Thursday, March 27, 2014

Brady Hall on "Scrapper”

What was your filmmaking background before making Scrapper?

BRADY: I've been making movies (mostly bad ones) for a long time now. My first feature was co-directed with my friend Calvin Lee Reeder (who recently made The Rambler) and it was called Polterchrist. It's about Jesus Christ coming back to life and killing a bunch of people in a bowling alley. It's AWFUL. But it was our first endeavor so it really should be awful.

We went on to make one more feature together called Jerkbeast which got a small cult following. After that I made a couple little features in Seattle and some shorts and stuff. I make book trailers to pay the bills, and that's a pretty good day job as far as day jobs go. I get to do movie-ish stuff, travel and work with really cool authors like Neil Gaiman, Neal Stephenson and I wish a third Neil cus that would make this sentence way cooler. Then I partnered up with Ed Dougherty and we co-wrote Scrapper.

Where did the idea come from and what was the writing process like?

BRADY: I was remodeling my house in 2009 and as I amassed this giant pile of demolition crap and trash in the backyard I started encountering these rough looking dudes in old pickup trucks who would stop in the alley and ask if I had any metal for them. They were all really weather-beaten looking guys like they just walked off the set of The Road Warrior or something, and their trucks were bashed to hell.

I had never noticed them before but now I can always spot a scrapper. They seemed like really interesting dudes in that they just drove around all day scavenging and they are able to make a living on it.

So as I was working on my house by myself I was thinking of this quintessential scrapper character based on the majority of guys who would stop in my backyard. Middle aged, black, scruffy, kind of weird personality-wise, and the picture of Hollis started forming. I then thought "Well, how can we make this more awkward?" and thought up the complete opposite type of person to play against Hollis: teenage, white, female, free spirit, etc...

After I came up with that pairing I was talking to Ed about it and he was into it so we roughed out the story and went from there.

How did you cast the movie and did the script change much once you had your cast in place?

BRADY: We started looking for a Hollis pretty early on. Our first tactic was "Everybody on The Wire" because that show was awesome. Idris Elba is way too big these days, Michael K Williams was blowing up too, so we were looking at other guys like Robert Wisdom and Chad Coleman.

We were really close to signing one guy on but then he got booked on a network show and we couldn't compete with that. It was getting pretty close to our scheduled production when Co-Producer Chris Sergi thought to send Mike Beach a message on Facebook. They knew each other from working on a set together once. Mike said he would take a look at the script and after reading it was like "I'm in."

I met Anna through a mutual friend when I needed a voiceover for a book trailer. She came in and mentioned she was a recent theater school grad. She looks really young for her age too. So we auditioned her a couple times and that was that. We didn't try anybody else out for Swan. Ed had met Aidan on the set of a movie he wrote. They shot it in Romania (I think) and they soon realized that they were both fans of drinking so they palled around quite a bit and became buddies. So when it was time to cast Ray Ed simply got a hold of Aidan and asked if he was into it and he said "Yes". It worked out great since he had just wrapped Season 3 of Game Of Thrones and could sneak over to Seattle for a few days to shoot his scenes.

The script didn't really change due to any casting decisions. We stuck pretty closely to the written dialogue, but there are definitely some improv lines in there. We normally shot the script until we got it right then did a take or two of improv if anybody was feeling something different.

Can you talk about how you raised your budget and your financial plan for recouping your costs?

BRADY: This movie looks way more expensive than it was. Our production budget was roughly $50,000. We split that cost three ways between me, Ed and Tarek Kutrieh (our other producer), so raising the funds wasn't a big deal.

I have been making no-budget stuff in Seattle for a long time so I really know how to stretch a dollar around here. We planned out the movie in a way where we could really make it work for hardly any money. We based over half of shooting out of my house and that allowed us to have a free basecamp and not have to company move or rent locations a lot.

We shot all the neighborhoods and backyards and driving stuff withing a few blocks of my house. We simply drove around and around and only the most astute viewer will ever see the same house twice zooming by out the windows. A lot of things like that made it all possible.

We've spent some more money after production for post, marketing, fests and such, but we're pretty confident that we'll at least break even with VOD and DVD sales. It's possible since we kept our budget so small.

What kind of camera did you use to shoot the movie -- and what did you love about it and hate about it?

BRADY: We used a RED One MX. Our 1st AC Alan Certeza owns it, so we got a screaming deal on him and his gear. I think the footage we got was really awesome due in no small part to the camera, but also to our great camera team and DP Connor Hair. I can't really think of one shot we had where I was like "Oh fuck, this looks totally wrong!"

Working with RED footage is great because you can really drag it all over the place color-wise and not lose any resolution. The only real downside to the camera system was how big and heavy the RED One is compared to the newer RED models and also we were using spinning disk drives which was an issue on some of the truck mounted shots when Mike was hitting some bumpy road and it made the drive drop frames. He figured out that coasting in neutral on certain spots fixed that.

Did the movie change much in the editing and, if so, why did you make those changes?

BRADY: The script had a lot more comedy in it than ended up in the finished movie. For whatever reason we wrote in all these bits where the TV in Hollis' house would be playing some weird TV show that would put a comedic punctuation on all these scenes.

We shot all these things, like a House Hunters style clip where a couple is bickering about the crown molding in a property while the realtor is wanting to kill herself, or a Honey BooBoo style show called Toddler Bitch, where this little girl is telling her mom to fuck off.

We also had some comedic dream sequence stuff, but when we started putting the movie together we quickly realized what a stupid idea all this comedy was and it pretty much destroyed any dramatic momentum that was building in the story. There's definitely funny spots in the movie and witty crap, but straight up COMEDY in capital letters was a huge turd in the salad so we chopped it all out. It will live on in the DVD extras, though!

What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?

BRADY: I think the smartest thing we did during production was keep things small. We wrote a small movie and planned a small movie and we could have easily bloated out the crew and made things way more difficult, but instead we kept everything manageable.

We had a pretty green Assistant Director and Ed was running around basically doing the job of 2nd AD and Production Manager, we promoted a PA to Script Supervisor on day three because she was good at keeping track of things. If we had a bunch more people it would have slowed us down. We got by with just what we needed and if we had a giant grip truck with a million lights it would have bogged us down time-wise. We shot the whole movie in 13 days, so imagine trying to do that with a 50-person crew.

As far as dumb stuff we did, for some reason Ed thought that Aidan wanted to shoot the bondage basement stuff first, so we scheduled it that way. He was in town at the very beginning of production, so our first shooting day was in the basement of a bondage instructor with actors getting tied up nearly-naked and hung from the ceiling. It was all fine, but still a bit weird to kick off production in a house with a human-sized cage in the living room.

And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you have taken to other projects?

BRADY: Anybody who says they aren't always learning is a putz. I'm always learning from mistakes or figuring out new ways to do stuff.

One big thing with Scrapper is it was the first time I worked with seasoned professional actors like Mike and Aidan. I quickly realized that they need pretty much no babying and little technical direction. They know exactly what to do in every situation. When we were shooting the eating scenes, I didn't realize until editing that Mike was taking bites at the exact same time during each take, sipping the drink, holding the fork and all that. It's technical things like that that make editing a breeze, so it really made me realize to pay attention to that on future stuff.

I also learned that having somebody you trust working with you in the screenwriting phase is crucial, co-writer or just somebody who will not bullshit you. This is the first script I co-wrote with anybody, and I know it would have been way crappier if Ed wasn't there to say "That sucks, let's do this instead" at numerous points.

Most of the time if you show a friend a script, film, piece of music, whatever, they say "Oh it's great!" or give criticism with no real explanation. Having somebody there with the same motivation and experience is critical. 

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