The CDI Production Bestseller has been released on Blu-Ray and DVD.
A brilliant film adaptation of the Christopher Knight story, directed by Christina Rohn and starring Melissa Anschutz and DJ Perry. Bestseller is a CDI Production and one well worth checking out.
Melissa Anschutz stars in this screen adaptation as Chicago literary agent, Anne Harper who vacations to a remote cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. While there, she receives an unexpected manuscript on her doorstep from wannabe author, Gerald Morgan, whom she has refused to sign with her agency on numerous occasions. While there it becomes apparent that she is not alone. The details of this manuscript starts to unfold and Harper realizes that what she is reading is becoming her reality, a disgruntled writer is waiting in the shadows to seek his revenge. DJ Perry stars as Mark Franklin, a vengeful writer who is stalking Harper.
DJ Perry gave me this interview upon the theatrical release of this film. The movie premiered at the Opera House in Cheboygan, MI,
MMM Was there a reason for holding the premier this far north?
DJ Perry The Opera House is where our author/E.P. Mr. Chris Wright aka (Knight) was married. He and his wife Boots have been very active with the Opera House over the years. The 1st showing was to make sure his community could be given that unique opportunity. The place is so beautiful and I everyone enjoyed the sold out showing. You do have to watch out and make sure you don’t hit a deer, bear or moose while driving at night.
MMM For those of us who have never been to Cheboygan, describe the area. Did you find it a suitable location based upon the book?
Perry We actually shot in and around Petoskey, Michigan. The entire area up there is just breathtaking. The pines, birch wood and the lakes all just teaming with nature. I’m very happy that our film showcases the beauty of Michigan. Our film hero (Melissa Anschutz) goes up North to get away in the great Michigan outdoors. Our camera team really did Michigan proud.
Scott Castelein and Craig Harmer led up that camera team. Cheboygan wasn’t the author Christopher Knight’s first desired location to shoot Bestseller. I understand that the weather stopped cast and crew from crossing over into the UP for the principal shoot.
MMM What did you experience when you and the others when you were confronted with this weather? How was it decided that you would shoot in the Lower Peninsula? How long were the cast and crew up there for this shoot?
Perry The film as noted was actually shot in the Petoskey area. Chris Knight had envisioned the film possibly shot up near DETOUR. I think it’s important to clear up the two-shoot situation. My company (Collective Development) and our team was NOT involved in the first shoot. I had previously done some extensive scouting in the U.P. around Fayette, looking at the old 1800’s Copper Town as a possible western film location. We determined it would look great on camera but staging an army up there had too many issues, especially in regards to any replacement, repairs and such of important gear – there is no easy fix. My point is that I think that was the 1st bad choice of the first production team– location save maybe some B-Roll. I believe preparation, experience and leadership was lacking during the first go around based upon everything that transpired during the first attempt to shoot. The previous production had many problems that I don’t really need to get into here – but the result was days behind schedule – poor footage. When the engines are on fire and the plane is nose-diving people get frustrated and fingers point. Chaos rules the day when planning is poor. Now on large budget features (1 mil +) producers often buy a completion bond. This protects investors on a film shoot. If a film project suffers from a lack of organization and/or is in serious trouble of full failure- the bonding company steps in. They bring in new management to come in and right the ship. Now again, I’m actually not in the full knowing on too much of the personal details but a producer report of scenes per day shot and footage don’t lie.
At CDI we’ve worked hard to maintain a good reputation for staying on schedule, on budget and turning out diverse, quality film projects. I was approached about stepping in to fix a broken production. I mean here’s a self-made Michigan artist trying to expand into a new area that could benefit many freelance filmmaking artists. His investment was being misused and furthermore he was being told by those entrusted that without them the project would 100% fail. Producer reports – page count, scenes missed, footage lacking…it was failing BECAUSE of these individuals involvement. It was that final statement/threat that made me say, “I will produce BESTSELLER.” I did not want all Michigan artists to wear that shame from that often- spewed comment – “But they were a Michigan crew” – not happening. There is nothing wrong with our cast or crews and we should not fail. Here is an opportunity to show the world again what we can do. Here is a chance to show a supporter of the arts that making a choice to hire Michigan crew versus importing from Hollywood is a good choice.
So, I/we accepted the offer and evaluated the previously shot footage. It was not up to the standards that we strive for at CDI. We accepted the project only as a clean slate – REBOOT. We did not have to handle the previous production clean up. It was decided to restructure the script, re- cast, re-crew and re-shoot the film. We reset out budget, adjusted our locations, scheduled and shot the film. I’m sure this did not sit well with a few people. Note, I’ve made good friends in our business but I’m not here to make friends. I do enjoy the privilege of doing this all as a career. I don’t take that lightly and so I evaluate and make decisions that are best for each film. Accept responsibility and work hard and I’m sure we will develop an on-going business relationship and perhaps a friendship. The endgame is that we finished the film and our client Mr. Knight is thrilled. Now if audiences continue to feel the same way Furthermore, we stayed on budget. That is important to our team.
MMM What role did you play in Bestseller? What character did you play? Was this a lead protagonist/ antagonist?
Perry I was the supervising producer and I co-starred as Mark Franklin. I would say Mark is kind of the protagonist He’s an artist activist – standing up for the artist rights. He stands strong against the cold-hearted gatekeepers and the givers of the dreaded rejection letters. That is all I can say.
MMM You were also accompanied by several other actors and actresses with whom you have appeared in other movies. With whom and in what movies have you appeared together?
Perry I’ve worked with several of our talents in other films such as Terence Knox (Tour of Duty, An Ordinary Killer), Lana Wood (Diamonds are Forever, Book of Ruth) but we didn’t have any scenes with one another. I did have a few scenes with Melissa Anschutz. She and I had worked together in “7Stones,” also a Michigan film. It was also my first time working with Ralph Lister, and I enjoyed that. You can add Anthony Hornus, Pat Moug and a handful of other fine actors to that list of people I’ve worked with. Our final cast really works and I’m happy that we all got to bond over this twisted tale.
MMM Who directed Bestseller? How did you find it working under her direction?
Perry Chrissy – wait Let us be formal – Christina Rohn was our director. In our first discussions she really laid out her direction. She did this by referring to other films for reference in style and tone. These films really did offer a strong artistic approach in their storytelling. I think she really had a clear vision of the strong female character she wanted Anne Harper to be. I enjoyed our pre-scene talks. We had good discussions on my character before production and she took care when it came to small details. Those things will all add up and show in the final product.
MMM What was the premise for this movie?
Perry A literary agent vacations to Northern Michigan. And…Things go bad. As we all know, Hollywood often takes literary license and rewrites a book’s storyline before it becomes a movie. How close to Knight’s original story did this movie adhere? I think it was an honest translation from book to screen. (According to Knight) The book was a bit more perverse. That odd creepy vibe from thebook is maintained throughout the film. The film has a great look to it since we filmed the bulk right during peak color season.
MMM Was Knight on location for the shoot and how much involvement and influence did he have in the filming of the movie?
Perry He was on set several times a week. That said, he really stayed back and let the translation to screen happen. There are many stories of nightmare authors on set but I’m happy to report Mr. Knight was not one of these people. His influence came via the book that Travis Goddard infused into a first screenplay and our director put in front of the camera.
MMM As a screenwriter did you have part in writing the screenplay for Bestseller?
Perry No. I did not.
MMM Were you familiar with Knight’s work before being cast for your role?
Perry No. I was not. But I can barely encounter a child now that doesn’t know Johnathan Rand or Mr. American Chiller himself.
MMM How were you approached to be in the movie?
Perry We covered this above but I will credit Melissa Anschutz. She had produced with me on “Ashes Of Eden” releasing worldwide October 13th with Lightworx Entertainment. I think when they were in crisis and about to pull the plug she gave them an option two. I’m glad she did looking back on the journey.
MMM Now that you have been in this Knight original, would you like to be in another movie based upon his works? Which? And do you have a character that you would like to play?
Perry “Bestseller” was the first step in our new association between CDI and Misery Bay. We do have another script on deck that I can’t talk too much about just yet. HINT: It’s a film for his younger fans As for other adult works of Mr. Knight – I like SEASON OF THE WITCH. It is a great collection of scary stories and the story that the book is named for could be a front runner.
MMM Before closing, not wishing to be remiss in asking how was the premiere was received? Is Bestseller going to be a blockbuster?
Perry The premiere sold out with 600 plus people. We’ve been playing in theaters for those that wish that kind of experience. The film really does play well on the big screen. We have our domestic US/Canada distribution deal in the works. I think that is where this film will connect most with viewers. Watch this film in your secluded home space at night and WATCH OUT! I don’t think the film is going to outshine any of the major studio releases in numbers as we are doing just a limited release theatrically. The demand is out there as we get daily communications about bringing the film here or there. I always say that we can only make a good film and audiences have the ability to make it great. We will see once the film rolls out nationally/worldwide if it connects with audiences. Overall we have had really good feedback. There will always be the couple rocks thrown with the roses but that is all part of the journey.