Nocturnal Newz Q&A with actor/filmmaker Johnny Alonso, star of HARVEY from Midnight Releasing
Written by~ Nick R. Murphy
We also discuss Johnny's acting process, and his experience as a producer on this small town murder story.
Nocturnal Newz - What was it about HARVEY that interested you to the point that you knew you had to get this movie made?
Johnny Alonso - We were already planning to shoot another project in the fall of 2020, but the Screen Actors Guild had slowed down all film production here in the U.S. We had a line on a couple investors that we just didn't want to lose. The project we had plans to shoot had over the number of actors the union was willing to work with on any 2020 project. So Ranelle decided to write a script that would be easier to control with less actors in the cast and easier locations to shoot in. The equation was just perfect. She also tailored/wrote the character KEITH for me. Ranelle and I worked together on a couple other projects prior to Harvey, so she knew what I could bring to her character. She also decided to bring me on as co-producer and co-director. Being in the industry for as long as I've been in it you meet so many people and make so many connections. It was time for me to cash in on pro favors and that's what we did with this film to get it cast perfectly and scored with killer current/retro sounding 80s vibed music and distributed for world release thru Midnight Releasing.
What was the biggest challenge you faced on the set of HARVEY?
Johnny Alonso ~ Time. Again when we shot Harvey it was right when the Screen Actors Guild issued the covid contract enforcing serious new covid rules and one of them was the "8 hour rule" with no overtime which really plays into your scheduling, locations, vision. A lot of the film takes place at the bowling alley, and the Oviedo Bowling Center. The bowling alley opens to the public at noon every day - so sometimes we'd have a calltime at 4am . We had a SAG nurse on set checking our temperature all the time, making sure we were in our work zones - always wearing the mask. Then every three days we'd have to get our PCR test and that was always fun coordinating who, where and when between set ups and locations. It was a total nightmare. But if you watch the film you'd never think we were pressed for time. We were super pro on set and everyone was working toward the same goal to make a kickass film.
What do you want the audience to be feeling once they finish watching HARVEY?
Johnny Alonso ~ Inquisitive and ready for discussion. I went to film school at NYU and I always loved talking about the films we saw in class and what the producing team accomplished or didn't accomplish. For me it's about how you get into someone's head with your work. You'll always have those out there ready to strike and dismiss your work when really they have a hidden agenda and they're watching you, copying you. I've said many times that people can try to copy, but the masses know when someone is real or someone is acting like a cheap poser. I've always believed that whether it's positive or negative, as long as they're talking about you, that means you're in their heads. I can't change someone's mind about how they feel about me or my work, but I can tell when I've influenced them I just keep quiet about it.
Nocturnal Newz goes one on one with Johnny Alonso, co-star and co-director of the new thriller, HARVEY.
Tell us a little bit about your character, Keith. What makes him tick? How is he different from other characters you've played in the past?
Johnny Alonso ~ I really loved playing the role of Keith. Ranelle specifically wrote the role with me in mind. Keith has a checkered past that he's trying to run away from. Secrets he'd like to have remain in his past. I decided to play Keith like an out of towner in this film or more like someone who doesn't think and act like the local crowd. I tried to make him very direct and he spoke and thought a little faster than the locals around him. I wanted Keith to stick out by being a little cold to everyone he works with at the alley, and in the end he really was just out for himself. I usually play image driven characters with a loud personality. Keith was built to look more like a regular guy but in the story of it all he 1000 percent wasn't a regular guy with a regular agenda. Keith was a dick.
Was it stressful to not only be a co-star, but co-producer and co-director on the film as well?
Johnny Alonso ~ Total understatement. Holy God yes! In all the years of being an actor I've been used to just showing up on set having all my dialogue memorized, building character and knowing where my character falls in the storyline and script. The attitude, energy and thought process my character is supposed to be going through at that very moment. When you shoot a script on location it's always very dissected so unless you know where your character falls in that exact moment you can lose your focus and the character becomes lost and totally unbelievable. Wearing so many hats on this set, thank God I had a handle on where Keith was mentally in the story. Ranelle gave me the script a month before everyone else to help her with casting, ideas for rewrites etc, which helped to get a head start on memorizing my dialogue and get a sense of who Keith was in the story. I needed this because producing on set takes up every single moment of the day, from recasting days before a shoot, putting out fires, to picking up your cast from the airport on the way back to set. Thankfully, when I co-directed a few scenes in this film, we had a mental vision and a list of what needed to be shot and mentally/visually accomplished. I learned a lot from this set cutting my teeth on this film as a co-director and producer.
hat was your favorite day on the set of HARVEY?
Johnny Alonso ~ Tough question, but if I had to choose my favorite day on set as an actor was with my costar Allison Meister when her character, Madison, and my character, Keith, were getting rid of the body and getting ready to drop the body in the drink. I wasn't wearing my co-directing hat, I wasn't being a producer having to yell my face off and put fires out while picking up my cast from the airport - all I had to do that night was act. True story: When we were doing the dialogue on camera there was a point in that scene where I really had forgotten I was acting, and it really felt like we were in super trouble, and had to come up with a plan to save our asses. I was Keith and she was Madison and what was happening right then and there was real. The field we shot in was country road dark, crickets and frogs chirping. The smell of cypress, cold air off the water - it really added to my sense memory. It was wild.
What was the worst day on the set?
Johnny Alonso ~ That's easy, the first day of filming. I'll never forget it. We had a pretty early load in at the bowling alley location. We had to be out of there by noon (the alley opened to the public at noon everyday) so here we are on the first day knowing we only had maybe seven hours at this location on the first day trying to gel with everyone's work habits and skills, not getting jack shit done. Filming went at the slowest turtle's pace, the lighting team was the worst and took forever. Not enough hands on deck -- and if there were hands on deck they weren't doing their job, and going beyond the call of duty. Too many people were fronting as if they knew what they were doing, but no one was doing anything AND we were dealing with new covid rules for our SAG set on such a limited shooting schedule. Can you tell I'm still pissed off at this day? -- We had a producers meeting after that horrible first day, and new rules were applied, and new hands were brought on deck. I'm from the North East and I have no problem screaming my love to get my point across. Signs of a producer that can get things done.
What do you have planned now that HARVEY is now available on VOD to a wide audience?
Johnny Alonso ~ We are excited to see how many platforms domestically we'll be on in the next few months. We're also very excited to see which foreign markets Midnight Releasing can get us on. Solid distribution and good promotion - That's key to making an indie film successful. I'm looking forward to the write-ups and reviews and comments from viewers about what they liked and what they didn't like. All of this will help me produce my next film -- and believe me, the next project is a big deal, and I cannot wait to get it into production.
What's your number one piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers who are looking to make their first movie? Where should they start?
Johnny Alonso ~ Learn the craft. Know everything about anything that is film-making related. Example - as an actor I've always had a sense of what the shot looks like without looking at the monitor. As long as I have an idea of how the shot is set up, what lens we're working with, that makes me comfortable enough to perform for the camera. Film-making begins with a camera eye. A sense of style and being. A vision. You need to know everything -- that's where you begin. I will add it's a business, so know who you're dealing with, and know them enough to trust them with everything. There are way too many posers out there that have secret agendas and it's really easy to get burned or taken advantage of. You've worked hard to get to this level, so don't get taken advantage of by these clowns. A good way to start networking is with other filmmakers that are in the same trenches as you are. Grow with the ones you respect and always, always try to learn something new. That's how you create your own sense of style. That's how you begin to know what you like and what you don't like. You're not going to be able to please everyone, but really, who cares? Those people were never there to support you to begin with. Impress the ones who believe in you, and from there, through hard work and deep dedication, your confidence will grow as an artist, and great things will happen.
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions, Johnny. We loved speaking with you, and look forward to seeing what you do next.
HARVEY is now available on VOD, courtesy of Midnight Releasing. Click HERE for all available streaming options.
Attention bloggers, online magazines, and pod-casters, for follow up interviews with the Johnny Alonso , be sure to contact Sharry Flaherty of Samera Entertainment at: SameraEntertainment@Gmail.com