With the impending release of Trent Haaga’s directorial debut, CHOP (click here: http://chop.golnx.co/7 for more about CHOP, and click here for my review if you haven’t read it yet), right around the corner (Dec. 27th), I am presenting a trilogy of CHOP interviews. Up first is the star, Will Keenan (aka Billy Bakshi). From Keenan’s IMDb bio:
“Will Keenan is a producer, actor, director, writer, consultant and stuntman who attended New York University while majoring in theater and studying psychology, philosophy and dance. Keenan has acted in and worked on producing more than 20 independent films made in New York City, Hollywood and Bollywood which have been screened worldwide. He started his career in underground and cult movies, performing lead roles in Tromeo and Juliet and Love God.”
[Ryan] Was there a particular film that made you think “I want to make movies”?
[Will Keenan] Delta Force.
[Ryan] Who would you say is your favorite director working today? (and why)
[WK] Clint Eastwood. ‘Cause he da man.
[Ryan] And a favorite director of all time?
[WK] Jean-Michel Scorsesebergman.
[Ryan] What advice would you give to people trying to get their foot in the door?
[WK] 1) First ask yourself WHY? a zillion times. Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, be ready to devote your whole life (sacrificing love, relationships, family, fun and sanity), completely reprogram your brain for success, give the people what they want.
2) Get famous first. (YouTube star, reality show, make news somehow then parlay that into film and TV work.) My advice to young filmmakers and actors these days is to get big on YouTube and build up an audience, then make a feature. Check out KassemG and TotallySketch on YouTube who are top talent at Maker Studios, a company with which I work. They became stars on YouTube and are now making features. (http://makerstudios.com). To get big on YouTube, consult the YouTube Creator Playbook.
[Ryan] What was your most recent project?
[WK] I wrote & produced the upcoming Maker Studios web video ”Glease” where Obama-Girl (Amber Lee Ettinger) and Alphacat (YouTube star Iman Crosson/Huffington Post’s most popular Obama impersonator) appear together for the first time. Before that, I acted in a German film set in India called Indisch für Anfänger, produced Politics of Love (co-starred under the pseudonym ‘Trillionaire’), consulted for the Bollywood superhero flick Ra.One and starred in The Ghastly Love of Johnny X.
[Ryan] What was the first film you worked on, and what was it that you did on that film?
[WK] I starred in Tromeo & Juliet. Before that, I’d appeared in one or two student films at NYU (one called “BloodLust” directed by Tarantino editor Fred Raskin).
[Ryan] What’s the earliest Will Keenan film the public can get a hold of?
[WK] Produce, “schmact”, write, direct, finance, develop, “package”, social media & PR, stunts, wrangle, hustle.
[Ryan] Out of the jobs you do, which do you enjoy the most?
[WK] The whole shebang.
[Ryan] Out of the films you’ve made over the years, is there any one that stands out as your favorite?
[WK] Operation Midnight Climax is an undiscovered gem.
[Ryan] What would you say are the pros and cons of working in the low-budget world?
[WK] Pros: control. Cons: no control over how many people get to see it.
[Ryan] How did you get involved in the Indian/Bollywood film scene?
[WK] After the U.S. economy crashed and indie film financing and foreign pre-sales for American films was hard(er) to come by, I decided “international” was the new “independent” and that working with stars in star-based foreign film industries was the new foreign pre-sale. I went to India and got to work. One of the best periods of my life and career has been working with Bollywood.
[WK] Wasn’t easy. Experimental/avant garde theatre at NYU segued into cult film which led to indie film which led me to decide I finally wanted my work to reach a wider audience and that I should get paid more. No regrets, but if I had to do it all over again, I would start in the mainstream world first, then I’d do the passion projects. Things are different now. Web video is the new incubator. Embrace it and social media.
[Ryan] What made you decide to get involved with CHOP?
[WK] Trent called me, I read the script and thought no one could play the role like I could. He “let me” rewrite all my lines and have a lot of fun with it (even though he didn’t use any of my funniest takes;) I get credit for discovering Trent by casting him in “Terror Firmer” and I take credit for discovering him as a writer (besides co-financing DeadGirl, I hired him to write the BRILLIANT “Poor Things” script which attracted a lot of great talent including Oscar winners and nominees like Shirley Maclaine, Christopher Walken, Olympia Dukakis, as well as Rosario Dawson, Channing Tatum, Giovanni Ribisi and others, but unfortunately the film never got made.) So, I actually had been waiting to “discover” him as a director, too, but settled for starring in his directorial debut.
[Ryan] Why did you decide to act in this film under a pseudonym?
[WK] I’ve been using fake names ever since I announced on facebook that I was “officially” retiring from schmacting.
[Ryan] What’s next for you?
[WK] Building a web video network with Maker Studios.
[Ryan] Anything else to add?
[WK] Please describe me as “the legendary cult film star and stuntman, international indie film producer and web video executive who takes credit for bringing Twitter to mainstream India.” 😉