Catching up with Gary King, the director of "How Do You Write A Joe Schermann Song"

Gary KingHey, What Happened to that Film?


How Do You Write A Joe Schermann Song? An interview with Gary King, Director, Writer, Producer

Phoenix FiIm Festival Audience Award, 2012

Dan Harkins Breakthrough Filmmaker Award


By Laurie Smith

As independent film lovers, we owe a debt of gratitude to Gary King’s parents. Because of them, King was brought up with a great love of film at an early age. It wasn’t until later in life, however, that he realized that he also had a great love of making film.


Fortunately, after studying psychology and then joining the corporate world in a human resources position, King realized that he had a serious need to be fulfilled creatively. So, he high-tailed it out of the corporate bowels of Silicon Valley and fled to New York City to pursue his dream … and he hasn’t looked back since.


Two years ago, How Do You Write a Joe Schermann Song celebrated its World Premier at the Phoenix Film Festival, easily winning over the discerningly enthusiastic Phoenix audience – snagging both the Audience Award and the Dan Harkins Breakthrough Filmmaker Award.  It was just the beginning of a rather lengthy string of accolades for the film … and for Gary.


Independent film is not exactly overflowing with musicals, and are considered a bit daring … so why a musical?


“Growing up, my parents showed me The Music Man, My Fair Lady and other classics, said King.


I found it totally fascinating that films could tell stories through songs and lyrics.  As I got older I discovered West Side Story and All That Jazz, which weren't the sunny song and dance films that I was familiar with, so that intrigued and excited me — in that musicals could be also be serious and heavy in tone.  As a filmmaker I love to challenge myself, so I set out to make a musical film that blends the classic and contemporary.”


King says that the main goal was to play as many festivals as possible, in order to gain as much exposure as possible. Regarding premiering at PFF, King said, “We were spoiled.  We won two awards and had so many amazing fans supporting us while we were there – it was an experience we will never forget.


“The screenings validated that we had a film that audiences really enjoyed.  It was such a gratifying feeling to sit in the dark room and hear people laugh and cry.  After all our showings, I loved connecting with people who let me know that my take on a musical was unique and a joy to watch.  You never know how your film will play until you see it with others – playing at Phoenix was a great start to see what kind of film we had on our hands.”


Winning the Breakthrough Filmmaker and Audience Award was an exceptionally fond memory for King.


The wonderful support and response we were getting from everyone was very humbling – and after we'd won our awards, there was an after party at the Tilted Kilt.  When I walked in with my wife and Christina Rose (who played “Evey” in Joe Schermann Song), the whole pub full of filmmakers and friends cheered.  There was a big celebration with people who shared in our happiness.  Richard Botto (founder of Stage 32) even bought everyone there a round of drinks.  I'll never forget that night.


Inspired by many films and filmmakers, King feels that one of the filmmakers who has played a role in revolutionizing film is Steven Soderbergh.


“I really enjoy his work,” King shared. “The thing about him is that he's able to make both artistic and commercial films -- often times blurring the lines.” Certainly no easy task.


“Soderbergh is in a great position now where he can pretty much create whatever projects he'd like to, and will find the funding for it. His earlier works in the late 90s (particularly Out of Sight and The Limey) continue to inspire me to this day.”


Genuinely humble, when asked what he might be able to contribute to the evolution of film, King smiled and quickly said it was a tough question. His true hope is, “that my work resonates with people, and that it may last for a long time.  Beyond that, it would be too much pressure.”


King, collaborating with his brother Michael, just finished filming his latest project – a horror/thriller feature guaranteed to fulfill his dream of scaring the crap out of audiences. UNNERVED, currently in postproduction, is scheduled to be completed this year.


The UNNERVED Logline:

After the mysterious death of their young son, a couple desperately flees to a remote lake house to escape the unrelenting haunting that is following them only to discover that this mysterious entity is still very much a part of their lives. Check it out here:


Hey! Become a film backer! You can help give UNNERVED the final elements of sound, visuals and music … the better to scare you with. Go to the film’s KICKSTARTER site and make it happen: