Filmmaker Neil Breen on his self-financed ‘Fateful Findings’
A former real estate agent and architect, filmmaker Neil Breen’s latest movie, Fateful Findings, revolves around an author (played by Breen looking a little like the love child of Garry Shandling and Richard Gere) who suffers life-threatening injuries when he’s hit by a car. While recovering, he begins fervently working to expose corporate and government secrets, obsessing over his research to the point of alienating his friends and his drug-addicted lover. After he’s unexpectedly reunited with a childhood friend, unnatural forces seem to be at play against him. Or something like that. The movie was so oddly cut and its plot so ambiguous that we didn’t exactly know what to make of it. Breen recently spoke to us about his movie-making philosophy and the enigmatic film finding an audience. He phoned in from his Las Vegas home.
What inspired the movie?
There was not one trigger. This is the third feature that I’ve written, produced and directed. They’re not a continuation. They don’t have the same characters. But there is a common theme without being repetitious or copycatting. There’s love lost for and frustration with, for lack of a better term, the human race. I don’t preach to people. I’m not being judgmental. I just express myself. In all the films, I enjoy having a paranormal twist either directly or indirectly in the films. That’s really where I’m coming from. The best descriptions of my films that I’ve heard from various reviewers, which I like to hear, is that they’re genre defying. It’s not a love story. It’s not a paranormal film. It’s not a political film. It’s a blend of all of them in a good, positive, entertaining way.
Do you subscribe to conspiracy theories?
I’m not a conspiracy theorist per se but you can’t be naïve about things. Take this recent NSA disclosure that they have their fingers in everything. You’d have to be naïve to think that they weren’t doing this 40 years ago. Everything that WikiLeaks exposes has been going on for decades with Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Marxists . . . it doesn’t matter. This is the way life is, like it or not.
What about aliens?
It’s the old argument. No one, to my way of thinking, has ever seen any tangible proof. It’s like Bigfoot. There may be a Bigfoot out there. No one has ever seen a skeleton or hair of Bigfoot. Everything is founded in a natural occurrence in nature. Living here in Las Vegas, people from all around the world think Area 51 still exists. The only thing that happened at Area 51 was the testing of aircraft. They were testing stealth aircraft 40 years ago. I’m very pragmatic. I’m not a religious person but I’m a spiritual person. I believe there’s some power that controls earth and the universe. What you call it is up to you.
It looks like you filmed in and around Las Vegas. What was that like?
It’s a function of a couple of things. I shot all three films here in Las Vegas. With this film, Fateful Findings, I went out of my way to make no references to Las Vegas or show it. It just happens to be where I live. It’s that simple. My fourth film that I’m finishing the script now won’t make any references to Las Vegas. In my planning stage, I hope to not shoot it here at all. Not having gone to film school — although I’ve done experiential films when I was younger — each film is a learning experience on a creative level and a technical level. I also make more money with each one and that enables me to make bigger and better films. The fourth one will be a real leap forward for me in terms of creativity and locations and cast and stylization. The only reason I shot here was because I was here. It’s a function of budget. I would have loved to have flown somewhere but it’s self-funded, and I’m self-restricted that way.
How’d you find so many attractive actresses?
It’s interesting. It’s the way I wrote it. There’s got to be some chemistry between the characters strictly from a love interest point of view. I cast them all locally. All the cast and crew are from Nevada. There is a pool of technical talent available here in Las Vegas. The other films, I have gone to the extreme. I enjoy finding faces that are very unique. With two of the people on this film, I was looking for an older lady and gentlemen with full of wrinkles and scratchy voices. I found them and they were in their mid-70s. I like the contrast in characters. I’ve been very fortunate. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s the chance you take.
You don’t seem to have any inhibitions when it comes to doing nude scenes. Has that always been the case?
No. It’s not a nude thing. Sensuality — this is where we need to differentiate — is a part of everyone’s life. I don’t know too many people in warm climates who sleep with their pajamas or underwear on. This is where we need to differentiate sensuality and sexuality. It’s part of everyone’s lives without being gratuitous. When you’re in the hospital and you put the gown on, you don’t have underwear on so when you get out of the hospital bed, you see your butt—that’s it. When you’re in the shower washing the blood off, you don’t have a t-shirt and shorts on. That’s the reality of it. The credibility is what I’m going for.
You’ve seen the movie with a live audience. What’s that like?
It’s the most rewarding part of filmmaking. I’ve seen it in a number of real theaters on the festival circuit and at screenings in L.A. I have done Q&A sessions. When you have 150 people who want to stay and talk to you, it’s a great feeling. You can’t please everybody; some people don’t get it and some people don’t like it. For me, the most important thing is that they find it thought- provoking and entertaining and they appreciate – appreciate in quotes — what I’m doing. I’m not a million-dollar-moviemaker with A-list stars. I get a lot of gratitude from audiences who appreciate the fact that I’m not doing this for some ego reason. The only way I’ll make movies at the point in my filmmaking career is to finance them myself. If I wait for someone to come around and find the movie, they would never get made. I have a vision and passion. What’s happening now is that I have this following all over the world and I’m hoping to make bigger and better films. I’m being approached by outside producers who may be interested in hooking up with me. They know that I can make money. That’s how I got the distribution deal that I’ve gotten. It’s a business. After my third movie, I’ve proven that I’ve got credibility.
I read somewhere that you made millions selling real estate and that you now spend that on these movies.
No, no, no. That’s a myth. Every time I have a Q&A session that comes up. I’ve never made millions. Never. Let me give you a real quick background. I went to college to become an architect. I am a licensed architect. I have been practicing. When I was 10 years old, I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker. That’s fantasyland. I also love architecture. I save my money I made as an architect and that’s the money I used for my filmmaking. During the course of my architecture career, I also got a license as a real estate agent. I had that license for two years but when I did my first film, the business card from my real estate license got put online and when people searched ‘Neil Breen,’ what popped up was that fricking business card for the real estate. All of a sudden, I’m this real estate mogul making films. That’s not the truth at all. After two years of having my license, I let it lapse. I got it out of convenience. That whole real estate thing wasn’t based in any form of reality at all. I’m no longer selling real estate. I only did that for two years. It’s not part of my bio. I definitely didn’t make millions.
The film potentially has the same kind of cult following as something like The Room. Do you see any similarities?
To be honest, I’ve never seen The Room. I’ve heard about it. This gets back to appreciating what I’m trying to do. There were some films called classics that audiences go to literally laugh it. They want to see a flying saucer move across the screen and they want to see it dangle from a string. I understand that. That’s not what I’m doing. The hardcore cult film aficionados of that genre look for goofy and funny things. People will laugh at parts of my film. I totally understand that. I didn’t do it as a comedy or a satire. I’ve done all of my films as sincere filmmaking efforts. I have technical limitations. I understand why people may laugh at certain parts of the film. In all of my films, the audience will chuckle here and there in the beginning of the films and I get it. Believe me, it doesn’t bother me at all. The audience gets quiet once they realize it isn’t The Room. They think they’re going to see something but it turns into be something else. Halfway through the film they’re quiet and trying to understand what I’m trying to say. By the end of the film, they’re giving it a standing ovation. They understand that I’m trying to say something serious without sounding preachy or profound or anything like that. That’s another thing with my films is that my films and my writing are really subject to a number of interpretations. There isn’t a right or wrong interpretation. If you put three people in the audience, you could have three different interpretations. One person could take it literally and one person could take it metaphorically and one person could take it a completely different way. I welcome that. I never write anything that is black and white.