The directing duo of Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott came storming into the scene a few years back with the now way cult classic Cooties. Cooties is the rare horror-comedy hybrid that actually happens to be equal parts scary and equal parts funny. We called it a relentless riot. Their latest film, Bushwick (read our review from Sundance), takes on a much different tone. This film takes place during a modern civil war — a truly frightening concept given the current political climate.
Murnion and Milott were kind enough to chat with Bloody Disgusting about Bushwick and what it’s like to work as co-directors. Please note that this interview was conducted via email and the duo handled the answers much like they do director duties, as a pair.
Bloody Disgusting: The premise of Bushwick is very relevant to the modern world. Was there one specific event that helped shape the film or was it a combination of things?
Murnion & Milott: This movie was originally inspired by a quote we saw in 2009 from the former governor of Texas, Rick Perry. He “joked” that Texas should secede from the United States. This was when Obama was in office so there was an undercurrent of racism in his statement. We then thought about what would transpire if Texas followed through on this “joke”. We also wanted to explore how it would feel if American military invaded U.S. cities the same way they invaded other countries around the world.
BD: Piggybacking off that first question a bit, how much input on the overall story did you two have as directors? You worked with two wonderful writers in Nick Damici and Graham Reznick. Did they have most of the story fleshed out or was there a lot of collaboration between all parties involved?
M&M: They are indeed both fabulous writers and we were lucky to have them work on this project for us. We had written the story for the film before meeting them, but then they both brought a tremendous amount of new ideas to both the story and the characters when they worked on the script. We then also worked a lot with both Dave Bautista and Brittany Snow on their characters Stupe and Lucy.
BD: What impact do you hope the film has? When an audience gets up to leave after watching the movie, what do you want them to take away?
M&M: First and foremost we hope people leave feeling that they sat through an exciting, tense, thought provoking experience like none they’ve watched before. We also hope this movie comes across as a cautionary tale for what can happen when people turn to violence instead of peaceful protest. War is never the answer.
BD: The cast of the film is wonderful. Dave Bautista seems destined to be an action star and in fact if this were the 80’s I think he’d be a lot more popular than he already is. What was the experience like working with him?
M&M: We totally agree! But we think he’s even better than those 80’s action stars – he has a rare combination of strength and vulnerability that those stars didn’t have. He can be indestructible in one scene and completely broken in the next. He’s lived a very unique life that he brings to the characters he plays. Dave is a director’s dream to work with – he’s extremely dedicated and is always looking for new ways to make the movie better. There’s a big scene towards the end of the movie where his character, Stupe, opens up for the first time to Lucy. Dave told us he had a story he wanted Stupe to tell. He told us the general idea of the story but none of the details. So what you see on screen is directly from Dave’s heart and it was the first of three takes. It’s very raw and real, which is very much who Dave is.
BD: My last question isn’t specific to Buschwick, but just the two of you in general. What is the balance like when directing as a pair? Are their specific tasks each of you handles on every film? Do you mix it up? Both of you just do everything? What is the dynamic like?
M&M: We’ve been working together for over fifteen years so we’re like brothers. We work together on everything we do. We collaborate on a project from start to finish. During the actual shoot we’ll divide up the scenes so that there is one person that the actors and crew can look to for major decisions, but we’ve already worked things out between us in pre-production. It’s so helpful to have someone else to bounce ideas off and to discuss things with. There have been SO many times where we’ve helped each other that it’s hard for us to imagine what it must be like for all of those solo directors out there.
Bushwick is currently available in select theaters and on VOD.