Ash Adams Goes From “Once Fallen” to Michael Madsen’s Tribute
When Ash Adams was asked last year to recommend someone for the Indie Icon Award at the 2011 Las Vegas Film Festival held at the Hilton Hotel from July 14-17, his friend Michael Madsen quickly came to mind. Talking about the 170+ films Madsen has appeared in, Ash commented “The whole thing with Michael is he’s the consummate working actor. For me he’s an American original who has that true iconic spirit. He does what he wants, he says what he means. You know when he’s over and out we should bronze him and put him somewhere.” Michael makes him laugh he said. “We have a very sort of unspoken understanding of ourselves,” he continued. The relationship goes back 11 years now and they have remained close. “What I hope to do is get the opportunity to work with the kinds of people that Michael has had to work with,” he remarked thoughtfully, which would allow him to continue evolving as an actor the way Madsen has.
In 2010 Ash’s film “Once Fallen” won the award for best film at the festival and this year aside from moderating the tribute for Michael, he screened a short called “Peter’s Hope” which he wrote, produced, directed and appeared in that took home the event’s Special Jury Prize. However, his main focus has been on a new feature he has in the works. “I wrote a movie for Peter Weller last summer. I also started a new company in Dallas with my new partner Heather Hankemer,” he explained. The duo has been busy raising funds to produce “How It Goes”, starring Weller as a world class trumpet player and combining his talents as both a musician and an actor. “We’re hoping to shoot by October,” Ash shared. The movie will be filmed in Dallas where his company Bravado Pictures is now based and is one of two dream projects that’ss on the agenda. The other one he’s content to let remain a mystery and not talk about at this point.
One topic that was discussed was distribution, which is a key consideration for any film being produced. Ash believes, “The fallacy that a lot of people have bought into is that in order to really protect your investors’ money you must have distribution upfront. I don’t think that’s true.” Adams feels that you have a better chance of making a truly independent film without distribution attached and that investors agree sometimes you get a better deal and receive a higher percentage later on if you make a good movie and have names attached.
Then there’s the marketing. Ash thinks there are still problems depending on self-distribution and that a movie’s success boils down to who is in it and the genre. “When you’re doing your own you have to look at the models that studios have created because they are very smart. They work.” He thinks that independent filmmakers should refine the models rather than disregarding them altogether. “None of us are going to change the system. The distribution system is the way that it is because of one thing. It works for them and they’re getting across what they want to get across. I want to work within the structure of that. I don’t want to buck it. I don’t want to rebel against that.” On the other hand, Adams doesn’t want somebody coming in and trying to force a square peg into a round hole with his production because everybody loses that way and he believes a filmmaker should be able to protect the integrity of the project that he sets out to make.
Although he writes, directs and produces Ash said, “The position I come from is always as an actor. I can’t help but think of this as someone who has been doing that since 1984.” He continued, “All I look for is a connection with a set of beats and emotions that come off the page when you read it. I really don’t believe in characters on the page. I believe in words on the page and situations and conflicts and dramas on the page, but we have to create the characters and that is based solely on what the writer’s put on the page. It’s our job to either connect with it or not.” During his career he’s also had the opportunity to play a few real people. “True life characters are sort of the mother lode for us actors,” he admitted. “We love to be able to do it. In television I’ve played characters based on real people before. I’ve played Jesse James on television. I played a serial killer. It’s all consuming. It’s treacherous. When you dive in it sticks with you and there’s residual. It’s hard to unravel that afterwards.” Portraying a character like that is one role Adams would not want to play again. He recalled talking with the FBI agents working on the case and listening to the actual killer’s voice and phone calls “I don’t know that I’d get into that again. It depends on what the circumstances are. You’ve got to want to do it. You’ve got to want to investigate it. You’ve got to want to dive into it, really get into that tapestry when you’re playing that person,” he concluded.
Among Adams’ favorite directors are Sidney Pollack and Orson Welles in part because both gentlemen were actors first who understood the process and were able to direct better because of their ability to communicate with actors and understood how to build their projects around that. Of the newer guard Steven Soderbergh, PT Anderson, the late George Hickenlooper and Quentin Tarantino come to mind. There’s also Anthony Minghella, whose film “The Talented Mr. Ripley” rates high marks. “It’s the perfect mean ride into the internal landscape of this troubled guy,” Ash related explaining how he enjoyed watching the complexity of the character, a trait he desires when selecting roles. “I’m trying to look at the light and the dark as one. I like the contradictions and the ambiguity of both,” he continued adding that he believes people who profess not to have those types of dilemmas are really fighting them. “It’s true in film. It’s true in life. It’s true in human sexuality. That interests me. That ambiguity… cause that’s what we’re contending with in ourselves and in others,” he concluded.
When it comes to producing Adams is not a UPM, but rather sees himself as a scriptwriter who attaches talent although he’s also had to become involved in fundraising as well. He’s aware that many view the word producer negatively, but doesn’t agree. He said, “Some of the smartest people I know are producers. Before you even go make a movie you should know a little bit about where it comes from and where you’re following.”
When asked for a final comment Ash said with a smile and a wave of his cigar, “Don’t vote Republican. I’m going to end with that.”