How did you assemble such a charming and talented cast of actors?
Aren’t they wonderful? As I mentioned before, they really are the reason I wanted to make the movie in the first place, to share these people with the world.
The common bond is, we all went to NYU’s graduate acting program. So I either reached out because I’d seen them act and had a crush on them already, or they came via recommendation. Originally, we were going to have a much larger cast, pulled from a wide variety of New York actors, but once we saw how challenging it was going to be to essentially create a whole movie in a week, it was clear we all needed to share the same language creatively. At NYU, you’re actually trained to be “instant storytellers”, to be able to jump in 100% and say yes, to play joyfully within the rules.
What’s so moving to me, personally, is that every one of the 12 actors I called said “yes, I’m in”, without hesitation, even when we had no script, no money, no idea what was going to ultimately come from our effort… that’s incredibly rare. It’s part of why this movie is special, in my opinion, and it’s certainly why I will love each of them for the rest of my life.
You came up with the story but it was written by the company. How much was ad-libbed by the cast?
We all created the story together in our rehearsal process, actually – everyone contributed ideas, everyone brought something personal to the film, which is why it feels so authentic. I have the ‘story’ credit because I organized everything and was, I suppose, the ultimate “author” of what we used in the film — but it was a truly collaborative project.
On set, everything was improvised. There was no script with written lines, at all. I had an outline of the movie sketched out, and we had a shared sense of what each scene had to accomplish, and I’d usually make them say a specific line if we needed something concrete (which we often did)… however, the whole beauty of this movie is that 90% of the dialogue came from the actors live and in the moment – and usually in just one or two takes. Pretty remarkable, in my opinion.
What was the most challenging part of directing this film? The best? Any more directing projects in the future?
Everything was challenging because everything was new to me! I’ve learned buckets and buckets about filmmaking through the whole experience, and I made rookie mistakes from start to finish. But I’d say the toughest part was slogging through a very long editing process; shooting the film came from inspiration, finishing the film came from sheer will and perseverance. Our editor Ben Stauffer deserves a lifetime of credit for the work he put in — it was a heroic effort, and he did a tremendous job.
The best part was back in that rehearsal room with the cast, and our three day shoot. Magic every day. Tied with that, though, was hearing the reaction to our film from a handful of people across the world the week we released. Our story touched some folks in a way I’ll never forget.
I will certainly be directing again. And I can’t wait to get started.
What are some of your favorite memories on NCIS: Los Angeles and playing Renko?
Nothing beats the first day on set for the NCIS “Legend” episodes, down on Venice Beach, working with Mark Harmon, meeting Chris, Todd (LL Cool J), and Daniela. Seeing the chair with my name written on it. It was the beginning of a great journey, I’ll always cherish that time.
Being thrown around in the back of a van with Daniela and a few very large Marines as Todd drove like a crazy man during an action sequence in “Ambush” – that was terrifying, and hilarious in retrospect.
During “Bank Job”, standing outside a bank in the middle of Los Angeles, with Chris O’Donnell, both of us wearing ski masks and holding assault rifles, waiting for ‘action’… and dying laughing as Chris tried intimidating the passing traffic. That was priceless. O’Donnell is sneaky funny.
Finally, when we got together to do the table read for my last episode, “Sans Voir”, the cast and crew hadn’t seen me in a while, and of course, I was going to die that week. When Shane Brennan was introducing the cast, he got to “as Mike Renko, Brian Avers” and the entire room burst into a long applause. It really surprised me, and I was incredibly touched by that. I still am.
How do you think the show changed when they brought in the character of Marty Deeks? Did it make a difference in the feel of the show to you?
I think they were always looking for that type of character, even in the original scripts for “Legend”. With television, it’s all about making the whole jigsaw puzzle work. Shane tried a number of things over the first couple years, until finally a character clicked, and they found a perfect fit in Eric Christian Olsen. Kensi needed a romantic opposite, and the show needed a funny, lovable, blonde “LA” type – Eric/Deeks is perfect on both fronts. I think it was the missing piece, and now that relationship, with the comedy and the romantic tension, it kind of makes the show perfect, doesn’t it? I think the show was always great, but now with Deeks – and Nell Jones, another perfect addition played by another wonderful actor in Renée Felice Smith – the show is gunning on all cylinders!
In Shane Brennan we trust, right? Guy knows what he’s doing.
Your guest star role on Golden Boy last season was fun… what’s up next in front of the camera?
Haha, yeah that was a fun one: a coked-up pimp jumping out of the closet in his tightie-whities… my mother was so proud! 😉
Not sure what’s next, to be honest – I did episodes of Blue Bloods and Golden Boy last season, and was in a hit comedy in New York called The Explorer’s Club this past summer. Since then, my focus has been releasing this movie, and developing my many future projects – it’s an exciting time, everything’s happening at once. As for TV… we’ll see!
We appreciate Brian stopping by wikiDeeks to talk to us about his film and his time spent on set at NCIS: Los Angeles. We look forward to his future projects and wish him well as he goes forward in his directorial pursuits! In the meantime, check out The Weekend! You will enjoy watching this quirky and delightful cast of characters reunite to rekindle their friendship one last time. You won’t want it to end!
Follow Brian Avers and The Weekend on Twitter: @brianavers, @TheWeekendFilm