DID YOU READ

Tribeca 2011: Chris Evans, Adam Kassen and Mark Kassen Make a Point With “Puncture”

Tribeca 2011: Chris Evans, Adam Kassen and Mark Kassen Make a Point With “Puncture” (photo)

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For those who think Chris Evans’ superheroic exploits will be restricted to the 1940s, there’s a surprise in store with “Puncture,” which premiered this week at the Tribeca Film Festival. Though it still involves on kind of Blue Shield, the actor plays an even unlikelier champion of the people than the scrawny Steve Rogers as Michael Weiss, a Houston attorney who made it his life’s mission to introduce the Safety Point needle, a device that ensured clean needle use in hospitals, much to the chagrin of major medical manufacturers who tried to blackball its inventor from ever reaching the market. Sadly, while Weiss was clearly a gifted lawyer, it was his additional interest in needles for recreational use that kept him from ever seeing the success he deserved with the case.

Yet that’s what makes “Puncture” such a great showcase for Evans and a compelling debut from Mark and Adam Kassen, two producers-turned-directors for whom the subject matter struck close to home as the sons of two health care professionals. Although there’s no doubt that gives the film an attention to detail that’s key, it’s how the directing duo balances the demands of a legal thriller with the personal struggle that Weiss goes through as a functioning addict that’s most impressive, though they get considerable help from a career-best performance from Evans. While in New York for the festival, the trio talked about bringing such a wonderfully contradictory character to the screen, making a film in the midst of the real-life people involved, and how to make a courtroom thriller interesting in an era after “Law & Order.”

How did all you guys get interested in this film?

Mark Kassen: Paul Danzinger [Mike Weiss’s legal partner] sent us a story and we thought it was really compelling. We thought if he would trust us and give us some time to get a proper writer on it and make it work, we’d take it over, so we took a big leap of faith with him. We went out to our friend Chris Lopata, who we worked with on a number of projects – we spent about a year working together on the script and kind of getting it right, going down to Houston interviewing people, working with Chris and then when we felt great about it, we went to our mutual agents and they actually had said “this is something Chris Evans would like” and we said, “do you think he would read it?” And they said, “I don’t know, maybe.” And he did.

Adam Kassen: We had a meeting and as we keep saying, we got him drunk and he came to Houston with us. [laughs]

Chris Evans: That was it.

What did you like about it?

CE: My agents know the type of stuff that I like, the kind of scripts and characters that I dig and they sent this, they said, “you’re going to like this” and within the first 10 minutes, I could tell I’m going to like this guy. The script was so good, it was so intimate and I was so shocked no other actor was going to steal this from me and then I met with these guys and you could love a script all you want, but if you don’t like [or] have confidence in the directors, you’re not going to have a good movie. It’s not worth it and it’s a waste of time. But I felt extremely confident. I walked out of the meeting like, man, I can’t believe this is working out. I’ve got a great script, a great role, great directors and I didn’t have to audition or earn it or fight – this is great.

AK: Well, [Chris] did earn it in his past performances, so we were really excited. When you have a character like that, we were very careful in our selection of casting is that you don’t want to have someone who’s one note or self-indulgent and to have someone that Chris does is very rare, a dynamic actor who can also have that soul and show that honesty and tragedy and excitement all in one is a rare thing and to have it in Chris, we felt really lucky and fortunate to get him in the role.

You actually dedicate the film to Mike Weiss by using a string of contradictory labels for him like “Lawyer, genius, fool, addict…” Is there any interesting story behind that?

AK: Actually, I think Paul Danzinger wrote those words down.

CE: I loved that you encapsulated that – it was such a great thing to read on that last page. Like what a great encompassing [thing] of who this guy was. It was just unbelievable.

AK: That’s actually what inspired us about the story is Paul isn’t a screenwriter, he’s a lawyer — that’s not what he could do, but he wanted to get it in a way we could read it. In that sentence what he was able to do that we picked up is how much this person affected him and all these other people. So of what we kept, that may have been the bulk of it in that ending sentence. It definitely moved us from the beginning. And quite frankly, as we were working on it, the first time I ever saw it with music — I’ve seen the movie a lot in many pieces and it’s very hard to stay emotionally involved in the film that you’ve taken apart and put together — I still get emotional when those words come up.

CE: Me, too. That’s part of the stuff I love about the character is that little final hook. I was like this guy’s great. And then we went to Houston and we met with a lot of guys who knew Mike, his family, friends and you start trying to piece together who this guy was and I’ve never made a movie based on a real person before, so it’s strange. You can’t start from scratch. There’s an existing history here that you have to respect and incorporate into what you’re building.

At the premiere, you spoke about how you used some of the paintings from Mike’s house as set decoration and without getting supernatural, is there a certain energy you feel as filmmakers when you’re surrounded by the real artifacts and people?

MK: I think the energy of the people you surround yourself with affects things in even subtle ways when it hits the screen, even from shooting down in Houston. We thought at one point that we would shoot it in L.A. or maybe somewhere else a little more convenient for people, but by shooting in Houston around real places that Mike was, I think just helps add a layer of authenticity to the film and helps the spirit and energy of it.

AK: And a testament to him and the other people involved in his life, people really came out for the film, both in the city of Houston and everyone within the tentacles of Mike’s universe from his family to Paul Danzinger’s entire family. [Many of them played] extras and judges that Mike worked with [would] give us their courtrooms and things like that. We’re very careful to say this is not a documentary, this is a movie that people will be entertained by hopefully, but the credibility comes in almost in capturing little pieces from those things.

As an actor, does it affect you in a different way?

CE: It’s terrifying. It’s intimidating. It’s not just you on the line. If it doesn’t work out or you’re not happy with your performance, it’s not like well, I’m the only one that has to really deal with the ripple effects. If you don’t give a solid performance, you’re kind of trashing someone’s gift to you. The fact that they gave us the story, you’ve got to respect that.

MK: Also, Adam and I talked about as we went along of kind of realizing the effect of having these people around potentially in a negative way at a certain point because as an actor, you spend this time working on a character and then letting go hopefully and then you have to be free to let whatever happens happen and so you try not to watch yourself from a third place. If you feel someone’s watching you who has opinions about what that might’ve been, it starts to get in your head and that’s a weird thing.

CE: You start to second guess yourself.

AK: Worse than someone like JFK because JFK’s an iconic figure and people have an impression of him.

MK: But if it’s an intimate person whose brother and father are around and they’ve had [that] experience, then makes what you’re trying to create a very weird thing.

Another thing I’m sure you talked about was not falling into the traps of most legal procedurals and while Mike’s unconventional life certainly helped, how much did you want to embrace or avoid the traditional beats of the genre?

AK: A lot of that was at the script stage and then in casting people that we cast so those moments that could slip into those kind of films you’re talking about didn’t [because] of the performances. We were conscious that we didn’t want it to be, though we enjoy the show very much, a “Law and Order” episode. Even the courtroom drama stuff, we showed discovery, which on the face of it is a boring process you don’t see, but still in it, there’s some technical and interesting stuff and we got such great actors that you still got great character pieces that pushed the film forward, but not in the traditional courtroom sense you would normally get.

MK: For better or worse, we were conscious of the tone of the movie we wanted to make and we kept that in check by asking ourselves throughout the editing process, especially in terms of the suspense – we talked a lot about that – when did it matter and when didn’t it? Because suspense is like in a horror movie, it’s a trick, so it’s a technical thing that you can inject if you want to, but if it isn’t really the movie you’re making, then it’s just like a jerk-off. and we really tried to stay true to what we thought we were doing.

Chris, you play a drug addict in the film, but was finding the subtlety in the courtroom scenes actually harder?

CE: Yeah, courtroom scenes are really tricky because we’ve all seen those movies with iconic courtroom spiels. The movie starts out with that and it’s one of the first ways you get to know the character and you want to make it charismatic and be dynamic for the audience to like the guy right away and there was a version in my head where I got the script, I was like I’m going to play with this and really not go big, but be just different. Then it just felt almost cliché – it felt forced. And I said, we’ve got plenty of movie to let this guy’s levels come out. So I ended up dialing it down a bit and I think it felt more real.

MK: And we cut the line “You can’t handle the truth!” [laughs]

“Puncture” currently has no U.S. distribution, but will play the Tribeca Film Festival on April 26th and 28th.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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