A Movie Blog by Craig Koban

 

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MIKE FALKOW

CREATIVE EXPRESSIONIST

THE VERSATILE WRITER/PRODUCER/STAR OF THE UPCOMING 'DECEIVED' TALKS ABOUT WANTING "MORE OF EVERYTHING" FOR HIS CAREER

 

January 7, 2014

 

 

 

I became aware of Mike Falkow through my exposure to the short film/TV pilot GEEKS, which, in turn, make me very eager to explore doing an interview blog with him.  In doing so, I discovered DECEIVED, a new film that, as it will be revealed below, is a true labor of love for the South African born actor, writer, and producer.  After all, Mr. Falkow is an intrinsically multi-talented industry man that will, no doubt, conquer all of his ambitious cinematic goals.  

If anything, Mike has had a highly eclectic life and career, both in and out of the movies.  Before intrepidly branching out towards a career on the silver screen, Mike made a rather huge name for himself as a professional surfer, even managing as far as to be ranked in the Top 25 on the Pro Surf Tour of America.  Beyond his superlative athletic prowess, Mike decided to see his future through in the United States, where he began his modeling career, having worked with such established names in the industry like Brooks, Armani, and Eddie Bauer, just to name a few.   From his accomplishments in modeling came a yearning to perform, which subsequently had Mike journeying to Los Angeles to facilitate his acting bug, and very soon he was appearing in films like THE HOUSE BUNNY, SAFE HOUSE, and SMOKIN’ ACES,  alongside carving out spots acting on TV shows like LAW AND ORDER: L.A..   

Clearly (and as is the case with tenaciously ambitious movie industry performers), Mike isn't settling in solely for an acting career.  He has gathered together the learned tools of the trade that he has collected while performing in front of the camera to make a transition towards being a creative force behind it.  He recently helped co-produce the aforementioned GEEKS (written and directed by acclaimed award winning UK filmmaker Al White, whom I interviewed HERE), and beyond that Mike has more aspirations of producing and writing his own films.  One these projects is DECEIVED, a film that he performed hat trick duties on as writer, producer, and star (he produced the film alongside his other fellow co-stars Sevier Crespo and David Paladino, all three of which also produced GEEKS).  Set in Puerto Rico, the film stars Crespo as Alejandro, who returns home to help his sister Magdalena (Betsy Landin) try to recuperate her life back into order, but he discovers that his sibling has gone missing.  This causes Alejandro to traverse down some dark and ominous corners to discover what happened to her, which involves him coming in contact with a menagerie of compelling characters, like a drug dealing surfer (Falkow) and a bar manager (Paladino).  As is the case with most mystery thrillers, the truth for Alejandro becomes trickier to uncover as the narrative progresses. 

Mike was recently in New York to help promote DECEIVED for the International Puerto Rican Heritage Film Festival, after which time it secured a distribution deal for the New Slant Productions film.  From my interview below with Mike you gain an immediate sense of the pride he has in not only this recent career accomplishment, but also of his inner drive for not stopping and looking on positively towards his filmmaking future, which he hopes will branch out into more acting, writing, and producing.  With his tenacious creative drive alone, I have no doubts that Mike will unavoidably achieve future successes in the industry.

Describe your South African heritage.  How has that framed who you are today? 

Being South African is something that's very close to my heart.  It's part of who I am in every fiber of my being.  Having grown up in such a wonderful place, it's hard not to carry that with you.  And while I've been living outside of Africa for the past decade, I will always consider it "home" and will always consider myself South African first, before anything else. 

 

Falkow, featured on a 1999 cover shoot 

You can easily and aptly be described as a “Jack of All Trades” just looking at your bio (you were a surfer and model before turning to acting).  I couldn’t help but notice that you made the cut of the Top 25 on the Pro Surf Tour America.  What does the sport of surfing mean to you? Secondly, what were your early days in modeling like? 

Ha.  Well, I like to stay busy, and I've tried my hand at many things. Surfing is something very personal to me.  I'm at my happiest when I'm in the ocean, surfing really good waves.  I lost that sense a little bit when I was competing, and after I stopped touring and settled in L.A., I found myself deliriously happy sometimes while out in the water, and it reminded me of why I got addicted to it in the first place. 

Now, modeling on the other hand was an addiction of a completely different kind.  To a young and impressionable person, the allure of that world has quite some gravity to it.  I had a lot of fun at first. The travel, the parties, the lifestyle.  It was fast paced and exciting.  But after awhile, the glitz lost its shine and it became a job like any other, and it came with all sorts of baggage, including being treated poorly by other people, which I'm not really a fan of.  And the money, the travel, the perks of that world began to get outweighed by the fact that I had a longing to do something more creatively fulfilling than wearing clothes well and having my picture taken. 

What inevitably turned you towards perusing acting? Was this always a plan from day one for you? 

It was kind of a natural progression.  If you spend any length of time in L.A., you're bound to be exposed to it.  And I did have that longing to do something creative.  I happened to be living with a friend who was an actor and his girlfriend was an actor too.  It seemed like something I'd enjoy so I asked what the best way to get into it would be, and they both answered, "Get in an acting class. A good one."  So they recommended one for me to check out and that was that.  I was on my way.  And while at first I was sort of dipping my toes into the acting world as kind of a dilettante, it wasn't until I started studying with a teacher who awakened in me a deeper look at the whole process.  I started to look at it as an art form, and something that took a lot of work, professionalism, dedication, and focus.  That's when I decided that I really wanted to pursue it seriously.  

You have worked with many notable film directors, like Joe Carnahan, for example, on SMOKIN' ACES.  What was working with him like?  Also, what are the inherent differences between working as an actor on TV and film? 

Working with Joe Carnahan was quite an amazing experience.  He's not only a phenomenal writer/director, but he creates a buzz of enthusiasm on his set.  It was a great lesson to me, watching him work.  I saw how important it is to set the tone on a set and how infectious creative enthusiasm is. 

I think for me, the main difference between working on a film and working on a TV show is that the folks running a TV show are in it for the long haul.  It's like you're a guest in their marathon.  And a film feels more like a sprint, comparatively speaking.  

At what point in your career did you decide that you wanted to branch out into writing and producing?  It seems like a natural biproduct for many actors.

I suppose so.  I know a lot of actors who write their own stuff.  And with the media and distribution channels changing so much over the past few years, it has become an outlet for actors to showcase their talents in ways that wouldn't have otherwise been seen, which I think is wonderful.  For me, I began writing 8 years ago.  It was a screenplay that I had this idea for, and just felt like it would make a good movie.  And to be honest, it didn't come out all that great.  Okay it was bad.  It needed a lot of help.  I knew nothing of structure and format, and the plot was all over the place.  But the characters were pretty well defined and the dialogue seemed to work fairly well.  It still to this day hasn't been made, and would most likely require a good rewrite, which I might attempt at some point in the future, but it was a great learning curve for me.  It gave me the confidence to try it again, and again.  And I've written over ten scripts now. 

Producing on the other hand was something that I fell into by necessity, because I needed to get things made.  Perhaps I had a misguided sense of confidence in my abilities, but I know how to communicate with people and I know how to manage projects from years of running my own design company, and I have spent enough time around film sets and have been curious enough to find out about what goes into the making of a film, from all aspects, including physical production and post production, that I felt I could pull it off.  So I tried out on a couple short films and they actually got made, which gave me enough confidence to try it again.  And then I connected up with my friend, Sevier Crespo, who had a wealth of knowledge and experience in the producing world and I learned a lot from him. 

I’ve been following the short film GEEKS for quite some time and have been able to interview writer/director Al White and stars Naomi Kyle and Achara Kirk.  Al also gave me the pleasure of reading the script, which I thought was truly stellar.  I heard that when you read the script you were instantly “in” to produce it.   What made you decide to produce the short and what was it like on set serving both as actor and producer? 

The script came to me by way of Sevier.  We had just produced a feature together with our partner David Paladino, and were in talks amongst ourselves to partner up officially in New Slant Productions.  Sevier had been introduced to Al through a mutual friend, and he had read the script and instantly responded to it.  He told David and I about it, and forwarded it to us.  I was in San Francisco at the time and read it on my phone, literally while standing in a parking lot.  I called Sev immediately and told him "You were right. This script is killer. I'm in." 

Acting and producing is a bit of a juggle.  But actually I've only ever done it that way.  I've not produced a project that I didn't have at least a small role in.  So it's part of the process for me.  But it can be challenging to have to switch roles from producer to actor and then back to producer.  Fortunately I'm flanked by David and Sevier, both of whom are outstanding producers.  We have each other's backs no matter what, and we've slipped into a really good work flow with one another. 

What was it like working with Al as well as stars Naomi Kyle, Achara Kirk, Shannon Hollander, and India Wadsworth? 

The girls were fantastic.  All of them were excellent in their respective roles and Al put together a wonderful group that complimented each other perfectly.  I really enjoyed working on the project.  Al is a very unique guy, and is possibly one of the most talented people I've come across.  

You could also be listed on GEEKS as a prop man too!  Your 1966 Pontiac GTO made an appearance! 

Yes sir.  The Beast was Alyx's vehicle (Naomi Kyle's character). 

 

Behind-the-scenes pic of Falkow on the set of DECEIVED.

Let’s talk about DECEIVED, which you served triple duty on as writer, producer, and star.  Tell us what the film is about and how you conceived the story. 

DECEIVED originated from Sevier, truthfully.  He was on his way back from Puerto Rico, having just shot a film out there and he came to David and I and said he'd figured out a way to make an entire feature with some money that had been committed as partial funding for another project were in development on.  He went to our investors, and got the money we needed.  He then hired the director, who had a concept for the film, and after the director turned in an outline for his idea, I was then asked to script it. 

The film is about a girl who goes missing in Puerto Rico, and the journey that her brother goes on to discover what happened to her.  The basic concept wasn't mine, like I said, but once I got into scripting it,  I had a lot of fun with layering in biblical and mythological references, since the story deals with some paranormal themes.  But at its heart, it's a thriller. 

I also noticed that your GEEKS co-producing partners Sevier Crespo and David Paladino also appear in the film with you.  Was that a conscious plan from the get-go to have all of you appear in the film together? 

Yes.  The idea was to create a film that the three of us could also act in, alongside some friends and other great local actors from Puerto Rico. 

What was the DECEIVED shoot like and what were some of the inherent challenges with bringing your story to the silver screen? 

It was extremely challenging.  We set out to make a feature film, on foreign soil, in 12 days.  The schedule was very ambitious and we had to be unbelievably efficient with our time.  It was exhilarating, creative, fun, exhausting, and extremely rewarding.  We hardly slept for those two weeks and came home with a film that was shot and ready to edit.  I suppose like anything, if you don't push yourself to the limits of what's possible, you'll never know what you're capable of.  And I learned a great deal about myself as a filmmaker on that shoot.  

 

DECEIVED poster 

I see that you play a “drug dealing surfer” named Laz in the film.  Describe the character and give us some insight on him.  What it was like playing the role? 

The role is something that I know a little bit about.  I have known many a surfer in my time, and quite a few people who were either gripped by drugs or were actually involved in distributing them.  So it's a world that while I never personally took part in, I had observed and had an understanding of.  Playing the role was pretty interesting.  I lost about 30lbs for it.  I had a very exact vision of what he should look like physically. 

I read recently that DECEIVED just played at the International Puerto Rican Heritage Film Festival in New York and secured a distribution deal, so a very sincere congratulations for that.  How professionally satisfying is that to you?  

Thanks.  It's quite amazing.  I'm thrilled.  We all worked really hard, and it's very humbling to hear that others enjoy what we did.  

What are your inherent hopes as to what audience members will take away from seeing DECEIVED for the first time? 

I really just hope that people enjoy it and are entertained by it. 

What are your aspirations for your post-DECEIVED career?  More acting, more writing/producing, or a combination of all three? 

More of everything.  Writing brings me a creative joy that not a lot else has been able to touch.  Producing is very challenging, but I love it.  Acting is always something that I will enjoy.  And directing too.  That's what I'd like to embark on next.  So, yeah, basically I want Ben Affleck's career.  Ha ha.

 

MIKE

FALKOW 

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