Bringing the “Furnace”: An Interview with Actor-Producer Mike Dwyer

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Mike Dwyer is an actor and producer based in Ohio who has worked in independent films shot in his home state. He stars in, produces, and helped wrote the screenplay for the indie horror film Union Furnace, which will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on August 15 through Metropol Pictures, a company he co-founded with the film’s director and co-writer, Nicholas Bushman.

World Film Geek got the opportunity to talk with Dwyer about the film.

Thank you Mike for talking about Union Furnace. I saw the film and it sounded like something along the lines of perhaps Saw and Hostel, but it wasn’t like that at all, but it was very good.
Oh cool! Yeah, we get that a lot that it sounds like Saw or Hostel, and I like both movies. But, I hope people will get something different from watching the movie. But cool, I appreciate it!

Before we talk about the film, can you talk about how you got involved in filmmaking and acting?
My uncle loved movies and he actually wrote a book about Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, about the Hammer cinema. So I grew up watching old Beta tapes of old horror movies. So yeah, from a very young age, I was watching Beta and well, no one even knows what that is anymore (laughs). It was really kind of great to see all these movies and I met Nick [Bushman, the film’s director] in middle school.

Nick had always wanted to make movies, probably from birth [laughs] and we went and saw Donnie Brasco together twenty-plus years ago and I said, yeah, I want to make movies. And he did too, so that’s how it all started for me. I went to film school for a little while, then just started and putting them out.

Let’s get into Union Furnace. What inspired you and Nicholas Bushman to come up with the film?
Well, we had made our first film, The Sandbar, which was a father-son movie with Rick Rossovich, who did major films like Terminator, Roxanne, and Top Gun. It was a blast and we wanted to do another movie but we wanted to do something different.

Nick has had this car thief character [Mike’s character of Cody] in his wheelhouse and he’s had a great setup for him, but we were looking for something exciting, kind of nutty thing for him to go on. So we locked ourselves in a room for two weeks and we thought, why don’t we literally have him go through Hell. And maybe come back, but maybe not. So we were playing off each other for two weeks and that was really where it was born.

It was inspired by the old Italian giallo movies, those kind of movies. Pasolini’s Saló (1975) was a big influence for us, just because of its darkness.

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Seth Hammond as the Lion in Union Furnace (Metropol Pictures)

The film I felt was really driven by Seth Hammond’s character, who brought a bit of shock and craziness to the role. How did Seth come on board and whose idea was it for him to make his acting debut, because it was one heck of a debut performance?
Oh man! I feel the same way because I don’t even talk much in the movie and he’s there and he talks to me, screams at me. He has such an imagination on him. When Nick and I were coming up with the bad guy, who ultimately became Seth’s character of the Lion, we really wanted to blur the line between good and bad. He’s your friend, he’s not your friend. He’s manipulative. He grabs desperate people and puts them in this situation.

I think it’s that mask that gave him that extent of power. I’m not kidding man, there’s time when he’s in front of the camera screaming at me and I would actually be quaking. I mean, his pants are so tight. He’s wearing a silk shirt and he has a fake gun on him. I was like, what the hell? First role? This is amazing! He’s really wild!

I’ve seen Katie Keene (left center) in Clowntown and Keith David (right) is a seasoned veteran. How did they come onboard and what were they like on the set of the film?
Well, Katie was actually in our first film, Sandbar, and that was actually her debut performance. Nick got her involved. She actually auditioned from an open casting call. She was in Kentucky at the time. She’s in L.A. now. We wrote the part just for her. We knew what we wanted. We thought of her voice and she wanted to be in the movie. So she came onboard.

Well, Keith is very interesting. When we wrote the character of Pinstripe, Nick knew right away, it had to be Keith David. It had to be Keith David. I was like, that sounds great. Are you going to get him? Nick said, yeah I’ll get him. Nick got Keith’s information, he sent him the script. I think it was about two, two and a half weeks later, he was out here shooting the film. It was really quick, but it was great that he was such a nice guy who liked the script and he came out here and shot the film in eight days. He’s a Godsend, adds a bit of flavor to the film.

What’s next for you in terms of projects?
Nick and I completed another film called Stranger in the Dunes. It’s kind of a thriller, sci-fi movie that takes place at a beach house. I’m in that film too and it will start playing festivals in the fall. It’s a pretty wild awesome movie. That and we are going to make another film sometime in the fall. We’re just trying to rock and roll, take every chance we get. And I hope people get to check out our films.

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The Lion (Seth Hammond) leads the pack in Union Furnace (Metropol Pictures)

Exactly and this is why I love indie films today because this film has a sense of originality, again with Seth’s performance really just mind-blowing. I don’t think I would ever expect anything he did in a major Hollywood movie.
He literally is the highway of the film. The driving force of the film and it’s exciting to see him both with the mask and without the mask. And I think it’s great to see that in a genre film, someone who is a real guy. It’s the manipulation. It’s like he takes you to the place and has you locked up and also someone to woo you, making you think, oh this guy is my friend and he drops the ball on you.

Union Furnace is a thriller with some pretty good unexpected turns. The film comes to DVD and Blu-Ray on August 15. You all did great in the film and I would recommend this to any fans of horror films who want something a little different in terms of playing deadly games.Thank you again Mike for talking about the film.
Thank you very much! Appreciate it!

A special Thank You goes to Katrina Wan PR and Mike Dwyer for making this interview possible. For more on Mike and his films, check out the official Metropol Pictures page.

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