Brooklyn-based Writer-Director, Scott Kawczynski, spoke to Influx Magazine about his debut movie Trust, Greed, Bullets & Bourbon (read the review here). His work on MTV’s Unplugged as a Production Designer, earned Kawczynski an Emmy.
Trust, Greed, Bullets & Bourbon boasts a great cast, that includes Max Casella (Killing Them Softly, Boardwalk Empire), Eric Morris (Blue Bloods), TV regular Larisa Polonsky, Danny Burstein (Boardwalk Empire) and Dara Coleman (World Trade Center).
Randy: How did you get into the motion picture business?
Scott: It was a somewhat natural progression. I worked as a web designer for years before I made the switch over to animation, motion graphics and art direction. I began mostly in broadcast, doing animated title sequences for TV shows and commercials. From there, I was quickly brought into doing the same for films.
Randy: I know you’ve been working behind the scenes for many years on so many different types of projects. What led to you finally making the move into directing?
Scott: A lot of the projects that I have been doing over the past eight or so years, in my eyes, have been at least partially directing jobs. Creating a title sequence for a show or film, I am usually either dictating to the producer the shots I need, or shooting them myself. so I feel like I have been directing for a long time. I also shot a short film 6 years ago and knew I wanted to do a feature at some point.
Randy: You both directed and wrote Trust, Greed, Bullets & Bourbon. Where did the idea for the premise come from?
Scott: Before Trust, Greed, Bullets & Bourbon I had written a different crime/gangster film that was getting some traction with a major production company. It was going great, until suddenly it wasn’t; like 99% of the things going through Hollywood. At the time I had just a sliver of an idea of a simple heist-gone-wrong whodunit, and I was watching a bunch of Hitchcock movies, like Rear Window, Rope and 12 Angry Men. I then thought of writing a small story that takes place in one location and all the characters were stuck there. In fact, the first draft of the script took place all in a Brooklyn bar over the course of an evening.
Randy: Your casting choices were great. Did it take some coaxing to get the cast to sign on, or were they in it from the start?
Scott: The toughest part about the casting was just getting the timing right. I had a few other actors lined up for a couple of the roles, but couldn’t do it based on their schedules. There was no coaxing at all, everyone who was cast were into it immediately. That was something I learned, that if you have a script that actors connect with, they want to be part of it. Max Casella, Danny Burstein and Dara Coleman were offered the roles straight up. I was familiar with their work and knew they would be great in the parts. Eric Morris, Larisa Polonsky and Kathryn Merry auditioned.
Randy: I heard there were some issues in also locking down a crew and shoot locations. Did this make you rethink this whole “directing” idea?
Scott: Crew was difficult. Again, based on scheduling and with a very low-budget film, people want to help out, but if they can be on a regular paid gig, they will (and should) take it. The first DP I had ended up dropping off the project so I had to scramble. Luckily, I had worked with Rick Siegel (the DP) previously and knew he was very good. The great thing is he brought the rest of the crew onboard. Which was fantastic. Locations were a bit tricky, but we got lucky, especially in upstate New York. None of this made me rethink directing. It did, however, make me rethink producing.
Randy: I have to say, the character of Tyler, portrayed by Max Casella, was one of my favorites. What was it like writing that character?
Scott: Max Casella is a great actor and a better person. Very fun character to write and I let Max go off script while we shot as long as he stayed true to the character. The funny thing about writing a character like Tyler is, that it seems like you can have him do whatever you like, but that’s not true. Let’s be honest, he’s a pretty terrible guy, but there are boundaries that he can’t cross, like any other character, you just have to be careful how far you push those boundaries.
Randy: I also loved Samantha’s nature. Without spoiling anything for viewers, she really was a piece of work. Totally amoral, maybe? I would think it would be fun to write those kinds of characters. Can you tell me about her?
Scott: Totally, a piece of work and completely amoral. Very fun to write. But, the interesting thing I realized while developing that character is that she is the strongest willed character in the film. Not the smartest, but definitely the strongest. And as you see in the film, will stop at nothing to get what she wants. That is what was really fun about writing her.
Randy: What do you hope viewers take away from this movie?
Scott: The one thing I hope the viewers take away from the film is the question of whose story it really is? The setup and general arc definitely follows one of the characters of the ensemble. But I believe there is a deeper story within. And if you look at it, you can see that, depending on your point of view, it could really be all about one of the other characters. I am a sucker for that sort of storytelling, misdirection and mystery.
Randy: In terms for the future, what are some of your inspirations? Or, from what films or styles do you think you’ll draw?
Scott: For inspirations, kind of a wide range: The Coens, Hitchcock, PT Anderson, Rian Johnson, Jeff Nichols. So the range is pretty wide in terms of style, anything from thriller to sci-fi to dark comedy.
Randy: Your first directorial effort is in the bag and you did a great job! What’s next for Scott Kawczynski and Fifteen Below Zero?
Scott: I have two scripts right now that I’m working on. One is bouncing around LA, seeing if it sticks with anyone. That is a kind of coming-of-age action-adventure road picture. The other is another small film that I swear to you I will make. It revolves around the concepts of obsession and what it does to people but with a comedic twist. Very excited about that. The other thing I have going is that I’m directing a stop-motion animated short film that I wrote. Doing that this winter.
Randy: Where can our readers watch Trust, Greed, Bullets & Bourbon?
Scott: Trust, Greed, Bullets & Bourbon is available worldwide on December 11th on iTunes, Amazon, Seed&Spark, VHX Digital, and DVD. You can visit the website for more details by clicking here: trustgreedbulletsandbourbon.com
Randy: Thank you, Scott Kawczynski.