Interview by Sean Boelman
In anticipation of the release of his new anthology Welcome to the Blumhouse, disappointment media got the opportunity to speak with producer Jason Blum. Featuring four films from underrepresented voices, this anthology challenges viewers to find horror in unexpected places. Check out the interview below!
On the Changing Nature of Film Distribution
disappointment media: So my first question is that horror is typically something that's seen as a communal experience. But right now, given the circumstances, obviously, seeing a scary movie in a packed theater isn't really something that's possible. What is it about these four films in Welcome to the Blumhouse that you think will allow them to thrive despite not having this experience?
Jason Blum: Well, that's a good question. Three of the four films were produced and bought and designed specifically for streaming. So we had different boxes we were looking to check. I think when you're looking to do a theatrical, scary movie, you know, there's certain guardrails that you've got to hit, even, you know, Get Out, or Split, or The Invisible Man, you know, there's got to be jumpscares, they've got to be timed in a certain way. And one of the great things about doing scary movies for streaming is that you're relieved of that, you can tell stories slightly differently, you can really lean into making the stories more unnerving and unsettling, as opposed to jumpscares. And actually, I think that it allows a broader canvas for our filmmakers. So in that sense, you know, one of the reasons I was really excited about doing this was the idea that I was going to get to tell horror movies that I didn't have to worry about opening weekend, which is a big relief.
disappointment: Welcome to the Blumhouse is the beginning of what should be a fruitful relationship between your company and Amazon Prime. What else can we look forward to from this collaboration?
Blum: I don't really remember what else is announced or not, but we have three or four projects. One finished movie that hopefully will come out next year with Amazon and then three or four projects in development with them, both on the series and the movie side. So I'm looking forward to doing a lot more with them. I was extremely happy with how this show was introduced to the world. I thought the marketing on it was great. I love the poster. And all of that 100% came from Amazon. I love the trailer. As a producer, you work so hard on these things, you want to feel like your distributor's taking care of it. And I felt very well taken care of by these guys. So hopefully, there'll be a lot more to come.
disappointment: Yeah, that's awesome. I look forward to it. And also Blumhouse has kind-of been at the forefront of the changing landscape of film distribution in recent months. What do you see as the direction in which the industry should be heading?
Blum: Look, I think everyone should adopt the PVOD model. I think that premium VOD, eventually is going to keep the theatrical-going experience alive and well and relevant. I know, that's a relatively controversial thing to say, but I believe it. And I think we have to give exhibition their fair share. And I'm sure that's, you know, what some of what the holdup is, but I really believe, not for all movies, but there are a lot of movies now that are going straight to streaming. And I think a lot of those movies would play in theaters if we could agree on, you know, this shorter window. And I think, I think in a world where all the exhibition chains and all the studios agreed to what that window would be, you'd see many, many, many, many more movies playing in movie theaters for a much, much, much shorter period of time. But I think you could potentially see more business in movie theaters and the consumer would have more choice. You know, consumers always complain. You know, the only thing that's in the movie theaters are tentpole movies and horror movies, our movies. I understand that. You know, it's largely true. And I think if we could get exhibition and studios to agree, that you'd have a much wider variety of movies. If every movie to play in the theater had to open to $20 million, you took that pressure off, you know, you could see a much greater variety of movies playing. So I'm very hopeful for it. It's almost happened, but it hasn't quite happened yet, but I have big hopes for the new theatrical window.
On Welcome to the Blumhouse
disappointment: I think one of the really cool things about Welcome to the Blumhouse is that three of the four films are directed by people of color, and two of them are directed by women. Could you talk about some of the work that Blumhouse is doing to promote diversity and horror?
Blum: Yeah, for sure. Well, this series was one of the big things we have. We have The Craft coming out later this month, directed by a woman, we had this movie called Run Sweetheart Run, which is directed by Shana Feste, another woman. So for instance, [since] the beginning of Blumhouse, we've been mindful of making movies about race and gender and ethnicity, and less mindful about the people behind the movies you know, looking different than I look. And in the last couple of years, I'd like to say, you know, before we had to, and certainly this, this started two years ago, I put a big emphasis on the importance of having the storytellers behind the camera represent our audience, and our audience is less than fifty percent white. And you know, this show is the best example to answer your question.
disappointment: So one of the things that ties these four Welcome to the Blumhouse films together is the idea of family. And so what about this theme really resonated with you?
Blum: Well, to me, if you task a filmmaker with doing something, you know doing a horror movie and don't give them a lot of money, as soon as you say money is no object, they start talking to you about what the CGI, what the monster is going to look like, or killing fifty people, right? But when you take money out of the equation, it focuses the filmmaker on making it tighter and smaller, and how do I scare people without special effects. And the way to do that is, the most effective way to do that, I think is you take what's most sacred to everyone, which is their relationships to their family, to their parents, or their kids, their husband, their wife, their brother, their sister, and you threaten it with some kind of exterior event. And I think you see that in all four movies to a certain degree. That you have some kind of human relationship and you have this exterior event and it threatens it and then you watch and see how people react. And I think that's very satisfying. It's very satisfying as an audience member, I find that always fun to watch and exciting to watch and satisfying to watch and satisfying to say like, hey, how would I do this differently? Or what would I do? And then also satisfying to twist things around like, you know, with The Lie you think the parents are great people protecting their daughter and they turn out not to be. With Evil Eye, you know, you think that she's this overbearing mother who's out of her mind and she turns out not to be. And I like that too. I like twisting, twisting things around like that, like our filmmakers did.
disappointment: One of the things that I think makes Welcome to the Blumhouse really unique is this idea of programming it as an anthology. What was the appeal of this to you guys?
Blum: There's a big appeal when you can go to the world and you can say, look, we have eight slots, I have eight slots for movies, they have to be scary, the filmmaker has to be from an underrepresented group. But otherwise, you know, anything else goes and the amount of incoming material we had was great. We had a ton of different things to look at, and a lot of really quality things and a lot of really talented people. And you know, my hope is that this series is successful. And every October you can see four new Welcome to the Blumhouse movies from us and Amazon, I really hope that's what happens. But that's the advantage of instead of looking for one offs and being able to say we have it, every year we have four of these to fill and it becomes a self-fulfilling thing. So then when a representative or an artist is like "Ooh, you know I have a movie that would fit Welcome to the Blumhouse, better send it to Jason." So you get more and more, it's you know, the opposite of diminishing returns, the longer it goes, the better it gets. So hopefully we'll be able to do it for many years to come.
disappointment: Another really cool thing about these films is that they partner rising stars with legendary performers. What did you like most about setting up these pairings?
Blum: You don't want to make everyone a kid right? Or just starting out, I should say. So you know a lot of times our talent on the acting side were actors of note who've had terrific careers. I think in a lot of cases, they would help mentor the filmmakers and vice versa. With Veena [Sud], a mentor to the actress in her show. And I think that makes for interesting work. You know, when you have people who were at the beginning of their career and people who were established working together, I think it makes for more interesting work, sometimes tense conversations, but it leads to great work.
On the Blumhouse Legacy
disappointment: A lot of people initially think of Blumhouse as a horror company, because that's a lot of what you guys do. But you guys also make thrillers and other horror-adjacent movies like The Lie, which isn't quite a horror movie. Why do you enjoy telling these types of stories?
Blum: I like kind-of exploring dark theme things on the TV company, you know, it's much broader, even than that we did The Loudest Voice, which is definitely not a horror movie, but about someone in my mind who was very horrible. I mean, Roger Ailes, you know, horrible guy. And why, I don't know, but I'm interested in exploring dark themes. I guess, I'm interested in shining light on people who are doing things that are wrong, and, you know, letting the public decide about it. And so that's kind of the filter that we look through to decide if something should be Blumhouse. It's mostly horror, you're absolutely right, but I think there's room for other things that touch on horrible issues. Whiplash is not a horror movie. But JK Simmons was certainly not a nice music teacher.
disappointment: You mentioned Whiplash, and with Whiplash and now Nocturne, you've produced two films about obsession in music conservatories. What do you think about this premise is so terrifying?
Blum: I don't know, I haven't mandated that. I haven't said to my people, like find other music conservatory scary stories, but I think people get passionate. It's like what I was talking about, you know, your tightest relationship is with other people. But I think that same passion exists, especially in musicians, you have to have, you know, something that most of us including me don't have to become a professional musician. And interfering with that drives people crazy. And that's a fun thing to watch.
disappointment: It was recently announced that you were going to be doing an adaptation of Firestarter. Are you excited to tackle this iconic Stephen King story?
Blum: Oh God, I really am. I mean, we've been working on this a long time. It's taken a long time for all the pieces to come together in the right way. But I'm a huge Stephen King fan and we've got a lot with him going on right now. And I'm really psyched. I love this script and I can't wait to make the movie.
disappointment: Yeah, I'm very excited for it. Blumhouse often takes pre existing material and puts a spin on it, like The Lie is a remake of a German film, you've got Firestarter, and you've got The Craft. So how do you focus on the filmmaker's voice coming through?
Blum: You tell the filmmaker to take the existing IP and make it their own. I think that's how you do it. I think the idea is not to rip off the first version of it but not to divorce yourself completely. Otherwise why are you using it, but to kind of walk this fine line in between those two things. But it's very important that the filmmaker find their own voice using whatever IP we're using. And we did that with David Gordon Green with Halloween, you know, we said, "What is David Gordon Green's version of Halloween today?" And he said, "Do I have to take into account all the rest of the movies?" I said, "No, you know, you have to take into account the first movie, what you do after that is up to you." He chose to take into account one and two. But I think you have to get the filmmaker in the world of the IP that you're dealing with for a while, and then tell them to forget it, and do your own thing. That's what I think.
disappointment: And low budget sci-fi is another thing that you guys do a lot. And so you did Upgrade and Black Box is also low budget sci-fi, but it's a very difficult genre to pull off. Do you have a secret to success for that genre?
Blum: The Purge is low budget sci-fi too. Uh, you know, I look at it like a low budget horror, which is if you take the sci-fi out of it, is there a drama that can work? I think that all three movies, that it's true that if you took the sci-fi out of the movie, there would be a drama that still works. Even in Upgrade, a guy coming to terms with recovering from an accident? I mean, and how the accident happened and losing his wife. I think that's the key. And we don't always succeed at this, but I think the key to making a good genre movie, whether it's horror, or sci-fi, or even action, is that if you take out the action, or you take out the horror, you take out the sci-fi element, if there's a great dramatic story that stands on its own without that, that's the key to making a good low-budget genre movie of any kind.
Black Box and The Lie are now streaming on Amazon Prime. Nocturne and Evil Eye stream on Amazon Prime beginning October 13.
Interview by Sean Boelman
In anticipation of the release of their newest film Black Box, disappointment media got to sit down and talk with actors Mamoudou Athie and Phylicia Rashad. In the interview, we discuss the film's script, the dynamic between the rising star and the acting legend, and the role of people of color in Hollywood. Check out the interview below and watch Black Box streaming on Amazon Prime beginning October 6!
Interview by Sean Boelman
In anticipation of the release of their newest film The Secrets We Keep, disappointment media got to sit down and talk with actors Noomi Rapace and Joel Kinnaman. In the interview, we discuss kidnapping movies, what drew them to the script, and Rapace's return to the revenge thriller. Check out the interview below and see The Secrets We Keep now in theaters and on VOD beginning October 16!
Interview by Sean Boelman
In anticipation of the release of their newest film The Secrets We Keep, disappointment media got to sit down and talk with actors Chris Messina and Amy Seimetz. In the interview, we discuss what drew them back to indie cinema after their blockbuster breaks, their collaborations together, and why ambiguity is key in a film like this. Check out the interview below and see The Secrets We Keep in theaters on September 16 and on VOD beginning October 16!
By Sean Boelman
The newest film from cult-favorite Troma Entertainment and its leader Lloyd Kaufman, #ShakespearesShitstorm, makes its debut at the virtual edition of the Fantasia Film Festival. And in exciting news for fans, this is the only screening of the fest geoblocked to both Canada AND the United States, so Troma fanatics in both countries can check Kaufman’s interpretation of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest out!
We at disappointment media got the opportunity to speak with Mr. Kaufman about his new film in a conversation that got surprisingly political, talking about the making of the movie, how Troma has evolved over the years, and some of the issues regarding free speech that have been weighing on his mind! Check it out below!
On His Shakespearian Influences:
This isn’t Troma’s first re-invention of one of the Bard’s plays — Tromeo and Juliet came out in 1996 — and Shakespeare’s work was transgressive in its day. This is what Kaufman had to say about what he feels the iconic playwright would have thought of this version of the tale:
“I think Shakespeare... I know enough about Shakespeare that he would love this without a doubt. In fact, I’m sure he was… almost all of these guys were blacklisted and censored. We’re living in an age in the United States where we have free speech as long as we don’t say anything. And the move has been stronger and stronger towards the oligopoly and the world of media and YouTube and Amazon and the phone companies who control the media now. They’re in a nice little club and they’re slowly kinda doing what the Chinese guy is doing in his country: getting rid of independent thought. Thank the Good Lord for Fantasia Film Festival!”
On the Challenges of Making #ShakespearesShitstorm:
#ShakespearesShitstorm is arguably Troma’s most ambitious film yet, but it still retains that iconic do-it-yourself feel that helped Troma’s first films become cult classics. Here’s what Kaufman said some of the biggest difficulties were in making the film:
“I think the making of the film was very challenging because we had to get whales. You know, it’s a fifty million dollar movie made for less than half a million U.S. American dollars. Maybe half a million, I don’t know, about that amount. And it’s a fifty million dollar movie, so it was very very very difficult. And because our first rule of production is safety to humans, it has to go very carefully and be very very very well-organized, months in advance. It was a very difficult film to make. We also had to film in Albania for eight days with a wonderful crew there who were all Troma fans and the movie went very very well. Justin Martell and Pat Kaufman, my beautiful wife, and John Brennan produced the film and I think we stayed on budget. It went very well. Everyone on the movie was a fan and very very enthusiastic about working on something that they truly believe in. It wasn’t a job for them — it was art. They were paid, but it was art, and they were paid about ten percent of what they would normally get. So it was a very devoted group, every actor. I mean, people came from Europe and all over the map to work on this movie. And they paid their way to go to New York to shoot, and Albania too. We had people from Iceland, from England, France, Japan, and Canada! People from Canada! All coming to take part, and it was really a very joyful, loving group. And the film is without a doubt the most interesting film that I have directed, and thank you to Fantasia for premiering it.”
On Making a Literal Shitstorm
It’s hard to watch #ShakespearesShitstorm without wondering about some of the logistical challenges of working with artificial poo. Kaufman broke down the process of creating the eponymous shitstorm:
“On Toxic Avenger, we had a team who worked 24/7 making the slime. You know, now you can get slime, buy it at your supermarket or the toy store. But we would have to go 24/7 boiling agar agar, which is a seaweed component. A lot of work. So this time, thirty-five years after Toxic Avenger, we’re manufacturing. Doug Sakmann, who has worked for Troma starting when he was sixteen years old, now he’s very old, and he was in charge of the special effects, and his team would literally be making excrement for 24/7. And like blood, you have to make different versions for different things. So the Albanians, I asked them to put corn in the whale excrement and they loved that, they thought it was very funny. And I think if you notice in the movie, I love it when you can actually see the whales’ fecal bloom there’s corn going in it, which is fun. By the way, a fecal bloom is real and a very important nourishment for the oceans. Apparently the plankton, the things that a lot of fish eat enjoy it, and whales get together as a group and go to the bathroom. So everything in the movie is based on truth. Everything in #ShakespearesShitstorm. It was a lot of work. Tapioca pudding, oddly enough, I think that was one of the main ingredients. And when we had to go into the water, the scene where we’re coming out of the water after the ship was sinking, it was freezing and it was raining. But the special effects team put all that artificial... I think it was artificial... shit on us, and it was warm, it was very warm, right out of the oven. I’ll never forget how nice that was because it was cold, we were all shivering like crazy.”
On How Troma Has Changed Over the Years
Troma’s films have been popular with fans for over thirty-four years, and a lot has changed in the industry in that time. Kaufman discussed how his artistic process has changed (and in some ways hasn’t) since he burst onto the scene:
“Well I think that Michael Herz, my partner, and I want to make movies that become classics. And to the extent that Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High and Surf Nazis Must Die (which we did not make) and Cannibal! The Musical (which we helped make) by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, they’re all now mini-classics. And many two-hundred million dollar movies, they have disappeared, will never play again. Our movies are still getting theatrical bookings for movies made forty years ago. We are getting a lot of help from our fans. Troma is a fan-fueled company, forty-seven years old, and we’re only here thanks to our fans.”
“And regarding the making of the film, that has become a much more pleasant thing because equipment is smaller. It’s more fun, you don’t need as much lighting. And it’s almost fun to make a movie that’s digital. And it looks better! The first movie we did was Return to Nuke ‘Em High and the second half of that Return to Return to Nuke ‘Em High. Those were my first digital movies and I have to say, I don’t think I would ever want to go back to celluloid. Even though it has in its third syllable, the syllable ‘Lloyd’, I’ll stay with ‘digi-tal’.”
On Making a Movie on a Low Budget
#ShakespearesShitstorm, like the rest of Troma’s films, is a low-budget comedy. Here’s the advice Kaufman has for filmmakers trying to make their own movies for as little money as possible:
“In the digital world, you can make your art for half a million dollars. That’s the exact same amount that the original Toxic Avenger cost back in 1983, and #ShakespearesShitstorm is actually made for less than Toxic Avenger. We still don’t know the exact budget, we’re going through the receipts. But the point is, you can make a movie for less. So you can see how it doesn’t get any easier. It gets easier to make the movies — you don’t really need the money, that’s what’s so cool. So you could be a nurse, do something with your life that’s useful. You know, teacher, we could use some more teachers these days. You don’t have to be a Harvard law school graduate to go to William Morris Agency and Xerox scripts. You can make your own movie for five thousand dollars and have a real job, do something good for humanity, and then you know, do what Troma does, distribute them yourself and after a few years you’ll maybe have enough movies that bring you enough revenue so that you can be a full-time movie maker. And you can go to the conventions and go to film fan expos, things like that — New York Comic Con, San Diego Comic Con — sell your stuff, have fun, and build up a fanbase. We have millions of fans, and it’s mainly personal contacts, doing what anyone could do. But it’s very hard to live. And I don’t know if it’s possible to start a real independent studio that performs all the functions that Troma does now. I think it would be very hard to do it today, I don’t know, I think it would be virtually impossible to do it today. Maybe with a lot of money you could do it.”
On the Limitations of "Free" Speech:
#ShakespearesShitstorm addresses some issues of the limitation of free speech. Here’s what Kaufman has to say about the real-life implications of the issue.
“The main conglomerates, the media conglomerates, are now owned by phone companies or electrical parts makers, like Sony. They aren’t movie companies, and that’s not art. There’s art, and there’s nowhere near art. It’s a business, and it’s committees and there are very few artists that can leave their mark on the movies because their budgets are so high. And there are very few independent filmmakers who can break in because the rules that used to protect the public, and I’m talking about the United States, against some monopolies have all been done away with. The big guys have even been able to gobble up the competition, the independent movie companies, or just put them out of business. Because they own the theaters, the big guys own the theaters, control the theaters, all the rules against monopolies are done away with. And now, the Federal Communications Commission in America is gonna get rid of net neutrality on the internet, which will allow phone companies to speed up and give themselves a speedy highway and charge, there will be no more free and democratic internet. The price will go up for the fast superhighway for the elites, and then us, maybe even Fantasia, unless we can pay for the speed, we’ll have to go onto the bumpy, constantly buffering road which the public will not want to go on. Also, the courts are giving the giant conglomerates the right to slow down your so-called “content”, your art — they call it content, which is disgusting — your art will be slowed down. Fantasia’s art could be slowed down. But AT&T, who own Warner Bros., their art will go fast. They’ll be able to make art look worse than their stuff, which is not what is supposed to be. It’s a very complicated thing, I’ve been chairman of the trade association for independent studios and we lobbied in Washington against the Comcast merger and against the lying but didn’t succeed really. We did get Comcast to at least speak with independent producers, but as time went on, like China, they didn’t abide by their contract.”
Troma’s YouTube channel was taken down for violating community standards, and Kaufman is obviously not happy about it. Here he talks about YouTube’s double standard:
“You know our YouTube channel was deleted, supposedly for community standards, but when they started there were a small number of filmmakers, artists, “creators” they called them, like Lorne Michaels and me they invited to use their space down in New York. It’s a studio, a regular studio, mixing consoles and sets and equipment and cameras. And I was invited because of my movies. Now maybe ten years later, because of my movies, they kick off eight hundred thousand fans and our channel of three hundred free movies for some kind of community standards. Meanwhile, what community has not honored Troma and me, from Moscow to Shanghai to the American Film Institute to the British Film Institute, Cinematheque Française, festivals in Spain, Italy, Portugal, the government of Portugal! The Portugese taxpayers paid for half of Mutant Blast! What community hasn’t accepted and praised and honored Troma over our forty-seven years and my fifty years? The only one I haven’t gotten any kind of award from is Antarctica, and I guess that’s penguins there. You know, they marry for life, and maybe they’re a little prudish. I don’t know, the penguins don’t seem to be too excited. But every place else they love us, so I don’t know what YouTube has against us. I think it’s because the big guys have got so much control that any competition, their algorithm is there not just to remove any violence and nudity but to remove independent art. And if you go, you can dial in just about every obscene word and YouTube will have plenty. In fact, right now YouTube is giving us some nice pedophilia. Netflix has a movie called Cuties and the poster has a number of five-year-old boys and girls dressing in pole dancing costumes. And so I put #NetflixPedophilia on my socials. And so YouTube is clearly hypocritical. You can see people getting their heads chopped off by the Arabs. You can dial in any kind of perversion and there’s plenty of it on YouTube. And porn! And CNN: lots of decapitations, lots of people getting blown up and bleeding and war crimes. But meanwhile, we’re the ones that get kicked off. So I don’t know what community we’re transgressing, whatever we’re doing, who we’re bothering. Anyway, that’s a big issue now, we have freedom to say anything we want, but as long as we don’t say anything. That’s how it is in the United States. And when we settle for Biden, #SettleForBiden, it’s gonna be just as bad, ain’t gonna be any better.”
#ShakespearesShitstorm streams online (geoblocked to Canada and the U.S.) at 9:30pm on Saturday, August 29 as part of the virtual edition of the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival, which runs August 20-September 2.
Interview by Sean Boelman
In anticipation of the release of their new film Ordinary Love, disappointment media got the opportunity to speak with filmmaking duo Lisa Barros d’Sa and Glenn Leyburn. Starring Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville, the film is a quiet romance looking at the relationship of a couple after one of them receives a life-changing diagnosis. In the interview, we discuss the film’s stars, its unique approach to the subject matter, and more. Check out the interview below and see Ordinary Love in theaters now!
disappointment media: As the title suggests, the film is about an ordinary couple that love each other completely. How do you think an “ordinary love” like this can also be seen as something extraordinary?
Lisa Barros d’Sa: Starting with the title, I think that love is ordinary only in that it is universal. If we’re fortunate, we all get to experience it at some point in our lives. If we’re fortunate, we all get to experience it at some time or another in our lives. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t contain the epic: the painful, the joyful, the tragic too. I mean, one of the most extraordinary things about us as human beings is our capacity to love and connect with others in the way that this film shows. And this film we feel really utilizes one of the great strengths of cinema which is to magnify tiny moments of human life and of human interaction and reveal them in their magnificence on the screen. So this is the story of all the small moments and events that go to make up any relationship, any love, any connection.
disappointment: Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville do an extraordinary job in their lead roles. How did you know they were perfect for these roles?
Glenn Leyburn: Liam was actually somebody we had been talking to for a couple of years previously about a different project and we actually ended up being introduced to him by Bono. Our previous film was about the punk rock scene in Belfast in the 1970’s, and he ended up introducing us to Liam about another project, and that project for many reasons hasn’t yet come to fruition. But when we read the first draft of this film, Ordinary Love, and we just heard Liam’s voice in place, and you know how when we got to know him a little bit, we had a pretty good idea of the type of material he was interested in, and we sent it to him, and luckily he did connect with it the way we hoped. Liam was the first part of it, he signed up on that first draft, and as far as Lesley is concerned, she was someone who is in demand for many, many years, and we always wanted to work with. And we knew Liam was a fan as well, so obviously the dynamic between those two would be very important, and initially we thought we weren’t going to be able to get Lesley because she had quite a long theatre commitment, but we were able to find a window, a very short window in the middle of that, and all the plans kind-of aligned.
d’Sa: We felt that they were very similar sorts of actors and that proved to be. They’re both actors that you believe every moment that they’re on screen. They share a sense of humor, they’re both low-key, they’re not starry people, there were no egos to contend with on set. Just very intelligent people and so we had a feeling they could gel on set and create this beautiful chemistry and we were thrilled to find that they effortlessly, it seems managed to create not just their own character, but this other entity that they hold between them, this thirty-year marriage, to be able to conjure that, go into that depth in a relationship, is something that few actors would’ve been able to achieve so beautifully.
disappointment: You talked about the honesty of the script, I think that in a film that is so heavily based in dialogue, honesty is the key to believability. How did you work with the actors to emphasize the honesty of the script?
d’Sa: Well, as you say, it starts with the script. This is a script based on events that happened in the writer’s life, Owen McCafferty and his wife Peggy went through a similar year to this when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, so we start from a place of authenticity and that was always one of our goals in making this film. We wanted it to feel not like a sensationalized, overdramatized piece of storytelling, but something that was true to those small moments that build a journey like this. These actors understood the tone of the piece immediately, through the writing, through our conversations. Everyone shared that desire to make the piece feel as real as possible. There’s a lovely tone in it as well which incorporates not only looking at the tougher things these characters go through that we can all go through in life, but also the lightness and warmth and humor that we all often instinctively try to bring to these sorts of events. Every time we are working on a project, we focus a lot on the tone, and that has to carry through performance, that has to carry through the way we dress the set, it has to carry through the pace of the piece, the way the camera operates. And I think we all got to the same understanding.
disappointment: In addition to being this story about a woman who is dealing with this diagnosis, this is also the story of a caretaker who is equally affected. Why do you think this story is important for showing both sides of the diagnosis?
d’Sa: We started from the point of understanding it as a love story. Love stories often explore the threat of what might separate this couple. And in this case, what’s threatening to separate them is this illness. And as much as they want to go through this journey together, inevitably what is happening is in only Joan’s body, so their experiences are completely separate. And so the story is really about something that pulls them apart and how they struggle to come together and in doing so, we’re telling a story about the vital connection between these two people that keeps them both afloat.
disappointment: Ordinary Love releases on Valentine’s Day, and while it’s not something that you would normally expect to be a date night type of film, I think there’s something very romantic about it. How do you hope that audiences will fall in love with this film?
d’Sa: The thing that stood out to us about this film was that it was a love story and a really unexpected, unusual love story with some real insight into relationships. Unusual in that it’s not really about the start or the end of a romantic relationship, but what happens at the heart of it. So for us, it feels like the perfect time to release this film because it is a beautiful love story between two people. It’s a middle-aged love story, which is something we rarely see and about a couple who are not bored with each other, they’re not looking elsewhere, but they still have this very vital relationship. They make each other laugh, they have plenty to say to each other, you know there’s a real electricity between this couple. But at the same time, the story isn’t sentimental about how we deal with each other when we’re in that kind of intimate relationship. This feels like the perfect movie to see if you want to explore the themes of love on Valentine’s weekend.
Ordinary Love is now playing in theaters.
Interview by Sean Boelman
In anticipation of the release of his newest film Waves, disappointment media got to sit down and talk with acclaimed writer-director Trey Edward Shults. In the interview, we discuss some of the film's real-life influences, the role that music plays in the film, and more. Check out the interview below and see Waves playing in select theaters now and expanding nationwide on December 6!
Interview by Camden Ferrell
In anticipation of the release of James Mangold's newest film Ford v Ferrari, a racing epic about Henry Ford II and Carroll Shelby's quest to build a car fast enough to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, disappointment media got to speak with the film's stunt coordinator, Robert Nagle. In the interview, we discuss some of the film's insane stunts and Nagle's extensive career as a stunt driver. Check it out below and see Ford v Ferrari when it opens in theaters on November 14.
On Working With Iconic Classic Cars
disappointment media: With an extensive career as a stunt driver, how did it feel to work with all of the classic cars that were used in Ford v Ferrari?
Robert Nagle: I mean, they’re beautiful cars. There’s an emotional reaction to some of them, especially some of the Ferraris. That’s sorta what they’re known for.
disappointment: And were there any particular Ferrari models you loved to work with when working on this movie?
Nagle: You know, all of the ones we drove were replicas, so it’s hard to have the same reaction. We had some static Ferraris that were real cars from that era. And I think there was actually one that had won Le Mans in the early sixties, and I think it was valued at around 45 or 50 million dollars. And I think in totality, the static Ferraris that they had, this was for the scene in the Ferrari factory; I think the totality of the real Ferraris exceeded what the film’s budget was, and that was between three cars. Absolutely gorgeous cars.
On Crafting a Sense of Authenticity for the Film
disappointment: What were some of the logistical challenges of coordinating a sequence as extensive and crucial as the 24 Hours of Le Mans?
Nagle: There was a lot to that because we were in 4 or 5 different locations. Obviously, it’s a 24-hour race. You’ve got day and night, dry and wet, so you really have to keep track of where you are in the story. The basis of that for me is I wrote a story for the race to keep track of everything. I had written it from Ken Miles’ point of view, so at any given time we would know where we’re at, and that led to us creating the previz and storyboards, and kinda step by step action of what’s going on when, so we could always refer back to it as we go to location to location and being able to set the cars back in the same configuration. And by the way, the cars look different at hour 4 than at hour 16, so that has to be taken into account as well.
disappointment: Since this movie was based on true events, were there any specific techniques you used to achieve authenticity through your stunts?
Nagle: Probably the most notable is just trying to stay with some of the historic points which is more so with Le Mans than anything. Historically, there were certain things that happened, and we tried to stay true to that and then tried to blend in a little more excitement to it since it is a 24-hour race.
On the Challenges Faced While Filming (Contains Mild Spoilers)
disappointment: In the movie, there was one scene that really stood out. It was at the Shelby American warehouse when Ken’s brakes fail, and the car spins out of control and it crashes and bursts into flames. And I think it’s a really powerful scene thanks to how the stunts were done. Can you give us some insight as to how that scene was done?
Nagle: So, we had a GT-40 set up to be able to spin, meaning the stunt driver, Jeremy Fry, drove that one. We had him come around the corner and send the car into a spin, and it’s a testament to his skill level. You saw how far the car was spinning, and it landed exactly where we needed it. So, once he sent the car into a spin, you kinda belong to the ride at that point. So, it’s all about where he initiates that and how he initiates that to get the car to land where you asked him to do it. Where the impact point is, he landed exactly where he needed to be. He did an incredible job.
disappointment: That was a fantastic scene. I thought it was just done really well. Are there any scenes in the movie that look fairly simple on camera but were actually very difficult to pull off?
Nagle: Probably, the most difficult was one of the crash scenes at the beginning of the race at Le Mans right past the Dunlop bridge where there’s a car tumbling. You know, it’s going off the track on the left side, and it shoots back across to the right side of the track and then starts to tumble. And getting that all timed out was incredibly arduous because we had a camera car sitting in for where the Ken Miles car would be. We added a lot of caging to protect that driver which ultimately payed off. We did two takes, and the second take, we had this car we were actually launching 300 feet and timing it out so it would land next to the camera car and start cartwheeling. And on the second take, it cartwheeled a few times and then righted itself and just chased down the camera car and T-boned him and sent him into a concrete wall to his left and then into a tire barrier, so it was a precarious spot, and that was exactly why this happens and a testament to the effects guys to how they built this camera car. We sent them out to make sure he was okay, but ultimately, he was fine. It was a pretty hard hit.
disappointment: And onscreen, I couldn’t imagine it was as difficult as you just described it, so I guess that is a testament to the talent of everyone working to make it look so seamless.
Nagle: Yeah, and all the cars around him are real. There were no CGI cars put into that, around that camera car. I had a group of cars ahead of him and a group of cars behind him, and then timed it out so that when he’s cartwheeling, it’s pretty much just near the camera car and not the picture cars that are not quite as reinforced as the camera car was. It was quite a task, and everyone did their job well and did exactly as they needed, and it worked out great.
disappiointment: Was there a scene in particular in this movie that you enjoyed working on above all others?
Nagle: Well, this is gonna sound funny but the fight scene. I had a lot of fun with that to come up with a fight scene that was a little bit comedic but still serious and not cross the line into it being The Three Stooges. But the most amusing part for me is after we got the choreography down with the stunt doubles, and then when I start sitting down with the actors, showing them what we shot and how it goes about step by step, it occurs to me that I have Batman and Jason Bourne here with me about to do a fight scene, and by the way, they’re guys who don’t know how to fight. So that just added a little bit more humor to what we were about to do. I think they enjoyed it to because it wasn’t this precise choreographed fight sequence. There was a little bit of latitude to kind of play with it and have some fun with it which isn’t the norm.
disappointment: That was a hilarious scene. I know at the screening I went to, the whole audience loved that scene, and it was obvious there was a lot of fun behind the camera with that scene.
Nagle: Yeah, and the basis of it for me where I started with that was that, “Hey, this is like a sixth-grade school yard fight”. That’s really what it is because these guys, they’re really pissed off at each other, but they’re best friends, and they don’t really want to hurt each other, but there’s a lot of anger built up, so that sort of kicks it off.
disappointment: And what do you think was the most unique challenge of working on this film?
Nagle: I think the unique challenge is really selling the speed of these cars, and sometimes it’s more difficult than you think on camera. There were times we were running the cars at 180, 185 miles per hour, and it can sometimes look a lot slower than that even though, you know, we’re moving. That’s a lot of speed.
disappointment: A lot of the racing scenes involved a lot of drivers going at high speeds, making dangerous moves, and scraping up against each other. How did you keep such chaotic elements under tight control in these scenes?
Nagle: It’s sitting down with everybody and going through it step by step, where everybody needs to be at any given moment. And it is really strict choreography, and that’s the only way it can work and the only way it can be safe, but it does need to look perilous. So, having the right guys, and the right choreography, and everybody on the same page, and that’s the result you get.
On Working as a Stunt Coordinator
disappointment: How did your previous experiences as a stunt driver and stunt coordinator shape the way you approached Ford v Ferrari?
Nagle: For this, what I really enjoyed is that everything had to be grounded in reality, so all the stunts we set up and the racing sequences, everything had to be as realistic as possible. That I enjoy. So now you kinda get away from I think the hyper-realistic stuff of what you see typically on film today.
disappointment: Being a veteran stunt driver, do you have any personal connection to his historic story of Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby?
Nagle: Look, I come from the racing world, and you know, Shelby has always been a huge icon in the racing industry, so you can’t help but enjoy and smile that we’re doing this. And the GT-40 and the whole Ford program with the GT-40 was an amazing feat by Ford, and that in itself is an icon, and the engineering and styling of that car holds up today.
disappointment: Because of the nature of the film, some of the racing sequences took place during the day and some were at night. So how did the time of day affect your work as a stunt coordinator?
Nagle: Obviously at night, it’s a little cooler and the tires don’t have as much grip, and you have to take a little more time to warm things up and be aware of that and remind everybody to make surre your tires have some temperature, but at the same time, we’re trying to get things done as quickly as possible. So, trying to balance that efficiency of getting everything done along with the safety factor.
CF: How do you think working on Ford v Ferrari helped you grow as a stunt coordinator as you move forward in your career?
Nagle: It’s, you know, working with people like James Mangold. It helps me grow and look at things from another perspective because he’s not a car guy. So, when I would approach him with ideas, then he would come back at me, “Well, I don’t understand this”, and he would give me his perspective. So, it really widened my perspective and view of how to go about these things and look at them and not assume that everybody understands car jargon and car language and what a car can and can’t do. So, I walk away from every project like this, with a newfound understanding.
On What Viewers Can Expect
disappointment: Considering how long the final sequence of the film is with that race, no moment ever felt repetitive. It all felt fresh and original. So how did you prevent the stunts from feeling repetitive?
Nagle: Well, I think that’s where the story comes back to. Writing the story for the race, there were key historic moments that we wanted to keep in there, and that helps keep some of the authenticity. Then we added a few things of our own or kinda livened things up if you will. But there’s a lot that can happen in those 24 hours, and as you said, you don’t want to repeat anything. There is plenty of latitude to keep things fresh for each shot.
disappointment: And what do you think car buffs and racing fans will enjoy most about this movie?
Nagle: I think we really tried to stay as true to reality and one of the big goals was to get the audience to feel and experience what Ken Miles was going through in the sense of what a racer is. That was one of the big things, working with Mangold, I would explain things to him about racing, and his number one comment was, “How do I tell that story? How do we tell that story to the audience?”, and that became my challenge, and I loved that part of it. So, now I had to really go back and think of how to convey that on film, and I think we did it. I’ve gotten a lot of comments from people saying that they really felt like they were there and experienced what Ken Miles was going through.
Ford v Ferrari opens in theaters on November 15.