Monday 2 April 2018

Interview with Thomas Baldinger

Who’s Jenna…? The writer/director of the April release of the same name, Thomas Baldinger, clues us in.

You only need to do a quick google search to see just how much a monster Who’s Jenna has become. What do you attribute to that to?

 A great cast, a great crew and of course excellent marketing reps!  And that is the God’s honest truth.  Without this cast, this crew and our marketing team we wouldn’t be having this type of interview.  This film is different than your generic romantic comedies.  Sure we got the “Love falls in love with girl” thing going on, but then we take a few different turns with it.  We take a very touchy subject…the adult film industry…and we have fun with it.  I am very happy with the fact that we were able to make a movie like this without any nudity or sex.  Sure we talk about it in a comedic manner…for instance there is great scene between Bill Sorvino’s character, Joseph D’Onofrio’s character, Tracey Birdsall’s character and Jen Jacob’s character where they debate as to why one gender is paid more than the other.  The film deals with a lot of issues like falling in love, friendship, blackmail and discrimination in a comedic manner.

Was there ever a time when the film wasn’t going to be done independently, with fresh faces, and a gun-for-hire directing? Can you imagine that version?  

Hmm.  Good question….No.  I can honestly say that I am 100% pleased with the final product we created.  Every actor, every crew member brought something to the table when we were in production and even in post-production.  I couldn’t imagine this film being performed by anyone else.

Are there other benefits to doing a film independently, without studio involvement, other than getting to captain the ship?

I think with an independent film there is a lot of room for creativity.  Not only for the actor, but for everyone.  I wanted there to be a sense of ownership for the actors as well as freedom to bring what they felt at that moment.  Sure I wrote it, but they are the ones who are living and breathing these characters day in and day out.  You have to be careful that it doesn’t get out of control though too.  You don’t want improvisation turning into a moment when people are just talking over each other or stepping on each other’s tongue just to be funny.  It’s a fine line and I think we were able to toe that line in each take.

What films or filmmakers inspired Who’s Jenna..? 

I am huge fan of classic comedies like CADDY SHACK, ANIMAL HOUSE, BLAZING SADDLES and TRADING PLACES.  I wouldn’t say those movies inspired this film, but they sure as heck were in the back of my head to be sure what we were doing was funny and believable.

Did you frame or shoot certain scenes as a homage to those films or filmmakers?

No.  Not really.  But I will confess this…a few days before we shot a scene with Bill and Tracey I was home one night binge watching my all-time favorite TV show, “NYPD Blue”.    There was a scene between Jimmy Smits and Kim Delaney lying in bed together and I absolutely loved the shot.  It was overhead just looking down at the two characters in bed.  So much was being said with them just looking straight past the camera.  So when we got to set to shoot, I spoke with my DP, Jeff Sessellberg, Bill and Tracey and told them exactly how I wanted the shot.

The film features an amazing performance by Bill Sorvino, who has sort of this Steve Guttenberg meets Sam Shepard quality. Do you think he’ll really break out after this?

Bill is an excellent actor!  He was a true professional on and off set.  He made my job so much easier on set.  He always came prepared and yes, I really do believe he’ll break out after this.  He did an amazing job carrying this film as our lead and I wouldn’t change it.  I look forward to working with him in the future!

How hard was it to find the actress to play ‘Jenna’?

God’s honest truth….I was incredibly lucky to find Tracey.  We were both at the Action On Film Festival (AOF) Awards show.  She was being honoured that night for all of her work in the independent market and my first short film “Two Sides of Love” was nominated for best short screenplay and best art direction.  When Del Weston, host and founder of AOF, announced Tracey to come up to the stage I turned to my wife and said, “I think I found my Jenna!”.  I then reached out to her via Facebook, sent her the script and we clicked right away.  She is another excellent actor and very professional.

This is a comedy but it’s also one with messages. What do you believe the biggest one is?

Prejudice and Discrimination.  I don’t want to give anything away but we hit that message a lot throughout this whole film.   No one should be discriminated against or pre-judged just because of their ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual preference or even the type of job they have.  At the end of the day we are all human.