Director Harley Wallen talks latest production, ‘Artificial Loyalty’

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In the time that Harley Wallen first arrived in the  Mitten State in 1998,  he has made big strides in becoming one of the most formidable forces in Michigan’s indie film industry.

Most recently he has wrapped principal shooting on his fifth feature film, “Artificial Loyalty.”

Boasting eight featured actors, as well as locals, and at times hundreds of extras,  this is his biggest film production to date.Incorporating all the elements of a high drama, revenge, power and purpose and touching on issues such as dirty politics, it has one underlining theme.  Human trafficking.

Harley Wallen permitted this interview just before the Holidays, and before he embarks to the West Coast,  where he will be discussing plans for collaborations on a number of future films.


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It has been a little while since we spoke last. In that time you have made great strides in establishing yourself as a formidable force in Michigan’s indie film industry. Before we get into talking about your latest production, “Artificial Loyalty”, let’s revisit a couple of your preceding productions.

Regarding your production, “Moving Parts.” it has played in film festivals worldwide. Where has it appeared now and in how many film festivals has it received awards?

Hey David, thanks for taking the time to talk film with me.  It’s one of my favorite subjects!

“Moving Parts” has done quite well in my opinion.  Since I always aim high I entered some festivals I didn’t make it into but we’ve had our fair share of “Official Selections” (Miami Independent Film Festival, Golden Bridge International Film Festival, Los Angeles Cinefest, Royal Starr and it’s currently a finalist at Frostbite International Indie Fest. And it won the Castell Award for excellence in film in the category of Feature Films with budgets under $2 million! And the film just completed in May last year and still has 4-5 festivals left.  I’m very proud of how it’s done! Right now “Moving Parts” is scheduled for Worldwide Distribution with Freestyle Releasing in March 2018 and “Taken Over” is scheduled for a worldwide release with Green Apple Entertainment 3/1/2017.
Likewise your production, “Into a Dark Mind.” How many film festivals has this appeared, where and in how many has it received awards?Now here I believe we took things to a whole new level. Tom Sizemore and Dennis Haskins, along our local cast, were incredible and early indications say I’m correct.
“Official Selections” at  nine fairly large festivals and some huge wins including “Best Director” at ARFF Barcelona, “Best Feature” at ARFF Amsterdam, “Best Feature” at Cutting Edge, “Best Feature” at London Film Awards and at Nevada International Film Festival and we are less than half way through our run.

We are still fielding offers for Into a “Dark Mind,” with nine bids from reputable distributors. It’s hard to choose, but we are making a decision before the new year.

Are you still working with your producer’s representative? This was a concept that you introduced me to, one which few people are aware and fewer people use. Tell us briefly what a Producer’s Rep is and how they are preferable to working directly with a distributor, or a distributor alone?

Okay,  this is where it gets tricky.  After a lot of research we made the decision to go with a consulting company for “Moving Parts,”” Taken Over “and “Into a Dark Mind” to connect us to distributors we couldn’t reach or were unaware of. How that works is for a percentage of profits they submit, negotiate and help you more fully understand options and contracts. I didn’t want to take a distributor who’s top Film I’ve never heard of, so using a middle man was a good call for us at the time.

Okay, consulting company.  What big things has your “consulting company” done for you that you would like to and are able to share with others?

They did just that, connected us and made sense of contracts and negotiated deals with distributors.

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Now regarding your latest production, “Artificial Loyalty,” on it principal shooting has just wrapped, is this correct? How many days was this shoot?

Yes,  final day of Filming was 12/10 and we had a 19 day shooting schedule.

In front of the camera, “Artificial Loyalty” has more featured actors than any other of your other productions to date. Who can we look forward to seeing in this film and in what roles?

Yes,  I am very fortunate in having many people believing in my vision and it’s even gotten contagious in Hollywood so trust me when I say I’m just getting started!

We have John Savage (from The Deer Hunter, Hair etc,) Richard Tyson (from Kindergarten Cop, There’s Something About Mary etc), Billy Wirth (from Lost Boys, Body Snatchers etc), Yan Birch (from The People Under the Stairs, Bless the Child etc,)  TJ Storm (Kickboxer Vengeance, Punisher War Zone etc,) Blanca Blanco (from Bullett, Spreading Darkness etc,)  Sean Rey (from Hemlock Grove, Broke & Famous etc) and Damien Chinappi (Batman Knightmare, Caped Crusader etc.) not to mention an amazing local cast!

Who was your cinematographer on this production? Have you worked with him/her before? On what productions?

Michael Kettenbeil, is my DP (director of photography)/. We are incredibly in sync on set and Mike gets my vision and delivers amazing screens.

The team Aric Prebelich (1st. AC), Justin Ward (Gaffer), Caleb Richardson (Key Grip) and Eva Doherty completes the first unit with Edward Michael Scott (AD). Nancy Oswien co-produces and does amazing effects, make up and we had Nicole Diehl help and do beauty make up along Mary and Chris being excellent PA’s. And Jim House is such a great BTS photographer and he’s always assisting us in any way he can.

Mike has also been my editor since “Moving Parts”  and my DP since “Into a Dark Mind.”  I couldn’t be happier!

What were some of the biggest challenges you experienced in this production?

My biggest challenge was truthfully juggling schedules with eight cast members from out of state in major roles along with very complex locations and scenes that required a lot of stunt work or advanced effects or sometimes over a hundred extras, this was in general a complex film and story.

Tease us with a synopsis of “Artificial Loyalty’s” story line. Without issuing a spoiler alert, tell us what we can expect to see in this film.

In short: The Russian Mafia runs Trafficking and drugs in Metro Detroit and the Mayor decided to allow the cartel to move in. Mikhail (Russian Mob Boss) doesn’t take kindly when he hears, so he kidnaps the Mayor’s daughter. Now chased by mercenaries brought in by the Mayor, The Trafficking Police Unit and the Cartel we head to an explosive finish!

I’d like to say, it’s a film that touches on something that I’d love to be able to make an impact fighting – trafficking! I am a big proponent of standing up to injustice,  but it becomes even more urgent when they prey on children and women and anyone who is “defenseless”. So I wanted a raw look at it after reading and learning. (I unfortunately have a friend who was a victim)

But I regress, we tackle trafficking, we tackle dirty politics, we tackle revenge, power and purpose.. I can truly say I don’t think there is a ceiling for this film, incredible performances on both sides of the camera.
How soon do you think it will be before we see a teaser trailer for “Artificial Loyalty”?It’ll be a while although we will have a trailer for “United Colors of Bennett Song” before Christmas and I have a feeling this film will do very well and will surprise many with its feel good story!

“Artificial Loyalty” is now in post production. How long do you expect it to be in post before it is ready for release?

I’m anticipating a May or June Red Carpet Limited Screening in LA and we will likely do something locally as well.

Was this another feature for which you were the main screen writer? (If you had help) Who assisted you in writing this script?

Yes I wrote “Artificial Loyalty” like I’ve written all before excluding “United Colors.” I usually have Kaiti, Nancy, Nick, Annette and Jerry read and give me feedback.
This film required about seven rewrites for me.

Now once it is ready for release, returning to the matter of a consulting company, do you present this film to your consultant? Are you contractually obligated to do so?

We have so much interest in this film I have a line of strong distributors waiting, we likely will not use a middle man from here on.

As well as directing this film, you are currently involved in some other productions, both from behind the camera and in front. In which other productions are you working?

I am excited to be playing The Penguin in the amazing fan series by Jordon Foss “Batman Knightmare”, I had a small cameo in the first episode but hear rumors my role will be bigger in episode 2. I’m currently writing the feature film we are shooting this spring and have some incredible commitments from Name Talent to take things to yet another level. Also we have Picture lock on “United Colors of Bennett Song” so it’s heading to Kaizad and Firoze Patel for sound design and score and should have a big red Carpet Screening in February 2018!

Now, recently you announced that you would be jetting out to the west coast (LA and Hollywood). What are you going to be doing out there?   For how long will you be out there?

I’ll be there 1/27-2/2 I have some meetings, some I can disclose and some I can’t talk too much about just yet.

I am meeting with Billy Wirth and some of his associates in regards to future films as we are likely collaborating a lot in the future. Also I am meeting with Yan Birch to make some additional plans on the future as we are likely collaborating a lot more in the future. Blanca and John Savage as well as pretty much anyone I’ve had in from LA in the past.

I’m looking forward to meeting with Joe Williamson and Jake Busey and a bunch of Hollywood producers that are interested in teaming up.

I also will be pitching an Original TV series based on one of my feature films.
Didn’t you pass on an opportunity to go out there some months ago? Why did you accept this time?

Yeah I wanted to wait and go when the opportunity was relight and I believe that is now. The future is bright and film is alive and well.

Thanks again for taking the time David!


For more information Artificial Loyalty IMDB page

Harley Wallen IMDB page
HarleyWallen Facebook page

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