Film Title: A Piece Of Apple Pie
Director: Michael Minton
Producer: Michael Minton, Jesse Sherman
Director of Photography: Jason Northcutt
Cast: Cody Knight, Charles Duran, Presha Allen
SHORTFILMTEXAS (SFT): What is your film “A Piece of Apple Pie” about?
MICHAEL MINTON (MM): It’s an original story written by Nicholas Proferes. We adapted it while staying true to the original story. It’s a character-driven film. I was going for a moody, Edward Hopper atmosphere. It takes place on a dreary late-night in a small, mid-city diner. It’s a dangerous encounter between a Counterman and a disgruntled Customer, then magnified by a ticking clock element. At the stroke of midnight, a Cop frequently comes in for a piece of apple pie, and tonight, the Counterman plans to take the next step with his life. Standing in the Counterman’s way is the antagonist, a compulsive, quirky, disgruntled Customer. This guy’s been pushed around all his life, but he’s going to change that about himself and take a stand as well. It’s a recipe for a dangerous encounter. Interestingly though, it’s the Counterman’s motivation that ultimately diffuses the situation. I wanted to explore character and concentrate heavily on performance and atmosphere.
SFT: Where was it filmed? The diner was a great location.
MM: When I read the script I knew exactly where to shoot it. The Local Diner in Irving, Texas. I ate breakfast there once and wanted to do something there. When this story presented itself, it was a slam dunk. Frank Brightwell is the owner/designer and his crew were really supportive. When asked if we could shoot there, he didn’t hesitate. The place has so much character and the neon-light scheme really added to the atmosphere I was looking for. I was going to pull the color out of the final and give it a black and white quasi film-noir look, but when I saw the footage the color just jumped out, so I kept it. And not only is it a great location, but they serve a mean chicken fried steak.
SFT: What did you film on? Edit? (likes / dislikes)
MM: The Canon XL2. We actually shot some footage with the Sony PD170 but finished with the Canon. The Canon has so many features including the optical image stabilizer in the standard lens, the dual aspect ratios, the frame rate capabilities among others and I just like the way it handles and feels.
On the editing side, I used Final Cut Pro. I’ve worked with Avid and Media 100 which are both great formats but I prefer FCP. It’s robust and easy to work with. I’ve got the G5 dual core which rocks. I also have a Klipsch audio system and master back to DVCAM. I love the editing process, that’s where the magic happens.
SFT: Tell me a bit about your cast and crew.
MM: In our casting session we read through quiet a few actors from a number of agencies. But when I saw Cody Knight who plays the Customer and Charles Duran who plays the Counterman, I knew we had our guys. They had a great communication going on underneath right from the beginning. Both of these guys really immersed themselves. We had a number of rehearsals, explored and broke down the spine and dynamic relationships, their wants, needs and actions as well as the narrative beats of each moment. Both actors were well prepared. I was very happy with their work, their preparation and their performances. And although Presha Allen’s role was small it was pivotal. I would liked to have given her more screen time. I was also really happy with her work as well.
My Director of Photography was Jason Northcutt. This guy just works his butt off. I can’t say enough about his effort. Jason has a good eye for framing and composition and he’s great to work with. He’s always a step ahead. Jason has a military background and is very disciplined. He’s also is a very good still photographer and has a great knowledge of the digital environment. We work really well together. My producer and business partner in Silver Creek Pictures is Jesse Sherman, Jesse’s a very good creative producer and knows how to get things done from beginning to end. I rely on his expertise to get projects created and completed.
Edwin Mullins helped adapt the story. Edwin is really good with dialogue which is why I wanted to bring him in on this screenplay. Edwin has real edge to his work that really helped lift the story. Tim Newkirk was the AD. Tim knows how to keep things moving. He really helped keep things on track with continuity. He also provided the Canon XL2.
Rhonda Minton handles costume and makeup. She has a good sense of style and color and always makes good choices. We’ll work through color schemes and styles, then she’ll make recommendations. She’s great to work with.
I mention these few because they were “the crew.” These guys made it happen. They worked hard to help get this project completed. I couldn’t have done it without them. I chose to make this film on a no-budget by design. We used mostly available light and stayed away from the dolly. I like handheld when it’s appropriate for the circle of action but didn’t use a lot of it here. I like to lock the camera down as much as possible. I wanted to see what I could do with virtually no budget, then rely on my skills to create atmosphere, build engaging characters and capture solid performances.
SFT: What did you learn making this film?
MM: That you can put almost as much effort into a short as you can into a feature. It takes a lot of work to shoot a short film. You can’t go into it thinking it’s going to be quick and easy, because it’s not. It’s still a story that has to be told and requires all the same elements and tools as a feature.
SFT: What is your desert island film and why?
MM: Tough question, I would have to say, if I only had one film to watch it over and over it would probably have to be “Jaws.” Every scene pushes the film forward. The Indianapolis scene, is one of the greatest screen monologues of all time. This film is so much fun, it’s beautifully shot and the action sequences are terrific. When I watch a Spielberg film, I’m in film school. He’s a master of camera placement, movement, blocking, lens choice and he manages to pull incredible performances out of actors and non-actors alike. He minimizes editing and is a master of action sequences. This is a director that loves to direct and it shows. It motivates me to watch all of his films.
SFT: What’s next for you?
MM: We’re currently in development and reading loglines for our next feature. We’re also working on another short which is a modern day western. I’m also working on procuring a manager/agent as well.
SHORTFILMTEXAS (SFT): What advice would you give an up and coming filmmaker?
MICHAEL MINTON (MM): I heard James Cameron say in an interview once and I believe it as well, “if you’re shooting a film, you’re a filmmaker.” Make films. It helps to read books and learn from other filmmakers, but there’s no substitute for experience. Find a solid story, create compelling characters that change and a have great ending. In my opinion, the best way to learn how to make films is to make films.
WATCH “A PIECE OF APPLE PIE” BELOW
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