"Teenage Ghost Punk" is a new movie for all ages that combines a haunted house narrative with the classic coming of age themes such an angst and young love--and rock and role.

The plot follows a cheerleader named Amanda who moves into a Victorian house that turns out to be haunted by a teen ghost named Brian who has a number of other spooky friends too.

The movie has been screen at the Spooky International Horror Film Festival, the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival, and the Geneva Film Festival where it was awarded the prize for Emerging Narrative Feature Filmmaker.

Director Mike Cramer was pleased to discuss his role in the making of the film and his experiences working as a director.


Blasting News (BN): What inspired you to become a director and how did you get “Teenage Ghost Punk” off the ground?

Mike Cramer (MC): I became a director because making a movie was the best way to tell a particular story I wanted to tell. I work by day as a lawyer, but I’ve always been driven by a need to create art or stories. Over the years, I’ve done improv comedy, published hundreds of political cartoons, and created paintings and installations for numerous art shows.

Several years back, I wanted to tell the story of a very quirky, charismatic baseball player from the 1970s – Mark “the Bird” Fidrych – through the eyes of a fan.

I wrote the screenplay for “Dear Mr. Fidrych” and, having seen lots of lawyers write excellent screenplays that never get made into movies, I decided to make the movie myself. Making “Dear Mr. Fidrych” was lots of fun, and a major learning experience. The movie won some awards in a few festivals, and the film-making experience prompted me to want to make more movies.

I got “Teenage Ghost Punk” off the ground by conceiving the key characters, starting to write, and then (while still writing) lining up a talented crew, cast and some very generous friends and family members as investors in the project.

BN: What sorts of movies do you most enjoy making from a genre standpoint?

MC: I’m not very driven by genre, and I don’t think either of my two features falls neatly into a genre.

I sometimes refer to “Dear Mr. Fidrych” as a “baseball and poetry historical fiction father-son road-trip/coming-of-age movie,” and I call “Teenage Ghost Punk” a “supernatural punk rock family comedy.” I’m more interested in the story than the genre, and I’m more interested in the characters and their interactions than the plot.

BN: Can you tell us a bit about your experiences on “Teenage Ghost Punk,” especially working with your son and his friends?

MC: Yeah, my son Jack plays the title character, the ghostly punk guitarist Brian Flynn. I wrote the movie with Jack in mind for that part. It was really fun working with Jack, several of his friends and bandmates, and our whole cast and crew.

Chicago has a great live theater scene, arguably the best in the country, and we drew many of our “grownup” cast members from that talent pool.

Oak Park, the old Chicago suburb where we shot most of the movie, is home to lots of creative people and the public schools have outstanding theater programs. I’d seen most of the teenagers act in school plays, and I’d heard some of them play and sing in some rocking teen bands. I knew they’d get the job done, and they did not disappoint.

I love the collaboration that goes into making a movie. With TGP, I enjoyed collaborating with co-producer Dan Finnen on writing, casting, and coordinating the logistics of shooting. I enjoyed collaborating with Director of Photography Derek Cox on the look of the movie and the shot choices. I liked collaborating with the cast on the dialogue and the characters’ quirks.


BN: So far, what are some of the most rewarding and coolest things about being part of the entertainment industry?

MC: The most rewarding things are being part of that collaborative effort that goes into creating a movie, and seeing it all come together on screen. It was rewarding to see theatre audiences react to “Teenage Ghost Punk” at film festivals, and now it’s great knowing that it’s reaching a broader audience and getting favorably reviewed by critics. I even get a charge out of reading negative reviews – and it seems some hard-core horror fans really don’t like the movie. But the world is full of varied tastes, and that just makes it more heart-warming when some critic praises cast members or just “gets” the spirit and themes of the movie.

BN: From a career standpoint, where do you hope to be in a decade and what is next for you?

MC: I’d like to write and direct several more movies over the next ten years. I’d like someone else to fund them, and I’d like the movies to reach and have to mean to broader and broader audiences. I’d also love to see “Teenage Ghost Punk” become sort of a family/cult classic – the movie families want to gather together for, pop some popcorn, and re-watch every Halloween.

BN: What advice might you provide to someone who is aspiring to become a director?

MC: Watch movies and read books to figure out what you like to see and hear in story-telling. Study the way writers and directors create characters. Then decide on some characters you want to create or stories you want to tell … and then: just do it.