One of the most challenging shoes to fill on a film set are those that belong to the Film Director. Essentially, when they are standing on the stage (or rather, film set) their job is to create a masterpiece. Growing up, when I pictured a film set – I always envisioned that the director would be like Vincent van Gogh. In other words, they would be like the artist that brings together all the elements and colors to make that perfect painting. Like a painting, a film takes an incredible amount of time, dedication, patience and a genuine eye for the perfect picture and story.
For Director/Writer Rich Phelps, film has become an incredibly important part of his life – especially when it comes down to capturing that perfect relationship amongst characters. An Indiana native, Rich fell in love with the art of film at a young age and it stuck with him ever since. After taking a dive and moving out to Seattle, he found himself immersed in an incredible career as a professional editor. Rich’s newest short film, titled One Way or Another, is his ‘Starry Night’ in regards to his projects. One Way or Another is based on true events from a story that Rich’s father, a war veteran, would tell to Rich growing up. When Rich’s father, passed away – Rich took those stories (this one in particular) and turned it into a cinematic masterpiece. I have to say, it is films and stories like these that truly grab my heart and mean the most to me.
I absolutely admire when you hear of stories like One Way or Another and you get to see them brought to life on the screen. Truly, there are some great stories out there that are far better than any fiction novel – and I am super excited to hear that not only did Rich’s film air at the River’s Edge International Film Festival in Kentucky, but it will also be making an appearance at the Destiny City Film Festival in Seattle.
After having some great conversations with Rich, I felt as though his story was one that absolutely needed to be told – and I cannot wait for the world to see his film:
1. What was it that originally got you involved in the world of film? Was it something you were always passionate about growing up, or was it something you stumbled upon one day?
I fell in love with movies in 1981. I grew up in a really rural part of southern Indiana, so I didn’t make it to the theater much. But one day that summer, my dad took me to the big city (Cincinnati), to see a buddy of his. That guy had daughters who were a little older than me. They could drive. And they were going to the movies. Somehow, I managed to tag along with them to see a really obscure little art film that had just come out called Raiders of The Lost Ark. It could have been the excitement of being out with older kids (and no parents) in a real city… it could have been sitting in a packed theater for the first time ever… or it could have been the magic that Spielberg, Lucas, and Larry Kasdan put up on that giant screen. Whatever it was, the whole experience blew. my. mind. It was over for me. Movies would dominate my attention for the rest of my life.
2. That being said, was there a moment or time that you recognized filmmaking was not just a hobby – but that it would become a bigger part of your life?
Even though I spent the better part of my teens and twenties devouring movies however I could get them, I never really thought much about making them. I wrote a lot, as a hobby. Prose mostly, Short stories and things… but I worked a blue-collar job (Now living in Northern California) and focused my free time on outdoor activities. Snowboarding, skateboarding, wakeboarding… that sort of thing. In my late twenties, I quit that job and moved to Seattle on a whim. As soon as I arrived here, I met a whole bunch of actors, musicians, artists, and indie filmmakers. That led to me not only diving head-first into the creative film community, it eventually landed me a whole new career as a professional editor.
3. What makes a ‘great film’ for you? Are there certain aspects or qualities that make a film even better for you, personally?
I wouldn’t say I have a specific or definitive list. For me, though, it mostly boils down to character. Or, more specifically, relationships between characters. No matter what the setting, genre, style, whatever… the films that I really connect with the most powerfully tend to explore their subjects through relationships. Think about the big, climactic endings from your favorite films… I’ll bet that for most of them, those moments are followed by something quiet between the characters. Something to cement how a relationship formed… or changed… or survived… through the events that occurred. The credits don’t roll on Jaws as soon as the shark dies… they roll after we see Brodie and Hooper swimming home together and hear Brodie say “I used to hate the water.” On its surface, that movie is about a giant killer shark. But what really makes it great is that the whole thing is actually about relationships. It’s as much a character-study film as exists anywhere… and in my opinion, that’s why it works so exceptionally well. Also… spoiler alert for Jaws. Oops.
4. What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?
Well, I’ve mentioned Raiders and Jaws… so obviously they’re right up there. Off the top of my head, a few other influential or inspiring films would be 12 Angry Men, Shaun of the Dead, Alien and Aliens (I love them both for completely different reasons), Seven Samurai, City of Lost Children, Searching for Bobby Fischer, The Sting, Back to the Future, Groundhog Day, Finding Nemo, Norma Rae, Do the Right Thing, The Princess Bride, and maybe another 50 or 60 others that I’m forgetting at the moment. Looking back at what I’ve written, I think this ended up being a general list of some of my favorite films, even though that wasn’t my intention. There’s probably a bunch of more recent stuff, too, that I would call inspiring, even if they might not crack my “favorites” list… yet. Things like Mad Max Fury Road, The Arrival, Get Out, A Quiet Place, and Ex Machina.
5. All of your works are extremely visually appealing; especially the music video Rise Up and your Gaming Reimagined marketing film. What do you look for when filming a shot? Yours are incredible!
Well thanks so much. That’s really generous! For most of the work that’s featured on my site, I was brought in for post production, so there was another team in charge of the original creative and the visuals during the shoot. But for Rise Up in particular, I worked on that with a directing parter… a very talented local Producer/Director named Aidan Martin. We came up with the idea for the video and wrote it together… and then pitched it to the artist. He liked the idea and trusted us all the way through to what you see now. Aidan also directed and produced the Gaming Reimagined spot, working for a local production company and, of course, the Microsoft client. That one was pretty heavily manipulated in post, but he shot it with exactly those kinds of effects and cuts in mind. Regardless of the content, be it a film, music video, corporate video, commercial, or web series… I think the visual style has to be dictated by the creative. It all depends on the emotion or reaction the piece is meant to evoke. Once you know where you’re headed, you do your best to bring in the people who can best help you get there. I’ve been pretty lucky in my editing career to work with footage that was captured by really talented directors, DP’s, and lighting folks.
6. Can you tell me a little more about the plot of your upcoming film, One Way Or Another?
Absolutely. It’s the story of three men who find themselves together late at night in a tiny bar on some desolate highway. Two locals and a stranger passing through. One of the locals has a bad temper anyway, and a little too much to drink. He decides he doesn’t like the new guy… and tries to enlist his buddy to help beat and rob the man. His friend stands up to him, and tensions start to rise all around. That leads to more trouble than anyone was really ready for… the kind of trouble that can ruin, or even end, a life.
7. What was it that inspired your most recent film, One Way Or Another?
It’s based on a true story. It’s a night my dad lived through when he was in his twenties. He was kind of a hellraiser in those younger days. He spent time in motorcycle gangs and found himself in more than a few situations that would be worthy of making a film about. A few years ago, he passed away suddenly on the night before Father’s Day. He was only 70… and I wasn’t ready to lose him. The day after his funeral, I took his Harley out for a ride to sort of “say goodbye” to him and managed to crash it. Several broken bones, skull fractures, and a brain hemorrhage later, I found myself being airlifted to that same old big city (Cincinnati) for some much needed emergency medical treatment. As you can imagine, I was incredibly depressed and feeling unbelievably guilty for putting my family through something like that right in the middle of dealing with losing my dad. I’m sure everyone handled that horrible summer in their own way… but my main outlet over the next few wheelchair-bound weeks, was to start writing again. I wrote some of those old stories that dad had told over the years… including this one. And then I decided to turn it onto a short film. The whole thing is kind of a tribute to him and his memory.
8. How did you come up with the title for the film – it is quite catchy!
To be honest, naming the thing was a struggle for me. For months it was just called “Bar Fight” on the page. Then one of my producers, Tony Tibbetts, plucked that line of dialogue out of the script (you can hear it in the trailer) and said “Just call it that”. I liked it and ran with it!
9. Your father, a war veteran, certainly had a lot of stories. What was it about this story in particular that made you want to turn it into a film?
He did. Anyone who knew him would tell you… he’d talk your ear off. He was the type of guy who would strike up a conversation with anyone. Stories were just part of the bargain if you knew him. I’m no different, I guess. I take after him in that way. But even my wildest stories don’t have quite the edge that some of his did. As I said, he was a hot tempered guy in his youth. By the time he was 30, he’d been married twice… fathered children… lost a child to cancer… been to war in Vietnam… ridden with motorcycle gangs… you name it. Of course, by the time I was an adult, all of that wildness was out of his system or at least buried beneath layers of other life experiences. My own wife was shocked more than a few times to hear about some of his exploits. You’d just never suspect it unless you knew him before. I picked this particular story because it was dramatic, but somewhat contained. There were others that would require hundreds of extras with motorcycles… or helicopters… or even explosives. Until I can put together a budget that will allow me to blow up a two-story farmhouse, some of those other stories will just have to stay on the page.
10. One Way or Another was recently at the River’s Edge International Film Festival in Kentucky, and is headed to the Destiny City Film Festival in Seattle – how exciting is it so see your works on the screen? Especially ones that are as close to your heart as this story is.
It’s almost indescribable. I’ve been lucky enough to see some of my corporate work go on to get millions of views online… which is amazing. But it really doesn’t compare to the feeling you get when you show people something like this. Something that’s personal to you… that you brought into existence. I get butterflies in my stomach just showing it to someone alone in my living room. A few months ago, it premiered at the Hollyshorts Film Festival in LA, where I got to see it on the big screen at the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. For a guy who grew up in love with movies, that was so incredibly special. Mostly though, I’m just glad people are getting to see it. Yeah, there’s a lot of personal emotion wrapped up in the movie for me… but aside from that, I’m really proud of all the hard work everyone else did on to get it made. The actors were amazing. Every single member of the crew kicked ass as well. And it wasn’t an easy job. Our shoot was out in the bitter cold overnight in February of last year. All that talent and effort deserves a reward… and these screenings are a big part of that reward.
11. Will there be a sequel in the works? I’m sure everyone would love to know what happens next! One Way or Another: Part 2?
Haha. I don’t think so. As I mentioned, there are lots of dad’s stories I could tell that would fit right in as a kind of sequel to this… but really, the subject matter in this film is pretty far outside my usual wheelhouse. I’ve written some new things over the past few months that I’m pretty excited about. And even though the new stuff may look and feel pretty different, I can guarantee that the lessons and influences I got from my dad’s life will still be baked in to everything I do.
12. What areas of film would you personally like to explore in the future?
I’m a big fan of mystery and sci fi. And I think that there are some terrific ways to use them to explore the characters and relationships I love so much. My next project is firmly planted in that type of world. It also has a female protagonist… which is something I’m excited about, coming off of a film that explored so much masculinity. I definitely love the idea of attacking stories from all sots of different angles, styles, and genres.
13. What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get a jump start in their own life, creating film?
It’s the simplest advice in the world. Just go do it. You don’t need huge money. You don’t need fancy tools. And you don’t need permission. Even if you’re just shooting with your phone, the the tools and avenues to tell stories this way are wide open right now. And I say that as a guy who didn’t always do that when I had the chance. I spent a bunch of my early career waiting to attack my personal projects because I thought I didn’t have the resources I needed. I thought everything had to be perfect before I could make something. And because of that, I just didn’t create enough. Losing my dad didn’t jumpstart my creativity… but it sure as hell created a sense of urgency in me. If you’ve got something to say, get out there and say it. There’s no better time than right now.
It was an absolute pleasure speaking with Rich, and if there is one thing I learned from our brief conversations – it is that this guy truly has an incredible eye and passion for film. Following the Destiny City Film Festival, One Way or Another is looking to be released online around March 17th, as a tribute to Rich’s father on what would be his birthday.
If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check out the trailer for One Way or Another below:
On a quiet night in a roadside bar, egos and alcohol ignite – sending two friends on a path toward a violent showdown that could forever change both of their lives.
*Based on true events.
Starring – Nick Palmieri, Ray Hopper, David S. Hogan and Joseph P. McCarthy
Julia recently published her first novel, titled; Anomic. She is currently co-authoring a novel called ‘Snow Falls’. She has a B.A in Communications with concentrations in Professional Writing and Public Relations. She is also in the United States Army Reserves as a Military Police Officer, and is currently in the process of going back to school for her Masters Degree in Business. When she isn’t writing, she is co-owner of a film production studio called ‘Valentine Productions LLC’ and she frequently spends her weekends acting in films, or being a stuntwoman.