Former talent agent turned international film Producer Asko Akopyan of Oscar Gold Productions, has just joined the HERETIC team as lead producer. The film is now slated to shoot entirely in Armenia come early 2019. It’s set to star Paul Sloan (Nation’s Fire, Vigilante Diaries) and Mark Lawson (One Life to Live).
Asko had this to say about the joining the project: “After speaking with the director John Fallon and hearing the passion and enthusiasm he had for Heretic, I read the script and realized that this is the perfect project for me to once again take back to my home country of Armenia and film it there in its entirety. I’m excited to help produce this thought provoking and powerful story.”
Man I’m happy! When it feel right, it feels right. Asko is a smart and driven Producer, a problem solver and I’m beyond elated to have somebody with his know-how with us. And it should be said that shooting in Armenia is a dream come true for this film. I was floored when I was shown all that the country has to offer in terms of locations. Let me put it this way: we won’t have to build any sets. All that we need is there – and authentic to boot.”
Logline: When two Templars are sent home after losing the second Crusade, they are forced to battle a slew of varied enemies, the pity-less elements and their own inner demons while trying to elude a mysterious assassin who is hunting them down.
HERETIC was written by Karim Cheriguene (Horsehead) and yours truly (American Muscle, The Shelter). Marc Natoli of Natoli Productions (The Proposal) is co producing alongside my company Bruise Productions and JoBlo Movie Productions.
The action driven THE PROPOSAL, a short film that I wrote and that I’m co producing is presently in pre production set to roll under the camera this coming July, 2018!
I thought I was done with short films, but when Marc Natoli, a fighter with superior skills to the norm came to me with a story idea for an action short, I was intrigued. And then when I learned what his team’s intent was technically – to basically “out-Crank” CRANK – I was sold in coming onboard to write the script. The Proposal can be perceived as many things, a short film on its own, a proof of concept for an impending feature (the potential is there IMO) or a show- off piece for all involved –but one thing is for certain – it will kick that ass like ass hasn’t been kicked since The Raid in 2011!
Here are the details!
Synopsis: When gun for hire and all around tough customer Mason Stone (Marc Natoli) takes his long time girlfriend Emma (Kahli Williams) out on the town with the intent of popping the big question, he finds his proposal plans rudely interrupted by a group of highly skilled assassins who want him dead. What’s a man to do in this kind of situation? Only one thing: kick butt
The film stars newcomer actor/martial arts expert Marc Natoli (The Siege of Robin Hood) and Kahli Williams (Neighbors). It is written by John Fallon (American Muscle, The Shelter) is Directed by Ben Whimpey (producer of Quanta and Arrowhead), Edited by Elizna van der Walt while the DP is Juzzy Kane. The Music will be by Dmitri Golovko.
Star and Producer Marc Natoli had this to say about his approach to the action: “As far as the fighting and choreography goes, what we’re aiming for is to be
different than what’s been done before. The 25 years of combat sports and Martial Arts I have under my belt has made my fighting style quite unique. Everything will be as realistic as possible. I’m going to bring together the speed and flow of Jeet Kun Do, Kali escrima, silat movement and the aggressiveness of boxing, kickboxing, wrestling and Thai styles. They will be defined and as technical as possible while staying true to realistic kick ass movements. I want people to see every move and be like f*ck that’s how it’s done!”
And here’s Producer Antonio Raiola’s take on aesthetics:
“Our aim is to fill the film with bold and unique camera moves and we have all the toys to do so! Free Fly Alta 8, 16 feet Techno Crane and more! In some of the fighting sequences, the camera will be choreographed to go in tandem with the action and it will look like it was all filmed in one take. We’ll even have a gimbal operator on roller blades at some point. Yes, we’re going above and beyond!”
Marc Natoli and Antonio Raiola also act as Executive Producers on the picture. Natoli Productions, ARR Productions, Indimax Productions and Bruise Productions are behind the film. You can follow the production via the Official Instagram page here.
I recently got to sit down with FilmQuirk to discuss my past and present projects! I even talked the problematic Billy Trigger, the first and last time that I’ll ever address what happened to that film in the media. You can read an excerpt below and the entire interview HERE!
John Fallon: The Siege is a medieval action/martial arts film shot in Victoria, Australia. It took the Hong Kong structure in terms of its directing duties. Stu Stanton directed the drama and Jackie Chan stunt team veteran Paul Andreovski streamlined the action sequences. So expect lots of eye-popping fights, colourful characters, some humour, a sprinkle of gore, high production values (we shot the bulk of the action in a castle) and a tad of a mean streak brought forward by my character of The Sergeant. Yeah, I act in it too.
“Can almost be labeled as a faith-based thriller. But with the subjects of infidelity, alcoholism, suicide coupled with open sex scenes, violence, and touches of horror, this unusual mix with its strength in faith delivers a taboo of sorts to a non-secular audience. ” – The Movie Guys
With Christmas upon us, and this being most likely my last The Shelter related piece on this Blog (locking some outstanding territories aside, the adventure is pretty much done), I figured this was an ideal time to address the Christianity inspired elements of the picture.
Much of the self-loathing, anger and selfishness that I had in my 20’s tagged with my Catholic upbringing and my rocky relationship with it back then went into the writing of The Shelter. That is why it is such a personal film for me. Although I have since conquered those demons and I am now in a place of peace, I re-visited that time frame to pen the film.
Now the movie was marketed to the horror crowd for the most part upon its release, with good reasons. It’s a bleak ride and the genre elements are there, and yes, many have gotten something out of it no matter their beliefs (except for the random person who felt preached to – you do a film about demons, all good, you explore the flip side – you’re preaching – go figure).
But I do think that people of Faith should see it too, even those who don’t normally like genre films (it’s now free on Amazon Prime) hence the main reason that I am writing this blog entry. Granted the movie is rough in places and it’s definitely not a “family movie” (don’t show the kids), but I think if you’re Christian, you should give it a try as its themes and its message should resonate with you. To give you an idea The Shelter is akin to Book of Job from the Old Testament. That was one parallel that I was going for (you can learn more background on the ins and outs of the film via the Audio Commentary on the DVD).
In closing, I’ve recently come the realization that The Shelter was basically my “message in a bottle” to the world. My intent was to move, stimulate and make the viewer think and I was so blessed to have Michael Pare in the lead to help me convey that. To be honest, the most rewarding reaction that came out of making the film has been the people that reached out to me after seeing it in person or online to let me know how it moved them or urged them to look at themselves, look at their Faith or at their past mistakes. It touched me that the film touched others. All I needed.
Here are some quotes from some of The Shelter reviews that tapped into the Christianity laced meat of the film. Click the links to read the reviews! And if you do wind up seeing it because of this Blog entry, I truly hope that it stirs you one way or another. And if you hate it, that is okay too. Merry Christmas!
“Like Book of Job from the bible, Thomas is tested through supernatural signs that lead him to an emotional place in his heart he’s learnt to hide from. It’s an uncomfortable watch as real become unreal, but because it’s what Thomas desires he goes with the flow. And then the faucet of all that he wanted is turned off. ” – Britflick
“The Shelter swirls Christianity and Silent Hill-levels of guilt to torment its protagonist, and Fallon’s strong visual style combines with a very strong turn from Pare to good effect.” – Sci Fi Now
“The neon lights become the power of Christ and his need to beg forgiveness jostles with memories that aren’t allowed to fade.” – Starbust Magazine
“The film’s religious undertones remain apparent but they never feel overly preachy and, surprisingly and cleverly, draw out whatever spirituality we believe in, making Fallon’s intentions feel relevant to us in our own particular way.” – Scream Horror Mag
“There are a lot of religious references, as well as dreamy sequences bathed in light, where we are not quite sure whether to believe what we are seeing, or if it is merely a product of Thomas’ mind.” – Movieramblings
“The beauty of Fallon’s cinematic Lament Configuration is that through extensive use of religious iconography and flashbacks that offer suggestions as to how Thomas found himself in this predicament, there are multiple conclusions that the viewer may come to, and with Fallon wisely refusing to offer his own explanation of the film’s meaning it enables the viewer to take their own unique experience with them.” – This is Horror
“Filled to the rafters with religious iconography; statues of Jesus Christ, copies of the Bible and crucifixes of ever schism, are littered everywhere you care to look. The talismans represent Thomas’ need forgiveness, but he’s a stubborn man.” – The Hollywood News
“Blending elements of spirituality, horror and redemption within the faith based storytelling, you see a very complete film in THE SHELTER.” – Tom Holland Terror Time.
“God’s not explicitly mentioned, but even a lapsed Catholic or staunch atheist will get the feeling going into the final act and after the credits roll that someone, not of this world, can and will put you out of your misery… if you’ve given up.” – Britflick
“The Shelter is Bad Lieutenant meets The Last Temptation of Christ” – Julien Dunand (Producer/We Blew It)
Hey all, I’m happy to report that my company Bruise Productions Inc. just re-optioned the screenplay for Eric Red’s No Man’s Ridge and we’re going back on the attack. It’s a brilliant script that does what so many have failed at doing: making Bigfoot scary again.
Of course Eric Red is the iconic writer/director behind horror classics such as THE HITCHER, BODY PARTS, BAD MOON and 100 FEET.
We also have Robert Kurtzman, co-founder of Award Winning Effects house KNB (From Dusk Till Dawn, Texas Chainsaw 3D) attached to execute the SFX. See the design of our Big Boy below.
No Man’s Ridge is about:
A helicopter soars over the forests in the remote Wyoming wilderness of No Man’s Ridge area. Inside are five heavily armed and formidable hunters all dressed in militarized camouflage fatigues and face paint. They have state of the art high-powered rifles, heavy caliber handguns, crossbows and hunting gear. The extreme hunters are there to bag a Bigfoot— the ultimate hunt for the ultimate trophy. The hunters wear hat cams with compact high-resolution HD cameras to record the hunt. They also have gun cams for their rifle barrels, bow cams and portable trail cameras to put on trees. In the far reaches of the wilds, the people are dropped from the hovering chopper by cable into deep forest, fifty miles from civilization. When the five hunters see an actual giant BIGFOOT walking through the woods a half-mile away, it seems like the creature doesn’t have a chance—but it’s the other way around.
Hey all! I will be at the Frontières Market in Montreal, Canada this year (under my Bruise Productions Inc. banner) and one of the projects that I will be pushing is HERETIC. You can feast your retinas on the promo poster (created by Alex Tuis) and synopsis below.
HERETIC was written by KARIM CHERIGUENE (Horsehead) and myself, is presently in development (i.e. we’re looking to secure the remaining of the funding either via private investment, pre-sales, or another producing entity joining us). The film will star the very talented PAUL SLOAN (I Am Wrath) and MARK LAWSON (One Life to Live), will be edited by MICHAEL NOURYEH (Drive, Batman V. Superman), JAVIER RUEDA (Un trabajo y una película) will DP, ELI DORSEY (The Last Witch Hunter) will handle the VFX and the film is slated to shoot in Barcelona, Spain come early 2018. Here is the synopsis:
“1149. William and Roland, two Templars, are on their way back home after losing the second Crusade. Both men are dealing with the weight of the war and of having failed God quite differently. Roland is repentant, attempting to correct his wrongs via good deeds and kindness, while William justifies his harshness by claiming that every hardship is a test and part of “God’s will”. As if the increasing divide between the two men wasn’t enough, they also have to face a slew of deadly obstacles on their journey through a civil war torn England while being chased by a mysterious assassin with an agenda of his own. The sudden presence of Anna, a bewitching woman, on their path eventually brings the palpable tension to a boil.”
The script hits a myriad of notes in one sitting. It’s an action/adventure, a potent drama, an exploration of faith/fanaticism and a mystery all at once. To say it is my passion project would be an understatement. More soon! If you’ll be at the Frontières Market and want to meet up about HERETIC, send me an e-mail HERE! Presentation, mood board and screenplay available upon request.
After its theatrical, VOD and DVD release, my directorial debut THE SHELTER, starring Michael Paré (Eddie and the Cruisers, Streets of Fire) is now be available (in the USA) on RedBox TODAY (February 7, 2017)!
I gotta say it; I’m really happy that The Shelter is getting a wider reach in North America via Redbox, with the main reason being (and I know this is gonna sound f-ing pretentious) that I had “something to say” with the film in terms of the human condition. Again, the most rewarding aspect of having made this movie thus far has been the people who have contacted me to let me know how after watching it they entered a state of self-reflection…
In related news; the film will be shopped at the upcoming EFM (European Film Market) in Berlin starting February 9. For distribution queries or to set up a meeting at said market, E-MAIL Uncork’d Entertainment HERE!
Am I now back from Los Angeles where we had THE SHELTER premiere (peep the QNA video below or here) and yes, that event and the film’s domestic release on VOD have definitely acted as a “victory point” for the film and for me personally. It’s finally out there after a two-year battle to get it done. Phew! On that, for me the fight is not over. Still got to sell the film foreign, still have to make my money back and want to broaden the film’s reach in terms of the type of audience that I think should see the movie, but more on that down the road.
A lot has come out of The Shelter’s release. I’ve never been interviewed this much in my life (Thanks Clint Morris for your hustle), the film got a slew of solid reviews (and yes the LA Times one was a highlight for me), The Academy of Motion Pictures (Oscar baby) put the script in their library, I’m starting to get known outside of the horror niche and personally the most rewarding thing of all is the folks that have expressed to me how much the film moved them or/and made them think. That was the point of that one, hence mission accomplished.
I want to take a moment and thank some of the key people behind the picture. Thank you to Producer Donny Broussard who came in early on the project, hustled with me through the hurdles and busted his ass to get me all that I needed to shoot this puppy. Couldn’t have done without you! Thank you Bobby Holbrook (and the Holbrook Multi Media team), who gave me all that he had during production and then stayed with me in the trenches during the baffling “technical-warfare” laced process that was Post Production. We went through some serious (and un-explainable) obstacles and one mammoth let down but Bobby fought with me till the bitter end.
Also a big thank you to Executive Producer and hombre Berge Garabedian for believing in the film and being my rock throughout this emotional roller coaster ride, always kicking me in the ass when I started to feel defeated. And of course a huge thanks to star Michael Pare who took a chance on a first time director and went all out for the movie. Every positive review in terms of his performance is MUCHO deserved. I couldn’t go on without thanking my pal Writer/Director/Author/Great cook Eric Red (who gave me solid tips during Pre and Post) and his wonderful wife Meredith Red. Both of them had my back throughout this journey and it was much esteemed. PS: Shout out to my amazing cast and crew! The crew was a well-oiled machine, my cast rose to the task, no way this would have happened with lesser talented people, specially taking into account the short production time we had. Pat yourselves on the back!
I’ve learned and changed a lot in the last 2 years. This undertaking acted as tough love Producer school, my persistence never got this tested before ever and I am proud to have pulled through, I loved every second of directing and am in love with the process, I grew spiritually and as a man; learning to forgive, to be humble, to not let the haters affect me, to react to obstacles in a rational fashion and to find the positive in the low blows instead of becoming cynical – cause yeah, this business will do that you, turn you into a bitter f*ck… if you let it, and I did for a while, but I have since evolved.
The Shelter’s release has acted as a first firm step on a new professional path, one that I am eager to explore and exceed in. New doors are opening, new film projects are shaping up and I am grateful for that. Thanks to all of you that have supported me and are still supporting me in my endeavors, I honestly could not have done it without you. Every positive e-mail, PM, tweet etc. fuels me to keep on going! Much love and God Bless! John
The fine folks at ICONS OF FRIGHT (thanks for the support guys, much appreciated) just took a look at THE SHELTER. You can read an excerpt below and check out the entire review HERE.
“THE SHELTER is most definitely the smart man’s horror film, putting more effort into giving its viewers a character study of a man, lost and broken and forced to face and overcome the past mistakes that caused his life to spiral out of control. It’s great to see Pare shine again, he really gives a powerful performance, one that is broken and jaded, yet damaged and full of pain in ways that we as a viewers seek to put together.”
And I was also interviewed by Punk Globe recently and didn’t plug it here yet.
Hence here is an excerpt!
“We had a fairly smooth shoot. But post-production proved to be very challenging. A lot of weird technical things kept happening, which slowed down the film’s progress considerably. It got to the point that we all started to think that we were messing with things that we’re not supposed to be messing with. I can almost write a book about the very strange things that happened around The Shelter; mostly during the writing and post-production stages.”
I have been hustling hard for this film (which I now affectionately call: “My Vietnam”) non stop for a bit now – on that, I am starting to see the light i.e. looks like the constant effort is starting to pay off. More news soon!
I was recently interviewed by the famous fan site AIN’T IT COOL NEWS aka AICN. We talked THE SHELTER…what else?! All I got these days 🙂 Here is an excerpt:
CO: Was there anything else that changed between the script and what was shot?
JF: The religious imagery. There was a statue of Christ and I do little ‘push ins’ on it. When I walked into the house location, the man who owned it was a hardcore Christian and it was filled with religious imagery everywhere. Everywhere. EVERYWHERE. It was a shrine to Christ. And I was like, okay, we’re in the right house.
THE SHELTER will be screening at the SITGES FILM FESTIVAL on October 9th at 8:00PM at the Retiro as part of the Panorama Fantastic section! Writer/Director John Fallon will be on hand to present the screening.