BLAYNE: I started my indie film career when I co-wrote and acted in the film Manic starring Don Cheadle, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. My relationship with the director was... let's say... strained. I didn't like him or the way he ran a set and I felt confident that I could do it better. Because of him I became a director.
I owned a small home in Los Angeles that I had bought with money from acting. I sold it in order to finance Outside Sales, my first film as a writer/director. That film led to getting Weather Girl made starring Tricia O'Kelley, Mark Harmon and Patrick J. Adams.
I followed that up with 6 Month Rule starring myself, Martin Starr, Natalie Morales and John Michael Higgins. Cut To The Chase is the fourth film I've written and directed.
Where did the idea for the script come from and what was your process for getting it ready to shoot?
BLAYNE: My last three films were romantic comedies and I wanted to do something gritty and exciting and something on a smaller budget than my last two films.
I decided to shoot a thriller in my hometown of Shreveport, LA. I pulled my team together and we made a list of assets: Locations we had access to, great actors, vehicles, etc. I had worked with Erin Cahill (Power Rangers Time Force) previously on 6 Month Rule and I always thought that she and I shared a certain look and way about ourselves and that we should play siblings.
The story came out of that. Writing specifically for actors that I wanted to work with in locations I wanted to shoot.
What's the upside of directing yourself in your own script? The downside?
BLAYNE: In a micro budget action-thriller, the biggest upside of directing myself is that I'm not endangering other actors. All the stunts are done by myself or my stunt coordinator (Luke Sexton) who also plays a part in the film. I'm not asking someone else to punish their body over and over again. I do it because I know the film will be better for it.
The downside is the time-suck. Watching the monitor after takes slows down the process. That's why it's key to have a team you trust that is not afraid to question or criticize. Our rule was that if you had a problem with something I was doing whether it be performance or something technical you had to speak up immediately. I didn't want to hear about any misgivings in the editing room when it would be too late to make changes.
Can you talk about how your team raised the budget and the distribution plan for recouping costs?
BLAYNE: Cut To The Chase began as a Kickstarter campaign. I raised a little over $20,000 on that platform which was then matched by Capital Arts, a production company in Los Angeles. I then went to independent investors, mostly in the Shreveport-Bossier area, and raised an additional $60,000.
We are currently playing the festival circuit and are planning on a limited theatrical release timed with a digital and VOD roll out.
What type of camera did you use and what did you love (and hate) about it?
BLAYNE: We shot with the RED Scarlet. My DP Rob Senska is the pro in this area so I asked his thoughts:
"I love the weight of the image it captures, almost emulating film. It's nice and compact for quick and dirty shooting. The only thing I didn't like, it can be a noisy camera when the fan kicks on after getting too hot and it can get HOT in Louisiana".
Did the movie change much in the editing, and if so, why did you make the changes?
BLAYNE: The film is a mystery, so the biggest changes were removing the moments where I over explain in the dialogue. I wanted to make sure that all questions were answered so there is lots of exposition and restating of clues... But in the actual film, it felt TOO explained. We were able to pull out the unnecessary information and stick with the characters journey, which is what the audience cares about anyway.
What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?
BLAYNE: The smartest thing we did was really put the script through its paces. Feedback and notes from colleagues along with a read through where the team could question logistics, story points, etc. It saved a lot of time on set and in the editing room because all of the players knew the story and what we were trying to create.
The dumbest thing I did was run around for 12 hours on city streets in cowboy boots. Messing up your feet is a bad deal.
And, finally, what did you learn from making this feature that you will take to other projects?
BLAYNE: I learned Dr. Scholl's Insoles are an excellent investment.