Just a little over a year ago, I left my house early in the morning in beautiful Monrovia, and headed out along my normal trek to work. I love taking the scenic route and avoiding the dreaded 210 freeway, so I drove up Canyon Blvd., across Foothill Blvd. toward Hillcrest Blvd. to steer clear of traffic and take in some nature. Maybe I would see some deer, I thought. But, to my surprise halfway up the road I was met with police barricades which brought my scenic journey to an abrupt end. As I looked beyond the blockade which included police, fire and rescue vehicles, I saw such a disturbing site. Cars and other vehicles were thrown about the middle of the street like a four-year-old just got done playing smash-up derby with their Matchboxes. It was unreal and eerie. There was fire spewing up from the ground on one side of my home street on Canyon Blvd., and a geyser of water towering in the sky on the other side. I thought, “What the heck is happening? Is this it? Is this the end of the world?
After I made my way back the way I came and noticed more normal conditions everywhere else, I realized there must be some logical explanation for the apocalyptic horror I just experienced. Turned out, Sandra Bullock was responsible. Yep, the same Sandra Bullock who had a problem with a speeding, runaway bus through the streets of LA back in ’94. This time around, Bullock plays Malorie, a mother who keeps herself and her children safe by wearing blindfolds so they don’t make eye contact with unknown entities that cause people to lose their minds and commit suicide. “Bird Box” had a limited debut in theatres before the Netflix release was available to subscribers of the service on December 21, 2018.
Since then, the film has taken in close to $26 million, despite mediocre reviews. The curiosity, intrigue, and suspense alone have created enough buzz to make “Bird Box” and instant cult classic. It has also put the spotlight on the increasing popularity of streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu, which, in recent years, have drawn some high-profile actors, such as Bullock, to get on board this wave.
The famous house in the movie (pictured), has drawn some fans of its own, with folks flocking to the scene between Foothill Blvd and Hillcrest Blvd. on Canyon Blvd., to take their own classic shots, blindfold and all. So far, the homeowners don’t seem to mind. They have even kept the shades down on the side windows as they appear in the flick.
“Bird Box” has also sparked a dangerous trend where people are challenging themselves to do everyday tasks while blindfolded. All I can say to this is…please don’t. Settle for a picture. It’s safer.
Well, if anything, I’ve learned that I’ll have to keep up with neighborhood gossip a bit more, so when the next apocalypse hits Monrovia, I’ll be in the know.
When I first met with Tim Kang, I was greeted with a smile. A rare occurrence if you are familiar with Kang’s by-the-book, deadpan character, FBI agent Kimball Cho, on the longrunning CBS hit series The Mentalist. In person, Kang is a laid-back guy who enjoys adventure and a good laugh.
In March, the final episode of The Mentalist aired, ending a reign of seven successful seasons. Kang, 42, expresses how honored he is to have worked with such an outstanding cast and crew. “It’s a bittersweet end,” Kang says. “Obviously we’ve become a big family. I think it’s what has contributed to the success of the show. If you could see the relationships coming through as we play the parts and as we tell the story, you can tell that we genuinely like hanging out with each other. I loved going into work every day. So obviously, those kinds of things I will miss.”
Kang graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, and then went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts from the A.R.T. Institute at Harvard University. How similar is Kang in real life to his stern Cho character? There are some similarities, Kang states, but he doesn’t live there all the time. “I think that certainly any actor brings something of himself or herself to each character they play, and I think that’s true with Cho. Cho lives in that professional space most of the time, but you know, I like to laugh, I like to smile every once in awhile,” Kang chuckles.
Stunt Work Means Staying in Shape
Being in top shape has helped Kang tackle some of the action scenes on set. Kang performed most of his own stunts on the show and having a black belt in taekwondo comes in handy when faced with a fight scene or chasing down a bad guy. “It’s not a stunt-heavy show, but as much as I can do, I will definitely participate in,” shares Kang. “Now, if Cho’s jumping off a 15-story building, I’ll have a stunt guy do that [Kang laughs], but most stunts I participated in. There were some injuries here and there, but I managed to make it out with not too many scrapes.” Staying fit is nothing new to Kang—it’s been on the agenda since he was a kid. He started taekwondo at age 10 and began weight-training by high school to prepare for football; that’s really when he started working out and spending time in the gym. Kang recalls, “Back then it was just five sets of five reps of bench press and five sets of five of squats and just strength training those big muscles.” Now, Kang works with trainer Derius K. Pierce who got him into TRX suspension training, plyometric and body weight training, and he does a lot of cardio on his own to stay as trim as he can. “[Derius] mixes it up in every workout so my muscles are surprised and I don’t get used to any one motion or any one exercise,” Kang notes. Pierce described Kang in an interview as a person who likes learning new things and being challenged. Circuits provided by Pierce for Kang have included 3 or 4 exercises done 3x in a 20-minute period. An example workout may consist of:
Decline pullovers with a crunch at the height of the movement.
Weighted dips using the Roman chair—touching knees to the back pad.
Peck deck flys.
10 wide step mountain climbers using 4-count reps.(1)
When he’s not working out, Kang is still physically active. You scuba diving or hitting 130 to 140 miles per hour around the track on his motorcycle, or letting loose on off -roading motocross adventures.
The Paleo Approach
When it comes to diet and nutrition, Kang says he has found great benefit from the Paleo Diet™. “I’m not super strict about gluten-free, but it’s just a good, healthy diet,” he says. Kang notes the recent “Paleo craze” is nothing new to the world of fitness. “All those guys in the ‘70s were eating a Paleo Diet—Schwarzenegger, Ferrigno, that was all Paleo they were eating,” Kang exclaims. “We just kind of repackaged it, put some flash in there and called it Paleo. I’m doing it now and I’ve gotten a lot of benefit from it. I haven’t felt better in my life.” But, Kang admits that every once in awhile he’s a guy who likes to eat junk food and splurge on fast food. “But those are cheat days,” Kang explains. “When I’m in my mode, it’s Paleo.”
In 2009, Kang’s daughter Bianca was born opening up a new and exciting chapter in his life. “It’s the most amazing thing that I ever experienced,” Kang enthuses. “It’s an amazing experience just to watch her grow. She’s such a wonderful kid—her mom and I really lucked out.” The birth of his daughter helped influence Kang’s charity work as well. For many years now, Kang has been involved with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC), a nonprofit organization that provides information to help locate missing children who run away from home or have been abducted. NCMEC also assists children who have been physically or sexually abused. “With the early success of The Mentalist I wanted to give back, and at that time my daughter was born—I thought to myself it would be my worst nightmare if anything were to happen to her,” Kang says. So, he decided to find a charity that helps children. “Our kids are our future and it’s important to ensure their safety and this is a fantastic organization and fantastic people. They’re really the salt of the Earth.” You can visit their website at www.missingkids.com.
Beyond The Mentalist
After many seasons on The Mentalist, Kang for the first time in years found himself “unemployed” after the show wrapped shooting in December 2014. He’s grateful for having had the opportunity with The Mentalist, but also embraces the change. “I think we’ve run the gamut as far as the stories that can be told within this context on CBS. I think everybody is ready to do something new. That’s not to say if they asked us to come back and do another year we wouldn’t do it,” notes the San Francisco native.
Kang is now focusing on his own production company, One Shoot Films, which he hopes will open up more opportunities for young actors and writers to get noticed. He also aspires to churn out his own series. “We are in the process of fine-tuning the pilot,” Kang reveals. “It’s always one of the hardest things to do, getting a pilot made. You have to keep at it and keep those creative juices flowing. Right now we are just working on a script and throwing some ideas around.” Kang hopes to dabble in directing and writing in the future as well. One thing is for sure, you can expect to see more of Tim Kang for years to come. AF
KEVIN McGUIRE holds a BA degree in journalism and is the managing editor for American Fitness.
“SECRETS FROM TRAINING CELEBRITY CLIENTS: QUESTIONS & ANSWERS: DERIUS K. PIERCE” [SIC] BEBLACKBEFIT.COM/SECRETS-FROM-TRAINING-CELEBRITY-CLIENTS.HTML.
Dating back to even the colonial days, Philadelphia has been on the forefront of the music scene. From classical and opera to R & B and Hip-Hop, the Philly sound takes a back seat to no one. Rock ‘n’ roll is no exception. In fact, some would even argue that it all started in the City of Brotherly Love when the sounds of Doo-Wop were heard right on street corners and, soon after, Dick Clark took his first step onto the American Bandstand stage.
Today, Philly is still host to many Rock, Pop and Indie bands frequenting joints like World Café Live, The Khyber and Legendary Dobbs. One such band who is no stranger to Philly is SPiN. This Indie/Power Pop four member ensemble released their first full-length album in 2010 titled BELiEVE. Songs on the record, “Not in Love,” “Hurt by You,” and “DoN’t Look DowN” have been heard on various shows including on MTV.
With a sound quoted by critics as a mix of Queen, Muse and the Cars, SPiN is sure to please you ear buds with harmonic melodies stirred with rock steady sound and heart piercing lyrics.
Members: Eric Rothenheber (Vocals), Jim Vacca (keyboards), Lou Chudnofsky (Drums) and Henry Cieplinski (guitar) have been currently working on their next album and have completed their latest tune “Hearts in Flames.”
I had a chance to talk to SPiN’s guitarist, Henry Cieplinski about the band’s recent success and their future projects.
McGuire: Let’s talk about how everyone met and SPIN came to be?
Cieplinski: Well, Jim and E (Eric) went to high school with my brother, and we all played together in a couple different projects. Then Lou came into the picture. We found him on a street corner pretending to be homeless.
McGuire: Where was your first gig? Tell me something about that night?
Cieplinski: Our first gig with Lou was Lou’s audition with us I believe. We kinda knew we wanted him in the band even before he played because he played in another band we knew, but that didn’t stop us from making him buy us shots all night.
McGuire: The band was originally called Spin the Bottle, why the name change?
Cieplinski: Spin the Bottle was primarily a cover band. The “plan” was to do covers to gain an audience and throw in originals, but that didn’t work. People who want to hear covers don’t want to hear something they never heard before, they want to hear Guns N Roses. When we decided to go all original, we needed to make a change, so we just cut the bottle thing.
McGuire: What would you say has changed in the Philly music scene in recent years?
Cieplinski: Not much. It’s increasing difficult to get people out because everyone is home on their iPads. Clubs open and close all the time. It’s hard to stay in businesses for bar owners with live music I guess.
McGuire: When did you first pick up a guitar and how soon after did you realize this is what you wanted to do in your life?
Cieplinski: I was 15. I can remember struggling to play “Iron Man,” but in my defense, I was playing it on my sister’s cheap ass guitar my parents bought her to play at church and the action sucked. (That means it was hard to play for the lay person). I still can’t play “Iron Man” on that particular guitar. The first time I played an electric in a music store, I knew I could make it happen. That was much easier. I knew I wanted to play music before I picked up the guitar though.
McGuire:SPIN magazine has threatened a lawsuit against the band citing trademark infringement claims because of your band’s name, has anything further come of that?
Cieplinski: No. We basically got a cease and desist. Then we did nothing. It was ridiculous. They wanted to scare us from using the name “spin”. I guess if there were a THE magazine, lots of bands would be in trouble. We weren’t worried. When you’re a broke ass, you don’t fear lawsuits. It’s kind of like being the ugly guy in a fist fight. You really have nothing to lose.
McGuire: The SPiN EP was released in 2007. How was the reception? You got to tour a bit for this record alone and opening for band like Puddle of Mudd and Halestorm. Tell me about that.
Cieplinski: The reception was great. We got a lot of great reviews and one which stated that we were the worst band ever. That was my favorite. Touring was great. Lots of fun, and a great experience. Opening for big acts was cool as well. We stole Wes from Puddle of Mudd’s beer and then ask him about song writing after the show. He was a pretty cool guy. We go way back with Halestorm. They opened for us and we opened for them. What a great band. The first time I saw Lizzy sing my testicles rotated and my ears smiled. Great guys, great band. Just a matter of time before everyone knows that.
McGuire: The track, “Home” seemed to be a popular favorite and made it to the charts. Tell me the background to the song.
Cieplinski: This sounds made up, but I spent some time in Mexico, came home and threw a lot of that down. Then when we did it for producer David Ivory, he wanted it done differently. He added the loop and such. Then I begged him to put the real strings on it. I think it came out great after all that.
McGuire: What is your favorite thing about touring? Share the most exciting moment so far with the band.
Cieplinski: Putting a scorpion in the driver’s seat of our tour van when it was Lou’s turn to drive was pretty cool. Playing little towns like Page, Arizona was awesome because our song was in rotation there and when we played the gig, people were singing the song along with us.
McGuire: Everything cool with the band? Getting along?
Cieplinski: No, I mean yes. I mean… what? No – things are good. We fight. We all write so we do disagree about things. But honestly, we couldn’t be better friends.
McGuire: Tell me about your other band mates and what they bring to the table.
Cieplinski: Well we all bring a different musical background and influence, which is cool, and we all have our own personalities. Lou brings a unique humor, E brings an intellect and tranquility and Jimmy brings a keen sense of what’s going on in the music industry. That and everyone is a real good musician. I’m the a-hole in the band.
McGuire: Your first full album “Believe” was released in 2011, and has gotten some recognition. “Hurt By You” was featured on both G4 and MTV. Tell me a bit about that track.
Cieplinski: Hurt was E’s baby. We were able to get a lot of individual influences on it though as is evident with Jimmy key licks throughout. Most of the time one of us brings up an idea in it’s early stages, then we all beat it up until it’s deemed SPiN worthy.
McGuire: There have been comparisons to Muse and Queen…not bad company?
Cieplinski: Not at all. Yeah, two big influences on all of us. We all have different influences, but these two we all have in common so it makes sense, I guess.
McGuire: Tell me about the new music and when we can expect to see the next album.
Cieplinski: Well, we’re almost done a 3 song EP were working on, and we have a couple other tracks half recorded including an original Christmas tune.
McGuire: Who has directed you latest video “Hearts in Flames”? Who is the actress in the video?
Cieplinski: A film director in London contacted us about an idea for a video for Hearts in Flames. The girl was a friend of his. Sorry, I’m bad with names. He has another idea for doing another video for one of the newer songs we just got done. Maybe I’ll learn her name for the next one. Maybe.
McGuire: What’s next for SPIN as far as touring? Where can people in Philly catch you guys?
Cieplinski: Not sure about touring. We’re kind of focusing on recording some new stuff right now. We play the Legendary Dobbs on South Street a lot. Great room. Great people. END
To keep up with the latest news on SPiN, visit there website www.spinrocks.com. But for now, here is their latest tune “Hearts in Flames.”
This statement spoken time and time again is actually untrue—it is actually a sugar-coated understatement. Making it in L.A. is extremely tough, yet everyday, actors, models, musicians, comedians and filmmakers alike dive into an endless sea with many other aspiring big fish and swim against the tide. Many have been lost. But fortunately for today’s generation of ambitious go-getters, there are other options.
More than ever, artists are getting their projects completed independently. They have the luxury of social media outlets such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to get the word out—and you know what? It’s working.
One example is Star Trek Phase II. Created by a bunch Trekkies that felt they needed some closure to the 5-year mission that fell short on TV. The Phase II internet series became so popular, that even original Star Trek made guest appearances. In music, the Indie band Foster the People, initially posted there hit song “Pumped Up Kicks” on their website as a free download. Soon after, it was at the top of the charts.
And making movies is becoming no different. Determined actors and filmmakers are not letting rejections or requests to give up creative control stop them from making the film they want to make.
Joseph Napoli (www.imdb.com/name/nm1828185/) originally moved from Hoboken, NJ to L.A. to become an actor. After landing a few small parts over a stretch of years, he decided to broaden his horizons and step into the realm of producing. His first shared project is complete and is entitled “Bigfoot County.” Napoli is an executive producer and also acts in the film.
It was written and directed by
Stephon Stewart (www.imdb.com/name/nm2416074/), an actor making his directorial debut. “Bigfoot County” follows the trek of a documentary filmmaker who sets out with his crew, in 2009, to investigate an area that has had the largest amount of Bigfoot sightings in history.
I got a chance to talk to Napoli about this project:
McGuire: Where did the idea for this film come about?
Napoli: The idea came to Stephon Stewart in two parts. Part one, when he first saw the “Blair Witch Project” many years ago now, and part two, the “Paranormal Activity” film series. He continued to mull it over in his head to combine the two great ideas together. He knew he wanted to do something in the woods. That’s when the “Bigfoot” idea popped into his head. There is no bigger subject matter when it comes to the woods than “Bigfoot,” literally.
McGuire: Where was it shot? Describe the experience.
Napoli: We shot the film in Siskiyou County, Calif. in a town called Happy Camp. Some of the crew made the 13-hour drive from L.A., and we flew the entire cast and rest of the crew up to Northern Calif. Siskiyou County is a very interesting place in the middle of nowhere—remote, and quiet. At night when we were shooting, the things we heard out there were indescribable at times! The woods are so vast and dense, they surround you as far as the eye can see. The best way to explain it is: if you were standing on the sand at the beach and looked out on to the ocean only to see water, that’s Siskiyou County, only all you see is a sea of green trees.
McGuire: What type of camera was used?
Napoli: A Panasonic HD camera
McGuire: What can you tell us about the film plot?
Napoli: Based on found footage, a documentary filmmaker and his crew venture up to Siskiyou County, known for their Bigfoot sightings. While there to investigate, they meet a local who leads them into the woods showing them evidence to these sightings. As they document everything on tape a series of unfortunate events occurs leaving many unanswered questions and only this footage to draw conclusions.
McGuire: Sounds quite eerie! Looking at the Trailer, it does resemble “Blair Witch” a bit.
Napoli: “Blair Witch” is the first of its kind. It paved the way for what we now refer to as “handheld found footage” movies. The fact that “Bigfoot County” also takes place in the woods, the comparison is going to be there no doubt. But, you have to see the film to truly appreciate how different “Bigfoot County” really is from “Blair Witch.”
McGuire: Tell us about the director, Stephon Stewart. How did he bring this film together?
Napoli: Stephon Stewart is an ambitious, intelligent, hard-nosed, perfectionist filmmaker. He settles for nothing less than greatness, and directs in a respectful, classy way—as a gentleman. Stephon wrote and shot a version of the film more than 3 years ago. He cut together a little two-minute teaser trailer which went all the way to Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Before long, he was working with Drew Barrymore’s production company Flower Films. Jason Blum, the producer of “Paranormal Activity,” was brought on board to supervise. Nearly two years went by when he reshot the movie with Flower Films. He was asked to reshoot the film a third time, and then was requested by Flower Films to not direct his own movie.
McGuire: Wow? I imagine that didn’t sit to well with him?
Napoli: He walked away! He walked away from a deal with a major production company, talent agency and A-list producer. The movie was his idea from the beginning, nobody else’s. The creative differences had built up too much, walking away was his only choice.
Stephon and I were living on the same property. He lived in the back house and I lived in the house with [actor]
Johnnie Colter (www.imdb.com/name/nm1845034/). We were all living together for a few years. Johnnie and I knew the whole story and the drama that had plagued Stephon while working with Flower Films. Then, Stephon sat down with us one day and told us he walked away, and why he did what he did. We agreed with him. He just wanted to make the movie he knew would be great if he could just find some producers who would leave him alone and let him direct it. And that was all that needed to be said. Johnnie and myself said, “let’s do it.” [We] had some money, and Stephon was all in with his money. The result: “Bigfoot County,” a $30,000 dollar movie, filmed, edited and sold in exactly 1 year’s time!
McGuire:Amazing!Once it got underway, was it a fun film to make? Sounds like it would be.
Napoli: It was a real blast to shoot this movie. Everyone involved knew each other for many years. Having relationships and friendship with people who understand the time restraints and tribulations that lie ahead made it all worth it and possible. Like minds always prevail.
McGuire:You bring together a group of actors that have done OK on their own. Give me a break down of the actors and what they bring to this film.
Sam Ayers (www.imdb.com/name/nm0043807/). These two seasoned actors have been in this town well over 20 years. They should be series regulars on TV shows, or at least co-starring in major feature films. They are my greatest accomplishments when it comes to “Bigfoot County.” I happened to be really great friends with both of them. When Stephon was talking about casting, I immediately brought both of them to the table. They are the pros and veterans of this film. The other staple of the film is
Davee Younglood (www.imdb.com/name/nm0950192/). He is another great friend and brainstormed with Stephon way back when he was still developing the idea. Davee went for it in this movie. He put it all out there with no fear, and it shows. Rounding out the stars is the lovely
Shy Pilgreen (www.imdb.com/name/nm1423041/), an adorable and abrasive Southern girl. She really shines and stands out in the movie, being the only female cast. She holds her own with the boys. She’s tough and feisty…you can’t help but cheer for her. And last, but not least, Stephon Stewart, who had to take a back seat mostly due to operating the camera and directing the film. Just as the entire cast, he is always believable and real. He carries a lot on his plate, and still pulls off a damn fine performance!
McGuire:You have appeared as an actor in a couple of films, but this is the first one you produced, what were some of the challenges you and Stephon faced?
Napoli: Paperwork was the biggest challenge before we even started shooting. SAG and ABS payroll kept us busy scrambling for several weeks. Other things included, making sure everyone was paid properly and on time and hoping and praying nobody got hurt or injured while filming. Aside from some serious poison oak, everybody made it back to L.A. in one piece. Stephon sat along side the editor the entire time in order to complete editing from 20 hours of footage in a little over a week’s time. Then came the really challenging part—selling the movie. It took a few months and endless phone calls, but Stephon was on it day and night. I have been close to the entire project, lending and advising whatever I can. We have both spent each day calling, e-mailing and contacting whoever we needed to, to get “Bigfoot County” out there.
McGuire:Where and when can people see this film?
Napoli: The film right now is appearing in several select cities around the country through www.tugg.com. We have been accepted at the “New Filmmakers L.A. Festival” in Hollywood at Gower Studios. The date it will screen is Friday night, Oct 26th at 12 p.m. LionsGate has just released the official trailer and one sheet poster. You can view them on Facebook @ “Bigfoot County the Movie”, on IMDB @ “Bigfoot County,”as well as on YouTube @:http://youtu.be/DAtOWRsQL6M.
McGuire: Thanks for your time Joey and I wish you and the film a lot of success!
Napoli: Thanks Kevin! Appreciate the support!
There you have it! Now here is the trailer for “Bigfoot County.” Enjoy!
Stay tuned for Part II of the article featuring another locally made movie- Dead Man’s Party!