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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



Interview with Editor/Director Gregory Cusumano for IF ONLY YOU WERE FREE (2018)

Interview with Editor/Director Gregory Cusumano for IF ONLY YOU WERE FREE (2018)

Interview with Editor/Director Gregory Cusumano for IF ONLY YOU WERE FREE (2018)

Film editor turned writer/director Gregory Cusumano- known for IN THE DARK (2019), GREY'S ANATOMY (2018) and TEEN WOLF (2012-2016)- made his directorial debut this year with IF ONLY YOU WERE FREE (2018), a dark cautionary succubus tale about loneliness and the lengths lust can lead one, if not tamed. The film held a market screening at the Palm Springs International Shortfest as well as screened at the First Glance Film Festival in LA.


What inspired this story?

GREG: The idea for If Only You Were Free sprang from the emotion of loneliness. I was editing for 48 hours straight trying to lock an episode of Television. Everyone in the office had already left for Christmas break and if I didn’t complete my copious amounts of notes, my wife and I would have missed our flight to NY. So I worked through the night, exhaustion came first, then a red bull, then a second red bull, then when the red bull wore off. I still had to keep cutting. Physically my body wanted to stop, my mind began to crack and then the loneliness set in. In that loneliness a germ of an idea sprang to life. A story about someone that suffers from this sort of physical exhaustion and isolation. The character couldn’t be an editor. Editors lives aren’t exciting and no one outside of the entertainment industry knows what we really do anyway. A surgeon...A surgeon must know this level of physically exhaustive loneliness. 


Do you think most people in a couple stray or fantasize about straying? 

GREG: I personally think most people want to stay faithful. They believe in that John Cusack Say Anything, 80's type romance. Boy meets girl, boy tries to win girls heart, boy struggles and eventually wins girl over by some big overture and they live happily ever after. That being said, I think attraction is always there. Attraction comes from somewhere deeper inside the human psyche and that can't be controlled. We can decide whether or not we want to act on it. That is a conscious decision but who we find attractive is not. Attraction is primal.


How did you go about casting the film? 

GREG: For the lead character of Paul I went with my college buddy Jeremy Maupin. Jeremy and I took an acting class together my first semester of college, and we've stayed in touch over the years. I've always felt he had a very genuine quality to his acting. For the part of his wife Maggie I went with Amy Pemberton who plays Gideon on the CW's super hero show Legends of Tomorrow. I originally cast another college friend of mine but she had to drop out because of scheduling conflicts. Amy and I had met years ago at the dog park and became friends. I ran into her the day my actress dropped out, we started chatting and she said she would be interested if the script was good. She read the script liked it and took the part of Maggie. She was amazing in the role, I actually can't see anyone else playing it anymore. The camera just loves her. Aside from being a great actress she is also a really nice person. There were a few days when I didn't have a PA and she volunteered to help me out. The part of Lily was really tough to cast. I needed an actress that could both be sexy and the girl next door. I took me months to find the perfect person and luckily my neighbor is a casting director. I asked him for help and he gave me Harriet Weaver's resume, headshot and reel. The moment I met her I know she was Lily.


After this experience, do you think you will go on to a feature? 

GREG: I think If Only You Were Free would make a terrific feature. I started this short version of the film on scene 8 of my original script. I had this opening sequence where we meet Paul while he is dealing with a trauma at the hospital. Because of time and budget I wasn't able to shoot those scenes. Not only did we go into more character development on Paul we also meet Lily sooner and in a different body. I think if I had time money and a good producing team I would be happy to go onto a feature.


Who have been your greatest inspirations in film? 

GREG: Good question and also a tough one. There are so many people that have inspired me. I would say I have three. The first person that truly inspired me and inspired my entire generation was George Lucas. I even named my son Lukas after Luke Skywalker. George Lucas with the original Star Wars Trilogy made me think and dream. My second choice would be Richard Linklater and his film Before Sunrise. I loved the simplicity of that film and the feeling that anyone with a good set of actors, a script and a camera could make a beautiful and compelling film. Before Sunrise is there reason why I went to film school. My third inspiration is Wong Kar Wai and his film In The Mood For Love. That film taught me that film is also art and you can convey a deep complex emotions without words and in a single shot.


How did you begin your career as a filmmaker? 

GREG: I started my filmmaking career at film school. I attended Hunter College in NYC. I made a few short films there. I didn't enter any into festivals. I probably should have I just didn't think about it then. I moved to LA in 2005, I first started working in production on America's Funniest Home Video's. I switched to post production a few months later. I took a couple of courses in Avid and Final Cut editing. I've worked in every aspect of post production starting in movie trailers and EPK's as an assistant editor, then went on to being a Visual FX assistant for a commercials and music video's, I edited local commercials and web content before moving to assistant editing in Reality TV. From Reality TV, I moved into scripted TV on the MTV show Teen Wolf, I was promoted to Editor there where I edited 9 episodes over 2 seasons. I moved onto editing for Shondaland on Grey's Anatomy for 9 episodes, I recently edited the Emmy nominated web series Grey's Anatomy B-Team directed by Sarah Drew. I was also Ms. Drews music editor on her feature film Indivisible. In about 2 weeks I will be started editing work on a new CW show called In The Dark.


You recently attended PS Shortfest. How was that experience? 

GREG: I was only at the festival for a day so I didn't get the chance to really take it in. From what I experienced being there Shortfest does a really nice job.


How did people react to the film? 

GREG: I've only received positive feed back so far from my film, most people don't tell you negative things. If they don't like it they usually say something like "yeah yeah it was great. I'm going to grab a drink do you want anything?" ; )


What are you working on next? 

GREG: I mentioned above that I was starting that CW TV show In the Dark in a couple of weeks. I'm also in pre-production on a micro horror short which I hope to shoot in September early October. I had the summer off so I spent my time writing a TV pilot. My plan is to pitch it to studios and networks in early 2019


Interview by Vanessa McMahon



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