Param Gill: Filmmaker and Provocateur
By Carin Chea
A master of many trades, Param Gill is a known for his provoking and poignant films, which are anything but run-of-the-mill.
A studied and passionate director and writer, Gill is driven by the thing which will never burn out: The desire to touch lives without the concern of mass success.
Gill (or, rather, Dr. Gill, since he is also a practicing dentist in Modesto, California) draws much of his inspiration from his patients, and his latest film is no exception.
Bad President is exactly what it sounds like - an incendiary and unabashed examination of the last 3 years of Donald Trump's time in the White House.
Set to be released on the eve of the 2020 election, Bad President is a black comedy that shines an undeniably uncomfortable light on our current Trump era.
You're both a filmmaker and a practicing dentist. How do you manage to do it all?
With movies, it takes time. For example, if we are filming in India, we have teams in multiple countries. It was difficult in the beginning.
The first movie was very tough, because I didn't have a team, I had to build a team from scratch. But now, once you have the teams in place, it's fairly easy.
What led you to pursue a career in writing and directing?
I burnt out very quickly when I started [dentistry]. I didn't like the organized health sector. I wanted an outlet. I used to write plays in school. It was natural to go into the arts.
Filmmaking came to me quite easily. I went to New York Film Academy, and whatever they were saying was going straight into my head. Everything made sense.
I made a short film when I got back and it was based on a story from my patient. It's about PTSD and it got a standing ovation when we screened it.
I did a commercial project here or there, but I quickly figured out that success isn't about money. It's about trying to touch one life at a time. You can't try to do it on a mass level because you'll be disappointed.
It [filmmaking] is easier here in Modesto than Los Angeles because I have the connections here. It's much easier because you can get more stuff done. Here, people are excited when you're making a movie, but not so much in LA. Here, they're less judgmental. Nobody ever is shooting a movie up here in Modesto, so it's exciting for everybody.
Out of the two (writing and directing) which one are you drawn to the most? Which came first?
It was directing. In terms of writing, I feel I fall short in some way. I always have a co-writer. Bad President was written by John Buchanan. I prefer not to write. I prefer to translate what's on paper into cinema. When you have other people write, you can have a 3rd person perspective.
When you direct what you write, you can get too invested and too delusional. I always bring a co-writer on board to bring a different perspective. I've seen people make these movies with so much love, but it just doesn't work out because the story doesn't work out.
There is so much content out there that people cannot watch all that content. So, if someone chooses to give 90 minutes of their time to watch a movie, it has to be memorable and worthwhile.
I am a huge Eddie Griffin fan, and I love MAD TV, which Josh Meyers was a series regular on. They both star in your feature film Going to America. How was the casting process like for this project?
The script was quite good and Eddie loved it. In fact, Eddie read the script in the middle of the night and immediately called his agent and said, "I'm doing it!" And, of course, once Eddie was attached, we got the other talent.
Jeff Olin is a veteran casting director and he put it together.
Your upcoming film, Bad President, is bold and makes a strong statement. Tell me about the genesis of this movie.
It came to me through a patient. Everyone was upset when Trump was elected. This patient was extremely upset. He joked and said, "This guy must have exchanged his soul with the devil in order to become president." That line stayed in my head.
I called John Buchanan and said, "We have to create a script around this." This is a movie of how he became president, and it's a trilogy.
The first one will cover the time from when he announced his decision to run for President up to the point when he was sworn in. Bad President would be something to watch. It took us 2 years to write the script. It is based on our true story. And, our honorable President is actually the biggest comedian on the planet.
I hope this isn't asking you to reveal too much information, but who do you envision playing President Trump?
I want a fresh actor. I don't want name talent to play Trump. There are opportunities for name actors to appear in this film in cameos, but I would like a fresh actor to play Trump.
When and where can your fans watch Bad President?
We should be ready by September and we will start getting out into the festivals and into the distribution market. We hope to have it released by November.
The beginning was a little hard. We went to many name talents and many times we got one response: "This is very anti-establishment and we are not very keen on doing it."
Now, we have people here supporting us. We have a social media team behind the project as well.
As a filmmaker, where do you feel you draw your inspiration from?
I think human to human contact is priceless. You get the best of ideas through those contacts.
Of course, I get ideas thought newspapers and blogs, but most of the ideas that stay in my mind come from my patients. They all have brilliant ideas. You learn so much from people because they've lived their lives and have lived longer than me.
Please visit www.BadPresidentMovie.com to learn more about the progress of Bad President and to keep updated on Mr. Gill's most recent and upcoming projects.
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