Saturday, November 2, 2019

Director Larry Smith Interview 'Trafficker'! A Dan's Movie Report Exclusive! (C) 2019 Danny Templegod

Greetings valued Dan's Movie Report. Recently I reviewed a cool new film called Trafficker. After watching it and really enjoying it, I had to learn more. Here is a very detailed interview with the Director Larry Smith who also is one of the writers had a lot to say about the film. Plus, he shares his thoughts working on Eyes Wide Shut.

Chat about working with Kubrick, Tom Cruise and Sydney Pollack, on Eyes Wide Shut.

Talking to Sidney on the set one day while Tom Cruise was away on a premiere for Jerry McGuire. I asked Sidney how long it would take him to shoot a movie like Eyes Wide Shut, I was thinking 14 to 16 weeks, he said if he was shooting for Warner Bros, he would probably get 10 maybe 12 weeks. But if He shut down like we did two things would happen number one I would get fired; number 2; I would get sued.

On the opening two scenes of the movie in Bill's apartment. I was testing various looks with a very saturated blue light I was playing around with this look before I started Eyes Wide Shut. I was testing different layers of blue light on Tungsten lights outside of the windows., they were getting very hot, burning through the blue gels. I kept adding layers of blue to counteract the layers of blue that had burnt through. Sometimes the extra layers of blue had not quite burned through. The level of saturation looked a bit theatrical. One time I was doing this, and Stanley came onto the set and I was expecting him to say it was too blue, too theatrical, but he loved it and we decided to go with that look all the way through the movie.

Above: Larry Smith with Kubrick & Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut

The other scene was when Bill and Alice go to the party and they are coming down the winding staircase with that wall of fairy lights. We had lots of debate about it. Stanley was worried if there would be enough exposure there. I suggested yes there is, and I think it looks really nice. We tested it, and ultimately, we went with that we added more layers to the existing ones, it was a very soft and subtle light. We would drape some of the lights over a c stand and use it as a soft fill. I think it worked well. It was devoid of shadows and was in keeping with the tone the movie. Stanley named it the Larry Light; it amused the crew.

Chat about working as director, writer, producer on Trafficker.

Larry Smith: It is something Stanley Kubrick did very successfully. I learned a lot from him doing it, and he seemed to manage it comfortably. of course, it is a whole different scale to what he does from what I was doing on Trafficker. It came of course with various problems. The reason I became a producer on Trafficker is because the original producer Nicolas Winding Refnn pulled out due to the fact he was working on getting his own film Only God Forgives into the Cannes Film Fest.
At the 11th hour I was thrown into doing that job, but it did not really phase me.
I had already been in Thailand three months trying to get the casting and locations worked out. I was also working on the script as well as getting the production design in shape. I never felt any pressure to do those jobs.
I lit the film in a very simple way.

Producing is a bit more difficult, once you start shooting it is very hard to be a director and producer on a 24-day schedule working. six days a week, you have to trust in other people. I tried to keep all of the big decisions in my hands so there was no wasted time (or money) as we had such a tight budget. Ultimately, we were about 125,000 pounds short of what we were originally supposed to get. I think I had a solid 85 percent handle on everything we spent. We were not able to get the cast we originally set out to, even though people assured me we would get a top cast. The story has a strong moral center, yet we just did not get the top actors, ultimately, we had local actors for the most part. We tried to mold them into Vietnamese, people who looked authentic. With the help of some later ADR and various other post production items I think Trafficker was improved upon. Actually the film was never really finished until the end of 2018 into the beginning of 2019. It was always a work in progress up until that point.
I changed the original script a lot and the writer did not want to take the screenplay title just the stories by which is why I have the screen play credit , I felt the script needed to be streamlined a bit to fit the shooting schedule. also to try to reach a wider audience.

Chat about if there was a cast read through:

In terms of a read through I did not get the cast until very late, I did work with Krystal Vee, Guy Ratchanont Suprakob and Johnny. Raggett we really did not have any time for cast rehearsal. Guy who plays Hao is a well-known star in Thailand, he had a lot of TV commitments, but he always came to the office when he could. We tried to get a blueprint for how I thought the characters would interact with each other. How the two brothers would interact.

Above: Trafficker movie boat location

Chat about locations for the Trafficker film.

Given the schedule that we had, I did not want to make the mistake that we did on Only God Forgives, with the locations being really spread over Bangkok, and the horrendous traffic. You really have to wade your way through it. It made the days excessively long. I tried to pick blocks of locations where we would be for two or three days. The trucks would be parked there and we could easily move from one location to another. One of the locations in particular was the shootout on the rooftop, we chose that location for the look, we liked the streets around there. I said let's try to find the nightclub scene somewhere around there, and we should try to find the 'drug den'. Luckily they were two or three streets apart and we were able to shoot those three scenes over two nights. We had two full days shooting on those locations without any moving around, which I thought was invaluable. The two motorbike scenes, one of them was shot on the locations I just alluded to. The other one I put the motorbike on the back of a little trailer, just picked up a few shots of the brothers riding around Bangkok, fairly simple, we shot it with a fairly small crew in an evening. That was Guy's motorbike. He was very happy to do it. He put his heart and soul into it, a real trooper.

Describe a typical set day.

The set days were fairly relaxed. I like to try to keep a relaxed atmosphere. There was two or three complicated days. One when we went down and shot on the river about 2 hours out of Bangkok, we did a lot of the boat stuff, where people are getting onto the boat and the boat getting shot up. They were very tight nights, to be honest I probably did not get in as much coverage as I wanted.
The most difficult was the night scene with the shoot out on the boat. We had terrible problems with the special effects the squibs never worked. I actually had to go back and re-shoot some of it because of the failure of the special effects department. This really irritated me on the night, because we were out of town we had similar problems on the re shoot losing a lot of time.

Chat about some of the on the fly script changes.

I alluded to that earlier, I am a believer on less is more. I think sometimes scripts are over written. I was always looking to hone that a bit. The ending was always something I agonized a bit over. I shot different endings, . I was always going to end the film cutting back to the father who hung himself back where the boat started from. I to this day think it would have been a better ending. The opening sequence in the boat, and the refugees is a classic example of not having enough time, only one night. I felt rushed that night. In hindsight now I should have pushed that we had more time for this scene. That is one of the problems shooting movies sometimes it’s hard to get enough coverage.
The editors say it is always better to be looking at it than be looking for it. There is an element of truth in that, however, films and TV shows can be vastly overshot. There is a fine line, this is a particular case of more being more is one of those situations where more would have been better however we could not change that.

Will the film be out on DVD?

I think the film will be out on DVD. It is out on Amazon Prime. It should be out on other streaming platforms soon Indie rights are our Distributers .

Chat about DP work.

I am very lucky as a DP. I still get a chance to choose film or digital sometimes I shoot Film and sometimes Digital depends on the project .

Chat about some of your influences director wise.

I love a David Lynch's work. Hitchcock, Kubrick, Ron Howard, Barry Levinson, Michael Chimene. Martin Scorsese.
In terms of DPs. I loved the work of older cinematographers in the 30s and 40s. The had to be spot on in lighting the shadows and set ups had to be perfect. Those guys were superstars. I loved Gordon Willis. Freddie Young. The film stocks that were available at the time were far less advanced., the cameras were heavy and the lenses slower.

Some of my memorable projects going back. Of course Eyes Wide Shut. It was Kubrick’s last film kind very sad. It was a very hard film for me to shoot, yet was really amazing to work on.
I did a film after that called The Target, with Dennis Hopper and Diane Kruger. It was great to work with Dennis, who was not always the easiest person to work with for a lot of people but I got along very well with him, he was a very good stills photographer , he had these piercing blue eyes which were just like a magnet when you looked at them. Dennis was very charismatic, a wonderful actor.
Just after that I did a film called Fear X with director Nicolas Refn. This film was very underfunded. People pulled out at the last minute. The production went ahead to try to get the film made. We Shot in Winnipeg for 3 weeks and went back to Denmark to shoot about 10 days in Copenhagen. The memorable aspect of the film was it was quite interesting to shoot in Winnipeg. I enjoyed it. It was extremely cold during the shoot. I thought it was his best work so far though. I liked it because of its simplicity. I thought John Turturro carried it. I then did something for Tom Hooper, called love in a Cold Climate. I really liked it , we had wonderful actors . I worked on Red Dust with Hilary Swank. We shot anamorphic on film, I had many challenges on it. I thought we got the best out of the African locations tough.

Fast forward I got together with John Michael McDonagh. For a film called The Guard. I thought it was a great cast. A dark comedy/crime drama with Don Cheadle who I thought was really amazing in it. The film had a great cast including Brendan Gleeson, mark strong. Great group of people we shot for 5 to 6 weeks.

I did another film called The Man Who Knew Infinity for director Matt Brown. The film starred Jeremy Irons, who I worked with before. We shot in India, London. We had a really good cast and crew.
I enjoyed working on Trafficker I had the opportunity to shoot a an episode of Alienist . Recently I shot a series for Netflix called The Letter For the King. We shot in New Zealand and in Prague for a hundred days. I am currently shooting a movie in New York called Things Heard and Seen with Shari Springer Berman and Bob Pulcini.
Upcoming projects I am working with John McDonagh again on a film in January. in I am also working on a screenplay of my own a historical true story which I am writing, also I am going to shoot a Film in L A with a young very talented Director called Helier Bissell-Thomas called The Honored Society.

Thanks for your time Larry, this interview is quite enlightening and informative.