Interview By: John M Jerva
In the realm of independent action cinema, filmmaker William Kaufman is definitely one of the leading directors to bring fans authentic tactical precision to his movies. Kaufman erupted onto the scene with his ultra-low budgeted gem The Prodigy and in the years to follow, has given us several bullet riddled favorites such as Sinners and Saints, Daylight’s End and most recently The Brave.
Kaufman is one of the best directors when it comes to showcasing the most realistic shoot outs and action set pieces in the genre and once again is a man who knows how to shoot the action.
Kaufman is back in the saddle and is currently filming his next action drenched film called The Channel in New Orleans which stars Clayne Crawford, Max Martini and Hakeem Kae-Kazim. In this exclusive interview with Action-Flix, he returns to chat about the new film, the sensational cast and shooting the action! We also dive into the hot topic of gun safety on movie sets, shaky cam and more.
It’s filmmaker William Kaufman in the latest exclusive interview for Action-Flix.com! Enjoy!
1) Hi William! It’s been a while since we last chatted. What have you been up to?
Great to catch up John… like what happened to so many people, Covid really turned everything upside down. I had several projects lined up but when the shutdown began those things went away.
Nevertheless in the process my partner in crime Johnny Strong invited me onto his latest film. I saw it as great opportunity for us to partner up and direct a really cool film together.
It was a really tough shoot but the end result is something we are all incredibly proud of. From in front of the camera to behind it, Johnny absolutely killed it…Can’t wait for people to see it.
2) It’s a new era we live in with the threat of COVID. Talk about the challenges of filming and being on the set in this day and age.
Yes Sir… the greatest challenge for independent productions is the additional expense of Covid testing to production which is easily an additional 10% to 20% hit to the budget of what was required before 2020. That said I count myself very blessed to be able to keep doing what I love to do while at the same time satisfying the return to work agreement that the Screen Actors Guild has put in place to do what they feel is critical to keep everyone safe.
3) You’re newest film The Channel is now filming. Talk about the film and how it came about and what we can expect from the plot.
This film is what I call the “Unicorn”… less than 90 days ago I was commissioned to write a screenplay about a bank heist that goes horribly wrong and the ensuing tale of this motley crew of bank robbers and their desperate attempt to escape the city.
Fast forward to today… end of week two of one of the most amazing shoots I’ve ever had. As always it’s been super challenging but working with a cast and crew that has so much love and respect for each other has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my career.
4) The cast is sensational. How did Clayne and Max come onto the project?
That’s actually a crazy story. The two of them have literally been friends for the past 20 years. They are as close to brotherhood as it comes. That’s been awesome. We literally laugh and jab at each other all day. Long story short, somehow when the script ended up in their hands they reached out to one another and agreed that they needed to talk me into letting them play the brothers. Trust me it didn’t take much convincing. They got me on a zoom call and the rest is history.
5) First up, talk about the addition of Clayne Crawford and what role he plays in the film.
Clayne is with out a doubt one of the most passionate, talented and invested actors I’ve ever been blessed to collaborate with. Clayne plays Jamie Sheridan our anti-hero protagonist trapped in the tug of war between his loyalty to his older mad dog brother Mic (Max Martini) and the love of his life Ava (Julian Joyner).
Clayne came down a couple weeks before production and we got to spend a ton of time together hanging in the Irish Channel neighborhood of New Orleans – the setting of the script. We went everywhere together chasing all the best haunts that the locals proudly call their own. Just trying to get a sense of the sound, feel and soul of the place as we worked on the character together.
To be honest it was almost odd how quickly we connected…. as creatives, collaborators and as good friends. Clayne’s just a really wonderful, solid human being that cares so much about the truth in the character and story of his films.
6) Max Martini is one of my favorites and I loved him on The Unit as well as Michael Bay’s 13 Hours. How did he get involved and talk about his character.
Max is a complete stud. I have been a fan of his forever. First off he’s got to be one of sweetest and kindest actor’s I’ve worked with. Like you, I loved him in the Unit, but also really gravitated to him as an artist when I saw him in 13 Hours and his film Sgt Will Garner. He’s that perfect combination of a really smart, talented actor and alpha male bad ass.
Max plays the role of Mic Sheridan, the tough as nails, dangerous, leader of a crew of former Marine bank robbers. He’s as ruthless and vicious as they come. It’s been so much fun to see Max bring Mic to life. He’s just crushing it!
7) You are reunited with actor Hakeem Kae-Kazim whom you worked with on Daylight’s End. Chat about Hakeem’s role and what he brings to the table.
Hakeem is an absolutely brilliant actor and good friend. I felt Hakeem was perfect for the role of Secial Agent Frank Ross. I reached out to him to do it. He agreed and here we are.
Ross is the veteran leader of the elite robbery task force, tasked with hunting down our bank robbers Mic and Jamie. Ross is a very smart, driven, and strong alpha male. He’s dedicated his entire life to chasing and hunting the worst of the worst. But in the process that dedication to his career has cost him a lot in his personal life. Which is exactly why I needed Hakeem to take on the role. An actor that could bring all those layers and dynamics of the character to life.
8) You are well respected for always making thrilling action films. Talk about what pressure, if any, there is to out do what you’ve done in the past.
Thank you for saying so. Honestly I don’t feel there’s a sense within me of any specific focus to outdo what I’ve done in the past. I just wanna do great work.
I think for me my biggest realization was how much more joy I have in the process and ultimately in the end result on projects that myself and my team have as much creative control as possible. Yes those in independent opportunities are not as lucrative as some of the other opportunities but they sure do a much better job of fulfilling that little boy’s dream, who so many years ago said he wanted to be a filmmaker.
9) The on set images look amazing as does the cast. What preparation and tactical training did the cast go through to look the part?
Our cast of bank robbers went through a pretty intense tactical training program during pre-production. Max and Clayne both wanted someone that had lived and breathed the world of the US special operations community.
So with those marching orders in place I brought on one of my dearest friends, former Navy SEAL Scott Phillips of Tac-Frog Global. Scott’s a great guy and an amazing instructor and was instrumental to building and crafting the choreography within the film.
10) What can fans expect from the action set pieces and give us a brief taste of the action elements in the film and the style we’ll see.
In this story our crew of bank robbers were former Marine special operations operators with extensive deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. I think you’ll see a lot of great examples of very visceral action pieces that will showcase those small team special operation tactics. That was a blast. You’ll also see some very ugly and brutal up close and personal gunfights as our protagonist battle rival gangsters and the cops chasing them. I’m excited I can’t wait to share it with you.
11) Shaky cam and quick edits are a big controversy right now among action fans. You always have well shot action sequences in your films. How do you go about making sure the action scenes in you films don’t fall into that trap?
Well Honestly I get why some filmmakers use shackycam and quick cut close up shots for action sequences. It is much easier for the schedule (shooting fast) and for actors who are having a hard time with choreography. It allows you to lose all sense of geography and hide issues that may occur during performance.
For me though that’s the problem with it. If there’s a gunfight I want to see how danger close it is for everyone. I want to know what’s happening. For me that’s what gives it its “reality” and “danger factor.”
But in order to do that it takes more time… so for me my number one priority when it comes to action is to push for as much time as possible to tackle those set pieces. If I can’t get the time to do them right I’d rather not do them.
12) I recently chatted with Jesse V Johnson and we talked about gun safety on set in light of the recent tragedy. Can you give us your perspective on it and how you’re handling it in this film as well as future films?
What happen was a horrible terrible tragedy – but from what I understand that situation was the perfect storm of negligence heaped upon negligence and individuals apparently breaking every safety protocol I’ve ever seen on set. That said we should all take stock of the risks associated with shooting action and blank gunfire. For me it’s all about the dedication that the production has towards safety. You’ve got to hire the right people and strictly follow all the safety checks & protocols associated with the use of firearms on set.
I for one, will do exactly that and continue to use blank firing weapons. When compared to its effects on authenticity and the impact to actor performances on screen, I don’t believe there’s any substitute or comparison to the real thing.
13) You’re currently filming in New Orleans. How is it on location and filming in such an iconic city?
I moved to New Orleans this year because it is literally one of my favorite cities in the world. You’d be hard pressed to find a place on the planet with more character and soul than this city. It’s actually the inspiration for the setting in the script. In fact I’d go so far as to say it’s a character of its own in this film. Such a cool and exciting layer to add to the story.
As for the experience of filming in New Orleans… it’s been fantastic. My crew is top notch. They are as talented and dedicated as any team I’ve ever worked with in the world. And the city itself has done everything they can to support us and make our lives so much easier. Such a great film friendly place to make a movie. I look forward to filming many more here.
14) You also recently filmed Warhorse One with Johnny Strong. What 411 can you give us about the film and when we might see it.
Warhorse One is an action drama set in the current climate of Afghanistan. Johnny and the rest of the post-production team are currently in the finishing stages, with plans to deliver in January. As far as release dates, I see this as a summer 2022 release. We should know more by the end of the year.
15) What info can you give us about any future projects? Any updates on the Sinners and Saints sequel?
As sad as it is to share the Sinners and Saints sequel is simply not going to happen. We’ve tried for years to pull it together and got really close in 2019 but I’m afraid Covid hammered the last nail in that coffin. That said we have lots of other stories that I’m very excited to share. You’ll have to just trust me. I won’t disappoint.
Thank you so much William for another amazing interview. Good luck with the rest of the production and I can’t wait to see it and put it out there for fans to see.
Thank you John and as always thank you so much for all the support!
Keep it locked and floaded right here for more to come on The Channel and Warhorse One from Director William Kaufman as we are your destination for everything action and indie action cinema!!!!