POP INTERVIEW: “Hello Herman” Director Michelle Danner

Acting coach Michelle Danner has worked with Zooey Deschanel, Penelope Cruz, Marcia Cross and James Franco. Somehow, she managed to fit in time to direct her second film, Hello Herman, now available online on iTunes and Netflix!

Michelle Danner

The old method was you had a film released theatrically. You’re doing iTunes as your immediate release. What benefits are there in choosing this venue as a filmmaker?
“Hello Herman” was released theatrically nationwide in fifteen cities including New York and LA on June 7th. Warner Brothers did the digital release and distributed it in 100 million homes on demand on iTunes, Amazon, XBox 360, Playstation Network, and through cable movies on demand. More and more people are watching movies on iTunes, and in our case many fans of Norman Reedus (who plays the central role of journalist Lax Moralis) are of the internet generation and are more likely to use that medium.

Why would the central character contact a journalist before committing the crimes? Has this ever really happened?
I don’t know if a school shooter would have contact with a journalist before committing such an act. But we know that manifestos, letters, and emails to the press have been discovered after a shooter has been captured or killed themselves. In the case of Herman he reached out to Lax because of Lax’s audience on the Internet. Lax has a popular show on the internet which is watched by a younger demographic. Herman investigated Lax’s own haunted past and felt they might have something in common.

The film description alludes to how you define today’s interest in becoming famous. Do you really think a lot of alleged criminals commit crimes to be famous? I always thought crime was a poor spur of the moment decision gone wrong.
Crime has many backstories, crimes of passion and so forth. I think many shooters want fame or attention and it eats at them. They think that committing such an unthinkable act will make them immortal. But one of the lines delivered by Norman Reedus in a climatic moment of the movie says it best when he tells Herman that his place in history is “Nothing but a footnote in a long line of footnotes.”

Your indie film isn’t going to have a big audience like “Men in Black” right away. From what you are learning in doing your own film promotion and putting your work out there, how can someone grow a fan base for his or her productions?
Certainly, Norman Reedus fans have been very enthusiastic. The audience for “Hello Herman”, an independent film, will not be the same as a studio film that has lots of publicity behind it. What I keep learning is that you have to nurture a movie like “Hello Herman”. You have to keep using tools, interviews, social media. Everything is changing all the time. With the internet the possibilities are endless.

When you researched school violence, what reasons did the teen killers give for their actions?
In my research I came across a multitude of reasons. Kids get pushed to the brink and snap. Some follow other kids down dark paths. Some are psychopaths by nature.

You do a lot of acting coaching. So, like when a doctor has to see another doctor, what do you do when you have to act or direct yourself? Who advises you?
I believe that every actor has to have a way of working that works for them. A way to develop the character in an interesting way. if I’m acting in someone else’s movie, and I’m about to do one in a few weeks. I trust the director to give feedback. When it’s my own movie I have someone I trust watching the monitor and giving me feedback. I think it’s always important to have another eye.

Understandably, someone could feel outraged by bullying. But how did you get to know your character mentally with why he chose to kill three innocent adults?
His actions are not justified and the movie does not condone them, but instead tries to shed a light on some of the reasons why something so tragic could happen. Herman suffered several traumas and no one came through for him. Nothing excuses violent acts of this nature but people act with their dark sides at times.

Did you pull out anything from your own childhood that may be unrelated but helped you comprehend the character’s struggles?
I was always the one that couldn’t be the bystander to people being cruel to one another. I hated watching other people being tormented on the playground. I always had to speak up.

What types of people might like to watch your movie, and how can they see it?
I’m hoping for a wide demographic. Certainly, when casting this film, it became clear that bullying and teen violence was a topic very dear to many. In fact Norman, who has a young son, was passionate about a message that would help open the conversations and work towards a solution. But he wasn’t the only one. Garrett Backstrom, who portrays Herman himself, growing up in Colorado was deeply affected by the aftermath of Columbine. Almost everyone in the cast and crew had a bullying story that had marked them. Teens, fans of Norman Reedus, Garrett Backstrom, Martha Higareda, Rob Estes, and the rest of the amazing cast of the movie should watch. Parents, elders. I’m hoping Hello Herman can start an important conversation. The movie can be seen on iTunes, Amazon, Playstation Network, Xbox 360, cable on demand and HelloHermanMovie.com.

Nicole Russin aka. Richárde

Nicole Russin, also known as her alter ego Richárde, is a bestselling chef, experienced print journalist and beauty/editorial model. You may visit her official website at NicoleRussin.com.

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