Chuck Parello, a well seasoned independent director with crime and horror indies such as The Hillside Strangler, In the Light of the Moon, and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Part 2 under his belt, shares with us the experience he’s had with a very different sort of film… Dr. 420.
With such a history of horror, Parello’s new film, Dr. 420 – a humorous ‘stoner’ short comedy was a rather unsuspected change in the filmmaker’s rhythm, but his grand entrance into the “glorious tradition of filmmaking known as stoner cinema”, has turned into a very exciting and entertaining adventure.
Dr. 420 is about two stoner brothers (played by Zach Book and Sean Carlin), seeking to obtain medical marijuana cards, run afoul of the wildly eccentric Dr. 420 (Lin Shaye). The film has been partly created as a “showcase for Shaye’s comedic talents, who is “quite honestly, hilarious in her role as the wacky medical marijuana physician with a thing for bodily fluids and a disdain for stoners in general”.
So, without further ado, here is an interview with the man himself, Chuck Parello!
Where did the concept for Dr.420 come from?
People mainly know me for dark true crime films, like “Ed Gein” and “The Hillside Strangler,” so I thought I’d lighten up for a change and venture into the comedy genre. I ended up writing a stoner comedy script called “Dr. 420″ about a skateboarder/slacker who gets his dream job when he’s hired by an alternative newspaper to become a pot critic, a reviewer of the goods and services being offered by all of the medical marijuana dispensaries popping up around his town. One of the funniest scenes in the “Dr. 420″ script involves two stoner brothers going to get a medical marijuana card from a completely unhinged medical marijuana doctor named Dr. 420 and I decided to shoot that scene as a short. (For the uninitiated “420″ is a slag term for pot smoking!)
What were the biggest challenges you faced while making Dr. 420?
The biggest challenge was self financing the project. This producer who liked my work swore up and down that he was going to find the money for the short and help me get the “Dr. 420″ feature made, but then he ended up bailing on me after I had cast all of the actors, hired a great crew and locked down some choice film locations. Rather than just cancel the shoot and end up with serious egg on my face, I had to find a way to get “Dr. 420″ produced on a very meager budget.
How did you overcome that?
I asked for as many favors as I could get. I’m lucky that my cast and crew were so understanding and so dedicated to helping me get my warped idea in the can. And the fact that Lin Shaye was in the cast helped a lot because people just love her and want to be associated with anything she’s a part of.
It seems like you had a really awesome cast to work with, how did you find and cast Dr. 420’s actors?
Lin Shaye was in my true crime film “The Hillside Strangler,” which was a real departure for her because she’s mainly known for her hysterical performances in iconic comedies like “There’s Something About Mary,” “Kingpin” and “Dumb & Dumber.” She played real life serial killer Angelo Buono’s alcoholic mother and the performance she gave was so devastatingly real and powerful that I knew I had to find something else for us to do together. We stayed in touch throughout the years and I pretty much created the part of “Dr. 420″ as a showcase for her formidable comedic talents. (When I get a “Dr. 420″ feature going, I’m definitely featuring Lin in two parts!) I found Sean Carlin and Zach Book, who play marijuana-loving brothers David and Keith Peterson, and Jodi Bianca Wise, who plays weirdo medical marijuana dispensary worker Trish, through LA casting sessions. I knew Brandin Rackley, who plays Sexy Dr. 420, from when she played a hooker who meets a horrifying demise in my film “The Hillside Strangler.” And Naomi Grossman, who plays a medical marijuana card hawker named Cookie Weiner, was introduced to me by Josh Fong, who served as cinematographer and one of the producers on “Dr. 420.” (FYI Naomi recently played the popular “Pepper” character on “American Horror Story: Asylum.”)
Will we expect a sequel to Dr. 420?
Hopefully you will see a “Dr. 420” feature film in the not too distant future. I’ve been having some great meetings with financiers who all love my short and my script so fingers crossed that one of them eventually writes a check that allows us to start filming!
What is your camera of choice for making low budget films, and why?
We filmed “Dr. 420″ with two Cannon 5ds, which worked out great. The image quality is amazing without having to use a bunch of extra lights. Plus they’re so small and portable. If you don’t have any time or money, definitely go this route. If you have some extra money, be sure to use a RED camera or something better.
What are your top five favorite films to watch?
- Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder)
- In Cold Blood (Richard Brooks)
- Play Misty For Me (Clint Eastwood)
- The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke)
- The Virgin Spring (Ingmar Bergman)
Who are your most influential directors?
Bonus Question! What is your favorite type of cheese?
I’m a Manchego cheese fanatic these days. Love it!
Well if you’ve enjoyed reading about Dr. 420, watch this space! We have some very exciting news coming your way about this funny film! In the mean time, enjoy some of the production pics below: