Introducing Michael Ray Fox
Say "hi" to Michael Ray Fox - a Canadian actor and film maker who has an already accrued an impressive line-up of films for his resume, including, recently the highly anticipated Rutger Hauer thriller "Hobo With a Shotgun".
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with the busy actor inbetween projects. My sincere thanks go to Michael for sparing the time, and to my old buddy Gareth Hughes for co-ordinating this interview. It wouldn't have been possible without him.
RP: Can you give me some background on yourself?
Michael Ray Fox: I was born in Toronto, Canada and loved to write at a young age. Probably the biggest influence on me in those early years was my father's video camera. He bought this really big VHS camera back in 1984 and, though I wasn't allowed to touch it, I was fascinated by what it could do.
The first time I ever made a movie was my own version Star Wars back in 1989 when I was about 7 years old. It was just the worst thing you can possibly imagine but I kept making short little movies with my brothers and cousins as actors and gradually learned a lot about how it's done.
When I was 9 years old, my parents found a good deal on second-hand Sony Hi8 camera and bought it for me for Christmas. I used to shoot video projects for school and edit everything on VCR. I became known as "the movie guy" in my Elementary school. Currently I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and grew up here for the most part
How are you achieving your career goals and aspirations?
I pretty much just keep plugging away at it. I enjoy acting, writing, and filmmaking and look for opportunities that may present themselves. Canada, and specifically the province of Nova Scotia, does provide a lot of growth and opportunity for emerging talent. Currently I am part of group of emerging filmmakers sponsored by Film Nova Scotia attending the "Produced By" conference in Los Angeles this summer. This is just one of the ways the province supports filmmakers.
I have also been a member of the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative for the past ten years. I have had a lot of professional training through the Co-op and have received several grants for my productions. The most important factors in how I am able to achieve all of this is the continued support of my wife, my parents and, of course, my filmmaking colleagues.
You're very successful in the horror genre, was this a conscious career decision?
If I had to pick a favourite genre it would be Fantasy. If you search YouTube for my attempts at making fantasy movies over the years, you'll see a lot of plastic swords and bed sheets used as medieval tunics. It's hard to make Game of Thrones unless you've got some moolah, and I'm making stuff on a shoestring budget. Horror is great because it's so popular and there is always going to be an audience for horror films.
My contributions to the genre have mostly been comedic rather than going for something truly terrifying. My latest short film Katrina's New Beau is about a girl who brings her new boyfriend home to meet her parents and they are shocked to discover that he's a Zombie! The parody element comes into play when Dad exclaims, "First Vampires, now THIS?" (an obvious poke at the monster-fetish explored in Twilight)
Horror is very popular and not only do viewers forgive low budget production values for horror films, they often embrace them. Horror Film Festivals are the second largest group of genre-specific festivals in North America (next to Gay, Bi, and Lesbian Film Festivals). The horror genre probably has the most specific target audience from any other genre (except for pornography). This makes it easy to give your audience exactly what they want from a film.
Personally, I like to play with the genre conventions when I write horror. For example, when you watch a horror film, you know straight from the exposition which characters are fodder and which ones are probably going to make it to the final act. When I wrote The Living Impaired (my 2005 no-budget feature), I killed off the more complex characters early in the story and kept the under-developed characters until the end. My new short film Katrina's New Beau revisits these kinds of plays on horror conventions that I think fans of the genre will really appreciate.Katrina's New Beau will premiere in Halifax, NS Canada in The Music Room Concert Hall.
Can you tell me a bit about some of your work up to date - Living Impaired, Just Buried, Outlander etc?
I was fortunate to get to do a few parts in films that I'm really proud to be a part of like Outlander, Just Buried and Hobo with a Shotgun. I got to play a drunk redneck in Chaz Thorne's Just Buried and I played one of 'the aliens' in the sci-fi film Outlander (which is a REALLY rad movie for those who may not have seen it yet!)
What can you tell me about Hobo With a Shotgun?
This movie is AWESOME! But if you don't have a strong stomach, I would recommend skipping it. I've known John Davies (the writer) and Jason Eisener (the director) for years, but they're probably getting too famous to give me the time of day now. Those two always made great little entertaining no-budget films over the years.
We were all in the Film Co-op's Film 5 training program in 2006, and not long after is when Jason was picked for the Grindhouse contest with Hobo with a Shotgun. Robert Rodriguez held a contest for in which filmmakers would shoot a "fake movie trailer". Jason and John’s trailer for Hobo was the winner and Alliance Atlantis liked it so much that they played the Hobo with a Shotgun trailer at the beginning of Grindhouse for the Canadian release. This helped get the development of the feature version off the ground.
I got involved really just from begging Jason to give a part (even just a small part). I did a little scene playing a doctor tending to a kid that had overdosed on drugs as the Rutger Hauer (the Hobo) made his way through a dark hospital. It wasn’t much but I'm just really proud to be a part of this wicked movie.
What are the high points of your career to date?
One of my proudest moments was when the short film I directed A Lesser Sort of War was accepted to the Atlantic Film Festival in 2007. I had submitted six movies over the prior six years to the festival and none of them were accepted so it felt really good to finally have a film screened at the festival. A Lesser Sort of War also aired on the CBC here in Canada in November 2009.
Any film project you've taken and regretted?
Not really. I think I've made some weak movies but I just avoid letting people see them. I look at all of them as a learning experience.
Any you've passed on and regretted?
Generally I tend not to pass on projects. There have been projects I got involved in that fell apart, usually because of funding opportunities that didn't work out. So, in a way, I regret not having seen them through.
Who would you like to work with?
Bret 'the Hitman' Hart. I think he's a really good actor! Sometimes he made me wonder if pro wrestling was real or not. I think it takes a lot skill to do that. If he won’t be wrestling anymore I think he would make a great actor.
Who are your influences?
Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
I want to make theatrical feature films and I want to be at that stage in my career within the next five years.
Any other projects you've got upcoming?
I have very large "project slate" and what I'm doing next really depends on what I can get into production. Nothing is concrete right now but there a couple of theatrical features I am trying to get funding for. There is a lot of competition and for every success I’ve had, I’ve had 50 failures to go along with it. But that 50 failure to 1 success ratio is worth it for the opportunities I do get.
Michael Ray Fox’s site: http://www.whitelancefilms.com/
Watch A Lesser Sort of War: http://www.whitelancefilms.com/alsw.htm
More on Hobo with a Shotgun: http://www.hobowithashotgun.com
Follow Michael Ray Fox on Twitter: @MichaelRayFox
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