Interview with Russ Russo & Kiowa Gordon, Creators and Stars of Heat Wave
A couple of years ago, Kiowa Gordon and Russ Russo did what a lot of filmmakers do lately: they attempted to fund their project through Kickstarter and, while a lot of these attempts usually result in nothing but disappointment, they managed to turn their idea into a success story with their short film Heat Wave being released on the 26th of this month.
Heat Wave is, in their own words, a tale both inspired by the classic TV show The Twilight Zone, and meant as a metaphor to our modern society and its loose, slowly disappearing morals.
The short stars Kiowa Gordon (Twilight Saga, The Red Road), Aaron Jaeger (Youthfufl Daze), Wolfgang Weber (The Magician’s Son), Jessica Andres (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) and Russ Russo (Catch Hell) who also wrote and directed the film. Described as a story of four friends who wake up to a world that’s not quite what they expected during a heatwave in Los Angeles, the movie promises to be both a dark tale and that wake up call we all need from time to time.
We managed to have a chat with Russ Russo and Kiowa Gordon and they took the time to tell us a little bit more about the creative process and the troubles that come from attempting to raise funds via Kickstarter.
Could you tell us a bit more about yourselves and your movie?
Russ Russo: I’m an actor, who out of a jolt in the system, felt that I wanted to write/produce and direct a short film, to creatively do something with my buddies. That became Heatwave, which is a dark tale inspired by the 60’s Twilight Zone TV series.
Kiowa Gordon: Russ and I met 6 years ago in Tennessee. Been trying to work together ever since. Heatwave was that collaboration that we’ve been trying to achieve together, independent of the studio system in Hollywood. There was a 90 page script we had ready to go but timing and budget constraints held us back. We ended up slimming it down tremendously and changing it to one location. Which is basically just the first 7 pages of the 90 pager we wanted to produce.
What brought on this project? Based on your Kickstarter description, you wanted to make a movie about the decaying morals of society; is there a particular event that you can credit as having triggered this desire to make Heat Wave?
Russ Russo: Communication. It seemed to me, all of a sudden in the Summer of 2012, that we were, as a whole, entrenched in gadgets and technology, that we were communicating more and more through social media and less and less as human beings in person. So, I wrote a feeling I was having about what our Reality would be if we woke up in a sort of Collective Consciousness, at least that’s one of the metaphors happening in the short film, what people get from the movie is entirely up to their own subjectivity.
Kiowa Gordon: Late nights at Russo’s was what brought this idea of making our own movie about. We would just talk and bust out these ideas we’ve been wanting to get out. We wanted to focus on the things we experienced in Hollywood. In this new age society where most of us can’t turn away from the things that are supposed to be a convenience and how shady people can be. It was a time where both of us just wanted something to call our own with artistic integrity.
It has been a long time into making, with your Kickstarter project starting way back in 2012.
Russ Russo: Twists and turns, a backer who wanted his 9 year old daughter to play a lead role when the movie wasn’t written for a 9 year old, when we said NO, he then pulled his offer, leaving us way short of our goal, though as far as Kickstarter understood, we hit out goal because he pulled his offer after we hit our goal. We later found out he was a con artist with a long jail record when Googling his full name, not the name he gave us, so then we all of a sudden couldn’t make a Feature. We then asked friends to get involved and see if we couldn’t find a few financiers, but that turned into a fiasco. Friends who had nothing to do with the initial creative process looking to take control of the whole piece, have us sign over the rights off of a financial promise, with No Money whatsoever to be seen. Needless to say, they are no longer friends. So, Kiowa and I decided to make a piece of art with what we did have and control it ourselves to get it out to our family, friends & fans.
How does it feel to finally be this close to seeing it out there?
Russ Russo: It feels like Satisfaction. We completed something that took on a life of its own, but in the end was solely about the thing we had written about, lack of communication and loose morals in Modern Society.
Kiowa Gordon: Yeah, it feels good. I’m glad to have people watch this and tell me their thoughts.
Speaking of its release date closing in, you’ve chosen VHX as a way of distributing it worldwide. It’s not the venue most people would choose. What motivated you to share it this way? (Heat Wave is available at http://heatwave.vhx.tv/)
Russ Russo: I had a filmmaker friend, Brad Saville, who I did a movie for as an actor some years back called “Williamsburg.” They released that film, as well as his latest film, via the company & I saw a great benefit in being able to go directly to our family, friends & fans.
Kiowa Gordon: That was all Russ. I let him handle that stuff. I just act for him.
It seemed like a gamble the first time around, but it’s finally paid off, seeing how it’s just been released. However, given the work, time and money spent on this project, would you be willing to do it again?
Russ Russo: We’re talking with VHX now about doing something more in the line of a series, but ultimately, I don’t think we would ever crowd fund anything ever again. I think with the hopeful success of this short piece, we will go direct to the companies who brand and distribute content for our next project and ask for a financial partnership rather than having to walk the plank in the crowdfunding circuit as we did in late 2012 on this one.
Kiowa Gordon: Everything in my life is a gamble. Why not go for it when it’s 4 and 1 on the 10 yard line? I wouldn’t use the means we used last time. I felt like I asked to much of others.
What’s your biggest fear concerning Heat Wave?
Russ Russo: That it’s not seen by as many people that can possibly see it. In our Modern Technology Society, there’s a real press to get eyes on your work if you’re not working in a marketed, corporate Studio System. We are still doing this independently, so there will be a fight to get people to see it, but we have high hopes that the people who we know & love us will push us forward.
Kiowa Gordon: I’m very proud of Heatwave so I guess not having it seen by the whole world is pretty big or people seeing it and hating it and telling us how bad we are, that’s pretty scary too. We did this ourselves. We put ourselves out there man!
Is there a dream project you’d like to have a hand in, in the future? Whether behind the scenes or in front of the camera?
Russ Russo: I’m just now watching the 2002 reboot of the Twilight Zone TV series, it’s interesting, but not as ground breaking as the original. I’d love to see what we could do with a 2015 version of the Twilight Zone as a series with everything that was thought and feared in the original series, which in one way or another, has come true 55 years later. I’d love to do a series that imagines what 2070 would be like and so on and so forth.
Kiowa Gordon: Star Wars! Even if I got to be a best boy PA or a storm trooper I would feel accomplished…I just want to feel and be felt, in whatever project I am a part of.
Is there something you’d like to tell everyone that backed you on this project?
Russ Russo: Thank You! We couldn’t have done Heatwave without you! So, Thank You! Thank you for your patience, understanding and for the response to the Movie … I swear , I love you guys
Kiowa Gordon: Thank you so much from deep inside my soul. We couldn’t have done this without all the love and support from our family and friends. Dreams come true if you fight for ’em.