AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID GIANCOLA
Imagess courtesy of David Giancola and Edgewood Studios.
I have to say this: David Giancola has life figured out. He is well-known to MST3K fans as the director of "Time Chasers", one of the classic episodes on par with "Mitchell" and "Manos: The Hands of Fate". Already a successful director by his early twenties, he also owns his own production company, Edgewood Studios. Perhaps more important to MSTies, he was a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 even BEFORE his film was selected for MST3K's 8th season. Friendly towards MST3K fans, he is delighted to speak about his experiences directing "Time Chasers". Edgewood Studios has even hosted outdoor 16mm screenings of the film in their hometown of Rutland, Vermont.
David is among the directors who "gets it", and isn't afraid to laugh at himself. This self-confidence has served David well, as shown by Edgewood Studio's growth into an impressive production company with an large body of work. Other films directed by David include "Peril" (starring Morgan Fairchild), "Icebreaker" (with Bruce Campbell and Sean Astin), "Moving Target" (starring MST veteran Miles O'Keefe), and "Diamond Run" (also featuring MST favorite Richard Lynch). Through his production company he has produced too many films to mention here. On top of all of this, David and Edgewood strongly support filmmaking in their native Vermont through education programs and local "Movies In The Park" screenings. In the end you have to wonder when this guy sleeps, but it's obvious that David is a gifted filmmaker and businessman (and a conscientious community member, too).
I'm not shy about asking filmakers what they think about their work being featured on MST3K. David agreed to participate in a "20 Questions" interview to discuss his career and his experiences with MST3K. He enthusiastically provided many cool details about the shoot....like arranging shooting around an actor who was a dairy farmer and had to milk his cows daily.....chasing Revolutionary War reenactors across Vermont....finding a computer small enough to fit in a Cessna cockpit...and much more.
If an MST3K film is ever considered for a DVD director's cut, "Time Chasers" is the one. Read on for details about this possibility (and perhaps a "Time Chasers" cast and crew reunion) below.
An Interview with David Giancola of Edgewood Studios
1. David, thanks for participating in the interview. How did you receive your filmmaking education?
I never received formal film school training, (I know; it shows in "Time Chasers"...) I started as a kid, like many filmmakers have with a Super 8mm home movie camera shooting "backyard epics". Upon graduation from high school I started Edgewood Studios, then spent almost a decade learning while I was paid to shoot weddings, commercials, industrials, shorts, etc. My path has always been to keep working, to get it done and to be critical of the results, then to diligently make better work each time. This strategy has served me very well in my career with the exception of the fact that my mistakes have often been immortalized forever.
2. "Tangents" was your first film - you were quite young when you directed it. The first thing that comes to my mind while watching it is the scope. This wasn't a simple film shot in some warehouse - there are a huge number of actors, grand set pieces, and some ambitious location footage. As a young filmmaker, how difficult was this for you to pull off?
The film was very difficult to make as we were learning the process as we went. As it was our first feature, and so much different from the commercial work we were doing at the time to pay the bills, we often wondered what wehad gotten into. (the "we" is myself and Peter Beckwith, my partner in the company) The budget stated at $40,000.00 and ballooned to the end of post-production almost three years later to just over $150,000.00. This was still a small sum for a feature but a huge risk for our small company. We were determined though to give the film as big a look as possible to make it marketable.
3. I read somewhere that the budget was about $150K. If so, "Time Chasers" is a most efficient film in terms of quality per dollar invested. How difficult was it to get financing?
The first round of financing was quite easy based on our company's reputation and the fact that it was the first feature film to be shot in Vermont by Vermonters. It was only when the budget ballooned that we really struggled. It became hard to answer the question; "when are you guys going to finish?" It was at this point that both Peter and I went to our respective parents for some of the last financing. (I haven't met a filmmaker yet who hasn't had to tap this resource at least once)
4. The original title according to IMDB was "Tangents". What was the story behind the name change to "Time Chasers"?
The original title; "Tangents" was fine for our theatrical release in New England, but once we were picked up for international distribution, and at the suggestion of our distributor, changed it to words that were easily translatable in many languages. "Tangents" has only a mathematical meaning in some languages...
5. Also from IMDB, I understand that you started filming in 1990. How long did it take to finish, from pre- to post-production?
As I mentioned, the film took almost three-years, primarily because all of us worked on the film only on weekends and most without pay. Scheduling around the actor's regular jobs was always a hassle. George Woodard was dairy farming at that time and had to finish each day at 5PM so he could milk the cows; "Somebody's gotta do it, those cows don't care about time travel!"
6. One thing about "Time Chasers" is that it takes the time travel story in a different direction (via Cessna). Tell us about writing the film. When did you conceive of it, and how long did it take from conception to final draft? Did you have to change the script significantly while filming?
As regional filmmakers who constantly have tiny budgets who's work is judged next to studio films with literally 5000 times the budget, (J-Lo's foot massage bill on a studio feature is probably more than we spent) we always must work with what we have on hand with value to get the film made. When I wrote the script I was trying to get maximum production value while making something that worked as a visual metaphor. Most of the time thought, the visuals became just qualifier of our limited resources and of our naive attitude to the process but that was the intent. The script changed radically as production logistics intruded, a jet became a single-engine prop plane, etc. I remember one of the most radical changes we made was when actor Martin Guigui would constantly show up late or not at all after having been established on film. The scene where he sits on a tree and announces that he is going no further with the hero was totally improvised on the set late one day so I could cut his character out of the last third of the film and get it finished. Directing is all about being flexible...
7. Many of the actors appear in several of your films - Matt Bruch, Peter Harrington, and George Woodard among many others. What advantages do you find in having an ensemble cast?
When you work with good people, there are always opportunities to work again and explore their talents a bit deeper. I do find that it is a trap though, you need to always be looking for new talent.
8. One of the more ambitious aspects, in my opinion, was the use of Revolutionary War reenactors. Tell us about working with them. Were they hard to direct? How did you get the idea to use them?
The re-enactors were always part of the original script and my plan to give the film a lot of scope. This turned out to not be quite as simple as I thought as we had to chase different reenactments around the state and I found myself negotiating with a general over our contract with them as we shot. There is nothing truly more frustrating that negotiating entertainment releases with a plumbing-supply salesman who gets ego-promoted to a revolutionary general for one weekend a year. 90% of the re-enactors we worked with were a totally into it though.
9. I found the 2041 sequence to be very successful- even on a budget, it came off well (and loved the "Back to the Future" poster!). Where did you film this, and how on earth did you achieve the set decorations?
There was an abandoned factory, (now completely re-modeled with new businesses, it is actually now where we have our studios) called Howe Center where we were allowed extensive access, the junk yard sold us cars, and dirt, dirt, dirt!
10. IMDB reports that the Amiga in the airplane was used to generate the graphics. Who was the graphics artist?
The computer in the plane!! Everyone wants to "dis" the computer in that plane, the poor thing, at the time we made the movie it didn't seem so archaic. The graphics WERE made on an Amiga but not the computer in the plane, which did not operate. It was chosen at the time because all of the other computers we selected had giant CPU's (remember them?) that would not fit in a small plane. The slim laptop that I write this interview response on would have been unheard of at the time.
11. Any possibility of a "directors cut", perhaps with some of the extra footage you've spoken of in other interviews? Or even better, a sequel?
There is discussion of an expanded DVD with a Director's Cut, Cast Commentary, Outtakes. etc. All of this material exists, but we are still looking for a new video distribution company. We don't have any plans for a sequel, there have been so many time travel films since covering the same material, I don't feel I have anything new to add. However, due to the MST3K response, we had a very successful outdoor screening of the film last summer from one of the original 16mm prints. We gave away free original "Tangents" posters, had cast there, and had a blast on a cool summer night in the Main Street Park in Rutland. People came from as far away as Pennsylvania. We are planning a possible full cast and crew reunion screening in the same manner soon. Our website, www.edgewoodstudios.com is the place to keep updated. (Editor's note: Sounds like a fun event!.)
12. At some point, Best Brains (Mystery Science Theater 3000 producers) were considering "Time Chasers" for an episode. What was your initial reaction? Since the point was to make fun of bad movies, were you at all hesitant?
You know, I have said this before, for such a small film to have found such a large domestic audience and to gain cult status, is very cool. We really felt the joke was on them for choosing us. I've seen the chat room postings, the hate it; they love it, but they have all watched it. You have to understand that in the context of how that film was made it is a great success. The film makes me cringe to watch it today but many of us have gone on to really great things from that experience.
13. Were you aware of MST3K prior to their licensing "Time Chasers" from you?
We were fans of the show and frankly very excited when they called. Our distributor was very nervous of the concept and the initially "soft-peddled" the idea to us. It was only after we enthusiastically said yes that everybody relaxed.
14. I think I read somewhere that you were in contact with the MST3K writers as the episode was being written - did they discuss it with you as they were writing/producing the episode?
We talked with them quite a bit, trying to help give them some back story. They had been to Vermont, some of the locations and included some "in-jokes" that I don't know how many viewers outside resident Vermonters got. We were planning to even bus Peter Harrington to the taping for a cameo but at the last minute schedules didn't work out.
15. Was MST3K the first television sale of Time Chasers?
The film had sold quite well all over the world on DVD and television by then. I think this was our first domestic cable broadcast.
16 "Time Chasers" really became a rather popular episode of MST3K - and the producers of MST3K are on record as having a lot of respect for this movie. Do you frequently find yourself answering questions from fans?
I get a dozen or so e-mails a month on "Time Chasers", it's cult status perplexes me. I have gone on to direct and/or produce over 20 features and I get more e-mail on "Time Chasers" than all of them combined.
17. The "Time Chasers" episode was one of the few that got a Rhino DVD release....how cool was THAT? In Mike Nelson's "Time Chasers" intro, he mentions that the party you held in honor of the movie was somewhat of a downer......that can't be right.....right?
The video release was very cool, and it kept people from asking me for bootleg copies. We had a big party when it premiered and it was a riot, I never laughed so hard in my life, remember, most of us were fans of the shows before they picked us up. Later in the night at the end a couple of the actors slipped out of the party really upset, they didn't get the joke or the spirit of what was done to the film, they were also drunk by then I think... None of us knew they left till the next morning. No one has any lasting scars though.
18. Have you found that the experience with Time Chasers/MST3K has had an influence on the rest of your work?
Yes , Thank god I can laugh at myself.
19. Do you find owning/running Edgewood as rewarding as directing? Are they separate things in your mind?
Owning Edgewood is a lot less fun that directing, I basically have become an executive; pushing papers, chasing legal work and sales rights. I sneak out and direct the second-unit on stuff I produce to keep my sanity, and I am looking for something to direct next. It is tough to balance our studio, which is so busy right now, with who I am creatively.
20. What projects are you working on now? Any chance of a new film from Edgewood soon?
We just finished "Landslide" for the PAX-TV Network starring Vincent Spano and Alexandra Paul, and have also completed a horror-disaster-monster thriller (domestically coming out through MTI Home Video), called "Avalanche Run" (it may get a title change). Both are due out in the fall.
21. (bonus points) Anything you would like to add to the MST fans out there?
Fans, Thanks so much for watching. I hope anyone who wants to know more about us will go to www.edgewoodstudios.com I hope "Time Chasers" will prove to all you frustrated filmmakers out there that a career in filmmaking is a journey, through which you must continue to work. You only truly learn and grow from your mistakes, not your successes.
David, thanks for being so approachable, and for your willingness to speak about "Time Chasers" to your fans. Best of luck, and we're looking forward to lots of new films from Edgewood.
Thanks, and thanks for thinking of "Time Chasers"!!!
<----------Visit Edgewood Studios for 'Time Chasers" memorabilia, events, and more fun....
This interview would not be possible without the graciousness and good humor of David Giancola. This interview is copyright 2004 by Alleged.
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