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An Interview with Keith Sutliff, Director and Star of The Mason Brothers

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2017

Films directed by Keith Sutliff on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie The Mason Brothers - in a few words, what is it about?

 

The film is basically about a group of brothers that get set up during a bank heist for ten million dollars resulting in one of the brotherís death. Also about the brothers trying to figure out who set them up and seek revenge.

 

With The Mason Brothers being a crime thriller, is that a genre at all dear to you, and some of your genre favourites?

 

Absolutely! Crime thriller is mainly what I write about and I have an assortment of scripts in that genre. I love that genre! When I was a kid some of my favorite films were Heat, Point Break, The Untouchables, Reservoir Dogs, and LA Confidential. Some of my modern day films I love are Inception, Drive, and The Town. I have always wanted to do a heist film and wanted to do it as my first feature film to make my directorial debut with. Crime thriller and heist films are my favorite films by far as I listed some of them above I enjoy the most.

 

(Other) sources of inspiration when writing The Mason Brothers?

 

Basically all the films I mentioned above (Inception, Drive, The Untouchables, Reservoir Dogs, LA Confidential, Heat, and Point Break). All these films as a whole have been an inspiration to me to follow and write/direct a genre I love. They all have inspired me to make a heist film.

 

The Mason Brothers is rather non-linear in narrative approach - so how hard was it not to lose the plot in the process?

 

It was hard. But I knew what I wanted before writing it and had a plan of how to write it. I write the majority if not all of my scripts non-linear/non-chronological for several reasons. I think it makes the story a whole lot more interesting and always keeps the audienceís attention at all times as they are trying to figure out what the heck is going on. It also makes the audience piece together the puzzle kind of like Inception or a Christopher Nolan film. 

To further what I mean, I knew how I wanted the story to go as I was writing it and broke up the timeline of events at certain parts I thought would flow just right to make for an ultimate surprise climax ending. With this style of writing you can take any script/story that is not action based or have a whole lot of action in it and make it a great film that captivates an audienceís attention just as much as a movie with action in it throughout the entire film. Itís another style to keep peopleís attention through an entire film just as an action film does. 

 

With The Mason Brothers being restricted to an at best handful of locations, how limiting and maybe also liberating was that to you as a director?

 

It was great! In fact I have always wanted to write/direct a film like this. This film can be made into a stage play if we wanted to because of the few locations and theatre based setting. I thought about making it into one in fact after the release. This type of script is harder to write and one of the most difficult/challenging scripts to write as a writer. It forces you to be a lot more creative and write to budget. This type of script and film also forces me as a director to get the best performances out of the actors as much as possible. Since there is not a lot of scenery changes the acting, cinematography, music, story/plot, and plot structure (i.e. it being non-linear and jumping around in the timeline) has to be at its best to keep peopleís attention. Especially it being a crime thriller based film.

 

What can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

I wanted the story to be very character driven and the audience to be drawn into each character on screen based on their current situation. Also for the audience to be drawn into each character based on strong distinguished personalities of them all. This combined with taking certain shot types/camera angles/lighting my cinematographer (Errol Webber) and I came up with to explain the story at hand. Then taking this story and breaking it up into pieces as a non-linear approach jumping back and forth in the timeline throughout the film.

 

You also play one of the leads in The Mason Brothers - so have you written your character with yourself in mind from the get-go, and what did you draw upon to bring Ren to life?

 

Absolutely! I write myself into all my films as a lead or strong supporting and have done so since my first short film. I do it as a trademark in my films as some other directors do (Ben Affleck, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Clint Eastwood). You spend so much time making a film, even years. Itís hard not to play somewhat of a big role in it as well from a strong supporting to even a lead as I did in this film and do in most of mine.

Most of my characters I play in my films are the silent violent type. Not a whole lot of dialogue but his actions speak for his words as he can be very violent and no-nonsense. I drew upon other characters I have written for other scripts of mine and kind of a gunman from the old west type personality. Silent, straight forward with things, takes lead of the group, takes action when needed to set the example and gets the job done.

 

What can you tell us about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?

 

These people are great. Very talented actors and people in general. My team and I carefully chose which actors we thought would fit each role based on talent/look during the auditions. As the rehearsals started before filming they knew exactly what I wanted. They make my job a lot easier as a director on set. In fact a lot of the time I didnít even have to direct that much on set because they knew how the scene was supposed to be played out and acted based on what I was looking for from rehearsals.

 

Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere!

 

It was great and exciting! Everyone worked well as a team and we finished the shoot on schedule and on budget. Making a film is all about having a hard working crew that works well as a team. Having good morale and attitude is a must which starts with the producers/director/assistant director on set setting the tone of the film and leadership. We had a good group of people that were passionate about the project which set a good attitude on set.

 

The $64-question of course, when and where will The Mason Brothers be released onto the general public?

 

April 14th will be the theatrical release in Los Angeles right after the April 11th premiere at The Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood California. Followed by that my distributor will release it to VOD shortly afterwards along with the foreign market, TV, etc. Not sure of an exact time frame. But within 2-5 months I can imagine at most at least for VOD.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of The Mason Brothers yet?

 

Not yet. After the April 11th premiere and April 14th theatrical release I will know for sure.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

For sure, I am currently writing my next feature which is about a group of 5-7 criminals/strangers that are totally opposite of each other in character that collide together in one location trying to achieve one main goal. I donít wanna explain anymore as it will ruin the film. But that is a brief oneliner on what it is about. Itís another crime thriller film. If you like The Mason Brothers this will blow you away as the best is yet to come.

 

What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?

 

Well I have always loved movies as a kid and wanted to get into directing/writing films at some point in my life. However it wasnít until I moved to Los Angeles in 2012 that I really got the opportunity. I went to a filmmaking school about 2 and a half years ago for about a year. Graduated from the program and started making my own short films. In fact we made short films in the school and I continued after I graduated. Then I opened my own LLC and made this first feature film. 

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The Mason Brothers?

 

I made short films prior to The Mason Brothers. Attended a film program/trade school in East Los Angeles and started making short films there. I continued making short films after graduating. Then won an award and some nominations for 2 of them at a festival. I then took that momentum into making this feature film.

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

I pay a lot of attention towards the shot types/angles for the entire film and how the film will be displayed on screen in that sense as it is very important to me. Itís what makes the film have a style with the moving shots, dolly in/out shots, dolly orbital shots, and extreme close up shots during certain parts of the film, etc. This combined with the overhead lighting effect I do in a lot of my films to create a certain dark desaturated style that suits crime thriller films well in my opinion.

I also focus a lot on the actorís performances and pay a lot of attention to detail in general. I am very structured in my approach from pre-production, production, and post production as I produce my own films as well as directing them. People showing up on time and things going on schedule from what was planned I am big on.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

Nicolas Winding Refn, James Cameron, Xavier Gens, Christopher Nolan, Brian De Palma, and Quentin Tarantino.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Inception, Terminator 2, Aliens, Drive, The Divide, Point Break, Interstellar, The Untouchables, Reservoir Dogs, L.A. Confidential, and Heat.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

None that come to mind right now really.

 

Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

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USA  amazon.com

Great Britain (a.k.a. the United Kingdom)  amazon.co.uk

Germany (East AND West)  amazon.de

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https://www.themasonbrothersmovie.com/

https://www.kspicturesllc.com/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5193658/ (the film's IMDb)

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5335962/ (myself)

 

You can also find me on Facebook by searching Keith Sutliff and my company name as well at KS Pictures LLC. You can find me on Twitter at KS Pictures LLC as well.

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

Thatís it, covered most of it. After this film I plan to do the other feature I explained above as my next film.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD

 

 

Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Tršume ...

 

Und an diesem Tag geht natŁrlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!

 

Bauliche Angelegenheiten
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Michael Haberfelner

 

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