by Lorie Lewis Ham
KRL feels it is very important to support the local arts and entertainment community in the San Joaquin Valley and this week we are chatting with the director of a locally made film called Brick MADNESS which will have its Red Carpet Public Premiere in Fresno on September 9 at the Tower Theatre. Enjoy our chat with director Justin McAleece!
KRL: Please tell us a little about your new film Brick MADNESS.
Justin McAleece: Brick MADNESS is the culmination of eight years of intense work to create a mockumentary about a national Brix tournament called Brickathon. The film is set in Fresno in 2012 and tells the story of an underdog named Seth Paxson who must defeat the arrogant national Brix champion to reclaim his charity and clear the name of a fallen hero.
KRL: What is Brix?
Justin: Brix is the fictitious company within the world of Brick MADNESS. It is a building block system that is similar to LEGO. It has a deep history within the film including a complete world of fans, bloggers, builders, and lore.
KRL: I know you are one of the producer’s of the film, are you involved in the writing of it as well?
Justin: I directed and edited the film in addition to being co-writer, co-producer, and co-star.
KRL: How and when did the idea for this film come to be?
Justin: The concept for the film came about in June of 2009 and was turned into a final script by 2012 after many revisions and contributions were made by nearly a dozen actors in the movie. Because it is a mockumentary we wanted to embrace the spontaneity of improv, but we also needed to have it largely scripted out so that we had the plot down and some key jokes so that we could plan around them.
KRL: How long did it take for it to come together ready to film?
Justin: We started shooting elements of the movie before we were finished with the script, but the whole process took around three years.
KRL: Why did you want to make this film?
Justin: I wanted to make a comedy/mockumentary that I could love, that had smart and witty characters, that happened to be really into something that most people would find geeky or nerdy for an adult to be into. It was important for me to have the characters make fun of each other but for us not to make fun of them.
KRL: Once you started filming how long did it take?
Justin: We started shooting in 2010, and I shot the last piece of footage last week in 2017.
KRL: Where did you film, especially any local locations?
Justin: Many great local businesses were gracious enough to be included such as BJ’s Kountry Kitchen, Heroes Comics, SpringHill Suites, The Meat Market, Woodward Park, Wahoos, Paul Shaghoian Memorial Theater, Fresno State, Fowler High School, and Chukchansi Park. We were also sponsored or received considerable support from The Laundry Room, 51Fifty, RxH20, Windsong Productions, JP Marketing, and Tremendum Productions.
KRL: Are there local actors in the movie?
Justin: Including our extras, there are hundreds of local actors in the movie. As for leads, about half were from Fresno at the time including: Anthony Taylor, Alan Agazarian, Byron Watkins, Ian McAleece, Lori George, Deep Rai, Magnus Chhan, Johnny Soto, and many others. Many have since moved away to become full-time actors.
KRL: Any names we may recognize in the film?
Justin: A Hollywood actor by the name of Richard Speight, Jr. has a strong part in the movie. He is known for Supernatural and Band of Brothers among many other projects. Also, the only live action actor to appear in The Lego Movie aside from Will Ferrell is Jadon Sand who also appears in our movie.
KRL: How fun! What type of audience do you think will find this film appealing? Is this more for kids, or adults?
Justin: The humor in the film would go over a lot of kid’s heads, but some of it will certainly appeal to all ages. The building and competition sequences are fun for anyone, meaning that it could certainly be enjoyed by all ages. At its heart there is a story that anyone can relate to and feel genuinely good about. The film has a PG13 rating, but that’s only for a few minor expletives. There is no violence or sex of any kind.
KRL: What is your favorite thing about this film?
Justin: My favorite thing about the film is that I got to make it with people I love, about a topic that had so many heartfelt and hilarious stories to tell. We made this movie exactly how we wanted to, and I think it feels like it has a unique but universally accessible voice. I am in awe of the performances the actors gave. From the main characters all the way down to people with only one line, I think there are so many moments of brilliance.
KRL: What was the hardest part?
Justin: The hardest part of this project was the mere scope of it. There were a ton of moving parts, and we needed a huge amount of Brix creations to shoot in all sorts of situations. We needed to create a whole world of content including nearly a hundred archival flyers, photos, websites, logos, etc… That took a long time. In the end, it was just the process of putting it all together and finishing that made it seem impossible.
KRL: How long have you been involved in the film industry? In what capacity?
Justin: I have been working on movies since I switched my major at Fresno State in 1998. This is my nineteenth year of working in this industry—exactly half my life at this point. I have been a partner in Fresno video production company Blare Media since its inception in 2004.
KRL: How many films have you made?
Justin: I have been the Director of Photography or Camera Operator on over a dozen, but this is only my third feature that I have directed.
KRL: Has the film appeared at any film festivals before making its premiere?
Justin: Brick MADNESS has not been submitted to any film festivals yet.
KRL: When and where is the premiere?
Justin: The Red Carpet Public Premiere is at Tower Theatre on September 9 at 7:30 p.m.
KRL: Can anyone buy tickets, or is it exclusive?
Justin: Tickets are open to anyone and everyone. We already had the “invite only” premiere at Edwards Cinema, which sold out twice.
KRL: Are there any other opportunities to see the film locally or nationally?
Justin: There will not be any more Fresno screenings, but there will be others in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and at Brick Conventions all around the world.
KRL: Do you have a website & social media presence?
KRL: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Justin: I believe there are many reasons to see the movie, and I feel that no one will go home disappointed. It was made locally, but it feels like it is of the calibre of any other movie that you would see in the theater. That is a testament to the hard work of 100s of dedicated and impassioned people, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the result.
Tickets for the September 9 premiere can be purchased on their website!