Its 11:01 am
Welcome to “8 Questions with…..”
Recently the cheetah and I watched and reviewed a film called “Trauma Center“. In our review we commented on how the movie seemed to be in two parts,one part with Bruce Willis which had us shaking our heads and a very exciting and well directed action piece featuring Nicky Whelan,Tito Ortiz and Texas Battle of which we raved about.
My fellow film buff Catfish and I were talking about it and we were wondering how a film director handles someone like Bruce Willis,a man who is a great actor but doesn’t seem to have the inner fire anymore. He has done so many straight to video films and most critics are hammering at a new Willis film almost as bad as a Steven Seagal movie.
So you can imagine my surprise when I got approached about doing a interview with film director Matt Eskandari,the man who not only directed “Trauma Center” but also the new thriller from Lionsgate called “Survive The Night” which happens to star Bruce Willis. I already knew I was going to like Matt because his first film “Victims” also happens to be a IFC Films release (no,I don’t have it – yet!!!). As I sat here prepping my questions,I decided to ask Matt that very same question Catfish and I had talked about.
I decided to ask my Bruce Willis question in plain simple terms,I fully expected my interview offer to be rescinded and maybe a “Go to hell,asshole” as well. I mean,who would even ask a question like that and even more so…who would ANSWER it?
How about Matt Eskandari….who didn’t even blink at it. The man has heart and honesty. You have to respect a person like Matt and I hope you all enjoy reading his interview as I ask Matt Eskandari his 8 Questions……
How are you coping with Covid-19 pandemic? What are you doing creatively and personally to stay active?
It’s certainly been a very unprecedented time in the world. I’m lucky in that I had just wrapped shooting another film so now I’ve been deep in post production on that and it was an easy transition into doing everything remotely. I’m trying to stay as productive as possible by reading scripts and writing down ideas for new films. Hopefully, once this passes we can all jump right back to normalcy, but I fear the world has changed irrevocably.
How old were you when you moved to the United States and have you ever visited Iran since then? If yes,what was your experience like during your visit?
My parents immigrated to the United States from Iran to flee religious persecution when I was only 4 years old, so my memories from before then are very fuzzy. However, I would cherish the opportunity to go back one day and shoot a movie in Iran. The rich culture and unique environments are something I would love to showcase to audiences around the world. It would hopefully help change negative stigmas and reveal a different side of Iran than is constantly shown in the media.
I’ve always been a natural storyteller and writer since childhood. And it wasn’t one big influence or moment that lead me to directing, but a culmination of factors where I realized it was the ideal way for me to express myself as an artist. Coming from a strict middle eastern background it’s not always easy to convince your family that the purist of artistic endeavors is the safest path. Often times, the ingrained “immigrant mentality” is to take full advantage of your opportunities and follow a more traditional career path like a doctor, lawyer or engineer. It wasn’t easy convincing my parents that filmmaking was the right journey for me to embark on, but over the years they’ve come to fully support my passions and celebrated in my success.
What was your experience shooting “Victim” like? What three things did you take from filming that movie that made you a better director?
“Victim” was my first low budget feature and I was only 22 years old when I directed it. It was a very ambitious undertaking looking back. I think the lessons you learn from directing your first feature can vary wildly depending on how it turns out. For me, it helped me define my voice as a filmmaker and realize the sort of genre stories I want to explore as I continued on my journey as an artist. Looking back on the film it still holds up pretty well and themes it explores are pretty relevant today. Would I do something that disturbing and dark today? Probably not, but it was interesting to try my hand at it, at that point in my career and learn from my mistakes.
I had always wanted to do a home invasion thriller and “Survive the Night” was a script I helped develop with a writer that I felt was an original spin on the genre. The 10 days shoot was definitely not by choice, but necessity. The production company and studio has a very strict model they follow and you have to make creative choices to facilitates that model. I’m very proud of what we were able to achieve on such an insurmountably tight schedule and timeline for a movie like this. I dare anyone to find a movie done in just 10 days with the same scope or well told story.
You seem to have a good working relationship with Bruce Willis. The past few years has seen him do a lot of films but he also seems to coast through many of them without the usual Willis charm. As his director, how can you get him motivated (or any actor who is having a off day) to give a performance you know they have in them?
Bruce is a living legend. He’s done so many epic movies in his oeuvre that he’s literally done it all. The one thing I learned from the first movie I made with him “Trauma Center,” was that the script has to have some interesting arc for his character and a real presence in the story. If it’s not on the page it wont give him anything substantial to dig into on set. I made sure the character he plays in “Survive The Night” had a real character arc to it. I wanted to see there was genuine emotional stakes for him to dive into and give him the freedom to play with it. He’s still an amazing actor and when he turns it on, your eyes go straight to him on screen. Thankfully, I believe his performance in this film is one of his best in a long time, he has real presence in the film and even shed tears in a couple scenes. It was an amazing experience to watch him elevate the role.
If given the chance to direct a huge studio film like “Star Wars” or a Marvel film, would you do it at this point in your career?
I grew up watching those big budget spectacle type movies. It would be a dream come true to direct anything for Marvel or Lucasfilm. I can only hope to be given that opportunity one day and continue to refine my craft so it becomes an inevitability.
Who are your three favorite directors working today and what makes them special?
First, Nolan because every film he does is different in some way and he tackles genre from a unique intellectual perspective. James Mangold because he’s the pinnacle of a master craftsman, his films are all Hollywood genre storytelling at its best and most elevated. And finally, Tarantino because he’s just so original in his vision and is literally the only filmmaker that could get away with doing almost anything on screen. He has earned himself complete artistic freedom and nobody can tell him otherwise. It’s just so fun watching a master like him indulge himself, stretch the medium to his whims and flip off politically correctness.
What do you like to do in your down time?
Watch movies in actual theaters, play retro video-games from the 90s, exercise and stay active. Enjoy life as much as you can!
I like to thank Matt for doing this interview with me and we’re looking forward to watching and reviewing “Survive the Night” as well as starting to hunt for “Victims”.
I like to thank Christa,Pat J. and Minh for their help and guidance.
You can buy a copy of “Survive The Night” and “Trauma Center” by going to
the website of Lionsgate Films. “Survive The Night” drops on 22 May.
Thank you for supporting Matt’s interview and you can drop him a question or comment below and I’ll forward them to him.
If you are new to the 8 Questions with interview series,you can catch up by clicking on this link here,there are over 105 interviews that you can select from.