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TMP Interviews: Matt & Letia Clouston of Broken Toy (Part 1)

TheMoviePool is about all things film related whether it is a short Indie film or a major motion picture production.  We like to give everyone a chance to shine, and this next interview certainly involves a group with loads to show off.  The pictures alone are enough to intrigue one into a viewing!  Check out our interview with Matt and Letia Clouston of Forewarned Films, an independent film production company, as we discuss their latest project: A web series of short films titled Broken Toy about a military experiment to create a super soldier gone terribly wrong.

TMP: I recently watched the first four episodes of the series and just have to say way to go on some great filming.  The first thing I have to ask, to let the audience know just who we’re speaking with, is what role(s) do you play in the filming process of these episodes?

MC: Hello, my name is Matt Clouston.  I enjoy Shirley Temples, long walks on the beach, and quiet evening watching the Muppets.  I’m the actor, writer, producer VFX coordinator, artist, and pizza orderer.

LC: And I’m Letia Clouston.  I’m the director, editor, SFX makeup artist, sound design and mixer, and pizza eater.  I loves me some pizza.


TMP: Can you think back a moment and tell us why you wanted to get into the film industry in the first place?  A particular performance you saw, perhaps?

MC: Oh noes!  This will somehow come back to haunt me later down the road but I will tell you the truth.  I know exactly when I got into film making.  I grew up obsessed with Jim Henson and George Lucas.  Just how they crafted entire worlds.  But one day I saw an HBO special-- it was a behind the scenes video Mel Gibson made on the set of Lethal Weapon 2.  He was running around set being goofy but for some unexplained reason... it just blew my mind.  I wanted to make movies after that.  Seeing this video made it all seem possible.  So I spent a full summer working in the Larger Girl section of Fashion Bug Plus to pay for my first video camera.

TMP: What do you like about Broken Toy’s storyline?  Why should someone who has never heard of you watch the series?

LC: I love that it’s got such a wonky tone.  We veer between dark comedy, thriller, horror, camp, and drama.  People would tune in to see a social commentary cloaked in fun, and to see people having a damn good time playing pretend.  It’s infectious.


TMP: Is there anything special you did to mentally and/or physically prepare yourself to play such an eccentric character?

MC: Mentally, it’s just making sure my head is together to pull of the scenes in the shortest time possible.  It’s often hard to compartmentalize and focus on acting when you’re worried about the sun coming up, or horrible background noise, or the fact we have no permit.  Physically?  Stupid freaking dieting--peanut butter M&Ms are like crack to me.  But mostly I just have to be prepared to work in the least comfortable environment I idiotically seem to keep setting scenes in.  Episode 3 was shot on a rooftop on a 40 degree November night and I’m clearly not in the warmest of costumes.  And since I was coated in fake blood, I couldn’t cover up between takes and we didn’t have a close location I could sit in.  In Episode 4, I guess I was in the water a little too long because Brian Luna, who plays an incredible Frankie, ran over and told me we needed to stop because I had turned completely blue.

TMP: Now for a shout out to the rest of your crew.  What kind of support are you getting on filming these webisodes?

LC: Chris Burgon has been invaluable.  He is the cinematographer, camera operator, and every other grip, gaffer, and generally large scary man you can find on set.  Chris is incredibly talented and has made the episodes look beautiful with very few lights and only his manpower.  His fiancee, Yasuko, helps him when she’s available as well.

We’ve put him through the ringer, but he believes in the project so he makes it work with little to no money.  We shot the first three episodes at night, which requires some form of lighting, and Chris called in favors and acquired as many free lights as he could.  And he has a great camera that is our little buddy (Sony EX-1).  It’s been good to us.  We haven’t been good to it, though.  We accidentally destroyed the monitor on the camera in a rogue wave for Episode 4.  It made things interesting that day because it happened during the first shot and we had to shoot without a monitor for the entire episode..essentially shooting blind.  It’s great that Chris knows what he’s doing and saved the day.  If you ever need an amazing Cinematographer who makes gold out of lead, hire him!  He always say the words any low-budget filmmaker longs to hear.. “We’ll make it work.”

Marcelo Chow, our new producer, is a force of positive energy.  No matter what happens he counters with, “It’s gonna be okay.”  This is invaluable to hear on set when everything is going wrong.  He’s an all-around talent and we’re lucky that he’s come aboard.

And we have amazing actors, who have all been great with the promotion, which to be honest, we suck at.  They have all turned in real, engaging performances, and are so much fun to work with.


TMP: How long did it take to really get the ball rolling on the set?  Around when did you start shooting the first episode?  How long did it take to get to that point?

MC: We started shooting Episode 1 back in August 2009.  I had been watching a bunch of superhero flicks and was ranting off fanboy rage.  Letia had just read Marvel's The Ultimates so we just came together on it.  But we were pretty specific of our goals--we wanted to start the story from the middle and not drown the audience in exposition and we wanted each episode to be bigger and more ambitious than the one before.

The first episode came pretty quickly to page, maybe a week.  Planning and scavenging for equipment took another week or so and we shot it over one very late night.  David Westberg plays Sgt. Emerson and was awesome enough to come in and play.

We shot it in about 8 hours, and then edited it over the next few weeks.  All in all, we typically move very quickly once we whittle the script down to 5 or so pages. Since we're all doing this for free, the longest part just usually comes from trying to find a time when all of us are available.

LC: The first episode took us a full night of shooting because we had to get our workflow together as a team, and we were shooting plates and VFX shots and hadn't done that before. By the third episode we went to our jobs like a well-oiled machine. Because we have so little time to shoot we have to move fast. I'm wiring the actors with mics while giving them direction and resetting props while filming. It's tough directing while watching 5 other elements at once. On bigger budgets, I usually get to focus on performance, but with this project I'm watching continuity, props, sound levels, and SFX makeup while we're filming. It's made me a better director though, it's like running a marathon every time we shoot.


TMP: About how many hours are put into each episode?

LC: We film for about 10-12 hours an episode, and we usually have to build or decorate the set for a few hours before that--sometimes the same day we shoot. Which makes for a long day. But the actors and my team are such a joy to work with, we start flying once we've gotten that first shot completed and they just rock it.

TMP: Are there any funny/interesting set stories you would like to share?

MC: I’m not saying we were shooting without a permit on a public beach…but I am not NOT saying it. If that was the case, you have to imagine me sitting beneath the pier, under a a sign that says “KEEP OUT FROM UNDER PIER”, completely covered in fake blood, next to a fake severed hand, as two police officers ride up on ATVs. A cop looked at me, at the blood, at the fake hand and asked, “You okay?” And at that point, my teeth would uncontrollably chatter if I opened my mouth so all I could really do was nod. Also fun to note- the fake blood recipe includes clear, liquid soap… something I didn’t really think about when I was generously dripping it into my eggs. One dozen scrambled eggs mixed with shells and soap did not make for the most pleasant of next mornings.

TMP: What movies or characters, if any, did you take inspiration from in order to fine tune your role?

MC: I’m a movie junkie and my obsession for an individual actor’s performance changes daily. Gene Wilder rotates through the lineup pretty consistently-- that guy is amazing when you compare what he did in Stir Crazy, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. I’m sure I get influenced heavily with whatever I obsessed with last but there is no real way for me to incorporate much of other people’s works, no matter how much I really, really want to.

LC: Because Quinn's mind is so fractured, he consistently contradicts himself. I have to keep a tight rein on the tone and objectives he has to keep him grounded in a reality. Matt is a lot like Quinn (in a good way), he's all over the place-- writing, VFX, acting, producing-- so he knows what it's like to be in a million different places mentally. And he's really damn good at all of them.

We, at TheMoviePool, thought these two were so much fun and interesting to talk to that our interview had to be broken into two parts in order to not miss a thing.  Be sure and tune in!  The next installment will be up soon.  In the meantime, sit back and relax..and go watch those webisodes on ForeWarnedFilms official website.

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