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Mark Potts, filmmaker and star, “Cinema Six”

by on July 22, 2012
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Click here for showtimes and complete details for Indy Film Fest 2012!

Mark Potts, co-director, co-writer and a star of the Indy Film Fest comedy/drama “Cinema Six,” took some time to talk to Christopher Lloyd of The Film Yap about this look behind the concession bar of a movie theater cineplex.

Your movie is set in a movie theater and examines the lives of the people who work there. How did you and co-writer/director Cole Selix come with the idea for this movie?

Cole and I became good friends during high school when we worked at the local movie theater in Enid, OK. We were both there for a few years, and it was a fantastic job. Actually, calling it a job is sort of a lie because it didn’t feel like work (unless we were having to interact with customers. That’s another story…) We wrote the original draft of the film about five, six years ago and it was very, very different. And over time, as we grew older and Cole got married and had a kid and life changed quite a bit, the script changed with it.

How did you get the ball rolling on production? What was the shoot like?

Pre-production started in November of 2009 when Don Swaynos and Kelly Williams came on board to produce. A few months later, Nick Tankersley came on to help, and then we found Reilly Smith to help fund the film and find more funding. From that point, it was a lot of meticulous planning. Cole and I have made some other features for pretty much no money and realized early on that we had to be very, very prepared so we could maximize our time and minimize wasteful spending.

Production began in February 2011 and took 11 days. It was an incredible amount of fun. We were working with a crew for the first time, and they were all so great. They busted their asses for not a lot of money, but they believed in the project and for that, Cole and I are eternally grateful.

We had half a day of reshoots a few months later, followed by half a day in NYC to shoot the theater owners’ scenes, bringing the production to 12 full days. I don’t remember sleeping that much. It was fantastic.

“Cinema Six” seems to understand the grimy, popcorn butter-soaked world of the cineplex very well. Any personal experience as an exhibitor to draw on? (If you do, then you’ll appreciate the proper use of the term “exhibitor” instead of “exhibitionist.”)

Yes! I very much appreciate that. We had a lot of fun during our time at our movie theater. I tell people all the time that the theater is where I really attended film school. Cole and I watched anything and were there all the time. We watched “Gigli” three times. Three times. How am I alive? I don’t know.

Tell us a little about your development as a filmmaker.

Cole and I started Singletree Productions in 2006 and have been going ever since. And it took a while to get remotely worth watching. For years, we just made crap. Piece of crap after piece of crap. But each piece was slightly better, and that’s what I’ve learned after all these years: You just have to keep creating things. I knew a lot of what I made was severely flawed. My goodness, I look back and just laugh (and not because it’s supposed to be funny). But each one helped the next one, and that experience is invaluable. I don’t know enough people, especially students, who actually make things. They look for classes to force them to make things. We made so many videos in college, and I’m pretty sure only four or five were actually for class.

A turning point for us was when Brand Rackley came to us wanting to help. The guy is tremendous, and I’m not saying that because he’s my friend. I actually hate him. He’s a fantastic actor, he’s good with the women and he’s so sharp and funny. I’m jealous of him but so proud. He started good and has just grown into a ridiculously talented actor and writer.

Where did you find your great cast? I thought John Merriman and Lindsey Newell, in particular, stood out.

John Merriman is from Austin and is one of the best actors to come from that city. He’s done a ton of great projects and was gracious enough to come on board “Cinema Six.” We met him years ago when he was a film programmer at the Austin Film Festival and we were playing some shorts there.

Lindsey Newell was from Oklahoma and she’s been in almost every major production we’ve done. She grew up in Enid, OK, as well and went to the University of Oklahoma for theatre. We always try to include her. Poor woman, we’ve made her do some terribly demeaning things for the sake of comedy. But she’s a pro and a great friend, so she never complains.

In addition to your work behind the camera, you also play one of the principal characters. What’s that challenge like? Did you mostly hand off directing duties to Cole for your scenes?

Cole and I have a great relationship when directing because we prepare so much beforehand. We know what each other wants and what we want to get. For the scenes I was in, it wasn’t much different for the scenes I wasn’t in. But since I couldn’t see everything, he was in complete control for those scenes. We trust each other, and that’s the best thing to have when shooting a movie.

If I read your IMDB page right, you’re 27 but have already directed four feature films and wrapped production on your fifth. Are you just trying to make the rest of us look bad?

I appreciate that. Every production before “Cinema Six” was done for almost no money. “Stanton Family Grave Robbery” was about $5,000. The rest, combined, we shot for roughly $3,500.

We found ourselves making 20-plus-minute-long shorts and knew they’d have a hard time finding a home at festivals. So, one day, we just said, “Screw it, let’s shoot for 75 minutes,” and that’s what we kept doing. For a while, we either made shorts less than five, six minutes long or features. We just wanted to challenge ourselves and see if we could do it. These experiments definitely helped when it came to shooting “Cinema Six” because we knew what we needed most: preparation and backup plans.

Tell us about your next film and any other future projects in the works.

We’re not sure what’s next for us right now. We’re working on a new short that we’re really excited about and we’re hopefully going to have another film in production next year. We have three projects in consideration, all three incredibly different. One is a comedy, another a fairly serious movie about dying and the other a creepy film about a journalist doing nefarious acts to gain story assignments. We’ll just have to see what “Cinema Six” brings us.