Support Indie Flix speaks with actor/writer/producer Edward Gusts. We'll discuss his latest release, the Shakespeare inspired STAINED, and we'll also talk about what influences his authentic creative style.
Thank you for joining us, Edward. Let's just jump right into the questions here...
Q: Your new film Stained was shot within the short window of eight days -- which is insanely fast. How did you guys pull that off without losing your minds?
A: Good question. There were a few factors that were incredibly helpful. Our crew (Film Cartel / Coatwolf) had all worked together before and had developed a shorthand in working together. All of our actors were incredibly well prepared, and everyone was dedicated to getting the film done. We would not do more than three takes of any shot unless there was a technical difficulty and all three producers doubled as crew when they were not being shot. For instance, during all of the office scenes Brachfeld was wrangling extras, helping with crafty, and running any errands. I do admit that I did have one day when I napped on set. But that was the exception. Overall, it boiled down to willpower and a dedicated crew. We had no choice but to make our days.
Q: Stained is a modern day retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth, which is a timeless classic. What was it about this particular tale that made you want to explore it deeper?
A: As a writer, I almost always start with a blank slate and let the story unfold. Initially, the story was a much simpler story about a couple murdering evil people. Kind of a cross between Natural Born Killers and Frailty. Somewhere along the lines we started comparing the characters to Macbeth and realized that there was an untold story there, namely: Why would a royal couple be childless? This led to some incredible realizations and the story unfolded from there.
Q: You're a trained swordsman and fencer. Did that expertise come into play as you were preparing for your role as John Macbeth in Stained?
A: Not the sword fighting per se. However, Ethan McDowell, Arielle Brachfeld, and our fight choreographer Azim Rizk all worked at Swordplay Fencing Studios together. Many times when working on a fight there is dissonance when the fighters come from different backgrounds. Because we all knew each other and had fought before, there was a familiarity between us. This familiarity gave our actors a sense of confidence not only that the fight would look good, but that their safety would be paramount.
Q: How would you define your acting style? Are there any actors or other types of performers that inspire your identity and instincts as an entertainer?
A: Personally I have always believed in using whatever works. My base is Michael Chekhov technique which I find excellent for character work and keeping myself out of my own way, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what technique you use unless it interferes with the shoot. If an actor can’t deliver when the camera is rolling then their technique is useless.
I find music to be inspiring for character and recently I’ve been quite interested in dance, if only because it is not a skill I have developed as much.
In terms of actors, I love actors who are different from role to role. That might not be the most effective career move in terms of building an audience; but I’ve always loved seeing movie stars when they get a chance to play character roles. Meg Ryan in Joe Vs. The Volcano, De Niro in Brazil, Clooney in O brother Where Art Thou, Brad Pitt in True Romance. It’s just wonderful to watch.
Q: You recently launched your own production company, The Magpie Film Company. What's your mission for this company, and what types of content are you looking to produce under that banner?
A: It’s a company with an intentional shelf life. It’s only going to last for five years. The five year mission is to create the beautiful small movies with brilliant actors that no one has heard of yet.
I want to strip down filmmaking to its bare bones. I’ve always felt that if your movie doesn’t work in a medium 2 shot there is something wrong with the script or the performances. I may be wrong and it may go horribly awry, but I figure there are worse things I could do as an artist than spend five years making small personal movies.
Currently, we are in post on SHAKEN: The Great Sylmar Earthquake, and pre-production on Ridgecrest which is a loose take on the trials of Hercules.
We are also working on various shorts which we will begin streaming in October via Roku, so it’s going to be a busy 5 years.
Q: You're a man of many talents, which include: Athletics, stage combat, dance, stunt work, as well as an ability to speak multiple languages. Which of these talents have served you best as an entertainer? And is there anything else you'd like to add to your versatile skill set that you haven't had a chance to focus on?
A: I’ve found that the skills that will get you work are never the skills you think. Sword fighting has gotten me choreographer work and it has been helpful on set, but it hasn’t ever gotten me an acting job. Whereas, I recall doing a physical theater workshop in London and thinking, “Well this is fun, but I’m never going to use it,” right before booking two films involving creature work and full prosthetics. I got on Master and Commander because I knew how to sail Tall Ships, that would have been hard to plan. My thought is that you should learn skills because they interest you, not just to add to your resume.
I would love to do more music. I’ve always sung and played some guitar, but I’ve never produced a record. Maybe if this new Tik Tok sea shanty craze sticks around, I’ll record some of those.
Q: What would you consider your "dream role"? Like a specific kind of character you've always wanted to play, but haven't found the opportunity yet. Who would that character be?
A: At this point I have been really fortunate in the variety of roles I’ve gotten to play. Until recently I would have said captain of a ship in a sci fi project; but I actually got to do that in the film Alien Expedition, so now?
Twofold. I would love to play that kind of role on a major platform. I absolutely love Indie film, but I believe that art is best when shared. There are a lot of films on my resume, with these phenomenal actors who just haven’t been seen because they didn’t have a great marketing plan. I think that may be a driving force behind the production company too. I want to show off my talented friends to the world. You know?
And from a strictly performance approach, I want to play something different. Foreign to me. A career politician, a Cult leader, Pablo Picasso, Emmanuel Kant. I don’t understand these people, and I think they would be very interesting to explore.
Q: As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the entertainment industry upside down. How have you been adapting to this "new normal"? What have you been doing in the meantime? And what do you have planned once these unprecedented safety restrictions have eased up?
A: I have so many scripts to produce at this point. Just waiting for the quarantine to be lifted to pull the trigger.
I have shot a couple of things in quarantine. Short films about isolation, a couple of test shoots so I can see concepts that live in my head up on a screen.
But In terms of producing, the small scale model that I like to shoot in, lends itself perfectly to safe shooting.
For example the documentary was shot partially on zoom, and I don’t know if people would have understood that concept 2 years ago.
Once quarantine is lifted, we are obviously going to be cautious and keep our actors safe. I only have essential people on set. Ridgecrest is very serial in nature, so I’m not relying on being able to shoot the same actors for weeks at a time. If I shoot a scene and then there’s another shutdown, that actor is wrapped so I’m not going to need to worry about continuity.
I feel that when there is so much change, smaller companies actually have the advantage because it’s easier to pivot. I don’t know everything that the future holds, but I’m pretty sure that whatever happens, I’ll still be telling stories with a camera.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Edward. We look forward to seeing more of your work for years to come.
ABOUT MIDNIGHT RELEASING
Founded in 2009 by Darrin Ramage, Midnight Releasing is a premiere home entertainment distributor of quality independent genre films released only in the North America Region. With a following of thousands on social media outlets, Midnight Releasing continues to draw attention with each release.
ABOUT SAMERA ENTERTAINMENT
Sharry Flaherty CEO and Founder of Samera Entertainment is a seasoned and well known film producer and Acquisitions Executive for Midnight Releasing. Samera consults with filmmakers on their projects that are either in development, pre-production or post-production. Filmmakers are welcome to submit their horror and thriller titles to:
SameraEntertainment@Gmail.com or AcortAcquistions@Gmail.com