Your new film Thug Life: All in the Game - in a few words, what is
Violence, and Sex.
(You said a few words,)
With Thug Life: All in the Game
being a gangster film, is that a genre at all dear to you, and some of
your genre favourites?
I am a fan of many genres, zombie
horror, action films, modern day gangster films and the gangster flicks of
the 30’s and 40’s. I am actually more of a fan of the original
1930’s Scarface than the Pacino remake.
I can’t say it is my all time fave because my tastes and likes in film change based on my mood
and many other factors,
but it is a genre I do enjoy.
With the majority of your cast
being Afro-American, did the blaxploitation films of
the 1970's at all serve as a template for your movie?
I know about them and enjoy them, but that was not a route I wanted to take.
sources of inspiration for Thug Life: All in the Game?
are only 3 sources of inspiration for All in the Game,
Wire (3 of my cast members were cast members on The Wire),
(for the violence and torture carried out by Lucky). Reservoir Dogs was
the final because of the consistent and quality wide shots, something we
did try to emulate on All in the Game.
The inspiration that came from Pulp Fiction in regards to the character of
Lucky was this simple question: What would Marsellus Wallace do?
shot your movie entirely in black and white - would you like to elaborate
on this and other stylistic decisions?
I wanted to do and urban gangster
film and a black and white film as part of my film career, and since money
is very hard to come by, even for us indie guys, and trying to pull off a
full movie on $1,700 (budget for All in the Game), I said I might as well make it in
B&W, so I kill two birds with one stone.
I filtered some test footage before I made the
final decision, and of course all the B&W is done in post with
filtering, but the main reason was to get another check-off on my film
career. I am not sure how many films I will be able to make in the future,
and with each movie my next one is further and further out, so I try to
wrap what I want to do all in one project if I can. But I will admit after
doing the test footage in B&W I fell in love with it, so you could say
it was an artistic choice if you want.
How would you
describe your directorial approach to your subject at hand?
have grown quite a bit as a filmmaker, so when directing my actors I try
to find real world scenarios to describe what I am looking for, or use a
movie they may have seen for reference. However, these are folks who act
for a living, so I tell them some information when I give them the script
and expect them to carry it out the best they can. On set I will tweak
their performance within a take or two.
think one of the aspects that make Thug Life: All in the Game
so very much alive is its choice of wonderfully run-down locations. So what can you
tell us about your locations?
warehouse is the Street Light warehouse and was in use many years ago. It
is Baltimore City property. That location makes numerous appearances on
The Wire as well. The bar the gang hangs out in is an actual bar owned by
one of the castmembers. It is a very popular East Baltimore hang-out, and
one of the first places in Maryland to assist African Americans with
voting when they were allowed to vote. So the building has a lot of
history behind it.
What can you tell us about
your principal cast, and how did you find them?
and Vince are Micaiah Jones and Chris Clanton. They played Little Man and
Savino Bratton on The Wire. I met Micaiah through Nelson Irizarry who
plays the leader – Ontario Banks. I met Nelson and Kelvin (who plays
Littles) on the set of a 100% improv zombie film called Zombie Doomsday,
in which I have a small cameo. After working with them I said one day I
would sit down and write something they could appear in… All in the Game
was that film. Nelson introduced me to a lot of the actors, and since I knew
them from watching The Wire, it was a no-brainer to cast them in the film.
The great thing about indie filmmaking, there is always someone who knows
someone who worked on a popular TV show, had a decent role people
remember, and they just love to act. Plus we all had a blast making the
play a small role in Thug Life: All in the Game.
A few words about Gary Ugarek, the actor?
comment… I just wanted to
set someone on fire.
A few words
about the actual shoot and the on-set atmosphere?
The film took 12 days to shoot. We
re-shot day one footage on Day 12. The actors hadn’t quite gel’d yet
so I said I will see how days 2-11 go, and if they get better we will
reshoot all of day 1. We did and it works much better. On the self-DVD/Blu-Ray-release I actually include a lot of the Day One-footage that
was scrapped, and you also get to see it in color. Once you see the film
and re-watch the Day One-scenes you can see the differences.
The on-set atmosphere was a lot of dick jokes. We
took the work seriously, but it was just day-in day-out of smart-assery,
and someone always claiming they had a bigger dick than the next guy. Even
race jokes flew around the set. We all became great friends and everyone
knew where we stood as individuals, but it never stopped anyone from being
called OUT ON THEIR HERITAGE. I didn’t care if I was called a Cracker,
DP #1 Habib Awan probably got the worst of it. Habib, who was born in the
USA, sounds every bit American as the rest of us, just was constantly
being bombarded with jokes about him not possibly liking the film and
plotting to blow us up at the premiere. (To note: this was in 2011, so way
before The Dark Knight Rises-shooting.) To us saying and talking about race and origin takes
the stigma off of it.
can you tell us about critical and audience reception of your film so far?
has been good, I haven’t read any horrible reviews yet. Audience - it is
definitely a crowd type film. I know at the Baltimore Screening when Nicky
Caprisci makes his big announcement, a lot of folks got pretty emotional
about it and cheered at his come-uppance. The film toes a fine line of PC and
P-UC. This was not done for shock-and-awe factor, this is just how the real
world is, even in 2011/2012, and when you shoot a film on this subject
matter, you better expect anything and everything to come flying out.
need arise, will there ever be a Thug Life II?
is a script for a spin-off film based on the character of Lucky, titled Lucky, but it is still in early development. I also have a screenplay for
All in the Game II that picks up right after the end of All in the
Game 1. While they
think they won the battle and won Caprisci’s territory, little did they
know his only daughter has more balls than her bother and is 5 times more
ruthless than her father. So the story picks up with the daughter getting
wind and exacting revenge. When you’re in the drug trade. there is no end
to the game. As it has been said, the game is rigged to get you to fail.
Also, the film is just titled ALL in the
GAME, that is how I wrote it and
directed it. The distributor changed the title and added Thug Life… I
wasn’t crazy about it, but I said whatever, as long as All in the Game
stays as a subtitle - so you will never here myself or a cast member call
it Thug Life: All in the Game, we just call it
All in the Game.
you've made Thug Life: All in the Game
you made two zombie movies, Deadlands:
The Rising and Deadlands
2: Trapped. What can you tell us about those?
buy them… They are aweomse.
it true that you are currently at some stage of production of Deadlands
was, but pushed it back until 2013. The film just needs a lot of money to
be made, more than the normal budgets I work with. I actually discuss it
in a YouTube video. It starts by me discussing the ending of Deadlands
2: Trapped, which is also on You Tube for free to watch, and a debate started up among
viewers about the ending. I thought the ending was pretty obvious, but to
some it was not so I ended up explaining it, then I touch upon Deadlands
Why zombie movies, and your genre favourites?
are the only horror monster that scares the living shit out of me. Even at
41, I could have a terrifying-as-hell nightmare about zombies and still
wake up in a sweat breathing heavy. I have some very vivid dreams. Deadlands
2: Trapped was based on a dream I had the combined Demons and
of the Living Dead, so that is how Deadlands
2: Trapped was born.
Plus I also look at it like, every zombie filmmaker is making their own
survivalist training video based on the zombie apocalypse through their
eyes. Mine is just another training film.
Favourites: The original Dawn of the Dead is a favorite,
Shaun of the Dead,
Walking Dead and some of the Italian zombie films.
other films of yours you'd like to talk about, any other future projects?
really but thanks for asking. I just ask your readers check out my films
and they can even leave comments on the IMDb page for the film or email me
directly (through the official websites) to let me know their thoughts and
opinions. I like reading feedback, especially those who have true feedback
that can help me improve. What they like and didn’t like. I strive to
make each film better, but how you do that is through feedback.
who inspire you?
So many to list, but I do respect Tony Scott, he knows action. Richard
Donner, Shane Black, George Romero for his contributions to zombie cinema.
Sam Raimi, Dan O’ Bannon. And Luc Besson.
Your favourite movies?
Hard, Dawn of the Dead,
of the Living Dead, True Romance, Leon
(aka The Professional), Pulp Fiction, Saturday Night
Fever, Boogie Nights,
Shooter, No Country for Old Men,
There Will Be Blood, Goodfellas, and
and of course, films you really deplored?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
have never really walked out of any movies except one. Collateral Damage
with Arnold Schwarzenegger, that was bad, I just looked at my wife at the
time and said I don’t know about you but I think this sucks and I am
ready to head out. So we got up and left. I won’t say I deplored it, but
I don’t care for The Dark
Knight. When Heath Ledger was on screen the
movie was dark sinister fun and entertaining, when he wasn’t it just
seemed to meander looking for a purpose. I do deplore Avatar, not because
it is a bad film, but because everyone thinks it is great film. It is
really just a live action version of Ferngully, and while it looks great,
it is only eye candy. Cameron has made better (Terminator 2, True Lies) and should
be making even better films than those, not so-so flicks like Avatar.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
trilogy – www.playingwithdeadthings.com
All in the Game – www.allinthegamemovie.net
– IMDb, Twitter @GaryUgarek, FB www.facebook.com/DjfunkmasterG
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
like Wonton soup.
for the interview!
Thanks for having me on, and glad you
enjoyed the film.