Mike Finazzo is a local comedian and film maker.
Q: Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a little slice of heaven called “Halethorpe”.
Q: When did you first know you wanted to do stand up?
I’ve always loved comedy. In fourth grade I did a George Bush impression during a school talent show. I crushed it. I took about twenty years off after that and started doing comedy nonstop six years ago. I’m about to start another twenty year hiatus.
Q: What is the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you during a stand up show?
Craziest thing… hard to choose one. The one off of the top my head may or may not involve edible marijuana, me not feeling my face and being paranoid that police are in the audience. That didn’t really happen… or did it?
Q: Have you always been interested in writing screenplays?
Definitely. I’ve always had a love of movies. I remember wanting to make them since I was old enough to watch them.
Q: What is “Wits End” about?
Wits End is the story about a working comedian (played brilliantly by Jason Weems) who’s personal life is in shambles and he goes on the road to make money. We follow him as he does shows and meet people along the way. It’s a dramady. If you like movies like “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “Away We Go,” you’ll really dig it.
Q: Were any of the characters inspired by people you know?
Definitely. Most of the parts were specifically written or re-written based on people I know. We had a great cast and we tailored everything to people’s strengths. So parts were definitely created with and for great people like Jason Weems, Tommy Sinbazo and Justin Schlegel.
Q: Which is harder..directing or writing?
They’re kind of one in the same. Making movies is balancing act and you’re constantly directing, writing, editing and producing at any moment. They’ve all been the biggest challenge at different times. Yes, I know that I did not answer your question.
Q: Was Jason Weems your first choice for the lead role?
Actually, the first person that I thought of was Doug Powell. Doug is a great actor and comedian and I originally had him in mind for the part. He ended up being too busy with other projects, so I started to think of other folks. When I thought of Jason Weems, Wits End went from a cool idea to a movie that I HAD to make. Besides being the best comedian that I know, Jason brought an interesting contrast on and off stage for the character.
I also had a realization that there are not a lot of African American characters in the films that I watch. As much as I love movies by the Duplass Brothers, the Cohen Brothers, and Richard Linklater, it is hard not to notice a severe lack of diversity and African American characters in their films and the stories that they choose to tell. I don’t think that they are racist. They tell stories they know and write them for specific actors that they know. So I kind of tried to do the same thing and tell a personal story but with a more diverse cast.
Our movie not only features a charismatic and wonderful actor of color as the lead, but he is in every single scene and almost every shot. That’s something that I’m very proud of. Jason really is wonderful in the movie. He’s going to be a big surprise for people that know him already or don’t. Doug is amazing and I hope to do stuff with him in the future but Wits End definitely worked out the way it should have.
Q: Are you excited about being featured at Bump Fest on 5/24?
I’m excited. One of the first movies that I ever saw was John Water’s “Cry Baby” at the Senator when I was like five or six. It will be amazing to watch something that I made there. Also, Bump Fest is a celebration of local film and filmmakers. It’s very cool to be involved with that and with the other filmmakers. I’m really looking forward to it.
Bump Fest takes place 5/23-5/25!
Follow Mike Finazzo on Twitter
Buy tickets to Bump Fest at The Senator