Sunday, August 15, 2010

Exclusive Interview: Michael "Jocco" Phillips

Michael "Jocco" Phillips is a name you have probably noticed in the credits of a large number of Paul's films as well as many successful television series over the years. Upon discovering he checked in on the site, I contacted him with ten questions to get a fresh perspective on everything from Bones to Ballchewer.

C&RV: Introductions: Name, Current Project & Occupation
M"J"P: Michael "Jocco" Phillips, First Assistant Director BONES

C&RV: For those who may not know exactly what this job entails, can you sum up your daily tasks/responsibilities.
M"J"P: My job divides into two phases, prep and shoot. During prep I am responsible for breaking down the script into it's individual elements (cast, locations, props, etc) and then scheduling the filming in the most efficient way possible. On the set I run the day-to-day operations and make sure all of the elements are available at the right time so the director can maximize his/her shooting day.

C&RV: You've worked on Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love. How did you get yourself embedded into The Family?
M"J"P: John Wildermuth and Adam Druxman, the assistant directors I worked for on my first big movie in LA (THE FAN) were hired to do BOOGIE NIGHTS and called me to ask if I wanted to work on their next movie. I said "yes!" immediately and drove to the production office in Hollywood to pick up the script. 
I read it when I got home and was terrified! What have I gotten myself into? I had only been in LA a few months from Texas and come from a rather conservative family. Pornos? "Joy Juice"? So after panicking for a few hours I read it again and was able to see beyond the salaciousness of the subject matter and realized this was an amazing script. 
When I met Paul his passion and energy were so overwhelming and I knew we were in good hands. One of Paul's greatest attributes is his accessibility to the cast and crew. His love for actors is well known but I was a green Production Assistant and we could talk and joke around like I was an old friend. 
Adam was hired to do both MAGNOLIA and PDL and so I was able to work on both of those films as well. It was a very special time in my life.

C&RV: What, if any, are some of the advantages to working on a production with Paul that you don't necessarily experience on other sets. 
M"J"P: Well, I partly answered this question in my previous one but Paul knew exactly what he wanted, especially on MAGNOLIA. We would be on the Tech Scout (where all the Department Heads travel to all of the locations) and he would walk into a room and say "24mm lens here... tracking across to here. Dolly track here." Four months later we are in that room to film and sure enough there was a 24mm lens here with dolly track there. It may not seem like a big deal but after 19 years in the industry you realize that that kind of vision and decisiveness is extremely rare. Another thing about Paul that I find unique is that everything is in the script. Shots, angles, ideas, his scripts are very visual.

C&RV: Best On/Off Set Story/Experience That Won't Get You In Trouble/Blacklisted, Go:
M"J"P: BOOGIE NIGHTS - We are shooting 16mm footage for the Brock Landers movies during prep (before principle photography) and Paul decides he needs more "bad guys" for a fight sequence to be shot later in the day. Adam is going to call extras casting but I say "Hey! I could be a bad guy! We can shave my head, give me a moustache or something!" Adam tells Paul and he says "Great!" 
Later that day, with a freshly-shorn cranium and big bushy 'stache I make cinematic history fighting with Mark and John C. smashing a bottle over my head (six times!) We develop a back story for my "character". He is a low-level thug that works for Ringo and his name is... Jocco. A nickname is born.
MAGNOLIA - When we finished principle photography Paul was generous enough to hire me as a personal assistant during the post-production process. When he decided to include the Frank TJ Mackey Infomercial on the dvd he allowed me to film a "product shot" and record voice-over for an end-tag to the actual commercial you see in the film. As with my stunt work in BOOGIE NIGHTS, Paul required a level of amateurism that you just can't fake. I delivered that level of amateurism.
Footnote: Paul sent MAGNOLIA to Harry Knowles' Butt-Numb-A-Thon with a video introduction to the film. I was PTA.

C&RV: Sandler, like PTA, is well known for repeating crews and cast. After Punch-Drunk, you had a solid string of work on Adam's films. I assume this stemmed from the two of you becoming friends during Paul's production?
M"J"P: Absolutely. I spent a lot of time in Basecamp on PDL and got to know Adam and his crew very well. They are some of the friendliest, generous, down-to-earth and loyal people it has been my pleasure to meet. I got my first big DGA feature credit on Adam's film FIFTY FIRST DATES. They even named the walrus in the film after me. I didn't know whether to be flattered or insulted. (I was flattered)

C&RV: You were not involved with There Will Be Blood. Was that due to scheduling or you just weren't involved?
M"J"P: A little of both. Paul had decided early on that he wanted to work with new assistant directors (Adam Somner, Spielberg's First Assistant). Once in production I was pleased to receive a call to come fill in for the second assistant director but unfortunately I was already in production of season two of PRISON BREAK.

C:RV& Speaking about graphic design briefly, you are co-responsible for one of my favorite cover designs ever: Fiona Apple's "When The Pawn..." What was the pitch/process/story etc -- have you done any design work for others as well?
M"J"P: Again a case of being in the right place at the right time. When I was working for Paul on MAGNOLIA he and Fiona were together. She had this idea that she wanted for the album artwork. 
I simply helped her with some photo & lyric layouts on the computer. It was great and pleasant surprise when the cd came out and she had included me in the liner notes. I was just a monkey at a keyboard. It is a testament to her kindness that my name is there and it is something I will always treasure.
(C&RV Note: Michael also mentioned he was the author and cover designer of the 6 Music Videos By PTA DVD that we originally gave out on the site many years ago)

C&RV: You seem t have migrated primarily into series television. Has this format evolved into your preference over film work, or do you go where the most appealing meal is?
M"J"P: I do enjoy the stability that comes from working on episodic television. I had a nice four-year run on PRISON BREAK and I'm just starting my second year on BONES. I was able to move up much faster in television than I would have been able to in features. That being said, I still have a great love for telling one story from start to finish. We'll see what the future holds.

C&RV: After initially scanning your IMDB profile and seeing "Black & White" I knew the plan would be to close with a question about Mike Tyson. Turns out you worked on a different "Black & White." Not one to give up on a plan: Do you have any thing to say about Mike Tyson? 
M"J"P: We were watching the Tyson-Holyfield fight at a friend's apartment on a television that was nearly as big as the room. I saw him bite that ear off in way-too graphic detail.
I'm sure he's a lovely man.

C&RV: What is coming next for you sir? Continued work on Bones? Plans to venture into directing or is that not something that appeals to you?
M"J"P: Had PRISON BREAK gone another season or two I definitely would have pursued a shot a directing an episode. I had a very intimate knowledge of the show creatively and from a production standpoint. My real desire is to eventually work as a creative producer. I want to find and develop good stories and assemble the creative team necessary to bring it to the audience. Show Business is one of the few industries in which you must take a pay cut to get a promotion but I will not rest until the sign on the hill says "JOCCOWOOD". ;)

I would like to publicly thank Michael for the interesting responses to my boring questions. You saved the day, sir. Michael also mentioned he was Assistant Director on all of Paul's music videos for Fiona Apple as well as "Couch" and "Ballchewer."

We may sort out a Part Two one day in the future as there aren't really any stories around about the production of the music videos. Oh, and I missed the last two Flashback Fridays. Sorry about that.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Paul Dano Discusses The Master, PT Anderson

The Collider posted an article with Paul Dano discussing all of the latest things Dano and the topic eventually turned to his supporting role in There Will Be Blood and working with Paul Thomas Anderson:

Collider: Was there a moment (with Day-Lewis) on There Will Be Blood or (The) Ballad Of Jack And Rose where you go, “Wow, this guy goes where nobody else goes?”
Dano: There was definitely some moments where, you know, I was going, “Holy shit.”
Collider: Like specifically what—
Dano: Because we didn’t really rehearse and so sometimes, I didn’t know how big something that was gonna come out of him was gonna because he’s so powerful.  And I don’t really want to say specific instances.  I think you can probably imagine hearing some of the lines from that ending scene on the page (from the famous “drink your milkshake” scene of There Will Be Blood) but then, you know, the real deal is just a whole (other) level, you know, from that.  I definitely had moments like that.  It was cool.
Collider: Yeah.  (There Will Be Blood’s director) Paul Thomas Anderson, he’s an actor’s dream to work with and-
Dano: Yeah.
Collider: -he gives you so much room and so much space to explore.
Dano: Yeah.
Collider: First of all, are you working on the religion film with him? (Reportedly titled The Master, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a man who starts a faith-based organization in the 1950’s and is helped by his wife, played by Reese Witherspoon, and a drifter, played by Jeremy Renner)
Dano: No.  I don’t think so.  We keep in touch.  You know, he’s a, he’s a great dude.  And he is, he loves actors and you can tell in his movies.  He’s a great guy.
You can check out the rest of the Dano article by clicking here.

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TWBB Rolling Roadshow Reports (Updated)

The Alamo Rolling Roadshow screening of There Will Be Blood took place this past Sunday in Bakersfield and site friend Ben reported back a little about it.

Screened from a 35mm print and described as "the perfect setting" to see the film, Ben provided you all with a photo for proof. he also passed along an epic silhouetted shot of the nearby derrick.

Rumor has it Paul was spotted at the Jackie Brown screening but wasn't in attendance on Sunday. If you know otherwise, let us know. Before the film started, there was a milkshake drinking competition that involved 3 foot long straws with the winnner receiving a bowling pin from Paul's own personal collection.

These dudes filmed their day and made it into a little bit of business for Youtube.

We will return with Flashback Friday in two days and an exclusive interview with a PTA alumni crew member is on it's way shortly.

Update (12:11pm):

Jade mailed us to say the following:

PTA was at "Jackie Brown", but as soon as he started getting recognized, he quickly left. He may have returned during the film, but I'm pretty sure he left, and was definitely not at the after-party. 
I'm sure he was trying to stay to wait for QT, but QT didn't arrive 'til around 8:45 and PTA was there way before then -- around 7 PM.
I'm sure he wanted to leave because people started asking him more about "The Master".

Jade also confirms that "PTA was definitely not at "There Will Be Blood" but it was truly an amazing experience to see the film there. Seeing it at the Kern County Museum made me appreciate the film, California and the journey so much more"

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