Story by W. H. Bourne, Odin Lindblom, and James Mercel
Photos courtesy of Deville Photography
MediaFusion Entertainment and Carbin Pictures just wrapped principal photography on their independent film, Cut Off. The psychological thriller, previously titled Born Again Dead, was featured for both Indiewire‘s Project of the Day and Project of the Week.
Headlined by Oscar nominated, character actor Brad Dourif (Bad Lieutenant, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), he is joined by John Robinson (Lords of Dogtown, Elephant), and César Award nominated actor Jean-Marc Barr (Big Sur, Europa). Actor William Baldwin (Squid and the Whale, Backdraft) even makes a cameo in the first feature by writer/director Jowan Carbin. Louisiana Film & Video Magazine had an opportunity to speak with actors Brad Dourif and Billy Baldwin about their work on the project.
“In Cut Off, I’m playing an older Cajun guy who’s at war with his brother. He’s just trying to keep the family together. He lives in Cut Off (Louisiana), and he wants to keep all of those traditions alive,” explains Dourif.
“I did speak a little Cajun French (in the film); of course, I worked very hard on the accent,” admits Dourif. “I have a dialogue coach who I’ve used previously… I got a worksheet from him… First, I requested that somebody do all the lines, whoever they thought had the right accent. I wanted him to just flat read the lines. Then I used that every day to get it, syllable by syllable, so that I, mechanically, just couldn’t help but say the lines in the correct manner… This is just one of those boring, tedious tasks of doing the same thing over and over for hours and hours everyday. Eventually, I just talked in that accent until yesterday evening (when the film wrapped).”
Dourif continues, “Yeah, I’m a Method actor, whatever that means. I prepare; I spent a lot, a lot of time on the accent of words, and really making sure I got everything. This part was (and) feels mostly technical to me, but then, I definitely did dig in there and try to catch what’s important to these people and to my character; in that sense, I’m very Method. I mean in the beginning, Method was just Stanislavsky studying what all the great actors had in common, and he kind of discovered they had a powerful inner life. So that was the beginning of the Method. How do you develop the inner life of your character, of yourself when you’re working? That’s what we all learned when I was young.”
“The first thing I do is memorize the lines because the words themselves are what really tells you quite a bit about a character. It’s all about the language,” explains Dourif. “Then, I try to figure out what the core of it is. What job does the character have in the story? What kind of light is he going to shed, overall, on the idea of what’s going on? I try to get very close to that. Start at the center, the core of the whole thing, then slowly work my way out.”
“If it’s a straight offer, they send me the script. When I’m deciding, because you sometimes have to decide rather quickly, I’ll just read the part,” says Dourif. “Cut Off was a straight offer. Eventually if I’m going to do something, I have to read the whole script. I can’t not read the whole script because I have to know what’s going on. I’ve got to know if anyone says anything about my character and what they think about my character, just shoring up relationships and being very clear about what’s going on so that I’m properly prepared. You know, you’ve really got to read the script, but they’re just dreadfully boring. They’re not made to be interesting; they’re dialogue skeletons. What’s really going to happen is in the mind of the director. It’s where he puts the camera. That’s what makes it happen.”
“This is at least the third time I’ve filmed in Louisiana, maybe the fourth; I can’t remember. The last one I did here was a Werner Herzog movie, Bad Lieutenant,” recalls Dourif. “It’s great in Louisiana if it’s not in the middle of summer. It’s really hot then. It’s really hard to handle. But I enjoy filming anywhere.”
“The cast seemed pretty good,” adds Dourif. “I didn’t really see any weakness whatsoever. Everybody was really bringing it, as they say.”
“Brad Dourif, he’s just a staggering actor; he’s incredible,” exclaims actor William “Billy” Baldwin. “I’m just in to do a cameo for a few scenes for a few days. I was shooting for a couple of days in the Irish Channel. I finish this week, and I’m heading back to California to my wife and kids. I just was working on a project in New York, so I’ve been on the road lately.”
Baldwin continues, “Cut Off is definitely a psychological thriller, sort of in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby, about a family that’s coming apart at the seams. They allow their emotions to get the best of them and that contributes to the sort of downward spiral that this husband and wife take. It’s really a beautiful piece written by the writer/director Jowan Carbin. He’s written dialogue that really captures the spirit, the essence, and the energy of New Orleans. It’s more rhythmic and melodic like lyrics than it is like dialogue. I’ve got some stuff that very distinctly can only come from my character. It’s very special, very unique dialogue.”
“I had to channel a character that was slightly different than me because he’s from the South and I’m not,” adds Baldwin. “He’s covered in tattoos. He’s someone who’s rough but kind and sensitive and sweet, all at the same time. It was all laid out for me in the writing.”
Baldwin talks about the challenges of independent, low budget productions saying, “Every department is under staffed and under funded. As an actor you want to shoot 5, 6, 7, 8 takes every shot that you’re doing, and if you ever see a 3rd take, you’re lucky. You have to be really, really, really prepared coming in. It’s not like the old days,” says Baldwin.
“I played a cameo and wished I could have played one of the leads and been around for a month because I love New Orleans, and I really enjoyed working with Jowan,” explains Baldwin. “The stuff he wrote for me was obviously very different than anything I’ve ever done. It was the way in which he communicated that I liked. Keep an eye on this guy (Jowan Carbin); he’s someone to watch because he’s very bright and talented.”