Your resume is filled with plenty of Assistant Director credits, please tell us what made you want to become the Director?
The challenge! I wanted to be able to tell a story, a narrative. After working for so many talented directors I felt I have learned so much about the craft and I was eager to try directing for myself. I wanted to understand how it was to work with the actors and crew with a totally creative head space rather than a productive one that was merely dedicated to managing the clock, finances and assisting a vision. I worked and waited for a long time to eventually direct so when the opportunity was there I jumped and it certainly helped that I have always been encouraged to direct by multiple directors and actors that I have worked with in the past..
Before I directed I studied acting and went to acting school for six months.. not that I wanted to act but I wanted to understand acting from a directors point of view and after the six months it definitely gave me even more drive to pursue directing.
I think working as an assistant director has been and continues to be an amazing experience and I firmly believe after directing I have become a better Assistant Director.
What appealed to you with Dirty Lies that made you want to have this film be your directorial debut?
I love Heist movies… and I love crime thrillers … So I came up with the idea and co-wrote Dirty Lies to tick both those boxes… We knew that due to budget we had to limit the action and locations so we wrote a story that was contained by mainly all taking place in a house and added twists to keep the audience guessing. I think one of the main inspirations that drew me into the story was the characters… We made them all roommates as I felt that was a fresh approach to a heist film and then added the thru-story of the necklace robbery to put the characters into a uncomfortable situation and then comes an attempted robbery that goes wrong and all of sudden the friendly roommates are all at each other’s throats.
How did Dirty Lies come to be? What was the inspiration for the story?
I wanted to tell a story of how quickly someone can turn when put in an uncomfortable situation. Dirty Lies came to be due to a lot of time spent developing and casting projects that never saw the light of day. So I decided to concentrate on a story that had a chance of being made partly because the budget was so small it was always going to be a little more realistic in not trying to attract Hollywood celebrity but trying to make a film that would appeal to great actors and crew for my first feature.
It was an uphill climb that any director would go through but we never lost focus because we had an amount and knew we couldn’t spend any more and always felt that we were going to achieve a result.
The film takes place mostly in one location, a house which is a stunning home. How did you and your team find this location and why did you choose it?
We found the house on a regular rental web site rather than a film location websites. We started looking at houses on film web sites but then realized they were not affordable so we approached a few owners like we just wanted to rent and then once in the door we brought up the real reason being the film…. We ultimately chose the house because the owner was invested in the project and was so gracious and nice to work with and gave us a deal which was difficult to turn down….We needed a house with multiple rooms so its believable that four room-mates in their twenty lived there … but at the same time they all needed money as they were probably living above there allowance or wages…
Our location manager showed me over 10 houses online and we nailed in down to three houses, as we shot over Thanksgiving up to mid-December allot of the houses were not available as the holiday timing… We chose the house in Topanga as it offered so many other locations in addition to the house… We shot the park scenes on the property, all the driving work in Topanga… but most important of all we could house all the equipment the actors and the crew parking all on the property — AMAZING !!
The lead of Dirty Lies is working his way through the ladder, or attempting to, was any part inspired by some of your life?
Most definitely the character of Josh was based loosely on my beginnings and friends of mine that worked for producers and directors … We were all trying to get ahead and would do anything to please our bosses… Even though I was very fortunate to have grown up in the business I was from London so being in Hollywood in my early twenties mixing with movie stars and the Hollywood elite it was a dream come true… I remember one job I worked on a commercial for a European beer company and I got to work with Jeff Goldblum right after the original Independence Day was a huge hit.
I got on great with him and I was the PA put in charge of making sure he had what ever he needed… On the last day his town car didn’t show up to take him home so I was asked to take him home… I had an open top jeep and we were chased by a few people (fans) along Santa Monica Blvd.… He then invited me into his house as he was having a party and I remember being called back to the stage after a hour cause they wanted me to broom and clean the stage floor… One minute partying with the Hollywood elite, next minute mopping a stage floor… quite a contrast.
Were other characters inspired by people you have met and worked with?
Yes, all the roommate characters were based on either someone I know or a mixture of people… The Viggs character is my best friend and he gave me permission to use his name and existence and Beau Knapp who plays ‘Viggs” spoke to my friend when doing research… Michelle was a mixture of many young actresses the Hollywood dream come true and the role of Stacey was slightly fabricated to work for the story but was also a reflection of a failed marriage I had in my 20’s but I was more the Stacey than the Viggs roles… when it came to the dynamics of the relationship.
The driving shots with the car point of view are very interesting visually, how were they achieved and were they influenced by anything?
All the driving shots were done in camera… when we did the transition to the party I decided to move the audience at a fast pace but cover allot of geography… So we mounted the camera very low to the ground and shot with a 14 mm wide lens so there was allot of information in the frame… And then we shot in 8 frames a second and then we even over cranked the image in post so the end result was we covered about 8 miles of road in under 30 seconds.
As many films are now crowd funded, what is your opinion on the matter and did you use it for Dirty Lies? Do you see yourself using it in the future?
I didn’t use crowd funding and looking back to it I wish I did seeing the success of some campaigns now. I think it would have changed the casting as usually with crowd funding for a thriller they want to see names of actors that they are more familiar. Recently I’ve met a group of young guys just out of film school that are using crowd funding campaign to raise the money for their film and because of the social media following off their cast they are expected to make close to 2 million which is over four times the amount I had so with anticipated numbers like this I would be mad not to try it in the future,… Don Cheadle’s passion project about Miles Davies I understand was partly financed through crowd funding so it can work in all different genres and situations.
How was your cast chosen and do you plan on working with them again in the future? I would do it in a heartbeat.
I hired a great casting director – Shannon Makhanian and we started the process role by role — We eventually got it down to a few choices for each role and then did allot of rehearsals and test readings and I did allot of persuading as the cast were doing it for the love as very little money was offered… As far as working with them again I would do it in a heartbeat – they all gave so much time and effort and I stay in touch with them all and am excited for all their careers which they are all working actors which as we know is tough.
What are your plans for the future, any other films on the horizon as a writer, director, or assistant director?
I have films in various stages of pre-pre production that I hope to direct, one is set up with Gerard Butler’s company, one is set in Thailand and is an action thriller. I also am producing and directing a horror thriller. I optioned the script with producer Scott Lumpkin and we are pursuing various finance options.
I also have two films in development that are both in the script writing phase. One is a story I optioned from a CNN security advisor who was kidnapped in the Russian invasion of Georgia and the other is a optioned project of a father and son survival story set in Alaska. As a producer I have a film with Martin Campbell that we are developing with the writer David Marconi called the Unknown Wife.