(This interview was originally published on November 16, 2011 at The Rogers Revue)
John Charles Meyer at the 2011 Spooky Movie Festival at Artisphere – Photograph by Michael Parsons
With guest starring roles on “CSI: NY” and “Southland”, appearances in over forty short films including leads in “love/junkie” and “Affliction” (not to mention his multiple stage performances), it seems difficult to capture the diversity of John Charles Meyer in one paragraph. In Kenneth Cran’s horror feature “The Millennium Bug”, Meyer adds a hell of a performance to his repertoire as Billa Crawford, the maniacal backwoods antagonist whose comically menacing presence is overshadowed only, and quite literally, by a prehistoric creature on New Year’s Eve Y2K. Meyer was nominated for Best Actor at the New Orleans Horror Film Festival last month for the role.
The actor has escorted the film, so to speak, on a good portion of its 2011 festival circuit where both have become favorites among indie and horror fans alike. Naturally, when the film made its way to Washington, DC for the Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival, I was anxious to find out what all the hype was about.
After screening what I might describe as an uncomfortably fun, bloody exercise in madness(check out my review of the film from October), I sat down with John Charles Meyer to find out more about Cran’s No CGI Films production. As much a charismatic actor promoting his film as a laid back guy who had just finished catching up with some friends, Meyer gave me some insight into the making of “The Millennium Bug”.
Michael Parsons: So there was no CGI used in the movie. Was there a lot of superimposing for the creature effects?
John Charles Meyer: Yeah, there’s a little compositing. Very little green screen, but a little bit of compositing where you’re shooting one practical element and marrying it with another. It’s movie magic that I don’t know a heck of a lot about, but it is all practical effects and none of it is computer generated.
MP: I thought your character [Billa Crawford] was hilarious. He was meant to be I’m assuming….
JCM: [Laughing] Yes.
MP: Did you gravitate to the role or was it something that was thrown at you?
JCM: The casting director has a writing partner who directed a short film that I was in. And so her writing partner recommended me. That’s how I got in the room. I mean, it was just a non-union, tiny little unpaid project but it was a feature film and I’d only done one of those at this point. I signed on with this film two and a half years ago.
MP: When did production start?
JCM: In 2008. They shot almost a full year of miniatures, animatronics and sets without actors… things like the town, the monster and everything else. Then they cast the film. They started shooting human actors in April of 2009 I think. That took six to eight months, then post-production took a year.
MP: I think I remember “The Dark Crystal” taking Jim Henson about seven years to complete because everything was actually built for that movie….
JCM: Basically. [Laughing] Certainly Jim Henson’s stuff had a lot more of that… but the little bit that our movie has, it’s the exact same thing – it’s all created.
MP: The creature actually reminded me a little bit of the Rancor from “Return of the Jedi”.
JCM: Yeah… wow. I’m sure our director [Kenneth Cran] would take that as a compliment. We had one other guy compare it to Sam Raimi meets Jim Henson….
MP: I read that you are an associate producer as well.
JCM: Yeah. Basically, I did a lot of the social media and website presence stuff for them about a year ago in exchange for a production credit. No money, just pop me in there as one of the low end producers. After our first screening, I emailed them and said ‘hey, if you guys want some more help, I’m happy to keep doing stuff.’ And they kind of handed me everything. I’m now doing press, social media, festivals and distribution. [Kenneth and James] are involved to a point, but both of them have day jobs and I don’t. So this has in a large way fallen in my lap.
MP: How much time do you have left on the festival circuit?
JCM: Ten more left out of eighteen, at least of the festivals that we’re in right now. We have another six to ten that we’re going to apply to for the 2012 season. So we could have as many as 25 when it’s all said and done. We also have our first city where we’re four-walling a theater, getting a theater to put up the movie for a couple nights in Toronto in late October. Things are rolling along nicely. The next big step is to get some buyers internationally.
MP: I was going to ask about the distribution and where that was.
JCM: We’re going to be making some decisions in the next few weeks. We’ve got a couple offers on the table, most of them don’t excite us that much. Be we have to walk that fine line between playing hard to get and missing out on an opportunity.
MP: What was the most hazardous scene in the movie for you?
John Charles Meyer as Billa Crawford
JCM: [Laughing] There were quite a few all the way through. It was a non-union production so they’re beholden to a lot fewer rules. We had only one stunt guy from outside of the cast, because one of our cast members does some stunts and he helped out. So we only had an outside guy come in for one day for a scene where I crash through the ceiling of a building and land on my back. He rigged the wiring and suited me up. I had an ‘armadillo’ plate on my back, and they dropped me from about six or seven feet in the air. We probably did about fifteen takes. The stunt gear, man when it’s rigged properly it’s amazing. I mean, I didn’t feel a damn thing. I actually got more bumps and bruises doing other things in the movie.
MP: So you’re living out on the West Coast now?
JCM: I live in Los Angeles. DC used to be home, I lived here for fifteen years. It’s fun to be back.
John Charles Meyer has several upcoming projects. He is an executive producer and co-star of the feature film “El Tio Sam” which is now in post-production. The story revolves around a Mexican-American widower whose son goes AWOL from the US Military. In addition, John recently had an appearance on “Mike & Molly” (CBS), and has two short films wrapping up this year. As far as festival season, “The Millennium Bug” has amassed numerous awards, including Best Feature at both Dragon*Con and the New Orleans Horror Film Festival. It has also garnered at least three wins for best special/visual effects. According to John, there is a sequel in the works titled “MB3K”… for the time being, the project is strictly hush-hush.
My appreciation goes to Mr. John Charles Meyer.
Visit www.mbugmovie.com to learn more about the movie.