It’s two for two once again on Day 2!
After watching a well-crafted and eye-opening documentary Gladiators: The Uncertainty of American Football, it’s time to see the heist thriller I’ve been looking forward to. In between films, I caught up with director Scott Kawczynski right after his red carpet interview.
Connecting with filmmakers/talents is always a highlight at TCFF, especially someone as gracious as Scott! He flew here right from another film festival in Orlando promoting his film. Best of luck with your film, Scott, thanks so much for coming down to visit us and for making the film!
Now check out the review … and the Q&A questions below:
Trust, Greed, Bullets and Bourbon: Bourbon not needed
I love a good heist movie. With a stellar cast and smartly written script, “Trust, Greed, Bullets and Bourbon” is sure to be one of my favorites at the Twin Cities Film Fest. Mixing elements of “The Italian Job” with “A Simple Plan,” the story begins five years after the group’s diamond heist and shortly after one of them nabbed in the job has gotten out of jail. They get cryptic invitations to meet at a cabin in the Catskills where they will be given clues as to where to recover the stolen loot. This may be where the “greed” in the title comes in since they all show up.
The movie was very well cast- Max Casella as Tyler, the tough guy in gambling debt (in a “Sopranos” type role…and then I remembered he was in “The Sopranos”), Larisa Polonsky as Samantha, the sassy blonde accomplice, Eric Morris as David, the pretty boy, and Kathryn Merry as Circe, the granddaughter of heist mastermind Franky. I also enjoyed Danny Burstein’s interludes as Hector, the backwoods gun-toting yokel.
At only about 85 minutes writer Scott Kawczynski’s directorial debut moves along crisply with moments of ironic hilarity. When David tells Tyler in front of the crew, “I can’t even trust a word out of your mouth,” Tyler responds with a confused look on his face, “Of course not. You can’t trust any of us…we’re all thieves.” Another time, as they are dragging a body into the woods searching for the hole they dug, one of them says “It seemed closer earlier.” And who doesn’t love a hit man who searches for extra bullets in his car’s glove compartment?
What could have been a tired conclusion is a pleasant surprise cleverly told so I don’t want to give any more away. A note on the “bullets” part of the title: although there are multiple murders in this movie there isn’t any gratuitous violence as the “hits” are designated by red dots streaking on screen. Maybe this was done because it’s cheaper but it appealed to me because as much as I love heist films, I have never understood movies with violence for the sake of violence. Bourbon doesn’t really come into play- maybe “Trust, Greed, Bullets and Bourbon” just sounds better than “Trust, Greed and Bullets.” There is something to be said for alliteration, after all.
4 out of 5 reels
Interview with director Scott Kawczynski
1. What was the inspiration for your film? Have you been interested in doing a heist concept?
I’ve always loved heist films, especially heist films that go awry (ex: Rififi, Reservoir Dogs, Dog Day Afternoon). The exploration of the failed heist and how it effects the characters involved was very intriguing to me. You look at the situation, these people were so close to getting away with it, but one detail collapses the entire endeavor.
2. Congrats on being picked as Project of the Day by Indiewire and successfully raised your funding goal on Kickstarter. What was the biggest challenge in getting that accomplished?
Winning Indiewire’s Project of the Week was A pretty big deal. It opened lots of doors in terms of potential distribution for the film down the road, as well as a huge amount of traffic from people that might never have heard of the film.
I handled my Kickstarter differently than most, by raising money after the production was done. The money raised on Kickstarter covered the final aspects of post-production, sound mix and color correction, and the overflow money is going toward distribution costs. So the film was completely finished and locked before i even created the Kickstarter campaign. All costs previous to this, pre-production through post production editing were all self-funded. In the end I believe this was one of the smartest choices I made because I could sell the fact that the film was done and that I wasn’t looking for money to make the film – which seemed important to me for a completely unknown writer/director trying to raise funds. The majority of my funders were family, friends and friends of friends. However, my two biggest funders were people I had never met, and I truly think that having a completed project to show was key to them coming on board. My advice to anyone thinking of doing Kickstarter is to have a goal that is realistic and you believe you can raise.
3. How does the title come about? It reminds me a bit of Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels which is in similar genre. Speaking of which, who are your film/filmmaker inspirations?
In simplest terms, the title words are the basic themes and vices explored by the characters in the film. The shooting script was actually titled Trust, Greed, Beer & Bourbon, but halfway through production we realized there were more bullets than beer. I like the title because it is like a mixed drink, a smidgen of Trust, a couple shots of Greed, a couple Bullets and a whole lot of Bourbon.
In terms of film inspiration, in addition to the heist films I listed earlier, A Simple Plan, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Rear Window, Rope, 12 Angry, Men, Millers Crossing and Fargo I watched over and over. The Hitchcock films and 12 Angry Men were integral in studying shooting an entire film in primarily a single location.
My list of filmmakers is probably similar to many people interested in similar subject matter: Hitchcock, Tarantino, the Coen Brothers, Lumet. Some newer filmmakers I really enjoy are Rian Johnson, Jeff Nichols, Shane Carruth and Duncan Jones.
4. I enjoyed looking at the pics on your blog on the shoots in NYC. What’s the most memorable moments for you in shooting/working on this film?
The most memorable moments I had on shooting the film were watching the actors really make the characters their own, and how the characters grew into something better and beyond what was on the page. In general, the production went pretty smoothly, there were no real disasters while filming. It was also really great shaping the story. It was very important to me that the cast and crew be an integral part of making the story as good as possible, so before shooting a scene we would discuss what was about to happen, how it related to the story as a whole and if any adjustments needed to be made.
5. Lastly, you talked briefly about the casting process on your blog, but is there something else you’d like to share about that and how you assemble your crew as well?
First I should mention that this was an insanely low budget film, you’ve heard of Ultra-Low Budget productions, well, this is a mile below that. So because of that, I had to be very, very conscious of what everything cost. My biggest ally was the script I wrote. The actors loved it. That was huge, especially in getting Max Casella and Danny Burstein to sign on. They loved their characters and wanted to be part of the film no matter what. Dara Coleman I knew from working with him on Ed Burns films in the past, and Eric Morris, Larisa Polonsky and Kathryn Merry were found through auditions – which were done at my house (actually Kathryn’s audition was taped and she posted it for me to review).
The crew all started with my DP Rick Siegel. In the past, I had been Production Designer on a couple jobs Rick was cinematographer on. He has around 30 years of experience and has connections galore. He brought in Mike O’Brien, our awesome sound guy, the two grips and lighting assistant. The final piece of the puzzle was Associate Producer Erik Trinidad, who I have known for years from working in Advertising, he was the glue that kept everyone together.
From there it was beg and borrow. Everyone involved in the production was paid (all at a very reduced rate), but lights were provided at a very discounted price, locations were either free or reduced price (we lived in the house we shot at up in the Catskills Mountains) and everyone pitched in whenever needed. It was a complete collaboration and the essence of independent, super low-budget filmmaking. And it was fabulous.
Hope you enjoy the review and interview! If you’re a fan of heist film or who-dunnit type of thriller, check out Trust, Greed, Bullets and Bourbon when it plays in your area!
Thoughts on this film and or the interview? I’d love to hear it!