Richard Cranor began his entertainment career as an actor before transitioning to writing and directing. With a career that has been filled with ups and downs, Cranor has survived this industry and has recently released a new film called Star Leaf. Wanting to learn more about his career and Star Leaf, Cranor allowed me to interview him for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: When did you know that you wanted to become a filmmaker?
Richard Cranor: I started off as an actor, but kept finding myself in films that would never finish or even if they did, weren’t very good. It’s really hard making a good film…so many things go wrong. I had always been a bit of a writer and a tech guy to boot so one day, I just decided to play director, and it kinda worked. I’m getting better all the time. And it doesn’t hurt to be insanely driven either. Insanely driven.
Yanes: You spent a period of time without a consistent place to call home. How did this experience shape you and your approach to movie making?
Cranor: Honestly that’s still the case. I’m a bit of a gypsy. You have to sacrifice it all if you want your dreams to come true. If anything, it makes me appreciate the transient nature of reality. There are eternal truths underneath it all, of course – and it’s by staying connected to those that I keep myself going and focused on what’s most important.
Yanes: You went to the Art Institute of Seattle. How did this education influence you as a filmmaker?
Cranor: I learned how to be a thief and a liar, which allows me to survive well in the film industry. Seriously. I went there as a multimedia student and half-way through I realized I didn’t like computers as much as I liked cameras. So I would lie and forge documents whenever I had to go to the audio/visual guys to rent gear for the weekend. I would tell them I was a film major, not some desk jockey. And it worked. It helped with my acting skills as well, and made me realize you have to do whatever it takes whenever it takes to get your movies made.
Yanes: You co-founded Titan Sky Entertainment with Robert Leeshock. What was the motivation behind starting your company?
Cranor: Both of us need a retirement plan. Seriously. There’s no 401k in the arts. It’s our hope we can use our creative talents to get projects up and running on our terms as opposed to always being at the mercy of the industry, which will forget you as soon as they discover you, sometimes in the same day. For us, it’s about learning how to combine art and business without compromising your soul. And it’s working!
Yanes: Your current film is Star Leaf. How do you quickly describe this film to people who have never heard of it?
Cranor: Depends on who I’m talking to – I’ve learned to undersell it and let people think it’s one thing, a stupid ET Weed film perhaps. And then when they watch it, boy, they often are quite impressed. Surprised. I love that. It confirms my suspicion that most of the crap Hollywood puts out is crap on purpose. Creativity is infinite, but for some reason it is often watered down in the mainstream media and that’s a shame. You have to let your imagination go – bringing it down to earth from time to time to make sure it still relates, but never compromising what your vision is hoping to achieve.
Yanes: What was the inspiration for creating Star Leaf?
Cranor: A lot of weird shit to be honest. I had a “Kundalini Awakening” experience years ago. It led to a lot of strange, paranormal phenomena where I did encounter what I would call “non-physical intelligences”. In fact, I even experienced this when I was very young as well. I also had cancer 5 years ago and my brother came back from Iraq with PTSD. I didn’t use cannabis during my treatments, but I saw good results with those who did. It made me start questioning the “paradigm” or “matrix” we are all living in and subscribing to, and it’s rotten to the core. I made Star Leaf as a protest, and I hope it continues to resonate with people hoping to see change – or better yet, be it.
Yanes: On this note, what are some films and TV shows that influenced Star Leaf’s story?
Cranor: Jacob’s Ladder has had a very subliminal influence on me my whole life (One reviewer called Star Leaf a combination of “Jacob’s Ladder” meets “Harold and Kumar”). I saw it on a VHS and this was before the internet, so I knew nothing about the film beforehand. I’m also a huge David Lynch fan. I love how he uses his subconscious as his primary source of inspiration. And of course, Donnie Darko changed everything for me. It has such a great combination of humor, sci-fi, and dark themes that resonate to my core (the 80s soundtrack helps as well). I think those “odd” films have a power our conscious minds can’t fully process, and that’s a good thing.
Yanes: From a production standpoint, what were some of the hardest challenges to overcome when making this movie?
Cranor: VFX and Creature Effects. Yeah, it’s an alien rubber mask, but I feel like we didn’t over do it and I don’t think it really takes anyone out of the movie. For the sequel, were going to up the VFX and SFX budgets considerably!
Yanes: When people finish watching Star Leaf what do you hope they take away from the film?
Cranor: To start seeing the matrix for what it is, a collection of rules that keep your true nature suppressed and body unhealthy. Yeah, it can be just a silly alien pot film if you want it to be, but most people come away thinking a bit more deeply about the veteran’s issues presented in the film. That and it’s silly to have such tremendous fear of a simple plant that has more benefits to offer the human race than any other plant on this planet. Its medicine/food/fuel/clothing/industrial applications are simply amazing. Why are we so afraid of it? Because it threatens someone’s profit margins? Not a good answer.
Yanes: Finally, what are some long-term goals you have for Star Leaf? On this note, what are some other projects you are working on that people should look out for?
Cranor: We want it to keep selling, of course. I want as many people to enjoy the film as possible. We then want to make a series or sequel, something we are actively pitching now. And boy, I would really love to make another script I have called “Wulfkrieg”, it’s about a family of good German werewolves that fight the Nazis during WW2. Now that would be fun!