Saturday 26 August 2017

Exclusive Interview - Michael Cross - Director of Second Nature

New Sam Huntingon comedy “Second Nature”, directed and co-written by Michael Cross, will get a wide release this September through Nicholas Gyeney’s Mirror Images LTD.

The film, also produced by Gyeney – a filmmaker himself whose Beta Test received a wide theatrical release in 2016 – teams Huntington (Superman Returns, Sully) with Interstellar’s Collette Wolfe.

Amanda (Wolfe) uses a magic mirror to reverse the gender roles in her small town, she gains the upper hand on her womanizing opponent, Bret (Hungtinton). As each experiences life in the other’s shoes, they must decide which reality they prefer before they’re stuck in the flipped world forever.

Second Nature, which premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival, marks the feature debut of Michael Cross.

Theatrically, the film is scheduled to open in theaters from September 8 (beginning with Ark Lodge Cinemas, Seattle). It will also play at the Catalina Film Festival (Sep 27-October 1) and Ellensburg Film Festival (October 6-8).

Second Nature will be available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, Blu-ray and DVD on September 19.

Do you remember where you were when you came upon the project?

It was over 8 years ago, on a visit to Ellensburg, my hometown. The premise for the movie – a world where women and men are flipped – came to me after a drink or two too many at the Frontier Tavern. Still have the coaster with the idea scribbled on the back. When we filmed the movie in Ellensburg 6 years later we shot a few scenes in the same tavern.

What was the initial appeal for you?

I’ve always been fascinated by gender behavior, as well as gender balance in politics. We are molded from birth and nurtured to behave a certain way, which greatly affects who we are as individuals and as a larger society. So flipping the entire world, so that women behave like men and vice versa, is a way of looking at ourselves more clearly. Through the comedy we are also able to understand better what it’s like walking in someone else’s shoes.

Did the project change, if even slightly, due to budget or other creative decisions, as the shooting date approached?

My writing team literally had no idea how much more relevant Second Nature would be today than when we started writing it over 8 years ago. In fact the first draft of the script wasn’t political at all. It was about 4 years ago that we rewrote the entire story to make it more affordable to produce on a small budget, which is where the small town setting came in. The mayoral special election seemed like a natural fit, providing a lot of opportunities to explore gender behavior in politics and society.

How long of a shoot was it?

We filmed Second Nature in Fall of 2015 in a compressed 21-day production, shooting 6-day weeks. My team completed the film in the summer of 2016, during the election cycle, which felt like it raised the stakes for this little film. And coincidentally, the World Premiere of Second Nature (at the Napa Valley Film Festival) took place on the week of the 2016 general election in early November. The results of the election really changed the political context in this country so much that Second Nature suddenly played like a very different film, in a much more relevant way than anyone expected.

Was it local? Or were parts of it filmed all over?

Ellensburg, Washington was the perfect location for Second Nature. Ellensburg is my hometown, which meant I was able to draw on a lot of favors when it came to caterers, extras, street closures and filming locations. My father cooked many of the meals himself, my aunt took care of craft services. There’s an elementary classroom scene that we filmed in my actual 5th grade classroom, and the scenes that take place in the City Manager’s office were filmed in the actual City Manager’s office at City Hall.

How different a project do you think this would have been if it were filmed 20 years ago?

20 years ago this probably would have been a much different movie. I’m kind of laughing at the thought of this, imagining Second Nature with more of a “What Women Want” broad comedy tone. Very different from the more nuanced tone we were able to achieve.

It would undoubtedly have been marketed a lot differently then, too. Tell us about some of the marketing activities conducted to promote it.

Leading up to the September 8 limited theatrical release, my team has focused mostly on online marketing, supplemented by movie posters and handing out postcards around Seattle.

How important is a social media presence for a film?

Having a social media presence is critical for an independent film to find its audience. Fans are finding us on Instagram, Twitter, but mostly Facebook.

What’s one thing people probably don’t realize about making movies?

I think most people don’t realize how long it takes from writing a script until completing a finished film. A few people have asked me, “Your movie is so incredibly relevant for 2017… did you write it just after the election?”

What was the initial goal of the project, for you. Has it succeeded, in terms of that goal, or is it too early to tell?

In parts of our society, equality is propagating and socially acceptable gender roles continue to evolve. My hope is that Second Nature will initiate a dialogue with an audience that might not otherwise consider gender equality an issue still worth talking about. This independent comedy about confidence, strength, and determination aims to contribute to that conversation in a meaningful way.