*Interview* Action Maestro William Kaufman Stops By

[Photo courtesy of William Kaufman]

AR: Thank you for dropping by William. Firstly how did you first get into the movie buissness?

WK: I was ALWAYS that kid in the neighborhood running around making my own little movies with my friends. It was always what I wanted to do… Eventually I went to film school at the University of North Texas and while I was there was working on a short film of mine that needed guns and f/x (imagine that 🙂 ) Well long story short I called a local armorer/fx artist for assistance and one thing lead to another and I ended up going to work for him. A few years later I teamed up with a couple of awesome friends and made our first film the action horror film The Prodigy (think a gritty low budget indie action version of Se7en meets Reservoir Dogs)

[Photo courtesy of William Kaufman]

AR: Who would be your influences in the industry?

WK: Oh that’s a hard one because I’ve had so many but I’d definitely say Michael Mann, the Scott Brothers and early Luc Besson and with a heaping handful of Walter Hill and believe it or not John Carpenter.

AR: I first recognised your work in Bad Cop – Sinners and Saints – such a solid movie! What inspired you to write this story?

[Photo courtesy of William Kaufman]

WK: Well I co-wrote that one with my long time friend and brother from another, Jay Moses. I desperately wanted to make an old school testosterone filled action cop film but handled with the grittiness and realness of something that Michael Mann might take on. I love New Orleans and was dying to get it on film. The real city not just the French Quarter. Then after the Storm we re-worked it to include that as the back drop and Sinners was born.

AR: The action scenes were incredible, very tense and realistic, how did you pull this off on such a limited budget?

WK: Easy answer… I work with really talented, creative and dedicated artists/collaborators. I had a leading man that was a real deal shooter and could pull it all off and a tac advisor in Sonny Puzikas who brought his experience as a former Soviet Spetsnaz operator to the set and leaned on him heavily. I then combined that dynamic duo with a killer camera, fx, stunt, prop and make-up team and the rest is history. I really love this film.

AR: How did you get a feel for what you wanted from the action sequences?

[Photo courtesy of William Kaufman]

WK: I did a ride along with the NOPD for Sinners & Saints and learned a lot… Definitely enhanced the script.

Many of my closest friends are the real deal… Ex-operators, Russian Special Forces, Navy SEALS, Rangers, SWAT operators, you name it. Awesome guys… absolute experts regarding the subject of combat/violence.

[Photo courtesy of William Kaufman]

I’ve had incredible opportunity to hang out, & train with these guys. You’ be surprised how much great stuff, lingo, body language, carry rigs and other miscellaneous bits of business you can pick up to add authenticity to your stories, when you spend time with the kinds of people you’re telling stories about.

AR: You and lead man Johnny Stong seem to have a tight relationship, how did you guys meet?

[Photo courtesy of William Kaufman]

WK: Yeah for sure. Johnny is like a brother to me… and an adopted uncle to my kids… we met a couple years before Sinners when I reached out to him to ask him if I could license some of his music for The Prodigy. I loved his work in Black Hawk Down and Get Carter and got him the script for Sinners And Saints. Thankfully he said yes and the rest is history.

AR: I hear your working on a sequel to Sinners and Saints, can you tell me much about it?

WK : We have a GREAT script written by Jay Moses and Chad Law…. Black Rain (fish out of water protagonist) meets Sinners and Saints. It’s been super challenging to get off the ground. We had financing issues then talent schedule issues. I just don’t know what it looks like. What would be really awesome is if the fan base got together and made their voices heard. We shall see.

AR: Is it true Scott Adkins is set to co-star?

WK: Scott was set to co-star but when our dates pushed that fell through. Scott’s super busy, his schedule is always packed. We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds.

AR: You jumped into The Marine franchise, on the fourth entry, what approach did you take to make this standout from the other installments?

[Photo courtesy of William Kaufman]

WK: All these films are VASTLY different animals. The Marine Moving Target was conceptually designed as a “fun, pop-corn, action chase movie”. That’s fine, there’s a huge audience for that kind of movie… but the truth is that kind of film doesn’t really play to my personal sensibilities… My approach was to take it as dark and gritty as they’d let me. The film is basically one long running gun battle, so I felt it was critical for me to attempt to raise the stakes and dramatic weight as much as possible. I think we succeeded in some ways and learned a lot in others.

AR: How long were you given too shoot the movie?

WK: I had 20 days… It was brutal to pull of that much action in that short of time. But thanks to my stunt coordinator/2nd Unit Director Kimani Smith and fight choreographer Dan Rizzuto we got it done.

AR: How did you find the location? The scenery was beautiful!

WK: 100%… We shot it north of Vancouver in and around a town call Squamish. Absolutely gorgeous countryside.

AR: What was it like working with Mike Mizanin?

[Photo courtesy of William Kaufman]

WK: Mike is blast to work with. Such a down to earth, hard working actor, with a killer sense of humor. I loved working with him.

AR: Being from the WWE background I am sure it made fight scenes & choreography come together quickly?

WK: He’s definitely down for anything when it comes to fight scenes. Never complains and works his tail off. The guy’s a machine. Such a blessing for a director.

AR: When putting together an action movie would you try and film all the physical stuff first?

WK: No I think the opposite is true… In my opinion, it’s “better” or maybe “safer” to get all the drama and story telling out first. If you start with action and your actor get’s hurt early on it can really limit how much you can accomplish in production.

AR: After The Marine you Jumped into Jarhead 3. Was Assault On Precinct 13 an inspiration for this?

[Photo courtesy of William Kaufman]

WK: You got me… I’m a huge fan of Carpenters stuff… I’d even say there’s a little bit of The Thing in there too 🙂

AR: Had you seen any of the previous installments beforehand?

WK: I’d seen the original, which is a great film but a totally different kind of film. Jarhead was a dramatic anti-war commentary… The sequels including mine… Jarhead, The Siege are only “Jarhead” by brand name and USMC characters, but are for the most part completely unrelated straight up action films. If I had had my wish I would’ve simply called my installment The Siege and kept it as a stand-alone original. I just don’t see the relation to the original material at all. But that said… no one asked me for my opinion on it 🙂

AR: Is it challenging directing a marine based movie on a budget?

WK: Yes it definitely is, but we shot the film in Bulgaria with a killer crew, led by my unit production manager Yanko Ushatov and my stunt coordinator, Stani Stamatov… These guys went above and beyond to deliver a far bigger film than we could’ve done anywhere else on the planet. I’m extremely grateful to my Bulgarian crew… the guys are top notch!

AR: It also must have been hard to not turn Adkins into a one man killing machine!

WK: Haha… Yes 100% – But that’s okay, I’ll get my shot at delivering the version of Adkins soon.

AR: The dream team of you and Johnny reunited for Daylights End, it was such a cool movie. Can we expect a sequel? If so can you tell us a little bit about it?

[Photo courtesy of William Kaufman]

WK: Thank you so much. As I mentioned Johnny and I are really tight… creatively we just connect really well together. Daylight’s End and Sinners And Saints are the two films that I’m the most proud of and working with Johnny is about as good as it gets.
These are the two most extreme examples of my unfiltered, unchecked sensibilities… These two movies were creatively the most “me” of all my films… There were no execs to answer to, no money guys that had creative control, total freedom… An absolute embarrassment of riches. The only thing that wast holding us back were tiny budgets but I feel strongly that hard work, passion and dedication got us past that obstacle. As for a sequel… we have a great script in our hands but Covid-19 has thrown the schedule for everything I’ve had in development this year completely outta wack. Again we will have to see what’s what after the dust settles.

AR: Do you have upcoming projects you can talk about?

WK: Yes I’ve got a slate of exciting projects on the horizon.
I have an amazing project with Scott Adkins called Vigilante… a killer action thriller that was also penned by Chad Law. It was set to film in June but that’s all on hold till we get clear of Covid-19.
and I also I have another original Johnny Strong project that was set to shoot in the fall but again Corona has put the breaks on it for now… Can’t share much, other than to say if you’re a action/war fan and a Johnny/Will fan you’re gonna absolutely love it

[Photo courtesy of William Kaufman]

The biggest challenge for all of us filmmakers now will be getting clear of this pandemic so that film insurance companies will insure films for production again. Until that happens it’s going to be extremely difficult for anyone to get going again. Trust me I’m chomping at the bit to get back on set.

AR: Thank you for taking time to answer my questions and I really do admire your movies. Whenever your name is attached to an action project I know it’s going to be a quality movie. Thank you again!

WK: Thank you for the opportunity.


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