Ventura Rocks has been a big Army of Freshmen fan for years, and so when we heard that fellow bandmates Chris Jay and Aaron Goldberg had a new project which was a movie being filmed entirely in Ventura, we had to get on board! Initially, Polly Hoganson did an interview with Chris Jay before they even started filming, and then Ventura Rocks showed up for one of their first (see photos) and final scenes being shot at Camino Real Park baseball field using lots of locals and musicians as extras.
Ventura Rocks: Your film is finally ready for the world to see. How are you and Aaron holding up?
Chris Jay: Holding up but… barely. We’re now wearing the hat of publicists, party planners, marketers, social media promoters and trying to hold down part time jobs to pay full time bills. We’re three weeks away from release as of this interview and two weeks away from the premiere so it’s just insane but kind of exciting too!
Ventura Rocks: Taking a look at what your vision was before you started filming, and the final product, are the two pretty close or did it turn out totally different?
Chris Jay: Good question. We can’t complain. Is it exactly how we envisioned or wrote it? No but it’s not that far off which by all accounts we are really lucky to be able to say that. We hear horror stories from other filmmakers that what they set out to make ends up completely different when it gets released. If anything it’s just some scenes and locations that had to be cut due to time and budget. We basically wrote a studio comedy but we only had a micro budget. So the flashback scenes of each girl in The Bet when they were back in school all had to go and we couldn’t get all the characters back to be in the stands at the final ballgame, like a bigger movie would, but all things considered we’re very happy with it. I think any artist be it a songwriter or filmmaker always has something they wished they did different but you have work with what you got and to pull off a feature with multiple locations in 13 days is pretty amazing in it’s self.
Ventura Rocks: Tell me about the support you’ve received from Army of Freshmen fans, local musicians, family and friends.
Chris Jay: We simply could not have made this movie anywhere but Ventura. I mean that. Locations were donated, which is unheard of in LA, then from all the bands we are friends with, we were able to have a ton of extras where most small movies barely have any in the background, and when it comes to family the first people willing to invest in the film were family. This really was a grassroots effort and so many people went out of their way to help us. I also think we pissed off a few people in the process, half kidding, but no… this really is testament to Ventura and the support that’s here. We were able to save so much money on locations, catering, extras, props that overall made it a better looking film then when should expect on our small budget. I think people got inspired by how insane the undertaking was and wanted to help us.
Ventura Rocks: I know you had a producer and you did a lot of fundraising for the film, how did that go? Meet your budget?
Chris Jay: Flat out the most difficult aspect of filmmaking is finding the money. That’s most difficult aspect of a lot of things in life of course, but we did raise enough to get it done. We were lucky to land two amazing executive producers, Craig and Teresa Beech who produce theater productions in the United Kingdom but they believed in the project and along with some smaller investments from family and friends, we got it done. But it is a rabbit hole, at every corner you spend money you didn’t expect to for example we frankly weren’t prepared for how long post production would take and how expensive it is to do right.
Ventura Rocks: Originally you thought you’d need only 13 days to film, but in reality, how many days did it take?
Chris Jay: We filmed 13 days in Ventura. Then we did an afternoon of some pick up shots with a drone, then an afternoon of no dialogue pick up shots, then at the last minute we had to replace our baseball crowd footage, long story but it involved not having releases for some young kids that snuck into the shot who we possible couldn’t find, so we shot an hour or so of a new just recently to fill like 10 seconds. But ultimately it was not a deal where we did a ton of filming after the fact, 98% of the movie was done in those 13 days in Ventura.
Chris Jay: I shudder at the word. Aaron and I were very naive to how long post takes. On top of that we (by that I mean myself, Aaron, the director Ryan Ederer and the producer Reza Riazi were all very passionate about virtually every single aspect of the movie and I think that drug things out sometimes as opposed to a dictator making all the calls but ultimately it’s for the best. There’s a world where this movie could have come out a year ago but no way it’s as good as it is now.
Ventura Rocks: There were a few name changes for The Bet, how come?
Chris Jay: Urgh. The film was shot under the name, Baker’s Dozen. The generic title aspect made us change it to Betting on Baker shortly after filming. Then when we got distribution, our distribution company asked for a more generic title that didn’t have the word “Baker,” as quite frankly, if you don’t know that’s the character’s name then you think it’s a movie about a baker. So we went with The Bet and right now I’m thrilled. It’s easy to remember. It’s quick to type for hash tags and social media. It’s doesn’t take up a lot of space on adds and designs. As much as I went kicking and screaming each time a name change came, I am really starting to love it. I still find myself calling it Baker a lot thought and I need to break that habit before all the press starts.
Ventura Rocks: Tell me about the main actors.
Chris Jay: If there’s one thing I think we knocked out of the park, it was the casting. We spent so much time on it. Much more than the average movie our size does. It was incredibly important for us to love the people that played these characters we invented and were so connected to. We did auditions in LA. We scoured casting sites. We contacted friends who were actors and ultimately it paid off. Our two leads, Alex Klein and Amanda Clayton who are just wonderful actors both went on to land parts in big movies. Alex has a role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel and Amanda is currently starring in Tyler Perry’s If Loving You Is Wrong and the upcoming Marin Scorsese produced movie, Bleed For This. Not too mention the lead character’s friends, who are played by a trio of three incredibly funny comedians and actors all who have a lot going on. Yassir Lester, Jeremiah Watkins, Brian Allen. Oh and our bad guys, Michael Consiglio and Paul Natonek are great too. Lot of new faces in the movie but they are clearly the type you’ll be hearing a lot more of. Then of course we got some great cameos from the wrestlers, Chuck D, Gerry Bednob, Dave England. We called in all the favors!
Ventura Rocks: I found it quite endearing how the guys (local musicians) were jazzed to see wrestlers involved in the movie. What inspired you to get Jake “the snake” Roberts, Tommy Dreamer and Diamond Dallas Page involved? They just happened to be available?
Chris Jay: From day one writing the script I had a vision of the two dads in the film being played by wrestlers. I am an out-of-the-womb pro wrestling fan so it was important to me to get a wrestler or two in the movie. The story how they got involved is epic with twists and turns but the long and the short of it is, I was aiming for Mick Foley and Roddy Piper, two of my all time favorites to play the roles. I landed Piper and thought I had won the lottery and cause of him got DDP. Then days before we shot, Piper got called to the WWE and clearly he couldn’t turn that down. DDP was awesome, stayed on board when he didn’t have to and helped get us Jake 48 hours before we shot. In the hunt for wrestlers, I reached out to Tommy and even though we had just filled the dad role with Jake, he agreed to come out to do a cameo. Then during filming Roddy reached out to ask how it was going and I begged him to come to a cameo when he got back to LA, he agreed. Got to spend the whole day with Roddy in the car on the way back and forth from LA. We became friends after that and kept in touch and then he tragically he passed aways last year which affected me quite a bit. To have him in our film even for that short scene and it’s one of the last, if not the last, film he ever made is something I will be proud of forever. The guest bedroom where he stayed at my house is forever known as The Roddy Room. I got one of his action figures on the shelf. It’s an amazing thing when you meet a childhood hero and he exceeds every expectation. He was and is a special human being.
Chris Jay: Yes! It’s coming two weeks before release on iTunes and Spotify for those cheap millennial types! It’s got 5 original comedy songs we wrote for the film, including the greatest song I have ever been a part of recording, “Sneaky Beej” and 5 songs from local bands who are in the movie. In addition it’s got an intro, interlude and outro from one of the characters which I think is pretty amazing. It’s more a promotional tool for the movie than a proper soundtrack you buy at Salzers but we can’t be musicians who makes a movie and not have a soundtrack. We have some locals helping out on the comedy songs, we got Frank Barajas to do a song in Spanish and Aaron Orbit to sing an 80’s hair metal love anthem. We spent a lot of time working on this soundtrack, we almost drove our music supervisor, Michael Mason to the nuthouse but he never bailed on us. We also got an amazing composer, Michael Leslie who helped give the film the big movie score feel and not just 25 rock songs in the background which is common for lot of small comedies.
Ventura Rocks: How will The Bet be distributed?
Chris Jay: The film will be coming out July 26, 2016 via Screen Media Films on all cable VOD outlets, iTunes, Amazon Prime, Fandango Now, Xbox, Playstation and more. Then there will be a DVD/Blu-Ray release August 23 then if all goes well a streaming and cable TV deal in the fall. In this day and age at least right now, Netflix is the goal, at least when it comes to the amount of people that see your film.
Ventura Rocks: What were some of the surprising aspects of becoming a filmmaker? I’m sure you went in thinking, “How hard could this be?!”
Chris Jay: There’s never enough money. There’s never enough people. There’s not enough time for pre production and there’s way too much time for post production.
Chris Jay: While Aaron and I wrote the film and co-produced, the head producer was Reza Riazi. Reza worked with Aaron and I and guided us through everything since we first told him we wanted to write a screenplay. He was with us every step of the way and I think he was so close to the damn thing that he didn’t have any other option but to produce it when the script was ready. When many producers would of long ago bailed and moved onto the next project, Reza has stayed in the trenches with us. His company is called Balding Penguin and I truly believe in a few years that company will be synonymous with comedy films and TV. He’s just a gifted hard working and funny guy. Look forward to forcing him to work on our next movie, Wedding Or Not.
Ventura Rocks: What was the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
Chris Jay: Wow. The big question. I will look at the glass half full and say… why not? Why not write a movie even if you’ve never done it before. Why not try and film it even if people think you’re crazy. Why not spend two years of your life making no money but doing something you love that no one can ever take away from you. Granted we’re talking about a raunchy comedy but I think it holds true whether you want to be an astronaut and walk on the moon or write dick and fart jokes to make your friends laugh… somebody’s gotta do… why not you?
Official Trailer for The Bet