Christopher R. Mihm: Retro-Styled Filmmaker

Written by: Frank Iacono

Christopher R. Mihm is the writer, director, editor and producer of films coined as the “Mihmiverse,” a series of award winning, loosely interlinked feature-length films styled after 1950s-era “drive-in cinema.” He has been described as the king of new old, good bad movies!

Christopher, the Minnesota-based maverick, officially began his illustrious filmmaking career in 2006 with the release of his first retro-styled film entitled, The Monster of Phantom Lake. Made on a nearly non-existent budget, this B-movie went on to garner much critical acclaim, appear in many genre-based film festivals, win multiple awards, and continues to screen across the world.

Since The Monster of Phantom Lake, Mr. Mihm has released one 1950s-style feature a year, many of which have received numerous accolades, nominations, and awards. His sixth film, Attack of the Moon Zombies, received the most “2011 Dead Letter Awards” at mailorderzombie.com. House of Ghosts, Mr. Mihm’s tribute to the films of classic horror master William Castle, won the coveted Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award for “Best Independent Feature.” The Giant Spider, a tribute to the “giant bug” films of the 1950s, took first place in the “Action/Horror Feature” category at the 2013 Highway 61 Film Festival.

Throughout his career, Mr. Mihm has been featured in many publications, both off and online, including Sci-Fi Magazine, Scream, and Scary Monsters Magazine. Mr. Mihm was the recipient of the first-ever “Roger & Julie Corman Intrepid Filmmaker” award at the 37th annual ValleyCON in Fargo, ND and won the “Best Director” award from mailorderzombie.com.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christopher R. Mihm to ask him a few questions about his early filmmaking influences, his writing and creative process, his all-time favorite b-styled movie and his upcoming projects and events.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you become interested in the film industry, and who or what inspired you to pursue a career as a writer, director and producer?

Christopher R. Mihm: I’ve been interested in making movies for as long as I can remember. I have many positive memories of going to the movies as a kid and, as a result, the idea of making my own movie became something that greatly fascinated me. As a teen, I played drums in several bad rock bands and I developed a keen interest in audio recording. I went to college to study the subject and, while there, ended up taking classes focused on audio for film and television. Excelling in those courses, I eventually ended up doing work for a local cable access station. This gave me experience shooting and editing video. Finally, once digital technology progressed to the point where I could make a movie that “looked like a movie” (and not something made on cheap VHS video), I took all of my life and educational experience, got together with friends and family and made my first movie, The Monster of Phantom Lake!

TCS: What famous filmmakers were among your early influences and how do you think they shaped your approach and film style?

CRM: Growing up in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, I was a big fan of the films of Steven Spielberg. I have always loved that, even with his more serious work, he understands the idea of making sure his movies are entertaining. I feel like a lot of independent filmmakers often ignore “entertainment value” and focus too heavily on “art for art’s sake.” Don’t misunderstand me, there’s nothing wrong with experimenting with the art form or pushing that envelope. But, when it comes at the expense of simple ENJOYMENT, that’s a problem!

As a guy in his early ‘40s, Star Wars and Star Trek were huge influences on my love of cinematic science fiction. Other filmmakers I enjoy from my childhood include Joe Dante, Robert Zemekis and, with Ghostbusters being my all-time favorite film of the ‘80s, Ivan Reitman.

TCS: For the benefit of those who may not be too familiar with Christopher R. Mihm or your overall body of work, please share with us some details of your 13 films in “The Mihmiverse?”

CRM: My 13 films are all connected to each other, sharing common fictional locations or characters (and actors) or both, forming what has been coined “The Mihmiverse”.

    • The Monster of Phantom Lake: The Musical!

      Based on the multi-award-winning film, The Monster of Phantom Lake: The Musical! follows guitar-wielding, a-rockin’ scientist Professor Jackson, his smitten graduate student and five swell teenagers as they discover the terrifying effects of “Atomic Waste” in the form of a horribly mutated “shell-shocked” World War II soldier / lake-algae monster! The Monster of Phantom Lake: The Musical! was filmed in July of 2016, during the play’s world premiere run at the historic Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts in Menomonie, Wisconsin! The Monster of Phantom Lake: The Musical! was created specifically to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the release of my first film, The Monster of Phantom Lake.

    • Demon with the Atomic Brain

      A failed attempt to weaponize a machine capable of opening portals to other worlds creates an exponentially expanding bubble of fractured space-time which threatens to engulf the entire universe! An elite team of specialists must enter a “crack” in the disturbance and make their way down a rabbit hole of increasingly more dangerous alternate realities to find and shut down the machine which created it! Will their last-ditch attempt to save humanity be successful? Will this be how the universe ends? Find out in writer/director Christopher R. Mihm’s exciting homage to the sci-fi adventure films of the late 1950s: Demon with the Atomic Brain!

 

    • Weresquito: Nazi Hunter

      Horrific Nazi experiments have left a surviving American WWII soldier with a terrifying condition: at the sight of fresh blood, he transforms into a man-sized, blood-sucking killer insect! Refusing to let his affliction destroy him, he instead commits himself to using his “powers” for good—by finding the people responsible and bringing them to justice!

 

    • Danny Johnson Saves the World

      Young Danny Johnson (Elliott Mihm) must use his smarts and adventurous spirit to stop devious, pint-sized aliens—and their unstoppable robot—from brainwashing the children of Earth as a precursor to worldwide domination in writer/director Christopher R. Mihm’s retro-styled, sci-fi take on classic family films like The Goonies, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and The Princess Bride!

 

    • The Late Night Double Feature

      A double bill of 1950s-style B-movie shorts from writer/director Christopher R. Mihm, the king of “new old, good bad” movies!

      X: The Fiend from Beyond Space

      On a decades-long mission to Alpha Centauri, the crew of the UESPA spaceship Endeavor are awakened from LD-sleep to find themselves in orbit around a rogue planet. Finding nothing but a seemingly dead alien on the planet’s surface, the Captain decides to bring it aboard for further study. But, the crew quickly realize the creature is not dead… and it’s very hungry.

      The Wall People

      Following the death of his wife, scientist Barney Collins (Douglas Sidney) finds solace in his new role as a single dad to his only son. However, when the boy disappears from his bed under mysterious circumstances, Barney loses his grip on reality and becomes a shut in. Eight years later, he resurfaces with a wild theory: his son has been taken by an otherworldly entity that steals sleeping children through interdimensional portals in their bedroom walls! He enlists the help of his old colleagues (Mike Cook and James Norgard reprising their roles as Dr. Edwards and Dr. Gabriel, respectively) to potentially save his son from the clutches of this inhuman threat—or prove he is certifiably insane!

 

    • The Giant Spider

      When radiation left behind by atomic weapons testing creates a gigantic killer mutant arachnid, it’s up to a trio of scientists (Mike Cook, Billie Jo Konze and James Norgard), a General of the Army (Mark Haider), and a newspaper reporter (Daniel R. Sjerven) and his fiancée (Shannon McDonough) to figure out how to stop the hungry beast from devouring the entire county in writer/director Christopher R. Mihm’s ode to the giant bug films of yesteryear.

 

    • House of Ghosts

      With House of Ghosts, his first supernatural thriller, writer/director Christopher R. Mihm pays tribute to the works of the master of classic horror, William Castle! Rich socialites Isaac and Leigh have a tradition of throwing exclusive dinner parties that include unique (and expensive) forms of entertainment. This time, they’ve booked a spiritual medium who promises to “open a portal to the great beyond” and allow the couple’s equally eccentric guests to contact the “afterworld.” But, before he begins his presentation, the occultist offers a warning: once the door has been opened, no human being can anticipate or control what might come through. Regardless, the group collectively agrees to go forward, only to find itself greatly disappointed by the results… at first. Trapped in the couple’s oversized house by a massive winter storm, the partygoers begin to experience unexplainable and increasingly frightening things. As these occurrences intensify, it becomes apparent that something evil is at work. Can the group survive the night or will ignoring the medium’s warning be the last thing they ever do?

 

    • Attack of the Moon Zombies

      Twenty years have passed since Dr. Vincent Edwards (once again played by the ever-talented Mike Cook) took on a certain radiation-mutated bat creature and he is ready to retire. While training his replacement on the Jackson Lunar Base, the two stumble upon a seemingly impossible discovery: alien plant life on the surface of the moon! Unfortunately, exposure to the spores of this otherworldly flora cause instant death. Too bad those killed by them don’t stay dead and instead, want nothing more than to replicate!

 

    • Destination: Outer Space

      During a test flight of Earth’s first faster-than-light-speed rocket, an incident occurs that throws test pilot Captain Mike Jackson (originally introduced in 2008’s Cave Women on Mars) halfway across the galaxy! Lost in deep space, Captain Jackson must use all his wits and derring-do to find a way back to his beloved home world. A film unlike any other, Destination: Outer Space is full of excitement and otherworldly adventure that includes mysterious alien planets, robotic lifeforms, beautiful space pirates, alien creatures hell-bent on galactic domination and much, much more!

 

    • Terror from Beneath the Earth

      After years of underground atomic testing, one of the animals living within the Wisawa caves (a system that stretches from Phantom Lake to the Deadlands) has undergone a radical and unimaginably horrible transformation! While exploring the caves, Dr. Vincent Edwards (Mike Cook) and colleague Rosemary Bennett (Stephanie Mihm) stumble across evidence in the disappearance of local children. After reporting the find to the local sheriff, Dr. Edwards and Rosemary are tapped to lead a rescue attempt. Along with the sheriff and small-town farmer Stan Johnson (the children’s father), the rescue party quickly comes to the realization that if the caves don’t get them, whatever unseen terror lurking in the shadows just might!

 

    • Cave Women on Mars

      It is the future: 1987. Humanity has finally left the confines of its home world. When the two-man crew of the MARS-1 spaceship lands on the surface of the red planet, they are astonished to find it strangely Earth-like. After deciding to split up and scout around, Lieutenant Elliott stumbles across an amazing discovery—primitive, matriarchal warrior women! He is promptly taken prisoner by the Martian beauties and led unwillingly across the alien landscape. While his commanding officer, Captain Jackson, searches for his lost comrade, Lieutenant Elliott encounters unimaginable excitement in the form of fierce monsters, exotic vistas, strange magic and most unexpectedly… true love! An astounding adventure unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, Cave Women on Mars is not to be missed!

 

    • It Came from Another World!

      It Came From Another World! chronicles the continuing adventures of everyone’s favorite ‘a-rockin’ scientist, Professor Jackson. First introduced in 2006’s The Monster of Phantom Lake, Professor Jackson finds himself tasked yet again with saving the planet from certain doom. When Professor Jackson’s colleague and best friend Dr. Frasier doesn’t return from a scientific expedition in the deep woods, the Professor is sent to find and retrieve him. While searching, the Professor and Canoe Cops Sven and Gustav stumble upon an enigmatic meteorite that may hold the answer to Dr. Frasier’s disappearance—and something far more cataclysmic than they could ever imagine! Can our intrepid heroes unlock the secrets of the mysterious “rock from outer space” before its otherworldly power threatens not only the fate of the entire universe, but Professor Jackson’s wedding plans?

 

    • The Monster of Phantom Lake

      A shell-shocked ex-soldier transformed by Atomic Waste into a revolting monster wreaks havoc at a high-school graduation party in writer/producer/director Christopher R. Mihm’s first film, a monochromatic tribute to the B-movie flicks of the 1950s. The summer sun is shining, and a group of recently graduated teens has taken to the outdoors to celebrate their newfound freedom. Something horrific is afoot in Phantom Lake, though, and as the rampaging beast makes his presence known to the horrified teens, a dedicated scientist and his beautiful graduate student soon realize that they may have just stumbled upon one of the most important scientific discoveries of their lifetime.


TCS: Tell us about how you established funding for your first movie The Monster of Phantom Lake? Are you currently working with bigger budgets?

CRM: My first film was completely self-funded. The budget was close to non-existent, with the greatest expenditure being mini-DV tapes (it was filmed on a Panasonic DVX100A which used mini-DV tape) and our $35 monster costume! Everyone involved volunteered their time and donated whatever they could to the production. Basically, it was a grand communal experiment that, in the end, worked out far better than anyone thought it ever would! Since the fifth film (Destination: Outer Space), all my movies have been crowd funded. Because of this, our budgets have grown—though they’re still a fraction of a single day’s worth of production of a Hollywood film!


TCS: When your first film wrapped, did you envision spending the next decade making a film a year?

CRM: Honestly, no! The star of my first film and I had a running joke about The Monster of Phantom Lake which basically came down to the expectation that I’d make the one movie, get 1000 DVDs made, hold a world premiere locally and then, five years later, we’d be sitting around wondering what to do with the 800 unsold DVDs sitting in the garage! However, the film was very well-received and, when we sold through that first run of DVDs impressively quickly, I was inspired to keep making movies. To date, I haven’t stopped!

TCS: Tell us about how excited you were to discover that The Giant Spider, a tribute to the “giant bug” films of the 1950s, took first place in the “Action/Horror Feature” category at the 2013 Highway 61 Film Festival?

CRM: It’s always fantastic to win awards, but I don’t generally seek them out. As a guy who makes retro-styled films, I was most excited to personally win the “Roger & Julie Corman Intrepid Filmmaker Award” from the Fargo Fantastic Film Festival and for The Giant Spider to take home the “Forrest J. Ackerman Award” at the Famous Monsters of Filmland Film Fest!

TCS: Can you share with us your experience in directing Demon with the Atomic Brain, which was recently screened at the 2018 Blobfest in Phoenixville, PA?

CRM: Demon with the Atomic Brain is my 12th film in as many years and on most of the previous 11, I used a lot of the same actors and crew people. With “Demon,” I added a handful of new people to the mix and I felt it really helped reinvigorate my love of the filmmaking process. It was nice to share the experience, collaborating with new folks, and bringing new people into the “greater Mihmiverse.” Also, by this point, my younger children are now old enough to truly help in front of and behind the camera, thus making the entire process a family affair! I enjoy being able to spend time bonding with my kids and enjoying my favorite activity in the world!

TCS: Among the films you’ve made, which one is your all-time favorite? Equally, which one do you feel made you a better, a writer, director and producer and why?

CRM: It’s hard to pick an overall favorite, if only because every film I’ve made holds a special place in my heart. The Monster of Phantom Lake was my first, so it has that. The Giant Spider is mostly considered my best work. I made Danny Johnson Saves the World with all of my children, so that one ends up being very dear to my heart.

The one film that I feel really made an impact on my writing/directing/producing/editing, etc., has to be my second, It Came From Another World! I feel like I made a lot of important mistakes on that one and it taught me that it’s okay to be critical of my own work. It taught me how to give myself permission to make changes and to REMOVE stuff to make a better end product. It’s an important lesson every creative person needs to learn. Not EVERYTHING you do is gold and you need to be able to be honest and realistic with yourself and your own work.

TCS: If you were given the opportunity to go back in time and change something in any particular movie of yours, which movie would that be and what changes would you opt for?

CRM: I’ve seen every one of my movies hundreds of times and by the time the general public sees them, all I see are the flaws! Often, they’re small and things NO ONE would ever notice. But, being so closely involved from the writing, through production and all the way through post-production, it’s hard for me to see them as anyone else would. That’s not to say I think my movies are BAD. Not at all. But, it is pretty well impossible for me to pick any ONE thing I’d want to change!

TCS: Can you tell us about some of the cast members that have become familiar faces in your films, and the benefits to having reliable cast members to work with from film-to-film?

CRM: To date I’ve released 12 films and have two more on the way. To date, I held auditions for only the first three and the 12th. From those few auditions, I ended up meeting a whole slew of actors, many of whom I didn’t end up using in the films they auditioned for! Some of them, like actor Daniel R. Sjerven (who has appeared in several of my films) has a great “classic leading man” presence that works very well for the retro films I make. He’s a good friend and I enjoy working with him, thus, I end up putting him in many of my films. There are several “character actor” types I have put in quite a few of my films and all of them have wide ranging talents that make it easy to continue to cast them. People like Catherine Hansen, Mike Cook, James Norgard and Rachel Grubb all fall into this category. Michael Kaiser (who is also my stepson) has been the “man-in-the-suit” monster in every film I’ve made which requires it. If there is no need for a monster, I make a point to find a place for Michael. He’s actually the only actor to appear in EVERY single Mihmiverse film!

One of the big plusses of using a lot of the same actors in my films is the shorthand we develop. They know how I work and how I think. I know what makes them tick and often, with the actors I reuse, they really understand the types of films I’m trying to make. This makes the process much easier and we end up with fewer production headaches!

TCS: Over the years, there have been many films that mimic the ‘Golden Era of B-movies’ but many fail to capture the genre’s true essence. Why do you think your films achieve that?

CRM: I think one of the things that I really strive for is a sense of authenticity in the actors’ performances. So many of these homage type films fall deep into the parody category where the actors are trying to act wooden, or “wink and nod” at the audience. I tell every actor in my films to treat EVERYTHING in the script as dead serious. I want them to give me the absolute best performance they can. Treat everything with honesty and earnestness, even to the point of corniness. A lot of those old films are considered “corny” by today’s standards, but I think that’s one of my favorite things about them!

I love the (pardon the pun) black and white nature of a lot of them. Good guys are good because they ARE, and the bad guys are bad because THEY ARE. There isn’t much room for gray areas. The audience isn’t expected to try to understand and feel for the villains. They’re supposed to root against them! That simplicity informs the way I want actors to play their parts. Play them as real, but lacking ambiguity (unless the story absolutely calls for it). There’s an authenticity in embracing that corniness and treating it with respect. Be real, regardless of the fact that you’re fighting a giant spider! It may be a low budget special effect, but it doesn’t change the fact that in the reality in which your character exists, that spider WILL EAT YOU! Act accordingly!

I also think that having such small budgets is a huge plus. We don’t have the ability to employ the high end (read: expensive) special effects a larger budget would afford us. So, we’re stuck trying to find a way to just make it work, much like they did back when the amazing digital tools we have now just didn’t exist.

TCS: Can you please describe for us the creative process that you’ve employed which has enabled you to produce and release thirteen movies in thirteen years?

CRM: Over the years I’ve been able to refine my particular process down to a bit of a science. Once I’ve decided on whatever movie I’ve decided to make, I sit down and write a script. This usually takes about a month (at most). During the scripting process, I already have some of the production team working on things, in particular the monster(s). I have a great working relationship with the guy we call the Master Monster Maker of the Mihmiverse, Mitch Gonzales. He’s an insanely talented artist who has been creating the monster masks for my films since movie #6, Attack of the Moon Zombies. Over the years, Mitch and I have figured out the most efficient way to go from idea to execution that works best for the both of us. So, while I’m writing, I’m keeping him in the loop so that he can be working on the beginning stages of the monster(s). The guy is also great to bounce story ideas off of!

Once the script is done, we jump right into pre-production and casting. Because I work with a lot of the same actors, I usually already know who I want in which roles WHILE I’m writing a script, so by the time we’re in this stage, we’ve already jumped ahead to costuming and scheduling! Pre-production usually tends to be the shortest section of the process because as soon as we’re ready to go on even a single scene, we jump right in!

Next, we shoot the film. Because our budgets are so miniscule, actors often are only paid in food on set so, not wanting to get in the way of their everyday lives (since they need to make money somewhere!), I schedule shoots around the cast’s free time. This ends up being a LOT of weekends, which actually works even better for me! Shooting on the weekends means that I can be editing what we shot during the week. This makes it much easier to know if we’ve missed anything AND it informs my directing choices because I can see how a character is coming across in the final film. This allows the actor and I to better refine the performance. Having the weekdays free also makes it so other tasks like set building or prop creation doesn’t conflict with filming days. Principal photography tends to take the most time, lasting anywhere from three to six months.

Once we finish shooting the film, I usually have more than half the film edited! From there, I just need to buckle down and finish it up! Usually within a month or two I’ll have a rough cut completed. Very quickly thereafter I’ll sign off on a final cut and the final pieces come together (cutting a trailer, making a poster, authoring the DVD, setting up a premiere, etc. etc.)

I’m almost always working up to the very last possible moment and the entire process takes about a year. We hold our world premiere and not long after, I’m on to the next one!


TCS: Where can The Creative Spotlight readers find more information about your films and purchase copies?

CRM: The best place for information about my films is my website @ sainteuphoria.com. Otherwise, there is an official Facebook and Twitter page for the films of Christopher R. Mihm, which I update as close to daily as I can manage. Copies of my film are available for purchase at my website or through Amazon.com. They are also available to stream through Amazon Prime!

TCS: When you first started out in the film industry, did you intentionally set out to create strictly retro, b-movie style films or was it something you simply fell into?

CRM: As a tribute to my late father who really loved those cheesy old films and introduced me to all of them, I made my first movie, The Monster of Phantom Lake. It received such a positive response that I decided to make another and set it in the same “shared universe.” I had tons of fun doing it and realized I had a bit of a talent for it so, I decided to make another. And another. And another! So, it’s a weird mix of both. I, obviously, deliberately decided to make these kinds of films but, I really didn’t expect to enjoy it so much and never stop!

TCS: What is your favorite retro, b-movie style film of all time and why?

CRM: This is a hard one to answer! I love so many of those films! Usually when confronted by this question, I lean heavily on a few choices. I think the movie Them!, which is about giant ants, is definitely one of the BEST from that era. Effectively creepy and exciting and extremely well made for the TYPE of film it is. Even though it’s not the BEST movie, there’s something really magical about This Island Earth. The look and feel of it is a perfect example of 1950s-era science fiction—not to mention it has one of the best movie monsters ever with the Metaluna Mutant! I’m also a big fan of the films of Bert I. Gordon. He made a lot of movies about oversized (and some undersized) people and creatures. There’s something unique and fun about his films, be it The Amazing Colossal Man or Beginning of the End (about giant grasshoppers!) or even Attack of the Puppet People!

TCS: If you got the opportunity to remake a classic retro, b-movie style film, which one would it be and who would star in this movie?

CRM: There’s a film from 1957 called The Brain from Planet Arous. It’s an over-the-top low budget sci-fi movie about a psychotic alien brain creature that comes to Earth, takes over actor John Agar’s body and forces him to try to take over the world (naturally). It’s the kind of thing I could EASILY pull off, even on the budgets I’m used to! Plus, John Agar is one of my favorite actors from that era. I previously mentioned an actor named Daniel R. Sjerven who has appeared in several of my films, most notably in The Giant Spider. Mr. Sjerven has a distinct “John-Agar-ness” about him that would make him the perfect fit for a remake!

TCS: When it comes to filmmaking, what does a typical day on set look like for you, the cast & crew?

CRM: We tend to shoot very quickly. To make sure the films are never “perfect” (I’m not Stanley Kubrick by any stretch of anyone’s imagination!), the actors show up to the set and we do any prep needed (makeup, hair, costumes, etc.). Then, we block out the scene. This is basically the only rehearsal we do before we just START SHOOTING! I don’t do any real pre-visualization. Instead, I get as much coverage as possible and let the movie come together in the editing room. I tend to limit everyone to two or three takes per setup. This allows us to cover A LOT of ground over a very short period of time. We can usually manage a page or so of the script per hour. After we’re all done shooting, I have each actor redo their lines directly into a microphone, so I have a high-quality recording of their audio. This allows me to maintain aural consistency across the entire film. It gives the actor and I a little extra time to hone in on their best performance AND it makes it, so I rarely ever need actors to come back and rerecord their dialogue!

TCS: What would you consider your best and worst moment so far in the filmmaking industry?

CRM: I’ve experienced so many great moments since I started making movies! From seeing my films on a drive-in screen to the awards I’ve been fortunate to win and that one time I was awarded the key to a city. (Yes, that really happened!) If I had to pick ONE moment that tops everything, it has to be the world premiere of my first movie, The Monster of Phantom Lake. Seeing my name on the big screen in a REAL movie theater full of people who really seemed to enjoy my work was beyond compare!

It’s not all fun and games, of course. My obsessive pursuit of making movies has cost me a few friends. I’ve dealt with some interesting people, some of whom turned out to be, shall we say, rather negative influences on my mental health! I’ve had to deal with distribution deals going the wrong direction. Then there’s the frustration that comes with my own internal criticism of my work and that ever-present feeling that everything I do is terrible (I know a lot of artists deal with this same thing). And, of course, there’s always the poorly written, misspelled, sometimes downright rude and negative reviews you come across. I realize that not everyone is going to like what I do, but I will never understand what possesses certain people to take to the internet to say some of the ridiculous things they do!

TCS: What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers who want to make a mark in the movie making business?

CRM: I often tell aspiring filmmakers to just keep doing it however THEY want to do it. There really aren’t any rules when it comes to content! If I can find success making black and white, cheesy drive-in-era style movies, there’s a market out there for whatever they want to make! They just need to KEEP MAKING MOVIES. The more they make, the better they’ll get and, maybe someday they’ll even make it to the “big time.” OR, they may develop a cult following with their unique cinematic vision! The sky is the limit as long as they go out there and DO IT. Never stop learning and never stop creating!

TCS: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects or events?

CRM: I’m on the cusp of releasing my 13th film, Guns of the Apocalypse. I describe it as a post-apocalyptic spaghetti Midwestern. It’s basically a retro-inspired post-apocalyptic story with many western elements. However, I filmed it in the winter in Minnesota, hence a “Midwestern.” It’s unique and I’m quite proud of how good it turned out! My film AFTER Guns of the Apocalypse is called Queen of Snakes. It’s a supernatural revenge story with an amazing monster! I’m close to the end of principal photography and, should everything work out, I plan on releasing that in the Spring of 2019. As for events, I keep a calendar of upcoming (and past) events at my website at sainteuphoria.com!

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

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Ashley Dulaney: Actress

Written by: Frank Iacono

Ashley Dulaney

Ashley Dulaney is an American born actress who was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, the hometown of “the King of Rock and Roll” Elvis Presley. From a very young age, Ashley always knew that she wanted to be an actor. To that extent, she attended the University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting.

During Ashley’s “Ole Miss” career, she garnered roles in university theatre productions such as 5 Women Wearing the Same Dress, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Lysistrata. Post-graduation, she moved straight to Los Angeles, California and continued to perform in the theatre which ultimately lead to roles in commercials and television.

In 2012, Ashley appeared in the TV series Frat House Musical, one of the first projects that she booked when she arrived in LA, as Erica.  The series was sponsored by Subway and won a student Emmy. Later that same year, she was worked with Joan and Melissa Rivers in a Turbo Tax commercial. She is best known for playing Harper in Babysitter’s Black Book (2015) and Rebecca in The House Sitter (2015). Additionally, she has guest starred on some amazing shows like Scandal, Criminal Minds, Brooklyn 99, Chasing Life, WorkAholics, Bones, Stitchers, and a recurring role as Caprice on the last season of FX’s Justified.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Dulaney and asking her a few questions about what first got her interested in acting, her career as an actress, her experience in working with Joan and Melissa Rivers, her roles in two 2015 Lifetime movies, and her upcoming projects.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you become interested in becoming an actress? And, who or what inspired you to pursue a career in this profession?

Ashley Dulaney: I think I’ve always known I wanted to be an actor. I don’t know that it was one single person or moment that really solidified that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was more I just loved playing. I loved using my imagination and I was always connected to the arts and being on stage or performing just made me really happy.

Ashley-Dulaney

TCS: For the benefit of those who may not be too familiar with Ashley Dulaney or your overall body of work, please describe for us your career at a glance? 

AD: I grew up in the south and got my Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Acting from the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and moved straight to Los Angeles, California right after college. I started working in Theatre right away and that lead to commercials and television. I’ve been blessed enough to work with Lifetime twice in 2015 (Babysitter’s Black Book and The House Sitter). I’ve guest spotted on some amazing shows like Scandal, Criminal Minds, Brooklyn 99, Chasing Life, WorkAholics, Stitchers, and I had a recurring role on the last season of Justified.


TCS: Can you give us three “Good to Know” facts about you? 

AD: Yes, here are three “Good to Know” facts:

  1. I was born and raised in Mississippi and come from the hometown of Elvis Presley.
  2. I have a pact with one of best friends to travel someplace new in the world every year.
  3. I have a continuing goal with myself to read at least 12 new books every year.

TCS: How did you prepare for your role as Harper in Lee Friedlander’s 2015 Drama Babysitter’s Black Book

AD: Playing Harper in Babysitter’s Black Book was a lot of fun. It’s always a blast getting to play “the mean girl”. When I prep for any character I really try to place myself in that situation so that when I’m working all of my actions are coming from an honest and vulnerable place. None of us like to be mean but we’ve all felt jealousy and anger, which Harper pretty much stayed in, so I tapped in to that. It just allows the character to be real in that moment.


TCS: Describe for us your experience in playing Rebecca in Jim Issa’s 2015 Creepy Thriller entitled The House Sitter

AD: Rebecca was a dream role. It was by far the most emotionally draining character I’ve ever gotten to play which in itself is a gift. Rebecca is so twisted and broken, so as an actor when you’re given the chance to play such an intense character everyday it is like being on the playground. She is a character with a lot of twists and turns. It’s also a cool experience to tap into such extreme emotions. It was just a blessing to be a part of that project.


TCS: How much fun did you have playing Erica in the Comedy, Musical Frat House Musical in 2013? 

AD: Frat House was actually one of the first projects that I booked in LA. It was sponsored by Subway and was just so creative and fun. It ended up being selected and won a student Emmy, which is always really fun.


TCS: Can you tell us a little bit about how you landed the role in the TV commercial for Turbo Tax? 

AD: Working with Joan and Melissa Rivers on Turbo Tax was such a surreal experience. I went to audition for the commercial and casting actually had me talk about someone I would love to meet, and I brought up Joan Rivers and how I would love for her to just destroy my style on Fashion Police. I don’t remember if they were already planning to do the commercial or how it came about but I was so shocked when I heard I booked it and I was going to get to act opposite them. It was my first acting job in LA and to get work with such a legend was insane. They were both so kind and gracious, not to mention insanely feisty. I just loved it.


TCS: What is your favorite film of all time? And, how has this film influenced your acting career? 

AD: That is a really hard question for me because I have so many favorite movies… If I was going classic movie I would say The Princess Bride. But if I was going on something that had really influenced me recently I would say Swimfan. I love the obsession quality in that movie and would be lying if I said I didn’t watch it as soon as I found out I booked Rebecca in The House Sitter.

the-house-sitter-lifetimemovie

TCS: As an actress, is there a specific role or type of character that you haven’t played yet but would really like to? 

AD: This type of question is always really hard for me to pinpoint because with my career so far, I never saw the roles coming that I’ve been blessed enough to get the chance to play. Of course, as an actor you just always want to play something that connects with people, even if it’s just to make someone laugh for two seconds. So really all I can say is I hope to be given the opportunity to just create new characters whatever they may be.

TCS: What do you feel is the hardest part of getting into the mindset of a character? 

I would say not having judgment on who you’re playing.


TCS: What different acting techniques are required when acting in drama and comedy? Which do you prefer? 

AD: It’s always hard for me to pick my favorite because I love them both in different ways, but I love laughter and having the chance to make someone happy is such an amazing feeling, so I am going to have to go with comedy.

TCS: Can you share with us your most interesting set story?

AD: My most interesting set story would have to be my role on Justified. I loved the character of Caprice so much when I read for her, but she was only supposed to be on one episode. The amazing team at Justified allowed her to come back a few more times this last season and it was just such an amazing experience to see a character grow and not know where the writers were going to take her.

Ashley-Dulaney-Justified

TCS: Describe for us how you created the 3Monkeys Theatre Company in Woodland Hills, California?

AD: 3Monkeys still holds a very special place in my heart. When I first moved out to LA I came in contact with a really amazing teacher who had a space and a small group of us sat down and found a play we wanted to do, so we created a company and made it happen. It was such a cool experience to be with something from the ground up and watch it take on a life of its own. I love theatre. I come from a background in it and it will always be my first home.

TCS: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects? 

AD: My role on Workaholics starts airing this month. I will also be guest starring on an upcoming episode of Bones and later this summer will be on Stitchers on ABC Family.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

The Creative Spotlight: 2015

Written by: Frank Iacono

2015-Spotlights

The end of the year causes us to reflect, and in this spirit, I thought it would be fun to recount The Creative Spotlight blog posts from 2015. When it comes to The Creative Spotlight, the goal is simple. Introduce readers to the best local and national musicians, artists, actors, business owners, motivational speakers, photographers, and other published authors. Consider The Creative Spotlight as the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered talent, reading exciting interviews, learning helpful tips and tricks, and news that you can use…plus lots of great ideas for enriching your life and enjoying yourself.

As we welcome 2016, we want to make sure that you did not miss any of the 18 articles from 2015. This blog includes a complete, categorized list of The Creative Spotlight posts that were published in 2015.

January 2015

Marilyn Russell: Morning Show Host

March 2015

Chris LeGrand: Rolling Stones Tribute Band

April 2015

Neill Byrnes: Draw The Line Aerosmith Tribute Band

Shaun Benson: Actor and Director

May 2015

Carolyn Bennett-Sullivan: Author

June 2015

Dawn Botti: Singer and Songwriter

July 2015

Joanna Maria Morales Miarrostami: Artist

Sheila Brown: Summer Nites Bed and Breakfast 

August 2015

Travis Clark: We The Kings

Duffer’s: Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor

Ages Apart: Alternative Rock Band

Jack Morey: Morey’s Piers

Derek Crider: Singer and Songwriter

September 2015

Everything Falls: Modern Rock Band

Aandra Bohlen: Business Coach

October 2015

Michelle Antonucci Smith: Zumba® Fitness Instructor

November 2015

Meisha Johnson: TV Personality

Karen Mansfield: Singer And Songwriter

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Meisha Johnson: TV Personality

Written by: Frank Iacono

meisha-johnson-head-shot

Meisha Johnson, a Minnesota born native and Journalism major from the University of Minnesota and Anoka Ramsey College, joined the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania CBS 3-owned KYW-TV in mid-July of 2015 as the morning traffic reporter. Prior to moving to Philadelphia, Meisha worked as a traffic reporter for KMSP, the FOX 9 Morning News affiliate, in Minneapolis-St. Paul since 2013.

Meisha, an outdoor sports enthusiast, is a veteran performer in everything from hosting TV shows and extreme sports reporting for networks such as FOX Sports, VERSUS, SPEED Channel, ABC and CBS Sports, as well as acting in commercials, theater, and independent films such as 13 Hours in a Warehouse (2008), Cold Feet (2008), and Fall Into Me (2006).

Meisha is fluent in Swedish and attended the University of Uppsala while living in Sweden for several years after high school. She has also served as the spokesperson and host for K-Swiss fitness on the national shopping network, EVINE Live, and a corporate speaker for a plethora of different companies.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Meisha Johnson and asking her a few questions about her career inspirations, her overall background and experience, her movie roles, her meeting with legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Don Felder, and her new job as the morning traffic reporter for CBS 3-owned KYW-TV.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you become interested in TV hosting, modeling, and acting? And, who or what inspired you to pursue a career in this profession?

Meisha Johnson: At a very young age, I began watching scary movies with my mother. My father dabbled in theater, and his father, my grandfather, worked as a Director for the well-renowned Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN. From my earliest memories, and clearly weaved throughout my DNA, I loved performing. Beginning in elementary school, I would act in any play possible- and I always wanted to play the antagonist role. I had a wildly creative imagination and began writing scary movie scripts in fifth grade. I’d hold auditions in the backyard for my friends and neighbor kids, and every year would have an annual haunted house to raise money for movie props. My love for the performing arts has followed with me throughout my entire career.

As far as modeling is concerned, that was never something I wanted to do. It would come across my path from time to time, but it was certainly never my passion. After college, TV Hosting came knocking at the door and it was love at first job. In terms of what or who inspired me, in truth, I followed my heart. There was no escaping it, no other choice, no other path to pursue. I knew who I was- what I loved- and I knew I was to follow that inner voice.


TCS: For the benefit of those who may not be too familiar with Meisha Johnson or your overall body of work, please describe for us your career at a glance?

MJ: I started out acting in local and national TV commercials, local film and theater. I did a brief appearance for the Young and the Restless while studying at the University of Minnesota’s Journalism school, as well as dabbled in a few TV pilots. From there I began hosting sports TV shows for FOX Sports, CBS Sports, Versus and Speed channel, and was also the spokesperson for several different companies such as K-Swiss Fitness, 3M, Polaris and many others. From there I began hosting on the nationally syndicated network, EVINE Live (formerly ShopNBC), and was then offered a job as a TV host on our local CW Television Network. I turned down the job at the CW when FOX 9 News contacted me around the same time offering me a part-time position in news.

Reel – Meisha P Johnson – Host from Amy Waksmonski on Vimeo.


TCS: Can you give us three “Good to Know” facts about you?

MJ: Yes, here are three “Good to Know” facts, plus three bonus facts:

  1. I was a waitress throughout high school and a lifeguard/diving instructor afterwards.
  2. I absolutely love animals. If I wasn’t working in television, I would dedicate my life to working with/for them, and I’d love to have a pot-bellied pig one day.
  3. My father was a professional boxer, so I grew up ringside. I’m a tough cookie ;).
  4. I had iguana’s as pets growing up, so I’ve got an iguana tattoo on my back in memory of them.
  5. I lived in Sweden for 3 years and speak Swedish.
  6. My middle name, “P.J.” – yes, PJ is my middle name, stands for “Phoebe Jean.”


TCS: Can you describe for us your longtime presence in the snowmobile industry, most notably as the host of the Sledhead 24/7 TV Show airing on FOX Sports North and of the ISOC Amsoil Championship Snocross Series on the SPEED Channel?

MJ: When I think about the past decade of my working career, Sled Head 24/7 stands out as extraordinarily instrumental. I spent 8 years of my life hosting powersports shows and “Sled Head” is where I began my career as TV Host. I was acting in a TV pilot when the producer asked if I could ride a snowmobile – in which I responded with a firm, “yes.” I auditioned for the show (Sled Head), landed the job, and “Sled Head” became my baby and the racing community became my extended family. Still to this day, the fans of that show, and all the other TV shows I’ve hosted, still follow my career here at CBS 3. Bless their hearts, they watch the show online. I’m moved beyond words when I think about all the experiences I’ve had because of those years in the powersports pits (snocross, supercross, motorcross, ATV racing). It was a lot of hard work, no doubt, but I wouldn’t trade my sports hosting past for nothing. It’s been an incredible journey and I’m forever grateful for the memories.


TCS: Describe for us your experience playing Brandy in Tim VandeSteeg’s 2006 Comedy, Drama Fall Into Me?

MJ: “Fall Into Me” was my very first “real” feature film. It was such a great learning experience. As with all “firsts”, it’s the film I “cut my teeth on” so-to-speak. This is where I learned how a true feature film works and is shot, what I should and shouldn’t do, and how grueling long days on-set can actually be. I loved playing the part of Brandy. She was the antagonist, a supporting lead role, with an edgy, no “BS” side that was fun to play.


TCS: How did you prepare for your role as Jennifer Wilkins in Writer/Director Dav Kaufman’s 2008 Horror, Thriller 13 Hours in a Warehouse?

MJ: To be honest, I really didn’t prepare all that much. I wanted to have a genuine fear as things happened in the scene as opposed to over-rehearsing. Instead, I tapped into that “what would you do?” moment and rolled with whatever emotions came out naturally.


TCS: How much fun did you have playing Carol Deering in Ross McNamara’s 2008 Screwball Romantic Comedy entitled Cold Feet, a fast-paced, banter-filled style of Hepburn/Grant films from the ’40s?

MJ: Lol! “Cold Feet.” Oh, this movie was so much fun. First off, it was a comedy so being on-set with a bunch of comedians is bound to make for some hilarious work days. Secondly, I had the lead role, so I was on-set almost every single day which I loved. Third, well… it was my first on-screen kiss… and I was a nervous wreck the whole time… but, I found out how unromantic on-screen romance really is – Lol. Carol was a strong protagonist character that I could relate to in terms of wanting to make right choices while having a good sense of humor about all the craziness life brings. I still smile when I think about how fun it was to make.


TCS: As an actress, is there a specific role or type of character that you haven’t played yet but would really like to?

MJ: I’d love to play an edgy, meaty role on a controversial topic. Something gritty, creative and authentic. Main-stream Hollywood movies don’t interest me as much as the independent one’s that evoke a lot of emotion and difference of opinion. The kind that makes you think, “What in the world would I do in this situation?”


TCS: How thrilling was it to join CBS 3’s ‘Eyewitness News This Morning’ in Philadelphia as traffic reporter, after serving as a traffic reporter with KMSP, the Fox station in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN? And, please describe for us your first day on July 20th and how entertaining it was to have met the Phillie Phanatic?

MJ: When I was contacted in the Midwest by CBS 3 in Philly about a possible job offer, I was incredibly excited… and nervous all at the same time. It was a big decision moving out of my Midwest “comfort zone” to the big east coast. That said, there are no accidents in this life, so I knew when the door opened it was my time to walk through. My first day was amazing! The viewers were sweet and welcoming, and producers and management couldn’t have made me feel more welcome. They went out of their way to make it special and I’ll never forget it. And, as you would expect, the one’s that made me feel the most welcome in the beginning, are still my “besties” at the station to this very day. That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the viewers! The fans/viewers of the morning show have also become my besties (on social media) as well. Being out here alone, they’ve become family to me in a way. I spend every morning, Monday through Friday, with them for our Twitter “#coffeedate.” Truly, I don’t know if they’ll ever really understand how much they mean to me. As far as the Phillie Phanatic is concerned, let’s just say we hit off immediately. It was love at first fuzzy kiss on-air! Lol!

Meisha-Johnson-Eyewitness-News-KYW

TCS: Nowadays, what does an average workday consist of for Meisha Johnson?

MJ: Things have changed quite a bit since the world of “freelance.” I try to go to bed around 6pm Monday through Friday. My alarm goes off at 1:30 a.m. I do hair and make-up until around 3am and then I head off to the studio. From about 3:30 – 4:15 I prepare (final touches, hair/make-up, align traffic hits, etc.) and we go LIVE at 4:30a. It takes a lot of discipline to stick to this kind of a schedule, but it’s pretty cool to have such strict structure as well. On Friday’s I try to nap after work, so I can stay up a bit later in the evening, or I hop on a plane to Minneapolis for the weekend. Saturday’s are the only day of the week I allow myself to “sleep in” although I’m still usually up by 7-8am. Sundays I set an alarm around 4-5am to try and get on a schedule again, and Sunday evening it’s lights out at 6pm again :).


TCS: Can you tell us about ‪a program you started about a year ago called #‎AskMeishaMonday‬?

MJ: #AskMeishaMonday is by far the most unknown yet important work I’ve done. Throughout my television career, I’ve always interacted with my fans online (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). Over the years, many of them would open up to me, telling me about struggles they were going through or looking for friendly, non-biased, unemotional advice. A large majority who would write were going through sticky situations they didn’t want their immediate friends or family to know, and/or didn’t want to go to a counselor, so they’d turn to me for a second opinion or prayer. I realized this enormous need for people to have someone to turn to, even if just an ear to listen.

Over time, and to make it more time efficient and effective for all, I began opening up my social media sites on Monday’s solely to interact with those in need. #AskMeishaMonday was birthed from a desire in me not wanting anyone I’m connected to feeling alone. We’re all equipped with gifts we can use to help others. Offering advice, prayer, an ear to listen, and counsel to others happens to be one of mine. It’s one of the most important things I’ll ever do with my time. My life’s ministry. It doesn’t matter if I’ve met the person or not- if we’re connected, via social media or otherwise, they are not alone. Since moving to Philly, I haven’t opened #AskMeishaMonday up again, but I plan on doing so in the near future.


TCS: Recently you posted on Facebook that you visited Atlantic City for the first time, please share with us your overall experience?

MJ: I literally did a drive-by in Atlantic City! I was on a mission to learn some of the roads, so I went on a little road trip. When the warm weather returns, I plan on playing a slot machine, catching a concert, and enjoying the shore ;).

TCS: How exciting was it when you met Don Felder, one of the greatest guitarists and songwriters, from the legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Eagles?

MJ: When I got the phone call from CBS that Don Felder wanted to meet “the traffic girl” I was quite taken aback. “Me? Why?” was my first response. I was already done with work for the day when I received the phone call, but I drove back to meet him anyway. On the way back to the studio, I drove over a nail and got a flat tire. So, Don being the sweetheart he is, drove me back to corporate housing in his limo – lol. Truly, aside from being the legend he is, Don is such a gentleman and such a wonderful person. I’m grateful to have met him that day, and crazy enough, we’ve kept in contact since then. Today I can say I’m honored to now call him my friend.

Meisha-Johnson-and-Don-Felder-Eagles

TCS: Looking back over your career, if you had to do it all over again, is there something that you would do differently? If so, what would it be?

MJ: I have absolutely NO regrets and I wouldn’t do anything differently. That doesn’t mean everything has been smooth sailing. Life isn’t that way as we all know. However, I firmly believe we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be right now even if we don’t fully understand why. Everything I’ve done in the past has helped me develop the skills and know-how for the work I do today, and the work I’ll do in the future. Our past is the building blocks for the firm foundation needed moving ahead into the future. Life is a crazy fun adventure and, no matter what is to come, there will never be any regrets.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Shaun Benson: Actor and Director

Written by: Frank Iacono and Celeste Iacono

Shaun Benson

Shaun Benson is a Canadian actor and director who was born in Guelph, Ontario. From a very young age, Shaun studied the arts including piano, ballet, and modern dance. He attended the University of Western Ontario and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry.

During his University career, he began to perform seriously and garnered roles in university theater productions such as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Bones, and Biloxi Blues. Post-graduation, Shaun went on to study and train at the George Brown College Theater School in Toronto.

Shaun made his television debut as Jonah Gleason, a series lead, on the critically acclaimed series The Associates (2002), which led to another lead as Patrick Heller for the PAX network on Just Cause (2002-2003). He is best known for playing Leonid in Kathryn Bigelo’s K-19: The Widowmaker (2002) opposite Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, playing Steven Lars Webber on General Hospital (2004 – 2005), Bob Taylor in Populaire (2012), and the mysterious Simon in Kept Woman (2015).

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shaun Benson and asking him a few questions about what first got him into acting, his career as an actor, his experience in directing Barn Wedding, his role on daytime soap General Hospital, his musical aspirations, and his upcoming projects.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you become interested in acting? And, who or what inspired you to pursue a career as an actor?

Shaun Benson: I’ve always been a performer. I played my first piano recital at age 5 (badly) and was dancing onstage by age 9. The inspiration was a blend of things like watching Singin’ in the Rain (still my favorite all-time movie), The Sound of Music, and James Bond, etc. as a kid and also just how much fun dancing and school plays were.

TCS: What famous actors were among your early influences and how do you think they shaped your acting style?

SB: Gene Kelly most definitely—he shaped my style in that I am not afraid to go classically large with a role and I’m not afraid for it to be fun. In later years, it was Keanu Reeves, Robert De Niro, and Matthew McConnaughey. De Niro for depth and Keanu and Matthew for the fun and joy of watching that sometimes actors who take themselves too seriously can lose.

TCS: Can you share with us your experience in directing Barn Wedding?

SB: Simply put Barn Wedding was the best artistic endeavor of my life. Working with the actors to create the characters – then the writer, then the cinematographers, then all of the editing and sounds mixing etc.— it challenged me daily and made my motor rev in every gear to the redline. Just the way I like it.


TCS: How did you prepare for your role as a villain in the 2015 movie Kept Woman?

SB: Preparing for Kept Woman involved a lot of research into my own favorite film villains and then giving myself daily permission to be bad — both as a human and as an actor. I had to embrace a lot of darkness and then let it out because Simon doesn’t actually disagree with his own actions. So first I had to dig into the perversity of the actions and then I had to have fun executing them. It took its toll.


TCS: Tell us about playing Dr. Steven Lars Webber, perhaps your best known role, on General Hospital.

SB: That was a sheer delight. The cast and network of that show are so talented and engaged – far more than I was expecting. My run was only a year but I learned and gained so much more than I could ever describe. Huge shout outs to Jill, Maurice, Rick, Corbin, and Nancy.

TCS: How did your participation in Louis Nowra’s film K-19: The Widowmaker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, influence your acting career?

SB: The influences of that film are still being felt 13 years later. I don’t even know what I learned because I was on set for 3 months but not in a ton of scenes. So I got to watch and absorb. Certain pennies only drop years later and some haven’t yet, I’m sure. The biggest thing I learned, that I’m aware of, is that it’s ok to be both technical and in the moment. Harrison and Liam are masters of this.

TCS: Tell us about how exciting it was playing Bob Taylor in the French film Populaire?

SB: It was exciting beyond measure. Paris 4 months Premiere on the Champs Elysee, working with Roman, Berenice, Regis, and Deborah and Laurent and Guillaume etc. etc. etc. — it was perfection from day 1. It is a beautiful film in a beautiful country made by beautiful people.


TCS: Describe for us your experience working on documentaries such as Flight of the Butterflies and Casting By.

SB: Flight of the Butterflies was a bit like Populaire (except for my Montezuma’s Revenge day 1!!!!) The people involved and motorcycling through the Mexican countryside with Stephanie Sigman (the next Bond girl) on the back and ultimately shooting a scene with half a billion butterflies — forget it. Perfection.

Casting By was as eye opening as a project has been as I was the photographer for the first half and therefore was a fly on the wall and got to hear some of the world’s greatest talents talk about the casting process. Just invaluable.


TCS: Share with us some background concerning your iTunes podcast?

SB: I always woke my lady up by ranting about politics or traffic or excitement about my week and I thought I should give her a break and share the ramblin! It’s been a huge success with thousands of listeners in 50 countries.

Listen to the Shaun Benson, Chatting Between Takes podcast now.

TCS: What would you consider your best and worst moment so far in show business?

SB: My best moment happened recently when the first film I directed sold out to standing room only and won 2 awards – but most importantly I felt like my 8 year old self watching it. And my worst was when drugs and alcohol killed my career for about 5 years. I’m in my own 2nd life in this career and I’m as grateful as a man could be.


TCS: Backtracking to your time at the University of Western Ontario to now working as a professional actor, is there a specific role that you’ve either played or portrayed that you would you say is your favorite and why?

SB: My favorite would have to be the character of Lewis in a play called Waiting for Lewis. I was so naive and inexperienced but got guided by Fabrizio Filippo and Joanna McIntyre to do what I still believe is some of my best work and it also let me know this was a career I could excel at.

TCS: Is there a specific role or type of character that you haven’t played yet but would really like to?

SB: COMEDY! COMEDY! COMEDY!

TCS: Can you share with us your interests and hobbies outside of acting and directing?

SB: Karate, car racing, cycling, motorcycling, hangin at the mall with my lady, playing in my band Emmy Rouge, chillin’ out, and binge watching TV shows.


TCS: Where did your interest in music come from and how did you land writing for the LA based band Analog Smith?

SB: My house was always full of music. We had a piano, banjos, guitars, and a violin — so I just mucked around. Truly the summer camp I went to was where it all coalesced into writing and performing. The band was started like most — a few dudes who liked how each other carried it. The writing followed pretty naturally from that.


TCS: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?

SB: I’m currently shooting a number of episodes for Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience and just shot a cameo for a film called Back Country that should be out next year. Other than that Emmy Rouge will head to LA to record next month and my producing partners and I will begin our next film that I’ll direct.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.