Writing-wise, Mitch Teemley has about done it all: composer, novelist, playwright, and screenwriter. His credentials are extensive, the stuff of dreams for many who read and write here: to write and produce their own works.
Mitch attended many prestigious schools for writing/filmmaking:
Orange Coast College, University of California at Irvine, The American Film Institute, and UCLA, (where he beat out 300 applicants for one of 5 open spots.) He developed projects for Warner Brothers, Disney and Sony Pictures. He is now president of his own production company, Moriah Media.
Mitch is a musician, singer and actor. He is also a prolific blogger.
Foremost, however, Mitch Teemley is a true man of faith and lover of God’s creatures. If I sound all fan-girl here, I have to admit that it took me a while to get up the nerve to ask Mitch for an interview, and I don’t have any idea why. He has always been open, friendly and gracious.
Mitch currently has two feature films available online, (plus on DVD/Blu-ray), so thought that here was a good time, (and an excuse), to ask him come in and to promote them.
Welcome, Mitch! Thank you for taking the time to join us.
Cincinnati is a diverse and fascinating city, however, in their book, Writing Movies for
Fun and Profit, Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon constantly exhort would-be screenwriters to move to L.A. if they want to write for movies. Do you know this book? Although they may have some things wrong, I believe it should be read by every writer who dreams of their work ever being translated to film, to let them know what they are up against and how little say most writers have when they hand over their intellectual property. Please tell everyone why you, a native Californian with all the writing/movie/performing background listed above, packed up, moved to Cincinnati and started your own small production company.
By 2005, a number of projects had fallen through and God seemed to be closing the door on this phase of our family’s lives. I cast my net nationally and landed a ministry position at a large church in Cincinnati. So we relocated. Things went well, but after the recession decimated church budgets everywhere, my church had to let the majority of its staff go. I taught part-time at a couple of local colleges, but in 2010, with seed money from church friends, was able to launch a production company based in Cincinnati.
Looking at your websites and your WIPs, you are a busy man, yet, you also have a blog post up every day. Most posts are your own thoughts and ideas, other days are repostings of interesting blogs and sometimes simply (?) an inspirational picture and a quote from Scripture. How far ahead do you plan these?
I write short pieces, quips and quotes, etc., the morning I post them, and longer pieces anywhere from a couple of days to a week in advance.
(Now, let the real plugging begin!)
“Notzilla”, a parody of the monster movies of the past, is in the vein of the movie “Arachnophobia”. It’s hard when a writer is asked about their inspiration, but tell me, why did you choose Godzilla to spoof, (or did he choose you)?
I grew up watch Japanese kaiju (giant monster) movies at the local movie house—a kid-friendly double-bill every Saturday for 50 cents. The year I graduated from high school, my best buddy and I decide to make an affectionate spoof of old monster movies, but it never happened. Decades later, I rewrote it from scratch and ended up producing and directing it for an Ohio-based indie production company.
I have not gotten the person I want to watch it with to join me as yet, but the Notzilla trailer leads me to believe that I will have as much fun watching my fellow watcher as I will the film. The purposely cheesy sets and fake backgrounds are faithful to the monster movies of the 50s; how did you get them executed so perfectly imperfect? Who did the spot-on job of costuming?
There’s a large body of crew and production people based in Cincinnati. They work on both indie productions like ours, as well as Hollywood productions that are shot here. Our Emmy-winning Director of Photography Jeff Barklage, a huge kaiju move fan, developed the authentic 50s/60s special effects, using the same miniatures and rear-projection techniques used back then. Gabby Leithsceal, our Production Designer, and her two-person team built sets, props and miniatures. Well-known monster-creator Jacob Baker, built the creature to my specs, adding a lot of his own touches, and also served as the stunt actor inside the suit. Our costumer Hannabelle Farrell hunted thrift and specialty shops for period costumes suited to each character, and masterfully coordinated them all.
The other movie we need to promote is, Healing River, a classic tale of redemption and healing of heart. The actors portray their parts in such realistic manner that it is overwhelming. I found Rupert Spaul, as the troubled young man “Alec”, to be particularly compelling. Did you do the casting?
Yes, I cast the film with the help of Cincinnati casting director D. Lynn Meyers and her team.
You obviously know people very well. “Ingrid”, the mother of the boy Alec killed, shows emotions that run the full gamut, every phase of grief all the way to acceptance and more, (I will say no more). From what in your experience did you pull to write her part?
Ingrid is a blend of Christine Jones, a gifted actress and friend who I cast in the role before I even wrote the script, my wife Trudy, and me (there’s a bit of me in all three lead characters).
As a Catholic, I truly appreciate the treatment of Ingrid’s brother, “Fr. Peter”. How rarely priests have ever been shown to be humans who can experience true grief and familial love. More recently, (especially with the terrible turns the Church has taken), it is almost impossible to find a show or movie depicting that there are true men of faith still serving, still caring, still faithful to Christ. (Thank you.) Was this character based on any particular clergyman that you have known?
I have some friends who are priests, but I don’t know any of them well enough to really base a major character on them. So Peter is basically me. Most of his stories, interests and passions are mine.
Even when I saw some of the storyline in Healing River coming, Mitch, you managed to make it touching enough to make me cry. [Warning to Readers: Keep the tissues handy while you watch Healing River -T.]
Still, you threw more than one plot twist that I did not see coming. I have to applaud you on both counts; if I see it coming, it usually doesn’t hit me as hard and a screenwriter who can surprise me is rare. ( A daughter-in-law once handed me a movie with the exhortation, “Don’t THINK, just WATCH.”)
You have several other movies listed on your sites which I am most anxious to see, particularly, Hide Your Love Away. Will you take some time to tell everyone briefly about these other movies?
Those projects are in long term development and may or may not happen. Right now, I’m developing two new projects, one a faith-based rom-com, and the other a family-friendly fantasy.
I have read many of your quick Christian skits, (The Skit Guys), many of which are about modern families, (“The Shepherds”, “The Wisemens”, and others), finding the true meaning of Christmas. What inspired these? Who comes to you for the skits?
I signed on with Skit Guys some years back. Apart from knowing they always need Christmas pieces, I don’t get advance requests from them. I simply writer something I feel led to write and send it to them.
What was your first break, (second and third)? It is obvious that in your life, (like many of ours), there have been major turns of events. Do you always see the Hand of God in it all? (I am afraid that I generally only manage to see it in hindsight.)
I’ve had various “breaks” over the years, all God-led. But the one that propelled me back into making feature films was being cast in the lead role in a faith-based indie called Promises to Keep (due on Amazon next month). The executive producer friended me and, knowing I was a writer-director, asked what I had. I pitched the story that eventually became Healing River, and he liked it.
Thank you so much, Mitch. I know that I asked at lot at you here, but is there anything else you’d like us to know?
Don’t follow your dream, find out your place in God’s dream and follow that. It’s much more exciting, and infinitely more worthwhile.
Please tell everyone how to learn more about you and your work.
The best place for that is to follow my blog mitchteemley.com. Thanks and blessings, Tonette
Thanks, Mitch, and to you and yours.
Friends, look up “Mitch Teemley” on Google to learn so much more.