When I recently sat down to screen a new thriller/dark comedy starring Anthony Michael Hall I expected to see some great performances seeing as he is joined by some pretty big names like Tony Danza and the late Chris Penn. What I did not expect was to be blown away by the body of work itself. When you start to see as many films as I do thrillers begin to become a bit formulaic. The story always changes but you tend to see the surprises coming a mile away, if they are done well you are still engaged but if they are done brilliantly, just when you think you know what is coming next you are thrown a curveball and a good one. Such is the case with AFTERMATH. This dark comedy/thriller was brilliantly made, not only where there strong performances but the story and pacing was near perfection. You were thrown curveballs that worked within the story rather than them feeling forced or there just to shock the viewer. It is rare that a film’s cinematography stands out so much that I am instantly searching for other work by the director, but AFTERMATH stood out as a wonderful body of work, so I had to talk to the film’s director and writer Thomas Farone about his passion for filmmaking and where he finds inspiration for his work.
TF – “It started with comic books and graphic novels, I was reading them a lot and I though that was maybe what I wanted to get into. But I had a camera around always as a kid and I brought it everywhere. The two kind of went together. The stories in my head would be on page 100 and I would still be on page 5 drawings so I figured I would find a faster way to pick things up so that’s how it kind of went. It always just felt right, I’m just blessed that it always just felt right that’s what I always wanted to do and always wanted to get into.”
TMC – How did AFTERMATH come about? It has a bit of a comic book feel and a few of the frames looked as if they came right off the pages of a comic book, did it have that gritty comic book feel in the beginning?
TF – “I just needed to write something that I could kind of get my hands on, a world that I could get around. I picked something that I could write production wise. I wanted to make something that looked real. Comic book wise it was just something that I do, I storyboard everything and draw things out. It didn’t start out with any comic book feel or anything like that, it was more of something where I could get access to sets and get access to something that looked real. I couldn’t blow up the world or anything like that. I wrote a story that was something that I could do and I wanted it to be more character driven. I wanted it to be fun. I wanted the characters to be a little bit louder and little bit more fun. It was really written with the purpose of this is something that I can realistically shoot and I could get my hands on what I needed to, to make this film.”
As a new filmmaker Farone is clearly working with his head on straight. Staying within your range, knowing what you can realistically make budget wise can be the key to getting a film made and made well. The fact that this was all taken into account is just another reason I firmly believe that Farone is not just a director to keep your eye on, but will also have success and longevity in this, sometimes fickle, business. AFTERMATH worked well on all fronts which he is grateful for but the writer/director definitely has more stories to tell.
TF – “Other stories I would like to tell a little bit different with a little bit of a bigger budget but Aftermath just fit. It was just right, I had a lot of access to what I wanted to shoot and it worked out well so I was just really thankful for it.”
One of the many reasons why AFTERMATH worked so well was its fantastic casting. The legendary and iconic Anthony Michael Hall lead the film in a role that was new and different for him and it was so enjoyable to see this new side. We asked Farone what it was like to work with Hall as not just an actor but as a producer as well.
TF – “Mike was great, he got the script and he saw “Nate Dogg” my first film and he really liked it a lot and then we talked. First of all like you said Mike is a legend he is such an icon, from his career and everything that he has done, so just to hear that he was behind this was super. He got on board and producing wise, a lot of actors say they want to get involved on that end of things which was great, but I was really thankful for him to wanting to be like this for this film. He pulled Tony Danza on because he and tony had a relationship. I started casting in New York City and I picked up Jamie Harrold there and Lily Rabe, both are great super people. When Mike got involved he brought in Tony and Chris Penn who he shares the same agency with. He also brought on Elisabeth Rohm he was just super, he was great to work with and I mean Mike can really bring it. He has had such an amazing career and has been in the business for so long, he’s done so many things and he can really act and it shows in the film. I mean obviously everyone knows he can act but this is a different part than what people are use to and he has a really good work ethic. Before action he does his thing, which I can really appreciate, and really gets into it and on action he lets it roll. He brings a lot of things to the table. We worked well together and we both picked up some things from each other. I can’t thank him enough liking the film, liking the project, reaching out to Tony Danza, reaching out to Frank Whaley and all of those people. The most important thing to me was that he brought it front of the camera, that’s when he brought it. Especially when Chris Penn got there, he really set the tone, those guys were really acting off each other and really tried to bring it and show what they can do and that’s what you want . Once you get an environment like that where people are really trying to, not out do each other, but really trying to show what they have it just, I don’t want to say made it easy but its great to have. When you are working with actors like that, especially for me after coming from Nate Dog who was no actors, to be able to start working with some real actors who had a real process for what they were doing to me is awesome.”
TMC – There are so many of these dark moments in the film but at the same time they are full of such light especially the scenes with Chris Penn, he had to be amazing to work with.
TF – “Chris was, and I’m not just saying this, Chris was just unbelievable just talking to him I learned so much about character development and we would talk film a lot. Some actors you know they can act but they just don’t get the film process and Chris really did. We would just chat about things and it’s just too bad he’s gone. In this film Chris was acting and his work showed and he is such a talent. If I had nothing to do with this film I would definitely check it out and even if I had nothing to do with it and just saw it you could see how much Chris was bringing it. It was good to see and he left with such a fire again for film, he had the fire burning again and he wanted to start doing some other projects that we talked about, it was just too soon that he passed its just so sad. Chris and Mike kept the whole thing together. Everyone was just bringing it. It was a set where you know I could have said ‘Chris I’m going to set you on fire but there is only one extinguisher to put you out’ and he would have been for it. He would have done anything for the film and when you have actors like that it makes it real easy and makes the camera move real easy.”
You can certainly tell that this is a passion project for not just Farone, but the actors and crew as well. You can see the time and effort in each shot. Farone’s use of imagery and negative space is perfection and helps with the story telling and overall tome of the film. Just when you think you know what will happen next, it goes somewhere else. It really is a fun dark comedy so I had to ask now that the film is hitting theatres and will soon be available for VOD what does Farone want people to take away from the film.
TF – “Its just a fun movie, I’m glad you get the humor and I’m glad you see the jokes that are in there and the way its suppose to be. You can only do so much budget wise and film wise you can only do so much. So if people see it as a fun movie and they enjoy it and just really have some fun with it without getting too into the darkness that comes in to the film and just have fun with it, I cant stress that enough to just have fun with it and laugh. Watch the characters and just see how it goes. Like you said the curve ball or the change in the story, just keep on letting things happen. I think that’s important especially when you are making a film like this that is an element that you can really use to help you. Some films you just have to let them play out they way they do and you can see them coming, but this one you can really have some fun with. You can really switch it around and throw it around and not to the point where it gets crazy. I at least think that the things that did happen were not just all of a sudden and out of nowhere you can see things coming but they would change and you think oh I could see that. I wasn’t trying to just flip the script just to try to change everybody or what they were looking at. It was fun to do, I think its fun to keep the audience engaged and not guessing ahead.”
The one thing I loved about this film was that it had a very different tone and feel to it. Farone was able to make the film his own while at the same time being reminiscent of iconic filmmakers like Tarantino, Nolan and Scorsese with a touch of the grittiness of Frank Miller’s SIN CITY so before I let him go I had to ask if any particular filmmakers have inspired his passion for filmmaking.
TF – “Obviously I love them all. I enjoy Paul Thomas Anderson and Tarantino. I watch films and I like certain filmmakers but I don’t want to say I’m influenced by to many I try to keep my own state of affairs. Nolan, he does his big budget stuff really well, I like him a lot. Wes Anderson is great as well. There are a few I enjoy. But no one in particular really, I try to check out any film I can, made by anybody. I watch a ton of film and I just hope to keep on doing that. I shoot a lot of stuff too, you have fun with your friends and you shoot stuff. It’s never made to be seen by anyone other than your friends, you just shoot and you learn a lot. You learn your craft and you just have fun shooting scenes that mean nothing, you just have fun and learn your craft. You learn when to push in and when not to push in. A lot of stuff you leave on the floor but its all a learning process.”
“You need to be working on things to learn things. I’m glad you brought up Frank Miller because yes, he is big influence wise maybe camera angle wise, the way I set things up. Miller was a big influence on me with the graphic novels and Sin City. The way he set up his frames, he would break the frame. He was a big influence so if you want to say somebody, it’s him and I’m glad you brought him up and I’m glad you see his style that means a lot.”
If you are like me and you like the style of some of these iconic directors than Thomas Farone is a director to watch out for. You can find AFTERMATH in it’s limited release and soon on VOD and you don’t want to miss it. I for one can’t wait to see what he does next, seeing what he has accomplished with a small budget has me dreaming of what he could do with a big budget film.