Five Questions With Filmmaker Chris King

birthday_poster_20152Chris King is a multiple award winning filmmaker and three-time NorCal Emmy nominated television writer/producer. After receiving his B.A. in film from California State University Long Beach, he worked at Sony Pictures Entertainment as a promotions and game show writer. Simultaneously, Chris worked as a freelance scriptwriter-for-hire. His feature-length and short screenplays have garnered national attention in The Nicholl Fellowship, the Chesterfield Film Project, Fade In Magazine and HBO’s Project Greenlight. His film, Birthday, will be part of this year’s GI Film Festival.

Where are you from and what is your film background?

I am from Roseville, California, though I grew up in the Midwest.  Later moving to the West Coast, I’ve spent most of my life in Washington State and California. I went to film school at California State University Long Beach. My first film project was feature length, and I have been doing short films ever since.

Who are your biggest influences in film and why?

Terrence Malick, Michael Winterbottom, Kathryn Bigelow, Adrian Lyne, Michael Mann. I admire the work of all of these filmmakers because they all infuse, in their own ways, a great deal of realism into their films; realism in dialogue, in place and time, in character interactions.  While they all work  with varying budgetary confines, they all nevertheless employ an almost docu-style approach to the way they capture their stories.

Authenticity is what I strive for with my own projects, and I fight tooth and nail to achieve this.  Authenticity is truth, and truth ensures full immersion of your audience into your story.  While I may not achieve this every time with every actor in every setting, it is what I am after.  Nothing takes the viewer out of a “film world” faster than actors who are performing instead of experiencing, set designs that are “indie cheap” or “staged”, or lines of dialogue that are so trite that even your own dog is rolling his eyes at your words.

I am heavily influenced by these filmmakers because they all know this, and have mastered the art of extracting uber-naturalism from their actors and from the way in which they direct their cinematographers to shoot these actors.  For me, this approach, again, is truth, and therefore, the greatest element in dramatic filmmaking.

What was the hardest part about getting this film made?

Raising money to get it made.  We’d never had trouble raising money to get a film made before until “Birthday” came along. One would have thought that raising funds for a film about one of our severely wounded veterans wouldn’t have been all that challenging. This was not at ALL the case. Over a year and a half we made three attempts to fund-raise online, and each attempt failed miserably; hardly any money was raised. It still baffles us to this day. We ended up funding it ourselves out of our retirement.

What do you want viewers to take away with them after watching your film?

That if we think we have any idea what it must truly be like to go through what our severely wounded vets and their families go through following these devastating injuries, we really don’t. They are so courageous and inspiring on so many levels.

What is a fun fact about you that would surprise people?

That the original inspiration for “Birthday” was from a photo I saw online almost 3 years ago of an unknown, severely wounded young Marine. I don’t remember how I came across the picture or who the Marine was, but the expression on his damaged face haunted me. Weeks later I decided to track him down. I ultimately found him and we ended up speaking on the phone several times. He was such an amazingly positive young man. He became my first military consultant and research interview for “Birthday” and the constant driving force behind my “need” to get this film made. Almost 2 1/2 years later, this previously unknown Marine received the Medal of Honor. Most know him now as Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter of South Carolina.

Birthday, directed by Chris King is playing at Angelika on May 23, 2015. Click here for tickets.