BRWC Exclusive Interview: Joe McClean

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The first “must see” (Film Threat) independent movie of the year, The Drama Club arrives on VOD this June from Leomark Studios.

“Bringing to mind The Big Chill” (Indie Film Minute), The Drama Club features a solid ensemble cast in the story of a high school drama club that catch up twenty-years on.

It’s been twenty years since they met in their high school drama club, but the teenage romances, egos, and quarrels are lying just beneath the surface waiting to prove themselves once again. Touching on topics from male/female double standards, to politics, to LGBTQ and race relations, the group grows more this weekend than in the last two decades. In a twisted maze of ex-lovers, old grudges, and new spouses, the friends are thrown down a rabbit hole of alcohol-fueled bad decisions.

This June, “quality indie cinema” (The Independent Critic) can be found within the frames of writer-director Joe McClean’s The Drama Club, available 6/13 on VOD.

Why a drama club?

I was in the drama club in high school and I met three of my actors then; Chris Ciccarelli (Luke), Barry Finnegan (Nathan), and Jon Luke Thomas (Cory). I also thought the title was good, taking its cue from The Breakfast Club, and the styles of other movies like The Big Chill and Sixteen Candles.

The Drama Club pic

image from The Drama Club

What personal elements of your life were injected into the script?

I think any writer would tell you that they are all of the characters and none of the characters. I’m certainly in mid-life-crisis territory in my life so that’s all over everyone. I have Kat and Keith’s desire to fit in. I have Cory’s desire to relive glory days. I find it difficult to keep my mouth shut like Elle. But it’s not only character traits, it’s also experiences. There’s one scene where the guys lay on the patio and stare at the stars while they talk. That’s something I’ve done many times, with those guys, on that exact patio. It was natural to write a scene with the characters doing the same thing.

The film is both comedic and dramatic, how do you direct actors not to play things too-over-the-top when you’re mixing genres like that?

There’s a lot of trust in the actor’s talents. Of course I pulled it back sometimes and asked for more in others, that’s just normal. One thing we did do was have a “Drunk Chart” We shot out of sequence so I had a chart from 1 to 4 and I would inform the actors how drunk they were in each scene. Of course there’s a pretty sobering moment about halfway through and the chart was put away.

Did you encourage improvisation in a lot of those scenes?

There’s almost no improve in the movie. Of course a line here and a line there, but nearly all of it was on the page before we got on set. One great moment of improv was the Romeo and Juliet scene. I had originally intended that to simply be romantic for Nathan and Hannah. The actors asked to try the bit where they called out famous actors for Nathan to impersonate while saying Romeo’s lines. Too funny not to leave in the movie, and in my opinion it gave Nathan and Hannah an even more romantic end because they were having fun together.

How was the set? Was it a jovial one?

The set ran so smooth! The cast and crew of 21 were all stuck up there for over 2 weeks. It was too far from town to really get away and there is absolutely ZERO cell service. So when the cameras were put away we hung out, laughed, played pool, and drank… We drank a lot. I guess that’s what people did before phones.

The Drama Club still

The Drama Club

Which character in the film are you able to sympathize with the most?

I know this may not be the answer you’re looking for, but the honest answer is all of them.

What’s the secret to making a good, solid independent movie in your opinion?

Planning. You have so little time and so little money on an indie film that planning is the most important thing. It doesn’t sound as exciting, but by the time you get to set try to make as much of it paint-by-number from your action plan as you possibly can.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.



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