Dan Bush (INTERVIEW)
So we're here to talk today about your new film, The Vault. So do you want to just tell us a little bit about it?
Sure. The Vault is where heist meets horror. It is a movie about two estranged sisters who have to sort of put aside their differences if they want to survive and to save their brother's life by robbing a bank. They don't expect what they find. That's me waking up on this day trying to drink coffee and remember what I made.
Yeah. I have to confess, I've just seen the film. Fantastic film.
Let's start with the two leads. I mean, the fantastic chemistry between Taryn Manning and Francesca Eastwood. How was that in terms of acting out? How did that come about?
Sure. So I had originally written the parts for men. So the characters were originally male. It was an all male sort of brothers rob a bank. Three brothers rob a haunted bank. As I was going through it and I had the idea of casting sisters instead of brothers occurred to us at some point. I had even experimented with that in an acting class that I was teaching with a few actresses who took on the roles for some scene study. It occurred to me that there's a lot more tension potentially and a lot more this sexuality of the entire piece relative to say the Franco character or any of the other people in the movie. That really appealed to me.
Also, honestly, it's not as scary monsters chasing men down dark halls as it is chasing women. I don't know why that is, but you know. Anyway, so when I saw when I met Fran, I just felt like she's just got this wonderful intensity to her. They both do in very kind of different ways. Just extremely intense and really a deep concern for the characters. I loved what they were willing to bring to are roles. I wanted for the sisters to be very counter to each other so that one would be like ex military coming back from some war, some foreign war with sort of a control freak and very asexual kind of pent up you know and potentially capable of darkness herself with like potential torture.
Then I wanted the other character to be, Taryn's character who's Vee, and I wanted Vee to be just this chaotic, this force of chaos, this sort of wild joker card. I wanted her to be a trickster. I wanted her to be sort of in complete opposition to the control freak. So she's a little bit of a wild child. Yeah. So the contrast of those two is if they can come together and reconcile their differences to save their brother. So the farther apart they are at the beginning of the movie, the more of a hurdle it is for them to come together at the end.
The chemistry in that cast it comes together really well.
In terms of the film itself, I've never seen a haunted bank film and I've seen quite a few horror films.
So what made you come up with that idea?
It's interesting. The idea came because we were watching, my co-writer Conal Byrne and I were watching this documentary on Warner Brothers Pictures like the era of Warner Brothers Pictures like in the late '70s, early '80s. They went from Dog Day Afternoon to The Shining. It was actually, I think, it was narrated by Clint Eastwood actually. But it was something we were watching on TV. I was like hmm that's interesting just the images of the Dog Day Afternoon compared with the images of The Shining, two completely differently composed movies. Right? But something weird. We were just kind of looking at each other and it was like those are two cards that have never been played together, you know, the haunted bank is like where does horror meet heist. The idea quickly occurred to me well where does those meet?
I mean, I've seen vampires and psycho killers and stuff. There's lots of other sort of genre benders, but I had never seen that. I thought there were westerns versus aliens or you know what I mean? Those two cards have never been played. So I was like okay. What is this if we actually treat it with some respect? What are the images that come up? What is the image system? For me, the place where those meet is in the image of the hostage. There's nothing more horrifying than some of the some old retro footage pixelated images of hostages either from Munich and the Olympics or even online there's old bank heists that I've found online from the early '80s that just they look horrifying. Pitiful hostages with their bags on their heads.
So that image kind of rose to the top. It became sort of an image system in the movie. We realised that everybody in our movie is a hostage. You know? But by different forces. I thought okay, well if you have one supernatural force or some force that's overwhelming below and then you have the cops on the outside, then you can create this pressure cooker. You know?
Yeah. Absolutely. I think-
No where to go. You know?
I just got a very Dusk Til Dawn kind of you watch it as one genre and it effortlessly morphs into that horror film that it becomes. But on that note, the film does play loosely, I don't want to give too many spoilers out here, the film does play loosely on the idea of two timeframes. It seems to be a little bit of a trait in that as a director you're kind of blending stories to create one wider story. Is that intentional? I'm just referring back to The Signal and The Reconstruction of William Zero. The two great films that also do a similar touch. Is that something that you consciously look at as a director?
Okay. Yeah. I mean, I do. I'm just interested in different story structure like stuff that's maybe not standard story structure. I mean, this gets a little heavy, but I think we're entering into a period in human history where stories are changing and the idea of what a protagonist is is changing where protagonists they don't just have a single arch that lasts for an hour and a half where they have one transformation. Instead, like Breaking Bad or whatever, they can continue to evolve and change and go through darkness and light. I think that matches what's happening with all of us in a weird way. We're not so easily defined anymore, especially with sci-fi kind of takes us to the extremities of what it means to be a human. Right? It's sort of a trip into human 2.0 or something. Right?
So in William Zero, if you're going to make a movie about cloning then you can't have a classic structure with one protagonist because cloning in and of itself eliminates that what it does the idea of cloning yourself in the real world eliminates the idea of a singular identity. Therefore, you're telling a story about it, you got to have a structure that reflects that. So we had a really experimental movie there where we were like okay how do we transfer the empathy from the protagonist to his clone as we move through the movie. Right?
So it was a challenge. I do like challenges. I probably some day soon will try a story where I just tell a linear story about some characters dealing with some real world problems and that would be wonderful to me to take a break from all of the because when you do sci-fi and horror and genre benders there's a lot of it just takes a lot of work. You're creating a new puzzle. It's a lot of yeah. It's fun and it's intriguing, but it's hard.
I can imagine.
It's very hard. Yeah. I am very much attracted to complex structure because it's a fun challenge and it's a cool game. I think audiences are ready for it.
So on that note, you say you like a challenge. Coming from a director with a very limited number of films already out, to get casting as great as you have obviously Francesca and Taryn and James Franco, was that easy going to get a cast that big?
No. Francesca Eastwood. Well, there's a couple things. We had started working on this movie after The Signal kind of when I wrote it shortly after The Signal. So it's been around for about eight years. It was originally called The Trust. Then another movie came out called The Trust recently so we changed the name. We were sort of in development. Whenever you're in development on a movie, that means you're trying to get financing. The financing is usually dependent on, depending on how much financing, it's usually dependent on how big of an actor you can attach and so forth. We had had several different attachments to different projects over the years that were in development.
Every time that we would get sort of bogged down as independent filmmakers in that development process, we just it's like you don't become a better filmmaker by waiting. So talking to lawyers and agents doesn't get you anywhere necessarily with your own skill and craft. So I would always just try to make movies by any means necessary. That's how William Zero happened. It's like let's go ahead and start shooting a movie while we're working on these other ones and trying to get attachments. So that's what I have kind of done over the years is just continue to either do short films or just do my own sort of self funded movies by any means necessary. It's not easy.
With those characters and those attachments that came one of the big things is when we changed it to sisters. I think a lot of males, a lot of guys were up and coming sort of went to a lot of different guys and they passed on it, and I won't give any names, but they passed on it. I think that it's because it's risky to do if you're an up and coming male lead doing a genre movie early in your career could be bad. That could hurt you if it's a B movie or if it's something that the critics don't like. I don't know. So I think that they're very hesitant to do it. There's this idea of like a lead guy like Bradley Cooper or something is going to have he's only going to get one space movie, you know? So he's got to be very selective about that. I understand that especially with a film with a new director, I guess, or not a very well known director.
So but when we shifted to sisters, all of a sudden the floodgates sort of opened and there was a lot of possibilities because I think that there's not a lot of strong roles available for women, smart roles and strong roles. In this movie it's interesting because we got to a point where the males tend to be weaker. You know? I think the strongest characters in the movie are the women. You know? Because Michael is sort of a fractured character who's already sort of damaged goods. Franco is his character he's ultimately a force but he seems meek as we're watching the movie. You know? Then the other guys with all their bravado and sort of the other two crooks in the movie, they become cannon fodder quickly.
Anyway, so yeah. So anyway, I think that once I started talking to different actresses about the roles then it seemed like they were keen on it and a lot of possibilities opened up. Then once I talked to Taryn, I had been a huge fan of Taryn's since even before Hustle and Flow and I just think she's an amazing actress, I was very excited to work with her. Then I saw some stuff that Francesca Eastwood had done and that blew me away as well. I just thought well wow if I could get Scott Haze who did Scott did Child of God and he's done other things. He's like one of the best actors working today without a doubt. He's sort of a chameleon. I really wanted him. So those three kind of came along. Then Scott and our producers started to reach out to James because they all know each other. They had started to try to see if that was something that was feasible. Eventually, it sort of came to fruition.
That's great, subsequently the film all came together very well. Just want to congratulate you on that. Obviously, it is a fantastically interwoven film. As you said earlier, it is a genre bender so well done on that.
So what's next? Are you returning back to the horror genre or you got something else planned?
Thanks for asking. I do have another weird, it's another sort of fun structure movie. It's a movie called The Dark Red with April Billingsley and Kelsey Scott. It's a movie about this woman who shows up at a psychiatric hospital. She's committed. She's had a caesarean section and she claims that her baby was taken by forced caesarean by a cult. So as she tells her psychiatrist the story, we cut back to the story and watch it unfold. It's sort of an unreliable narrator piece. So it's pretty cool. It's one of my favourite things I've ever done. So I'm really looking forward to it. We'll be submitting it soon to festivals.
Sounds awesome. So Dan Bush + interwoven stories + psychiatric hospital. You've got me interested already.
Well, thank you, man. I really appreciate.