Hours before we start shooting our next feature THE MEN WHO ROBBED THE BANK, I look back on the last few months which have brought us here.
Back in May, I was working on a new full-length project called THE WESTERN. It was a one-location drama about the cast and crew of a Western movie who spend their last night together in a dive bar. The cast was complete, the location chosen, and character work underway, but for various reasons I had a feeling in my gut that it just wasn’t the right time to make this one. Producing and directing a full-length film is an enormous commitment from pre to post production and release. I don’t want to take a film on unless I’m all the way in, so far in that I would “go to hell and wrestle the devil himself” as my favorite filmmaker Werner Herzog says.
I discussed the problem with my partner/mentor Gus Edwards. Could I switch projects? I wouldn’t just drop THE WESTERN; I had to replace it with another feature. An idea had been bugging me for a while: a crime thriller about bank robbers, focused not at all on the heist itself but on what happens after the bank is robbed, the split. I told Gus that I would work on something new and a few days later showed up with THE MEN WHO ROBBED THE BANK.
The writing was very different than anything I had done with our previous features, THE DETECTIVE’S LOVER and THE BIG SOMETHING. Those possessed intricate plots which carried their characters along. This, on the other hand, was all about the characters and plot points took a backseat to let them breathe and take their own directions.
I put five men in a house (along with a female leader to this dirty half-dozen). These characters were (unlike my previous efforts) written specifically for certain actors and while envisioning these people their real-life personalities guided the development of these criminals. I even named the characters after the actors, so Michael Hanelin was named Michael, Rob Edwards was Rob, etc. After some past frustrating experiences and mistakes in casting, this time I wanted to surround myself with those I consider the absolute best in Arizona. Put a group of skilled, passionate people with good attitudes in a room and make a movie.
Lucky for me, all parties were interested and we held a screenplay reading at Xtreme Bean coffee shop. It went well but also showed the high level of work all of the cast and I needed to do before shooting began. So we set out to learn about these characters, meeting one on one and in groups. Along the way, our team changed. A couple principle actors dropped out of the project and again (lucky for me) I found actors here in Arizona to replace them. My new cast was even stronger than the original one. We also lost our original cinematographer. It was too close to our start date to look for a new DP, so I decided the shoot the film myself. And though I have wanted to shoot and direct a feature for a while, the addition of this task felt like another big weight to my load. Thankfully, Michael Coleman, an actor in many of my films who has recently moved into the first Running Wild headquarters with me, offered his help behind the camera. It was great relief to know someone I trusted would be with me on our tough four day shoot.
As I said before, the road to the completion of a film is a long and bumpy one. It takes true perseverance to finish a movie. It also takes a good team and I’ve got one. With James Alire (my go-to sound expert), Derek Cloud (a new bright editor for Running Wild), Cheryl Roden (another new face to help us), Michael Coleman by my side and our committed cast, I could not ask for more as we approach our latest effort. It will be our best.