Having lived all over the world as a Navy brat, William Scherer grew up mostly in the Washington DC area and went to college at the Virginia Military Institute. Upon graduation he received an Officer’s commission in the Army where he spent three years with the 82d Airborne Division as an Airborne/Ranger. Having done theater in high school, his nights were spent at the Fort Bragg playhouse where he had many leads.
Upon leaving the Army, Bill travelled to Hollywood where he got involved in TV and Movie industry. He has acted in movies and theatre with Academy Award winner George C. Scott, Dorothy Lamour, Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Carol Burnett, Helen Hunt among others but it was behind the camera that most fascinated him the most. There he was able to learn his photographic craft from some of Hollywood’s most celebrated directors and cinematographers like Academy Award winner, Robert Wise. The first script he wrote, a TV comedy pilot, got him signed with one of the top agencies in Los Angeles and was bought by Universal Studios which got him into the WGAW. He is also a member of SAG and AEA.
Bill eventually relocated north to Central California where he raised a family, and became involved in numerous business and media projects. Having learned to fly in the Army, he acquired an airplane and quickly became one of the leading Fine Art Aerial photographers in the country (See: www.WilliamSchererPhotography.com). As Bill explains. “There’s something fulfilling about shooting Fine Art Photography while flying 100 mph, 300 feet off the ground.” Along the way in his spare time, he set three World Land Speed records on his Kawasaki ZX-14 motorcycle at the famous Bonneville Salt Flats where he went 200 mph.
A movie maker at heart, Bill continued writing and developing story-lines for full length features. After completing the script House on Rodeo Gulch, a psychological thriller, loosely based on personal experience involving a rental tenant-from-hell experience, Bill decided it was time to produce and direct. His vision was to create a compelling independent movie with the production values of multi-million dollar Hollywood production.
The film, inspired by some “tenants from hell” that he knew, is now available on Vimeo and next week hits Hulu and iTunes.
Some filmmakers, for one reason or another, are forced to direct films outside of their personal interests or preferred genre. Have you been lucky enough to only work within the genre, and your preferred type of film?
I don’t think a Director is ever “forced” to work outside his or her interests in these modern times. In the old days, Hollywood studios had actors and directors under contract and could tell them what to do. Today, an independent Director would be glad to land a picture whether it’s in their genre or not. If the subject of the movie bothers them then they aren’t true Directors. Like an actor, Directors should always seek other genres to challenge their minds and help improve their craft.
How long did it take to put together the film – in terms of scripting, financing and casting – before shooting it?
It took approximately two years to write “House on Rodeo Gulch” and casting about three months. I live in a small surfing town called Santa Cruz where there aren’t many actors in the area much less actors that have film experience. Eventually I had to open it up to actors in LA and San Francisco area. The hardest part to cast was the young teenage girl, Shani. I needed a pretty girl that looked 16 but had to be over 18 so she could drive. She also had to have a fiery temper and be a great actor with a lot of acting experience as she was one of the leads. She also couldn’t be afraid of shooting a gun as she was the “Texas State Junior Pistol Champion” in the script. I searched all the local high schools but could find no one close. Expanding my search, I took to the casting websites but found it hard to ask someone to drive two hours for a 15 minute interview. About to give up, I received a phone call from a young fifteen year old girl, Megan Jay Simrell, from Palo Alto which is roughly two hours away. She sent me two bad pictures over the internet and we set up a meeting. Her parents brought her to my house and she read for me. The reading was somewhat rough but I knew I had the girl I was looking for. She had no acting experience except for being an extra in two small films but I knew Megan was a diamond in the rough. She reminded me of a young Jennifer Lawrence with her power, timing and humor. I hired her immediately and now, after having worked together, expect Megan to become a major film star. With the release of “House on Rodeo Gulch” now out, I expect her to get noticed very soon.
How long has it been since it was completed?
We had a small premiere here in Santa Cruz on July 22 so it’s only been out about a month.
Is the film indicative of your original vision for it?
The film is what I envisioned when I wrote it and am very proud of it. Of course our budget was limited so I had to cut some corners but I think a true filmmaker should be able to do a good job with what he or her has. The same goes with editing. Find a way to edit what you have and don’t rely on reshooting scenes months later.
Did you have to trim much from it in the editing room?
“House on Rodeo Gulch” first cut came out at around 125 minutes. I had a difficult time getting it down to under 100 minutes because I had to cut some of the scenes I was most proud of. They were scary and the visual effects were terrific but in the end I had to ask myself “does the scene really advance the story” and most of the time the answer was no.
How much say did you have in how the film was marketed?
Since I am the producer I call all the shots. I read a lot about other filmmakers, how they handled their movies and learned from it. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. I’ve found that most artists have a hard time promoting their work but having been in sales a number of years I don’t find it that difficult and sometimes even exciting.
Do you get to approve poster artwork?
Yes I do. I’ve created two posters for “House on Rodeo Gulch”. The first one was fine but when I went to the American Film Market last September to find a Sales Agent, I spoke with a number of distributors who told me they didn’t like it and told me why which made a lot of sense. My poster was immediately changed and now I’m very happy with it.
Have you been lucky enough to work with a distributor that involves you in the entire process – right up until release?
I don’t have a distributor at the time but do have a sales agent who handles it internationally. I’m marketing the film on VOD which is what I initially wanted to do. It’s currently on Vimeo on Demand and will come out next week on I-tunes and Hulu. To find out more about the movie, one can go to our website at www.HouseonRodeoGulch.com
Who did you originally intend the film for and have you discovered another segment or demographic that – maybe even to your surprise – enjoys the film just as much?
I wrote the script because I like tough women and movies that make you think. I also know that when you spend so much time writing and rewriting a script it has to be story that excites you yourself. I’m a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock and wanted to incorporate some of his story elements. Also knowing that major ticket buyers are 16-24 year old males also helped in the preparation. “House on Rodeo Gulch” was created as a commercial movie and not necessarily one for film festivals.
Hollywood movies don’t put enough women in the leading roles and I think they should. I like tough woman that are put in challenging situations to see how they overcome adversity. Since the movie has been released I’ve been blessed with great reviews and many women and even senior citizens have told me how much they liked it. I’m excited that I’m appealing to all age groups.
VOD or theater. Where, if you had your choice, would you prefer your movies – not just this latest one, but all of them – be seen?
Obviously every filmmaker wants to see his movie on the big silver screen but with changing times and better living room TV setups, that is not the future. If you’re an independent filmmaker and do get distribution, it is likely you may not see any money down the road unless they give you a lump sum up front like at the winners of Sundance. By going VOD, you see the actual number of sales and get the true numbers on what your film is making. It will also be watched by thousands of more people than if it had been played in movie theaters.
Where do you think the future is headed as far as film distribution is concerned?
The Studios are hurting with VOD and they are the first to admit it. People don’t want to pay $80 for a family of four to see a movie when they can watch the same film in their living room, have real butter on their popcorn, not sit through commercials nor next to people with open cell phones and all for $4.99? It’s a no brainer.
The Studios know they can make the big budget projects with a lot of CGI and that’s the direction they’re heading. They also know in most movies that “sound is half the movie” so they’re putting elaborate sound systems inside theaters. Fortunately today’s living rooms are also getting better with systems such as 7.1 surround sound.
Do all these extra channels and platforms open doors for indie filmmakers?
I think they’re great for indie filmmakers and I’d like to see more of them.
If your movie was an answer to a question in a trivia contest what would you like the question to be?
What big low budget hit was Megan Jay Simrell’s first movie?