Hello ladies and gentlemen, Muldoon here with a fun interview with Ben Browder about his latest film, BAD KIDS OF CRESTVIEW ACADEMY. You've likely seen a lot of Ben's acting chops featured on shows like FARSCAPE and STARGATE, though this time around he's in the director's chair. The film hit screens and VOD on the 13th, and reviews have been coming in. I found it a fun, silly film with pockets of gold sprinkled in throughout. It has a fresh cast and a story that's simply bizarre, with gore gags left and right! I had the opportunity to speak with Ben a few weeks back, and with respects to his acting career, I really did try to keep the conversation geared towards his directing gig on this one, so for those in the audience expecting FARSCAPE talk - perhaps next time. If you've seen the first film in the BAD KIDS franchise, then you've got a lovely idea of what BAD KIDS OF CRESTVIEW ACADEMY has in store for you. For those out there that have no clue what I'm talking about, head over to the film's website and poke around if you're curious. Regardless, I really enjoyed the bit of time I got to pick Ben's brain and hope you folks enjoy the read!
Hi Ben, thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. Given you're more well-known as an actor, how did you find yourself in the director's chair for this one?
The guys in Texas offered me a job, one of those horrendous blunders producers make on occasion. (Laughs) They called me up and said "Hey, would you be interested?" I thought about it for about 30 seconds and went "Yeah! That sounds like fun. It sounds like something that you've got to do once in your life." They offered me the job and I looked over the script and went "Yeah, I think we can make a movie. I think it can be shot. I'll maybe get a paycheck and hopefully learn something in the process."
It was all those things. I got a tiny paycheck and i had a lot of fun and I learned an awful lot. It was a great experience.
Yeah. Well, I mean you did make a fun movie just from my own opinion. I'm always curious how much...
Oh thanks man.
How much prep time did you get? You said you shot it in Texas?
Yeah, we shot it in Texas. The prep time was very limited. Very, very limited. We were still casting while we were shooting the movie. Literally we were rewriting in the middle of having casting at the same time. We did not secure our school location until three days before we started shooting.
It was tight. Having said that, I think we landed with a great cast and we landed with a great location. There were those times where it was hard to take. "Do we have a...?" "Yeah. Now okay, well hey, let me make a call." Sean Astin arrived literally last minute. It was one of those... we were seeing who we could reach out to to come in and play. It was great. It was a great experience. It was a very indie kind of experience, but it was fun.
It seemed like you had a pretty fun cast. Across the board you had quite a few folks in roles I've not yet seen them in, so that couldn't have hurt in terms of attracting talent.
You know what? There are a couple performances out of the young cast that I really think... I think the young cast, a number of them had almost zero experience, yet did a really, really great job with the part. There are some moments in there where I'm going "Wow, these people are actually really talented." They really did do some nice work.
It was a fun movie. It was well acted. I enjoyed it. As you were making the movie, what part of the whole process did you enjoy the most? Not "being done with it," because that's not fair, but while you were making it, was it prep? Was it working with your actors? Was it the gore gags? What did you have the most fun on with the project?
Well, I think there are a couple. One, I learned the most in retrospect on the pre phase and on the post phase. Those were areas that I didn't have a lot of time in prior to the film. I've always been around it, but I haven't been directly involved with it. I kind of come away going "I wish I had more time in prep." The most fun really for me was the day to day shooting. The 16 hour days and the hour or two in the middle of the night figuring out what you're going to do tomorrow and maybe tweaking something here or there in the script in the middle of the night when you wake up in a cold sweat. Then getting up in the morning it's a bit like being in a fighter jet in the middle of a hurricane. It's just crazy stuff. All day long you're being frustrated, but you are still having a great time. It's a great roller coaster.
Working with the actors and actresses was a lot of fun, particularly with the young actors. To watch them pick up stuff as they go along and to watch them... There are literally days that you're going "Wow, I kind of remember what that was like." Then you get someone like Sean or Gina and they're so on top of the craft. They so know what they're doing. They show up and they bring it. You just kind of go "Well, okay." It's a simple process there, but it's so exciting and rewarding to see what some of these young folks do. It's great.
It's exciting to watch actors, exciting to shoot them, exciting to figure out "Well, how do I put all of this together?" It's all good fun.
That excitement I think definitely did translate to the movie. I'm just curious, how involved were Barry and James, the creators of the BAD KIDS world? Were they on set with you or "just a phone call away?" Or did they kind of step back on this one and give you free reign?
Barry and James were kind of around doing stuff. We had discussions about the script at pretty much every point. If I was going to do something or if we were going to make changes on the script I would have a discussion first with Barry and sometimes with James about that. Make sure that I got their approval for changes to the script. It might be something you're changing... They were involved but on a day to day, I was looking at what we were shooting. They may have been sitting behind me the whole time. I wouldn't have ever known.
In retrospect they probably were, but yeah, they were certainly around.
Other than the previous film in which you acted in, and then of course graphic novel, what movies did you find yourself referencing when you were on set? I felt like there was a lot of MAD MAX towards the end. There were a few shots there, but I'm curious if there was any set lingo where you were like "Oh, you know, it's just like that shot from that movie?" Was there anything like that for you?
Oh. That's kind of interesting. Yeah, no, I mean George Miller. I would definitely have an Australian influence because I spent five years in Australia. Look, I mean you've got a hefty dose of John Hughes in it. You know what I mean? There really is a lot of John Hughes. FERRIS BUELLER, BREAKFAST CLUB, and SIXTEEN CANDLES... I think that it's this great, young person entertainment that we're always going to remember. You have that and then you have a bit of James Gunn influence. I'm a huge James Gunn fan.
Aren't we all! (Laughs)
I mean, things that he does like SLITHER, which he did on a shoestring, are so good. So well done. They have those quirky moments. I'm going to say, I would say John Hughes, James Gunn and if you want to say George Miller I'll definitely go there. I'll throw in the whole raft of the Australian filmmakers. I spent too long down there working with the Aussies not to be influenced by them.
Given the fact that you've played, I want to say well over 100 characters in film, TV and probably a lot more stuff than I will ever know about, was there a special shorthand you had with your cast? I feel like the answer's obvious, but what specifically with your experience helped you with directing on this show?
Well, I mean the first thing is that every actor comes to a scene at a different starting point. I've had actors who had never spoken a line on camera, ever. Then I had Sean Astin who has more experience than I'll ever have. Which as an actor, you have to honor what it is that they have and what it is they do. If they don't know how to enter marks, it's pretty simple to say "Okay, stop the scene. Here's where the mark is. Here's what the camera is. Here's what to do." Then with the young cast in particular, there was actually one day where I confiscated cell phones. I confiscated cell phones. I said "Look, I don't want you to be distracted by other stuff. Right now you're here. You're working. I don't want you out partying. I want you here working. Don't go off somewhere unless you have to to prepare for a scene. Stay here and learn what's going on and what it is you need to do as a film actor. This is an opportunity for you to learn."
It was great. The young cast was a great group of kids. They worked really well together and they were there to do the job and do the work. They brought their best game every day and we're really remarkably lucky to have a young cast that's that way and not distracted by all the other stuff that's going on. For the young cast it was really "Be here, learn about this. Use this. Then take that to the next job with you. This is a job and it's a craft and skill. Take every opportunity you have to learn something there."
Then it's our deal with actors, just kind of... I love actors. I married one. I literally love actors.
It's kind of a joy to set the cameras and then watch them do their thing. They give you good stuff and if they're struggling then, when or if they're having a struggle, just hold hands for awhile and say "It's going to be all right. You've got this." It's good stuff. It's a really great experience. It was a great experience for me.
Of the characters, which one do you see yourself in the most? Ignore your "Max" character, but of the leads, which one are you like?
Actually I don't know that I see myself in any of the characters. I can't answer that question. I definitely don't see me in Max. I don't see me at all when I see Max. (Laughs) I'd like to say Headmaster Nash, because I'm a huge Sean Astin fan.
I'll take that. I think we're about to wrap up, so can you tell me what you are doing next? When I ask that I don't mean what's your next gig on a high, a big budget anything... What do you care about? What are you trying to get off the ground or what are you doing that you're just dying to do as an artist?
I would like to direct again, but right now I'd really really like to land on a limited series, something like STRANGER THINGS. I would love to land on one of these series that shoots 10 to 13 episodes, a manageable size. It's just finding the people that are going to hire me to be on their shows. I'm looking for work but I'd love to be... At the end of the day I'd love to be involved in something like FARSCAPE, where I was in the writing room and involved day to day and in pretty much every aspect of the production.
It's just literally finding someone that's going to hire me to do that kind of work. It's not always an easy sell. (Laughs)
Well Ben, it was insanely cool talking to you sir. I really did appreciate and enjoy the movie. Definitely a weird movie.
Cool. It is weird. It's a weird movie. That's what it is. It's what it's supposed to be. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
Absolutely. Well Ben, have a great day sir. I appreciate your time very much.
Yep. Thank you. I appreciate the chat.
There we have it, ladies and gentlemen, a little bit of insight from the director of BAD KIDS OF CRESTVIEW ACADEMY, Ben Browder! The film's out now and is filled with gore and more, so check it out if it seems like something you'd be into!
- Mike McCutchen