The Insider: Daniel Lench on being an Indie Actor
Also, you can catch my work in Patient Seven a horror anthology film which is currently available on many VOD platforms, (ITunes, Amazon, Vimeo, Vudu, PlayStation, Xbox, GooglePlay – and on November 8th coming to limited RedBox near you). Patient Seven stars Michael Ironside and Jake Plotnick in the “wrap around” story and was directed (and edited) beautifully by the fabulously talented Danny Draven. The wrap-around surrounds seven international short horror films, some of which include stars like Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones) and Amy Smart.
Similar to Circle, the “wrap-around” segment of Patient Seven was shot in a very short time frame (4 days total shoot). It was shot on a rented soundstage called Silver Dream Factory Studios in Anaheim, California (Home of the Magic Kingdom and Knott’s Berry Farm). Silver Dream, like so many other rental studios, is a truly cool space. Within this rather compact space there are different preset areas – The Hospital [where the vast portion of our film was shot and] The Police Station [which, as you watch the film, you’ll notice we used as the jail cells as the individual asylum patients’ “rooms”], as well as an Airplane Set, Flower Shop, House/Apt. Set, and a small “backlot” area. For those of us who love to play make believe, it is a truly fun place to hang out while waiting for your scenes to be shot.
Let me back up a bit, and talk briefly about how I landed the role of JD, Patient Two in this fun flick. The audition for this movie was arranged through my agent who originally got me an audition for the two doctors (Ironside and Plotnick roles). I was asked to prepare both roles, and worked hard on the sides. At the audition site, I was asked to just read for the Plotnick role (presumably they had already locked in Mr. Ironside). In the room were all three of the Terror Film Producers – Joe Dain, Jim Klock and Miles Fineburg, as well as Director Draven [interesting side note for y’all – Jim Klock is a fab actor in his own right, if you watched the first season of Scream Queens, he was the addled police detective who ended up going into interior decorating]. When I entered the room to read my scene, I was informed that they all loved my work in Circle. This really startled me, as Circle hadn’t yet been released to Netflix, and in fact I had only just seen it for the first time myself a few weeks prior at its premiere in the Seattle International Film Festival. So I asked them how could they have possibly seen it, and they told me that it had been brought to them by the incredible Autumn Frederici-Hish (one of the producers of Circle who was also serving as production manager for Patient Seven). They liked the film and tried to buy distribution rights, but Circle producers had decided to sell to Netflix and ITunes on their own. More about Ms. Frederici-Hish later, back to the audition… Obviously, as an actor, this kind of up-front compliment puts you in a great place. I did my audition, and was asked to look at another role, JD, cold. I was told to take my time, but felt an immediate kinship to the text and, after working it for about 5-10 minutes, did my audition and was offered the role.
As I said before, the shoot itself was done at a very quick pace, I was there for 3 out of the 4 day shoot. Much of the time, as is often the case in a rented studio space, was spent sitting around in the green room. This gave me an opportunity to meet and talk with all of the marvelous people, cast and crew, that made up the PS team. I got to spend a lot of time with Grace Van Dien (son of Casper Van Dien who coincidently co-starred with Ironside on Starship Troopers, and Michael hadn’t seen Grace since she was just a little girl, so it was a very neat reunion for them). I also got to spend time with Drew Fontiero and Rane Jameson, who played the interns, William Mark McCullough – the vampire hunter and the rest of the nuts in the asylum… Most wonderful, I got to spend some time with man himself, Michael Ironside. I have now said this in several on-line podcasts, and I will repeat it again here now: Michael is one of the most present, giving, generous actors I have ever had the opportunity to work with. He is invested in every aspect of the work, offering his well-earned insights into moments on screen, which added to the depth of the work you see on the film. I admit to going in just the tiniest petrified at the idea of working directly against him on set, being well aware of his film work. He usually plays the gruff, tough as nails, evil damn bastard (as he does in our film), and I was concerned this might have been just a reflection of his true self. As I said above, nothing could be farther from the truth.
A word about the director, Danny Draven. Danny has a huge history and background in filming and editing horror movies. He is an award-winning writer, director and producer of “genre” films and Sthas worked with some of the greatest, including Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator) and Charles Brand (Full Moon – most notably the Puppet Master series). So Danny brings so much know-how onto the set. He is without a question what we call an “Actor’s Director,” although he is most definitely no slacker in the technical aspects, given that he edits, color corrects, sound corrects, knows his cameras, etc. But, on set, he works so tightly with the actors in helping to hone and shape their performances, at the same time he gave us so much freedom to play and improvise – a killer combo for those of us who love to play at make believe. And trust me on this, if you do not like playing at make believe, acting is definitely not for you.
A quick word about the crew – FANTASTIC! There is no performance on film, ever, that can be captured and presented properly without a good crew, and this was one of the best. Shooting in a tight time frame, on limited sets, with a fairly low budget, presents technical challenges which need to be overcome on an hourly basis. Without the best DP, camera crew, sound crew, production crew, grips, electricians, artistic directors, property, costuming, make-up etc., the film would not be the piece that it is. Also, it would be remiss of me to go any further without noting that the wrap around was written by Barry Jay, and that script is where it all starts! That script deftly wrote around seven completely un-connected short horror films and managed to create a story that links them all together smoothly, brilliantly, and almost seamlessly –many cudos go to Mr. Jay.
Before I go, I simply must talk about the marvelous Autumn Frederici-Hish, who has in a big way been
the catalyst for my recent success in the indie film biz. Autumn and I met, as mentioned, on the set of Circle, where she served as one of the producers, and acted in one of the smaller, unsung roles. Autumn was then responsible for bring Circle to Terror Films, which clearly had an impact on why producers and Draven gave me the opportunity to audition for that film. Later, Autumn invited me to audition, and along with director Jake Helgren, cast me in a small, but lovely, supporting role in the upcoming Rom-Com film, It Happened One Valentine’s, starring James Maslow and Alex Haley, among others, in which she served as producer, production manager, casting director and all around amazing person. She later invited me directly to perform as a News Anchor in the upcoming Mar Vista Entertainment film, Hellstorm. Besides all of this, and doing a big chunk of this while lovingly caring for her young daughter and most recently very, very pregnant as she handled all of that!! One day I hope to grow up to be as much of an amazing person and Ms. Federici-Hish!!!
Last year I was also fortunate enough to be cast as one of the Death Archangels, Sariel in the upcoming film The Lurking Man, based on the second book in the Thanatology Series novels by Keith Rommell. If you get a chance read those novels they’re great. I have been told that that film will be coming out sometime in 2017, so I am not free at this point to discuss the on and off-screen antics at this time. However, I have been led to believe that my impromptu rendition of Tiptoe Thru the Tulips in full death make up will be included in the extras on the DVD – and that alone should be worth the price of the movie.