The duo of Cary Murnion (left) and Jonathan Milott gained quite an audience when they unleashed their debut film, the horror-comedy Cooties in 2014. They follow that up with the alternate-history action thriller Bushwick, coming to select theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on August 25 from RLJ Entertainment.
World Film Geek got the opportunity to talk with Murnion and Milott about the film.
First of all, thanks for talking about Bushwick. The film was really great and having seen films with similar themes, this was my cup of tea.
[Cary Murnion] Thank you! We appreciate that! I saw your site has an “Indie Action Spotlight”. That’s pretty awesome!
Oh thank you! I love indie cinema so the Indie Action Spotlight is there to promote some new short films and stunt reels of people who I feel need to be out there doing movies or are to a degree.
[Jonathan Milott] Oh hell yeah! We gotta get behind that!
How did you come up with the idea for the film as you were credited with the story of Bushwick?
[Cary Murnion] Well, I actually lived in Bushwick for about five or six years back in the late 2000’s. And I loved the neighborhood. I thought it would be great to shoot something there, but I didn’t quite know what it would be yet. Then I saw a quote from former Governor of Texas Rick Perry. He joked, or not joked that Texas should secede from the United States when Obama was in office. And that sparked an idea, so John and I talked about it and we came up with this idea for a movie with what would happen if Texas did secede from the United States and invaded Brooklyn.
We imagined this invasion happening through many cities across the country, but we wanted to focus on one story, one person and how that person dealt with this invasion in her neighborhood. So that’s where the idea generated from and it kind of evolved from there.
[Jonathan Milott] We thought it was a crazy idea but with some basis in reality. But now, we’re seeing it is less of a crazy idea than you can imagine.
One thing that made the film stood out is the constant use of long takes. What was the influence behind using this technique? I loved seeing this is Orson Welles’ A Touch of Evil and Johnnie To’s opening to Breaking News.
[Cary Murnion] We really wanted to immerse the viewer into this world because we thought the idea of bringing it out there and ground it in reality as much as possible. We wanted to show how someone is put into a situation that is so intense and how they would react to this. Not someone who is a soldier, but one of us, a citizen. So we felt like that technique could throw us into the shoes of Lucy [Brittany Snow’s character] and kept them going along with her the whole way. It felt like you were in the neighborhood, experiencing what she did and it never lets up as you go along with her along the way.
We liked the movies you had mentioned, but we also liked Children of Men, which had a far-out idea of a world where there are no babies being born. But [co-writer and director Alfonso Cuarón] used those cinematic techniques to really make you feel like this world can really exist. And the long takes were a part of that. I think it brings authenticity to this world.
[Jonathan Milott] And also, it’s a violent movie, but we didn’t want to embellish it and make the violence something like Hollywood, a typical Hollywood movie. We wanted to make you feel it was visceral and real, so that when you dealt with the violence, you couldn’t get away from it. And those long takes kind of make you feel that way. I think because at the time we thought it was a crazy idea, we wanted to try to ground it with the long takes. To reiterate what Cary said, keep it grounded, try to keep it as real as possible. It did seem like a very out there idea at the time, but with grounding it, we didn’t want to glorify violence like Cary was saying.
And that’s what I like about the film. Not only the violence look more realistic and not glorified, but there is a lot of the drama that comes with what’s going on so that helps.
[Cary Murnion] Thank you!
[Jonathan Milott] It’s like when you see someone get shot or injured, it doesn’t cut away and next thing you know they’re fine. Every bullet has a repercussion and that’s something you have to deal with.
What was it like working with Brittany Snow and Dave Bautista? I’ve heard from some people who worked with Dave especially that he is such a gentle giant on the set while very dedicated and it shows in his role. Another thing that caught my eye was Brittany’s transformation into a soldier herself as well.
[Cary Murnion] On the set, they are amazing. They are very hard working. They spent a lot of time getting into those characters and this is basically a live play that we shot on the streets of Brooklyn. So just imagine the preparation that goes into that. We’re doing 10, 12, 13-minute shots and you’re getting into buildings and the streets, where there’s no sets. We’re out here, so both of them had to do these preparations for their roles.
And these are characters that they’ve never played before. They couldn’t fall back among things they were doing before so it pushed both of them in ways that they wanted to, so that’s why did these roles. They wanted to push themselves. And you can see, they’ve done things that they’ve never done before and they brought a lot in terms of the story. So they really brought something new to these characters of the story that we filmed here.
[Jonathan Milott] And just to tell you how much of a gentle giant Dave is, he would always have questions on the set and he would approach it very cautiously. He would be like, “Oh, I’m overthinking this” or “Why would this happen”. And everything he would ask a question, it would bring a great insight and we would talk about it to make sure there is proper motivation or, it all made sense. He would always approach it in a cautious and respectful way but always had great insights.
And what’s great is they both wanted to do the film because they were usually typecast. And the characters they play in Bushwick truly subvert their typecast roles. So we really liked that idea of taking what they are known for and flipping it.
The film somewhat brings up a finale that could in some aspect bring up the idea of a follow-up that shows the aftermath of the events. Is this something you may think about re-visiting down the road or was this meant as a one-off?
[Cary Murnion] Right now, we think it’s a one-off. We felt it was the story of Lucy, and it really brought out the story of Lucy. But, we’ll see how it goes. But yeah, right now, it’s definitely a one-off that explores the neighborhood and the characters in ways that we pretty much finished the arc. But, you never know. If the audience wants something, maybe we will go back to it.
[Jonathan Milott] Well, you know we love this genre and I think we can build something there. We’ve joked about a few things. You know the next one could be Silver Lake or any number of boroughs or cities that would have been invaded by Texas. And you know, we’ve joked that The Handmaiden’s Tale is the long version sequel of this film [laughs]. After the invasion, that’s what America might look like.
Well, I will tell you. As I was watching the film, one idea I had is perhaps to bring in Lucy’s sister Belinda [played by Angelic Zambrana] and have the sequel revolve around her and how she deals with the aftermath.
[Cary Murnion] Oh we love Belinda. Belinda is perhaps the most flawed character out of all of them and yet she has all this potential that is untapped. And I’m dying to see what would happen to her afterwards and how this affected her. Cause it was such a shock to see where she came from and where she ended up.
[Jonathan Milott] That would be a great story.
Finally, do you have any new projects in the works?
[Cary Murnion] We have a couple of projects we were excited about. First, we have a L.A. heist film in the works called Robbery 101. We’re looking to cast that now. We also have a monster movie that we have been developing for a while now and well, we are working on a script with a great guy named Kevin Collier and it’s based on the Nian monster, a mythical Chinese monster. We are doing a contemporary version of that, where we start out in China and end up in Alaska.
That sounds awesome! I will definitely look out for that one. Bushwick comes to theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on August 25. Anyone who loves a good action thriller with something different should check this out. Thank you again for talking about the film.
[Cary and Jon] Thank you so much!
A Special Thank You goes to Katrina Wan PR and Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott for making this interview possible. For more information on Cary and Jonathan, check out their official blog (http://www.caryandjon.com)