ASG.STREAM: Interview with Gunpoint filmmaker, Bill Marsilii

Published in ASG Stream .

In case you haven’t heard the news: The Advocates for Self-Government is now producing films. Our first short film, Gunpoint, has been winning awards at film festivals across the United States. With all the film’s success, we’ve decided to launch our own streaming platform, ASG.STREAM. Leading up to our summer launch, we’ll be showing great films, which you can enjoy absolutely free. Join free to get early access and to be a part of our emerging community.

On April 18th, we’ll be showing the film on our platform.

Here is an exclusive interview with filmmaker, Bill Marsilii

ASG: Bill Marsilii, thank you for sitting down with us about your film Gunpoint, which will be released to the public for free as the first film on our new, donor-supported streaming platform.

BM: Thank you! It’s a pleasure!

ASG: From your perspective as the filmmaker, why should I watch Gunpoint?

BM: Well, nobody’s saying you have to, of course, but I think you should probably watch it because you financed the production. (Ha! Sorry, couldn’t resist.) For the rest of the world, I would hope that the best reason to watch Gunpoint is that it’s funny and entertaining, with a side order of social comment.

ASG: Why did you make this film? Now that it’s out, how do you feel about what you’ve created?

BM: The genesis of the project happened in 2019, when your Board Chair, Chris Rufer, invited me and a number of other filmmakers up to Sacramento to discuss writing and directing a series of short films that Chris wanted to fund. We spent three days discussing various moral and social themes that he wanted to promote, and we brainstormed film stories that might communicate them well and in an entertaining way.

Among the themes were, “All taxation is theft.” And I thought, Well, that certainly sounds like a fantastic night at the movies…. But then I remembered a YouTube talk I had seen with Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller fame, where he basically states that he supports civic causes but resents having to do it at the barrel of a gun, which is essentially what’s at the back of every monetary contribution that has been made compulsory through taxation. And it occurred to me, Wait a minute — I think I can make that funny. Because while many people don’t believe all taxation is theft… I think everybody agrees that some taxation is theft. I saw a way to take that to absurd comedic levels. Fortunately, Chris liked my approach, and gave us the greenlight and the funding to make Gunpoint.

And I’m very pleased with the film, thank you! Pleased and quite proud. We shot it during the pandemic, which created huge hurdles and delays, and spent another year taking it out on the film festival circuit, where I’m happy that it’s done so well. I’m thrilled now that after four years, it is finally making its debut online with your site.

Join ASG.STREAM for free and watch film April 18th
gunpoint film poster with credits and laurels

ASG: Do your peers in Hollywood give you heat about the lessons in the film? Any backlash?

BM: Actually, no! The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Of course, that might be because nobody’s going to tell me to my face that they don’t care for it, but you can usually tell when someone’s just “being polite” as opposed to actually enjoying something. I have had a number of viewers tell me that while they don’t necessarily share the same view of government that Gunpoint seems to promote, they appreciate that the film makes its points with good humor, and its absurd tone takes the edge off of any political disagreement one might have with it.

ASG: You’ve been busy showing your film, Gunpoint, at film festivals all over the country. What has this experience been like for you?

BM: The experience has been invaluable, and a great deal of fun as well. When we were making the film, I honestly feared that we might not make it into any film festivals that weren’t explicitly “like-minded” politically, which would have disappointed me greatly. I didn’t want Gunpoint to be entertaining only to people who already believe what it has to say. So when we started getting selected by festivals that didn’t have any kind of social axe to grind, that were selecting it purely because they think it’s funny or well-made, that was immensely validating. There’s nothing like sitting in a movie theater with an audience full of strangers, and hearing them laugh and applaud at your work. Thanks to our festival run, I got to experience that many times, and even made several filmmaker friends along the way.

Then when we started winning a number of those festivals… well, I can’t tell you what that meant to me. I was especially happy because Chris and The Advocates took a chance with my approach (and making the film wasn’t cheap, either)… so to have Gunpoint be this well-received, and reward their faith and investment in me and the film, was profoundly gratifying. Truly a win-win experience for all involved!

ASG: Your acting in the film is eerily good. Where did you learn how to act, and do you favor being in front or behind the camera? What are your goals as an actor?

BM: Why thank you! I began my career as an actor, actually — I’m an NYU Tisch School of the Arts drama grad, and studied acting at Circle in the Square. I had been writing and performing in New York for 25 years before moving to Los Angeles after the sale of the Deja Vu script. In fact, the original plan had been to write my way into a film acting career — I was originally attached to play a featured supporting role in Deja Vu. But when the script sold for such a huge sum, the studio insisted that any A-list director would want complete creative control, and that included casting. It didn’t take me too long to agree: “Yeah, at these prices, I wouldn’t cast me either. I’ll be in my next one. Deal!”

Usually when someone who wants to act starts taking on other jobs like writing or directing, it smacks of vanity, where they don’t really care about those disciplines beyond them being means to another end. I suppose I’m only human, but I think I knew I was a real writer when my first script sale was a Christmas comedy that had no role in it for me. I just loved the story and wanted to tell it.

I love being a storyteller, and I love writing and directing. My acting experience certainly helps me in those roles, and I still enjoy being in front of the camera as well. My goals are rather modest, I think. All I want to do is write, direct and star in a major motion picture that proves the existence of a loving God.

Gunpoint filmmaker, Bill Marsilii

Gunpoint filmmaker, Bill Marsilii

“If you want people to entertain a new idea, usually the new idea has to entertain them first.” – Bill Marsilii

ASG: What do you think of the relationship between politics and film as an artform?

BM: Well, we’ve all heard the late Andrew Breitbart’s famous phrase, “Politics is downstream from culture.” I agree, and I think it’s always been that way. But what’s happening now, perhaps more than at any other time in our culture, is that films and television shows are being made where they’re trying to push a political point at the expense of telling an entertaining story, even jamming it in there when it works against the story.

I think audiences are getting wise to this and are rejecting it in droves, from both sides of the ideological spectrum. Whether a movie is pushing a “woke” left-wing agenda, or a more conservative “faith-based” one, mainstream audiences usually resent having a political talking point that’s pretending to be entertainment jammed down their throats. Doubly so if that message is delivered smugly, as if you’re stupid or hateful if you don’t accept it without question.

That’s not to say films should be empty of political messages — not at all! Film is perhaps our most socially impactful artform, certainly among our most persuasive. But I believe the first fidelity of a filmmaker should always be to entertain, to tell a great story and bring the audience along on the journey. One of the great things about film is that it can broaden people’s horizons or see the world around them differently. But if you want people to entertain a new idea, usually the new idea has to entertain them first.

ASG: Tell us a little about your career and aspirations as a filmmaker? What’s next?

BM: Well, my screenwriting career continues to be blessed, and I’m quite grateful for that. I have a sci-fi action feature at Amazon called Time Zone, written with my Deja Vu partner Terry Rossio, that looks like it’s on a production track, God willing. I’m also at work on another feature script.

While I’m at it, though, I’m talking to a few different companies about writing and directing my first feature film. It’s an exciting time, and Gunpoint has certainly helped to forward that goal. We’ll see what happens next!

Watch Gunpoint, Only on ASG.STREAM | April 18th

Already called the “N*tflix of Liberty,” ASG.STREAM promises to bring you the most comprehensive array of options that serve that great liberatory movement you belong to. Not only can you receive a steady diet of great films, but you will also be able to join the conversation and find your tribe.

The platform is set to launch in the summer of 2023.

ASG.STREAM is a 501(c)3 donor-supported platform. Membership is free, and you can join here.

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