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On this week’s Imperfect Podcast we interview actor and Eyes of the Roshi producer Ethan Marten. Ethan is joined by cast mates, actress Stacy Whittle and Grand Master Adam Nguyen who was the inspiration for the film. Eyes of the Roshi has been making a buzz on the indie film circuit with its intelligent story line and cast that also features actor Eric Roberts.
The inspiration and origination of the movie comes from Grandmaster Nguyen’s own royal family lineage – a form of yoga and karate do they have been teaching for 1,000 years in Vietnam…and now, America.
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Ethan Marten: https://twitter.com/ethanmarten
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Eyes of the Roshi Interview Highlights:
Ethan Marten: How did Light Age Films get started?
It actually started when I was a little kid. My dad was an innovator in film. He produced 150 motion pictures and Broadway plays. His clients ranged from from Desi Arnaz to Errol Flynn and it meant anything to me and my three brothers. It was one day when Moe Howard of the Three Stooges called the house looking for our old man. You never four kids running around the house as excited as we did. Light Age Films was my getting into the production side.
Ethan Marten: Have you had formal training as an actor?
I had a little formal training buy my first training was on set. Buzz Kulick had me on Too Young The Hero in the mid 80’s. Craig … who runs his casting agency out of Screengems down in Wilmington mentored me for quite a few years. I was on motion picture sets early on.
Stacy Whittle: How has your career led to your role in Eyes of The Roshi?
I flip between two worlds. I”m an economist by training and have lived all over the world and as such have acted all over the world. I’ve spent the majority of my life in the Middle East, Ireland, South America and Europe. I’m mainly a stage actor.
Ethan Marten: How did Grandmaster Adam get involved with Eyes of the Roshi?
Eyes of the Roshi is 30 years in the making. My parents built the first movie studio in Virginia. At one time it was the largest on the east coast. We shot Navy Seals here with Charlie Sheen. Grandmaster Adam was teaching yoga to my father. Adam would say you gotta do a movie about me some day and I would always say sure.
Stacy Whittle: How did you connect with Ethan for the film?
I had met Ethan and hew knew about my two worlds. Coming from the environmental background I was excited to join forces with him for White Buffalo. Then he told me about Eyes of the Roshi and suggested I audition. A friend of mine who’s an Emmy Award winning film maker said he’d shoot my audition for me. After staying up all night we got it done and I submitted the audition tape and got the part.
Acting with Eric Roberts was like getting a master class in acting. It was one week of very intense acting.
How did you get Eric Roberts involved with Eyes of the Roshi?
We had a character named Booker who was a hood that required a sense of humor kind of like the Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight. He had to be a strong actor and comically funny without trying to be. Eric Roberts was on the short list of people who I thought would be good and that I wanted to work with.
What was the inspiration for your character, The Hitman?
I had several. I’ll start with the quirk. I knew that my character needed something quirky. Stacy happens to be a floss addict. She is constantly flossing and campaigning for it. She says if you floss really well its better for your teeth than brushing. One day she said why isn’t your character a floss addict and I loved the idea.
What is it like working with family on a project like this?
My brothers are all actors. I believe in nepotism and they all taught me to act.
What are the challenges of having a production company in Virginia?
Ethan: I grew up in New York. Anything I wanted theatrically was minutes. What I’ve found is that it doesn’t matter where you are as long as you have dedicated people, knoweledable people and people that are willing to roll up their sleeves. We have had Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks in town. The mecca is where you make it. That’s part of the indie spirit.
Stacy: I think it’s happening more and more anyway as metropolitan areas become so prohibitively expensive. Artists are naturally migrating to where they can work and live and not starve. Ethan is forward thinking by establishing the studio. It’s only a matter of time before people start looking outside of New York and Hollywood for real talent. I’ve worked with some of the most talented people I’ve ever met on Eyes of the Roshi.
Ethan: Star Circle pictures, which is the first movie company I started with my older brother Richard who is an Executive Producer on Eyes of the Roshi. We were the first in the world to complete a movie with the Panasonic AG-HVX200. We shot our film in 2 days, 40 setups per day. Back then we talked about how the technology would democratize movie making and that’s pretty much what’s happened. Anyone with the burning desire to tell a story has that ability now.
What were the details behind the making of Eyes of the Roshi?
If you ask Adam that question, his answer would be too long. We developed a first script and from start to finish it would have cost $30 million dollars to complete. Joe and John Mark took the lead on a totally different script. The new script had more testosterone in it while being able to hold onto a lot of Adam’s philosophical musts. That took us another year from the beginning of that process. Meanwhile we had been scouting locations and putting together a crew. During that time we won IndieWire’s Project of the Week and we were getting really good press.
We had done an experimental trailer just so we could talk to people and show people why they should be involved. It also helped with locations so people didn’t think we were just casing the joint to rob them at night. In the summer of 2015 we shot for 3 weeks. Post production was a solid year and we just had our first screening on August 20th 2016.
What festivals are you submitting to?
I submitted to about 20 and we just won an award from the North Hollywood Film Festival. What I’ve been most focused on is distribution. I’ve spoken with 4 people one of which I can probably tell you. Sam Sherman of Independent International Pictures who lives up in New Jersey. Sam Sherman was one of the horror movie kings of the 50’s and 60’s. My dad was partner with Sam on many projects and they were dear friends. He think we have a wonderfully salable project and wants to take us on. Stacy has opened us up to Africa. We are talking to people about distributing in 22 countries in Africa. My brother who does international travel in Asia and recently done work in Russia has a deal on the table for Russian speaking services.
How do you feel about streaming distribution such as Netflix?
Ethan Marten: I won’t disparage anybody’s ability to get their work seen and heard. That’s an accomplishment in itself. For us we are going to exploit the film in the best sense of the word. If there’s limited theatrical to be had, if there’s cable, if there’s pay per view we are going to exploit every avenue by the numbers.
Stacy Whittle: We are thinking about distribution in a more global way because of my experiences overseas. We approached a company in Kenya and they were excited about because nobody has approached them about this sort of thing. It’s exciting to feel their excitement about working with us. Eric Roberts and Steven Seagal are two of the most famous actors in eastern and southern Africa. They heard Eric Roberts and were like where do we sign?