A narrator presides over the lifeless body of Julius Caesar and reveals the major players in Caesar’s life and death. "Caesar the Musical" is directed by Mike Petrone and was an official selection of various film festivals such as the Burbank Film Festival, Paris Film Festival and LA Independent Film Channel.
In the first few scenes, we discover that Caesar was pushed by his Mother, Aurelia, to be a leader of Rome, was captured by pirates and was a heroic military leader. We are then introduced to his longtime mistress, Servilia, and her son Brutus. Servilia is pained by Caesar’s new marriage of convenience to Calpurnia. Caesar is made consul of Rome and is quickly sent to Gaul, in a political move by his new rivals Pompey and Cassius. Caesar eventually conquers Gaul with the help of his cousin and new ally, Marc Antony. After his victory, Caesar is put in a box by Pompey and the Senate, leading to an epic battle in Pharsalus, Greece. Caesar ultimately prevails over Pompey, leaving Servila and Brutus out of favor and estranged. Pursuing a fleeing Pompey to Egypt, Caesar meets Cleopatra, and they begin a relationship that leads to a child, Caesarion.
Angered and disenchanted, Servilia urges Brutus to take action. Brutus, along with Cassius, and Decimus, a previously loyal soldier to Caesar, conspire to assassinate him. And, although Caesar has been forewarned by Calpurnia and a soothsayer (our narrator) his is surprised and murdered in the Senate by Brutus and his allies, leaving Brutus to reflect upon how history will remember him.
American film and stage play composer, Mike Petrone, makes his directorial debut, with a safely shot 2021 film version of his stage musical "Caesar." His film scores include "Flattered, "Hard Pill," "Christmas at Maxwell's" and the award-winning short film "War Story." His produced stage musicals are "Kateri," "Just Another Night at The Club," Lookin' To The Light," and "Full Moon," the latter directed by Frank Dunlop (Broadway's Camelot.) He is perhaps best known as "Cleveland's Piano Man" owing to his 29-year and 6,000 performance run at the piano at Johnny's Downtown in the heart of the city.
What draws you to the language of cinema?
Since I was a child, I have loved storytelling. I always enjoyed being told a good story, and in my adult life, I enjoy telling stories. Cinema to me is the ultimate storytelling medium; the search for the perfect blend of images, voice, and music. It gives a storyteller so many tools to work with. When put together correctly, it is magic like no other.
How and when did you start studying films?
My parents wrote for television and for the stage. At five years old, I remember being on a live television set with horses, and twenty actors in costume, painted sets, and cameras and lights, and a director with a megaphone and it gave me a love and a peak behind that curtain of production. I looked at movies differently from that moment on. I would watch a movie thinking… how did they shoot this? Where were the cameras? Where were the lights?
When did you realize that you wanted to work in media and make films and what was the first film project that you created?
I think the moment I described in my last answer was probably the defining moment in my life. I knew I wanted to work in media standing on a television set at five years old. It was pure magic.
The first film project I created was in 1996, a documentary about a 24-hour road race called “The Longest Day of Nelson.”
Which directors have been influential in your work and why?
I probably have the same answers as everyone else here: Alfred Hitchcock, Spike Lee, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg. Their movies were events that the world had to see, and I, like everyone else, saw them. Their films shaped the way we all see movies. Truth be told, several times in my life, I have gone back to watch the final gunfight scene in “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” and just marvel at the genius of Sergio Leone.
How difficult is it to find the right audience for an indie film and what is your distribution strategy?
It apparently is the most difficult thing to do, ever… and there are so many trying to figure it out. To my mind we are just beginning. We are not yet done with film festivals and we’ve have begun the preparation for distribution (I’m learning as I go.) I will definitely let you know if I solve the puzzle.
What was the inspiration behind the making of your latest project?
“Caesar The Musical” was intended to be a stage play. It took me ten years to write it (book and music.) When the Covid lockdown came, I found myself with more time than I had ever had in my adult life, and thought, “what if I die and no one ever gets to hear this piece?” So I started asking actors to my house to film music videos, one at a time, at a social distance. After I had completed twenty or so, I cut together what I had, and the idea to make it into a film was born.
How can cinema change the world and have an impact on society?
I remember going to see Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” with a group of friends and standing in a long line to get it. The theater was packed and afterwards, we all went out and talked about the film for another hour. That same experience was happening all over the world during that time. That movie changed the world’s conversation about racism from that moment, and since that moment… two hours in a movie theater.
Please tell us about your next project.
My next project is a small comedy that I have had swirling around my head for 40 years. About three months ago, I sat down and wrote the screenplay (in two weeks) I have already had a cast read through and hope to start filming in the spring. I’m very excited. I wrote a part for an actor friend of mine who’s 92 years old. I’m hoping to use him in it, so I have to move fast.
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