Kenneth Mader is known for his strong visual sense of storytelling, along with musician’s sense of timing and a knack for working with actors, Kenneth Mader is a multi-award-winning writer-director-editor and skilled cameraman recently nominated into the NBC Universal Directing Fellowship. He has a successful feature in release through 20th Century Fox that premiered on the SyFy Channel and another picture he worked on recently won Best Feature in the New York International Film Festival as well as the Audience Choice Award at the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema.
He wrote and directed an award-winning 35mm short film starring Andrea Thompson (“NYPD Blue”, “24”) and the late Don S. Davis (“Stargate SG-1”, “The X-Files”), directed a romantic comedy starring Michael Sorvino that premiered at the Method Fest film festival, wrote an award-winning screenplay “Deep Focus” that took home Best Feature Screenplay in its category at the Action On Film Written Word Awards, along with Excellence in the Craft of the Written Word for his action-adventure script “Razer”.
He was born and raised in Chicago where he began his film career as a young production assistant, moving to Los Angeles in 2001 after securing distribution on his first feature film “Carnivore”, which went on to become a domestic home video and international cult hit. He is a founding member and former President of the Chicago Screenwriters Network (co-founded along with “Criminal Minds” executive producer Edward Allen Bernero) and has made his living in L.A. as a writer-director-editor and cameraman ever since.
He recently cut a music video for Lakeshore Records and CBS Films’ “Beastly” motion picture soundtrack and directed another music video for indie label Dark Star Records that landed on the Top-10 of the national CVC rock charts.
His development & production shingle Maderfilm has numerous projects in the pipeline, currently in production on his next feature film “Displacement”. He is also a RED Digital Cinema Professional now offering full RED production and post capabilities.
A tireless creative force with an intense passion for the medium that shows dramatically in his work, he is repped by Jo-Ann Carol and Jason Dravis at the Monteiro Rose Dravis Agency –SOURCE (IMDB)
I welcome you Kenneth at SANGKRIT, Did you always know you were going to be a movie producer ?
Yes, pretty much from the womb.
I joke, but as early as I can remember I wanted to be a filmmaker. My father bought me my first Super-8 film camera when I was 8 years old and I never stopped making movies, just graduated to bigger and more expensive equipment as I got older. So from early childhood I’ve been obsessed with filmmaking and all things movie-related. In fact seeing J.J. Abrams’ SUPER 8 a couple of summers ago was a truly surreal experience for me. I grew up in the late 70’s (okay, yeah, I’m dating myself) and was enormously influenced by Steven Spielberg’s early work so I totally connected with the “Spielbergian Zeitgeist” of that film and its characters in a profound way. I basically was those kids in that movie, making films in the suburbs of Chicago with the very cameras they used in that picture, reading the very same Super8Filmmaker magazines (in fact I believe I have the exact issue featured in the movie on a shelf in my office — the same shelf I have my old super-8 cameras on display; I call it my “museum”). I even built model train sets in my parent’s basement, blew them up with M-80s and filmed the destruction. And just like the teenage director character in the film, I had an obsession with “Production Value!” that carries on to this day.
You are a multi-award-winning filmmaker so starting from your first film to “Displacement” how do you see your journey has been?
In many ways my journey has echoed other filmmakers and in other ways it’s been quite unique. Despite starting as a kid, I’m a bit of a “late bloomer” compared to many, having not begun shooting my first indie feature until my late 20’s (“Carnivore”) after a number of false starts and financing debacles on other projects… which then took over a decade to complete and finally get released! Yep, 12 years from start to finish, raising money as we went, funding it with credit cards, building sets in my producing partner’s basement and my parent’s garage, the works. It was nuts. Took 2-1/2 years just to get it shot and in the can – imagine the continuity nightmares – then another 9 years to find completion funds and deals to finish post-production. It was quite the trial by fire and an exercise in extreme perseverance. But we ultimately landed a sales agent and a number of international deals, with distribution through 20th Century Fox and a premiere on the SyFy Channel, so in the end it was worth it and provided me the impetus and opportunity to move to Los Angeles, start working in the industry and ‘upping my game’. I’ve since produced and directed over a dozen films, many of them award-winning, all of them leading to this, my first theatrical feature.
Have you done any extensive research for your film “Displacement” ?
Very extensive. I spent nearly 4 years researching and writing the script, going through numerous drafts and consulting with a good friend of mine who is a quantum physics expert. He has been incredibly helpful with the science aspects of the screenplay which has also helped tighten the story and add some interesting and intriguing elements. Time travel is a tricky genre to write in, dealing with non-linear storytelling, “Grandfather Paradox” and the like, making sure the science is both accurate yet accessible and understandable for an audience. It’s a delicate balancing act. Plus with so many great films that have come before, it’s challenging to find an original take on the subject. But I believe we have, and focusing more on the characters and their journey plus the fact that it’s my most personal screenplay to date has helped.
What do you hope audiences take away from your film?
My desire is that audiences come away from the film renewed, having experienced a deeply emotional journey with our characters that explores a range of issues, not the least of which is losing a parent and the grief and sometimes guilt associated with that. I’ve lost both my folks now over the last few years which was a major motivating factor for me to write this script and make the film. At its core Displacement is a story about letting go of the past. It’s about making oneself whole, using the metaphor of quantum physics and particle pairs to tell that story. I hope it can touch audiences in the same way it’s touching me and my team, and perhaps help some people heal in the process. At the very least I hope they’re entertained and enjoy the ride!
You already shared the easiest parts of filming so now tell us about the hard parts of filming ?
The hardest part for me is actually raising the money, and consequently working within the confines of a limited budget. Though at times it can be liberating as you don’t have money to throw at problems, rather you need to be inventive and creative, it is also frustrating and the bane of every independent filmmaker’s existence. The “money thing”. Hence why we’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign to help raise at least part of the funding we need to complete the film, with the rest coming from equity deals and investors.
How important is it for you to have your films screened at festivals ?
Festivals to me are very important and have become a large part of my filmmaking experience over the last few years. They are typically the first time you get to screen your film in a theatrical environment for an audience of complete strangers. It is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. A crucible of sorts. But it provides enormous feedback and an opportunity to see if your picture is working for an audience. Festivals can of course also be a launching pad into securing distribution for your film. Plus they tend to level the playing field and set you on even footing with other artists, even A-Listers and celebrities who may also be screening their films in the event, so opportunities abound to meet and create relationships with people you otherwise would never get a chance to speak with. And then if you’re lucky enough to win some awards and gain some recognition, who knows where that might lead.
What do you feel is your strength as a director and how would you like to be remembered ?
I would hope to be remembered as solid visual storyteller who at the very least entertained a few people, inspired some thoughtful conversations, touched audiences emotionally, enlightened some perhaps, communicated a few interesting ideas, and at best helped affect some positive change in the world or humanity at large (sounds lofty I know, but I believe movies have that power). I take great pains to create an interesting visual canvas for the audience to experience and seem to have this innate ability to achieve very high production values regardless of budget. But even more important is an ability to work with actors and help guide them to deliver award-winning performances. I really enjoy collaborating with great actors to bring a character to life on the screen and create authentic emotional moments. Working with actors is sadly something that is not a major focus of film school, and it should be. The actor is your portal to the emotional heart of your picture. If as a director you don’t understand the actor’s process or how to talk to an actor, I believe you are missing a crucial element of the filmmaking process, perhaps the most important element. So working with actors to create emotionally authentic characters and strong visual storytelling is how I would like to be remembered.
What’s next for you? What other projects you are currently working on ?
My next film is a bigger budget supernatural thriller I wrote entitled DEEP FOCUS which has an Academy Award-Winning actress attached to play the lead role that we’re currently seeking financing on, as well as a psychological thriller ZALI’S CRUSH that I’m packaging with producing partner Michael Sorvino (son of famous character actor Paul Sorvino). I also just landed a directing gig on another short film, have been in post-production on a celebrity documentary that should be completed soon, and am developing two Transmedia franchises, one an action-adventure entitled RAZER and the other a supernatural series called AFTERLIFE based on my award-winning film PASSING DARKNESS.
What does success mean to you?
That’s an interesting question. The cliché answer might be “to win an Oscar” or “Palme d’Or” at Cannes or “Independent Spirit Award”, which of course would be amazing and is every filmmaker’s dream, but realistically I just want to continue to be able to do what I love, build my production company and filmmaking career to reach wider and wider audiences with my work, and make great films.
What is your ultimate message for netizens ?
Follow your dreams. Seize them. Never give up. Don’t let the naysayers and “threshold guardians” stop you (there will be many, and they will try).