Hey There, Rabid Actionites!
ActionFest 2012 is THIS WEEKEND! I can’t wait, myself. But between now and then we still have some really awesome content here on the ActionFest Blog to get you prepared for the festivities. Check out this fun interview with Sinners and Saints director William Kaufman. (The film is playing at ActionFest 2012 with the director and stars Johnny Strong and Tom Berenger in attendance!) Besides the scoops he gives ActionFest about his upcoming projects, Kaufman also sent us some behind the scenes photos from the set of Sinners and Saints which we’ll share with you all below!
Ed Travis: Hey man, I really liked Sinners and Saints. I saw it last week. I also saw The Prodigy many years back and didn’t realize until looking you up that you were the same guy! While looking over your career I see that you grew up all over the world. Why were you such a world traveler growing up and when did you get your first hints that you wanted to go into film as a career?
William Kaufman: I grew up overseas because my father worked for an international bank. So I bounced around. As far as film, this was all I ever wanted to do. I was that little nerd running around with a Super 8 camera making little war movies with my friends. Or G.I. Joe stop action stuff. That was always what I wanted to do. I was raised going to movie theaters. Lots of people were raised on sports, but film was always my biggest passion.
ET: So, what was your timeline then. Did you finish school and then go into the armed services?
WK: Actually, the reverse. I finished high school and was putting together money to go to film school. So at that point I joined the Army. I was in the Army for about 3 years and came out of that and went to film school at University of North Texas. While working on a student film I reached out to an effects coordinator to do some mechanical effects for my film. But long story short, he gave me a job. And that ended up really getting me into the industry. Actually, as a much younger kid I was living in Bangkok when Good Morning, Vietnam and Off Limits came. So someone worked their magic and let me PA [Production Asssistant] when I was just a kid.
ET: You touched a little bit on practical effects being a part of your background. Now that you’ve written, directed, and done effects work, do you have a favorite area of filmmaking that you love to do the most?
WK: Yes, I do love it all. But everything has been to support being a storyteller and a director. Being a low budget indie filmmaker, all those things were things I was doing to support that dream. I worked with a lot of really talented and smart people and tried to learn as much as I could. I found a little band of brothers and sisters and anyone who follows my work will see at least a handful of the same people working on everything I’ve done. From my short film to the film I just shot in Romania.
ET: You are raising your family in Texas. How has being based in Texas impacted your projects? Are you doing pre- and post-production work in Texas and shoot wherever works? Or do you want Texas to be the home base?
WK: I’m a single father after a divorce. So the smartest place for me to raise my kids is around their extended family. And I love being in Texas. I’m from Texas and it gave me my start. That said, I have only shot my first film here. So this is where I can develop stuff. I’m a partner in a post house here called Throttle Post. So I’ve been able to work deals with the studios that have hired me. I’ve been able to post films at my own studio here at Throttle. Right now I’m partnering with some producers for some work and I’m also up for some work for hire jobs.
ET: Very cool. Let’s talk about Sinners and Saints a little bit. I could see some influences here or there when I was watching the film. But I’m interested to hear from you what some of the earliest seeds were of deciding you wanted to tell a gritty cop story.
WK: Sinners and Saints is my pride and joy. That is the most impact that I’ve been able to bring to a film. I love New Orleans. I spent Summers there growing up. I love the action genre. There are a lot of directors out there that see the action genre as their ticket to doing something else that they want to do. But as a kid I was always a fan of James Cameron and Steven Spielberg . That was what I wanted to do. But as to your question of my inspirations, you obviously have what Richard Donner did with Lethal Weapon. Or some of the guys that I look to are Michael Mann and both the Scott brothers [Ridley and Tony.] And those were the kinds of films that I wanted to do. And I felt that with the people I was connected with, we could do those kinds of films well. Even with a very modest budget. I’ve been told we needed 5 times the budget we had. But we called in all our favors.This was a vehicle for both Johnny Strong and myself. So we went and did it.
ET: Along with that, how do you feel like you were able to get what you did up onto the screen when you had people telling you that you couldn’t do it with the budget you had. What were some strategies you had in getting that level of quality on the screen?
WK: I think it comes down to a team of people who care more about the growth of their career than the size of their paycheck. We all made a commitment we were going to put every penny we could up on the screen. We had to be able to pay our bills, but we made the commitment to tell our story. And that was the case. We shot that thing like you would shoot an indie college film, although we didn’t treat out talent like that. We all doubled up in hotel rooms and had the worst catering known to man [both laugh.]
ET: How did you get connected with Johnny Strong? Have you guys known each other forever, or was this a casting process? How did that come about?
WK: I’ve been a fan of Johnny’s as a musician. He started as an actor, but Johnny wouldn’t call himself one or the other, he would call himself an artist. He is one of those people that is really good at a lot of things. I went to him to use a couple of his songs on The Prodigy. And he was very nice and let me use his songs in the film. So when it came around to do another film, I had seen him in Black Hawk Down and in Get Carter. For this role I wanted to find someone who could carry the action side of this, but also have the chops to pull this off as an actor. I begged and pleaded and he agreed to do it. And Johnny is the kind of guy who worked hard and suffered through the roughest conditions to make this thing work. And when he and I sat down together, we both agreed that this was a chance for both of us to take that next step. For him as a true leading man, and me as a director who was really trying to grow from my last film.
ET: Yeah, I noted in my review of the film that Johnny really steps comfortably into the role of the leading man. This was sort of a left field performance for me. I was watching and thinking, “Whoa, this guy is really pulling this off!” And am I correct that Johnny also has a fight background as well?
WK: Yeah, Johnny is the real deal. He has a black belt in jiu-jitsu, he has fought MMA. He is a legitimate tough guy. And beyond that he spent 8 months in Morocco with the Delta guys training for Black Hawk Down. He has scored top notch in competitive shooting tournaments. And I’ve gotten a fantastic response from the studios about him. And we are looking to do the sequel together!
ET: Believe me, I want to talk more about that! But before we go there I want to ask one other thing about the production. The cast has so many really strong names in it. How do you go to a Tom Berenger or a Method Man and bring them on board your project? Do you show them your previous work? What is your strategy for getting talent on that level?
WK: Both Johnny and I reached out to our people in the industry. Johnny is great friends with Kim Coates. So Kim came in. And I’m friends with Costas and Louis Mandylor. Then, that allows friends of friends of friends to reach out to people. So they saw it was a good script and saw my first film. They were confident that I wouldn’t let them down. So they signed on and that really helped to make the movie real. And working with that team of actors? It was the best experience possible. These people all worked and bent over backwards. You hear about people being difficult, but I couldn’t have had a better experience with the cast. If there was a battle, we would all take it on. It was a huge help.
ET: So you have already completed One In The Chamber since shooting Sinners and Saints. What stage is that film at in its release process?
WK: I was actually brought on to do that film and Anchor Bay is releasing it. They also released Sinners and Saints.
ET: Alright great! So can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects?
WK: Yes, Sinners and Saints 2 with Johnny and myself! That is a definite. Sinners and Saints 2 will be going into production this Fall.
ET: Will you be back in New Orleans?
WK: It’ll start in New Orleans, but the scope is going to get much grander.
Because Jurgen Prochnow is still out there! There were some loose ends! Our villain was afraid of Jurgen and we’re going to find out why. We are also planning to go forward with a theatrical release this time.
There is also another project I’m doing with Cole Hauser, who I have worked with before. That will be an action thriller called Rogue, written by my good friends Chad and Evan Law. It is a bad ass, take no prisoners revenge flick that feels like Man on Fire meets Grand Theft Auto.
ET: Awesome! Well, if you are ready to put that information out there, we’ll be happy to talk about it on our site! Also, since you asked my advice, I’ll offer it. [Both laugh.] One of my favorite things about the first movie was Method Man’s Weddo character. I loved how much impact his character had on the story without all that much screen time. He had a huge impact on the story. And that last scene with him was just so awesome! So my pitch? Sinners and Saints 2: Weddo’s Adventures. [Both laugh]
WK: Method came in as a gift for one day. And if I could have had him for more I would have. He was super professional and fantastic to work with.
ET: To have him back as a villain? Or even as a hero? It’d be awesome. He also looked great with his make up.
WK: We had a brilliant make up artist, Cat Bernier. She came in from Chicago as part of our band of brothers and sisters and made us a movie. She and her team were great.
ET: We are really excited about meeting all of you guys at ActionFest 2012! And we can’t wait for everyone to see Sinners and Saints up on the big screen.
You heard it here, folks. Sinners and Saints 2 is confirmed! Learn more details this weekend at ActionFest 2012!
And I’m Out.