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Zach Syngg - From the Hood! PDF Print E-mail
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Dec 16, 2004 at 07:00 PM
Zach Syngg is a rising talent in the b-movie scene. His movies are inspired visual roller coaster rides of non-stop off the wall humor! His latest movie, "In the Hood", stars Debbie Rochon and Fred Berry - that inspired casting alone is worth the price of admission! Recently, he sat down for one of our patented quickie interviews. Here is what he had to say:
Dark Gallery) Can you give us a brief run-down of your filmmaking career so far?
Zach Syngg) Oh God, I don't know if there is a lot to talk about as far as my "career", but here goes. I wrote, directed, and starred in three feature length films - "Kudos From Pseudo Intellectuals", "Blood Bullets, Buffoons," and "In The Hood." My brother and I graduated from NYU film school and have been making films and involved in the film business for many years. Spencer Snygg has been the lighting director (gaffer) on many well known music videos, and he worked with artists such as Natalie Merchant, Naughty by Nature, and Marky Mark. He has also worked with numerous other rappers that I have no idea who they are. Spence is also a electric/union member who works on "Hollywood" features including that Ben Stiller/Ed Norton Rabi/priest thing that's out right now.
DG) What inspired you to start making movies?
ZS) I was actually illiterate as a kid. I wasn't able to read until I was in the 3rd grade. I related more to the world on a visual basis. I found that it was easier to communicate visually than verbally. I started to draw a lot as a child and this led to "opaque projector shows" at school. I got the Super 8mm bug when I was in High School and it just progressed to higher formats as I grew older. Of course as a filmmaker, you should be well read, as well as have a distinct vision. For me, film imitates life, but in a comedic and surrealistic way. Always tell your story from your heart or something that you have experienced. Nobody wants to see a recycled film that everyone else makes. Then again maybe they do.
DG) You seem truly inspired by the independent and foreign directors - which ones in particular influence your work the most?
ZS) There is a guy in California by the name of Rob Nillison. Rob has directed many stylish and improvised films such as "Heat and Sunlight", "Clutch", and "Signal 7". I saw "Signal 7" when I was in college and it blew my mind. "Signal 7" is the story of the day and a life of two San Francisco cab drivers. The film was totally written and improvised by the cast and the camera work has the same cinema verite attributes. Mike Leigh ("Topsy Turvy", "Secret and Lies") uses the same technique, but Nillison's work is much much more realistic and raw. Rob also used to be a cab driver and puts his actual life in his own work. I found that this "style" works well when you have a cast that can bring more depth to a story. It always good to have multitude points of view rather than just one view. Visually though I have been influenced from everyone to action directors Walter Hill, Sam Peckinpah, Peter Hyams, Tsui Hark, and Sergio Leone to dramatic directors like Bernardo Bertolucci and John Houston. I think Bertolucci is the best. He really photographs for the character rather than the camera "imposing" the mood and tone to the scene. Visually directors from the 40s actually knew better to shoot than the directors of today. These days directors shoot multiple angles and find the "look" in the editing room. 40s directors would shoot the scene as the "scene" would dictate the piece to look.
DG) You and your brother have a unique shooting style that works very well - is this actually blocked out or is it all worked up on set? What inspired this style and what are the benefits of it that you see?
ZS) I always block everything out first. Every movie or script will have a different visual style. The movie tells the visual style. "Kudos" was shot in long takes and 2 shots with lots of camera movements, because it was a straight forward comedy. Not a lot of close ups, because comedy should always be physical, and we want to see the people do their "schtick". "Blood, Bullets, Buffoons" was shot with many low slanted angles and forced perspectives, because it was a "revenge" film. Revenge films (Walter Hill flicks) have that distinct look, because it shows that the character's world is "unbalanced" or altered. "In The Hood" has crazy angles, rapid editing and sped up scenes because it was an action film. I wanted "In The Hood" to be the most fast moving and wacked out flick I did. Many times there are shots used to distract the viewer from the actual scene. This was done simply to keep the viewer's eye occupied.
DG) "Blood, Bullets and Buffoons" is one of your most well known movies. Can you give us the breakdown of the plot and how the story developed?
ZS) "Blood Bullets Buffoons" is about a (recent college graduate) painter who gets a job and is arrested for a crime, and he is sentenced to a life sentence in jail. He had no idea ,when he was hired for the job, that there was anything illegal involved, because a friend of his recommended him for the position. The main character breaks out of jail and plots revenge on his friend and his ex-girlfriend. "Blood Bullets Buffoons" came into being because -I was a (recent college graduate) filmmaker who got a job and was arrested for a crime, and placed in jail for an evening. I had no idea ,when I was hired for the job,that there was anything illegal involved, because a friend of mine recommended me for the position. I didn't do any real time or plot revenge, but I was a bit peeved. Hey just put your aggressions on film and not in life. Or I would still be in jail.
DG) You star in this movie while directing it - what kind of difficulties does that present you? Or do not even worry about it and have complete faith that what your brother gets is exactly what you will want?
ZS) I'm actually not a real big fan of my own acting or being an actor. It's just a matter of convenience. I shoot films very cheaply. "Blood Bullets Buffoons" and "In The Hood" were both shot at about five grand. They are both shot on film actually. "BBB" is 35mm and "Hood" is 16mm. Outside of film stock and processing, I simply can't afford to pay a leading actor. It's easier to star in my own flicks, because I don't have to worry about leaving the set storming off in a huff. Well maybe once in a while I do, but I always come back after my brother buys me an ice cream cone. But I do have complete faith in my brother, as far as I know how he will frame the image. As far as acting or scenes or whatever. Spencer is always my worst critic. No one slams me like he does. "Uh it sucks" or "No not funny..it blows" are just some of the wonderful criticisms that I will hear from him during a production. This is actually good, because he is the complete and total "objective" viewer. Most people too close or involved with the cast and crew can't be fair, because they simply can't be objective. He is in spades.
DG) How much freedom do you give your crew and your actors?
ZS) A great deal. Particularly with actors. Like I said before my films are "structured" improvised scenes. Actors constantly come up with great lines, truths, moments and ideas for their characters. I encourage actors constantly too come up with ideas. If it sucks or it is too "self involved", I'll pass on the idea. In general, I always like what actors come up with. Film should always be a collaborate experience.
DG) Your latest work is "In the Hood" - kind of an interesting mix you've got there with Fred Berry and Debbie Rochon! Can you tell us a little about the story and their characters?
ZS) "In The Hood" is about two slackers who get involved with a white slave trader (Fred "Rerun" Berry -70s TV sitcom "What's Happening") and his beautiful assassin (Debbie Rochon). The movie in general is kind of like a fast paced surrealistic action flick. Fred plays the White Slave trader who has a great love of hand puppets and nude strippers. Debbie's character is more the "cold blooded" indifferent type. The main character in the film tries everything he can do to win her love. She could care less. Debbie's character is more or less the driving force behind the film. Whatever the main character does is to "win" Debbie. Both Fred and Debbie are wonderful to work with. Fred is the same kind of lively jokester that he played on "What's Happening". Debbie Rochon and John Fedele ("Blood Bullets Buffoons", "Titanic 2000") are my two favorite actors to work with. Both are very different, but both give me what I need. They come up with great ideas and just make the scenes far far better than what I originally wrote.
DG) Do you feel this is your most accomplished work? If not, which movie then stands as your favorite?
ZS) Oh definitely I like "In The Hood" the most, but that's really for an audience to decide. I never look back at a movie and say "that was great". It's more like "whew, I'm glad I got that off my chest, and I felt it was the best job that I could have done". If that means people love it than great!
DG) What projects do you have in works?
ZS) Probably at the end of the summer or beginning of the fall, I want to direct a horror film about a character who loses his soul. He has to recover it at the end of the week or he will be lost forever. This one will be a little different than the others. Not really a comedy, but not really a straight horror. It will definitely be an interesting challenge.

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