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Interview with Paul Zimmerman: Hills Alumnus and Independent Filmmaker

Alyson Cohen

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All photos by Paul Zimmerman

AC: So I see you were in plays as a student! Did that lead into your career now?

PZ: Yes, it did lead into my career now. However, I loved movies and television in general. Although I was in plays, while i was in high school, and while i was in college I started working on both sides of the camera. I was in front of the camera and behind the camera because i wanted not just to be a performer, but a storyteller and a filmmaker.

AC: What was it like writing, directing, producing and starring in your own film?

PZ: Well it’s a little intimidating at first but I look around at some of the people that have done it in the past. And I’m certainly not comparing myself to these people but I’m using them as a model of how it can be done. Like Ben Stiller and Edward Burns and Woody Allen and there’s countless others who have all done this before so I knew this could be done. But the truth of the matter is that no one is getting paid. It’s very difficult to get people to show up and to work for free so you have to take on a lot of the roles yourself.

AC: What is it like having your film featured in the Hoboken International Film Festival?

PZ:  Well it’s very exciting to be recognized by one of the film festivals for the work that you put in. This was the first film festival that I’ve applied to, I haven’t heard back from many of the others. And it was selected, when you look at the statistics the hoboken film festival says they get over 1,500 entries and less than 10 percent are accepted into the film festival. It was very exciting to know that my hard work paid up and people appreciated what I’m trying to do.

AC: What was the hardest part of making your film, “North Of the City”?

PZ: Well, I guess the hardest part of independent film is that it’s very independent. You are out there and you are on your own and you really have to do it by yourself. Although you have a lot of family that will support you and believe in you and cheer you on, when it comes right down to it, you’re really doing it on your own. It’s really difficult to be able to put it together in that fashion all by yourself.

AC: I took a look at your IMDB page and I see you were in the original “Hairspray”. What was that like?

PZ: Well that was actually the biggest part I had at that particular time. Although I did a little bit of television work after that, it was the first time I was on the big screen. It was a pretty exciting moment to actually be on set with a famous director like John Waters and to be surrounded by people who went off to do much bigger things. But the most exciting part for me was going to the movies and seeing the movie and sitting in the theater eating my popcorn and drinking my Coke and seeing myself up there and seeing my name in the credits. It was a big moment

AC: What inspired you to start filmmaking?

PZ: Like I said, I always loved television and film from the time I was a kid. I went to film school at American University in Washington D.C. but after graduating, I found myself more in the corporate world, making corporate films. Like mature films for corporations that are used internally and externally, basically every film that was not on television. With social media nowadays, the things that they put on Youtube and Facebook, on their websites. I think deep down inside I really wanted to make a film, a theatrical film, and the time was right with self distribution and social media as a marketing tool to do it now.

AC: If you could work with any actor, dead or alive, who would it be?

PZ: Well I would say right now it would be Edward Burns because he was a big inspiration for me. I saw a video, on Youtube, that he did which was how to make a movie for $10,000. And once I saw that video, I was like that’s it. That is my business model, that is what I’m going to do. And from that day on, I opened up my computer and started writing the script. So I would say right now it would be Edward Burns.

AC: Are there any new projects you’re working on?

PZ:  Well right now I’m concentrating on marketing and film festivals for this particular film but I do have a couple ideas in my head that I am turning around and trying to make them happen. One is a television show that I’d like to see if I can get on tv. It’s a television series, so that is one of my projects I’d like to get going as well as another feature film.

AC: What is your favorite project you’ve ever worked on or starred in?

PZ:  I would have to say “North Of the City.”

AC: Could you tell me about the collaborative efforts in front and behind the camera?

PZ: A lot of the people in the beginning that were involved in the project really understood what I was trying to do and they became very committed to their particular role. Particularly, one of the actors who is a very soap opera actor, Austin Peck, became an acting coach to the other actors. It was very good. I would explain what I’m looking for, what I’m trying to achieve and he would help the actors get there.

AC: Lastly, what were you like as a Hills student?
PZ: I was a jock. I was on the wrestling team with legendary coach Bucky Rehain. That particular team was pretty good. We never lost a match in the entire four years I was on the team. I was pretty happy to be a part of that team.

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The Eyes, Ears, and Voice of Pascack Hills High School
Interview with Paul Zimmerman: Hills Alumnus and Independent Filmmaker