|RP filmmaker Winston hungers for breakout role
Five years ago, Paul Winston left Rohnert Park to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles. Now, he is starring in the follow up to “Shattered Allegiance, “his film debut. He recently returned to Sonoma County for three days of work on his new film, “The Hunger for More.” The Community Voice caught up with Paul Winston and his film team at Carmen’s Burger Bar in Santa Rosa.
Community Voice: Could you give us an introduction to The Hunger for More?
Paul Winston: The one-liner for the film is, ‘Two brothers. Two different goals. One family. One common goal.’ My character, Cameron, is the younger brother. He was adopted into his family. His parents died when he was young, and his best friend’s parents took him in.
For Cameron, the hunger for more means a college education. But he’s not focused at all. The older brother, Derek, has the hunger for more. Derek has a scholarship to Cal, and Cameron’s got big shoes to fill. Cameron is a little lackadaisical. He wants to party. He wants girls and football. He doesn’t want to focus on class.
The whole story is the last day of school. We see Derek graduating, Cameron still messing around. At the end, the film comes to a payoff. Without giving it away, the audience will see Cameron has listened to his family and has gained the hunger for more.
CV: What got you into acting in the first place? When did you start?
PW: When I was a little boy, I was watching movies that I shouldn’t have been watching and envisioning myself as the leading men. In my junior year of high school, I took my first drama class, and I knew that was for me. I always wanted to audition more than everyone, and I also wanted to rehearse more. All the other kids said, ‘That’s fine. We got it. That’s good enough.’ I didn’t want to be good enough. I wanted to be better. I wanted to be the best.
Mr. Pitt (at Rancho Cotate High School) was my drama teacher, and he’s still my favorite teacher. I liked the direction he gave us. But I was always too scared to audition for plays at the high school. High school is a tough time. I didn’t fit in, and I wasn’t one of the cool kids or one of the drama kids, though I tried to get along with everybody.
When I was young and my grandpa asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told him I wanted to be an actor. He gave me some positive advice that I’ll always remember: he told me to look at the world as my stage. A lot of the other people I told wanted me to be realistic, to have a backup plan. They said, ‘You can’t make a career of that. It’s too competitive.’ I listened to those other people, and I went to Santa Rosa Junior College. I was young and naïve, and I went along with what everyone else was telling me to do. I didn’t take any acting classes at SRJC.
Right before I moved down to Los Angeles, I took an acting and modeling course at Julie Nation Academy in Santa Rosa. That sparked it again, and I decided I wasn’t going to listen to anybody anymore. That was it.
CV: What films or actors have influenced you in particular?
PW: If I had to sit down and give you a list of actors I love to watch, I’d be here all day. The first thing I remember that I enjoyed watching was ‘Backdraft.’ William Baldwin had some sort of magnetism that drew me in.
I came upon Vin Diesel. Vin Diesel isn’t what we think of when we think of Oscar-worthy actors. Most people think, ‘Big muscles, tough guy, can’t act.’ That’s what I thought at the beginning, too. After I did my research on him and learned about the dedication he brings to his craft, I had a completely different perception of him. I came across his film ‘Multi-Facial,’ and that led me to think, ‘If he took the reins of his career, why can’t I do the same thing?’ I look at him and I’m in awe now.
My favorite film of all time is ‘Legends of the Fall.’ Brad Pitt’s in it. He’s my favorite actor. A lot of people question me about that, but he doesn’t get enough recognition for his skills in my opinion. Again, the magnetism of the leading man had some sort of draw on me that just made me want to do that. If that film’s on TV and it’s halfway through, I can’t watch it. When I watch it, it has to be from the beginning to the end.
‘Inception,’ with Leonardo DiCaprio, is amazing to me. The acting is superb, the writing, the ingenuity. I want to do films like that, but I also want to do summer popcorn flicks. I want to do them all. I want to do films, and I want to do movies. I think there’s kind of a difference between a film and a movie. I think of ‘Spiderman’ as a movie, but I think of ‘Inception’ as a film.
As I get older, films touch me in different ways. I find myself getting emotional as I’m getting involved in the characters. I believe that helps me when I’m doing my characters.
CV: What brought you to start work on The Hunger for More?
PW: Marques [Pardue] and I dreamt up the idea for the script a month ago. Marques and I have been best friends since 6th grade. Our two characters, Cameron and Derek, have been with us for a while. Initially, we had a feature-length film about these characters as grownups. We were playing catch, and I said, ‘Why don’t we do an intro on our characters?’ I’ve never heard about anybody making a short film as an intro to something bigger.
‘Shattered Allegiance’ got more recognition overseas – it was hard for it to find its niche in the United States. It’s graphic, and the subject matter is kind of taboo in our society. (Note: Shattered Allegiance is about a skinhead who decides to leave his gang.) Marques and I wanted something more lighthearted than Shattered Allegiance, something that would have more mass appeal, and something that could give me a different character.
The character I play is a young, cocky high school football player who was adopted into a black family. I can’t get any more different from my character in Shattered Allegiance, who’s a skinhead.
CV: Was there a particular reason you wanted to come back and work in the North Bay?
PW: There’s no other area I’ve been to that looks this way and feels this way. I’ve kind of grown accustomed to the Los Angeles living style – big city, compact…a lot of people. But every time I come up here, it feels like home as soon as I hit Novato.
And me being from here, I always wanted to give something back to my community, and I wanted to involve Northern California people. That’s one of my main goals. This is a short film, but this is the first of many that I’m going to bring up here.
CV: Are you seeking people who are not necessarily professional actors? What are you looking for in your actors?
PW: For me, I can work with someone if I feel like—in an audition—they have something they can offer to the film. With ‘Shattered Allegiance,’ there were people in there that weren’t the greatest actors. But I felt, for that reason, they could fit a certain character. Or they needed help building their acting resumé. And I know what it’s like to go through hundreds of auditions and not get anything.
I had plenty of actors come that already had strong resumés built up and were somewhat well known in Los Angeles. But I didn’t want to use them. I wanted to make a name for myself, and I felt like it was part of my duty to give these other actors a chance to succeed as well.
CV: What about making this film will be particularly challenging?
PW: The district offices and city planning and film permits – those were my main concerns at the beginning of today. But today, when I went into Rohnert Park City Hall – which is actually right across the street from where I grew up – we got a great vibe from the city office managers. Rohnert Park hasn’t really been put on the map yet by anybody, and I want to take the reins to do that. People up here are willing to help a hometown boy like me. It’s a lot different from the Los Angeles vibe. I owe a lot to this area, and I’m really confident we’re going to make something work.
With the script for ‘The Hunger for More,’ I’m drawing on a few people from high school. I graduated from Rancho Cotate High in 2001 and I hadn’t been there in years, so when I went there today (July 10) I found myself getting nervous.
High school is not a time I look back at and think, ‘Greatest time of my life.’ I don’t think that at all.
Actually, rehearsing this role and drawing from people I remember from high school has helped me to put my personal experiences aside, since my experiences don’t relate to this film at all.
I wasn’t the king of school, I wasn’t a football star, I didn’t have all the girls. So my role is going to have its challenges, but it’s completely the opposite of me, so it’s going to be a blast. I can’t wait to do it.