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Peter Feysa
Tonight's Feature Presentation


an interview with peter feysa

The Green Room

Seattle-based independent filmmaker Peter Feysa and his compatriot, Brian Sutherland, would like to give everyone the clap.  Specifically, they want to introduce everyone to the greatest Swedish disco handclapping group the world has ever seen: Hands of Thunder!  In this interview, Peter talks about the genesis of Hands of Thunder and what it’s taking to get this independent feature film off the ground and ready for production.  He’s also got a dispute with the Brits about who really should be called the “Fab Four.”

The Interview

Preview Hands of Thunder!

Check out their intro video on YouTube!

Ziggy:  Tell us a little about how you and your compatriot, Brian Sutherland, started working together.

Peter Feysa:  Brian and I started working together when we met at Seattle Acting School seven years ago.  It was the toughest, most emotionally raw acting class I've ever been to.  We bared our souls on that stage and became friends.  I was tired of auditioning for parts around town with scripts I didn't have an emotional or psychological connection to.  After one such audition, I called Brian and said, "Let's get your digital picture camera and start shooting man... like right now."  Later that day we shot our first short, "Dream Cake" ...and the rest is history.

Ziggy:  What was "Dream Cake" about, and is it still out there for general viewing?

Peter Feysa:  “Dream Cake” was about a man who dreamt he was hanging out with himself, his own best friend.  At the end, he’s found huddled up in a ball next to a toilet when his girlfriend comes in and gives him some love.  We wrote it 20 minutes before we shot; that type of thing. Just having fun.  I can't find the movie anywhere.  Really, the name says it all.

Ziggy: “Swedish Disco Handclapping” sounds like something from ABBA’s Mad Libs book.  What was the genesis of Hands of Thunder?

Peter Feysa:  Well...  We were going back and forth one night about what short to shoot next.  Every weekend we'd come up with an idea for something.  The original idea was for a Scandinavian clog-dancing band that was world famous.  Then, it turned into a 70's disco hand-clapping band.  We love ABBA, but that was a coincidence.  I'd be lying though if I said “Dancing Queen” wasn't a freakin’ inspiration for everything I do.

Ziggy:  According to the early descriptions of the project, while Hands of Thunder is built around the frame of a comedy, it's also very much a drama with tragic elements, particularly in relation to Brian's character becoming addicted to drugs.  Why is it important to you to tell that particular story?

Peter Feysa:  When Brian and I first started writing the script, I was ending a 14 year relationship with my partner, who was addicted to drinking. It was progressive; not something that happened overnight. Finally, as a codependent, I realized that it wasn't me who was going to change her, although I’d tried earnestly for years.  Everybody guards the gate to their own ability to change very well.  So, I had to take care of myself and seek the help I needed in order to live my own life.  This was one of the most painful things I've ever done: letting go of someone you love, knowing they'll suffer greatly without your help.  This script helped me realize the nature of hurt that can plague a family when there's an addict or alcoholic present.  And in the script, Brian's character, Gunner, has to face his deepest, darkest fears in order to kick the habit.  Not an easy task for anybody, especially an addict.  But, in the end, that's what makes for the strongest characters: those who can face their fears head on.  Courage is a powerful thing.

Ziggy:  Once you had the idea, you had to figure out how to make it a reality.  What prep work did you do before putting your idea out there for backers to invest in?

Peter Feysa:  The first bit of prep work was to make a Kickstarter video.  But then we were like: why not make a short film Kickstarter?  That would be different.  So, we shot a mini-short (which we were used to doing) and put it out there.  We got tons of positive interest, and within days (of the second release), a producer from Australia contacted us and said he loved it.  That's really all we had to do.  We also found the Swedish community financially supportive, which we are eternally grateful for.

Ziggy:  For those who don’t know, please explain what “Kickstarter” is and how it works.

Peter Feysa:  Kickstarter is an online platform to get backing to launch your film, or whatever creative outlet you have.  You submit a video as to what your project is.  You give incentives to backers in the line of merchandise, producer credits, etc. for X amount of investment, and you have a specific time period to reach your goal. If you don't reach the fundraising goal you set in the beginning yourself, you get nothing.  Of course, they take a portion of the proceeds.

Ziggy:  As you hinted at earlier, your first Kickstarter campaign was cut short.  Why did you make that decision?

Peter Feysa:  We were initially like, "Hey! This video rocks. Let's make our goal $10,000!"  Halfway into the campaign, we had three grand.  We were then getting weary. So, we relaunched with a goal that would be much easier to get.  We set it and beat it.  We just wanted at least a little money for start-up costs.

Ziggy:  Will you be able to make the entire film you wanted at the budget pledged, or will you be pursuing additional avenues of funding?  Or was the outside interest you noted before over and above what you made through Kickstarter?

Peter Feysa:  Kickstarter was great for creating awareness for the film and giving us seed money.  It helped us to make great connections, and make a short film that illustrated what we wanted from the final thing.  However, it's going to take a bit more money to make this epic.  We're pursuing private investors, especially from the Swedish community.

Ziggy:  Where are you now in the production process for Hands of Thunder?

Peter Feysa:  We are set with Draft 3 of the feature script this week.  We have professional readers giving their feedback. We’re working diligently on the story because the story has to be just right.  The film is all about the story; everything serves the story, not the other way around.  That's the only way this thing will be a hit.  We have also gathered an amazing team of producers, a fantastic AD, and the best cast and crew around.  Awesome stage pyrotechnics for the best show on Earth, choreographers, the most amazing costumes, composers for a fantastic soundtrack... Needless to say, we're ultra excited for the production...a hand-clapping storm is brewing as we speak!

Ziggy:  At your current pace, when do you expect to start principal photography for Hands of Thunder? Anything penciled in on the calendar yet?

Peter Feysa:  At this pace, we're set to start filming in February [of 2013].  Nothing penciled in yet, though.  The First Assistant Director and I have made that a goal date.  We have to get the dancing down to a T, and get the musical scores recorded and set.  This film is very pre-production heavy.

Ziggy:  What's the cast's previous musical/dance experience?  Is this something that most of you are old hands at (ha!), or is this something you're picking up just for Hands of Thunder?

Peter Feysa:  We have a tentative cast set, but nothing definite.  It will depend largely on the budget we ultimately receive and the talent we can acquire based on that budget.  Brian and I dance our asses off at parties: that's our experience!

Ziggy:  Don't your hands start to hurt after a while?

Peter Feysa:  Heck ya!  You'd be surprised at how much clapping will turn into pain after hours of dance-clapping. But... no pain, no bad-ass hand-clapping or dancing!

Ziggy:  What's your release target for Hands of Thunder?

Peter Feysa:  The release target is either Fall 2013 or Spring 2014.

Ziggy:  Are you planning an old school release and distribution strategy, doing the film festival thing first and looking for pickups through traditional feature channels from there?  Or do you already have channels in mind/set up?

Peter Feysa:  The places we are planning to hit first are Australia and Japan.  We may hit the festival circuit there, or start with a strong emphasis on distribution in those countries.  Then, we’ll be hitting the U.S.  We feel this thing will get picked up fairly quickly.  It'll be hard to ignore it.  It's deep to a certain extent, but it's a crack-up comedy.  It will also be visually beautiful and stimulating, pure cinema... It will be an easy sell.  This is just speculation, you know.  You have to be completely open to change once the ball starts rolling.  A strategy is good, but it usually gets tossed out the window once things start moving along.  Always for the best.

Ziggy:  Why Australia and Japan first?  Is this related in part to the producer support you mentioned earlier?

Peter Feysa:  Australia and Japan are large markets who absolutely love the Original Fab Four: ABBA.  It's simply intuition.

Ziggy:  Any plans for a Swedish premiere?

Peter Feysa:  Yes!  I would love to take this film to Sweden.  We have already made contacts in Stockholm.  It would be an honor.

Ziggy:  Might there be hand clapping tours or performances spinning off from this?

Peter Feysa:  Yes.  As the film gets set to launch, we'll definitely throw parties with Hands of Thunder (the group) as the grand finale.  It'll be awesome.  Other than that, no tours are planned.  That is, of course, if the film itself goes on tour.  We'll be dressing up at festivals, no doubt.  Why not?

Ziggy:  When all is said and done, what is your biggest hope for Hands of Thunder? What do you want the audience to take away from the experience of seeing this film?

Peter Feysa:  My biggest hope is that people walk away feeling great!  The message is very important: having faith and facing your deepest darkest fears.  Every time you do that, you grow as a person and are permanently changed.  You can't go back.  Also, having dance-offs on the big screen with disco driven beats will be simply radical.  How can you not walk away in a great mood?

Ziggy:  Your own work aside, what's been your favorite stuff to watch of late?

Peter Feysa:  I love, love, love Crispin Helion Glover.  Period.  He tours with his movies What is it? and It's fine! Everything is fine!  These films, hands down, changed my life.  I couldn't stop talking or thinking about them for days.  Catch them somewhere if you can.

Ziggy:  What sort of cheese and recreational beverage do you pair well with?

Peter Feysa:  Irish Dubliner with a Cabernet.  It's the stuff to love.

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- Interview conducted by Ziggy, June, 2012

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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