Interview with Stolen filmmakers Anders Anderson and Andy Steinman
by Jessica Machen
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Newbie filmmaking duo Anders Anderson and Andy Steinman’s debut feature film with their production company A2 Entertainment follows the concurrent stories of two fathers and their quest for redemption with the loss of their sons. The filmmakers sat down to discuss their experience with filmmonthly.com.
FilmMonthly: You read the script for Stolen in July and the Writer’s Guild strike was about to happen in August. What was that experience like?
Anders Anderson: (laugh) Well, you get right to it. Absolutely crazy was the experience. We knew that we had set a deadline and we had to get this movie off the ground and we felt strongly about the script but we had to rush through to get as much work creatively done to get the project off the ground. And once we got Josh on board and the actors started coming in, we just ran with it and we didn’t really looked back and think about it much, we just pushed it forward and tried to do the best as possible.
Andy Steinman: We tried to use it to our advantage as best as we could because I mean, yeah, with the strike there wasn’t a lot of production going in and it helped that we were a small movie and a lot of the things we were trying to get done with the deadline. but at the same time what really helped out was that you know there was such a state of what’s really working at sort of like a high level sort of like a high alert that we were able to feed off that energy and get a lot of people involved on the project that really, really helped out because people were really looking for work and so I think it really helped us in making the movie and ended up putting a lot of positive energy in the film.
FM: To get actors, you created a 2 minute film montage. How critical was that in securing the funding for the film?
AA: It was pretty big for us because what happened was, you know, we’re first time filmmakers obviously and so, when you go into making a movie and you’re looking at a big cast like Josh Lucas and stuff like that where these guys have made hundreds of films and there kind of going ‘well, what’s the next project I’m going to pick’ and they have you know a big choice of different things you have to kind of rise above the level and kind of go ‘well, this is what we’re looking to do, this is what we have’. so we put together that montage that had you know music and images that really— that we thought would resonate well with Josh as well as help us know exactly what we’re going to do you know in terms of making the film so by having a visual reference like that made it a lot simpler when we talked with Josh and started talking to him about what we want to do we can send him this, he can look at it, I think he got a really good feel and really enjoyed it. What happened was he knew where you guys are going and so by having that it was just that extra thing that makes us, that not only helps us by helping us make this film but also helps people to see ‘oh these people are going to do something, I think it’s going to be really special and interesting.’
FM: What films did you include in the montage?
AA: Sure we started um, we used lots of different pieces of The Natural, Road to Perdition, Shawshank Redemption, Narc, uh, we used a lot of that music from that soundtrack as well and we also used paintings, you know, Edward Hopper paintings and interspersed them throughout and anything that had kind of the look and the feel of the music and style that we wanted to approach the film with.
AS: Time Life images, all that sort of stuff, you know, because all that was helpful also when it came to, you know, what that sort of life was like and so basically it was part of our research anyway and then we don’t actually use that but it’s something to read and kind of get our minds going in the creative direction we see.
FM: A friend had helped you in acquiring Josh Lucas for the project. What role did that play?
AS: We say that a lot of this movie was luck and that was something we very much were lucky about getting our cast and getting Josh. Reading the script and us believing the script and then having a colleague of ours feel the same way that had done a movie that, was going to do a movie with Josh — I don’t think it happened — and he said alright I have access to Josh, if he likes it, then it’s up to you guys to sell Josh on it but all I can do is get you, you know, I can get a call in to Josh and just by chance, I love Josh. He read it and he saw the piece that we did and that started our dialogue our conversation and then just depending within a week/week and a half later we were on the phone with Josh talking about the film.
AA: Yea, it wasn’t that we actually had like, you know, that we met him randomly at Starbucks. It was one of those things where we were casting the movie literally in three weeks while we were doing our pre-production - pre-production in movies is usually 6 or 8 weeks or so. We were doing the casting, we’re also working on the script, trying to actually put the production team together - everything like that, you know, a crazy time, and during that time our casting director Stephanie Corsalini basically came to us and said that, you know, we’ve been getting a lot of things together, we’ve got to get a guy in the lead and I think I have the perfect guy - Jon Hamm. He just finished his first season of Mad Men and, you know, so we’re in between our casting session and she told us, she’s like ‘I can get him to meet you downstairs in Starbucks its right below where we’re holding the casting meeting’ and we go in and the first second Andy and I met Jon, we basically knew who to cast. This guy’s fantastic and so what was so great about it was that there was no hesitation about thinking is Jon right for the part. It was like that instant connection where you can go ‘that’s definitely our guy. Hire him. Let’s do this thing’. That’s sort of how I remember that one.
AS: That was exactly it. It was a combination of a weight off our shoulders. We’re like ‘oh this is absolutely the guy. How can we be involved with anyone else.’ He is totally in physically and emotionally, he does it, plus we had a great time jiving with him at Starbucks, I think he’s just a really, really cool guy so then we wanted to work with him then as well, so for that we’re lucky.
FM: Anders, as a first time feature film director what was it like directing Hamm in his first theatrical leading role?
AA: It was really exciting. I mean, cause the cool thing about it is that, you know, every, you know, working with all the actors, every actor is different with what they’ve got. So when you work with Josh, you know, Josh Lucas is very, uh, you know, personally involved in the role and gets into the role and kind of gets into the space of the character and kind of holds onto it so much that it’s really cool to see and just, you know, be that character. And Jon has such a different approach in a sense that he just is in a sense. You say, ‘hey John, let’s do this, let’s do that’ and he goes ‘okay, cool’ and you’re thinking ‘I wonder if he listened to me at all’ and then he does it and you’re like ‘oh my god, this guy is amazing’. He’s just very relaxed and chill about it and they both approach acting very professionally and they’re phenomenal at what they do and at the same time bring such a different process to it, you know, that it really makes it easy and it makes it really fun because you know that every time the camera rolls you’re going to be impressed. And you kind of have to sit there and go ‘I like what’s happening, I like what’s going on’. They understand exactly what’s going on with the characters and it’s just a lot of fun and so for me it’s very, very exciting and I actually am mostly excited about going back and to watch Mad Men and going ‘hey that’s Jon Hamm, hey, that’s kind of cool, he kind of did that in our film’ so it’s a very cool and exciting experience to have, I think, for both of us as filmmakers, for both Andy and I, so it’s a good time and we definitely enjoyed working with both of those guys.
FM: What was it like to direct a young actor, James Van Der Beek, to be an old man? What advice do you have for other filmmakers to get that kind of performance?
AA: I think the big thing for movies is you have to go to we basically were working, you know he and I worked side by side with the characters and tried to figure out what were going to do and as producers we’re the first to [directorial] role in figuring out is James going to do the old man role as well as the young role or is he just going to be doing the young role and we find another actor to play the old man role. And it wasn’t because we didn’t think James could pull it off as an actor, it was because we weren’t sure we were going to be able to get the makeup done right and really make it believable enough. When we figured out that we were able to do that I think that everything about it was totally exciting because when you’re working with James, the guy just, he becomes so involved in the character, what he’s doing, that he just likes to talk about it and so the more that we spoke to James about the different characters, who Roggiani was and who he was as Diploma, you can just see that he got it and then we basically begin. When you hire extremely good actors it makes your job a lot easier to direct because you just have to tell them what you’re looking for and they then have to take that, internalize it and then turn it back around and surprise you in a really good way to do a really successful job and I think that’s the great thing about James, why he’s such a successful actor. And Josh, many of the tones of the character were in tune with Jon which is absolutely fantastic to watch. You know Andy and I were happily surprised how it came out.
AS: He is fantastic, He is impressive and we were just doing the makeup test days before either of us had a chance to talk to him about the movie or his character or his approach to it when we turned the camera on and just did a makeup test, curious to see if that’s what we were going to do. He had his approach and he nailed it and looking at that makeup test we’re like ‘oh, wow.’ You know, here again it was a no brainer because without even having too much preparation to his approach it was exactly what we wanted and he is fantastic at it.
FM: What would you say was your favorite scene to shoot?
AA: it’s funny, it’s like your favorite scene to shoot and then your favorite scene when the movie is done are like two different things. I would say my favorite scene to shoot was the bar scene of James, Morena and josh. I liked it one, because you actually had time to shoot the scene and two, the great thing about it, is that there’s so many different elements, you know like James and josh go off to have their own conversation and they come back and then back and forth sort of talk and I know that when it actually came to crafting it and creating how that was going to expose of the energy of the scene it was kind of what we did was just kind of go wow I wish we could do that because we were so limited with actors so that was definitely the most fun to work with those three and with Jimmy Bennett in there too. Awesome actors to have in that scene.
AS: Without a doubt, to be able to do a scene like that with all the actors working together, because working with them, that is the highlight.
FM: What is the one thing you want viewers to take away from the film?
AS: Our impression basically is that you know we talked about redemption a lot and moving on and what it’s like, the relationship after the son and the relationship possibly being the father in the future and what we want to take away from that is that there is a possibility for redemption for really anyone, any father, any family dealing with such a tragic loss and how that approach can be with two different fathers living in two different ways that there are different ways to handle it and ways that you can lose your family and still keep your family together and one of the things that run across that is the possibility of keeping your family together even after the tragedy and at the same time there’s no reason that we can’t have wanting to be in a sense they can go through with just this and go straight in the movie and still feel the dramatic thing in the film in knowing that in the end there is a possibility for redemption.
AA: And I think the thing is that we couldn’t really answer how we want you to feel about it we basically tried to answer, look that there’s things that happen that we can’t get you answers about how you’re supposed to deal with it, but hopefully you’ll get it through seeing basically how we [portrayed it]. There’s different ways to get redemption and it really just for us it felt like it needed fruition with the acting involved and the inevitable conclusion of what would happen to Matthew Wakefield so that’s sort of the approach that we have on it, that’s what we’re hoping that people take away that, you know, there is no right answer there’s no right way to handle this but if you handle it with that, you can, but it’s not definitely what the answers going to be.
FM: What was it like getting the distribution for this film without agents or managers?
AA: What happened is that the climate of everything has changed so much that with like, you know, the economic downfall and everything not to be to grim. but you know it just made it a lot more difficult for a lot of movies to get out there, to get seen, to get distribution, to get a deal, to get the movie theaters or just be shown whatsoever. We were extremely fortunate because I think what happened - Andy and I put together our resources as much as we could and we had such a phenomenal cast that you know before people even saw the movie they could look at it and go wow this is something that we need to take notice of. and it did take a while to find the sales rep for the movie but it’s pretty difficult for the film and the biggest thing for us was having such awesome casting and then from there we’re able to get our sales rep for the film, get them onboard and then after that it was really Andy and I basically saying, look, we have what we got, we knew that we were good with what we had and we knew how special the movie was and we kept pushing that and pushing that until you get to a point where you see that the movie has its own momentum and you just try and carry that as much as you can. And at that point, then you try to get any connections you might have to really get people to come and work on that movie, you need to keep believing that it’s going to sell cause you know that what you’ve got is something that’s really good and eventually we found that that can be true even though the road was really, really long and tough, but we found it to be true and got the festivals to show us which helped out and got more exposure and that’s how you do it, keep going as much as you can.
AS: Yea, when you believe in your project and basically you have no other options but to keep pushing and pushing and pushing, I think people respond to that. And then they respond to that and see that not only do you believe in it, but you have a product that they think they can market and they have a product to take it on and with IFC picking up the film we’re again, extremely fortunate, and they’re a great group and IFC, they have a fantastic division set up right now and we’re really happy with what they’re doing with the movie and where they think they can take it.
FM: What advice do you have for independent filmmakers wanting to make a feature film?
AA: Just do it. The truth is you just got to figure out what kind of resources you have and how you’re going to make it happen. It doesn’t matter where the movie ends up happening, that doesn’t matter as much as you having to believe in yourself, that you’re going to want to spend all your time, put everything into it and you know it takes a movie, for us it was two and a half years or so and it was every single day and as long as you’re committed to the film the only person that’s going to believe in your movie is going to be you. And so as you go through with the movie it’s always going to be falling apart. What you got to do is you got to pursue through all of that and always, never take no for an answer. You have to continue, continue, continue and keep getting the resources that you have and you’ll find ways to get that movie done. You just got to get it done you know and with whatever you got and that’s the cool thing about it because then you learn basically what it takes to make a feature film and then when you go to do the next one you’ll take those lessons and take it from there. So that’s my philosophy on it.
AS: 100 percent. You find a product, find a story that you’re going to want to deal with day in day out 24 hours in a day for, you know, two years of your life because you’re going to be with that story and if you believe in it enough then you will be able to make a movie.
Stolen, starring Jon Hamm, Josh Lucas and James Van Der Beek was released by IFC films in New York at the Clearview Chelsea on March 12th and will be released in Los Angeles on March 19th at the Sunset 5. Viewers may also view the film on demand.
Jessica Machen is a writer and filmmaker currently living in Chicago.
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