The Derby City Film Festival sneaks ever closer – it is only a week away! One very anticipated movie is the horror-comedy “Overtime,” created by Louisville filmmakers Brian Cunningham and Matt Niehoff. I had the opportunity to sit down with Brian and discuss the film.
(Interview edited for length and clarity.)
Could you talk about “Overtime?” In your own words, what's it about?
“It’s basically a buddy comedy about two hitmen. One of them has a family and he ends up getting in trouble with his wife because he forgets his kid’s birthday party, so while he’s out trying to fix that problem he gets called in to do another hit, and he happens to get locked in a lab filled with zombie aliens. So, basically, even though he’s in this lab full of zombie aliens the real thrust of the movie is whether he’s going to get out of the lab in time to get to his kid’s birthday party and make his wife happy. It’s very much a comedy, very tongue-in-cheek and it never takes itself too seriously.”
I saw that at some festival where it played it got an award for “Best One-Liner,” which is funny because I showed my wife the trailer and she said, “It looks like it’s just a bunch of one-liners!”
“(Laughs) Yeah, pretty much, there’s quite a few one-liners.”
If I’m not mistaken, you co-wrote it with Matt Niehoff, who directed.
“Basically we sat down and we did everything 50/50 the whole way. I was behind the camera so I was Director of Photography, he was the director, and we just cut up the credits that way… We co-wrote it, co-produced it, and he cut it, and I sat in the edit room and helped him out and gave him notes.”
How did this idea come about?
“It completely started with Matt. We worked at a company together… and we were doing commercials… marketing videos, stuff like that, and he just walked into my room one day because he knew I was a movie guy, with [my film blog] Movie Chopshop and he said, ‘I’m going to try to do a feature. I’ve got a script; do you want to read it?’ So I took it and I read it, and I said, ‘Do you need somebody to DP it?’ And he said, ‘Sure, that sounds good.’ I asked, ‘Is this the shooting script, or can I give you notes on it?’ He said, ‘Oh, no, give me notes! It’s still a work in progress.’ From there we did twelve drafts together. It became a very different movie. Actually, it started out as a really ridiculous comedy, then it almost became a drama at one point, and then ended up back towards a ridiculous comedy – but slightly less ridiculous than it was the first time… We shot over a period of about nine months: weekends, evenings, working around actors’ schedules.”
How were you able to snag [professional wrestler Al Snow]?
“I wish I had a cool story for this, but we put out an open casting call and one of the other guys in the movie is [local wrestler] Ben Wood… He was training with Al Snow. He knew us and came into the audition… and seemed to like us, so he told all of his wrestling buddies, including Al, about it, and then one day Matt got an e-mail – and I didn’t know who Al Snow was, I had no idea, but Matt did because he’d watched wrestling when he was a kid – so, he got this e-mail that said, ‘Hi, this is former WWE superstar Al Snow. I heard you’re doing a movie. I would like to audition. Tell me if that’s possible.’ And Matt just flipped out.”
Do you or Matt have any prior filmmaking experience?
“Short films. In college I actually pulled off an absolutely no-budget feature film that no one’s ever going to see. It was a learning experience for me, one of those ‘get a camera, go out and do it and learn a lot’ things.”
That’s what Rodriguez did [with “El Mariachi”]…
“Yeah, exactly, but his was good! One of my favorite quotes from Robert Rodriguez is, ‘Everyone has about a dozen bad movies in them. Best to get those out of your system early.’ When I did that first feature, I hadn’t gotten all the bad movies out of me yet, so I’ll just chalk that one up to experience.
“Matt actually went to SCAD [Savannah College of Art & Design]. He has a film degree and had done 16mm short films. I always find it really funny because everyone coming out of SCAD is doing these really serious art pieces, and he did movies about pot-smoking zombies… demonic strippers, stuff like that… He’s all about the action movie and having fun with it.”