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USC Students Work With Hollywood Professionals For New Film

Jenny Chao |
September 8, 2013 | 9:36 p.m. PDT

Senior Entertainment Editor

Independent film's next big thing is here, in the form of "Fringes"—a movie developed by several USC film students and Hollywood influentials under the production company, Psycho Films. "Fringes" is a proclaimed "Jewsploitation" film that follows three Hasidic Jewish gunslingers as they are sent to the small town of Montgomery, Texas to protect a rabbi and his family from a bigoted, anti-Semitic mayor. One defining quality of this film is that part of its funds are coming from its supporters; the "Fringes" team launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise the initial 20%, $180,000, and are also pledging to give 10% of the net profits back to Indiegogo campaigns to help fund other passionate artists. With this movement, they hope to bring "Fringes" to the next level and make this Psycho Film's biggest project to date, while making their contributions to the creative community.

I had the pleasure of having a conversation with Director Joe Weil and Producer Sam Canter about the creation and production of "Fringes." In this engaging interview, the two talented filmmakers gave me a glimpse of what inspired them, what inspires them now and what their aspirations are for the future. 

What made you guys get into filmmaking? Was there a defining moment in your life?

Sam Canter: Growing up with both my uncles in the film industry, my whole family has always loved cinema…from when I was seven or eight years old, I told myself to never stop making movies, never stop immersing myself and to never give up.

I first started making shorts (short films) in elementary school…bringing in friends, and then in high school, I took this film class. From then on, everything I did was all about film—I read films, watched films and tried to become as fluent in the medium as possible.  Coming to college, I started to become more practical—more realistic—to feel out the film industry, and that’s why I chose to study in the business and cinematic arts program, [which is a joint program between the USC Marshall School of Business and the USC School of Cinematic Arts]. I knew that I had talent in organizational and managerial skills—I was the president of my high school and am now the president of my fraternity—skills I knew were applicable to becoming an astute business manager and producer in the film realm. 

Joe Weil: I was a less mature 7-year-old than Sam—I didn’t self-actualize myself like that. But, I’ve been making movies for a while and it has added flavor to everything I’ve been doing. I went through my formative years in elementary school and middle school re-staging scenes from films I’d seen in my backyard, making goofy videos…. during my sophomore year of high school, I made a feature film for $500 called “Frame By Frame,” which we sold 300 tickets for in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. And you know, I just caught the film bug, making a total of four feature films before graduating high school. I only applied to film schools, and getting into USC really reaffirmed that this what I wanted to be doing, and the rest is history.

With “Fringes,” we’ve spent two years on the film already; we’re really trying to take it to the next echelon of professional filmmaking. Though we are USC students making this film, this is not a student film nor is it a small production by any means; this is a viable independent film that has garnered interest from many Hollywood professionals, distributors, as something that has the potentially to be critically and commercially successful. It’s taught me a lot about what possible by not binding yourself in the world of going to “film school”. I’m constantly grateful and amazed by the reception to the script and the buzz around the film thus far. 

SC: We’ve had the honor of working with some amazing Hollywood professionals on this film, which has been very cool and educational for us.  Our film is being cast by the casting director of films like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and TV shows like "Curb Your Enthusiasm." We have also been producing the film with industry professional Joy Hurwitz, who has worked in almost every facet of the film industry over the past 35 years and has really become a mentor and guide on this journey. What’s so exciting is that we have a great mix of emerging filmmakers and experienced professionals, both working like hell to get the movie made. 

Director Joe Weil gets an early-morning update from the Camera and Art departments (Facebook)
Director Joe Weil gets an early-morning update from the Camera and Art departments (Facebook)


You guys seem to have a great partnership. Is "Fringes" the first project you guys have worked on together?

JW: “Fringes” was the genesis of our team coming together—myself, Sam and Dani [Goffstein], who is our writing partner. From there, we’ve expanded our production company and tackled a variety of projects, such as a TV pilot that was curated by SCA (School of Cinematic Arts) students, “White Boy Fly,” as well as a variety of music videos, commercials, and web series. “Fringes” is certainly our flagship effort, marking a new level of production, but along the way we have been privileged enough to participate in several other amazing opportunities. 

SC: Our philosophy is that despite telling eccentric, new, often high-concept stories, there is a human thread running through everything that connects the projects we make. 

JW: "Fringes", for example, is about Hasidic Jewish gunslingers who are sent to protect a rabbi from an anti-Semitic Mayor. Seems outlandish, but on a deeper level, it’s a story of one man looking for family and a new way of life—and all the peripheral craziness that can be a consequence of that.

A scene from the much-anticipated movie (Facebook)
A scene from the much-anticipated movie (Facebook)


How did you get all these big names to be involved in the film?

JW: Actors want to work. And they want to work on projects they like. It seems obvious, but past all the bullshit of money and contracts and agents, true actors want to play, and they want to play in projects that challenge and inspire them. In recent years, independent films have become this playground, especially as the studios make fewer films each year and their list of desired talent gets smaller and smaller. 

If you went to Sundance 20 years ago, none of the films would have known faces in them; now however, every film has three or four actors ranging from A-listers to TV regulars. It’s now understood that being in indie films is an important way for actors to stay serious and relevant. 

It really is about “who you know,” but it’s also about the script, which is a great testament to the writer. When people read the script, when they talk to me and the others, it’s the originality and the passion that I think really makes them take a risk on us. 

Producer Sam Canter goofs off while working on "Fringes" (Facebook)
Producer Sam Canter goofs off while working on "Fringes" (Facebook)


What are your plans for the future?

JW: I graduate in December…Sam still has a little time left. Our plan is to take “Fringes” its full capacity, and to do what we can to premiere it at the major festivals such as Sundance or South by Southwest (SXSW). The reach that we’ve gotten has been phenomenal so far, and we’re really striving to push our film to the next level. But we need help, which is why we are reaching out to the Trojan family for support. 

We always hear about how great our alumni network is, but what about our current one? If we can get a single USC student to just put in $1, it’s a huge gesture and a testament of their support. If other students follows suit, the community is empowering us, and that’s something that is really special. 

SC: We’re trying to make our film, but we’re also trying to give back...that’s really a part of it. We know what it’s like to need money and the difficulty of raising money, so we want to at least open the conversation about how crowdfunding can be used to “pay it back” to the community that helps you.


Check out the "Fringes" Facebook page here.

Donate to the "Fringes" project here. Remember, if they reach $180,000, 10% of the net proceeds will be used to help out other artists!


Reach Senior Entertainment Editor Jenny Chao here. Follow her on Twitter here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

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