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Interview with Director Lewis Schoenbrun

There are many people who watch movies and love to break down why they were awful.  They talk about the plot holes and the terrible acting and,  “If I shot it, I would have done it differently.”  The problem is, they wouldn’t do it differently because they would never do it.  They love to talk the talk, but when it comes to walking the walk they’d rather take the bus.

Lewis Schoenbrun runs past that bus and waves to everyone on it.  He’s directed The Amazing Bulk and Aliens Vs. Avatars.  Whether the film community likes them or not, there is no denying the fact that he is a filmmaker.

What is the movie that made you want to get into this industry?

2001: A Space Odyssey.  I saw it when I was 9 years old.  It had a big impact on me and I became a big Kubrick fan.  There are numerous references to Kubrick films in The Amazing Bulk.  But there were numerous other films and filmmakers that have influenced me over the years.

How long have you worked in the film industry?

Personally or professionally?  I first picked up a super-8 camera when I was 11 years old and made a short film with a friend, it was his dad’s camera.  I’d always loved movies and television so it was very exciting to make my first film.  We did everything in the camera.  My parents bought me a camera when I was 13 and I have never stopped making films.  My first unpaid job was a college internship when I was 18 and my first professional job was shortly after I graduated from college.

What was your first job?

In college I took time off to do a couple of internships in the film industry.  My first experience was working for several months at a PBS station in Atlanta, Georgia in the late 70’s.  A couple of years later I spent a full year working for a small production company in Springfield, MA.  During that year I had the opportunity to edit a short documentary I was making for a school project.  It was about a trip I took with a group of amateur astronomers to see an eclipse of the sun in Kenya, East Africa.

Did you always want to be an editor or director?

Well in the beginning I really only knew about directing, I didn’t really know what editing was.  It wasn’t until I was editing a short film for an independent study project in my senior year in high school that i really began to understand what editing actually was.

When I took a year off from college to work for the production company I would spend my free time editing my African documentary film.  It was much more complicated in those days editing on a Moviola than it is today using non-linear.  But I seemed to have a knack for the mechanics and my boss used to throw me commercials, industrial films & psa’s to edit because he could see I was good at it.  This is where i learned to love the craft of editing.  I was also inspired by a quote by Stanley Kubrick who said that “editing is the one aspect totally unique to filmmaking.”  I saw editing as a way to get my foot in the door, directing is so much harder to maintain as a career so it just seemed like a natural fit.

Talk about The Amazing Bulk – Was this your passion project?

I wouldn’t call the bulk my passion project.  I was working with my producer Dave Sterling on another film with a spider-woman heroine.  I liked the idea of directing a comic-book movie since everything I had done previously was horror.  That project fell apart when Dave and I were unable to come to a meet of the minds with the executive producer.  But while working on the film I kept thinking, “How could we up the production values of the movie on such a miniscule budget?”  I did a lot of research on line and was finding lots of cool virtual sets and C.G.I. graphics.  Afterwards, Dave approached me and told me how much he liked my ideas and was hoping we could still make something.  I agreed that it would be good to pursue.  Dave had suggested an idea called the bulk and I just ran with it.  The concept was to make a comic book movie in a comic book world.  I’d always been a fan of films in which the actors entered a cartoon world (i.e. Out of the Inkwell, Mary Poppins, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Sky Captain).

How long did it take you to finance, shoot, edit and finish your final product?

Well I financed the entire picture out of my own pocket, it was a total of $14,000.  I spent about 4 months developing the script with the writer and another 6 months finding the C.G.I. and storyboarding all the live action scenes.  We actually shot the film in 5 days in a pool room behind Randal Malone’s house.  I then spent another two years posting the film.  It took that long because I had a full-time job and could only work on the film during weekends.

What has the reaction been to the movie?

That’s hard to say.  Some people really love the film and some people don’t.  I find that some people just don’t get the concept of live action people in a comic book world.

Your directorial follow-up to The Amazing Bulk was Aliens Vs. Avatars.  Was this shoot easier than The Amazing Bulk?

No, actually it was just the opposite.  Shooting the bulk was a breeze since we were on a green screen stage.  Everyone shows up to the same location every day, the camera isn’t moved very much and the lighting is relatively simple.  We can get through scenes very quickly since you simply move the actors. Jed Rowen, who plays one of the detectives, commented how it was almost like doing a play.  Once you’ve worked out the blocking, the shooting goes very quickly.

What do you currently do for work?  When do you find the time to make the movies you want to make?

I am currently a mentor at The International Academy of Film & TV located in Cebu, Philippines.  I have been here for the past 4 years teaching directing and editing.  It has been more of a challenge to make films since I relocated to Cebu and working full-time.  I was back in Los Angeles during the summer of 2010 to complete post on The Amazing Bulk and also to direct Aliens Vs. Avatars.

I am currently developing a project which I would like to shoot here in Cebu.

 

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