Interview: Michael A. MacRae Talks ‘Fishbowl California!’

Michael A. MacRae, Fishbowl California

(Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures/It’s Gonna Be Great, LLC)

Villain Media has an exclusive interview with writer/director Michael A. MacRae, who discusses his romantic coming-of-age comedy, Fishbowl California. Check out how this charming independent comedy, starring Steve Olson, Katherine Cortez, and Jenna Willis will win audiences everywhere.

Rodney (Olson) is currently unemployed and on the verge of hitting 30. He finds unexpected inspiration from the least likely person. What will Rodney discover about himself from his encounter with the ailing and cantankerous widow, June (Cortez)?

Now available On-Demand, iTunes, Amazon, Michael A. MacRae talks about how his directorial debut was conceived, his ensemble cast, and balancing the comedy aspects with drama in Fishbowl California. So if you love director’s commentary tracks as much as this interviewer, you’ll love our discussion.

Michael A. MacRae, Fishbowl California
Courtesy of Michael A. MacRae

Villain Media: Tell me how you came up with the title, Fishbowl California?

Michael A. MacRae: The original title seemed too wordy. When we were doing some rewriting of the movie, a fish was introduced to the story. We wanted to do Fishbowl but Fishbowl was taken. We were shooting in California and we were listening to the Eagles actually. One of my co-writers, Jordon Hodges, said, “What about Fishbowl California?” It was a play off of “Hotel California.” It was offbeat and catchy.

VM: Tell me about Steve Olson as Rodney.

MAM: When we were doing the breakdown, we had about 700 submissions for the role. I saw resume after resume. Headshot after headshot. Rodney is an average-looking guy. He’s not a pretty boy and he’s not ugly by any means. He’s this normal guy that everyone looks like. He’s relatable and approachable

We had our eyes on a different actor at first. Right on the deadline, Steve Olson’s tape came through. I put on his scene and it was one of the funniest auditions I had ever seen. He actually got all the lines wrong! He wasn’t even on script for most of it! He held the story together in a unique way. It wasn’t any of my writing. I said, “Here’s another scene,” and he knocked it out of the park! He’s a genuine actor. There’s so much truth behind his delivery and his performance. That’s what made him stand out. I was very lucky to have him as the lead for Fishbowl California.

VM: Tell me about the love/hate relationship between Rodney and June (Cortez).

MAM: I wanted a Jane Fonda type, like the movie she did with Lindsay Lohan, Georgia Rule. She’s this badass, no-nonsense grandmother type. My manager actually represented Katherine Cortez at the time. I saw her demo reel. I instantly fell in love with her talent and performance! This is exactly what I want! We wanted someone rough on the edges, but to peel a few layers at a time; to get to her softer side.

When we met with the actors, we did some minor rewrites to make the script adhere to their personalities. The love/hate relationship was more of a solution to each other’s problems. Rodney was the son she never had. June was the mother-like figure he never had.

VM: Tell me about crafting the romantic chemistry between Olivia (Jenna Willis) and Rodney.

MAM: They both have big personalities in real life; they’re always laughing and joking. Jenna Willis is one of my good friends. Originally she was supposed to play Tess, the girlfriend of Rodney. She’s now played by Katrina Bowden (30 Rock). When we were in the casting process, I told Jenna I had a role for her. She read the script and said, “I like the role of Olivia. That’s me!” And when we cast Katherine Cortez, Jenna almost looks like she could be her daughter. It was weird how it all fell into my lap! The chemistry between Jenna Willis and Steve Olson came so naturally. When they met for the first time they meshed really well, and I think they found the chemistry themselves.

VM: I’m glad you mentioned Katrina Bowden! You also have Tim Bagley (Will & Grace), Kate Flannery (The Office), and Quinton Aaron (The Blind Side) in the cast. Tell me about balancing the comedy and drama.

MAM: Comedy is a derivative of dramatic elements. As you mentioned, we have a great cast. Katrina Bowden and Kate Flannery, they’re comedic geniuses. Tim Bagley is a big comedy person. When we had the first script, it was heavy with the comedy. When we brought Jordon Hodges, we realized it needed a bit more heart and drama. Balancing comedy and drama is second nature for actors. The funniest of actors have depression. We all suffer from our personal problems.  Comedy is a lot harder to bring out because it’s so interpretative. People find humor in certain things that aren’t meant to be funny.

VM: Tell me how Fishbowl California changed you as an artist.

MAM: I’m a director. My mind moves a mile a minute. Doing your first movie teaches you so much as not only an artist, but as a person. You get so stressed. You get so caught up in these little details. I think it changes you for the better. It helps you look at the bigger picture in a more level-headed outlook. It’s all good changes for sure!

VM: How can readers find your movie?

MAM: Fishbowl California is available now on HD On-Demand, iTunes, Amazon. DVD + Blu-Ray is available on, Amazon and other various retailers.

By Jorge Solis

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