The Coping With Sanity Interview: Paul von Stoetzel

So we have something new for you here today. For the first time in the history of The Coping With Sanity Interview, we have someone I have never met in person. Considering how many people I have met online, it’s actually kind of shocking to me this hasn’t happened yet. But I’ve been following Paul on Twitter, well, you know what, just read the interview…

You’re kind of first here as a guest I really don’t know much about. But your tweets are interesting and you have a picture of my favorite Joker comic as your Twitter background so you must be cool. I know you’re a filmmaker or some such bullshit and you’ve worked with people I respect. You’ve also worked with Jeff Shelby. So why don’t you tell us about yourself and what kind of project you’re hocking these days.

Ha. Thanks man. Yeah, I’ve got this unnatural obsession with the Joker that I can’t explain so that’s why he’s up there and why my production company is Killing Joke Films. Well, that and I was a fan of the band which were at the center of a lot of music I dug growing up, so the name is a combination of those. As for Twitter- I definitely talk too much. But I’m not the only one so I suppose that works out?

I’ve been going steady from one short film to another for a few years now and recently began directing music videos as well which it seems I’m decent at. I’ve got a fun bloody one at a local fest here called The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Fest which is respected and tough to get into, so that’s cool. Last year I directed an adaptation of Jedidiah Ayres’ short story VISCOSITY which has been playing at a lot of festivals and came in 4th place for a local competition called Z-Fest. VISCOSITY is screening at the Kansas City FilmFest April 15th so that also is great. Getting your stuff out there, especially short films, and getting any kind of attention is tough as hell because the market is so saturated so I’m always thankful when my stuff is screened anywhere for anything.

Otherwise, like you mentioned, I adapted a short from Jeff Shelby- TWISTED SISTER, for a competition this year. It was well received and I’m proud as hell of it but it didn’t do well by the judges, so y’know. Screw them. I’m looking forward to getting that short out because it’s got a nice theatrical, comic book stylization to it while still attempting to maintain a sincere and gritty story that ends in violence. We’re touching up TWISTED SISTER and should be sending it out by May. Hopefully.

The big project I’ve been working on is my first feature film, A METHOD. We began production back in November 2012 and we just wrapped our final shot/scene in late March. My producer and I are going through the footage and I’m really excited. The film is about a Midwest documentary director who is following an actress around with her small crew because the actress got her first big film break in a large budget, out of town feature. The actress is going method for the part which is where it gets interesting because the part is for a junkie prostitute mother and everything goes about as bad as you can imagine. Anyway, we’re hoping to have the film completed by Autumn and begin sending it out, attempting to get distribution, blah blah. All the usual crap. Speaking of, please check A METHOD’Sfacebook page here;
Is there a field you’re still itching to try? Anything you have no desire to write?

I hadn’t written anything for years until TWISTED SISTER came along and I felt I was capable to adapt it. Writing is such a fucking perishable skill and I felt like a twit when I could hardly work the screenwriting software because it had been so long. I’ve got another script in the works that I’m working with where the writer and I meet and get the story down to a strong detailed outline and then he goes off and writes it. We’re close to finishing it and that might be my next feature. It’s called A SEASON IN HELL and yeah it’s a straight reference to Rimbaud’s brutal book of poetry. It’s another story about an actor in hell, except this one is literal hell. I have always been fascinated with Faust and the idea of selling your soul so that’s what this feature will tackle. Otherwise I have a couple dark concepts that I’d like to flesh out but they’ll take some time. The main one is about a couple miscreant kids who inherit their families mortuary and cemetery business and begin selling corpses among other jacked up ideas. It’s got an old fashioned grindhouse feel to it that I’d like to dig into someday. That one I’ve been playing with for a while but would really need a serious budget. A METHOD we made for next to nothing and A SEASON IN HELL won’t be too bad but this one would need some relatively serious financing and I suck hard at finding money so we’ll see what happens.

Tell me more about your social media habits. Why is it important in these days of tweets and privacy-whoring billionaires to have a presence out there?

Ain’t nobody going to promote you unless you’re already doing it. It’s great when other folks dig your work and pimp you out but it’s never enough if you’re not doing it already for yourself. It’s an ugly, filthy fucking fact that I fought for a long time but eventually had to admit and succumb to. I don’t like being away from my family to talk and intro my films at festivals but it helps for attendance and then folks take more of a personal interest. Same with social media. I talk to folks because it’s one of the best ways for anyone to get to know you and take any kind of damn interest. Like I mentioned before it’s not a secret that there is a monumental amount of films out there and everyone is trying to get their work noticed so every moment you’re not doing something to promote yourself there are a few thousand other cats out there promoting the shit out of their work. It’s exhausting to deal with but it’s the truth. I don’t know shit about any billionaires but if anyone does send them my way.

I mentioned before , Jeff Shelby, who is actually kind of a nice guy if you don’t mind the smell. I know you found his story you adapted online. How? Do you have any thoughts on the state of online fiction?

I think I found his collection of shorts OUT OF TIME discounted one day and said “I’ve never read this dude. Fuck it.” bought it and read it. Someone must have retweeted it or sent me an update. I’m not sure. I’ve been getting to know some of the modern indie crime/noir/hardboiled writers and there is a lot of good shit out there. I like adapting good work so I still keep on searching for something that is up my alley but which also resonates with me. I think online fiction is great. Shit, that’s where everything is going so folks have got to adapt or it’s just going to make being a writer or filmmaker even more difficult. I know some peeps bitch and moan about online fiction but the bottom line is that it’s the future whether they like it or not. So suck it up and drive on. I even empathize with that moaning. I went to film school and originally worked on 16mm film stock and had to learn digital the hard way. But if I didn’t I’d be screwed, so it is what it is.

Here is where I normally would ask about your family life, like whether you’re married or have kids and what kind of impact family has on your work, but I don’t know if any of that applies to you. Please discuss.

I’ve got a family and a 6 year old little girl who runs me fucking ragged. She’s already reading so now I get to sit and listen to her read from folks like Neil Gaiman or Roman Dirge and she loves it. There’s so much out there for her these days that I could hardly find as a kid. She’s got a taste for the macabre (no idea where that came from) and she finds a lot of identity in that so to have great works out there that both of us can check out, whether it’s writing or film, is so goddamn awesome and it gives us more things to bond over. Otherwise my other gal is a makeup artist who originally went to school for special effects which is how we met. They’re two of the most amazing and inspiring human being on this mud ball planet and I’m humbled and honored to be their family.

Finally, tell me one thing you’ve never told any other interviewer.

You’ve probably gotten this one before, but I hate interviews. I’ve been doing them for about 5 years and I still find them abhorrent and miserable. Only when it’s me, though. I love reading other opinions and points of view especially from creative folks I look up to. But I really hate doing this, but y’know, it’s like I mentioned previously- no one is going to do this for me so I need to quit whining and learn to deal with it. No one forced me or asked me to do what I do so all I’ve got to blame is my own dumb ass for getting myself into this situation. But it ain’t all bad. In fact, sometimes film is the most marvelous thing in my world besides my family. When it’s not horrible, that is.

Thanks, Paul. And let’s hoping working with Jeff hasn’t set your career back by a decade. To find out more about Paul, check out his website and Facebook page.