How did film festivals, filmmaking competitions, fellowships, etc. play a role in your career?
JASON: The film festivals created an environment to meet other filmmakers and actors. This is how I became so prolific actor in indie films and got to work with Sean Baker in “Tangerine” and Ira Sacks “Love Is Strange”. I also went to Outfest a lot and noticed all the LGBTQ actors did not have a place to network and get support so I co created the SAG/AFTRA LGBTQ committee which I am the current national Co-Chair with Traci Godfrey.
MITCH: I was constantly making my own stuff. If I wanted to play a role, I created it. I did a film HORRIBLE ACCIDENT with Lori Petty that has played all over the world. It opened the international film festival here in LA. We wrote it, we starred in it. It was amazing. Telluride said, “Hara caresses your heart and then rips it out.” I love that. It is kinda who I am. I’m just never going to wait for 12 people to decide if it’s OK for me to create, to act, to express myself. If I’m not gonna do it on film, I’m gonna do it on stage. Me and Jason are incredibly driven. If I’m not getting offered something, I create the project and I threw myself on stage and all my blood and guts. I love that.
The pandemic has greatly affected the entertainment industry. How did it affect your side of things?
JASON: Well, Season 1 came out in 2020 and gave us the opportunity to go viral as folks were at home and had nothing to do. This made them fall in love with Ralph & Randy and introduce them to the world. Season 2 really digs deeper into their “love you hate you” relationship. We did tons of podcasting and print media. We were nominated for 4 indie series awards, 3 Querrty Awards and a best comedy from a film festival in Amsterdam! I won Best actor in A Comedy at the Indie Series Awards.
MITCH: Since everything I do and how I look at sh*t is always a little askew and uniquely my own. The pandemic was genius for me. I’ve never been so creative. I did a pilot for NBC/Peacock, called I Run Hot with Ilana Glazer from Broad City. She directed, her brother wrote it. I was hysterical. I also wrote a screenplay and two pilots. I filmed another pilot Peeling The Stinky Onion that I wrote and co-directed at Sony. The pandemic was a great time. I rode my bike all over the place. I didn’t have to smile or talk to anybody I didn’t want to. Bliss.
What were the monumental life lessons, mistakes, and things you’ve learned throughout your career that you would like to share with aspiring or emerging female filmmakers and/or creatives in general?
JASON: It really taught me to focus in my work in a way I have never done before. Being a co-writer, co producer and costar we both had a lot on our plate. I had to trust my instincts and stick to [my] guns. To also pick and choose what I would fight for and compromise when need be. Even though Smothered is a comedy with drama I went in deep and at times it was hard to know where Ralph & Randy start and Jason & Mitch end.
MITCH: My advice is keep creating. Make your own stuff. Make mistakes. Learn. Don’t worry about what anybody else thinks about what you’re doing. Keep creating and while the low vibrating peeps are trying to decide if they like it? Make more sh*t. If I had worry about what anyone watching me, thinks of what I’m doing, I’d never do anything. It’s freeing not to give a rat’s ass. Jason’s more open to everyone’s input. But, If I don’t ask for your idea. you can be sure, I don’t want it. So few people know how to hold your baby, and when they drop it on its head it your fault. Hell, no.
What do you think the future of filmmaking would look like? What kind of stories do you think will emerge and capture the attention of producers and executives?
JASON: It seems like TV is king now and diversity is here to stay. I love film, TV, and theatre that is real and comes from an authentic place. I love seeing a story where you come out learning something from another person’s point of view, that you would never have thought of. Also to learn to have more empathy for others. In a few years I think we will not have a difference between film & TV. And, that they cast me in all types of roles whether I play a gay or straight person. It does not seem to matter to younger people as it did when I started out in the 1900s!
MITCH: I think as much as we want to believe that Art is going to be Queen. It’s always going to be commerce. I also believe the most inspiring stories are the personal journeys. The stories that are raw and fearless. Where someone has the courage to unpack all their nasty bits for everyone to see. That film catches the public by surprise. Not trying to make the next “Marvel” thing or next “Transparent” thing or the next anything. Make your own. That’s what rises to the top. I have a great story I can’t tell. LOL
What’s your advice to aspiring filmmakers who want to break into the entertainment industry?
JASON: Learn your craft. And as Mitch and I have said “Don’t wait for person to create”. Take risks and know there is no perfect way to make art. Listen to others you respect and work with talented people.
MITCH: Just do sh*t. Surround yourself with people who have answers and info you don’t. Get a genius cameraman who knows lenses. Start small, take a situation and film it. A friend made a three-minute short and It played all over the fu*king world.
What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind as a filmmaker?
JASON: That we did good work and made people laugh out loud, shed a tear and want to hire us again and again.
MITCH: I want to move people. I want to disturb people. I want to make people think. I want to make people laugh their ass off. I want to make them cry, ugly crying. I also want to give people permission to be more of themselves. I love to walk a tight rope when I create, where the possibility of falling and crashing and bombing is just as strong as being genius. I’m always willing to take that risk.
Do you have other upcoming projects you want to share with us?
JASON: On July 1st I will be taping a stand up show with some other gay comedians called “Laugh Proud” from filmmaker Quentin Lee and I will be in the comedy Garlic Parmesan coming out this summer playing the owner of a improv group that’s not really funny! Sort of a Napoleon Dynamite kinda film. Also I am celebrating 30 years of coming out on Geraldo Rivera Show as an out actor & comedian. Which I’m really proud of. I feel like I broke a bit of ground for others and now Mitch & I get to walk on it together! And FYI we are just friends and work partners and both single!
MITCH: I write a lot, so I have a few screenplays. “Can you hear me now” that’s getting a lot of buzz. It’s a gay “Aunty Mame” meets “Kramer vs Kramer” meets, “Rainman” about me and my amazing nephew who has Asperger‘s. I have another screenplay called, “Party Time” (about annoying angels, destiny and cancer.) that’s really one of my life concepts: that we’re all here to do something and if we don’t do it, we keep coming back till we do. Plus I’m making a an indie film out of my one-man show Mutant Olive. I’m also pitching. Olive as a half hour series. And then, there’s always that possibility of Smothered Season 3. If we don’t kill each other.
Keep up with the show at their official website: https://www.smotheredtv.com/