Your new film Counter
Clockwise - in a few words, what is it about?
the logline Iíve said a million people:
scientist accidentally invents time travel and is zapped 6 months in the
future. But itís a dark, upside-down world where people are trying to kill
him and heís framed for the deaths of his wife and sister. He must go
back in time to uncover the mystery and rewrite history.
were your inspirations when writing Counter
Clockwise, and are you at all a fan of time travel stories in
whatever medium - and did you do any kind of research on the subject?
my brother Walt (co-story, producer, editor) came up with the idea. Heís
a huge sci-fi fan and had read a Philip K. Dick short story that was sort
of like this. I actually donít know which story! I am a fan of time
travel stories, and I did do a lot of research, mainly watching as many
time travels movies as possible. Actually thereís not that many of note.
Thereíre random ones like The Final Countdown and Timerider
theyíre not that helpful. The best ones are the movies everyone knows: Back
to the Future, Terminator. TIMECRIMES is an amazing time travel movie
and I also like Millennium.
the time travel aspect of your story - how hard was it to not just lose
the plot with all the protagonist's travels back in time?
was hard. I remember finding these traps going, ďfuck, canít do that.
That will screw everything up.Ē You want to have all this fun stuff
happen but are trapped by the structure and sometimes canít do what you
want. Itís very rigid.
can you tell us about your co-writer, production partner and lead actor
Michael Kopelow [Michael Kopelow
interview - cllick here], and what was your collaboration like before, during and
after the shoot? And how did the two of you first meet, even?
was my boss at this promotion job I had for Camel cigarettes waaay back.
He was the coolest boss Iíve ever had. Very calm, very understanding. We
slowly became friends and then very good friends and then best friends. We
started writing together, other scripts, and eventually he got involved
with this movie. Our collaboration definitely changed over the course of
the movie. Before the shoot we were writing partners and just had a blast
cracking each other up in the writerís room. During the shoot it was a
split between Mike the actor and Mike the producer. Mike the producer was
amazing and like my boss at the Camel job. Mike the actor was also great
but it was challenging at first because we had different ideas for how the
character should be played. He has a lot
experience and I was hesitant to really direct him at first. Eventually we
got on the same page and, luckily, it all worked out. Mike doesnít
really have a post production background so after the shoot was mostly the
domain of Walt and I.
talk about your directorial approach to your story at hand!
far as the acting I always want everything to be very real and very
natural. Like a Milos Forman movie or Coppola or David O. Russell. But
Iím also influenced by Verhoeven and Kubrick and Robert Kirkman comics,
so when you see some of the bigger performances, thatís what Iím
approach to the visuals of the movie is to sit with the script and write a
shotlist in the margins for every single scene. Itís very
exciting because I get to dream up cool shots and cutting and hopefully
surprise/impress myself. Which is good because when I get to set Iíll be
excited to execute the shots. As far as the look, shots of the movie, I
wanted it to feel like a hybrid of a Fincher/Polanski/Lynch/Scorsese
movie. And Ridley, early Ridley!
can you tell us about your cast, and why exactly these people?
why these people? Itís like what you hear, they come in, and you just
have a gut reaction to them. For me, perhaps itís my realism/pessimism,
but I feel like everything will always go wrong. So when the right person
comes in and I know
theyíll work, it makes me very happy and I start laughing. Some of the actors we
auditioned, some were just people I knew. Frank Simms, who plays Roman,
heís an old friend I met at my first job out of college in New York. I
was an agentís assistant at ICM in the commercial voice overs
department. Frank was one of our very top guys, making tons of money. I
met him and he turned out to be just like me: extremely goofy and nuts. So
we hit it off immediately, stayed very close, and I was able to bring him
few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
the shoot dragged on forever because we had to reshoot a lot and ran out
of money and Mike was constantly going on the road with his promotion job
to make more money. The atmosphere on set was great. Mike (as the
producer) set an amazing tone where he let me indulge every creative whim.
I would do a million takes of something, this happened often, and he would
never complain and just let me go until I was happy. It was actually kind
of a dream scenario. You hear about directors never having enough time and
constantly compromising. I never did that. Because we were funding the
movie, and the crew was so tiny, and he was the lead, and I was the
DP/camera operator, we could do anything we wanted almost at all times.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of your movie?
I said I assume the worst so the positive reaction weíve gotten has felt
very good. Itís funny though, thereís a very divisive scene near the
end that completely ruins the movie for some people. Walt says this is a
great thing though. That if you donít have some people hate the movie,
you wonít have some people really love it.
future projects you'd like to share?
working on a number of things right now. One is an
homage to 80ís action movies and film noir called The Smell of Night.
Itís about a reckless LA cop assigned to investigate the murder of his
commanding officer and mentor. But all the evidence points to him as the
killer. In a race against time to conceal his guilt while prove his
innocence he enters the seedy underworld of political corruption to solve
is an 80ís sci-fi horror movie called Killer from Space about an alien
with the power to possess human bodies who goes on a homicidal,
hedonistic, rampage in LA. The only thing that can stop him is a legendary
tracker from another galaxy.
and I have a new script called Problems with Girls, a comedy about dating.
Iím also producing my brother Waltís next feature, an amazing project
Iíve very excited about. Itís sci-fi home invasion movie called Ultraviolence
about a twisted gang that terrorizes a family with devices
that can read their minds.
What got you into
filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on
a triplet: one fraternal brother, Josh, one identical brother, Walt; and
we were all completely obsessed with movies as kids. Also my family was
always very into movies and the arts. So thatís what got me into
filmmaking in the first place.
far as training I did go to NYU film school, but I wouldnít say they
Ďtrainedí us, which is good. They did exactly what they shouldíve
done which is let us do any crazy thing we wanted. Where you do need
training is all the technical stuff, like cinematography. I photographed
the movie, which was very scary. Iím self-taught, slowly learning over
the years by reading American Cinematographer, constantly bugging my DP
friends for information, and shooting more and more elaborate short films.
The fact that most people say the film looks good is incredibly
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to Counter
Iíve made lots of short films. My first big short was called Out, where
I spent a lot of money to do it the Ďright wayí. Full crew, the works.
I walked on set and felt like a big shot. It turned out well but Iím
still paying it off and it didnít lead to the opportunities I hoped for.
I wanted to keep directing but was broke and couldnít hire a crew. So I
did a short film called The List about my experiences dating where I did
every role: director/cinematographer/camera operator/production
design/editing/sound design/visual effects, and on. I spent like $1,500
and that was all on sound. It seemed to turn out even better than Out, get
better responses, and no one seemed to care that I did everything. That
success gave me the confidence to make Counter
How would you describe yourself as a
Um, hopefully a good one! I try to be as nice as possible to everyone.
Iím very particular and super anal about how I want things done. Iím
often terrified, which Walt says is a good thing, meaning I really care.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
Spielberg, Zemeckis, Hitchcock, Fincher, Cameron, Polanski, Lynch,
Verhoeven, Alan J. Pakula, James Ivory, Joe Wright, Edgar Wright, and on.
Hard, Schindlerís List, Goodfellas, Blade Runner, Silence of the Lambs,
Robocop, Aliens, She-Devil, The Last Boy Scout, and on.
... and of course, films you really
Well I really donít like Primer. That movie really divides people and
itís just not for me. I recently saw Mr. Church with Eddie Murphy and
was shocked at how bad it was. Nothing happened! Terrible plot. Oh,
and I just watched Anti-Trust with Ryan Phillippe and Tim Robbins. Holy
shit what a bad movie. It starts out alright and then derails more
spectacularly than perhaps any movie Iíve ever seen.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
The movie comes out December 13th. Everyone buy it!
Thanks for the interview!