Lionsgate releases Vendetta at Cinema Village and VOD on June 12th, 2015.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How challenging and important was it to keep the film lean and to have a strong opening scene?
Sylvia Soska: It was really important for us to create a story that showed a different kind of angle than what we usually make. This is our very first action film. A lot of the films that Jennifer and I normally do are very languid and dream-like, but this is an action movie and we wanted to show what kind of catalyst really starts this kind of range and transformation in this character.
Jen Soska: We're very inspired by action films like Death Wish and Assault on Precinct 13.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How easier or more difficult was the experience working with a different screenwriter as opposed to writing the material yourself like you have in the past?
JS: This is our second time working with another writer. This time we worked with [screenwriter] Justin Shady who's also a graphic novelist, so we do have a lot of the same sensibilities. When we got the script, we really felt that it read like a Punisher story. Sylvia and I love writing our own material, but we're very specific about anything that we attach ourselves to.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think is so appealing about dark themes?
SS: The most fun thing about Vendetta is that in our world, we're put in so many situations where we can't actually take revenge or where we wish we could go to a prison and just kill every horrible person there. So, in a way, it's kind of like this fantasy reality that you go through. With somebody like Dean Cain, a lot of people are already on his side because he's a household name. You love this guy, but you've never seen him in a darker film like this. Also, I really like exploring the darker side of nature. We don't like to exploit social commentary. In all of our films, you see mass transformation of our characters.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What was the process like deciding how much violence to include in Vendetta?
SS: I think we over-shot the violence in this one because even when we showed it to the studio, they were like, "Oh my god, this a really violent movie." We wanted it to be a hard R, almost like an "Oz"-like prison.
JS: We also wanted the violence to be real and gritty. We pushed it as far as we could, but there's a lot more violence on the cutting-room floor.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Would Vendetta work in 3D?
JS: I totally think that this film would work in 3D. Actually, for a long time, I was hoping to do a 3D horror film where the blood actually sprays onto the audience. Maybe next time.
SS: I hope that Vendetta 2 will be in 3D. I have a lot of fun watching 3D movies. When I saw Guardians of the Galaxy, I couldn't imagine that experience not in 3D. Also, Dredd 3D was one of the most fun action movies. It's cool because you feel like you're a part of it.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Is Mason's anger healthy? Is there such a thing as healthy anger?
JS: Mason Danvers is a lot like Mary Mason [the protagonist] from American Mary because he goes through some of the worst things that could happen to a gentleman. His wife is murdered, and he loses complete faith in the justice system which he had dedicated his life to. As the story progresses, he has less and less to lose. I think that some anger motivates you, and some anger drives you. You can argue that his anger highly motivated him in this film, but I think that anger that results in vengeance is not a healthy anger.
SS: If the [characters] in the film just sat down and talked to each other, this whole movie wouldn't have happened.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think Mason would listen to you if you tried to persuade him to avoid seeking vengeance?
SS: I don't think there would be any hope of him listening.
JS: I don't think he'd listen, [either].
SS: Take notice of the musical score whenever Victor Abbott is there because we do have a little bit of a commentary about how people become monsters in order to fight monsters.
JS: We always joked on set that if you watched the story of Victor Abbott before Vendetta, you'd be on team Big Show.
SS: It's all about perspective.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How important was it to shoot action scenes in a way that you can follow what's going on?
SS:[Director of photography] Mahlon Todd Williams and I have our own language. We knew exactly what we wanted to do. We wanted to coordinate almost so that it was like an adventure.
JS: One of the triumps of a great action film is that you feel the hits of the main character or of one of the villains. One of my favorite action films is The Raid 2 because there were real stunt performers and martial artists. You feel every single hit.
NYC MOVIE GURU: To what extent did film school prepare you for the real world of filmmaking?
JS: In the nicest way, I would say: "Please do not go to film school. Please save your money." With the technological advances, if you really want to make it as a filmmaker, you really need to learn how to roll with the punches. You need to learn how to make your own shit happen. You can always find people, camera and equipment. If you have a question, you can find the answers on the internet and watch director commentaries. There are some good film programs out there, but there's no better experience than actually working on a set.
SS: A huge thing about technology being so accessible for filmmakers today is that you really have to stand out when it comes to the risks you take, the stories that you tell because if you're just some white guy in your 30's, the truth of the matter is that that's almost every aspiring director right now. How are you going to stand out? If you make something unique, something genre-defining and have a clear definition of who you are, you're going to stand out more than anything. Technology has almost surpassed its storytelling ability, so stories are more important now than ever before.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What advice would you give aspiring filmmakers who want to co-direct?
SS: Communication. It's a lot of work. Unlike Jen and me, a lot of people don't have great connection, so they don't know what the other is thinking, so make sure that you express it so that they know what place of mind you're in.
JS: If you have an ego, you're not a good part of the team and it's going to be difficult to work with. Listening is so important. Always listen to your partner. Also, have contracts in place, even if you're working with your best friend since childhood. It will protect you and protect your work. Unfortunately, this industry turns friends against each other so fast.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Would something be lost if Vendetta were watched on the small screen at home instead of in a theater?
SS: We have the Oscar-winning Whiplash sound team doing the sound mix on this movie. I've seen it on a huge theater when we were putting it together. We also have the same colorist that did Forrest Gump and Chinatown, so the visual and post on this is so amazing. If you can get into one of the major cities that are showing this movie, please go out and check it out and see it a theater. That said, the sound and color and everything else will still be so awesome if you see it VOD.
JS: There's no comparison of what it's going to be like watching it in a theater. On VOD, just crank the volume up. If you have a big screen at home, that's even better. Just make sure that you have surround sound and the volume is up and have a beer---that helps.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What would make a great double feature with Vendetta?
SS: I would be honored for it to play with The Raid 2, but play Vendetta first. Another great prison movie would have to be The Rock or Con Air.
JS: Any Death Wish.