Derek Quick is an award winning Native American Film Director and U.S. Navy/U.S. Coast Guard Veteran, having served ten years before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in filmmaking. Quick is a graduate of the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts, two year acting conservatory with an Associates Degree. He also attended the New York Film Academy.
Recently, Quick has written and directed "Kommando 1944", with an ambitious goal: to shed light on the hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans that were forced into internment camps during WWII. This hits close to home for Quick, his grandfather Chuck Todd was the Chief of the Ottawa Indian tribe, a federally recognized tribe that faced many hardships during their forced treck to the reservations. Kommando 1944 has already won several major awards worldwide, including Best Film at Top Shorts ("Undoubtedly, Kommando 1944 is one of the best short films in 2018" - Roy Zafrani), and 8 (!) awards at Festigious including Best Picture ("It's one of these films that take your breath away" -lead judge Nami Melumad).
Meet an inspiring filmmaker who sets some big goals for the future. For some reason, we believe he'll achieve them sooner than you think.
Derek, congratulations on winning Best Picture at Festigious! Why did you decide to tell this important story, and why now?
Before everything, thank you for putting on such a wonderful festival. The competition this year was tough and there were several finalists with extraordinary films. In recent years I was made aware of Manzanar and the Japanese internment here in America. We are not always taught this type of history in schools. I feel with our current political climate we could learn from our past mistakes and inspire others to come together so we do not make the same mistakes again.
Do you feel your ten years of service in the U.S. Navy / Coast Guard influenced your writing? In what way?
Yes, I was able to do years of character studies of people I've worked with in the military. Its helped shape my character and helped push me during deadlines.
Did you have any logistics in mind while writing the screenplay? Did you think of locations, characters? A WWII setting isn't easy to produce... the props, the vehicle... (although your crew has managed to do a compelling job).
From day one of writing K1944 I knew I would face many obstacles. Getting the permit to film at Manzanar, the actual Japanese internment camp, was tough. We had a skeleton crew and I decided to do a cameo role in order to cut down on our crew/cast limits. As for our other locations to represent Germany I searched for over a year in California. Finally, I found Higuera Ranch in SLO. They were wonderful, the cast and crew was able to stay in the two and a half houses on location and even had a WWII Jeep available for us to use.
Kommando 1944 has so many intense moments and action scenes in it. *SPOILER ALERT* - the scene with the Star of David is so memorable and powerful. Must have been complex to achieve that special moment. What was the most difficult scene to direct?
That particular scene is one of my favorites. I really wanted the audience to experience what these men were going through. The most difficult scene was the same day as our Star of David scene. We had over 4.5 pages to shoot in 09 hours with stunts and makeup prosthetic. Scheduling was key to getting it all finished. We only shot for 3 days at the ranch and 1/2 day at Manzanar!
We noticed a small guest star performance by.... Derek Quick as Corporal Gibson. It must be a little tricky to act and direct at the same time. Is this the first time you're doing it? How did you feel about this experience?
No, this is not the first time. I have professionally trained as an actor at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in LA for a few years, so a cameo role was fun. I feel some of the best directors who have acted before are wonderful at creating trust between themselves and their actors. They are able to speak to their actors in a certain way that most directors lack, that is why I studied for a few years at AADA in La. It is very stressful to act and direct at the same time. I would not recommend it, especially for a feature. It was very stressful for Mel Gibson when they shot Braveheart he said. It took him months to recover and form an actual sentence afterwards. I felt slightly the same because I also produced the film
and everything relied on me.
Were there any unexpected challenges you needed to address while filming?
I had many challenges. Two days before we started shooting my lead Nazi soldier got a call back for a worldwide commercial for the World Cup, so I told him he should take it. Luckily his roommate Bejo Dohmen, who was going to play a smaller role as Jager took the challenge. It was the best thing for both of them. Dohmen, from day one should have been cast as Kaiser the lead SS soldier. It's funny how things work out if you plan for it.
Tell us about the scoring process. How did you meet your composer, Ahmed Arifin, and what was the collaboration like?
The scoring process was fantastic. My supervising sound editor recommended him and two other fantastic composers. It was a hard decision to make but while my wife, the executive producer was recovering hours after surgery, I played a full score of Ahmed Arifin's and she loved it. Arifin had two weeks to complete our score so we could make the Sundance deadline. He has the best work ethic I have ever seen. I watched his process and listened to it over the scenes for hours a day via Twitch. He would call me throughout the entire process at times even at 3AM. It was tough since I am still currently active duty in the U.S. Coast guard. I don't get much time to sleep anymore however, I honor crew members like Ahmed Arifin who are dedicated to their craft and faithful to seeing the film through.
You were lucky to work with an incredible ensemble. How did you cast Daniel Joo (who won Best Actor), and how did you work with him and the rest of the cast in order to achieve such perfection?
I went to AADA in LA for a few years with six of my cast members including Daniel Joo. I acted in many plays with Joo and even put on a mini bootcamp to get them ready to play 1940s soldiers. We were taught by some of the best teachers at AADA, the Alumni collectively has over 110 Oscar's and 317 Emmy's.
And what, in your opinion, is a common mistake actors do? And what are some things you'd encourage actors to do more? I feel like some actors don't act or study the craft as much as they should. It's like fitness, you have to continuously train to stay in shape.
I would encourage actors to apply to a local theater company. Adam Chambers, a friend of mine runs The Loft Ensemble in Sherman Oaks, Daniel Joo has performed there. I believe actors should experience theater acting because it allows them to constantly train their craft, something most actors lack. Actors usually wait around to get an agent and think agents are the only keys in the industry, when in all reality you are your best agent. It is a big misconception in the industry. Get out there and make films, start with student films. Show up early and be a team player.
You're currently in pre-production for your debut feature documentary, "SEID"- starring Jeff Seid who also won Best Supporting Actor for his fantastic performance. How did you get to know him and what was it like working with him on Kommando 1944?
I am very excited to start Seid, my teaser trailer got over 3.5 million views and 160,000+ likes the first day we released it on Jeff Seid's Instagram. Seid is one of my closest friends, I have known him for several years now even before he exploded on social media. He is extremely talented in several crafts and dedicated to learning and perfecting his multi-talents. People on set thought he had been acting for years when in fact this was his first official film. Seid helped with stunts as well, you can check out his stunt work on the American Assassins Promo video.
What can you already share about the next project with him? And what else is on the menu?
Well, we have had distributors for Netflix asking for the Seid documentary. The fans want it sooner than later so we might do a premiere in Los Angeles at the TLC Chinese theater when we are finished. Seid and I are about to reboot his YouTube channel that has over 120 million views and 1 million subscribers with some of the highest quality production. The goal is to get to 5 million subscribers for the channel within a year. Not many filmmakers can have an audience in the millions daily and that is why YouTube is here to stay. I have also recently completed a few feature screenplays and a TV pilot episode. I plan on doing the TV pilot episode after Seid. It is set in the early 1990's, A Sci- fi thriller that takes place in the Pacific Northwest.
Is there anything you wish to add or anyone you wish to thank?
With all short films our goal is the Oscar Shorts win, but we are also trying to break the Guinness World Record for wins by a short film. The record is 324 set this March. It took the film over a six year period. We have entered into over 400 festivals already for our second week on the festival circuit including 30 Oscar Qualifiers. We have won 15 awards so far and are currently nominated for 80 more pending. We plan to break the record before 2020.
I would like to thank all who made this film possible especially to those who saw the film through from beginning to end and went above and beyond.
Lucy Quick for her years of support and inspiration.
Nicholas Nathaniel for his belief and support in the project from day one.
Ahmed Arifin for his wonderful score that Zimmer would be proud of.
Chase Stanley for his hard work throughout production.
Alexa Garster for her passion for Script supervision and attention to detail.
Erica Patapoff for her authentic one of a kind custom costumes and attention to detail.
Robert Brecko for his world class set design and German expert knowledge.
Kao Miyamoto and Joseph Vasquez for their astounding special effects makeup.
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