What’s the Alternative?

. December 17, 2019.
Matthew Haase (on set filming Alternative Programming) co-wrote the short, including the dialogue for the film’s abrasive conspiracy theorist character. Photo credit: Michael E. Cullen II.
Matthew Haase (on set filming Alternative Programming) co-wrote the short, including the dialogue for the film’s abrasive conspiracy theorist character. Photo credit: Michael E. Cullen II.

Toledo filmmaker’s new short looks at divisive politics

With divisive national dialogue stoked by talking head pundits, it seems that most are confident that they are not only correct but that the other side is not only wrong but evil. So, it’s easy to see how some could take their political beliefs a step (or twenty) too far. Filmmaker Michael E. Cullen II makes a statement about this distressing state of being with his new project, a short film, Alternative Programming.

“It’s a political thriller about an influential conspiracy theorist, talk show host, who encourages a person easily influenced to commit crimes. That’s about all I can say right now,” Cullen explained.

Filming the secretive project off and on, whenever he can get people together, is always a challenge for an independent filmmaker working with a shoestring budget. Cullen approaches this topic with his usual passion and tenacity.

“The party you belong to doesn’t matter. I see acts of violence committed in the name of politics and religion,” Cullen said. “People are monetizing the fact that we have fear in this country.”

A departure

This serious subject is a bit of a departure for Cullen, a Toledo filmmaker who has undertaken feature-length projects such as Pi Day Die Day and the Elf-on-a-Shelf parody Shelved.

“I’ve primarily been known for previously were horror comedies. I wanted to step away from that for a little bit,” said Cullen, adding that he will “probably eventually go back to [that genre] because it’s fun.”

Another departure for Cullen also lies in writing. Cullen has based his full-length features on another author’s script, but he co-wrote Alternative Programming by himself, along with lead actor Matthew Haase. Though the lead character of Programming doesn’t speak during the film, Haase wrote the majority of the film’s dialogue, recited by a loudmouth talk show host, voiced by former Toledo radio personality Andrew Z.

Keeping busy

Programming is just one of a slew of new projects for Cullen. He’s working on an original, feature-length script based upon his anxiety in relationships, and he’s currently casting for a new anthology series called “Sullivan Street,” featuring a series of interconnected dramas— some of which have a supernatural element.

While some of the scenes for Programming still need to be filmed, Cullen is hopeful that the finished product will be ready by January or February of 2020. He hopes to begin submitting the short to film festivals soon afterward, before eventually posting it on YouTube.

“I think [Alternative Programming] might be a film that people pay attention to, so I’m gonna try to and get that one out there,” Cullen said.

  • Karl Erbland

    Good luck, Michael! You make great films!