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A Conversation with Brian Avers

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Image courtesy of Brian Avers

This has been an exciting year for Brian Avers. If you are a fan of NCIS: Los Angeles, you will remember Brian from his memorable work on the show as Mike Renko, NCIS agent extraordinaire!  We were sorry to see Renko meet his demise in the third season, but as a member of the NCIS: LA family, we have continued to follow his career as he as he reached out in a different direction, this time behind the camera. In 2013, Brian released his directorial debut film The Weekend. The movie has been warmly received by the public and we invited Brian to stop by wikiDeeks to talk about the film and also reminisce about his time spent on NCIS: Los Angeles. We also asked him to give us his insider’s take on why Marty Deeks has become such an important character on the hit TV show. You’ll be surprised by his response. But first, we talked about The Weekend and how his dream of directing became a reality... How did the genesis of The Weekend come about?   Simply enough: I felt convinced we could get a group of my really talented actor-friends together, create a somewhat basic story that happens in one location, and with two cameras go through a three-day weekend shooting group improvisations in a documentary style, and come out of it with a movie that feels fresh, funny, touching, and truly authentic... I pitched that idea to a buddy of mine, because his parents owned a cottage in upstate New York I thought we could use. That buddy was Michael Izquierdo, who's the producer of my film, we did indeed use his parent’s house, and incredibly, I think we did accomplish what I originally hoped and dreamed of! This film reminds me so much of a younger version of one of my favorite movies The Big Chill. What was your inspiration? We absolutely could be called a Big Chill for the 90s generation, the films have a ton of similarities: outstanding ensemble cast, old friends reunited, a sense of 'where are we and how did we get here'. Funnily enough, I hadn't seen Big Chill in many years and didn't think of it until afterwards - but the comparisons are flattering in my opinion - that's a classic movie! For us, the actors and I played with a lot of different story ideas in our creative rehearsal period, ranging from family drama to a scary slasher flick (ha!), but our group was all so colorful, creative, funny, generous, playful and sweet, it just fit our company to go towards comedy, and to go towards playing games and being expressive -- a reunion party made more and more sense. From there, the idea of everyone being former summer campers had a resonance for all us, with the sense of ritual, and a deeper feeling of childhood revisited and childhood lost. Once that clicked in, off we went!


How did you assemble such a charming and talented cast of actors?

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Image courtesy of Brian Avers.

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.

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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!

You can buy or rent The Weekend here on iTunes or watch instantly here on Hulu.

Follow Brian Avers and The Weekend on Twitter:  @brianavers, @TheWeekendFilm

About Diane (317 Articles)
Founder, Writer and Contributing Editor of wikiDeeks. Always wanted to put together a talented team of writers and graphic designers who loved NCISLA and Marty Deeks in particular! My dream came true! Hope you enjoy what we have created!

3 Comments on A Conversation with Brian Avers

  1. I am still sorry they killed off Renko. I would have liked to have seen him and Deeks on an undercover assignment together. They are both so charming and full of guff. Another great interview…thanks.

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  2. Renko was a fun character and well played by Avers. He has definitely been missed but how nice of him to come back and talk about the show and his new projects. I’ll have to check out his movie and I hope he has good luck with future projects.

    Fantastic interview! Great questions and they brought out some interesting and insightful answers!

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  3. Great interview, Diane. I, too, wish they hadn’t killed off Renko but what can you do? Brennan has a master plan. I saw his movie. I hope it’s a stepping stone for more.

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