The Cinema Society and Purity Vodka hosted a screening of Tribeca Film's "A Single Shot" on Wednesday evening (Sep. 18). From the film: Sam Rockwell, Jeffrey Wright, director David M. Rosenthal, writer Matthew F. Jones, producer Keith Kjarval all walked the red carpet. The party, which continued into the early hours of Thursday morning was at the (new) Bar Naná, where guests drank Purity cocktails named "Take the Money and Run," and "A Single Shot Martini," in keeping with the film.
Other attendees included Dominic West, Mark Sanchez, Rupert Friend, Billy Connolly, Leslie Bibb, all five "Queer Eye" guys (their first time together since the show: Carson Kressley, Thom Filicia, Ted Allen, Kyan Douglas, Jai Rodriguez), Kelly Rutherford, Yul Vazquez, Frank Grillo, Peter Scolari, David Alan Basche and Alysia Reiner, Margot Bingham, Nichole Galicia, Bill Skarsgard, Jaime Cepero, Michael Abbott Jr, Roberto Bolle, Kate Bock, Heather Marks, Charlotte Ronson, Carlos Leon, Anh Duong, Prabal Gurung, Olivier Theyskens, Daniel Benedict, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Drew Nieporent, Tyson Ballou, Johannes Huebl, and Cinema Society founder Andrew Saffir.
Examiner.com had the opportunity to interview the director David M. Rosenthal about "A Single Shot," which hits theaters today.
Q: How did you get involved with the project?
Rosenthal: A British producer actually got the novelist Matt Jones to adapt his own book and then they had a fit and a started with another cast and director and then they ended up letting go of that director and were looking for directors. And then he partnered with a producer that I had worked with on my last film and I had been looking for a crime-noir kind of movie and he told me about it and he said, 'Read this,' and I just absolutely fell in love with it and so I said I would really like to get in and pitch you guys on my take and, you know, I've never really done a film like this, so I had to do a song and dance to get the job because I was up against a number of directors who had done thrillers and I hadn't, so I wasn't exactly the obvious choice. So what I did was put together a visual look-book, or sort of a video look-book that's sometimes referred to in the commercial world as a rip-o-matic and I cut a bunch of clips from a number of films that I thought were appropriate and good references and films that I loved and filmmakers that I loved and set it to music that I felt was appropriate to the film. And they absolutely got it and loved what I did and I think that actually pushed it over the edge for me and got me the gig. So yeah that's how it came to me.
Q: Which movies did you splice together?
Rosenthal: I cut scenes from No Country for Old Men' to Paul Thomas Anderson's 'There Will Be Blood' to 'Insomnia' to Lynne Ramsay's 'Ratcatcher' to Terrence Malick..some bits from 'The Thin Red Line,' some of the sort of National World stuff. I did this whole section on place cause I wanted the place...nature and geography plays a big part in the story, so I took clips from a terrific documentary, a famous documentary called 'Harlan County, USA' by Barbara Kopple and...it's all set in this mining town in West Virginia in the 70's and it's a place that time forgot even then. And I thought it was a good reference. So films like that. And then I used music, I used Arvo Pärt, this Estonian composer and Philip Glass and some weirder, modernist composers like Penderecki who Jonny Greenwood used in 'There Will Be Blood,' you know, stuff like that...to sort of cobble together the vibe of what I saw for the film.
Q: You also mentioned the interesting pre-production process with there being a different director and all of that. Can you talk about that a bit?
Rosenthal: With the other director, they didn't get that far into pre-production because they were having trouble raising any money at that time. That fell apart early. We had an incarnation of the film when I came on board in 2011 and actually another actor was on board to play Sam's role and the movie fell apart before we went to shoot for financial reasons and then we lost a number of cast members due to scheduling conflicts. And so I ended up recasting the role, Sam's role, and we went right to Sam. And so I actually prepped the movie twice in some ways, which was great, I prepped it with a different crew. I went to another cinematographer again, timing conflicts. But it allowed me to get really deep into my preparation and...I had storyboarded and...I did another level of storyboarding and another level of location...of scouting locations and getting locations and all that stuff. So...these things can be frustrating. Independent films have a lot of fits and starts and fall apart and come back together and cast changes. It's not uncommon, but it can be very frustrating and drive you crazy.
Q: You assembled such a great cast! Sam, William H. Macy, Kelly Reilly, Jason Isaacs...the list goes on. What was it like working with all of them?
Rosenthal: It was a tremendous honor and it was a great blessing to have such a great cast. I think that once Sam was on board I think a lot of these actors wanted to work with Sam because they love him and they love the material of course. And it was great! It was like, you're sitting there watching Sam and Jeffrey Wright do some of these scenes, or Sam and Bill Macy...it's intimidating. These are some of my heroes as actors and to get a chance to work with them and they're such generous, terrific actors and they were wonderful with me. When you cast really well, it makes my job so much easier...I can guide the process instead of having to go really deep cause they've done their preparation, they've done their work and they know exactly what they're doing and when they show up they hit the ground running. So it was terrific for me.
Q: Some of the actors don't get a whole lot of screen time. Did it take any extra convincing to get them to come on board?
Rosenthal: When you have an interesting and strange movie like this and people get to play these weird characters they come in and play a strange, oddball character...I think it's fun for an actor and when they come in for three days and work and pop in and out and they know that they're working with good people, it makes it fun for them. But yeah, it does take some convincing at times for sure because we didn't have the money to pay everybody the big bucks.
Q: Back to Sam. What made him perfect as John Moon?
Rosenthal: Well I rank Sam very high among actors in his generation. I think he's one of the best. He's got tremendous range... you see Sam in 'Moon' or a movie like 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' where he's carrying an entire film on his shoulders. You know he can handle it and you know he can go deep and he's got such wonderful inner life... like you can watch him do the simplest things and be engaged. And this role demanded it. It demanded that. And it also demanded a certain level of sympathy towards this character whose does a pretty reprehensible thing at the beginning. And it might be hard for some audience members to forgive. But for a guy like Sam who's so intrinsically likeable...you root for him along the way. I think that was an important quality to have for whoever was going to play this part.
Q: The film was shot in Vancouver...how did you find that area to shoot in? What made it the place to have your movie?
Rosenthal: I wanted a place that forests and mountains and that felt like the Appalachians, but that also provided a level of cloud cover and gray and fog that was built into the story and that I think provides an extra sort of layer and opacity to his progression, his movement, in and out of the woods and I feel like John Moon goes into these deep woods and there's something very mythical about this fog. And a lot of the fog we used we made ourselves. And I had an amazing special effects team that would put tubing all over the forest, like, deep layers of tubing, deep 100 yards, 200 yards, 300 yards, so we would get this tremendous...fog and allowed for this sort of opacity in the forest. So that was a big part of it. And another big part of choosing Vancouver was it's a real great film city. There's a lot of great support there and it's advantageous in terms of tax money for the film.
Q: "A Single Shot" was the first film that you directed that you also didn't write. Is the directing process any different when using someone else’s screenplay?
Rosenthal: Well you know, it's kind of freeing. It was kind of freeing for me because to not own it in terms of it's not your authorship completely and to be de-coupled of the responsibilities of writing in the prep process gives me more time to focus on the directing. It was great to work with a novelist who had so much depth to this story. There's just more depth and detail in any novel and to have that as the background to an already detailed, terrific script that was great. It was great on the adaptation level. It was really good for me on the level of being able to go very deep with the preparation with the directing. As long as the story is terrific, it doesn't matter if I wrote it or someone else wrote it. I'm still interested in it.
Q: Something I noticed in the movie. On the desk that William H. Macy is at in this film, there's a "Thank You for Not Smoking" plate on it. I have to wonder, is that at all a nod to him co-starring in "Thank You for Smoking"?
Rosenthal: [Laughs] No that was not conscious, but I love that there is an unintended consequence to that prop.
Q: One final question, is there anything coming up in the future?
Rosenthal: Well there's a few things... I just wrote another crime-noir thriller that's set in a mining town in Alaska that we're putting together. And then Sam Rockwell and I are doing another movie together, a boxing film that Michael Costigan is producing and it's based on the real life story of a journeyman heavyweight from the 20's. It was an incredibly inspirational story. His name is Billy Miske. I encourage you to look him up, Google him, and you'll read this tremendous, inspiring tale of this guy’s life. So, I don't know if that's gonna be next, that'll probably be next year sometime. But there's a few other things that are happening that I may jump into soon.
Joshua Kaye contributed reporting.