17th May2018

Interview: Corbin Nash’s Ben Jagger

by Philip Rogers

Corbin Nash is a new action horror which delivers a fresh new take on the vampire genre. With the now available to view in the US on VOD, I got a chance to ask co-writer and director Ben Jagger a few questions about; how he got into filmmaking; the inspirations behind the film and his influences for the look and the style of the film.

ben-jagger

How did you first get into filmmaking?

I always loved watching movies as a kid, me and my brother Dean used to spend our weekends renting video tapes. We watched two or three films back to back and being 80’s kids we grew up on Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis, so we got hooked early on. But the actually filmmaking side came later on for me. As Dean began studying acting, I was training to do stunts on film and in doing that I got hooked on how movies were put together, so I studied every book I could find on filmmaking, screenwriting, cinematography and read them cover to cover. I was mesmerised with all the elements that go into making a movie, the depth and detail that goes into each department to create the magic we got to see on screens as kids…. I was hooked real quick.

Corbin Nash mixes various ideas into the film and offers a unique take on the vampire genre. Where did the original idea come from and how did you develop that into the final film?

The original idea came from a random dream I had which was a reveal to a Vampire character that became Corbin Nash. I told Dean the dream and then we just started to spit ball ideas between us and our writing partner Chris Taylor and the story just grew from there. We went through many stages of creating this story and the world of Corbin Nash, the first script was actually too big of a concept for the budget we was working with, so we had to adapt and save story for a potential sequel. So once we knew the budget and the parameters we were working with, we decided to write an origin story for the character so it was more contained….. saying that, we are always ambitious and shooting for the moon, so naturally the movie began to grow as I was making it.

In regards to the unique take on the vampire genre, I said right from the beginning that I only wanted to do a vampire movie if we were going to have a different approach. That approach was to ground the mythology and make the vampires more like nocturnal animals. I wanted the movie to have a dark graphic novel feel to it with outlandish characters which was kind of a throwback to some of the 80’s cult action movies me and Dean grew up watching.

For anyone who is thinking about watching Corbin Nash, what can they expect from the film?

Good old fashion revenge!  A character origin story that follows the reluctant hero into action set within a dark underworld that’s filled with some creepy ass villains.

Once of the strengths in the film are the performances from the talented cast. Corey Feldman and Dean Jagger are brilliant lead actors in the film, but they are also supported by some big names including Malcolm McDowell, Rutger Hauer and Bruce Davison. What was it like working with such a talented cast?

It was amazing to work with all those guys, as a director it fills you with confidence when you are working with such a high calibre of actor because you know they are going to bring some amazing ideas to the table. Working with Rutger was a pitch yourself moment for me and my brother because we were huge fans from being kids, watching Blade Runner (1982), Hitcher (1986). He was at the top of our list for the part, but we just didn’t think we would get him! So, after I met him to discuss the role he was onboard, but he wanted to tweak a few parts of the dialogue for his character and he asked us if that was okay. We was like of course!… the guy rewrote the ‘tears in the rain’ monologue in blade runner for Ridley Scott, so we said “Hell yeah!” If Ridley gave Rutger that freedom, I sure as hell was!

Malcom is another veteran and he just turned up to set and delivered on every take, a true professional in every sense, it was a great honour to work with him! I instantly got on great with Malcom as he shared a few stories on where he grew up, which is very close to where I grew up actually, so after that first ice breaker it was like he was just one of the lads and we got into the work and had fun doing it.

Bruce Davison was awesome, again…he came in nailed his scenes with each take which is amazing when you get to the editing room because you have so many good options and it’s just a matter of which one to use that works best for the scene. I have to say that seeing my brother Dean working with all these guys was a trip. Dean has an old school raw talent that is quite rare these days, so to see him working side by side with these icons as they elevated each other’s game was a big deal for me.

Although as we previously stated the cast in the film is incredible, but Corey Feldman’s really stands out with his performance as Queenie. How close was the final character to what you originally envisioned?

Originally, I saw the character being a little bit darker with less of the flamboyance but as we progressed through the stages of production the character started to shape up into what you see on screen now. I described the character to Corey as ‘A beautiful mask to cover the chaos’ and from that point we ran with the idea that the character should be a little over the top in moments as a way of covering the malice that’s inside waiting to erupt.

What were your influences for the look and style of the film?

I chose a chiaroscuro (Light and shadow) approach for the lighting style infused with neon’s because I wanted to set up a dark and seedy underworld that looked like something from a dark graphic novel. The neon’s played an important part of the films look. I also wanted to the look to feel gritty, rough around the edges in the grade, so we dialled it back to give it more of a retro look which lent towards the material.

Influences for film came from some dark comic books like Hellblazer (1998-2013) and movie influences came from some of the cult classics of John Carpenter. Although I did reference quite a few David Finchers early movies like Fight Club (1999) and Seven (1995) for lighting styles and shot references.

What were your favourite moments during the filming of Corbin Nash?

Shooting the action sequences were fun of course, but I really enjoyed the intimacy of shooting the scene with Dean and Rutger in the bar. It was just amazing to watch two great actors bouncing off each other and pushing each other, like I said it was a bit of a pinch yourself moment working with Rutger.

One thing that stands out in my mind is the fact that I got to make this movie with the people who have been with me and my brother from the very beginning. Our Producing partner Richard Wagner and our writing partner Chris Taylor have been in it with us through every step of the way. I’d class that as a favourite moment and want to thank them for having our backs when shit was really tough in the beginning. Great friends.

There is a lot going on in Corbin Nash which really sets up the story. Are there any elements of the film which were different to what you originally planned?

Yes, there are a few things in the film that were different to what was intended but that is purely down to budgetary restraints. When you are making an independent movie on very limited means you have to get creative! because you will be compromised on so many aspects, down to locations, shooting days, production design, scenes omitted from the script. So, it’s important to do as much prep as you can so that when the compromising times come, and the plan gets thrown out the window, you act instinctually from a subconscious mindset that you have built up in the prep work.

Me, Dean and Chris originally had wrote scenes that had to be streamlined because we simply didn’t have the money to do them justice, so we had to adapt…. it can be heart breaking at times because you go into it very ambitious, wanting to create all these amazing ideas that serve the script but then your told “we don’t have the budget to do those things”…. but hey that’s filmmaking and every independent filmmaker goes through the same process. In fact, even studio filmmakers have to compromise! You just gotta suck it up and get on with it and keep pushing for every inch to get close to what you envisioned.

The film sets up the Corbin Nash universe for a possible sequel. Do you have any plans to write and direct the sequel?

Actually, the first Corbin Nash script we wrote was too big for the budget we had because there was a lot more action set pieces involved, so we shelved that and created an origin story for the first film and the shelved script would become the sequel. So yes, we could do a sequel for sure, it’s just down to how the public responds to the first film for us to make another. But aside from the sequel, we have built a whole timeline for ways to expand the universe of Corbin Nash.

Do you have any other projects you are working on at the moment?

Yeah, I am working on a bunch of things at the moment, me and Dean have a few scripts we are pitching around town, one project I can name is called ‘Dark Peak’. We just finished a polish on the script and are looking to shoot later in the year and we are also developing some cool new projects to pitch out in the summer.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get into directing?

Get after it! Study as much as you can and then get out and do it. I think persistence is key in the entertainment industry, you gotta keep pushing your way through the rejections and setbacks and keep moving towards what you want and fight for every inch when making your movie.

Prep as much as possible and trust your instincts, Filmmaking is collaborative, so search for good collaborators that will elevate your ideas and support your vision, but always be open to their ideas also, movies are not made by one person so trust in the team you have put together and work your ass off till the jobs done.

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