Your new movie Dust Up
- in a few words, what is it about?
So way out in the middle of the desert this eye-patch wearing
yoga-doing ex-marine and his wanna-be Native American hipster sidekick
have to help out a hot new momma and her baby because the douchebag
husband/father got himself in way too deep with a psychotic cannibalistic
drug-lord and his band of killer goons.
Sound fun? It is.
What were your
inspirations when writing Dust
I was in a huge western phase right when my mom
moved out to the high desert of Joshua Tree, California. I was like, oh
yeah, we GOTS to shoot something out here... the landscapes are
astounding. So I was thinking the classic premise of a stranger showing up
out of nowhere in the old west and helping a family in trouble, films like
Hondo and Shane. As I was writing I was listening to the music of
Spindrift, Gram Rabbit and Ted Quinn, which all a huge impact on the
development of themes and characters. Finally I was creating the roles for
my friends to play, so that had a huge impact on how the parts were
written... very tailored to their personalities.
How would you describe your directorial
approach to the story at hand?
What do we need to see to
understand what is happening, both in story and in theme or subtext, at
any point in the film? Let's make sure we cover that CLEARLY. And in
conceiving that coverage, have the camera work or placement and
performances enhance the desired feelings and information. I also don't
want to over-direct any of the actors or key crew... keep them all in
harmony but let them do their thing, hopefully never limiting them to my
ideas. Finally in the editing phase, make it as tight as humanly possibly.
MUST let certain moments and even whole scenes take their time but every
second something must truly be happening to move the story forward.
Jeremiah Birkett, Travis Betz, Al Burke
Up does feature its fair share of gore and explicit violence. And
since there are quite a few gorehounds among my readers - what can you
tell us about the gore effects in your movie, and was there ever any line
you refused to cross (for other than budgetary reasons)? And how important would you
rate violence for your movies in general?
Andrew Wiersma and the whole 1313
FX-team rules. I've worked with Tom on
several projects as an actor and he is the best so I was super stoked he
hopped in the Dust
Up saddle. I must give Travis Betz, who played Herman
in the movie, lots of credit for how gorey we got. We were already in
production and I was still trying to figure out how to shoot the final
fight scene when Travis advised me to make it rain... to let Tommy D bring
buckets of blood and shoot them all over the desert. I'm very happy we
went that way. This whole project was about "going for it" in
every aspect so when had to in this regard, too. Moving forward I believe
there'll be some element of violence or at the very least action in most of
my films... it's just so fun!
you tell us about your key cast, and what made these people perfect for
As I alluded to above most of the roles were
written with them in mind... in that regard many of the parts are
inseparable from the actors playing them. We did have a casting session in
which Amber came in and read and I was like, "Yes!" She was
beautiful, funny, sweet, sincere, heartbreaking, strong and finally bad
ass, just as we needed Ella to be. Ezra was recommended by Tom Devlin and
he showed up one day in the desert, played and incredible dirt bag sheriff
and convinced me to actually show... *spoiler alert!*... Jeremiah jizzing
all over his face. That, my friends, is what collaboration is all about.
You also have to talk about your wonderful
desert locations for a bit, and what advantages/challenges did filming in the desert
So hot. So far from everything. So little electrical
power. So much production value by just showing up and having Shannon hit
record on the camera. My mom got us all these locations from friends or
friends of friends and they we so perfect, so ready to go, we had no
production designer. We like to say God was our art director though some
may argue Satan is a more likely crew member of Dust
What can you tell us about critical and audience
reception of your movie so far?
I'd say the reviews have been 75% lovers and 25% haters even though I was
expecting something close to 50/50. It is a very different film and right
there you are going to lose a bunch of folks who can't put the movie into
a mold of which they are already familiar. Still, those who have gone on
the journey with us really seem to love the flick.
Let's go back to the
beginnings of your career - what got you into filmmaking in the first
place and did you
receive any formal training on the subject?
My parents had
a video camera around since my birth and we've been making stuff ever
since. I did take some film and television production classes along with
my theater training at Indiana University, which again was so much more
about doing and learning rather than sitting in a classroom listening. I
attended a summer course at NYU as an undergrad and while finishing my
final project for that course my fate was sealed. I'd been up all night in
an editing bay to cut a whole new film after my original one had been shot
over by another student... yes, this was actual film... and was so
exhilarated and satisfied with not just the result but the whole process
that I knew I was hooked. For life.
What can you
tell us about your first movie, The Boy Scout, and lessons learned from
Wow. So much. Folks say don't work with multiple
locations, animals, kids or stunts when you are starting out, and we did
all of those things in spades. More than anything it taught me just to do
something bold and believe that if you commit to making the kind of movie
you want to see then that will inevitably resonate with an audience.
Any other films of yours you'd like to talk about,
and future projects you'd like to share?
For your readers
who have old fashioned Netflix DVD rentals check out my first feature, Little
Big Top, starring Sid Haig and Richard Riehle. They both do incredible
work and it is set inside the Peru Amateur Circus back in my hometown in
Indiana, which is one of the most unique places in the country. Currently
am cooking up several fun scripts and hope to be making one of them very
directing, you also have quite an impressive acting resume. So what can
you tell us about Ward Roberts the actor, and how come you didn't do any
acting in Dust Up?
LOVE LOVE LOVE acting. It is so fun. It is the visceral, instinctive
extroverted ying to my writing & directing yang. Was fortunate enough
to just have a fun role on Hawaii 5-0 and it just reminded me how much
acting means to me. To this point in my career I'm most proud of the work
I did on Travis Betz' films Joshua and Lo, both
incredible films with roles for which any actor would kill. I did have a
cameo in Dust
Up so your readers will have to find that fun little gem.
do talk about some of the films and TV-shows you were in?
with the aforementioned I had super tiny roles in NCIS and CSI:NY, but I'm
best known for being the MANswers-guy on Spike TV for 3 years. I called it
my goofy-face gig as that was what is mostly required.
and directing - how do the two compare, and which do you enjoy more,
Acting is more enjoyable in the relaxed and happy
fun good times sense. Directing is ultimately more satisfying as an
intellectual and collaborative journey.
How would you describe yourself as a director?
Relentless. Intent of making something as good as it can possibly be under
any given circumstance. More and more I hope I'm a good collaborator who
can create an environment where everybody can bring their best work and
trust I'll make sure it weaves into the overall tapestry.
actors, whatever else who inspire you?
Coen Brothers, Wes
Anderson, Tarantino are on my Mount Rushmore. I love Elvis, Wu Tang and
Jack White. Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter Thompson and Cervantes rule. This list
could go on for days. Ultimately my biggest influences are Travis Betz and
everybody else we've been making stuff with over the last 13 years. My
family inspires me every damn day.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Raising Arizona is #1 all-time. Miller's Crossing
is up there. Pulp Fiction, Rushmore, Network. The Good, The Bad and The
Ugly, Ace Ventura, American Psycho, the original Batman with Michael
Keaton and Jack Nicholson. This list could go on for weeks.
... and of course, films you really deplore?
list could go on for months.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
you are dying to mention that I have merely forgotten to ask?
film is out on DVD and on digital demand platforms like iTunes and
so check it out peeps!
for the interview!
Oh no, thank YOU.