ITN Distribution releases 3 Holes and a Smoking Gun limited on March 27th, 2015 and VOD.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What major changes have you seen in the film and television industry throughout your career? How do you feel about those changes?
James Wilder: The difference I see is how many different outlets there are for material. On television, there used to be three major networks, and you have Prime Time. That was the golden monarchy of television. Now, you have, of course, have I don't know how many major networks along with internet shows. There used to also be that the scales were tipped with 60-40 domestic films. If you're gearing your demographics for your movie, 60% would be domestic and 40% came from all other territories. Now it's absolutely flopped where it's at least 60% from all other territories and 40% domestic, so films that are now being made in the United States are being made with a consideration for the largest demographic which is now outside of the United States. Another fact that people don't know is that the number one export in the U.S. is entertainment. When you think about that, it's now prettying much gearing itself for demographics outside of the U.S.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How challenging do you think it is to create original material nowadays?
JW: There are basically 7 stories. Boy meets girl with best friend, etc...Vincent Miro painted only in primary colors. All other colors are a combination of those primary colors which are yellow, blue and red. So, purple is blue and yellow and on and on. When you really think that there are really only 3 primary colors, and you think about painting and how every painting is like a thumbprint, it's completely different. So, if you look at originality when it comes to entertainment, if you look at the thumb, you'll say they all look alike. But if you look at it as a thumbprint, you would say that they're all completely different. So I think it's just about perception. Originality comes from a myriad of different ways, but to be completely original--- certainly there's Tarantino and Stanley Kubrick and Hitchcock who re-defined an industry with their own particular style, but even they were influenced by other people. Imitation is the highest form of flattery.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Is Hollywood conditioning people to expect certain things, i.e. when a mugger beats his victim up, unlike what happens in 3 Holes and a Smoking Gun?
JW: When it comes to entertainment, we're looking for a moment of vicarious living. We're looking to be transported out of our own though patterns of life to vicariously live through these characters and not have to suffer the responsibility for it. So, you may really like a movie where people are killing everybody because you're just so angry at the office. In an existential way, you get that out of you in a sort of psychological or therapeutic way, and you feel relief from it. The element of entertainment that makes it refreshing is surprise---thinking that the story is going to go this way, and then it goes that way. It's so unfortunate if you see a movie and you can predict every element of where it went. The storytellers are responsible to keep it going through misdirection----like a magician does. When we've seen a mugger beat of the victim over and over--in different ways--now the storyteller moves into the direction of actually the mugger who looks like a mugger isn't actually a mugger at all, and the mugger in [3 Holes and a Smoking Gun] helps this guy who gives him the wallet, but actually has a heart attack. And then we find out in the hospital that the mugger is actually a multi-millionaire. So I think that the storyteller is actually responsible to make you feel surprised.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think is so appealing about dark themes?
JW: When the economy is weak and people are unhappy, comedies are what everybody goes to see. You can look at this historically. When the economy is flourishing, people are very interested in dark themes and human drama.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Has our value system been corrupted?
JW: I think that's all on an individual basis. As a blanket statement, a stereotypical statement, corruption has always existed. There's corruption of all forms: political, moral, romantic---it's a big topic to tackle in a simple way. I think we're all responsible for our action. Eventually, people look too greatly to see that a new political regime that will come in will possibly change their lives. I think it's up to you to change your life. If your game isn't working, then change the way you're playing your game. If you keep changing who you're playing your game with and can't get it working, then change the game---get into a different game because we're a social animal and also a pack animal, so we all are interdependent with another. We're definitely not co- dependent, but we're definitely interdependent, so you have to be a team player to whatever that exists for you and however you're willing to make it work.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do fame and fortune have any intrinsic values?
JW: There's a really great documentary with a simple title called Happy. It has to do with willfully releasing serotonin. This particular documentary asks "What can we do to willfully release serotonin?" If you run every day around the block in a clockwise formation, and tomorrow you run counterclockwise, it will release serotonin. Then they call it--and I may be misquoting--"the Fame and Fortune treadmill." Fame and money which is what we're conditioned through entertainment, written material and parenting into thinking is the goal. You get a spike in serotonin if you go buy a $10,000 purse or convertible or whatever your respond to, and then it settles back down. But they find that the people with a lot of money and very affluent are not happier---they're more comfortable, but not happier. If someone has a spike in their income from 0 to 50, there is a very significant change in their serotonin level, but from 50 to 5 million, there's a very nominal change in happiness. The thing that everyone really wants to do in life is to feel happy, so people consider fame and fortune something that will make them feel happy, but it's just very temporary. It's lonely at the top. People who have had huge fame and fortune find themselves all alone because they lose their friends. We all live in a format of life by comparison. Their friends don't want to hang around with someone that's making $20 million per picture. It's just too hard to find company because no one else will be social with the group---they just want to say, "Oh my god! You got the Academy Award! You're making $20 million a movie?" Everyone feels left out because people are enraptured with the celebrity sitting at the table.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How close is America to the Roman Empire?
JW: The real question is "Are we in the Caligula phase or we are approaching it?" I ask that question every day. All roads lead to Rome, however Rome isn't the way that it was in its heyday. With the amount of information that is now available to everyone, huge change and social evolution is a lot more likely than it was when people were denied information. When you look at the evolutionary track of man, it's very interesting. It doesn't go up like a staircase. When fire was discovered, it spiked up very high because of what man was able to do with it. Then, when it comes to the light bulb or electricity----again, there was a huge spike. So, with the Computer Age, it's a huge spike because the entire world has access to unlimited information. Unfortunately, I feel that so much of that information is negative. People love to criticize and poke fun. People, especially in America, love a public hanging. [laughs] I lived in many different cultures around the world throughout my life. When thing that I can tell you about the American news system is that anywhere in the world, it only reports bad news because they realize that people want to watch, at the end of the day, that somebody's life was harder and worse than their own and therefore they feel good.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What is that a product of?
JW: It's a product of life by comparison to feeling good. If you leave your work coming home and feel you had a rotten day, people come home and are conditioned to watch our news format which truly doesn't have that much news. It's just loaded with negative news. When you watch all of this negative news, you go, "Wow! My life is not that bad! I feel pretty good." So, since everything is geared toward marketing and selling products, I think that they found that people found that when they put only good news, less people were watching it. From my own personal experience, if I don't watch the news for a week, I feel better.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think are the basic elements that turn a crime thriller into a classic?
JW: That would be like asking, "What are the particular body lines of a car that would turn the car into a classic?" I don't think you could really answer that. I have a '65 Ford Mustang convertible. Why that car is a classic, I have no idea. I think that it's an attractive car. I don't think it's a classic car. When you compare that to a '57 T-Bird or a '61 Corvette, those cars just run circles around '65 Mustang which is basically square. But for some reason, I think that that car is a classic because they were mass-produced. I always call my Mustang a "poor man's Corvette." For the people who couldn't afford a Corvette, they went to get a Mustang and they were mass-produced. Everyone who came to high school, so many of their dads had one of these Mustangs, and it's just remiscent of the first time they drove a car. It became a classic because it became a bit of a family heirloom. The definition of classic also means, "Does it appeal to the masses?"
NYC MOVIE GURU: A director once told me that it's very hard to make a classic because films are made very quickly nowadays, they're released very quickly, and there's so many new movies opening each weekend---up to 36 in NYC! How do you feel about that?
JW: In a rebuttal to that, and I can definitely argue both sides: that's completely true. When you have a larger selection list, it means that there are more things to compare it to, so it gets confusing and it's harder to define a classic. If you give people 3 things to taste and then ask, "What's your favorite?", they would say "This one." But if you gave someone 30 things to taste and ask which is their favorite, they would go, "I like the salinity content of this one, but the other content of that one is more appealing. Are you asking as a dessert or an entree?" So it becomes confusing. As far as the manufacturing of a film, what used to take the writing crew, your camera crew automatically does it for you. If you got a RED camera and you don't like the way a shot looks, you can take the entire film and put it on your computer and adjust it to any way that you want. Your crew and camera now are so much smaller. The Steadicam was such an original invention where you could move somebody without having to build tracks. Every camera now is Steadicam. Your iPhones are Steadicam. Technology can make films happen quicker. I think Whiplash will become a classic---they shot that in 21 days. So, both parts are correct. I understand what he's saying. If you have such a large selection, how do you pick things out as classics?