Brandon Sonnier is the writer, producer and director of the film “Blues”. “Blues” is his third film and definitely his best effort to date. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Brandon about his latest film and also found out how he gets his inspiration for his films.
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Michael Gencarelli: How did you find the task of not only directing but also writing and producing your first film “The Beat”?
Brandon Sonnier: It probably should have been harder but I didn’t know any better at the time. (Laughs) I was about 20 years old when I did that film and actually shot it in between film school semesters. I had a roommate of mine read the script and after he was done he said to me this could be a real movie! Sadly that roommate passed away in a car accident and that was really the driving force behind the movie getting made. I owe a lot to him.
MG: Music seems to be a real inspiration for your films, is it very important to you?
BS: It is. The music on “Blues” I did a little differently than my other two movies. “The Beat” was a very music driven song and we had to have those songs written especially for the film as that is what it’s about. For “Blues” I had to sit down and as I was writing the script I went through all the blues greats such as Muddy Waters and Ella Fitzgerald. At different points in the writing of the script I had various songs in my head along with an idea of where they should be in the movie.
MG: How did you come up with the idea for “Blues”?
BS: The script originated as a project titled “Underground.” It was actually going to be a little bit bigger. I had written a few other movies at the time that I was shopping around town but I hadn’t gotten any bites. I needed to be directing and had the idea of doing something small enough that I could get out there with and actually do it. “Underground” is what I came up with and people really loved it. They all seemed to have the same comment however that it was too small. Well that’s because I did it myself! (Laughs)
MG: I love the way it was shot, sort of like “Pulp Fiction” piecing the story together, what made you choice that format for the story?
BS: Believe it or not the story actual chose how it was going to be shot. When I wrote and shot the film it was very linear. The whole thing really took place in front of the viewer. After shooting I did a full cut of that film and was in fact very linear. It just didn’t feel right because I felt like people would want to see more of what was going on at the same time but with other characters. I thought the way the story was dictated proved that it really needed to be chopped up and placed out of order. It was also done this way in an effort to allow the viewers more time to get to know the characters.
MG: Of the films you have directed is there one film you hold higher?
BS: I think “Blues” is by far my best. Don’t get me wrong I love all my films but if I can’t believe I am getting better with each film then what am I doing? I really think “Blues” is the top in my book.
MG: Was there one that was more challenging?
BS: I would have to say “Blues” also. When I shot “The Beat” I was so young that I was just running around in the streets shooting. I didn’t always have the proper permits and such but I just did it. Then I did “The List” which was a little bit bigger and featured Wayne Brady and Sydney Tamiia Poitier. The size of that movie caused me to have to work inside the system and have all the proper permits and such. I was also dealing with larger cast and crew as well as a studio that was fronting all the money. When it came time to do “Blues” I knew all the right ways to shoot a film. I could shoot it like I did when I was younger or I can follow how things were done on “The List.” Ultimately with “Blues”, I found a middle ground in which I was able to keep the spontaneity and freeness of my first film and combine that with the structure of my second film.
MG: Is it planned that you have worked with the same actors, Steve Connell in “The Beat” & “Blues” and Sydney Tamiia Poitier in “Blues” & “The List”?
BS: When I sat down after deciding to shoot “Blues” on my own I did have those people in mind. I loved working with them and I knew that they knew me and we had a relationship already. This really helped because we shot the movie in 9 days. I was really relying on those actors that I had worked with before. Steve’s role specifically I couldn’t imagine anyone else in that role. We shot his scenes in three and half days due to another project he was working. I wanted him in the film very badly so we made it work.
MG: What do you have coming up next?
BS: I am currently writing a few scripts and shopping those around. I am attached to a project called “Sky” which is a film about a girl who gets caught up in trouble and finds herself being on an undercover task force at a very young age. It’s going to be a very gritty and raw type of film. I also am writing another script called “Down Home” that takes place in rural Louisiana which is where my family is from.
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