Director Julius Ramsay teamed up with his screenwriter brother Alston to create a Hitchcockian thriller called “MIDNIGHTERS,” about a cover-up of a terrible crime gone wrong. But the real thrill is how Ramsay navigated 17 years in the business as a film editor/director to get his first film made. Moviehole steals some time with Ramsay to find out his biz secrets, like how a certain book can help you make it and what it was like working with his brother (a former senior adviser to Secretary of Defense to Robert Gates, General David Petraeus and the Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh C. Johnson).
Moviehole: How did you become involved with filmmaking?
Julius Ramsay: I was a history major in college from rural North Carolina and I was interested in film and took a class — from there I worked in the film department for a year. I wanted to be a director and decided to enter the business as an editor, so I moved to L.A. and worked in docs and reality-type shows, then I switched over into scripted. I did shows like the “The Walking Dead,” that was how I got into it.
Moviehole: How did you get involved with this film? I see your brother wrote it, how was it working with your brother? Also, is the film based on an Los Angeles Times article (about a nurse’s aide who hit a homeless man with her car, drove home with him stuck headfirst in the broken window and then ignored his pleas for days until he died in her garage).
JR: Alston noticed the article, but our movie is not based on the article — it provoked an idea that would be very different, our film is a totally original idea.
Alston wanted to get involved in filmmaking and I was getting into directing, so we decided to create a low-budget thriller. He had a germ of an idea, then he went off and developed a screenplay. We worked on it and felt it was a viable film, so we started budgeting and fundraising, etc. All along, my intention was to direct it, it was the perfect opportunity. I’d been in the entertainment industry for 17 years. It’s been really good working with each other, we work with each other quite well and complement each other’s strengths and it’s been fun. Our family is very proud and came out to the Los Angeles film festival last year to see it.
Moviehole: What was the hardest challenge about making this film?
JR: I think it’s a very, very difficult process, it was a long process, I think it’s not that there’s a specific thing, it’s doable in bite-size portions, it’s just very exhausting chugging day after day, there’s so many small things you never think of. It’s been four years in the making.
Moviehole: Can you tell us about directing “Krypton” on Syfy? How will it be different from the usual Superman story?
JR: It’s coming out at the end of March (March 21). It’s very cool. It’s a different set on Krypton, it’s all these characters that are based there for the most part. I think you are going to see the larger world of Krypton, a first-time lengthy exploration of Krypton and the people and everything. I talked to the creators and they are doing their own thing (creating this world), they really try to make it their own, it’s all new stuff. I think people will be very happy, there are cool characters and it’s exciting, like the Sci-Fi version of “Game of Thrones.” It’s not that violent but it has that epic quality to it, as well as humor and levity which is really important to it.
Moviehole: What would be your advice to directors?
JR: The basics of learning to work with actors, how to get the best possible actors to be in TV shows and movies. In terms of directing, it’s such a lengthy subject it’s hard to think of a couple key points. Read the book “How to Win Friends & Influence People” (by Dale Carnegie), that’s a good book to read.
Moviehole: What would be your advice to people just starting out in the business?
JR: I would say number one is to make sure this is what you want to do more than anything else as a profession. It’s not a career to go into just to have fun; it’s really hard and incredibly competitive. You have to have thick skin and persevere for years and years with no guarantee of success. I know so many people who moved out to L.A. and aren’t prepared, you have to give everything to this career if that’s what you want to do. Any possibly way you can break in, break in — nowadays, people especially younger people blast people by emails so people tend to ignore that (emails). If you can call people, that’s important. One thing I would not do, is to blast a form email; try to set up in person meetings with anyone who can help you.
Moviehole: Who are your filmmaking idols?
JR: I would say David Lynch, David Fincher, James Cameron.
Moviehole: What were the toughest times of your career?
JR: Making transitions, liking being an editor in reality TV going to scripted TV; similarly it’s been different switching from an editor in scripted TV to being a director, so I would say transitions in one’s career.
Moviehole.net: What are your upcoming projects?
JR: I have two other TV shows of my own I’m developing. One is a tech noir mystery TV series and one is a period piece from the 1970s.
Moviehole: What are your future goals?
JR: I want to do a Sci-Fi film, to direct it. And I’d like to direct a TV series but my own. I would like to possibly work with my brother again, for sure.
Distributed by IFC Midnight, “MIDNIGHTERS” was released in theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on March 2nd.
Movie website: http://gwi.io/9yom1l