When we heard that Holt Boggs had a slot available in his busy schedule to grab a coffee with us and chat movies we couldn’t refuse! We had an excellent catch up talking about his directorial debut with Crazy, working on TV and much, much more.
Hi Holt. Thanks for taking time out to chat to us.
How have you been managing during the pandemic?
Well, the pandemic has been a big giant suck, as it has been for most people. We have kids, so managing that end of things was rough. My wife and I got Covid and that was rough and then there’s being out of work for most of a year and that was rough. That said, I got a lot of writing done and my alcohol tolerance has gone way up.
I’m with you on that! It has been tough.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into filmmaking?
I’m an actor by trade and started that a little over 20 years ago. I started writing as a way to create work for myself and sucked really really bad at it for a while, but I eventually got better and fell in love with it. I co-wrote, produced and starred in my first feature, The Prodigy back in 2001. That film was a crash course in filmmaking as I worked on everything from wardrobe, to dealing with the finances, to sound design, hustling film stock, casting etc. It got me interested in the entire process of making a film. As an actor, as much as I love it, until you become a name, you’re such a small piece of the puzzle and I wanted to be more involved in the storytelling aspect of it. I found myself on sets directing the coverage (in my head) of the scenes I was in and knew I’d make the jump behind the camera eventually. Insecurity kept me at bay, but then I hit a dry spell and Crazy was born.
You can’t beat experience, it’s the best way to learn.
You have done a lot of TV work. How does that compare to working on short film?
I love the TV work and the paychecks are nice. It fulfills that childhood fantasy of, “being on TV”. That said, I’ve played a lot of supporting roles and fairly generic characters which doesn’t give you a lot of latitude to play. Short films and indies in general are usually a lot more creatively fulfilling.
We agree. We love that indies are basically an ‘anything goes’ mentality. No restrictions, you can let you imagination run wild, within budget of course!
What is the most challenging aspect of working with Short film?
Money is always a thing, especially since there’s little to no return on investment, the economics is always tough. I think also, in a time where anyone with a iPhone can create content, making something that’s at least slightly unique and special is always the challenge, but that’s a good thing. I think it forces storytellers to have to step up their game a bit.
Yep, access to the tools to make a film are so readily available now. Literally anyone can make one.
What do you enjoy the most? Acting? Writing? Directing?
This is a tough one. They’re so different. I’m an actor at heart and it’s probably the one thing I can comfortably say I feel I’m good at. I love the ‘in the moment’ aspect of it. The time between ‘action’ and ‘cut’ is finite and what you do in that space is all on you. With writing and directing, the freedom and control you have with the overall storytelling is great, but they check different boxes for me. You have time and room to mold things from the first draft of the script all the way through the final edit of the film. That said, there’s a certain excitement and anxiousness that comes with the uncertainty of a finished film. You hope it’s good and you hope people respond to it, but it is what it is at that point and it’s all on you if it sucks balls.
Where did you get the idea for your short film – Crazy?
I’d been dying to work with Brian for several years and I was trying to come up with a concept that played to both our strengths. I had no money, so I was trying to come up with something I could shoot super cheap and this being my first time directing, I also wanted something technically simple and semi-idiot-proof to reduce the chances of me fucking it up. I happened across Jim Cummings’ short film for Thunder Road and was blown away. It’s one single shot with one main character and it’s fucking amazing. The simplicity of it inspired me and it was great to see a film work on so many levels without a lot of moving parts. Then one night I was watching Michael Mann’s Heat and the iconic diner scene caught my attention. A technically very simple scene, all driven by the script and the performances. Everything was in singles and Mann never cut away to the waitress, the table, the patrons, we never see them entering, he never even used a wide shot. It was all about the two characters. Then I thought, how can I make this my own? The butt-puckering scary part of all is, the simpler you make it, the harder it is to fix anything in the edit if something isn’t working.
Shots like that you can’t afford to get wrong.
You had excellent chemistry with Brian Villalobos, is that someone you have worked with before?
Truth be told, Brian could have excellent chemistry with a waffle iron. He’s such a talented dude. I’d seen him in a proof-of-concept trailer for a feature called, ‘Deliver Me From Glory’ directed by the amazingly talented Jeff Ray. Brian and I met soon thereafter and worked on a few small bits together, but never really shared much screen time.
This is your first time in the directors chair what made you want to take the step behind the camera and direct?
I was frustrated by the work I was getting and it was slow but I was so deathly afraid of making the leap. What if I sucked?! I thought I could direct, but every hack out there who makes a shitty movie also thinks they can direct. Then you read all the filmmaker interviews and all of my heroes at the end of every interview when asked, “What advice would you give an aspiring filmmaker/actor/screenwriter?” all of them respond, “Create your own work”. So I had to ‘put up or shut up’ eventually.
It has certainly paid off!
How did you manage juggling the roles of writer, director and acting?
Not very well, I think. I mean I did it, but it seemed to work out on accident. The worst part was not being on monitor because I was in the scene. In the opening scene, those were all long takes and so we didn’t have the time for me to watch 7-minute playbacks after each run. To combat that, Brian and I rehearsed a lot in the weeks beforehand. On set, I’d check frame on the monitor with a stand-in and then just trusted Brian and I would get it together between ‘action’ and ‘cut’. I had my wife watch the takes and she’s always my harshest critic, so after each take, if she said it was solid, I knew it was solid.
Accident or not, it worked! The proof is in the pudding!
Did you enjoy your experience making Crazy?
I had a lot of fun but was scared as hell the entire time. I felt like a skydiver on his first jump, hoping he gets the parachute to open before he smashes into the ground. First things first, I have to acknowledge how lucky I am. I’ve been in the industry long enough to know how hard filmmaking is and that your first film is supposed to suck and money is always an issue and you have to make compromises and yadda yadda yadda. You’re supposed to cast your cousin and your cousin’s an idiot but your uncle is financing it and good luck. I got lucky. Thanks to my producers Ken Rogers and Mark Fischbach, I was fortunate enough to get to make the film I set out to make and none of my cousins were involved. All of that said, and keep in mind, I know I’m a complete nut job, but I was wrecked with insecurity during the whole process. I wasn’t sure the film I set out to make was going to be any good. It’s a super weird idea and I hadn’t seen anything like it in regard to tone and so I just had to hope that what was in my head would translate. Then, when I’m talking to my crew, they didn’t get it, furthering the idea that I might just be an idiot. I mean, telling Jake Bayless (cinematographer) that in the opening scene when the guys are talking about dicks, traffic and killing Conan O’Brien that we’re shooting a noir crime drama and then we jump into a Wes Anderson film in the last act, he thought I was nuts. He didn’t say it, but the look on his face as he strained not to say it was palpable. In the end, I’m so proud of what it is and so grateful to my entire team for pulling it off. The parachute opened.
Thankfully there wasn’t any floor splattering moments!
What is the reaction you have been getting from the film?
Man, I couldn’t be happier with the response to the film. It’s playing well at festivals and we’ve won some things and the fan response has been amazing. We even got some fan art too, which is super cool.
Do you have any advice for anybody looking to break into the business?
Well, almost 25 years later I’m still trying to break in. For me, I think the biggest thing is to aspire to greatness and find your voice. Get on sets and watch films and try to find what makes your voice unique. If you look at the legends like the Coen brothers or Tarantino’s first films, they were so weird and different but they took big swings that paid off. If you look at Pulp Fiction, it was so unorthodox and out of order and could have just as easily failed, but it didn’t and his unique voice is what made him an icon. What’s cool is now you can shoot a short on your phone with your cousins that you’ll show to absolutely no one, but you can learn from it and see what did and didn’t work and suck less the next time out. Create your own work.
Thanks. That is some solid advice.
You got any plans to direct again in the future?
I do. I loved the process and trust myself more now, so I wanna take another shot at it. I don’t know that I wanna act and direct in the same picture, but I will direct again. I have three shorts, Assinass, Little Shit and The Middle up next and then I wanna try a feature.
You got plenty of projects to keep you going then.
Do you have any favourite shorts/TV shows that you have been involved in or any memorable experiences?
I do. I had the absolute best time shooting a limited series in Romania a couple years ago called, The Pact. It’s a five-episode limited sci-fi series we shot in the showy mountains and I had the best time over there. The script was great, I got to learn to play the drums and we had the best crew. I can’t wait until that comes out.
We will have to look out for that one.
Has the pandemic changed things with you in regards to filmmaking?
It has, and probably in a good way. Acting is my bread and butter and there’s always this constant hustle for work, but when things shut down, I was forced to take a break and slow down for a bit. That time has allowed me to get a lot of writing done and focus on what I want to direct next. That said, I haven’t even considered shooting anything until things calm down a bit. Aside from wanting to make sure everything is safe, having to shut down due to an exposure on set can be debilitating on a budget.
Have you got any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
I have a cool supporting role in the upcoming Richard Linklater film, Apollo 10.5 on Netflix and I cool little role on the new CW series, Walker. On a personal note, I have a comedy-western, Brothers McShane I’m trying to get off the ground. It was a Top 5 finalist in last year’s Final Draft Big Break competition, but I’m not sure which side of the camera I might be on.
We will be tuning in to those when they come out and we look forward to hearing more about Brothers McShane in the future.
What does the future hold for Holt Boggs?
I’m gonna direct more, for sure. My big hope is that the sci-fi series I mentioned (‘The Pact’) gets picked up and we get another season out of it and maybe they let me play behind the camera a bit.
Well good luck with The Pact. Hopefully you get a second season from it. You have lots going on so good luck. Thanks for taking the time out to chat to us. We really appreciate it.
To find out more about Holt Boggs visit HoltBoggs.com