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AN INTERVIEW WITH Bobby McGruther, Actor & FILMMAKER
As a filmmaker, please introduce yourself and let us know why you became a filmmaker?
I’m originally from Monmouth County, NJ. I currently live and work in New York City, and I’m a filmmaker. I started as a screenwriter,
and ended up moving to acting in some of my own scripts in college, then to directing, and now I do all three. Not always at the same time.
Give some more information about the films you have made so far?
I produced a film called "No More Lonely People". "Tequila Flavored Cigarettes" is a sequel/spinoff of that film.
I wrote and acted in a film called "One More Thing" that is currently out on Amazon Prime exclusively. Most, if not all the films
I’m involved in, no matter the genre, always have an underlying theme of family relationships and choosing to love someone
when it may not be the easiest thing to do. That’s continued into future projects as well.
Tell us a bit on how you got started in the film world. What sparked your interest in visual storytelling?
That’s a hard question to answer. I really liked comic books as a kid, I still do as an adult, and I always liked making up stories.
I think it must’ve come from my father always putting an emphasis on reading when I was growing up. Before I could read he would
read to me and my brother every night before bed. That’s most likely where my fascination with storytelling came from.
Why did you decide to tell this specific story in "Tequila Flavored Cigarettes"?
Well, my buddy OJ Reyes who directed the first film in this series had pitched me the film to act in it. He was having trouble breaking the story and decided to move onto other projects, but I loved the pitch so much I offered to write the script and direct it. I honestly thought I was gonna get shot down but he was all for it. Something about exploring more of that world that was set up in "No More Lonely People" intrigued me and that film was definitely a straight up drama. I wanted to add some levity and the characters OJ had outlined in the pitch had such a potential to make a good heartfelt comedy. The script came easy after that. I wrote the first draft, and then OJ gave me notes, then we went back and did I think two more drafts. We spent 3 months on the final draft of the script and then shot it 10 days.
When we saw your film, it was fantastic! We're sure it was quite difficult to reach this level of perfection, not only in story and acting but also in unique directing. Can you share how you started and finished this film, what were some of the challenges you encountered while filming and how did you overcome them?
I’m from Monmouth County, NJ. The same county that Kevin Smith, the director of Clerks, is from. He’s one of the greatest people
I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. He used to run a small comic book store that I would loiter in as a kid and pretty much shaped
me into the person I am today. So a lot of the ways I set up shots is very inspired by him. One thing I learned from him is, you are never
going to make the perfect movie, but if it feels right, that’s what counts. And man, "Tequila Flavored Cigarettes" is a flick, that feels right to me.
Aside from schedule and budget constraints there weren’t many challenges to overcome. Acting and directing was a challenge but I welcomed it.
How did the screenplay shift a lot before/during/after the shoot?
We shot in March. The house we rented to shoot at had this backyard bar area and originally, in the script, most of the film took place out there. But when we got to the shoot days, it was 5 - 15 degrees out and too cold to be shooting a film that takes place in the spring outdoors.
So we had to rework the script to shoot inside the house. Which is what you see in the finished film. In editing some of the scene orders where changed just to make the pacing better. There was a whole scene that wasn’t in the script that we shot that ends the film.
Your actors made the story come to life very well ! What was your casting process like? Did you have any actors in mind while working on the screenplay?
Every actor in the principal cast had their role written specifically for them. One of the cameo roles was from a character in the previous
film in the series so if she had been unavailable we would have cut her scene from the script. Casting was pretty easy. I pretty much got to cast my first choices for this film.
How did you work with the cast to achieve such realistic performances? Was there any improve on set, or everything was exactly according to the screenplay?
I really didn’t have to do much to get the performances I wanted out of the actors, which is why I cast who I did. There is some improve on set. It really depended on the scene. I had complete trust in my cast. I tried to make the environment comfortable for them. Other than that I really just trusted them to do what I hired them to do, yah know.
Your film "Tequila Flavored Cigarettes" were officially selected in the
"American Golden Picture International Film Festival".
What were some of the challenges you faced in making this film?
We had 10 days and very little money to shoot an entire feature film. 95% of the movie was shot in 5 days.
We had an ensemble cast who needed to appear to have known each other their whole lives. We had no time for a table read,
the most the cast got do with each other before principal photography started was get together for the cast photoshoot.
For you what was the biggest lesson you had to learn?
The biggest lesson by far was scheduling. There’s a pretty nice sized cast that is in a majority of the scenes together so figuring out
what time to have each of them report was always a struggle. We shot in Far Rockaway beach queens which is a long ride on
public transit so if the actors weren’t staying in our housing, they would be taking the train back and forth home.
So I wanted to make sure their time was respected and valued and that they weren’t waiting around too long to shoot.
Inevitably sometimes that didn’t work, but we all worked very hard and got a film we’re all very happy with.
The most important part is distributing the film. What did you do so far for distributing your film?
So far we’ve just been submitting it to a lot of festivals. After we get it in front of as many eyes as possible we have some options for distribution.
Filmmaking is so hard and full of stress, What keeps you inspired to continue filmmaking?
Man, I don’t know. Every time we start making a film and I’m dealing with all the stuff like budgeting, crewing up, locations, casting, I always think to myself, “Why do I keep doing this? I hate this.” Then we get on set and I start to see my script and story be brought to life by all the talented cast and crew and I remember why I do it. It's the inherent need I have to create. And I’m not one of those filmmakers who wants to create deep thought provoking “kino”. I just want to tell a good story. Whether it be a comedy, drama, horror, whatever, my job is to entertain the audience.
If people come away from a film and have been entertained, have maybe even felt something, I’ve done my job.
If you could speak to a younger version of yourself, what advice would you have for them? Is there a certain quality that you feel is essential to success?
I would say, take your mental and physical health seriously, don’t try and be everyone's friend, and for God’s sake be yourself. Don’t be what you think people want you to be, be yourself. If people don’t like that person you don’t need them.
You’ll meet plenty of people who will embrace you for the very weird person you are. Don’t waste your time on those who won’t.
What are you currently working on and what can you tell us about your next project?
I’m about to start principal photography on a film called Fair Haven. I’m acting in and producing it and I wrote it. My friend Samantha Nolte is directing it. It’s a family drama, a romantic comedy, all while somehow also being a Christmas movie. I’m also in the very early stages of pre- production on a slasher movie which is a huge departure from what I’ve done so far and I’m pretty excited about doing something different.
GOOD LUCK Bobby
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