Q&A: Ken Arnold and Dan Franko (“The Night Watchmen”)

I chatted with local actors Ken Arnold and Dan Franko about their horror film “The Night Watchmen” which was filmed right here in Maryland.

Talk about where you guys are from, grew up, etc

 Dan: I grew up in Frederick Maryland. Went to college at Western Maryland (now McDaniel) College. Was always obsessed with acting. Star Wars was the first movie I saw, and since that moment, that’s what I wanted to do. Was involved in theatre in high school, did some dinner theater in the Frederick area, and then majored in theatre art in college. Right out of college, I started doing extra work in the area. “The Replacements”,  “Cecil B DeMented” (where Ken and I actually made it on screen together!), “The West Wing”…and also working on independent film projects. Ken and I have been working on our own projects together since ‘04-ish. I think our first project together was a Baltimore 48 Hour Film called “The Golden Tiki of Djbuti-buti” (aka: Naked Man). And we’ve pretty much been collaborating ever since.


Ken: I grew up in South Jersey about 20 miles outside of Philadelphia. Went to college at Wagner in Staten Island NY where I earned my degree in business administration. Then after playing in the minor leagues settled in Annapolis, MD. I met my wife while playing for the O’s Double AA affiliate, Bowie Baysox. Started acting in 1996 after being released by the Texas Rangers. I was thinking about what I could do for a living as I was watching a soap opera. One of the characters in the show was played by a former baseball player and then it hit me. I could be as bad as him! Yes Dan and I met on “West Wing” set(i think), started running into each other on other sets and auditions and eventually became good friends. We’ve collaborated on many projects with the biggest and best being, “The Night Watchmen.”


Do you still get nervous when you go on auditions?

Ken: Not really anymore. I remember when my hand would shake when I went into auditions. I was so nervous. But I kept at it. Kept working on the craft. It’s like anything you do. The more you do it the more you become relaxed and can do the things needed to perform. I sometimes put too much pressure on myself to be “perfect” sometimes because it’s a big project but for the most part I’m a little nervous before going in to the audition but once in the room, it’s on. Time to do my job.

Dan: Absolutely. Same here. I don’t get nervous now as often as when I was first starting out…but yeah, on occasion, it still pops up. I try to do a lot of visualization before I go into the room and focus on breathing exercises. But occasionally, I’ll still run into an audition situation where nerves can pop up and get in the way. For me, it’s not usually about the material or reading the role in front of the casting director, it tends to be more about putting too much pressure on myself to “nail” it. In the last several years, I’ve tried to focus on just focusing on the audition as its own thing, and not as a challenge I have to win to get the prize – in this case the actual role.


Ken, you host “Appletini’s With Ken.” What topics does it cover and how did it come about?

Ken: We cover pop culture-movies-entertainment-sports. Anything that’s popular or relevant at the moment. We try to stay away from politics, but that may change soon. We like to have fun on the show. It’s comedy based!


Dan, you starred in “The Recursion Theorem.” What is it about?

Dan: The Recursion Theorem is a sci-fi noir – kind of a psychological thriller, in the vein of The Twilight Zone and The Shining. I play a man who wakes up in an unfamiliar room that I quickly discover I can’t leave. If I try to exit through one door, I come right back in the other. Over the course of the film I kind of descend into madness and mania, trying to figure out who I am, where I was before – since I can’t remember anything, and how to get out of the room. It was written and directed by a local filmmaker, Ben Sledge, and shot here in Maryland in the fall of 2014. It’s spent the last year and a half on the film festival circuit, and was  just released it online at recursiontheorem.com. It’s free to watch (although donations are definitely accepted). We just ask that people help us spread the word by sharing it.

Ken: And send thoughts and prayers!

I’m keeping that in, Ken.

Now to the big kahuna. What is “The Night Watchmen” about?

Ken: THE NIGHT WATCHMEN trails three inept night watchmen, aided by a young rookie and a fearless tabloid journalist, as they fight an epic battle to save their lives. A mistaken warehouse delivery, with the body of a famous beloved clown, unleashes a horde of bloodthirsty vampire clowns or “clownpires.” These unlikely heroes must not only save themselves, but also stop the scourge that threatens to take over the city of Baltimore and the world


Who do you guys play?

Dan: I play Barney, the resident a-hole of the office. He doesn’t treat the security guys very well, and later on, when shit goes sideways and he needs their help, they kind of get him back.

Ken: I play Ken…ex-marine pretty boy who got a dis-honorable discharge for firing on some mercenaries. Should a got a medal but…no. I’m the hapless leader with bad aim and a crush on our heroine, Karen. I trip my way through the night accidentally killing clownpires and hoping to save the city of Baltimore to win over Karen’s heart!

Dan: …and Jiggett’s heart.

Ken: Yeah, that too!


What was it like being able to work with friends on this project?

Dan: To be part of a movie like this that has the chance to have a great cult following is the kind of thing you live for as an actor. But to do it with your friends – the people you’re closest to in this industry – that made it just a special, unique experience. We’ve all had our various wins and successes in our careers independently, but to share this ride with your friends, you don’t get many situations like that. Truly amazing. I’m so thankful to these guys for bringing me on board for this.

Ken: I’ve been wanting to make a film with my friends for a very long time. I’m surrounded with such talented people they just make me look better. To be able to produce a feature where we all get to play is a dream come true. I’m glad we were able to make it happen and that so many people are going to get to see it…not just here in the US, but worldwide.


Dan, you have a pretty rad dance scene in the movie. Where did you get those sexy dance moves? Did Ken teach you? You gotta teach me!

Ken: Dan is self taught.

Dan: Yeaaahh. The dancing. So the script called for a “sexy dance” at the start of that scene…and for it to end with twerking. Everything else in between was up to me to fill in. My wife is a big New Kids fan, so I worked in a couple of their moves…and NSYNC’s Bye, Bye, Bye, and some stuff like the cabbage patch. It was crazy. Holding out for the next season of Dancing With The Stars! Honestly, that was one of the hardest scenes I’ve ever had to shoot. As absurd as it is, it’s a deadly serious scene for the character. So I had to come at it from a very serious place…and with Ken and DeLuca and Jiggetts over there, on the other side of the scene looking at me like “what the hell is this fool doing” it was definitely a challenge to keep it locked down.

Actually, Gary Peebles (Blimpo) and Dan Carter from our stunt team gave me a Twerking lesson. before that scene shot. it was pretty funny.

I could’ve given you a twerking lesson, bro.

Dan: What are you saying? My twerk was on point!

We’ll have to compare twerks next time we see each other.

Dan: Or not. No more twerking for this guy. Unless there’s a sequel.

Ken: I’m taping that. From a distance.


What did it mean to you to be able to film this in Annapolis?

Dan: Shooting locally was so incredibly convenient. You get to see your family. Sleep in your own bed. Those of us with “day jobs” don’t have to take extra time off to travel out of town for the shoot…in fact, at the time, my office was less than a mile from set. There were a couple days where I went into work and put in a couple hours before heading over to set to shoot my scenes.

Ken: Filming in Annapolis was huge. I was able to sleep in my own bed every night. I didn’t have to drive far and fight the traffic. I was able to get plenty of rest because it was a long shoot. Almost an entire month. And to do it in your home town is exciting because all the people in Annapolis are excited about the film.


How does it feel knowing that this film has already won awards?

Dan: I think this is for Ken to answer…but to give my two cents: We knew we had something pretty great early on. Seeing the performances and stunts and shots & playback on set, then seeing it translate to the final product…we all were thrilled with it and thought it was great. But we’re invested in it. Not exactly unbiased. When people who have no connection to your film – particularly people who work in the industry or are huge fans of horror – say “hey. This is a great movie. People should check it out” that really helps to validate it. And we’re representing Maryland film and the DMV. It means a lot to show people outside of this region what all of us here already know, that when given the opportunity, we have the ability and the talent (writing/acting/production/crew) to make studio-quality films right here.

Ken: Like Dan said…we knew we had something special when we started seeing the dailies and got our first rough cut of the film. Everyone did such an excellent job…including actors-crew-props-costume-camera crew-lighting-sound. When the awards started coming in it was nice to have everyone’s work validated by others in the industry. But for me it’s more about people contacting me or coming up to me after a screening and saying how much fun the film is and that they laughed so hard. That’s why we set out to make this film. Make people laugh and I think we succeeded admirably.

Are you excited for the films release?

Ken: So excited about the release. It’s been such a long time since we finished shooting but that’s the way it works some times. Delays that are out of your control. But now everyone gets to see what we’ve created. I’ve been non-stop promoting for the past few weeks. As soon as I’m done here I’m right back to promoting-creating ads-sending out press releases.

And the film is a wide release. We are not just on iTunes. We are on all major cable providers-google play-amazon prime-youtube red-available on DVD. You can get us just about anywhere on  November 21st.

“The Night Watchmen” is released this Tuesday!

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Watch “The Recursion Theorem”