What You Should Know About Our New Film – Part Three

Jared Kovacs (Director of Photography) and I watched a lot of movies to prepare for Cornbread Cosa Nostra but one was more influential than any other: To Live and Die in L.A. 



This 1980s masterpiece inspired us not only before but during our twenty-five day production. At one crazy point I even thought about retitling our movie To Live and Die in Biloxi, and then I considered compiling all our behind the scenes footage and calling the “making of” video that. Unfortunately, behind the scenes footage usually gets the short end of the stick and that’s what happened here; sadly we don’t have much evidence of what it was like to make our film. I wish we did.

Perhaps I will make an alternate, wild cut of our movie just for fun and name it To Live and Die in Biloxi. But for now, here are some of the many ways the movie influenced our work.

What Would Petersen Do?

One night at the production house we rented in Gulfport, a few of us sat down to watch Friedkin’s film again. You see, I’d asked Jared to watch it and Britton, our lead actor, too. But this time was different. We’d all seen the movie on our own and now we were in the same space, discussing and analyzing it together. Beyond the notes Jared and I had, Britton and I watched William Petersen (the lead) close: his mannerisms, body language, dialog delivery.

We both really liked how Petersen showed what kind of man and law enforcer he was with every gesture, whether it be how much he litters throughout the film or the way he stands with his leg propped up. I think what Britton took from this viewing informed his character, Kurt Cadell, quite a bit. By no means did he copy Petersen’s performance. But it reminded us how much of a good performance is physical. Also, Britton’s hero shares Petersen’s character’s drive to catch the bad guys and desire to do things his own way. Often on set we would joke with each other and ask, “What would Petersen do?” It always led us in a fun direction.

A Messy Movie

Messy? Yes. What I mean with this description is that To Live and Die in L.A. is far from a perfect movie. There are odd cuts, moments of over-acting and general things that just don’t work. However I think it’s a masterpiece. How can an imperfect film be a masterpiece? Well, I’m not interested in movies that seem perfect; I’m fascinated by the ones that don’t always work, but the overall feeling of the work is powerful.

That is what I recognized in Friedkin’s movie. It’s sometimes a mess and that was encouraging. With Cornbread, I didn’t care if we got messy at times, if the shots or cuts weren’t maybe as smooth as we’ve tried to make them in recent years. Let it not feel like fine cuisine but like a greasy burger and fries with lots of condiments squirted on them. French Connection is a more perfect film of Friedkin’s but not as good as To Live and Die. I can’t explain it any other way. But it liberated me while making ours.

Wang Chung

I can’t tell you how many times Jared and I listened to the movie’s soundtrack by 80s band Wang Chung while driving to and from our locations. Of all the music I compiled in the playlist that inspired this movie, the score and songs from To Live and Die were the the most impactful. It put us in the mood, it sparked ideas and discussions on those morning and night drives. This mix of pop, synthesizer themes and hard drum beats will also be our main inspiration when finding the right composer for Cornbread Cosa Nostra.

Friedkin’s film had an effect on ours in so many ways. When you watch it later in 2018, if you look closely you’ll see direct influences in several scenes. I’m thankful that he made the film and that we spent so much time with it during the making of Cornbread.

-Travis Mills