Creating thought-provoking independent films on a limited budget isn’t always the easiest process, as filmmakers may be forced to overcome restrictions in such areas as casting, production locations and special effects. But actor-producer Shaun Gerardo has greatly overcome these hurdles in his career, as evident with the upcoming releases of several independent releases, including ‘Criminal,’ ‘Clock Out’ and ‘The Dooms Chapel Horror.’ Mixing action and horror elements in all three films, the actor is showing his talent in not only his supporting roles, but as his job as a producer as well.
Gerardo generously took the time recently to talk about filming ‘Criminal,’ ‘Clock Out’ and ‘The Dooms Chapel Horror’ recently over the phone. Among other things, the actor-producer discussed how he studied Robert De Niro’s work to get into the mindset of his criminal character in ‘Criminal;’ how he built a natural relationship with his ‘Clock Out’ co-star, Joshua Mark Robinson, to make their characters’ friendships authentic; and how working as a producer on ‘Criminal’ and ‘Clock Out’ allowed him to realistically portray his characters.
Question (Q): You’ll be appearing in the upcoming film ‘Criminal.’ Are there any specific details about your character and the story overall that you can discuss?
Shaun Gerardo (SG): Yes, the story is a mix between ‘Dexter’ and ‘The Crow.’ The shooting style is comparable to both, but the story is similar to ‘Dexter.’ The main character comes from a very dark background. His childhood was very isolated, as his parents weren’t around. His mom was beaten by his dad until she died.
He ends up marrying this girl who’s the most beautiful thing, and she ends up being taken away from him in the film. So he vows to kill all criminals. During the day, he’s a beat cop, and at night he wages war.
Q: How did you get into your character’s mindset before you began shooting?
SG: Well, my character is not the lead, but I play a well-dressed man. It’s a short scene, but he’s basically a Mafia guy. I watched some De Niro movies, and traced back to my heritage, and really tried to enjoy it and get a feel for who he was.
Q: Another upcoming movie you’ll be appearing in is ‘Clock Out,’ in which you’ll be playing Brian Mosely. What was it about the character and the script that convinced you to take on the role?
SG: Brian is a corrupt guy from Brooklyn who’s all about himself. He’s a former drug addict, so it was a really deep role with a lot of players. It allowed me to bring out my accent. He’s actually a killer, so I listened to a lot of different music to get into that mindset. I thought it was going to be a real challenge.
Q: Joshua Mark Robinson plays the main character of Toby Baker in the film. What was your working relationship with Joshua like in the movie, since your characters are supposed to be friends?
SG: Josh is a great actor. He comes from theater, and he hadn’t really done any film work prior to that. We traded a lot of knowledge and tricks. We made our beginning scenes, which is one of the first scenes in the movie, really captivating with small techniques. I tried to connect with him on a certain level, and we had some great chemistry.
My character coerces him to ultimately do this heist. If you can’t see that they have a deep background together, than it’s not going to be worth anything on screen. So we tried to spend some time together and get a feel for each other, and tell him a little about me and what I’ve done, to see if I could help him.
Q: ‘Clock Out’ is an independent film that had a limited budget. Did having a small budget pose any challenges while you were shooting?
SG: Not really, because we had some producers who had some great relationships with people in Kentucky and Los Angeles. Somehow, we made it work and figured it out. It was very grueling at times, but it all came together. It’s surprising, because we didn’t know what we were going to come up with with the budget we were working with. But when we saw everything in editing, we saw we made a very good movie on a micro-budget, and we’re very pleased.
Q: Besides starring in limited budget films, such as ‘Clock Out,’ you have also appeared in bigger budget movies, including ‘X-Men: First Class.’ Do you have a preference of appearing in lower budget films over the bigger studio movies, or vice versa, or do you enjoy acting overall?
SG: At this point in my career, I think it’s tough for me to get a lot of studio attention, per say, so those are rarer. But they’re a lot more fun and create more money, and you get to meet a lot of notable people. So I guess it’s a tradeoff.
You get to really dig deep when you’re doing the independent filmmaking. You get to create characters who have more time on screen. But on the other side, you need to pay your bills and have extra leeway. But I definitely have an appreciation for both.
Q: Besides acting in ‘Criminal’ and ‘Clock Out, you also served as a producer on both films. Did serving as a producer influence the way you portrayed your characters?
SG: Yeah. I think when you’re in control of the project, it puts a lot of pressure on you to create the best possible character you can. You make sure you’re hitting all your beats, and your timing’s remarkable.
When we wore working with Robbie Amell (on ‘Criminal), who’s just a great young actor who’s been in a lot of different things, it was good to watch him act. He gets into his mode, so I learned from him. Other people, like Kevin Phillips, who’s been in ‘Red Tails’ and in Michael Bay projects, have also been great to watch.
I think for ‘Criminal,’ specifically, it was a learning experience. I learned a lot producing great content with incredible actors. I had a lot of fun with that. With ‘Clock Out,’ I knew a lot of those guys, so it was a great situation, and definitely a great environment for me to create art.
Q: Having both acted and produced, do you have any plans or interest in directing in the future?
SG: Yeah, definitely. I love directing and I love actors, and I think I would be a great director, as an actor’s director. Given that, I’d probably want to write my own stories; I’m working on one right now. It has an interesting story behind the two main characters. So far, we have Bill Oberst Jr. involved, and Bai Ling from ‘The Crow’ may possible jump on board.
It’s a very unique, sexually charged story, with some really crazy elements from both of the characters’ pasts that make them dynamic. Maybe I’ll do a little bit of directing work on that, and put that together.
Q: Besides ‘Criminal’ and ‘Clock Out,’ you’ll also be appearing in ‘The Dooms Chapel Horror.’ Are there any details about your character and the story that you can discuss?
SG: Yeah. Tanner’s a documentary filmmaker that finds this video online. He goes to make a documentary about it. I don’t want to give too much away, but the video’s pretty gruesome.
The video’s an interesting story about a kid who goes back to his hometown after his brother died many years before. But when he gets there, things aren’t really what they seem to be, and they weren’t the same as the way he left them. There are people out to get him.
We have Bill Oberst Jr. on the film, and he’s a great actor. I’ve worked with him twice now, and I’m looking forward to working with him more. I was on set for a lot of his scenes, and it was very cool to watch him work.
Q: Speaking of Bill, you worked with him on both ‘The Dooms Chapel Horror’ and ‘Clock Out.’ What was your working relationship with him like on both films?
SG: Well, we’re best friends, and I consider him to be my older brother. He’s a mentor for me in my personal life, which is very great and rewarding. During ‘Clock Out,’ when we were getting to the end of filming, I saw a role for him that we needed to fill. Fortunately, he was available, and that was pretty crucial, because he’s really going to help us sell the film. Our relationship is really great.
It’s tough, because in this business, you need people around you to give you a sense of identity. I remember Al Pacino saying that about De Niro when they met. So I guess Oberst is like my De Niro. (laughs)
Q: ‘The Dooms Chapel Horror’ was shot in Kentucky. How was shooting there similar and different than filming in Los Angeles?
SG: Filming in Kentucky is very different than shooting in L.A., because people in the south are kinder and more responsive toward the whole filmmaking aspect. They love it and are excited.
We had a scene not too far from Kentucky that was in Paris, Tennessee, and 450 extras showed up. They donated their time and came out for about three or four hours. We shot this great town square scene where the sheriff is preaching. It was very interesting to see the energy, and take pictures of everyone. The south is very friendly, so it was very cool and refreshing.
Q: You mentioned earlier that you’re working on writing a script. Do you have any other projects lined up, whether acting, producing or writing, that you can discuss?
SG: Besides the script, there’s a pilot we’re going to shoot in San Francisco. I’m also working on a film called ‘Born Enemies,’ and we’ve got possibly Michael Douglas involved. It’s a very interesting story about coincidences and success, and the ambition of two friends who come from bad backgrounds. They grow apart and come back together. They find their way back together at the end of the story. A tragedy happens in a mysterious way, so I’m excited to get that film out there.