films (if any) did you watch in preparation for Dr. Cheapskate? Did you share and discuss them with the cast too? 

JA:  I love Swingers. The story. The cast. The tone. How it's more about friendship then finding a girl. Helping Jon Favreau's character Mike get over a past relationship. That was the heart of 'Dr. Cheapskate'. A friend helping another friend get over his bad experience with his ex-wife. More about getting over a past hurt then really finding someone special. And, yeah, I did talk about that with the cast and crew.

JDB:  What was the process of putting this film together like, from financing to the final cut?  How much time did you spend with it and what were some of the best moments about it? 

JA:  Took over two years all in. Made it on a crazy low budget. Toronto International Film and Video Awards categorized 'Dr. Cheapskate' as "No Budget". I'd say most festival shorts cost more than what we made our feature film for. Best moments were the people: our small cast and crew. Having fun. Figuring it all out together. We really became a family. 
A fun memory was the day we filmed Ray Rosales and Scott Dean on the lake when they were on paddleboards. It was freezing outside. Both Ray and Scott had to take a spill off the paddleboard in that scene into the cold water. We kept having to re-shoot Scott in the water because he was out of breath. The pedi-cab scene was really fun, too.

JDB:  What do you hope to express with this film?  Is there some particular theme or themes you wanted to discuss with it? 

JA:  That friends really can help you get through things. Be that push or helping hand that gets you past something that you might not get through by yourself. Or at least get you through it faster than if you were just by yourself. Sometimes it's tough or different talking about some things with your family. But with a friend, you can be brutally honest.

JDB:  What was your road to becoming a filmmaker like, where did you study and what jobs got you to directing a feature film? 

JA:  I took classes at UCLA. Wrote over a dozen scripts. Had some scripts do well in contests. Nothing ever came of that. No agent. No manager. Nothing. Met Jeff Miller at a networking event. I sent him a script called Meter Maid: A silly movie I wrote for Jim Carrey. Jeff didn't like it. A couple of girls I met happened to love Meter Maid and said they could get it to [Adam] Sandler. That never happened. But they asked me to go to Sundance with them and a bunch of other people. So I'm standing in line at the No Name Saloon with these girls, and this guy turns around, says, "Don't I know you from somewhere?" It's Jeff Miller. We hung out at Sundance. He then read another script I wrote called Notch 22, which he liked. So he asked me to be a co-writer on his next movie, Axe Giant: The Wrath Of Paul Bunyan. After all those years of not seeing anything I wrote onscreen, it was really cool to see something I co-wrote premiere on SyFy Channel. And later it was in Redbox and on Netflix. Did another movie with Jeff called the Burning Dead, formerly called Volcano Zombies. And yes, we were going for something like Sharknado. Hearing Mark Duplass was an inspiration too. He and his brother made shorts. Then cheap features. And kept at it. Making crazy low budget movies and making it happen on their own. 

Jobs? Had normal 8-5 jobs in sales or recruiting. Still do. Write at nights and on weekends. That's also when we film. Makes it a challenge scheduling shoots. But I love it. Plan on shooting another feature again starting next month: Tag Team Truckers. Hoping to get it finished and out there by 2018.

JDB:  Who or what was it that made you want to be a filmmaker? 

JA:  I always loved movies. As a kid my mom would let me stay up late to watch the Academy Awards. Think I've always enjoyed escaping into a pretend world. Being able to make up that pretend world, and then directing people playing in that pretend world, is pretty freaking fun. Also, I was inspired by great storytellers: John Hughes, Harold Ramis, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg.

JDB:  Finally, to end on a fun question, are there any films you have seen recently in the cinema that you really enjoyed? 

JA:  Deadpool. Great flick. Really excited to see the new Bourne movie too. Damon's back!

Check out the trailer for Dr. Cheapskate right here:

Dr. Cheapskate is a romantic comedy, and the directorial debut for writer/director Jason Ancona. It stars Scott Dean, Andrew Key, Robin Hines and Ray Rosales.  The film tells the story of an isolated doctor, burned by his gold-digger ex-wife, who takes penny pinching to the next level until his friends force him out of his shell and back into the dating game.

Special thanks to Jason Ancona for taking the time for this interview, it was a pleasure.

Here you can check out the official Dr. Cheapskate website.

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