Sonnyboo, nee Peter John Ross, has 56 clips on Crackle. 56! Somehow, this wildly efficient and enthusiastic filmmaker found time to answer our questions. If he sounds distracted, it’s possible that he was directing a movie at the same time as the interview.
Crackle: Tell us about yourself. How did you get into filmmaking? Was this a lifelong goal?
PJR: I originally wanted to be a composer for films. When I finally got the chance to be on a soundtrack, I was so disappointed with the movie, I said to myself “I can do better”. At the time I started making movies, I was working as a broker full time. I was fired for making movies on the premises (the office is featured in many of my videos on Crackle).
I was writing screenplays but never tried to make anything until I met Richard Linklater in 2000. We talked after a lecture and he asked me why I hadn’t made a movie yet. I told him I wanted to shoot on film but didn’t have the money. He asked me if I considered digital video. I scoffed and he got angry and asked me what was more important, owning film stock or telling a story. Within two weeks I had bought a digital camera. I have never been this poor and I have never been this happy in all my life.
Crackle: You’ve done TV spots as well. Do you find directing ads to be rewarding, or is it just a way to pay the bills and buff the resume?
PJR: TV spots are my day job. There are far worse ways to make a living and it’s rewarding in its own way. I still try to challenge myself artistically in commercial work. Short films are more manageable for control freaks. As Joss Whedon said, I’m not a control freak; I’m more of a control enthusiast.
Crackle: Your “How to Deal With Telemarketers” clip is a big hit in our office, although the sobbing telemarketer at the end whets our appetite for something totally different in tone. Any plans for a heartfelt drama about the miserable life of a lonely call-girl, so to speak?
PJR: We have an alternate ending shot where the telemarketing girl puts a gun in her mouth and we see blood splatter on an inspirational poster. In the end, I chose to go lighter, albeit not much lighter. I have no sympathy for telemarketers. Alicia Ritchey, the actress, actually worked as a telemarketer.
Crackle: Your “Film School Graduate” is a Kubrick-obsessed plumber with an ass crack not even a mother could love. Is this just a minute-long character study, or reflective of your general opinion about film school and the people it produces?
PJR: Actually, my opinion is very much that if you can afford film school – GO TO FILM SCHOOL. It’s too valuable not to, but if you can’t afford it, don’t let that stop you either. I didn’t go to film school. Film School Graduate pokes fun at anyone whose career does not involve their [college] major.
Below: Sonnyboo’s Film School Graduate
Crackle: Can you talk a little bit about the being an independent filmmaker in a city not known for its film?
PJR: Columbus, Ohio or “Cowtown” as it’s known in many circles, has a little film scene. The digital video revolution has changed the playing field entirely. Small production companies (or individuals pretending to be production companies like myself/Sonnyboo Productions) can produce high quality content with little to no resources. The sky is the limit as far as what you can do with your imagination and a camera.
In Columbus, I have an easier time getting mentioned in national magazines than I do in the local ARTS papers. The reason Columbus is not known as a film town is because no one in Columbus wants to support film FROM Columbus. In January, the local moguls are giving Spike Lee $50,000 and Columbus filmmakers nothing. Why does Spike Lee need $50,000? I don’t think he’s even flown over Columbus, Ohio before.
The positive side to being a filmmaker in Columbus is that I don’t have to pay for locations and there aren’t too many people doing this. There’s still some magic to making movies here as opposed to burned out, Hollywood cynicism and more apathy. I can remain somewhat pure in my motivations, although anytime I use someone else’s money to make a movie I try to be as responsible as possible.
Read more about Peter John Ross at www.sonnyboo.com.