A rideshare driver, suffering from mental illness, discovers that his sister is in debt to a dangerous crime syndicate.
Hi Brian thank you for talking to TNC, how are you handling the lockdown?
Thank you as well. While these are strange times, I am handling the lockdown well. I am doing alot of writing, designing lookbooks for an upcoming project and deliverables for Adverse. So essentially, everything is pretty much the same as when there wasn’t any lockdown.
As a filmmaker is this experience providing you with some creative inspiration?
Every new experience provides me with creative inspiration. I think its amazing how many people are creating amazing online content now since they are stuck at home.
Adverse won the Platinum Remi Award at the 2020 WorldFest Houston, did you imagine you would get this type of recognition for you film?
It was quite an honor to be receiving this award from Worldfest. Because filmmaking is collaborative, it’s great to see it get recognition, not just for me but for all the hardworking people who poured their blood, sweat and tears into this. Because many of them are crew, they don’t even typically get mentioned.
Your film Adverse has been selected for the 2020 ÉCU Film Festival in Paris, what has it meant to you to be part of this unique film festival for independent filmmakers?
I am very excited and honored. I was very much looking forward to traveling to Paris to attend in person when the covid19 pandemic started happening. I think it’s a fantastic festival and read that Indiewire rated it one of Europe’s best film festivals.
You have an amazing cast, what was the experience like working with such seasoned actors?
I grew up watching a lot of this cast so of course it was intimidating yet exciting. To see them give their characters such life was truly an honour and to have them all pour so much effort and determination into the film. They knew exactly what they were doing being seasoned pros and brought their uniqueness to the roles. They all seemed to play against type. Mickey Rourke really gave life to his character by adding true-life experiences of the loss of his brother to cancer (his character Kaden has cancer).
Thomas Nicholas (Ethan), who has been known for comedies, took a serious dramatic role and really commands the screen. He looks and acts completely different so much so that you don't even realize it's him and I admire his fearlessness to tackle on something new. Lou Diamond Phillips plays such an emotional role as a parole officer trying to help Ethan out. Sean Astin was great and just really nailed as the sleazy boss of Ethan (yet of course in reality, he is extremely funny and kind). Penelope Ann Miller was brilliant as Ethan's sickly mother.
Matt Ryan (Constantine) came in and played a ruthless killer, who scared people but after he was super friendly. Jake T. Austin, who plays an abusive boyfriend was the same way. When I called action he would be really brutal but after calling cut, he would go right back to being super friendly asking if everyone was okay. Also newcomer Kelly Arjen stood out for me for this being her first film role. She was able to go against all these seasoned actors and play naturally well without seeming intimidated. Kate Katzman is an attractive actress who is typically playing stylish roles, completely transformed, dressed down for her role as the neighbor Chloe.
Shelley Regner, known for comedies such as Pitch Perfect, not only doesn't sing in this film but has a very serious role. And actors Andrew Keegan and Luke Edwards appear as the fantastic psychopathic team hired by Kaden so much so that I had someone tell me they would be terrified to meet them in person.
So it was great to have such a great team that already knew what they were doing.
Can you tell me a little bit about Adverse, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
Sure, the film is about a ride share driver who discovers his sister has become indebted to a crime syndicate. So now he must do whatever he can to get her away from them. My inspiration was personal experiences with an ex-girlfriend who found herself hanging out with the wrong crowd of people.
As a writer/director are you are you open to changes or suggestions when you start shooting or do you like to stick to what has been written?
I personally feel that you have to be open to changes or suggestions as someone might come at something with a perspective you didn’t realize as long as the integrity of the story is being kept. I want the end product to be the best it can be and if people have suggestions that will make it better, I certainly won’t argue with that. We also had a number of test audiences for the film that helped changed some of the editing around.
What was the most challenging scene for you to make?
There were a number of scenes that were dramatic that were a challenge in order to get the emotion across properly. But the most challenging scene for me on a technical level was probably the warehouse fight. I wanted a single shot of Ethan going around fighting all these people from room to room because using different cuts felt repetitive for this film specifically. So we had to rehearse for hours and then do multiple takes of the scene with everyone resetting and props and blood being reset.
Looking back do you think there is anything you would have done differently?
With every project, there is something that I look at and think I wish I could have done this differently. I don’t think that will ever change.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
As with most filmmakers, this has been a passion of mine since early childhood. I remember watching films during the summertime while my friends would always be playing outside. I became obsessed with films and remember trying to make them, just playing around.
"...I am fortunate to have had some great collaborators in my life."
Has your approach to your films changed much since your debut short?
Absolutely. With each project, I learn more and the same happened for this film. And as technology improves and audiences get more sophisticated, I feel I will always keep learning until the day I die.
How important is the collaborative nature of filmmaking?
I feel collaboration is very important in filmmaking. If you don’t listen to anyone else, there are things you might not think about because your head is so focused on the project. There are times where someone might suggest something that you don’t agree with, but at least you’re getting to hear their perspective on the film. On the flip side, I have had some bad advice and changes that would come in from an investor or someone else that demanded changes to the film I did not agree with. And when it did not work, I would still be the one to blame when the film came out. That being said, I am fortunate to have had some great collaborators in my life.
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given when you started out?
I don’t think I could narrow it down to one piece of advice. Christopher Nolan once told me that sometimes you just have to go and do the project, even if nobody else wants to. That is exactly what he did with his film Following.
Do you have any tips or advice to offer fellow filmmakers?
I could write an entire book on this question and many filmmakers already know this advice. These answers are simply based on my own experiences. My first advice would be to watch and study as many films out there as possible. Watch interviews and commentary on how filmmakers made their movies. If you can, get out there and speak with them about the process. You have to completely immerse yourself into filmmaking. I am fortunate enough to be in a number of guilds and organizations where I can meet alot of these talents. I was able to discuss filmmaking with Sam Mendes, Spike Lee, Paul Thomas Anderson and many others.
Since there are many aspects of filmmaking, I would suggest learning all of them in order to be a better filmmaker. I would also suggest that directors take acting classes. When I started out, I didn’t know how to properly direct actors, so I took many classes to have a better understanding on how to get the best performances from actors. I went to an art school to study composition.
Writing is very important and reading alot of scripts helps you to build a structure. I studied 35mm cameras to understand how they work and got certified as a photographer by Photo Corporation of America since films are just a bunch of still photos. I worked as a designer and visual effects artist on films and television to understand the technical aspects better.
My last advice would be to never give up. The majority of the projects I have created did not go forward for different reasons stemming from an investor dropping out or the studio changing their minds. But it’s that small minority of projects that do get made that make it worth it.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on several projects from a comedy to tv-based. But my main focus is a project that I’m not allowed to openly discuss at this time since it is studio-based. Hopefully that will change shortly.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Adverse?
I hope the film makes people enjoy it and they feel something from it. I hope people appreciate all the hard work put into it by our team.