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An Interview with Brandon Ruckdashel, Star, Cinematographer and Co-Executive Producer of Gravedigger

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2014

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Your new movie Gravedigger - in a few words, what is it about, and what can you tell us about your character in it?

 

Vigilante lawyer exacting justice on a few bad people - how was that for short? Gravedigger was a great experience that has led me to the world of directing for my new film Grinder.

 

What did you draw upon to bring your character to life, and how much Brandon Ruckdashel can we find in Mike Ruble?

 

I think I was too busy shooting and getting the sound right to focus on Ruble, but as I always say the writer creates a two-dimensional character and that third dimension is added by a good actor. My life experiences and stories always shine through into the choices I make when looking at a script. The one major lesson is to never act in something you are also behind the camera on. With my upcoming film, Grinder, Iíll be strictly behind the lens.

 

How did you get involved with the project in the first place, and how did you end up on the production and cinematography side of things as well?

 

Long story shortÖ Keith [Keith Collins interview - click here] and I have known each other for a number of years (reports vary but about ten years and we were introduced by a massage therapist and a bottle of goose). He called me up to do Meat Puppet, which was a passion project he was making about two years ago, and in Atlantic City after the screening one thing led to another, we agreed to make another film. Gravedigger, like most of my work, was born from the desire to work.

 

With Grinder, Iím taking a lot of my Gravedigger lessons and applying them. Keith was a brilliant producer and wish I could involve him with Grinder in some way.

 

Do talk about your director Doug Bollinger for a bit, and what was your collaboration like?

 

Doug has worked a lot and he really is an actors' director. He brings a breadth of experience with working on big movies which really helped us move as fast as we did, we shot the movie in under 12 days. Working with him has informed a lot of what I plan on doing with Grinder.

 

As Gravedigger's cinematographer, how would you describe the visual style of the movie?

 

The Shield. We didnít have a million dollar budget and I went after a style that took that into account. I was very influenced by The French Connection and The Shield, which both used 16mm (or the digital equivalent) and a lot of hand-held. Looking back I would definitely do hand-held a lot less on this film, my elbows were forever falling asleep. Grinder is going to be a further evolution on those technical lessons from Gravedigger. Now I know how to talk with a DP and exactly how much guidance should be given to a technical department.

 

What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

Great set. Keith and I have both had our time wasted on numerous sets and films, so going in we all agreed no one would be there for endless hours. We called people, we shot their scene, we sent them home. No hurry up and wait. For me, I make movies. Iíve worked with numerous Corman alumnus [Roger Corman bio - click here] and they all shoot efficiently. I want to continue these lessons with Grinder. Jim Wynorski [Jim Wynorski interview - click here] taught me to make a feature in 2 days. As much as I honor that respected lesson, Iíll be shooting Grinder in about 12.

 

You have only recently worked on another film, Meat Puppet, with quite a few of the Gravedigger-crew - you obviously have to talk about that one for a bit of course!

 

An experience that taught me numerous lessons, think I covered that earlier while talking about the gestation of Gravedigger. With Meat Puppet our production team had a lot of toys, which they used. We had dollies and jibs and all sorts of cinematographer candy. Gravedigger didnít have these and with Grinder I want to find the middle ground.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

Oh definitely, my next movie up is Grinder which is a psycho-sexual thriller set in NY. My fans know the kinds of films I make and what to expect and I promise not to disappoint.

 

What got you into acting to begin with, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?

 

There were a lot of girls in acting classes, I thought the odds would be better. I have a musical theater degree but the most Iíve used from it is the timing and International Phonetic Alphabet, Iíve done commercials in Korean.

 

Before getting into movies, you have done quite a bit of theatre, right? So how does performing on stage compare to acting in front of a camera, and which do you prefer, actually?

 

Very differently, both are extremely difficult, but I am of the Mamet school of thought. I could teach a plumber to act, the trick is getting out of your way and not overthinking the work. Stage you have to ignore the audience and film you ignore the camera. The biggest difference is the use of energy, with film you have to have a greater control of your energy within the frame, and stageÖ. SING OUT LOUISE!

 

But really thatís the joy of doing non-union movies. I plan on working with a lot of fresh talent for Grinder and hopefully launching a few careers.

 

Can you still remember your first time in front of a movie camera, and what was that experience like?

 

A little short called Landscaperís Daughter - Port Washington, NY, below freezing temperatures, a rain machineÖ it was a Vietnam war sceneÖ needless to say after the whiskey got me out of the hypothermia I was hooked.

 

Over the years you have worked on quite a few erotic movies and TV series - so want to talk about some of those, and what is working on those usually like?

 


Wow, not the usual question. Most people cut to the required ďsoÖ are you guys actually... like... you knowÖ well, you know.Ē Yes I know and generally the answer is... maybe. Love those sets, and the directors Iíve worked with. They have taught me invaluable lessons about shooting and how to work as a technician and not an artist. Iím not saying the work isnít art, but with a play everyone overthinks it. When you shoot a movie called ďP.O.V.Ē and itís renamed ďSlutty, Busty and BadĒ, you stop taking yourself so seriously.

 

Other films of yours you'd like to talk about?

 

Changing the Game, on almost every DVD shelf in Barnes and Noble. My work with Tony Todd in that film is priceless. They gave me a scene with him in which he delivers a monologue and I work my freaking ass off trying to hold a frame. He, of all the actors Iíve worked with, made me pull every single fiber of my being into the sceneÖ did I mention I had no linesÖ I act with my middle finger and a ring. Truly a treasured experience.

 

Grinder will hopefully be on everyoneís computer screen this fall. I spent 9 months doing post on Gravedigger, Grinder has a more succinct script and should be finished much faster.

 

How would you describe yourself as an actor, and some of your techinques to bring your characters to life?

 

Awareness of the role and life experience. When approached with a project you need to see through all the BS that you get fed and see it for what it is. With Grinder Iím seeing a lot of different talent and I donít feed them the typical ďIíll make you a starĒ-line. The trick is as Iíve said to get out of your own way and say the lines. Yes, sometimes the script is bad, but a crafty rephrase can always save a bad line. That comes with experience. The pace at which I usually shoot doesnít allow you to sit down with a script and analyze it. I have maybe 15 minutes to look at a scene and understand everything. That is the way things should be.

 

Actors (or indeed actresses) who inspire you?

 

Anyone who tries to challenge or scare the audience. Iím fickle like anyone else. I had a young actor in for Grinder today, Jeremy Russial I think his name was. He impressed me. It takes a lot to sit down at a table and talk to a crazy 30 something would-be director, who hasnít finished his shooting script, and not run away screaming.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

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The next one I will be shooting, Grinder. After thatÖ the next film Iíll be shooting.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

I probably didnít make it through the first 2 minutesÖ I donít like to torture myself.

 

Your website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

https://www.facebook.com/b.ruckdashel

www.BrandonRuckdashel.com

https://twitter.com/BrandonRuck 

Connect ">Grinder at www.facebook.com/GrinderMovie

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

Thanks for interviewing me!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
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... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD