Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Jeff Campagna Interviews Jeff Campagna

Google yourself and it’s likely you’ll find a few others who share your name. Of course, individual results may vary. Anyway, my name, Jeffrey Michael Campagna, is a bit more uncommon than most, so it was especially cool to find someone who not only shares my entire moniker, but who also does some very interesting things for a living.

The “other”
Jeffrey Michael Campagna (above) is a Canadian filmmaker, screenwriter, blogger, author and music video director. I’ve been aware of “my brother from another mother” for several years now, keeping track of what he’s been up to via the Internet.

Since we’ve been friends on MySpace and Facebook awhile, we figured it was high time I interviewed my Canadian namesake via email about making Westerns, kidnapping actors, and his fondness for the Spice Girls. He’s pretty cool, so I suppose I can even overlook his hating on Jersey Shore. Check it all out below:

So you started off in the entertainment industry back in 2003 with the Canadian Food Network working on Look Who’s Cooking Now – what are you making for dinner these days?
Great question, but one I can’t answer truthfully without suffering some personal embarrassment, unfortunately. On a good day my dinner is a bag of popcorn and a few beers. When I have company or am with loved ones, I will unleash my culinary wizardry, but with the unholy mess it produces it’s simply not worth the labour just to cook for myself. I usually try to meet my agent for meals because he picks up the cheque (but it just comes out of his expenses so I end of paying for it anyway).

And then in 2005 you poured your life savings into Six Reasons Why, the Dead Man meets The Good, the Bad and the Ugly sci-fi Western with your brother Matt. How nerve-wracking was that?
Interestingly enough it didn’t bother me all that much at the time. I think any artist that has any level of faith in their work views the real world through a lens of indifference - though my creditors didn’t share the same liberties. They have all been paid off now, thanks to the surprising and lucrative sale of Six Reasons Why, but I screwed my credit up enough in the process that I still can’t get a credit card. A collection agency called me during post-production and asked when I would start to pay my monthly minimums and I told her ‘when I sell my movie to Paramount for a million dollars.' She thought I was kidding…

And how do you and Matt generally split up responsibilities on a Campagna Brothers film?
I am no stranger to this question, nor am I a stranger to the tension that the subject matter produces. Unlike a lot of other filmmaking brothers who take on different aspects of production, Matt and I split the entire process right down the middle. We work as a team all the way from writing the screenplay to storyboarding it to directing it, right through the editing process and final marketing stages. It may sound like sunshine and lollipops, but if I said we didn’t lock horns on a regular basis because of this joint-creative-custody; I’d be lying. So far however, the battle has always resulted in an interesting blend of my style and his style that we are consistently happy with. Unfortunately, that battle sometimes takes place around the family dinner table, which our mother doesn’t appreciate.

What do you find so compelling about the Western genre? (the Campagna Brothers’ new film, Roll the Hard Six, is also a Western)
It’s a brilliant genre and always has been. The first Western I watched with any sort of cinematic and cultural awareness was Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, and at that point, when the credits started to roll, a glaring distinction formed in my gut that there were now two kinds of films in the world; the one I just finished watching and all the rest. Now, I am not intimating that my goal is to create something of equal magnificence or perfection – as an artist, to require perfection is to invite paralysis – I simply now have a connection to the genre that I can’t ignore. Not to mention that if you put a beard and a cowboy hat on most actors and shoot them on an extreme close up so that every facial wrinkle appears like a canyon and every spot of dirt like an oil spill and you’ve got yourself a pretty engaging image.

I see actor Colm Feore (24, Pearl Harbor) is returning for Roll the Hard Six. Very cool. How did you get him to appear in Six Reasons Why?
We star-napped him, tied him up with gaffer tape and forced him to watch reruns of Roseanne until he agreed to act in our movie. No, all kidding aside, he stayed strong until the third season when Roseanne Barr takes a preggers test before he consented to play ‘The Preacher.’ It’s a testament to his will.

Colm is a great actor and extremely down to earth. I met him in an airport one night before we even shot the film. Then we shot the film and cut it together with a stand-in for Colm’s scenes. Then Matt and I went to Stratford Theatre where Colm performs and gave him a copy of the film and told him we want him in it. He liked the idea, thought we were crazy, and almost a year later I was driving to set with him in a bartered limo sipping $6.00 bottles of Spumonte Bambino.

You’ve been experiencing some success directing music videos (check out his video for “Beautiful” by Klooch) – would you consider yourself a big music fan?
Without a shred of doubt. My father raised me on a healthy diet of B.B. King, Robert Cray and Eric Clapton. My mother raised me on Michael Bolton, Mike and the Mechanics and Huey Lewis and the News – so I now have a very diverse and broad taste in music. Unlike many of my peers I can listen to a Nickelback album for just as long as I can Radiohead.

You’ve really embraced blogging – and maybe drinking a bit while blogging?
Yes and yes.

What are your guilty pleasures these days?
I gave up feeling guilty about pleasures when I got into a fist-fight for liking the Spice Girls. People like what they like. I don’t deem it a crime to enjoy the tackier things that our watered-down kitschy media furnishes us with. Except Jersey Shore. People who like that show should be jailed.

You have a book coming out in January, titled after your blog, A Writer Under the Influence. I know you’ve been doing a lot of world traveling lately – are any of the short stories based on your adventures?
Not in the least. A lot of writers create from life experiences and are inspired by the direct interaction with the world around them – I am not one of them. My stories come from some ubiquitous province that I know nothing of. It is a mystery to me as it is to the reader. Though, when I am writing, it feels as if I am writing from experience, that is to say, whatever story I am trying to tell seems nothing short of completely and unequivocally real, no matter how chimeric it is.

I’ve heard it can be a grind cranking out a book. You’ve got a pretty busy schedule with other projects – what was your secret to keeping focused?
Patience. The secret to patience is doing something else in the meantime. So when I need a break from writing a book I work on a screenplay or edit a music video – maximum productivity. For me, the battle is not trying to stay focused, it’s trying not to quit.

The Oscar race is heating up. How about some of your favorite films/performances of this year, or are you too busy to see many movies these days?
I am not too busy to see movies; however, I am too busy to separate them based on Oscar potential. In my opinion the Oscars are just a glorified high school prom where they hand out ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ awards. It’s a fun night and may get you laid. In Hollywood, quality and success have little to do with one another.

Say you and Matt are thrown into a wrestling royal rumble of brotherly directors – the Cohens, the Farrellys, the Wachowskis, and the Hughes – what’s the result?
If it was a hardcore match Joel and Ethan would bludgeon us all with the bald heads of their Oscars (see, they are good for something). But if no such weapons were sanctioned in the ring I’d have to say that The Campagna Brothers would be the last men standing simply because they are younger, more nimble and have absolutely nothing to lose.

www.JeffCampagna.com ~ Official Site
www.aWriterUnderTheInfluence.blogspot.com ~ Blog

Photo by Maciek Drozdzik

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