Feb 15, 2008

Interview with Alvin Ecarma

Alvin Ecarma is the director of the TLA/Unearthed release of LETHAL FORCE.

SS: What inspired you to make this spoofish film? Did you just wake up one day and decide to make the mad-cap action blast "LETHAL FORCE?

AE: I was a couple of years out of film school and I had spent the intervening time hustling my short films and spec scripts. When those went past their freshness date, I decided it was time to make a feature using Robert Rodriquez's "El Mariachi" as a model. And concurrent to all this, I had been compiling a dossier on people in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area who had skills that would come in handy for a project like this, and I also had become friends with Teddy Chao and the Johns Hopkins Film Society in Baltimore, Maryland. So my desire to make a film and finding a core crew to make the film with dovetailed together nicely into A Perfect Moment, never to happen again.

The script itself is born out of my affection for action movies of all sorts with an emphasis on HK heroic bloodshed (which I believe to this day to be the absolute zenith of the Action genre) with riffs on 80's Cop movies, Kung fu, blaxploitation, Spaghetti Western and the odd Japanese Yakuza bit And because we were dealing with limited resources, the screenplay was very lean and barebones since I had to be flexible in dealing with casting and budgetary restrictions. Basically I went for "clever and smart" rather than "noisey and loud" since the former is always easier (and cheaper.) The mild tongue-in-cheek tone was always present but it read a bit harder on page than it does on screen; in any event, the quiet absurdity gave the film a free pass with most audiences since there was an acknowledgement that we know that the audience knows that this movie is verrry cheap (but without being over-bearing and obvious about it.)

SS: How did you come up with the design for the henchmen? It seems you tease the audience with their identity.

AE: This was artistic inspiration meshed with logistical pragmatism. Not only was it a comment on the general faceless nature of action-movie henchman, it was just easier to plug in people whenever bodies were needed without worrying about continuity or worrying if an actor was going to show up or not.

SS: Is the nemesis purposely given a teutonic appearance?

AE: Funny story. The first guy we had for the Big Bad was this hairy, beefy, beast of a man who, two weeks before production began, demanded a $100 for every day we went over schedule, a travel stipend, a costume stipend and 3% of the gross. Now everybody who was working on this movie knew it was a volunteer/credit/copy-of-the-movie deal but apparently this fat headed prima donna bastard was the King of Rockville, Maryland dinner theater and it was head shot next to the chipped beef on toast at the Lazy Susan. Of course, we fired him but he continued to try and sabotage things by telling the rest of his aquaintences on the cast that I was secretly planning to set them all on fire and leave their charred corpses in a mass grave at Seneca Creek State Park. Tragically, some of them listened but I don't harbor any ill will toward any of them and I wish them all the best of luck in whatever impoverished, half-assed community theater production of "Starlight Express" they find themselves in.

Anyhoo, we eyeballed the remaining cast,trying to figure out who looked the most freaky, and it turned out that person was Andy Hewitt, God Love Him, that Aryan Ubermench. Generally speaking, there was a bit of casting drama with a sizeable amount of people abandoning the movie because the script was so shockingly offensive to their genteel sensibilities, but that's the Washington, DC Metro area for ya. It's the milquetoast and Wonder Bread Capital of the World.

SS: Do you have anything written down for the sequel? And how would that work considering the ending?

AE: If I made a sequel, it would just start with Savitch alive and punching people. He'd be an eternal, immortal, unkillable archetype like Santa or Fu Manchu.

SS: Do you have anything planned out for your film making career?

AE: I am very quietly working on something that's not a sequel, but a thematic follow-up. It's in the same mold of LETHAL FORCE with the exception that I'm writing more well-rounded characters rather than just flat out "types". More imporantly, the script will have a "scalability" meaning that it could be mounted effectively with either no money or with lots of money (of course, the latter would be nicer). The script should be done in the coming year and we'll take it from there.

SS: Thanks a lot for your time.

AE: Straight backatchya!

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