Dom Portalla talks to The Movie WhoreThe Movie Whore no comments
Not too long ago I brought you a review of the movie which you can find here. I have stayed in contact with Dom Portalla the man behind the movie and he agreed to this interview. Now I know you have no idea who this man is and that is the point. I want you to know who this guy is and I want you to check his stuff out. This is where my real dream lies. I want to help these guys and other independent film makers get some attention and make a name for themsleves. So if you know of anyone that you think is making some good movies that no one knows about drop us a line using the contact form and I will look them up.
Before we get into the interview I want to thank Dom for agreeing to this interview and I encourage to check out . These guys have put together some really good stuff.
TMW: To start, tell us a little about yourself and what led you to throwing your hat in the film making world.
DP: My name is Dom Portalla. I'm a 23-year old aspiring filmmaker from Boston. I've been obsessed with movies since I was a little kid and when I was about 13 years old I rented a VHS copy of "Clerks" and that gave me the notion that it was possible to make a good movie just purely on heart and ambition. Basically, I've been on that road ever since.
In high school, I ended up getting a job at a video store and met my two best friends, Dennis Pinto & Mizi Causevic. We call ourselves "The Bag", which is an in-joke from the first real short flick we ever produced called "Be Kind, Rewind" [nothing to do with the recent Michel Gondry movie]. "The Bag" eventually turned into Door Eleven Productions, which is a grassroots production company we're working to establish in our hometown that is intent on bringing you interesting, self-financed, independent films from the Boston/North Shore area.
"Duality" was our first full-length attempt. It's crime/comedy about a case of mistaken identity between two twin brothers. Darrien Walcott has been apprehended and is informed that his identical twin, Travis, owes twenty grand to a local crime boss. The debt is now on his head and he's got until midnight to either come up with the cash or locate his estranged brother. What ensues is a day-in-the-life of disorganized crime. We shot the movie guerilla-style all through 2006 for about $7,000 [which was mostly accrued credit card debt] and premiered it to an audience of 250 people on June 2nd, 2007.
Currently, we're about to roll into pre-production for our second feature.
Basically, we make flicks.
TMW: Tell us about what it is like to make a movie like Duality: The best and the worst parts of doing it on your own.
DP: Making "Duality" was film school. It was a total learning experience. I'm not sure we really knew exactly what we were making. Pinto, Mizi and I had spent an entire year hanging around my apartment talking about how we were going to make a flick one day. I spent the summer of 05' just writing the script based on this very simple idea I had for a short film. When I finished it in early October, it was like "all right, let's go!" We just hit the ground running as fast as we could. The script was done in October, we had auditions through December and by January we were in principal photography. It was almost like we were daring ourselves to see if we could actually pull it off.
The biggest thing I learned was the importance of preparation. "Duality" is what it is because we had a very loose way of working. It's kind of a punk-rock style of filmmaking - which works both for it and against it. Basically, we'd find a location and just go shoot. If we couldn't get a bar that weekend, we'd push it back until the next weekend. If it didn't work out then, we'd push it back again and just work on a different scene until someone locked the location down. This is why shooting dragged on from January until August. Knowing what I do now, I don't think we would've jumped in headfirst so quickly. I think we would've spent more time on the script, more time storyboarding, location scouting - basically all the things we're doing now with this next project we're getting ready to work on. But ultimately, I'm glad it worked out the way it did because I learned a lot from the experience and I think I'm capable of working more efficiently now. We didn't know enough about the
process then [we're still learning]. We just wanted to make a movie; we would've done it with fucking sock-puppets if we had to.
As far as what the best part of doing it on our own was, basically, there were no expectations. We were just given complete creative freedom to do what we want and kind of figure it out as we went. I learned a lot about directing by working with talented people. The cast is pretty amazing, in my opinion. Most of those cats had no acting experience at all. They just had natural talent and ambition. I started to find a system where I would do a bunch of takes and after I had what I wanted, I'd say "Okay, let's do one more. This one's your take." Basically, I'd just let them improvise and a lot of that stuff wound up in the final cut. When Darrien and Alex are parked in the car outside of Gage's apartment and he's telling him about why it sucks to be a twin, a lot of that is just off the cuff. When he says, "My buddy Eddie, he got so high that he climbed out the window and fell on the grill", Ken just improvised that. And Alex really started to laugh. It's perfect. It draws you in and
makes you start warming up to these guys. It felt like we were creating something original right on the spot. Anthony Cogliandro improved the biggest laugh in the whole flick. Originally when we cut to Gage choking the guy in the cages he was supposed to be flipping out about ten bucks. Anthony just belts out with "I said decaf, you cocksucker!" It's fucking brilliant.
The BAD part of doing it on our own: money. We had none. Bottom line - if you have someone backing you up financially, your product can be a lot more polished. I look at that gunfight and cringe. Had we had some production value that could've looked a lot closer to the way I saw it in my head. But again, that also goes back to preparation. If you have a gunfight in your script, you better be planning ahead. Otherwise, you gotta chalk it up to a tongue-and-cheek moment and hope people think that its amateurism is part of its charm.
TMW: It really was the one scene that me laughing the hardest. Tell us a about some of your other work in film.
DP: Well, aside from dicking around with a camcorder all through my youth, the first real attempt at a "film" that I ever made was a short called "My Suburban Hell" - which I will never show anyone.
I wrote my first full-length script called "Life Gets Better" when I was about 15. It was basically just a really long, vulgar episode of "Dawson's Creek". I never ended up making it [thankfully].
Then I wrote another full length a few years later called "Only In Dreams", which was a coming-of-age dramedy about a guy who has an erotic dream about his best friends girlfriend and then becomes obsessed with her. We tried shooting some of it my first year of college, but ultimately nothing really came of it.
Parts of that script got recycled into a short called "Be Kind, Rewind", which we made in March of 2004. It was based on a bunch of the experiences I had working in a mom-and-pop video store - so it essentially played as a knock-off of "Clerks" [which, as I've gotten older, can finally somewhat cop to]. I hadn't really broken out of telling a story that was set in the comfortable environment of my second home "Video Craze" - this was the videostore where I met my producing partner, Dennis Pinto, and the place I got our graphic designer/music composer, Mizi Causevic, a job at.
Since then, with the exception of "Duality", everything else we've worked on has been a series of YouTube shorts, which include "Billboard America", "Jimmy's Birthday", and "Marty Langford - Bible Salesman".
I thought Billboard America was as brilliant as it is disturbing.
TMW: What has been your favorite project so far and why?
DP: "Duality" has definitely been my favorite, just because it's the basis of everything I know now and I made a lot of very close friends that I will continue to work with in the future. It's what I'm most proud of. "Billboard America" is a close second, though. That was something that we made during "Duality" as an entry to the Howard Stern film festival. We thought we could submit it and win and maybe have a budget to work with afterwards because the prize was like fifteen-grand. What ended up happening was 1.) I got to see my buddy Jimmy Scanlon go way over the edge and play a total lunatic, which was a lot of fun and 2.) We had to get creative and try and make a coatroom in a function hall look like a small radio station.
TMW: What lies ahead for you and Door Eleven Productions?
DP: Right now, I am just finishing up the script revisions on what will be our second feature. The working title for the flick is "Darkness". It's very much influenced by the films of Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock and the writing of Edgar Allen Poe and it's much different than anything I've ever written before. We all felt it would be a good idea to try and do something that was a complete 180 from "Duality" in order to really try and grow as filmmakers. I have to give Dennis Pinto a lot of credit for really pushing me to keep working on the script until we got it perfect. I probably would've been very impulsive and tried to get started on production earlier this year were it not for him basically demanding that we go back into the writing process and tighten it up before we leaped into shooting.
Without giving too much away, the movie is about a young couple that moves into a new apartment and begin to notice that their next door neighbor is spying on them. It's a psychological thriller that taps very deeply into themes of voyeurism - which I feel is a pretty relevant issue in today's world. If we succeed with what we're aiming for, the movie will be very visually interesting, suspenseful and the last twenty minutes will hopefully blow you away. We're hoping to start filming this fall and have the finished flick by the summer of '09.
As far as the future goals for the company, we just want to keep making flicks. Each one of these endeavors is a learning experience and hopefully as time goes on we will only keep getting better at it. I can't really see myself doing anything else. This is a dream I've had for a very long time and I've been lucky enough to meet people who are equally as passionate. We've got notes and treatments on the shelf for about six more spec-screenplays, so there will definitely be more coming from us in the future. We will keep at this until it breaks and we can do it for a living - no matter what.
TMW: What else would like to add?
DP: Just a big thank you for the opportunity to do this interview. Thanks to all the cats who have been supporting us and for those who have checked out "Duality", keep your eyes open for "Darkness".
And most importantly - please don't feed your Mogwai after midnight.
Remember film makers need an audience and they need fans. I encourage to support independent film makers and go take a look at what Dom and the guys are doing. Have a great weekend.