Exclusive: Stephen Campanelli talks ‘MOMENTUM,’ Hollywood and Clint Eastwood

Stephen Campanelli - Momentum -FilmFad.com

In a FilmFad.com exclusive interview, Pooya chats with “MOMENTUM” director Stephen Campanelli about his new action thriller and what he’s learned from screen legend Clint Eastwood after working with him for the past 20 plus years.

That’s right FadFans, join us as we have a diverse and wonderfully interesting conversation with Stephen Campanelli about everything from “MOMENTUM” to analyzing the unbelievably clean academy award wining directing approach of “Dirty Harry” himself.

In his directorial debut, Stephen Campanelli brings a trio of A-List caliber actors to screen for a visually stunning fast paced action epic with a very unique tone. Having been under the tutelage of the one and only Hollywood screen legend and director Clint Eastwood as his camera operator for two and some odd decades, Campanelli brings a product with far more nuance and visual precision than the typical directorial debut

So, without further ado… here is an exclusive look into the mind of Stephen Campanelli.

FilmFad:

How you doing today Stephen?

Stephen Campanelli:

Very good. Where are you?

FilmFad:

I’m in Norfolk, Virginia at the moment, how about yourself

Stephen Campanelli:

I’m in lovely, sunny New York today.

FilmFad:

Fantastic, I actually will be up in New York this coming week for New York Comit’
Stephen Campanelli: Oh, sure of course. Yeah, wow. I’m working on a movie right now, so I’m gonna be heading down to Atlanta Thursday to finish, so I’m not gonna be here unfortunately, but that woulda been fun to attend.

FilmFad:

I see that you are working on, according to… should I say IMDB, I see you are working on two different projects, one was a television show and the other is “Lusitania 3D”. Is that what it.. is that correct or am I.. is that the internet playing tricks on me?

Stephen Campanelli:

No no, you are right. I did a pilot, a two hour pilot, basically gonna split into two 1-hour episodes. It was fun, shot in Brazil, called “Rio Heat.” It’s like a buddy cop show, I guess, based on sort of like the ‘moonlighty’ days of Bruce Willis and Cybil Sheppard, really great chemistry. The two partners are so not supposed to be together and they are. Harvey Keitel plays kind of like a “Charlie’s Angels” type character, where he gives them their assignments, but he just enjoys enjoys the chaos that ensues. They should never be together, but he just loves their crazy chemistry. It was a lot of fun actually. “Lusitania 3D” is kind of a pet project of a friend of friend who wants me to direct and to be honest with you, I don’t know if it will ever come to fruition but he wants to make, you know, a Mel Brooks style crazy comedy, you know like a politically un-correct movie. Which I would love I think it’s great I mean everyone’s gotten too politically correct so it would be nice to be one that’s gonna way out there you know?

FilmFad:

Absolutely! You said the magic words, “Mel Brook’s style comedy”, that’s one of my favorites.

Stephen Campanelli:

Yeah.

 

Olga Kurylenko - Momentum - FilmFad.com

Olga Kurylenko as Alex Faraday in ‘Momentum.’

 

FilmFad:

So, let’s go ahead… yeah? Well I don’t want to keep you too long, I know we’re on a limited time, so let’s go ahead and dive into “Momentum.” In your words, I mean I’ve read synopses and I’ve seen it myself, but in your words can you tell me about “Momentum?”

Stephen Campanelli:

You know the synopsis are actually pretty close, I mean, unfortunately some of them reveal too much.

FilmFad:

Right… right that’s what I figured, yeah.

Stephen Campanelli:

Yeah… It’s a drag because you know you’re not supposed to know it’s a woman at the beginning who’s robbing the bank, and then her mask gets ripped off. It should be a gasp moment, the audience goes “Oh, wow, cool!” So a lot of the interviews and a lot of the synopsis on it have revealed that a little too soon, but also hopefully the audience watches it and goes “Oh yeah here it comes!” You know, it’s a high octane, you know, like a lot of them say kick ass female heroine movie. I tried to make an intelligent action thriller, that was my goal, to keep things moving all the time and live up to it’s name, “Momentum.” It’s a cat and mouse game between Alex Faraday and James Purefoy’s character. Just because he is after her to kill her, but he actually respects her, you know something about them… a little bit of chemistry. Not really sexual chemistry, but a different kind of chemistry on a mutual basis of being really good at your job.

FilmFad:

Right, yeah, I definitely see that they almost respect each other’s assassin skills to a certain extent

Stephen Campanelli:

Yeah yeah exactly. That’s what’s cool is that whole comedy you know? He says he’s good, really good you know it’s a very funny moment in the movie where he’s like a little smitten by her.

 

Olga Kurylenko - Momentum - James Purefoy - FilmFad.com

Olga Kurylenko (left) and James Purefoy (right) in ‘Momentum.’

 

FilmFad:

Yeah. Now, ok you brought up James and Olga’s chemistry was fantastic. Did you have them in mind when casting the film, or when conceiving this film, or was it something that just happened to happen and it worked out perfectly?

Stephen Campanelli:

That’s a great question it was actually a bit of both. I had worked with Olga on a movie called “7 Psychopaths”. I had liked her a lot, obviously she is so beautiful but she is also such a nice person and on the camera off later on that, you know we just bonded and talked you know and I watched her acting one day, you know “i’d love to cast you in it” and all that and then it sorta happened. When I read the script I thought “Oh geeze, she’d be good for this.” We were fortunate enough to have CAA behind us and they obviously represented her and I said “Hey uh, you can get to her” you know “mention my name”… so that worked out. I was watching “The Following” and I had know James Purefoy’s work before obviously from “Rome” and a bunch of other things he’s been in which are fantastic, but it’s when I saw “The Following” and I said “Oh my God, this is so my guy, this is Mr. Washington right there.” James has a great knack for playing evil really well, yet he’s very charming. You shouldn’t root for the bad guy, but you can’t help but root for the bad guy. He’s just so charming. Both were just absolutely incredible to work with. Just a real treat, real professionals. Willing to anything for the movie. So, I was really blessed.

 


Click HERE to check out FilmFad’s exclusive interview with ‘MOMENTUM’ and ‘The Following’ Actor James Purefoy. You can also click HERE to read FilmFad’s review for the action thriller ‘MOMENTUM.’


 

FilmFad:

This is a unique opportunity for you, well obviously now you have a couple projects so I’m kinda dated with this question, but how different is it directing versus being a camera operator. I know you have similar tasks, but as the broad scope goes, how different or difficult is is relative to what you were doing before?

Stephen Campanelli:

Another great question. You know I’ve been doing this, oh boy, 25 years being a camera operator. In simple terms, and I’ll expand on it, but as a camera operator your telling the story with your camera. What I always say that the audience never ever gets to read the script. We’ve read it as a director, and producers and all the cast. We’ve read it. We’ve seen the words on the paper. The difference is that the camera operator you are getting told, in a way, how to tell the story through your camera. You can suggest ideas, but… As a director now my responsibility is to take those words off the page and put ’em up on screen for someone that’s never gonna read it [the script]. I have to give them the same emotions I felt when I read it. If I get scared or I’m happy, that’s my responsibility. As the camera operator you don’t have that big responsibility, you just point the camera and try to tell the story that you see as the director is shaping the movie. My job in ‘MOMENTUM’ was literally to get those words of the page and put them on the big-screen. Another thing that kinda prepared me for this really well is the relationship that I work with Clint Eastwood. He is very open and empowering to his cast and crew. He lets us all do our jobs. Literally, I am very proud to say a lot of his movies that come out, I feel very responsible for a lot of it. Because he just says “Hey Steve, what do you wanna do here? Where do you want to put the camera?” I really get to take charge almost, almost like a director. It really prepared me, so when I did ‘MOMENTUM’ I wasn’t nervous, I wasn’t scared because I had been doing it for a while in terms of putting the camera in the right place.

FilmFad:

So with a little bit over two decades of eperience with Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood, which super jealous about that… that’s amazing…

Stephen Campanelli:

[Laughing]

FilmFad:

What was his reaction when you decided to set off on your own? It seems like he’s very positive about that kinda stuff. And Second, what was the best piece of advice he’s ever given you in regards to the industry.

Stephen Campanelli:

Yes, very very supportive. I guess, I don’t know, about five or so years ago I asked him, you know, I said “I wanna start directing.” He goes “Oh you’d be a great director. The way you do it now on the set and the way you handle actors, very empowering to them” which is what you want to do as a director. You want to give them as much confidence as you can because a lot of them are insecure [Laughing]. So, he was very encouraging. I had to leave halfway through ‘American Sniper’ to go and do ‘MOMENTUM.’ We were in Morocco filming and after 20 years of being together, I had to tell Clint that I was leaving and that was so tough. I was so nervous to tell him because I didn’t know how he’d take it. I went to his room one day to tell him that I had a week left with him and I wasn’t gonna go back to California to finish the movie, and he took it rather well. He’s just so cool and he said “You know, I cant stop anybodies road to success. You’re gonna be a great director and I wish you all the best.” To answer your second question, his words of advice were, he says “just make sure you have a fantastic script, a great cast and great crew and you’re basically set. Your job as a director is more than halfway done.” Then he stops and he goes “oh yeah and get a good caterer, cuz that’s very important to the crew.”

FilmFad:

[Laughing] Craft services is important!

Stephen Campanelli:

Oh yeah, totally it is. It’s so true. The crew’s happy, you’re happy. That was his advice. It’s true. Those are the key ingredients. Once you got all those things together your job as a director is so much easier. Just work with your cast and just kinda shape it the way you have it in your head. He said, always be prepared for great surprises on set. Sometimes you can be so prepared to direct a movie, but sometimes you get a moment on set where it just happens. “Oh my god, This is way better than I planned .” That’s what I love about the organic nature, for a lack of a better word, of film making. Sometimes you just get surprised. Clint still does that, he shoots rehearsals all the time. That’s the other thing too, once I finished directing I didn’t know if he would invite me back, but a few months ago Clint called me and this is how he said it on the phone, he said “If you’re not too busy being a big shot Hollywood director, I’d love you to come back and do one more movie with me.” That’s why I’m here in New York, we’re doing this Sully Sullenberger story, “Land of the Flame” out there with Tom Hanks. Two days ago we shot a scene which we did a rehearsal on and it was the best because it was a little bit of a flub in the line by the actors but they kept it going and they embraced it and I guarantee it’s going to be in the movie. That’s the way he works is just kinda let things happen and sometimes you get stuff that are more natural than a forced 60 take scene, where the actors are just so, you know so much thinking about what they are supposed to do, which hand they are supposed to hold the cup in, you know things like that. That’s what I did in “Momentum” also, I just kinda showed them a lot of rehearsals and first takes and you know, hoped for the best. Sometimes it didn’t work out and sometimes it did, you know?

FilmFad:

Well I would say it worked out pretty dang well. Well I would say you hit a home run with your cast for “Momentum” which you know it features a bond girl, a television serial killer, and the voice of God.

Stephen Campanelli:

[laughing] That’s a good mix.

 

James Purefoy - 2 - Momentum - FilmFad.com

 

FilmFad:

So you said the whole ‘Momentum’ was shot in Cape Town, correct?

Stephen Campanelli:

That’s right, yeah yeah. We were there thirty six days.

FilmFad:

Wow, that’s interesting because film makers often shoot in Cape Town and then they change the landscape in some way to match some North American city scape or you know or some more western city scape. What made you decide to keep Cape Town as the setting, as the focal point, and was that intended from the inception of the film?

Stephen Campanelli:

I think Cape Town is a beautiful beautiful city. We were there on ‘Invictus,’ you know a Clint Eastwood Movie, and I just fell in love with the city. So when this happened, it just came out of the blue, the producer said “oh, we’re going to Cape Town. I thought “Oh god, I’m so happy. It’s such a beautiful city.” But, it was set as a typical American city, where not gonna tell what it is, but somewhere in the states. I said to the producer, i said that’s gonna be a huge, because they drive on the different side of the road there. So we have to change all the cars, get left hand drive cars. We’d have to change all the signage. I said that’s gonna be expensive. We don’t have a lot of money for this movie, and I said I wanna put the money we do have I want to put on screen. I don’t wanna pay half a million dollars to just change signs and get cars. He says “well yeah, what are we gonna do,” and I said let’s just set it in Cape Town. It’s a beautiful city, it’s a international city. It’s perfect for a diamond heist because South Africa is rich in diamonds. It was a mutual decision. We were like yeah, absolutely. Let’s do that. What ever money I saved there I got to put on screen, blow up more crap and shoot some more people.

FilmFad:

Well thank you so much Stephen, I wish you the best of luck. You sound like a fantastic guy and I really enjoy what you’ve done so far with Clint and on your own. I look forward to seeing more.

Stephen Campanelli:

Thank you, I really appreciate it. Great interview and great questions. I look forward to it. Please spread the word and tell everybody to go see it.

FilmFad:

I surely will. It will definitely be all over FilmFad.com

Stephen Campanelli:

Great Site. Oh awesome. Great site. I was checking it out the yesterday. Really groovy site. I’ll be looking for that. I’ll be sending it to my mom of course…

FilmFad:

[Laughing] I’ll make sure to do it justice.

 

Check out the trailer for ‘MOMENTUM’ below and stay tuned to FilmFad.com for updates on what Stephen Campanelli does next!

Pooya

Author: Pooya

Since his wee lad-dom, Pooya has been a sommelier of cinema. It was likely some acting bug, fallen from the dust riddled ruby curtains of an enchanted old stage that did it. Those cinematic scarabs must have burrowed deep into his brain, irreversibly altering his mind, turning the poor boy down a dismal path.From his earliest years the strange boy would aimlessly wander the aisles of countless video rental stores, amassing his trivial knowledge with vigor. These actions befuddled the boy’s parents, who still would lovingly oblige his unusual attraction to the motion picture. Often seeking refuge in the cushioned seating of his local movie theater, the odd adolescent would immerse himself in the scripted and effects riddled realities unfolding on the screen before him. During his collegiate years, he was twice spotted on stage performing bizarre theatrical rituals before awe-struck audiences. When he departed from academia, he left behind his youth in exchange for a labor routine, but the strange young man never lost his long-cultivated love of film.Recently, Pooya was approached by FilmFad.com to join their budding team of entertainment bloggers. After hours of coaxing and an undisclosed number of honey jars, he accepted their offer. Finally he had come full circle. Finally, at FilmFad.com, he was home.

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