By November 30, 2012 0 Comments Read More →

InterView – The Runnels Brothers

The Runnels Brothers

InterView By Chris Murphy

Modesto USA is home to one of the most famous filmmakers ever. Ever since George Lucas memorialized the Class of ’62, there is a next generation of filmmaker that is waiting for their time, and that time is happening or film making bothers Greg and Mark Runnels. From origins in LA and the East Bay, they now call Modesto home and manage film projects everywhere and currently are the film makers in residence at the Building Imagination Center in Downtown Modesto.

Greg and Mark have been working together creatively since the early 1990’s. Their feature film YOUTHANASIA was shown nationally on Palm Pictures Video On Demand Film Festival and acquired by York Entertainment. Their animated short film BREAKFAST WITH BUKOWSKI, with music by Tom Waits, had its world premiere at the Sonoma International Film Festival in 2011, and this year won the Slamdance Social Shorties Film Festival. For the last three seasons, the brothers have worked as on-camera design assistants on the Bay Area based HGTV show CURB APPEAL. In May 2012 they completed the short film REUNION (starring Jack Souza) for the PlayGround Film Festival, in association with Berkeley Repertory Theater. They have been given a grant for the Filmmakers in Residence program through CSU Stanislaus, where they are mentoring students and producing a documentary about the emerging arts scene in downtown Modesto. In November of 2012 they were awarded a second grant through PlayGround to produce and direct the short film THE SECRET LIFE OF A HOTEL ROOM. Forest Whitaker’s JuntoBox Films has optioned their feature film BUKOWSKI: AN ANIMATED LIFE, an animated bio-pic about the Los Angeles writer Charles Bukowski. They are also in development for the live action cycling film ALLEYCAT. They are acting as writers and co-executive producers at a production company in L.A., where they have several television projects in various stages of development.

This month, ModestoView catches up with this amazing talented team.

ModestoView: How is it that you are here in Modesto and manage projects everywhere? Greg: Modesto has been a great place for us to develop our own projects. L.A. is a great place to be once you have a project that is ready to go or you are working on somebody else’s project but not a great place to be when you are sitting idle. Last year I was a Producer and Mark was a Story Editor on a TV show in LA that will never see the light of day, the unfortunate reality of the film business, for that we subletted a place for the run of the show. Mark: We are Bay Areans, but we also live a transient nature. We never stay in one place for a long time. Our entire existence is driven by our creative propjects; all of our work in film and television is either in L.A. or the Bay Area. Much like migrant workers we go where the work is, just like our grandparents who came traveled back and forth from Texas to California to work the fields. Our parents first moved to Modesto in the early 1990’s, while Greg and I moved to Los Angeles in 1992, just after the riots. Currently we have a place to stay in Oakland and a place in Laurel Canyon when we have to go to L.A. In between gigs we stay in Modesto, where we have the luxury of time to develop our projects. Right now we have ten projects in various states of production and development, from feature films to television shows to short films to plays. ModestoView: Do you feel that as filmmakers, you view everything as a voyeur or as a participant? Greg: Students starting out in photography are usually given only a 50mm lens which is the perspective of the human eye. I have been using that practice in the documentary that we are producing for the Imagination Center when interviewing subjects because I feel that it forces you (the filmmaker) to be a participant as well as a voyeur. If I want a closeup I can’t just sit back with a long lens, I have to get in their personal space which forces you to develop more of a relationship with the subject. Mark: Any artist, regardless of their medium, has to be able to recognize what is brilliant work, which means they must continue to study and immerse themselves in the work of other artists. We are all shaped and hone our voice by what we like and don’t like. At the same time, an artist has to participate in life to know and recognize all aspects of what it is to be human. The job of any creative person is to present the truth in an interesting way. ModestoView: What are the quirks of society that interest you the most? Greg: People who follow their passion and convictions even if it alienates them from the majority. Mark: I like subcultures. 4. Do you feel each of you has a different perspective to filmmaking? Greg: One perspective that Mark and I have learned along the way is that you have to tackle each project with the mindset of a Producer. It has proven to be a good checks and balances, there are times that I may be looking at something outside of the reality of the production and Mark will reel me back in and vice a versa. In the end we both agree that without story, you don’t have a project. Mark: Greg and I divide and conquer by taking on different duties; that being said, there is always a check and balances system. We are both free to make independent choices, but everything must be brought to the table of our two man committee. In terms of cinematic elements, and this is a loose breakdown because we are constantly moving in and out of each other’s departments, Greg is more in charge of picture and editing, I’m more in charge of writing and dealing with actors. We both act as producers. As far as artistic perspective, Greg and I generally agree on everything as far as film, music, literature, theater and art is concerned. We both have the same tastes, so we are always in pursuit of the same objective.

ModestoView: As a filmmaker, what do you find to be the most interesting aspects of Modesto? Greg: When we were in Pre-Production for our first film we were living in L.A. As we began scouting locations we were met with the harsh reality that everybody had their hands out even though we were a micro-budget film, when we turned our attention to Modesto as our primary location we were welcomed with open arms. We have since looked at the city as our little studio filled with inviting backdrops that continue to inspire us. Mark: Having worked for years in L.A. and the Bay Area, at the same locations over and over again, for us the Central Valley is a fresh milieu. Also, Modesto and the surrounding areas have really welcomed us when it comes to shooting. The rolling foothills, waterways and vast farmlands are visually stunning to us. We didn’t grow up here, so we’re constantly discovering things. It’s like living in a Terence Malick movie.

ModestoView: Is there a person or subject that you really want to explore in film or a feature project? Greg: The Charles Bukowski project has been a labor of love that we have been working onfor years, with Linda Bukowski’s support and a home at Forest Whitaker’s production company it looks like it is right where it needs to be. I think it would be fun produce a horror film. Mark: We are getting very close to getting our Bukowski film off the ground. I’ve recently become intrigued with the classic blues singer Lucille Bogan. She was popular in the 1920’s and 30’s, and her lyrics that were so filthy they’d make Too Short blush. I think she’d make for a good story.

ModestoView: What do you think the biggest misconception is about filmmakers and directors? Greg: One of the biggest misconceptions which I wish was true is that they all have money. Mark: That they wear baseball caps and ponytails and yell a lot.

ModestoView: What feature film to you admire the most? Greg: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest because it had one of the greatest ensemble casts and was able to combine very powerful dramatic elements with moments of comedy. Mark: That’s almost an impossible question but I’ll play ball and throw out two. The Godfather Part 2 and Drugstore Cowboy.

9. What would you want to do in Modesto to make it the way you want it to be? Greg: I like what has been going on downtown with the opening of the Building Imagination Center and the Center Stage Conservatory but I wish there was more foot traffic. Can somebody please turn the old Extreme Pizza place into a Lanesplitter pizza place? Mark: I’d like to see the following establishments open up: A Jewish deli so I can get matzah ball soup, a proper craft beer pub, a Lanesplitter pizza place, a Burma Superstar restaurant and a Whole Foods. I’d also like to see more bike lanes.

ModestoView: You have been to Sundance many times. What is your most amazing memory? Mark: Well, we’ve only been once to meet a distributor, but while we were there our friend’s film was part of the festival. He had Metallica play at his party. Later that night our friends (who lived in Utah but we actually met in Modesto) took us up to the Owl Bar at the Sundance Institute. We almost hit an elk on the drive up. At the Owl Bar we stayed beyond closing doing ‘Drewski’ tequila shots. It was a blast but I still get a headache thinking about the day after.

11. What advice do you have for young filmmakers? Greg: With the introduction of HDSLR’s and some pretty amazing video quality that cell phones can capture anyone can shoot a film these days. I think it is important for filmmakers of any age to remember that capturing good clean sound is as important or maybe even more important than the image. Mark and I are putting on The Tenacious Dreams Film Festival in February in Downtown Modesto and we have had to turn down so many films that would have made the cut had they given more attention to the sound. I would also say keep it short and keep doing it, it is the only way to learn. Mark and I are constantly learning new things. Mark: If you want to learn how to make movies, go to work. Get a job as a production assistant on as many indie films as possible, pick a department and work your way up. Use your money you would have spent on film school and buy a decent camera and sound gear. Shoot a ton of short films before tackling a feature. Don’t spend a lot of money, use your time wisely, and get as close to perfection as your budget will humanly allow.

ModestoView: What do you want to accomplish as the in residence Filmmakers at the Imagination Center? Greg: We want more people in the community to be aware that it is there. Come on down to 1009 J Street in Downtown Modesto…it’s free! Mark: We want to learn as much as we teach, and inspire as much as we’ve been inspired.

ModestoView: What is your perfect day in Modesto? Greg: Getting up not too early, having a nice cup of coffee at Serrano’s, hopefully running into some familiar faces. After that getting the creative work done throughout the day. Since injuring my knee I have not been able to run so I like to end my night swimming laps at the club. Mark: Getting up early in spring and having a healthy breakfast, getting a little work done, then heading out for a run or a bike ride in Dry Creek. After that working in the yard with the lady and three cats keeping me company. Later that night, dinner at home with the Lakers playing on TV.

ModestoView: Beatles or Stones? Greg and Mark: Stones Building Imagination Center 1009 J Street in Downtown Modesto



About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.