Mika Boorem is probably best known as child kidnap victim Megan Rose in “Along Came a Spider” or as Mel Gibson’s daughter Margaret in “The Patriot”. She later had roles in coming of age movies like “Riding in Cars With Boys” and “Blue Crush”. Fast forward a few years and she’s now a talented director and producer with her first feature film project, Hollywood.Con.
Mika talked about that and other projects with us at 519.
You just had a movie released on Amazon Prime, “Hollywood.Con”.
Yes I did which is so exciting. It’s nice to have it out in front of audiences and hearing people’s experiences with it.
“Hollywood.Con” is about con artists in Hollywood trying to make a movie.
We were trying to think of a different name and we’re thinking, what is it that no one else has because when people are looking for the movie and looking stuff up, we want something different that will stay different for a while. So that’s what the “Hollywood.Con” is about.
It’s been a bit of a long road, hasn’t it?
Absolutely, it’s been an interesting process too because we were originally going to release it in the theaters basically when the pandemic hit so apart from the regular life things with the pandemic, we also had to figure out what’s going to happen with movie theaters and do you wait or whatnot.
Having it on Amazon has been fantastic for us, it’s such a nice home for it. Our original plan was that we were going to release it in over 2,000 theaters in Mexico and then bring it to the US which is sort of a different distribution plan. Usually people if they’re doing the theater route will start domestically in the US and then start moving outward Internationally, but because the movie has a lot of Latin flavor to it, and a lot of Spanish in it, we thought that would be something fun, quirky and independent.
You actually filmed it in Mexico, right?
Yeah, we did. We filmed all over. For an independent film we were extremely all over the place. For the part in Mexico we filmed in the Yucatan, in Mérida and in Cancún and then we also filmed in Arizona, and Texas. We filmed a little bit in Guatemala and we came to California and I think that’s it.
The origins of this movie actually originate in Guatemala, doesn’t it? Because this was written by you and your father who’s a gemologist. Also isn’t this loosely based on some experiences that he had in Guatemala buying Jade?
Yeah, absolutely. It was actually a really interesting time. I went to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show with my dad and it’s either the largest or the second largest in the world and goes on for about two weeks. When I attended the show with him, people for whatever reason were not having enough access to this Guatemalan Jade so my dad took it on as a challenge. He said, “We’ve got a week and a half before the show’s over. Let’s get down there and we’ll find all this Jade that people are wanting right now and then we’ll bring it back and sell it before the show’s over.”
So we flew to Guatemala and we drove all over. We went all the way to the coast, we went up into the mountains, we were just all over the place and we were talking to different people about the Guatemalan Jade.
The Guatemalan Jade is really cool, there are all these different colors. We ended up finding this village that had all of this Jade and they had a specific buyer that they always sold to but he hadn’t returned in ten years so they had just been stockpiling this Jade. We ended up buying 300 pounds of Jade from them that we brought back to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show but also while we were sitting there they brought out these pieces of Jade that were gorgeous. They were like the Imperial Jade, dark green emerald color and they looked just enchanting.
They started telling us these are from the tombs and we are like whoa, what do you mean these are from the tombs? So they went into the part of the Mayan folklore, the part where they believe that if you put the piece of Jade in the mouth when people pass away, the soul passes through the Jade and then something that helps them go to the afterlife, I’m not sure the exact specifics of all of that.
Basically it has this kind of ethereal, wonderful aspect to it for them. But these were from the mouths of corpses so no I can’t take those back home, I can’t sell those, weird things could happen. I think also too if that’s some of your heritage and stuff, if there were curses to be involved it probably wouldn’t be quite as bad if you took them from the tomb but I think if you get further removed, then that’s where the curses could really pick up, I don’t know.
So in the film, the part of enchanted Jade which plays such a big part of the Latin America part of the making of a movie within a movie, that was the major influence of his experience of being in this village and them trying to sell us that and the whole experience.
It was funny too because Jade when you polish it is obviously very beautiful, the black Jade, the orange Jade, the green Jade, but a lot of times it just looks like a dirty river rock, like a piece of cement. When we were traveling back, people were like, “What? That looks like river rock.” It looks ugly until you get in there and polish it.
This is your first feature film directing and you did do a short movie before this.
Directing “Hollywood.Con” is my full feature and then I’ve done music videos as well. It’s so different doing a full feature though, obviously in length of project but also there’s just a lot more moving parts. The short films that I’ve done before, most of them have a four day shoot, three day shoot, a week shoot and the music videos are really fun too because you have that quick turnaround, which is cool. So you get the instant gratification which the first time I started getting into music videos I was like, “Oh my gosh, cool!”
We actually shot a music video during the pandemic too called “Catch Me if You Can” and the artist is Travis Tidwell. We got that up on Country Music Television, which is awesome and then it was just nominated for a Josie Music Award which from my understanding is the largest independent music awards, and it was nominated for music video of the year. So I hope I get to go to the award show in Tennessee and get my cowboy hat out and all my tassels, it sounds like fun!
I saw the video – it was really good.
Thank you so much, we had fun with that. I like the song a lot and the artist Travis, wrote a lot of the music with his dad who’s a longtime musician so I feel like the whole album has got this old school throwback feel to it. We have Country Music Television but it’s got this southern rock roots to it.
So we had a great time with that and the barn and all these things were right there in Arkansas and it was an interesting experience because we had the group from California that was the crew come out, and then we had the people come up from Tennessee and then we had a drone operator come in from Texas.
Everyone had different opinions about what was going on with the pandemic and about what they felt comfortable with. Everyone was wonderful and it worked great, but my dad and I had to manage different comfort levels with different people during that time period so it made it very unique to film during the pandemic.
The difference with making the full feature versus the short films too is because I feel like with short films they’re so fun that you get to do something thematic and just sort of pick a tone. It doesn’t even necessarily have to have a full ending on it or anything like that. A lot of times you don’t get a very broad audience with short films. I feel like music videos you do but with short films specifically, most of the people who are watching them are people who are really into film or they study film, that type of thing.
The cool thing about the full feature is it’s just so much broader, you’re hitting such a larger audience and getting in front of the masses on Amazon which is amazing.
You kind of had a music video within your movie which I loved the song and the performer, Heidi Jo Guthrie. It was really cool the way you panned around her in the desert. It was like a musical interlude, which I thought was great.
Yeah, she’s a family friend and I love that song. The song is specifically about strong women and it’s very empowering. I think at that point in the storyline my character has sort of grown into herself and is no longer operating under this facade of pretending to be someone else and a lot of the story is her trying to find that footing so the song fit perfectly there.
When I heard the song I was like, Oh, that’s really cool, and I think one of the great things about independent film is you have these opportunities to layer the project with things to make it special and unique and so I love her and I love that song. We already have the musical element of Billy Bob Thornton with The Boxmasters where they have their cameo and their songs in there. So I was like, this is another cool layer where we could add more music in and have it be something else that when you see it, oh, that’s an interesting artistic touch.
I’ve seen other movies where they do that where they’ll have a musical performance in the middle of the movie and it just really stands out in your mind.
It’s something you really remember from the movie. You did use a lot of friends and acquaintances in this movie. Some pretty well known ones like Tom Arnold. I thought his part was classic Tom Arnold, kind of the zany, wide eyed character actor that he is. You played his daughter on a sitcom years ago, didn’t you?
I’ve known Tom since I was 10 years old. I played his daughter on the WB TV show “The Tom Show”. It’s wonderful to collaborate on the level of going from playing his daughter and acting under him on his TV show to then directing him, how cool! Of course with somebody like that, they’re so talented they sort of do what they do and you are like, oh, that’s funny. You’re not overly directing somebody who has that skill set of just being hysterical so that was really rewarding to be able to collaborate with him on that.
A lot of the other actors are all people that I had worked with in the past on films prior, they were different colleagues, so something that I thought I could bring to the film and would be really enjoyable as a director would be to have a great cast that people are familiar with in a different light than maybe you’ve seen them in films before.
They’re playing sort of more offbeat, quirky opposite of typecast, which I really enjoyed when we were piecing it together to brainstorm with my friends about what do you never get to play? What will be fun? What have you always wanted to play? Do you want to be the whatever? Let’s do it, we’ll fit it in and we’ll make it happen.
You were in quite a few pretty big motion pictures as a child actor like “Along Came a Spider”, “The Patriot”, “Hearts in Atlantis”.
Obviously you had some really good experiences and exposure and learned a lot along the way. How did you manage to avoid the pitfalls of being a child actor, because you always hear all the horror stories and I’m assuming that you did avoid most of the pitfalls, because you seem pretty well balanced and successful.
That’s so nice, thank you for saying that. A couple of things, I think that one would be I was never overly interested in the glamour premiere, Hollywood side of it. I always liked more the actual what people are doing, how are they collaborating, that sort of inner working wheel of projects which is why I think it was a natural progression to move from acting into directing. I just wanted to get more and more involved with how things function and how they work. And then I think also too there’s a few different scenarios that I’ve seen firsthand with people with some of that stuff. If you see people being affected firsthand it makes you think, oh wow.
It seems like you had good support within your family as well.
I was very fortunate with my family being super supportive and I think offering guidance on stuff but never feeling like I had to act or do anything that I didn’t feel like, I didn’t feel pushed into anything.
You used a lot of these acting experiences growing up to shape the characters for this movie as well.
Yeah, so the movie’s a comedy and I took anything funny that I had seen people do in terms of networking and just quirky characters because the Hollywood sections of satire and the ladder climbing stuff, I took that and just turned the volume up on it. I thought, what could we do that would just be over emphasized. They say to write what you know but I think that if you do write what you know, you can mix enough authenticity into things so that people who are in the industry of the movie stuff, or people who are in the industry of the geology stuff, there’s enough realism in both of those that hopefully it kind of strikes a chord where they can relate to something in there and that connects with them.
Yeah, it was a real fun romp, kind of wacky like a road comedy and I think there’s a little bit of something for everyone in that. What else do you have coming up that you’re working on?
I have a series of educational kids films that I’ve been putting together. Things are a little bit moved around, because of the pandemic but I’ve got that. There’s another story that we just did some test shoots on that is sort of like a modern noir piece and that I’m excited about. The footage on it turned out really well and we shot that with a minimal crew because of the pandemic.
Then there is a music documentary which might be the first thing that I ended up going into because a lot of that is archived footage, like one on one interviews, so that’s good pandemic shooting.
Then there’s a large scale historical piece that is about a young boy who travels across the United States by train in the late 1920s.
He jumps trains and he travels to these different cities looking for work and there’s just beautiful vignettes to see, he meets people, and struggles just to survive, to become an adult and then moves on from place to place.
Eventually by the end of it, he’s fully developed into this young man who’s had this whole experience that you’ve seen throughout the film.
And the story is so beautiful, it’s based off of a real story. With the pandemic, we have to wait till things simmer down.
Well, looks like things are starting to open up a lot and getting better so keep our fingers crossed that we stay on this trajectory, right?
Yeah, absolutely, I’m ready to make lots of movies.
I’m looking forward to seeing them. Do you have a website and social media?
I do. I’m on social media just under my name. We have a website for the movie, hollywoodcon.net and website for me at www.mikaboorem.com.