11th Jun2018

Interview: Actor/writer/director Harley Wallen – Part 2

by Philip Rogers

Harley Wallen is an extremely versatile actor-writer- director who is looking to make a big impact in 2018 with several projects which he is releasing through his production company Painted Creek Productions. I got a chance to talk with Harley about some of his exciting new projects including Moving Parts, Bennett’s Song, Into a Dark Mind, Artificial Loyalty and Agramon’s Gate.

If you haven’t read it yet make sure you check out part one of this interview right here.

harley-wallen

You mentioned making concessions with the actors Into A Dark Mind, but did you make any changes to the original story to bring it to screen?

No, but an interesting story. When I finished the script the first time around I went to a good friend of mine, an actor who has been in quite a few of my films. I showed the script to him and he said, “I love the script, but who are you going to play Max?” I said, “I don’t know, we are going to put out a casting call” and he said, “No, this is the ultimate anti-hero, I know two people who can play that role. It’s Mickey Rourke and Tom Sizemore”. I didn’t think about that, it is a pretty complex role, you have to have that duality emotion of being a hero, but also be dark enough. But still stay credible and true. You have to make the audience love you even though you are not really a good guy. Keanu Reeves can pull it off in his John Wick (2014), Tom Cruise with Jack Reacher (2012), It is really hard to do, so to stumble across this, I sent a message to the Tom Sizemore Facebook page, talked to his handler, got the script in his hand and he loved the role. So, it’s funny how things turn out sometimes.

Especially getting an actor like Tom Sizemore in that type of role…

The movie would not be what it is without him. Even the star who plays the killer, he is a really good actor, but he got pushed by Tom, over and over again, so you have to step up, otherwise Tom is going to steal everything, and he is going to own the whole scene. It was really interesting to see it on set. I don’t know what system of acting Tom follows, but I am a big fan of Sanford Meisner. He was amazing at understanding the imaginary circumstances living in them as they were real as your character. Tom does that better than anybody I’ve seen on set and with him doing that. I had a couple of scenes across from him and Kris Reilly had a couple of scenes across from him and I believe he made us better actors just by pushing us. There were not two takes that were the same, he was fully true to the moment each time, so the lines were the same, but not the actions. It always changed on the take with what was given and what was taken, it was an amazing experience.

You also have another film coming out called Artificial Loyalty what can you tell us about that one?

This is definitely our biggest attempt to push something that could belong in theatres. We have John Savage from The Godfather Part III (1990), Hair (1979) and The Deer Hunter (1978). We have Billy Wirth from The Lost Boys (1987), Body Snatchers (1993). Richard Tyson Kindergarten Cop (1990), There’s Something About Mary (1998) who has been in a million movies, and to add to that Blanca Blanco who is really up and coming. We have TJ Storm who is again a force to be reckoned with especially in action movies and I don’t think he gets enough credit, that guy is amazing. Then we have Yan Birch from People Under the Stairs (1991) and Blessed the Child (2000) he is a horror icon who plays a dramatic role in this one and he is really good. This cast is breathtaking and now take the subject matter which is trafficking and a life of crime, so that makes it even more of a hot topic. Then if you add to that dirty politics which we know is happening everywhere, I think it hits all of the elements that could make it go off the charts and an incredible deliverance. With some of the acting in this film, this is probably our most well-crafted thing we have done with the right topics at hand.

I have three beautiful daughters at home and a beautiful wife, so trafficking kind of scares me because it is very real. What they do to these women and these beautiful girls especially is sickening. You can picket fence this and go to your church which I absolutely agree with, but what I found to be very effective at times is to scare people a little. This movie does that! The mayor is allowing the Russian mob to run a drugs and trafficking in Detroit, but the Russians say we don’t care about his quota’s, following the rules, so the mayor starts to get tired of it. The cartel in Chicago contact the mayor about taking over, they say they are going to set up the Russians, but the Russians find out and they take the mayors daughter. Now you have a very intense thriller all the way through. It has enough action for the action fanatics, it has incredible suspense for the true thriller fan and laced with strong acting. You also get a chance to see a little bit more from the victim’s point of view of how they keep them and house them. We were doing a lot of research on this and a lot of women are drugged and locked in dog cages, so they are docile. You have a lot of girls drugged up on heroin in dog creates in a warehouse, when you see it, it really hits your gut. For me it makes it incredibly personal because I see how easy it is to snatch somebody up and how quickly it goes. From researching this and looking at some of the stuff, I know Ashton Kutcher is a big component for fighting against trafficking and it’s almost like one of those worlds which you wish you never opened up. When you look into that its like looking into the belly of the beast. We did that with this and it almost forces you to step into the action and I hope we can continue to do that with the film.

The trailer is being release in Cannes, I told John Savage and Blanco Blanco I haven’t seen the final product yet but the first rough draft absolutely blew me away. It was a thousand times better than any trailer we have released, so I told them to go check it out and give me their feedback.

Again, you mention the incredible cast you have brought together here, is that again based on the strength of the script?

With me being an actor first and a director second my language when I handle my cast, my system for casting has really surprised a lot of these actors that come in. My brand is becoming really strong in Hollywood, because these guys go back and talk about me like crazy. I had Laurene Landon in my last movie and first of all she is unbelievable. This woman will blow your mind on screen! She was in Agramon’s Gate that we just wrapped, I don’t have a whole lot other than its screen grabs so that is another conversation, but from an acting perspective Laurene was amazing! She is as good as anyone I have seen on screen. Agramon’s Gate will be award winning I guarantee it, she blew all of our minds. Everyone was looking at me showing their goose bumps on set behind the director monitor. Because she is a very beautiful woman and we made her in to this psychotic mother in a hospital bed, who deserted her son because he killed his psychotic father. She plays this woman who has been in a psych ward for 20 years. She’s not meant to be pretty and a lot of the time when you take a pretty woman and say your not going to be pretty they really don’t like that. She just went with it, her performance all the way through the movie is breath-taking, some of the best acting I have ever seen.

That is impressive considering some of the talent you have worked with

She blew my mind! I think everyone on set was in shock because she was that good. Our distributor is looking to have it out this year before Halloween, so we are on a really tight timetable for editing on this one. We want to have a really tight product and not cut any corners so for this film my editor was editing as we are filming, so we are about a week away from having a rough draft. It’s absolutely crazy and my team call me a salve driver. Three feature films a year and everybody has to keep my pace. One thing I pride about myself is I have an incredibly strong work ethic and I am forcing everyone else to keep up with me. We are having fun, but we are working very hard.

You have a lot of project coming out this year, I think you currently have six?

We have six maybe seven films coming out this year, its crazy. Moving Parts is already out and is doing really well, I think most of the views so far are on Amazon, but it is also available on iTunes, Vudu and all kinds of other outlets as well. Taking Over will be out this year in September. In a Dark Mind will be out in September. Artificial Loyalty will be September/October. Bennet’ Song will officially be out in August and now Agramon’s Gate should be out in October as well. We will see about Abeyance which we are shooting this summer, what the tables will look like for my editing for that one. I went to LA and fell in love with Sugar Studios LA, they are a phenomenal editing company. I don’t think I’ve seen a better post production company that them. Just being in there and looking at their systems, it’s absolutely amazing and they hire some of the best people in the business. You combine a fantastic system with fantastic people that bodes really well. They produce films themselves, so this is a way for them to essentially keep their employees busy which is good for them as well. So, if you are an editor you are not just sitting around making a little bit of money and then waiting for the next gig, they are making money all the time, which also makes them better. The quality of what they put out is just breath-taking, so we are really looking strongly at potentially switching our post production to LA and have me out there to coordinate with them and finish the project out there. We have growing pains, but good growing pains.

Do you have any other projects which you are working on at the moment, I know you have a lot going on?

The film we are shooting this summer is called Abeyance and we just started pre-production and funding. We will start connecting with out Hollywood talent, I have some names in mind, but I have got to secure the budget first. We would bring in some strong names in this one as well, a similar type of cast to Artificial Loyalty if I have my way, like a big strong Hollywood cast and I would even say that I would like to outdo it. I have some really good connections through some of the actors that have worked with me already, speaking very highly of how we do things, how I direct and how we do each little thing to make sure that they are showcased properly. I think right now you have a tremendous gap between the blockbusters and everything else and people want to be showcased favourably. We want to take our time, making sure performances are good and they have a real actor standing across from them. Not just someone who is my cousin, I put my cousin on screen with you because he really wanted to be in my movie, because that happens too much and it’s hard to make a good film. Acting is almost like a tennis match, if you put a terrible person at the other side, it’s really hard for me as a high-level tennis player to play with you. Because I either dumb my game down or you are hardly going to play. I think what we are trying to do is bring in the best acting we possible can, so we can get true moments between two people living under a pretence of circumstance. I think that is probably why people love working with us.

One final question here, what advice would you give to someone who is looking to write and direct their first movie?

I think the best advice would be don’t do it! Seriously and I will explain that, because I think that you have to be completely sure. Not that you want to do it, but you have to do it. Because that is what is going to push you through. Our last day on Agramon’s Gate, we had just shot two 13 hrs days in a row and our last days was 15 -15 1/2 hrs or something like that. We were shooting some of the last scenes over the last few days, so it was incredibly difficult, and a lot of special effects make up. You can tell moral starts fading or you are getting a challenge and they go “Oh…” (sighs), as the director if you can’t motivate people, get them back to saying, “We’ve got to do this, we’ve got to kill this” If they don’t remember why they are doing what they are doing when they are exhausted and why we have to keep up our excellence, then the film falls apart. Another problem I see with director is they have a vision for their film then they come on set and they have an actor who wants to do this and that. The actor gets excited about this and they pull the director into their excitement and it sounds good at the time, but later when you watch the story, the story falls apart. You have to have the strength and firmness to hold that red herring all the way through the film, so you have a story that would allow enough variances from the actors to bloom in their characters and that’s not easy. If you don’t do that then you are going to end up with a film that won’t be what you wanted or hoped it to be. So, my best advice is to say don’t direct a movie, which is going to make you say, I am going to direct that movie and now you are on the right track.
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Look out for our review of Wallen’s Moving Parts very soon; but in the meantime you can keep up to date with Harley Wallen and Pained Creek Productions on social media:

Harley Wallen
Twitter: @HarleyTheSwede
Instagram: harleywallen

Painted Creek Productions
Twitter: @paintedcreekpro
Facebook: PaintedCreekProductions
Instagram: paintedcreekproductions

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