Rich Henkels

Interview with Rich Henkels  Executive Producer and lead actor of  Workforce - The Pilot

1. Your project has entered in our festival. What is your project about?
Workforce - The Pilot, is a gritty, truly American story. It unveils what can and does happen "inside the factory walls" of what appears to be a traditional American industrial plant.

But Workforce - The Pilot, is also about redemption, of a man, of a business, of a community, inside the walls of Protocol Industries, an inner-city manufacturing plant struggling to stay afloat, in the midst of the mostly overlooked recession of 2007-2009.

Anthony Scolari is hired to resurrect this once thriving plant. The fourth GM in three years, he represents ownership's last gasp effort to be relevant.

The pilot episode weaves a viewer through the lives of the key characters and opens windows to their struggles and dashed dreams, as well as their hope for better days.

It also provides a glance into the tormented life of the protagonist, who has more to redeem than just a business. His approach to that? Graced by a sense of humor, blessed by a deep faith in human nature!


2. What are your ambitions with your project?
The first of fifteen complete episodes, our ambition is to find a production partner that is inspired by our work, having seen the pilot episode and is committed to producing the series for distribution. Confident that our production quality is extremely high and that the performances in Workforce - The Pilot are authentic and passionate, we believe it is ripe for distribution, while acknowledging our product is likely a "proof concept". We believe strongly that between the pilot episode and the 14 episodes that follow, we offer production and distribution partners a unique opportunity.

3. Tell us something about your shooting? What pleasantly surprised you?

We were thrilled with the authenticity brought to life by our DP and Director. So much went into creating a real and convincing environment, and when we reviewed the footage, we realized we "nailed it". As the Executive Producer, I was emphatic with my commitment to not "cheap it up", but rather use all our resources to convey real situations, real relationships, in authentic environments. I was very proud of the final product.

Dizajn bez nzvu - 2023-02-11T142325089png
Dizajn bez nzvu - 2023-02-11T142436603png
Dizajn bez nzvu - 2023-02-11T142756658png
4. For what group of spectators is your film targeted?

A story about people, first and foremost, it may well appeal to a very broad audience. Two things make our storyline incredibly unique. 1, there are no series or episodics that focus on manufacturing plants, which for generations were the backbone of economies worldwide and especially in the US. Our environment mirrors the world inhabited by people of all races, creeds, colors and regions of the country, and to an extent, the world. People work in factories, so this is relatable. 2, our pilot is set in a time frame that rarely falls under the spotlight, the recession of 2007-2009. In fact, we do not know of a single film or episodic series focused on a time that tried us all, beyond the borders of the US even. People lost their jobs, lost their retirement savings, lost their houses. Things were tough and we weave these realities in and out of the series, alluding to them continually in the pilot. Anyone interested in the evolution of the human condition during trying economic times will relate to Workforce, and its characters.

5. Why should distributors buy your film?
Workforce - The Series, has legs. The 15 written episodes provide a foundation that can be expanded, with characters and storylines that can be adapted in real time. If not universally appealing, the setting and primary characters are authentic and thought provoking, with the lead character beset by attributes shared by so many people. There is something for everyone, someone for everyone in our series, beginning with the pilot. The flexibility provided by the existing storylines opens the door for a distributor to mold Workforce - The Series into something even more compelling, or different if they choose.

6. How would you specify your work? What characterizes your film?

We believe our film is The Office meets Ozark. The storyline is played out in office and factory setting, complete with interoffice relationships that are authentic and constantly in flux. The pilot episodes introduces several journeys, much like the Office, that link subsequent episodes together. From a cinematic point of view, Workforce - The PIlot is similar to Ozark, replete with dark and gritty visuals that reflect the challenging and despairing signs of the times.

7. Why did you decided to become a filmmaker?
When my father said to me, "If you are going to invest in something, invest in yourself!". He'd seen the sizzle reel for the film and recognized my desire to push the project through to completion, despite not having investors at the time. He passed away six weeks after telling me that. I took that as a true sign to make Workforce - The PIlot happen.

8. Who is your role model?

I would have to say my father is my role model. While not much of my life's path has mirrored his, I've admired his approach to life (along with my mother's) more than I can say. He believed in committing to things, helping others, stirring up and engaging one's creative passions. He and my mother taught their twelve children to use our uniqueness and God given talents however we can to help others. Lofty goals to be sure!

9. Which movies are your favorites? Why?

I have varied and eclectic tastes, for the old classics, the timeless classics and the ever current classics! In a film noir short recently, I fell in love with The Thin Man, an old black and white that is both funny and absurdly creative. As sappy sports fan, I can't watch Field of Dreams often enough. It also deserves to be mentioned that I walked those Iowa cornfields with a one year old on my shoulders just a few years after it was released, so there is an emotional attachment there. I also can't change the channel if I stumble on My Cousin Vinny, Hitch or any of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy films. At the core, I love being entertained and am not averse to letting my heart strings get pulled a little bit.

10. Where do you look for inspiration for your films?

A relatively new film maker, I don't claim to be a writer, but rather a facilitator for the ideas of others. Having spent 15 years in the TV News/Sports world, I do have an eye for what works in front of a lens and love the creativity exercised by directors and DPs on a film. In a recent project, the age-old concept of "dutch angles" intrigued me to no end. Many years ago, I won an Emmy Award for a series of projects I did and it made me realize I do have a knack for finding a thread in someone's story and gently pulling it to unravel a deeper, more revealing truth or pattern. I love that.

11. Which topics interest you the most?

One of twelve kids, I love stories about families and the relationships that make them unique. In the midst of my third career, I am intrigued by tales of life's continual journey and an individual's desire to seek more out of their life. Very much an amatuer philosopher, I can't stay away from tales focused on the motivations of others and the joy they get from success and the despair they get from failure, both of which lead to the questions, what is success and what is failure?

12. What do you consider your greatest achievement in your career?

The creation of Actors' Think Tank, the collaboration of actors that stemming from the industry lockdown, brought on by the pandemic. For almost three years now, members of a group of 30+ actors from the across the U.S. get together each week to work together and draw from time with an industry professional, in a safe and inspiring environment. Members of Actors' Think Tank have since booked work in film/TV and commercials, taken classes from some of the industry's best creators, written screenplays, directed plays and films, produced short films and episodics and immersed themselves in the film festival world. All the while, they help each other, as readers, PAs, confidants and networking resources. What started as a harmless Zoom call amongst friends has become a living, breathing, expanding environment.

13. What do you consider most important about filming?

Catching the authenticity brought to a scene by the environment and the performances. Great director and DP work are essential to this, but there is so much more to it, brought to bear by audio lighting and everyone on a set. When I looked at the very first clip of Workforce - The Pilot, I was ecstatic as it did the ONE THING I really wanted. My immediate thought was, that looks like real life. That's essential, as far as I am concerned.

14. Which film technique of shooting do you consider the best?

Not an artist when it comes to this, I will say that I caught myself encouraging our DP to use the steady-cam whenever he could, as I think that was the best way to reflect real and honest movement within a scene. That said, a shot from a slightly askew angle can also lend a whole new perspective to a scene, forcing a viewer to ask questions they may have never considered.

15. How would you rate/What is your opinion about current filmmaking?
I love the variety you can find almost anywhere now. There is something for everyone out there, though I am not fully enamored with the constant emphasis on "you can do anything with your smartphone". It is my humble opinion that while the tools may make things possible, just because you can doesn't mean you should. I've seem some great work come from smart phones; but I've also seen some lazy work, done solely to embolden the film-maker to say "I did it all with my smart phone."

16. What can disappoint you in a movie?
Sloppiness. If you have a decent script and decent actors, you can do so much with good lighting, audio,  shot crafting and direction of talent. The basics should never be ignored, as they are the easiest to execute. That's why working with a broad based team is so rewarding. Each member should bring not just their talent and creativity but their passion, commitment and inspiration. The venn diagram of a film should have an enormous amount of overlap, reflecting shared vision.

17. Who supports you in your film career?

My family and some very good friends are most supportive. I've had to push myself a fair amount, but the original inspiration to do this came from disenchantment brought on by other careers. If my parents hadn't encouraged me to do this, I never would have started. Now, those who know me support me through their curiosity, more than anything else.  

18. What are the reactions to your film? (opinion of spectators, film critics, friends and family)

We have much to be proud of as we produced this entire film, from script to final product in less than 18 months. In fact, from the moment I decided to move forward with it, it took just 7 months to film and produce, as it first hit the film festival circuit in August of 2022. Since then, we've been accepted by more than 70% of the festivals to which we submitted (not including those still pending) and we've received awards from more than 70% of those.

Industry professionals that have viewed Workforce - The Pilot applaud several things, most notably the production quality and the performances. Given that the cast includes actors on the rise and no established names, we take solace in the feedback received for the acting. Had we produced it with a "Name", it might be more attractive to a potential partner from a marketing perspective, but it might also lack the authenticity we sought.

Family and friends are unceasingly kind and complimentary about all elements of the film. "Getting it done" is no doubt a tremendous accomplishment. I am constantly reminded by industry professionals that "the industry is full of people who wrote a screenplay or started a project, but very few actually complete one!"

19. Have you already visited any of the prestigious film festivals?

I have been to Sundance and several film festivals in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere, but am eager not just to attend but to be a contributor to many more. Getting a film accepted to the big name festivals is such an achievement, one that has alluded us thus far!

20. What are your future plans in filmmaking career?
Since producing Workforce - The Pilot I've shared producing responsibilities on three other films, two in Los Angeles, another in New Jersey. One of the ones in Los Angeles is a first-ever production of Actors' Think Tank, a film noir that we plan to enter into the festival circuit later this year. I take this literally day-by-day. A full-time working actor, I know how essential it is to stay focused and not lose sight of my own acting ambitions. At the same time, helping others fulfill their dreams is extremely rewarding and what we are called to do, as my father and mother would say!

Phil Kwarta, 35, is a Buffalo born film director living in Philadelphia. Phil has directed numerous commercial projects for large brands and short films for festivals. Workforce is his initial foray into long form narrative. Phil describes a major turning point in his career as when he left his corporate job to pursue his passion for film and bet on himself. Phil continues to surpass expectations as he takes on larger projects. In his own words "Workforce is just the beginning. I want to direct bigger films and become a top level director in the field."

Learn more about project Work Force