The following interview with Michael Mongillo is courtesy of Denise Gossett and the Shriekfest Newsletter. Learn more here: Shriekfest
Denise Gossett: What is your name and company name and URL?
Michael Mongillo: Michael Mongillo & my company is Mean Time Productions, LLC. Not “meantime.” It’s intentionally two words to say that “time is mean,” something that all filmmakers can definitely identify with.
Gossett: What is your specialty … filmmaking or screenwriting?
Mongillo: Like most indie filmmakers, I’ve been a “quadruple-threat” out of necessity. I write, produce, direct, and edit. My preference would be to only write and direct. If I never had to produce again, I wouldn’t miss it. Fortunately, I’m at the point in my so-called career where producing duties like securing financing, line producing, production management, and more are starting to be divided among other experienced and capable folks.
Gossett:: What are you currently working on?
Mongillo: Ironically, most of the time I’m spending on development work is currently as one of the top three producers of what will be Eric Balfour’s (Skyline) feature directorial debut, Jesus Hates Zombies. My business partner, actor/producer Jason Alan Smith, and I adapted the sleeper hit comic book series and we partnered up with another collaborator, producer Derek Zahler, when acquiring the rights. My goal was to direct and Jason was going to play Jesus. The screenplay got into Balfour’s hands through writer/producer Maili Elfman who Jason worked with on Do Not Disturb and, long story short, Eric convinced us that he’s the right man for the job.
So, I won’t direct and Jason will instead play Archangel Gabriel, the movie’s villain, but if this ends up being the monster hit everyone in everyone’s various camps think it will be, it will likely kick open the door for me to direct my dream project, The Philistine. That’s an action-thriller based on the comic book series I wrote in the ’90s. I have another horror/sci-fi/war epic called Awful Bliss that I’d like to direct, too, but with its need for a pretty big budget (compared to the features I’ve directed so far), more than likely, the next feature I’m going to direct will be a project I’m currently writing, a serial killer story tentatively titled, Meanest Man In The World.
Gossett: Wow, very cool! Have you been a finalist or winner in any festivals or competitions?
Mongillo: Quite a few. Recently enjoyed getting into two top-ten international festivals with my mockumentary, Being Michael Madsen, and that won a couple of awards along the way. But none has ever been better than my very first Best Picture win at Shriekfest. That validation on my first feature, The Wind, was and still is a really big deal for me.
Gossett: Why do you think the horror/scifi genres have such a large following?
Mongillo: Because horror and sci-fi rule! Both genres are a lot like beer. Almost everybody likes some variety of beer and then there are people who are beer fanatics. Most people won’t say no to a beer so there’s always going to be a demand for beer and then there are other devoted fans who can’t live without it, especially if it’s the good stuff. Hmmm, now I want a beer.
Gossett: I love that! What do you love most about this business?
Mongillo: The lasting friendships I’ve made with some great collaborators.
Gossett: What do you dislike most about this business?
Mongillo: The bullshitters and the back-stabbers.
Gossett: Any advice you’d like to give to newbies?
Mongillo: Don’t let anyone else tell you what kind of movie to make or how to do it. That being said, growing up watching movies and TV doesn’t qualify you to be a filmmaker. A car, in fact, is easier to make than a good movie but most people don’t think they can build a car from the ground up just because they’ve been riding in or driving them most of their lives. So the DIY power of our digital age is inspiring when it works but downright pathetic when it doesn’t.
Having run a film festival myself, I’ve seen more independent features and shorts than I can count, so take it from me, film festivals and studio execs do not grade on a curve. And the viewing public is ten times more unforgiving so, like anything in life worth doing, it requires commitment to the preparation as well as the process itself.
I’m not saying you need to go to film school or that there aren’t some very talented folks who do amazing work right out of the gate, but if you haven’t read The Foundations Of Screenwriting, The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, The Grammar Of The Film Language, Sight/Sound/Motion, In The Blink Of An Eye (and a least a few more that I can’t think of off the top of my head) or their relevant equivalents, then I’ll not-so-humbly suggest that you consider doing so before making a movie.
Gossett: Great advice! Anything else you’d like to say?
Mongillo: Don’t be a hater and a coward and write anonymous crap on the Internet about other people’s work. And if you’re going to write a review, positive or negative, have the guts to put your name to it. Yes, this is a common gripe among modern moviemakers and artists of every sort but even though it is a statistical fact that complainers are the most likely to make their opinions known, that doesn’t change the fact that these comments can hurt people’s careers and livelihoods, as well as their feelings. Yes, even famous people (trust me, I know a few) have feelings. It’s amazing to me that so many people do not care one iota that there is a person or many people on the receiving end of all this bile they disseminate. But what’s more amazing is how many filmmakers and industry folks I know who do it, too. Just cut that shit out, people!