At some point in our lives, we’ve all wanted to be an actor. We hear about the glamorous lifestyles and the paychecks and we ask ourselves “how hard could that be?” However, once most of us do that school play, we realize that maybe acting isn’t our calling. The amount of work that goes into acting is something most of us never consider.
Not only is Paul Sampson a professional actor, but for his latest film, “Night of the Templar,” Sampson was also the director, producer and writer. Along with talking with It’s Just Movies about what being an actor is like for him, Sampson discusses his latest film, the death of David Carradine (whose last film was “Night of the Templar”), and how making a movie has changed his life.
Read Sampson’s interview below and make sure to keep an eye out for “Night of the Templar” in the future.
It’s Just Movies: How did you first get involved in the film business?
Paul Sampson: I was a stage actor … and then one day I decided I wanted to get paid for it.
IJM: Has your career transpired the way you expected? What has been the biggest surprise thus far?
PS: Career-wise, once I committed to the entertainment field being my livelihood, my “career” has evolved in a somewhat different manner than I had expected. Initially, I thought I was just going to act. But obviously, that’s all changed.
I’ve had a very odd life on so many different levels, and I’ve never really expected years in advance most of what has happened to me. But at the same time, no “success” that I have achieved has been a surprise to me because I had to earn it. Nothing has been handed to me in my life, other than myself, which I always thought should be enough for anyone. Winning the lottery, now that would be a surprise, but properly making a movie is hard work, and there is no surprise in that. However, if you had told me 10 years ago [“Night of the Templar”] was going to happen, I probably would have laughed and said “Why?”
IJM: What film-makers have inspired you?
PS: I’m not a student of film or film-makers. Everyone (that doesn’t know me) that has watched a cut of my movie thinks I’ve studied the craft of filmmaking and believes that I am influenced by some famous ’60s or ’70s French director or several English films from back in the day or something of the sort. And I just laugh, because I have no idea who or what they’re referring to. I don’t really know the history of directors and their “works” any more than most non-industry people out there that go to the movies.
So, although there are a handful of directors I think are great, I’ve never watched a movie and was like, [wow], I gotta do that … I have to go out and make a film now! I’m more like, man, I’d like to have the opportunity to be in a project like that as an ACTOR! Did I mention that I never wanted to be a director? [laughs]
IJM: How do you choose which projects to do?
PS: Since I started “Templar,” I refused over a half dozen projects (as an actor) out of necessity to stay focused on what I was doing. But in a couple of months, I’ll be available again. I’ll be considering only projects with integrity, that have people who really care about what they are doing and why they are doing it … and for the script to be great, and for my contribution to matter. I don’t need to be the director, producer, writer and so forth … I wouldn’t mind (believe me!) just being a part (as an actor) of something that is going to be great, and have an important contribution to its success. It’s that simple. I’ll choose quality material that has quality human beings/artists involved … I know it sounds simple, but unfortunately it’s not.
IJM: How would you describe your latest project, “Night of the Templar”?
PSControlled chaos … as in the inmates have taken over the (prison) yard, but they wanted to do something nice with it, like plant trees or make a theme park out of it. I don’t know, it’s a circus and I’m the ring master. What else … it’s like a cake that came out really really tasty (somehow) … with unorthodox ingredients: BLOOD, SWEAT, TEARS, LUCK, DEDICATION, TALENT, TENACITY, INCREDIBLE INSTINCT, PERSEVERANCE … and that’s just the craft service girl I’m talking about. You want me to describe the movie? Why don’t you just go see it, it’ll be easier for both of us.
IJM: Besides acting in the film, you also wrote, directed and produced it. How did you handle all of those different jobs?
PS: The writing on this one was much more complicated than any other script I had ever done. There are two sets of characters to develop (medieval and modern day) and they have to mesh and flow properly in the film, which is very intricate. It’s one of those films you will definitely enjoy the first time around, but you could watch it five more times and still catch a bunch of small detailed nuances each time. The script was fortunately tight BEFORE we started shooting, so that helped … it’s kind of one of the main reasons why everyone did the movie. They trusted me (God only knows why) and they liked the script.
Acting was second nature, could do it in my sleep…actually I think I did for a couple of the scenes … didn’t get much sleep on the movie. Directing, even though I never directed anything in my life, came pretty easy. Producing… yeah, well… that sucked! I’d be in the middle of “creating” gold on set and then the UPM or line producer would enter the room, and stand near me, about 1 foot out of frame … in the middle of a take … when I was acting … and I’d give it the “what?” shrug as the camera is starting to roll and I’d get the nervously delivered reply, “We need $500 … now … or they’re cutting the power or shutting down the generator.” Welcome to independent film making.
IJM: Did performing all those tasks give you any enlightenment into the acting process?
PS: I can tell you one thing for sure — as an actor; I’ll never be a pain in the ass on set (again).
Seriously, to just act in a movie is like a holiday. Yes, you have to put your work in, you have to prepare, but you only have one real responsibility, being true to your character.
IJM: What impresses me about the trailer for “Night of the Templar” is that it looks like an excellent mixture of genres. You’ve got the action/adventure angle, but it also has a slasher horror movie feel. Did you study films in each genre or did it all just come together in a unique way?
PS: “An excellent mixture of genres” (action/adventure/slasher/horror) … Why thank you, Allison. But you left out drama, comedy, period, and mystery and suspense. All kidding aside, it’s all in the film. I have to do a new trailer in about a month or so, and sprinkle a little comedy in there and maybe a dramatic line or two, but trust me, it’s all in the film.
But the million dollar question is … how in God’s name did it all work out? [laughs] I don’t know, but it all flows really well. When I wrote the script, I didn’t think, “Oh, I’m writing a medieval movie, or a horror movie, or a dark comedy or an action movie or a mystery and suspense or a thriller. I just wrote what came to mind — and made changes here and there. Even in post, I changed the order around totally a couple of times, and then it just settled where it belonged — kind of on its own — in a strange sense — at that point I knew it was completely done … that it was perfect … and knowing it was perfect, I went and I changed it just once more … twice … and then it was the “most bestest” perfect.
As far as the other part of your question, “Did I study films in each genre?” the answer is “no” … definitely not. I’ve never even taken a class or read a book on film or directing … or even writing …and the funny thing is, I’ve actually won a couple of awards for scripts that I’ve written. And it’s not out of laziness that I haven’t taken courses or classes or studied someone else’s work, I work harder at stuff than anyone you’ll ever meet. I just don’t want to become someone else’s idea of what a filmmaker should be — hopefully that makes a little sense.
IJM: “Night of the Templar” is David Carradine’s last film. How has his death affected the film?
PS: When David died, I still had stuff to shoot — nothing he was in, only medieval re-shoot stuff — and within a week (of his death), I had a bunch of people trying to get me to prematurely sell my movie based on David’s death … and by the time the AFM (American Film Market) in Santa Monica was approaching, I had dozens and dozens of bottom-feeding, low-life distributors wanting me to pre-sell my movie solely based on a one sheet … and his death. They didn’t give two craps about the movie … or David, really, just that he was in it, and now he was dead. It was f—ing pathetic.
But I wouldn’t sell. If anything, I wanted to make the movie even better, because I realized (even more so) that I wasn’t making the movie for these types of low-lifes. Yes, I may sound aggressive on this, but I feel strongly about it. They all wanted to rush the completion of the project and for me to sell it … just a bunch of opportunists. I can see people wanting to find the silver lining in the dark cloud, but they really didn’t care about David or the quality of the film. “Cookie cutters,” I call them … “Parasites.” Non-creative slugs with calculators, you know, saliva dripping on how much money David’s last film can bring them. How much is the now-dead David worth to the film?
They’d ask — without even seeing the film! — if there was any extra footage of him you can just throw in there to give him more screen time. And so on … I was like, he’s in the movie the exact amount of time he’s supposed to be in the movie — no more, no less — just like Udo (Kier), Norman (Reedus), Billy (Drago) and every one else in the cast. I didn’t make the film to make a quick buck … if it was just about money, I’d be a male prostitute … or some other common “occupation” in the film industry.
So in a way, David’s death resulted in my determination to make a better (final) movie. It reinforced the reason why I started the project. It wasn’t about money … it was never about money. I want to be able to take pride in the movie 40 years from now … money comes and goes, but the film will be eternal.
IJM: What is the future for “Night of the Templar”?
PS: Well, it’s done this month, so now comes time to sell it. In the interim (of selling it), I’ll submit it to a couple of the fall film festivals (for fun). As far as where it ends up commercially, I’ll know the answer to that in a month or two. It’s definitely strong enough to go theatrical. The sound, score, sound track, picture (I shot on film), story, acting, et cetera, are all top notch. We’ll see. Again, I’ll know better in a month or two.
IJM: Can you tell us about some of the other projects you’re working on?
PS: I’ve been asked to look at a couple of scripts as an actor, but to be honest; I just need to see “Night of the Templar” through. So, at the moment, there are no other projects I’m working on. Trust me; this one’s enough to keep me busy at the moment.
IJM: What is the main thing you learned while making “Night of the Templar”?
PS: Trust no one to make your final creative decisions for you, unless you really don’t care about the end result. No one will care as much as you do, and if they do, let them direct.
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