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Forty Winks

A struggling Hypnotist deals with his monotonous day to day life, until he is blackmailed into being the world's first hypnotist hit man after a mysterious woman finds out his degree is fake.

Eighteen-year-old Will Parker is a Writer, Director, Actor, Producer and New York Native. His short film "Donnybrook", which he made over the pandemic, was accepted into the "All American High School Film Festival". Will's style involves darkly comedic, uncomfortable and tension-built scenarios; all of which are seen through the eyes of colorful and sometimes demonic characters. He is inspired by artists such as Jordan Peele, Joel and Ethan Coen, Steven Spielberg, and Spike Lee. "Forty Winks" is his first feature-length film.

How did you start making films and what inspired you to make films?

When I saw "Get Out" for the first time, that was a true inspiration to go full steam ahead with this career. I've loved theater as long as I've been on this planet. It always coincided with film because the performances that touch me the most in movies are the ones that you could picture on stage. It's the same thing with costumes, props and locations. I like to look at film through every lens that's possible, and theater happens to be one of them. My parents have always supported my ideas and endeavors, and I wouldn't be here without them. But my sister, Ash, is as supportive as they get. She has truly been there for me with her humor and amiability.

When did you make your first film?

The first film that I directed was a short murder mystery with a bunch of friends upstate. It was also kind of a comedy because we couldn't stop laughing during our death scenes. Donnybrook was a film I made the summer before we shot Forty Winks, with Brooke Smith, Mark Boone Junior, and this awful actor named Billy Crudup. It was about a guy who loses a mob boss's dog, and has to convince her that he didn't. That was the first short film I made with a serious script and crew. The crew consisting of myself.

What is the most challenging aspect of making an indie film?

The fact that Forty Winks has been given this chance to be seen is really inspiring. To think that low budget movies like this are getting recognized is wild and makes it seem possible to make independent films. But now onto the most challenging aspects... I was surprised by how free and fun it was. I was expecting to be knocking light stands over and spilling coffee on that gorgeous suit that Justin (Fabio Berker) was trapped in for most of the movie, but that only happened four times or so. We didn't really underestimate the majority of it, because it was such a low budget with minimal locations, but we did underestimate how difficult it is to set up catering. When you're feeding a cast the size of Forty Winks, with a good fifteen person crew as well, you don't know where to put it... you don't know how long it's going to take for Sam Lazzara (Boston) to choose which scone he wants... it's brutal -- but vital. There is no doubt budgeting is difficult, but it's been said over and over again. The way I went about it was with another passion, magic. I did online magic lessons that helped to fund the film -- which I paid for myself.

Please tell us about Forty Winks and how it went into production.

I was in Los Angeles, sitting in my room, thinking to myself... I just turned seventeen -- I have to make a movie. The majority of people make this decision at twenty one, thirty, fifty even, but I knew it was time. I wrote the script, which was originally around the fifty page mark, and gathered the actors I knew, who happened to form this all star ensemble. I reached out to my friends, most of which had no experience on a feature film set, and they were in. I got my locations, I stored props and craft services in my bedroom and we shot it in six days. It's about a struggling hypnotist who deals with his monotonous day to day life, until he is confronted by a mysterious woman who gives him the opportunity of a lifetime. Justin Marcel McManus so beautifully leads this brilliant cast, with Susan Sarandon, John Turturro, Carmen Ejogo, Danny Burstein, Ben Shenkman, Dan Finnerty, Leon Addison Brown, John Ellison Conlee, David Cromer and Hart Bochner as The Narrator. They're the best to work with, and some of the most talented humans on this planet. It's without a doubt the most specific thing I've written, but it came together and that's the cherry on top. I also should mention that we didn't plan to shoot in black and white. The endlessly supportive Josey Cuthrell-Tuttleman (the cinematographer) and I had this idea of vibrant colors and off-kilter composition. The off-kilter composition is present, however watching it for the eighth time or so I noticed that it needed consistency on screen. That's when I chose to make it black and white. Brad Coleman (the editor) was beyond supportive, as well, and put so much work in that I have to mention him as well. Cal Freundlich composed a brilliant score and Michael Matsakis mixed the film like the legend he is. Let's not forget about the soon to be award winning costume design by Jeff Mahshie and the score by Counting Crows. I am forever grateful to the whole cast and crew. The rest of the cast... Sam, Henry, Nancy, Ruth, Ruby, Clio, Shayna, Brandon -- all of whom are making their major feature debut -- Evy Drew and Liana Pai are all brilliant in their own right. Brooks Ashmanskas does the voiceover for the print place, he is unstoppable. Juno, Raimi, Dhamani, Eli, Beckett, Noah, Dan Renkin, Chanel, Michelangelo and Mark Kornbluth. Eric Spellman, the casting director, Earl Becker, the production designer, and Marvin Colombo, the colorist are all endlessly talented as well. Dana Barnes, Billy Hopkins, Ashley Ingram, Kathy Najimy and Van Brooks get major 'special thanks' as well. Let's talk about Justin Marcel McManus for a second. See the film, now, for him. He gives a heartbreaking, haunting and powerful performance, when Fabio wasn't dealt with much power himself. Justin built the character with intricate subtleties. We've been there... and we know when we contain emotions that are not always meant to be contained. We know what grief is... and we know when we need to reach out to others and when we need to partially let go.

How can cinema change the world and have an impact on society?

It's time for representation... more of it. Ava DuVerney, Jordan Peele, Barry Jenkins and Steve McQueen -- all of which I adore -- are building on what Oscar Micheaux and Spike Lee revolutionarily established. If you haven't already, watch their work... all of it. It's the same thing with Alejandro Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón. We can do much better, and the names I named are at the forefront in the directing world of diversity and of my favorites.

What is your next film project?

I'm in pre-production for my next feature film: Atrabilious. I want to keep a lot of it a secret, but there will be some returning players from Forty Winks. I like the idea of having a company of actors and crew that builds consistency throughout our careers. Look out for it!

What is the most fascinating part of filmmaking for you?

Sometimes I wonder why there isn't as much collaboration on sets as there's room for. When you're incorporating the opinions and ideas of everyone else in the room, you turn out with a better experience overall. Then it's at a place where we're not doing it for the money, we're doing it for the work.


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