Indie film, Brutal was headed to Cannes recently, with what looks to be dynamic MMA style action, mixed with science fiction and a study of mans propensity for violence. Brutal is bound get a lot of fans with it s cross over appeal. Writer/Director Donald Lawrence Flaherty has assembled a fantastic cast for this intense journey into the unknown. Morgan Benoit, a master of Long Fist Kung Fu, is sure to bring an authenticity to the film. Morgan trained for years in China at the prestigious Shi Cha Hai sports academy, former training grounds of Jet Li, so the action sequences are bound to be something special! Former NFL Giant, Jeff Hatch makes his film debut in this one, and at 6' 7" he is sure to be intimidating on screen. Add the lovely Stacy Jorgensen to the cast, whom you may know from the award winning film, Grey Skies, and you have some really interesting name attached. Brutal marks the second time Flaherty and Jorgensen have worked together, as she had a role in his last feature film The Steamroom.
Donald was kind enough to share a bit of his time with us this week as he prepped for his trip across seas, to participate in the prestigious Festival de Cannes which runs from May 14 through May 25th. We were quite humbled that he was willing to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for us, and hope you enjoy.
Donald for the readers unfamiliar with you can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the industry?
I think like most filmmakers I started doing film projects and shows when I was still in grade school. Over the years, I’ve been blessed to meet a whole group of like minded people who like doing this crazy thing called filmmaking. Brutal is my second feature film as both a writer and director. My first was a buddy comedy called The Steamroom. I’ve also just completed a feature documentary called East Meets West that will be airing in China later this year.
In researching I see that most of your projects you have written, directed and produced, as is the case in Brutal. Which aspect is your true passion?
I love the writing and directing part of the filmmaking process. Writing is great because it involves just being creative. It allows me to create worlds and characters that I can be passionate about. Directing also an amazing process, because it involves working with a team of people to create the world in the script. Producing unfortunately is most often about the practical limits what you can achieve, because of time limits, budget limitations and a host of other constraints.
Can you tell us some of the challenges that come with taking on all three roles in a film like Brutal?
With Brutal, I often felt like I was being pulled in three different directions. The writer part of me wanted certain things, the director in me want others, and the producer side of me often had to tell the other two what was actually possible. What’s interesting, sometime the constraints of the producer side created opportunities for really creative solutions for the writer and director sides. The mother of invention is often a budget constraint.
Brutal looks just that, brutal in its action, but I know its actually much more multi dimensional than it may appear at first glance can you tell us a bit more about the underlying story(without giving away too much of course!)?
The basic question of Brutal, is what happens when two people are forced to fight day in and day out without explanation of why? As humans, we are very violent creatures. We love to destroy things and to fight. It’s in our nature. Brutal takes a look at our propensity for violence and frames it in a way that I hope will stimulate discussions by audiences afterwards.
From the previews and stills I have seen it looks like fans can expect a lot of practical effects in this film would that be correct?
The audience is going to see some terrific practical effects. Jim Ojala, our special effects makeup designer and his team did an amazing job with all the practical effects in the film. Personally I love practical effects, simply because they are a lot of fun to do. Breaking bones and blood effects are creepy, gross and a ton of laughs when you are doing them on set.
As a director what is your thought on practical effects versus CGI?
To be honest I love all these tools that let me tell the story. CGI effects are great, as are practical effects. We actually did a lot shots where we blended the two methods together on Brutal. I’m of the school of whatever works to get the best effect.
What was the biggest challenge in making Brutal?
Budget, budget, and budget! On an independent film like Brutal the margin of error is virtually non-existent because of the small budget. We didn’t have money for reshoots or pickup shots etc, unlike the major studio films where they will spend millions of dollars and sometimes weeks just on reshoots. On Brutal we had to get it right the first time. It was a high-wire act without a net from start to finish. Luckily we had a great team of people who made magic happen every day on set. I can’t say enough good things about the actors Morgan Benoit, Jeff Hatch, Stacy Jorgensen and the rest of the cast. Everyone brought their “A” game to the show every day. Also the crew was awesome. Colin Follenweider, my second unit director and his team did the impossible with the fight sequences which I think will set a new bar for realism in screen fighting.
Can fans expect you running the film festival circuit after Cannes? Or are you hoping to go straight into theatrical or VOD release?
I’m very excited that Brutal is going to the Cannes Film Market. It’s a chance for the film to be seen by distributors and buyers from around the globe. Depending on the response to the film at Cannes, we will decide how to move forward. It’s a very long process to release a film, often taking years. So I’m learning to be patient with the process. LOL
In closing, is anything that we haven't covered today that you would like to discuss?
I just wanted to say thank you to The Horror Nation and all the writers and bloggers out there that have been so supportive of our film. The big studio spends hundreds of millions of dollars promoting their mega-budget franchise films. For the smaller films like Brutal we really depend on the publications like yours to get our message out. We really couldn’t do it with out you!
We at the The Horror Nation want to say thanks to you, Donald, for talking with us today, we are so looking forward to the opportunity to see Brutal! We wish you and your team much success at Cannes, and hope that you will drop us a line after the festival to update us on the films reception, and fill us in on what comes next for Brutal!
In the meantime heres a sneak peek at what Brutal has in store!
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