Fool Martyr Q&A

  Heads or Tails
A shot from Fool Martyr Production's film "Heads or Tails."

© 2004, Fool Martyr Productions
All Rights Reserved

There's a team of filmmaking mavens wreaking havoc out of Maryland these days. They work under the banner of Fool Martyr Productions, and you probably haven't heard of them yet. But they've already shot a promising body of silent shorts, and there's every indication that their forthcoming feature debut, "Heads or Tails," will turn this hobby into a career for the fledgling production team headed up by Joey McAdams and Clark Kline.

But they aren't overly concerned with job descriptions at Fool Martyr. Joey and Clark, for instance, are both credited with writing and directing "Heads or Tails." And their short films contain music by Clark and artwork by Joey. It sounds like a refreshing lack of ego for a couple of filmmakers.

Intrigued? Read on, and learn what you're missing if you aren't tuned in to these foolish martyrs yet.

Pete Mesling: The visual elements in your short films are really brought to the fore because there's no synchronous sound. In "Rust" there's blood running over ice cubes in a sink, and the main character kisses a corpse at one point. Is there an Argento fan in your midst?

Joey McAdams: Most visual elements are actually inspired by music. Both Clark and I write/storyboard to music, but some directors who influence me visually are David Lynch, Mark Romanek, and classic directors like Stanley Kubrick and Oliver Stone, not to mention DPs [directors of photography] like Harris Savides and Conrad Hall.

PM: There's an interesting tension between the action and the viewer's anticipation. The question emerges, "Is this guy contemplating murder or regretting it?" It's answered in the final scene, of course, but did you have to decide which of those two directions the film would take, or did you have this ending in mind from the beginning?

JM: It started out as contemplating murder; however, from tensions on the set, and disagreements with the talent, I decided to just kill the bitch. No seriously, it all stems from a mixture of Catholic guilt and hatred of truck stop whores, who I have been burned by numerous times. No seriously, we had the ending in mind from the beginning, but originally the film was only going to be that one long take with the man sitting on the bed with the cross above him, and the reveal of the woman at the end. Ultimately we wanted to give more of a backdrop to the characters.

PM: "Where it All Began," another of the short films, involves a prisoner who goes through the motions of painting the image of a woman on his cell wall, but of course he has no paint or brush. What were some of the technical challenges involved in superimposing the various images that were used?

JM: Basically we did it all in editing. I drew the figure on the wall in stages, and shot it separately, and used fades and dissolves within final cut.

PM: You both share a writer/director credit on "Heads or Tails." Could you elaborate on how you split the duties of bringing this project to life?

JM: We split roles through the entire production. After the initial brainstorm phase where we both storyboarded and wrote out the majority of the film, Clark went off and wrote the initial draft of the script, so I played more of a producer role. On the set, I played more of a director role and Clark took over producing.

Clark Kline: I think we complement each other because we're always pushing each other to go the extra mile. Many times we would run through the scenes, get what Joey wanted off the bat, and I'd jump in and get an extra take from a different angle, or go at a scene a slightly different way but we had both talked about it so much in preproduction there were very few times I really needed to. On the set, I pushed for composition while Joey really reinforced the actors.

PM: In fact you both seem to have nearly as much writing as filmmaking experience. How important to you is the writing process in the grand scheme of making a movie?

CK: To me the writing process is the most creative, because normally I come up with a visual/audio palette as I'm writing. As we worked on the story the pacing, the mood and the overall tone of the piece were developed and further explored until we had laid out storyboards, music and sound ideas well before shooting. So on the set a lot of times we were capturing something we'd already seen and planned out in our heads. On the set, there is this indescribable energy, especially when you are collaborating with a tight-knit group all trying to put out the best possible film. There is an intensity from the surprises an actor brings to the role, but if you are working on a solid original framework, it allows for actors and crew to take intelligent risks and make the film stronger.

JM: It's very important. In writing there are truly no boundaries.

PM: You experimented with keeping parts of the story secret from your actors, giving them only as much as they needed in order to do their scenes. Is this an approach you'd consider using again in the future, or did it just seem to fit with the type of story you were trying to tell? Did it create any unique challenges?

JM: It definitely fit the piece, not that we would never do it again. It would depend on the project. Because the movie is four separate stories intertwined, we wanted the actors to concentrate only on their arc and not the overall story. We wanted each story to work on its own and not have actors feel like they had to bring something to the role to make the rest of the story work.

CK: We gave the actors only their parts, and in some cases kept scenes from them until the day of the shoot. Occasionally we'd leak false information, just to get a specific effect. This is the first time we've ever experimented with this process, which is why casting was so difficult, because we needed really strong actors, not only to carry their weight but to trust us and themselves. However, sometimes this caused actors to be confused as to how to play a particular scene, sometimes it meant an actor would play it above or below our expectations, or would miss a mark we needed them to link up to other themes, so we'd have to dish out hints to the story here and there. Most of the time it worked very well.

PM: It sounds a bit like the process used by the "Blair Witch" folks, but I understand this is not a supernatural horror film. Is it based on a real myth, or is it pure invention?

CK: It's based on a short story I wrote in college, but whether or not it's real is something we're not ready to answer yet.

JM: Oh give me a break, it's fake.

Pete Mesling is the editor of Filmfodder's Critical Eye section.