When reached by phone for an interview, actor Randall Batinkoff said directing his first film was a challenging endeavor, probably the most challenging endeavor he has undertaken--aside from being a father.
“[Fatherhood] was actually great preparation for directing a movie because if you can handle a screaming kid and lack of sleep for a year or two, you can handle directing a movie. But they’re close as far as the demands,” he explained.
“There were really no drugs involved in this story.”
In his directorial debut, Batinkoff also serves as co-writer and star of “37: A Final Promise.” The film focuses on a popular but troubled musician who plans to die at 37. Yet, a young woman named Jemma Johnstone (Scottie Thompson) teaches him some hard lessons about life and death.
At first glance, though, the plot brings to mind Kurt Cobain and the “27 Club” of rockers who died too young.
“There were really no drugs involved in this story. I think in the movie there’s some hint, as a rocker, that he was drowning his sorrows in some kind of substance,” Batinkoff said. “The true story was really [about Guy Blews], who I knew was a friend of an ex-girlfriend. He had this English accent, this proper English guy, but fully tattooed; his entire body was covered in tats.”
The director saw the number 37 tattooed on his acquaintance. When asked about that particular body art, Blews said that was how old he was going to be when he died.
“The more I pried, I discovered his brother had died when he was younger. He was devastated that the world kept moving forward. In his mind, he came up with a number. He never wants to suffer, he never wants to deteriorate. He’s going to go out with a bang,” he explained.
Yet, a year-and-a-half after that meeting, Batinkoff saw his friend alive and well at the gym: “There he was, in the flesh. I was so shocked. I asked him what happened to the whole 37 thing and he said he chickened out.”
Batinkoff encouraged Blews to write down his unusual story, which became the basis of “37.” The project was in development for such a long time, however, that Blews set yet another drastic time limit.
“He said if this movie doesn’t get made by a certain date, he was going to blow his brains out. I credit that for the movie ultimately getting made because I really took that to heart. I said ‘I gotta make this movie, or this guy will kill himself,'” Batinkoff explained.
Not a smooth-running set
Batinkoff said the set of “37” was not drama-free, but that does make for a good movie.
“If a set is running smoothly, you’re in trouble. We definitely don’t have that problem. I used a lot of the drama on the set as fuel for my character,” he said. “There was a lot of stuff that happened before the movie that sort of got me prepped for it. So I felt pretty secure in the acting and really made the commitment that it was the focal point. If the acting is working, I think the movie is going to work.”
“37: A Final Promise” currently is playing on VOD and in limited release in Los Angeles. It also starts a limited run in New York City on August 15.