Quantcast Tony Krantz interview - SUBLIME

Tony Krantz!!!
Producer TONY KRANTZ has been involved in numerous television productions thru-out the years including everything from ER to Twin Peaks to 24. He even helped produce cult fave director David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. Now, he jumps behind the camera for his directorial debut, SUBLIME - the 2nd of 3 Direct To DVD releases from the newly formed RAW FEED label. We got the chance to speak to Tony in detail about the making of SUBLIME and it's hidden meanings. Read on for the FRIGHT exclusive interview! - by Robg. 3/07

Tony - First and foremost, what are your earliest recollections of the horror genre? Do you remember what your first exposure was to the genre and what kind of impact it had on you?

As a kid I remember seeing The Exorcist when it first came out, and right at the moment of the Warner Brothers logo, someone started screaming in the theatre. Everyone burst out laughing. There was so much anticipation in the room! Truth be known, I'm not really a horror expert--I love scary movies, but my favorite films have other elements beyond the traditions of the genre. I think that the definition of a traditional horror movie can be expanded a bit--to films that do show horror in their own way, like Apocalypse Now (my favorite film) and Full Metal Jacket and Alien.

Do you recall at what point you became aware of how much went into making a movie or a TV production, and what it was that prompted you to go in that direction career-wise?

When I started planning the production of SUBLIME, what quickly dawned on me was the granular nature of directing. Every detail,  every moment, every lipstick color (!), every everything was and is a part of the director's vision and needs to be overseen and organized and created. When an actor asks about a character's motivation, or his or her last take -- in the middle of a commotion on the set due to production issues, you had better be on your game, know what the answer is, and have time for the personal aspects of directing--like listening to actors. For me, that personal side is the most rewarding, complex and interesting.

A lot of your work has been in television. Can you talk a bit about your experience first getting into tv producing? Was it difficult, intimidating, exciting? All of the above?

I was an agent at CAA for 15 years, eventually running the Primetime television department, having personally packaged shows like ER, The West Wing, Twin Peaks (my personal artistic high as an agent), 90210, etc. along with many others. It was hard for the town to take me seriously as a producer at first -- a town that had seen me in a suit and tie for 15 years. It was like seeing your teacher out of school. That was always weird for me as a kid certainly... Now as a director, it's the same thing all over again. It's hard for people to look at me newly again, after having accepted me as a producer not too long ago. But take one look at SUBLIME, and people might really look at me newly!
When I became CEO/Co-Chair of Imagine Television, I had never produced a frame of film. I found myself as the boss, sitting at the head table, being asked to give creative notes. I had never done any of those things before. I learned quickly though, and had the great honor of working with people like the brilliant JJ Abrams and Aaron Sorkin and Pete Berg and David Lynch and Eddie Murphy early on as a television producer. They made it easier, but all of those series projects (Felicity, Sports Night, Wonderland, Mulholland Drive and the PJs) had their own levels of creative and business complications  too.
Directing was the same thing --a completely new experience. I had never directed ANYTHING before I called "action" on the set the first time. Not one frame of anything!  Not a stage play or even a monologue... I had probably looked through a film camera maybe 5 times. I had the support from many people to make it happen, and had had a lot of in-the-trenches experiences as a producer. Directing SUBLIME in 15 days however, was no simple trick!

You mentioned before you worked with David Lynch on Twin Peaks. You later went on to produce Mulholland Dr. for David. How’d you hook up with him? And overall, what’s it been like to work with such an interesting and unique filmmaker?

David was a client of CAA's and I just sort of wormed my way into his life as a young agent. He was my favorite director, and it was an honor beyond the beyond to work with him. I love David... We started to talk about television, had a few false starts, and I suggested we screen Peyton Place with Mark Frost--his partner on a feature script they had written together called, The Goddess. Out of that, Northwest Passage came about, which was the first title to Twin Peaks (which we couldn't clear). When the show first aired, it got a 39 share in the last half hour. I felt that the world of popular television entertainment had, for a moment anyway, shifted. As Brandon Tartikoff said, "tried and true is dead and buried". What a total thrill that was--I remember driving around in my car and I was light headed (just from Twin Peaks mind you!).

We’ve heard about the formation of the Raw Feed label. How’d you become a part of it and what was it about the idea of producing these films that appealed to you most?

I had this idea to put together a new Tales From the Crypt. John Shiban and I had worked with each other on Frankenstein, which Marcus Nispel directed, for USA Network. I loved The Blair Witch (I really thought it was genius), and Endeavor put us together with Dan Myrick, the co-writer/director. 

From there, we pitched it to Warner Home Video (Paul Haas from Endeavor suggested to us, what about direct-to-DVD?), and they bit, and the rest is Raw Feed. Creative freedom was the biggest draw for the three of us. I mean, where else could an odd-ball like SUBLIME be made?  No studio would give a first timer the bat and ball like I had on this film. The Mandingo speeches alone are so unusual... The symbolism, the production design, the writing, the casting, the music, all of it--good, bad, or indifferent, we took a swing and were allowed to make contact.

How do you decide on making SUBLIME your directorial debut? Was it a script you had already come across or something you helped develop after Raw Feed became a reality?

I developed the script from scratch with my partner in crime, Erik Jendresen (Band of Brothers). He's a brilliant writer and friend! He's probably reading this right now, so Erik: that was a typo! We had the simple idea, "what is Terry Schiavo thinking"? We had this twisted idea of keeping her on life support, with all the doctors unaware of the brain activity inside her head...and what if she was experiencing a nightmare that she was thus forced to never wake from. I have to admit, John, Dan and I burst into laughter at the extremeness of it all, and that's how SUBLIME was born. Terry Schiavo's life and tragic end is not a joke, but for us, it was a springboard to making this surreal/thriller/horror film.

Once you started production, how closely did writer Erik Jendresen and you work together on crafting such an intricate story?

He sat next to me for every take of every shot of every scene. I mean, he never went to sleep or even bathed. Somebody give the man a bar of soap! Seriously, Erik was my creative partner and was there for everything, including editorial. He's still trying to frame f**k, and now that the film is at retail, we need to pull him off the Avid--he's dry humping it! All casting choices we made together, everything really. This comes from my background in television, where the writer is king, and I can't for the life of me understand why more film directors don't use and work with the writer in this way. It's such a misuse of a great resource.

The thing I enjoyed about SUBLIME was that a lot of it is visually interesting. How much time did you have to plan before the shoot? I know that all the Raw Feed films are quick productions, but were you able to story-board and think about the shots you pulled off or was it something that just happened naturally while shooting?

I story boarded the whole film. I preconceived it visually. But, I had the brilliant and wonderful and funny and talented DP, Dermott Downs. He's television's best I think, and was super duper fast and brought such an amazing look to the movie--as you can see, I hope.

I made him laugh one day and he did a spit take of some wheat grass he was drinking and it went all over his shirt and face. What does that have to do with anything? SUBLIME was all pre-planned. Doing a movie in 15 days requires that, and this was a film that was very specific given the surreality of it all and had to have that kind of detail in everything.

Considering your extensive history on television and as a producer, how difficult was it to switch into the director’s chair? Was it a smooth transition? Exciting perhaps?

Smooth as I could have hoped for for me. I loved every second of it. I'm a director/producer, and have been from the third grade on (no one knew it though). That's when I knew it--and it's always been my dream. I just had never had the shot. I had to figure out how to hire myself, as no one in their right mind would give me the bat and ball without anything to show for myself as a director. Well, maybe not, but certainly not easily! So Raw Feed was this blessing, and SUBLIME has been a dream for me. It's launched my directing career, and hopefully I can live up to the ambition I have for myself.

How difficult was it to cast the lead character of George Grieves? What were you looking for, and how’d you decide on Tom Cavanagh? (Who was excellent, by the way.)

Tom was our first choice, plain and simple. Thank God he said yes. I agree with you, he was EXCELLENT. Tom's a brilliant and specific and funny and dramatic actor. He deserves all good things coming his way. And they will come. I can't say enough about what a joy he was on the set. He's a leader, a good basketball player and likes hockey.  Not sure any of those things apply to the fact that he looks good in a wheelchair, and  lop off a leg, and you have one fancy Tom Cavanagh!

Before I had asked about some of the visual aspect of the movie. Can you talk about staging the “Last Supper” photograph? It’s obviously a literal metaphor for what’s to come. Considering the stories conclusion, was it always a conscious effort to drop as many hints as possible or to just leave it open to viewer’s interpretation?

We were very interested in using symbols and metaphor. That Last Supper scene was one we shot with only one camera--our second one broke for a couple of hours, and the coverage on that scene bugs me to this day. That aside, SUBLIME is all about dreams, and dreams are all about sub-conscious ideas and realities that barely bubble up to the surface. And dreams are all about symbols.

Another interesting visual image is the tattoo on the back, which eventually became the box art for the DVD cover. Your thoughts on this image and how it relates to the film?

The tattoo is of an olive tree, a tree of life. It's an image of peace. We live in a time of war, and SUBLIME is an anti-war film. It's a film that comes with hip-checks to our current President, who is doing a really poor job when it comes to people liking and loving  America and Americans and what we stand for. So, it's meant to reference those issues, and it is hi-jacked by the master of fear, Mandingo. Fear does take over the agenda, as it has for the Bush administration.

It’s often said that there’s nothing scarier then what you can come up with in your own mind. Again, while I’m sure the film is open to the viewer’s interpretation, I got the idea that perhaps being in a coma is a strange kind of purgatory, where you face all the things you’ve always been afraid of or tried to suppress. Is that at all an accurate take on what SUBLIME was trying to display? At least by the ending?

(SPOILER) The things inside our mind are very scary. How else could some of the horrors that humans do to others be explained? They come from us, from our minds.

At the end, George takes his life back.  He takes control and does the noble thing, even though we've twisted the plot to make his decision (taking his own life) a happy ending, a pro-active act. He spares his wife from years of taking care of him in his coma, and he escapes Mandingo's torture. He hits bottom in his dream after falling, and dies in real life, freeing him from all these things, and taking back the power. Strange, no? Horrific? In it's own way, perhaps the most horrific. Death is final. There is nothing beyond it yet that we can see or know, so this is an ultimate act by George of facing his fear and setting himself free. (END SPOILER)

The fanboy in me has to ask about actor Kyle Gallner, who played the son Ned in SUBLIME. Of course, I recognize him as the young Flash from SMALLVILLE. Can you tell us a bit about working with Kyle?

Kyle's great, and a gifted actor. He was such fun on the set--telling us all about his Las Vegas road trips... Kyle is a very natural actor--he's not constrained by the apparatus of the set, or the people or the pressure. He just let's it fly, and it really does. He's got a real career ahead of him. He was great as Ned--especially in that scene in his bedroom with his dad.

The definition of “horror” has changed so drastically through out the years, often spawning sub-genres and labeling some titles as “thrillers”. I’m sure some genre fans will struggle to classify SUBLIME as either a “horror” film or a “thriller”. How would you classify your film to people reading this, and what do you hope an audience will take away from your movie?

I've been trolling in the chatrooms and it does seem to me that fans are having a bit of a hard time calling this a horror film! I don't know, maybe the definition should be expanded to allow for films like SUBLIME to be accepted by those very strong and passionate fans: to me it's a psychological/surreal/horror/thriller. We didn't set out to make a traditional horror film, and I can really appreciate fans who are expecting that--and are let down or frustrated! But, there is something to get from SUBLIME that is different, that plays on fears, that shows a weird surreal world, that has emotion and pathos and is a look into a world not really seen in movies unless you have the kind of creative freedom we had. There's not a big body count here. Just one big one... But we are a bunch of filmmakers who put our heart on our sleeve and gave it everything we could with a genre-bender that is unique. Who knows? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Last but not least for Raw Feed is Daniel Myrick’s ‘Believers’. What can you tell us about the film and the status of its release?

It's great and coming out in June. People will love it and it's an exciting third movie for us.

Now that you’ve directed a film, are you looking forward to directing more in the future?

I am. Very much. I have it already: it's a film that Erik Jendresen also wrote that we're producing together. It's financed, and we are making offers to actors. I hope to shoot it in the early summer. It has nothing to do with horror or Raw Feed, and is sort of  "The Insider" meets "A Few Good Men" meets "Inherit the Wind". Sound crazy enough? It's an extraordinary and deep and controversial topic!  It's based on a true story no less... Mum's the word at the moment.
Last but not least, have there been any recent genre related films that you’ve seen and enjoyed? What have been some of your favorites in the past few years?

I can't wait to see Grind House. And I re-saw Blair Witch, does that count? I love that movie and never get tired of it. Tell Dan to send me a check!

Special Thanks to Deborah Park!


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