Kris Belman and Scott Balcerek
How did you get into directing?
Balcerek: I used to boss my twin brother around. I was five minutes older and it felt like the right thing to do.
Belman: A junior in college, I signed up for a documentary filmmaking class that required me to create a 10 minute film. I went back to my hometown of Akron, Ohio, to begin shooting a local high school basketball team. I was immediately struck by how fascinating some of the characters were, and knew that the overall arching themes of friendship and brotherhood were the stars of this film, and it had to be longer than 10 minutes. Seven years later, I proudly premiered the film at the Toronto Film Festival, and all the players showed up-including current NBA star LeBron James. I suppose somewhere in that seven-year journey I became a director.
What is your most recent project?
Balcerek: I’m trying to finish a documentary about a musician named Satan. It’s real Hell. I’m also writing a comedy. That’s Hell too.
Belman: After More Than A Game, I jumped into a commercial project with Gatorade, and my editor on MTAG, Scott Balcerek. REPLAY was a fascinating look at athletes in their mid 30’s given the chance to replay the football game of their lives. It proved to be an incredible look not only at the inner strength these men possessed to train for this full contact football game, but also the mental toughness and appreciation to have a second chance in football and in life.
What is the best part of being a director?
Balcerek: Wearing an ascot while using a bullhorn. Not that I get to do that.
Belman: I love having the chance to take a subject, and analyze it from a way nobody else thought about doing. With More Than A Game, everybody thought the focus would be on LeBron James. Walking out of theaters, however, they were talking about Coach Dru Joyce, or how the theme of friendship was the bond that tied the film together. It’s a liberating feeling to do something like that, and that is my favorite part of directing. That and getting free screeners.
Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons)
and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates most with you?
Balcerek: Tim Robbins helped me out in my early years in becoming an editor. I worked at ILM for a while and George Lucas was supportive of personal projects from his employees, so there was a certain mentoring in that. Both helped me explore my own persistence. Anyone who has a strong opinion becomes a mentor to me. Anyone who puts their flag in the ground, whether I know them or agree with them or not.
Belman: My very first day of film class, my professor Greg Ruzzin gave us a handout titled “Greg Ruzzin’s 25 Questions to ask yourself before making a film: Question #1: Are you Crazy? If yes, move on to question 2. If not, find another profession.” Greg’s honest approach to filmmaking has helped me keep things in perspective, and I continue to seek advice from him to this day.
Who is your favorite director and why?
Balcerek: Martin Scorsese. I love the documentary influence in his work, the blur between fiction and non-fiction. Also being an Italian Catholic myself, his grasp of family themes in that context is very familiar to me, the people, the places, the how and when and why all adds up for me in subtle ways. He’s the only director I watch over and over. Second would be David Lynch.
Belman: My favorite director is Danny Boyle because he refuses to be categorized as a film maker. He consistently changes genres, and yet maintains a style that is 100% Danny. That impresses me beyond belief.
What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial?
Balcerek: Goodfellas. Commercially, I go for comedy. The VW Polo Suicide Bomber viral was memorable for me, like it or not.
Belman: My favorite film of all time is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It’s certainly not a film that will be studied in cinema theory classes anytime soon, but it really resonated with me on a personal level. I thought the serendipitous quality Ferris possessed is something we all dream about, making it the quintessential teen fantasy film. My favorite commercials are the original set of Geico cavemen commercials. They were simple, witty, and who doesn’t love cave men?
Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
Balcerek: I grew up in a blue-collar environment in a small rural town in Pennsylvania. A penchant for playing music and short story writing led me to film and acceptance to AFI. The first film I ever cut won the Student Academy Award, so naturally I stuck with editing and that led me into directing.
Belman: I consider myself an accomplished coffee barista, burrito peddler, and seller of women’s shoes. I mastered these crafts in order to fund my first film, More Than A Game. Originally from Akron, Ohio, I studied two years of Theater at Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio before transferring to Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television. During my 3rd year of undergraduate studies, I began principal photography of More Than A Game to fulfill a course requirement. Seven years later, this would become my first feature-length film.