“…Always Excite Your Audience…”is the Personal motto of the multitalented Canadian Filmmaker, Frank A.Caruso whom I am honoured to interview today.
From the very firstconversation
I had with him I realized that he was one ofthe most down to earth, approachable and optimistic peopleI ever met.
Frank, who resides with his Beautiful Fiance Angela Johnson, an accomplished pianist and vocalist in Toronto, started to excite his audiences in Live Theater and transitioned with ease into successful filmmaking.
Right from the beginning his first film “No Angel”which he wrote,directed,and produced gained international recognition,and was followed by over a dozen feature films,such as “Bitter Circle”,”Love Letters Trilogy”,
“Tough Love”,”Risk Factor”,”Final Dance”,and the
Comedy “Club Utopia” to name a few.
He frequently makes cameo appearances in his film’s ,and each of the roles he portrays leaves the Audiences with an everlasting impression,and that is what led me to attending some of Frank Caruso’s Acting classes at his “Actors in Motion”Studio in the past. I was thrilled with the way he excited and inspired his students.It truly inspired me and deepened my love for acting.
Hello Frank! What a privilege to have the time to interview You.
Can You tell Us about Your involvement with the Theater?
My first “theatre” experience was in grade school,
when I had to deliver one
single line: “Land ho”,
as ChristopherColumbus.I was so terrified that the teacher had to pick me up and bring me out to the stage to deliver the line.
Then I froze on stage and he came back out, picked me up and gently placed me on a backstage chair.
I had never experienced so much fear in my life !LOLFast forward to1967
when I auditioned for and got the lead role in my High School Musical (Finian’s Rainbow). I received many compliments for my performance and my acting career had officially begun.
In 1980 I started my own theatre company”Caruso’s Cabaret” and went on
to direct, produce and actin over 40 stage plays.
What a great story! Can You tell Us what inspired You to become a Filmmaker?
I actually never had any dreams or desire to be a filmmaker until I volunteered to work on a Canadian Independent film in 1988. That experience ignited a sparkthat has stayed
with me to this day.
I love the artistic process of making films.
I’ve never liked the “business” part of the industry, but what I really adore is the factthat once my film is made,it’s there forever.
A living legacy for audiences to enjoy long after my earthly demise. At this point, I have produced 12 feature films, directing seven of them. I have also written 20 screenplays,of various genres.
I love writing as much as making the films.
Very impressive indeed !…I noticed that You write, produce,direct,and act in Your films…What is Your approach to all these different roles?
I love to have complete control over my films.
Because I have known so many screenwriters who are disappointed with the final film version of their work. For example: A film company purchases a script from the writer, then proceeds to make whatever changes they wish to the story. Now it’s their right to do so, but imagine if you’re the original
writer and you put so much hard work into your story, only to have it “butchered” by others. As a result,
many writers want to direct their own work in order to insure
the integrity of their story. So, yes, I write or co-write most of my films for that reason. As for directing?
I love working with actors and being an actor myself, I truly understand the process, and there’s a real thrill, knowing that the finished film is your own creation and not a “watered down” version.
As for acting in my own films – I rarely do. Let’s face it, since I’m also the producer,I could give myself a nice, juicy role in every film I make.
But my philosophy is that the “best actor” should get the role. Period ! I’m a good actor,but if somebody comes along who is better suited for the role, then I give it to him. In “Club Utopia” I was perfect forthe role of Richard Sabatini,so I did it. Otherwise,I like to do little cameos – just for fun.
I agree with You…You were absolutely amazing playing Richard Sabatini in “Club Utopia” Which of these roles do You have the most passion for?
In order of preference? Artistically I love to write because that’s the basis for every good or great movie. It’s only as good as the script. Secondly, I love to direct, having artistic control over my work is a huge turn on for me. Thirdly, I produce because I have to in order to get the film made.
Very impressive that You are able to wear all of those hat’s…Please tell Us what type of movies You like to make?
I’ve always abhorred the thought of being “pigeon holed” “Hey, Caruso only does action films ! Or, he only does Art Films, So I decided to make a movie of every genre. Afew of my movies I’d like to mention…
“Final Dance” is an art film, based on a stage play; “Risk Factor” is an action adventure flick; “Club Utopia” is a comedy; “Bitter Circle” is a police drama; “Tough Love” is a drama based on true events; “Love Letters Trilogy” is a “romance/drama”; “No Angel” is a straight-out drama.
That’s a very refreshing approach indeed! Can You tell Usmore about Your movie’s?
I have had many great memories and experiences making movies over the years.Of course, I’ve also had many crazy incidents too.
When working with modest budgets there area lot of hurdles to overcome
and I’ve had my share. For instance, getting location permits was not always possible due to the unpredictable nature of indie filmmaking.
So I had to talk my way out of many potential disasters, like getting kicked out of a location while halfway through a scene.
So I kept the security guard busywhile motioning my camera guy to “keep rolling”. LOL.
I gave the guard my card and told him he’d make a terrific actor if he really immersed himself.
Well he and I became great friends and he forgot to kick us out. So we got thescene done in its entirety and it worked well in the final edit.
I was totally open to helping the guard’s career but he never followed through.
I also got to work with some terrific actors,who put their whole heart and soul into their roles. Again – so many things I could talkabout – but let’s wait for the book?
Lol..After so many challenging incidents many people would have given up!…Is there one of Your films that inspired You the most?
In terms of “emotional impact” I think that Final Dance is the one. It’s a tender love story. But It’s really about loving the other person and having the integrity tonot spoil it by
being physically involved.
Strange notionbut it really worked in this film.
I must say that this movie truly touched me. .. I know that You’re Acting instructor as well…What’s Your approach to Acting?…As an Actor,what characters do You like to portray?
I have taught “on camera” acting techniques for over 20 years now. As an instructor, I teach my actors to be trueto themselves. Don’t try to be someone else in a role. Dig deep into your own experiences then decide how you will react in any given situation. I love “truth” in acting.
What a great approach to Acting!.. How do You cast Actors for the role?… Is it based on the look and personality written in the script, or do You let the Actors develop the personality of the character?
When casting, It’s important to find the right “look” forthe character.
It’s not about being good looking at all.
Your actors have to fit the role, otherwise viewers will tune out.
When casting, I put the actors through many different drills to assure they have the right ingredients:acting talent, emotional range, life experience and the ability to take direction. I spend a lot of time working with actors in auditions – far more than most casting directors would. Why? The success of the film depends on it. Having the right script is essential of course,
but casting can make the difference between the success or
failure of the film.
As far as my “auditioning methods” are concerned, I’m saving that for a book I plan to write on the subject.
Can’t wait to read it!.. Can You tell Us about Your directing style?
My directing style is “non intrusive”.
Once I’ve cast the film to my satisfaction,
I mostly leave the actors alone.I just get on with the job of getting
the best out of my actors and crew.
Trust them and they’ll come through for you.
And what a great journey for the Actors! You stick to thescript,or are You open to changes and improvisation?
If it’s a well written script I tend to shoot what’s there.But I always allow for improvisation.Example: In mymovie,”Tough Love” there is a bar scene with actors having to talk over each other. Everyone was trying to get their lines out and it became chaotic. So I tore up the dialogue and allowed the actors to just improvise their lines – and it worked perfectly.Another example: Inmy comedy “Club Utopia”, so many funny thoughts rushed through my mind,while shooting,that I’d include new material constantly. It worked really well as it added another level of comedy to the film.
Which Director and Producer inspired You the most?
Honestly, I’ve seen so many amazing movies over the years
directed by so many brilliant directors,
that I can’t comeclose to answering that question. Almost every great movie has inspired me in some way.
I don’t try to copy someone else’s style but I do admit to adding some elements (however small) into my work. Let’s face it – it’s human nature to learn from others and find a way to make it your own.
You are also an amazing photographer?…Is there connection with filmmaking?
To be a filmmaker you need to have an “eye” for visual composition. You need to understand lighting. You need tochoose your models well.So in many ways,
photography and filmmaking are interconnected.
I love them both and plan to keep doing them until I leave this earth.
Ellafor the opportunity to share my views with you and your audience
Pleasure is all mine, Frank!…Thank You for taking the time to share Your views and Your Story with Us.
I would like to add that Frank Caruso’s Films are on the DVD’S,and if You like to find out where else You can watch his films, go please to :