Henry Saine's action comedy Bounty Killer opens in limited theatrically release across the States today (Friday, September 6). If it is not playing at a cinema near you, you can also find it on VOD on the following providers: Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Media, Brighthouse, Verizon, Charter, DirectTV, and Dish. I had an opportunity to speak with Saine about his film prior to its release. My thanks to Henry for taking the time to chat and for everyone who gave us time to chat.
ScreenAnarchy: Just for everybody who is getting ready to watch BOUNTY KILLER, why don't we start at the beginning. I know that this is (partly) based on a short film that came up in 2011. The nature of the film, the story of the film, hunting corporate white collar baddies, seems to really follow up on the economic crisis out of 2008/2009.
Henry Saine: What's wild is that even before the short it was actually a cartoon. And this was back when the Enron issue was coming on. So we had come up with the idea just when you were learning that they were getting away with everything. So we said wouldn't it be wild if corporate criminals destroyed the world? As the years go by we worked on other things and kept coming back to it. Like you said, the stock market crashed in 2008 and then the housing bubble burst. It was actually happening around us, so we're like "Wow. We're either going to miss this opportunity or its going to be perfect timing so lets get going on it".
All of a sudden you start hiring yourselves out as prophets for hire (laughter). So your future investors catch the short, and obviously there is a great reaction to it. Somebody then gives you stacks and stacks of cash to create a feature film.
Wheelbarrows! They just couldn't give us enough! (laughter) They gave us very little money so we were appreciative for everything that we got based on the short. And we also did kind of a weird backward history. We did the cartoon then the short. They loved the short and got us to write a comic book. The movie was really based more off of more the comic book. So it is kind of based off of all these things.
You've had a lot of extensive background in art and graphic design. I've seen the list of all of the shows that you've worked on. (You did) a lot a graphic design for a lot of key shows that folks would know. THAT 70S SHOW, THE OFFICE, SPIN CITY.
And ENTOURAGE and movies like WILD HOGS and fun stuff like that. What's funny is on these shows I would always sneak in a Bounty Killer poster here and there. So it was great. Through all of that I would sneak in Bounty Killer stuff all over the place. So if you watch Entourage you will see Mary Death on the back of a cover; you would see a big poster for Bounty Killer at a animation company they went to. Everywhere.
So now I'm going to have to back through all of these shows and look for all of these BOUNTY KILLER Easter eggs. So despite the modest budget, you still manage to make a film that feels like it is walking in bigger boots. What kind of challenges do you get when you are realizing your vision and expanding from cartoon to short to comic to movie?
It was a challenge. We're trying to make a fun action movie, but it is still an action movie. Larger movies get days, even weeks, to shoot an action scene. Some days we would have like four hours. So there were our big challenges. I got with Randy Archer, our stunt coordinator, and we'd just try to map out as much as we could. We drew storyboards. We would meet up for milkshakes in these coffee house and literally wrestle each other around the restaurant acting out action scenes so we were ready all prepared for the next day. We would go until three in the morning after the shoot and just figure out the action scenes for the next day. We'd draw it out because we had such a short time we'd have to be like, "we're only shooting this this this and this". And that way we could get it all done. We had 18 days to shoot the whole movie.
So I watch a film like BOUNTY KILLER and I'm picking up all these visuals cues. When I'm watching the chase scene with the gypsies across the desert I can't help but think about MAD MAX and it is such a wonderful reference. But I'm also watching it and I am reminiscing about films like SIX STRING SAMURAI or even the first couple of Rodriguez MARIACHI films. For you guys, when you were directing and the guys were writing, what influences were drawing from when you were putting this all together?
The cartoon and shorts were more in the tone of Road Warrior. But we even love the sillier movies. Like Ice Pirates was a big reference. Six String Samurai definitely. And Roger Corman's Death Race 2000 were big things that we were looking at. Originally the whole idea was to make this movie as thought it was made in the 70s about the future of some odd year like 1997. And that's why everything the movie has this analog feel. With all the cars nothing is past 1973. None of the technology is really past 1979. We kept the aesthetic We dropped the confusing idea of this movie is made in the past about the future because everyone would go, 'What?'. So we dropped that idea. But going off of that we wanted to act like we were Roger Corman out there making a Death Race 2000 type of movie about this wild future stuff. And with Robert Rodriguez, we were more influenced by his no-holds-barred attitude and you-can-do-anything attitude. We were inspired by him because of how he makes movies and how he just gets out there and does it.
This is your second feature. You've got some repeat offenders shall we say. You've got Christian Pitre who was Mary Death in the short film, and she fills the role, and the dress, just perfectly.
Well. THANK YOU! She fills the role of femme fatale very nicely. And then you got Barak Hardley back again, you had him in your first film, THE LAST LOVECRAFT, and you got him doing comic relief. He ws also in the original short. Where did you find them and how did they get involved in the project from the get-go and how did they carry over to the feature?
Barak and I met on The Last Lovecraft. We got along so well and just had a lot of fun. So when I was going to go make Bounty Killer I just wanted to have him on board to be the comic relief in all this craziness. And we just went from there. And everyone loved him in the short so it just carried over into the movie. We did have to audition him a couple more times to get him in the movie. We fought for him and it was worth it. And Christian, we actually got her through an open casting call. Oddly it was her very first audition in L.A. and it was for Mary Death. She came in in the little Tomb Raider outfit with an actual knife, kind of threatened us, said "I am Mary Death", and we said "Yes you are". And it worked out great. Again, we loved her in the short. So we were lucky we already have these two guys. They wanted a little more well known person for the Drifter. So we went out and did some casting or that role and got Matt Marsden.
And so you picked out Matt and he came into the role of Drifter. He'd already been attached to a number of high profile action flicks: RAMBO, TRANSFORMERS, RESIDENT EVIL, BLACK HAWK DOWN. You've already got that benefit of somebody who is seasoned in that action genre. So he knows what the expectations are. Was it easy for everyone to adapt into that action mould? Did you find any challenges in getting folks involved in that way?
I think we were good. Everyone top to bottom knew what they were getting into. With Matthew we would joke and he would say, "Well Michael Bay has this, this, this and this". And I'm like, "Well we have tube of chapstick and some duct tape and that is what we have instead of your fancy crane, so get out there". We would always bust each other. Matthew has done a bunch of stunt training and we trained everybody beforehand. We had a short schedule. The idea was that with anyone who had an action scene we would get them with our stunt coordinators and their stunt doubles and just work with them as much as we possibly could so they were totally ready to go when we got out there. It made it fun. Everyone who was there got into it too and just rolled with it so it was great.
So. The use of practical effects. I'm not going to ruin it but the use of the axe in the chase scene across the desert (was great). Was it a matter of purpose or a matter of budget where practical effects came into play? Or is it just maybe it goes back to what you said about Roger Corman?
We would have actually loved to have done practical effects all across the board but certain things (prevent that). It's expensive and it's timely. That axe split scene took an entire day of setting up the head just for that shot. That takes an entire day out of your schedule. And then we had to learn about squibs. I've never used those before. Squibs take like four hours. So what we had to do early on is find out where we could use our practical effects. We definitely love those; there is something real and tactile about them. Even if it looks a little rubbery you get more of a gut reaction if you see something explode or split in half. Or like a head lopped off! Even if it is a little more phony it usually always looks better than CG and it has that kind of tactile sense that you can feel it. We're big fans of that.
And we're big fans of Henry's movie. So be sure to look for it at a cinema near you. And if it is not there then one of the major VOD providers listed earlier will be carrying it! Check it out!