Joe Carnahan is hyper. I mean, the guy talks a mile-a-minute. All without the aid of drugs or massive amounts of sugar. The writer/director/actor is getting a much better reception this year for his feature debut “Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane” which is part of the Sundance Midnight film series. Last year Carnahan couldn’t even sneak into a single party in Park City.
With the help of producer/actor Dan Leis and producer Leon Corcos, Carnahan has created a midnight indie classic. BGBO is an action-comedy that pokes fun at the world of used car salesman. Carnahan, a Sacramento, California native, made the film for a measley $7,300 bucks. Joe held down a normal dayjob, and shot the film over a period of seven months. Plus he’s married with two kids!! (Sorry, ladies.) Carnahan spoke to Film Threat Weekly about the making of the film.
[ JOE CARNAHAN INTERVIEW: THE BEGINNING: ] ^ “Blood Guts Bullets and Octane” began as a thirty page script. After working for years in the Sacramento Film and TV community, I had amassed enough favors to do a feature, I felt, on the cheap. So, armed with scarcely more than a third of the script, we began shooting. It was my belief that the first half hour of the film could be edited enough to use as a show piece to encourage investors or land some festival invites. We trudged through seven months of shooting, doing the requisite weekend numbers. It wasn’t until three-quarters of the way through shooting that I came up with the ending of the film. The ending I think, is really the lynchpin of this particular movie. After resolving that, I went back and plugged it into the rest of the script so it made for a seamless story. We finished shooting in December of ’96 and I took a rough edit of the film with me to Sundance, just to see what the festival was all about. After getting no real response and failing to show my film to any “industry heavies”, I went back and began a four month editing process to finish the film.
[ CUTTING ROOM: ] ^ The budget of the original video cut was exactly $7,294.19 to the penny. This film was essentially “made” in the editing. I shot extended takes to save dough. One of the days during the shoot required us to blast through 23 pages of dialogue just to beat the setting sun. Now, I don’t recommend doing that, but for us, it was essential. I used free equipment at every turn, one of our producers, Leon Corcos, was basically our benefactor on this movie, lending us all his equipment, his time and his ’63 Lemans for no cost. If I tallied up what he gave us alone, we would be in the $50,000 range. All of this was achieved through contacts and making friends over six years of doing work in Sacramento.
[ BUILDING HEAT: ] ^ I drank coffee like a freak just to keep the eyelids up and managed to plow through the post-production phase with my marriage and family life intact. I had a cast and crew screening in May of ’97 and it went over big. After that, we made the LA rounds and landed Patrick Lynn, formerly of the Samuel Goldwyn company, as our film rep. We were accepted into the IFFM in New York nearly a month after the posted deadline and in that time my wife managed another miracle at 7 pounds and 11 ounces with my son Rockne. I left for NY when he was a week old and it was there, in the hallowed Angelika Film Center, that the film generated heat.
[ THE SCRIPT IS THE THING: ] ^ Writing a script, any script, has little to do with love and a lot to do with necessity. Don’t get me wrong, I love to write, the process and flow of ideas is a fantastic exchange and when you’re really rolling, there’s nothing quite like it. But staring at a computer screen, writing, then re-writing, then waiting, is a bastard of an undertaking. All the car lot material was culled from visits to the lot and talking to guys I knew that sold cars. Everything else was made up. I don’t think a writer’s really a very good writer if he relies on a shitload of research to tell stories. It’s a universe that is wholly your own construction and not mired in non-fiction elements.
I knew I could crank out firecracker dialogue and have the characters banter really cook, what I didn’t know, until the end is if I could make the film about something other than that. In a world of Tarantino-This and Tarantino-That, I wanted to be a million miles away from that. I wanted it to be simple and thoughtful and not about looking and acting cool and saying snappy s**t. That doesn’t wash with me. I’ve got a wife and two kids and life takes decidedly different twists and turns in that situation. I felt if I capitalized on elements of my life, I would have a story that would be as close to f–king unbeatable as I could bring it.
In the end, I wrote it based on how I felt about certain people in my life and how you come to love and cherish those people. It sounds sappy as s**t, but beneath the films dirty, brass-knuckled veneer, is a story about the overriding power of love and devotion… total devotion.
[ ON ACTING: ] ^ I was not my original choice for the part of Sid. Kurt Johnson, who plays the hillbilly sniper in the film, was my first choice, but he had other commitments. So I figured, if I couldn’t deliver my own lines and act in my own film, I had no business asking someone else to do it. Dan Leis, my producing partner and co-star, was infinitely more prepared. My biggest fear was looking like a jerk and that alone was the sole motivating factor for handing in a plausible performance. Once the camera was rolling and the money was essentially burning up at 24 fps, I felt an overwhelming need to make good on each and every take.
[ SUNDANCE PARTYING: ] ^ The party scene at Sundance can best be descibed as rush hour on a New York subway. Last year, we went to a number of parties and were either turned away or booted out shortly after gaining admittance. I think the slick, fashionable apparel we’ll be wearing this year will identify us as “players,” allowing us entree into all the hot parties, at least that’s my hope…give me a f–king break, who cares. I went to the parties last year for the free grub and that’s why I’m going back this year. “There’s Harvey Weinstein!” “Wait, forget him! FREE COCKTAIL WEINERS!! Get me to that table! Go! GO!!!”
[ ADVICE TO FILMMAKERS: ] ^ My only advice to other filmmakers is to completely ignore any naysaying advice you get. Anybody that says it can’t be done, should be immediately smashed in the face with a shovel. If I listened to every moron who told me, “With two children, you can’t break into filmmaking,” then I would still be a miserable bastard, churning out “Chuck Norris Week” spots. In the end, rely on your own resources. Do the odd jobs for other filmmakers that will ingratiate you with them. If they’re not selfish pricks, they’ll remember that and be in line to return the favor. And perhaps most importantly, pay no attention to what’s going on, or what’s hot in Los Angeles, ignore all those bullshit trends that the press loves to throw a bridle on and ride into the ground. Make a movie that makes you happy and nothing more. Period.
[ WHAT’S NEXT? ] ^ My next project is a “Die-Hard” type thing. Desolate Tibetan Monks sworn to silence become sworn to vegeance after terrorists hi-jack their monastery. I’m also re-working “The Sound Of Music” with the hope of luring Marilyn Manson to star as Kitty Von Trapp.
“Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane” can be seen at the Sundance Film Festival on January 20 at the Park City Library, midnight and on January 24 at the Holiday Village Cinema III, 10:00 p.m.
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