Last week Film Combat Syndicate scored a great interview with Director Tony Giglio and got to pick his brain a bit:
Hey Tony, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! How has the year been for you so far?
It’s been an amazing year so far. Thanks! I finished SWAT in March and I immediately went onto my next project which I’m both writing & directing. That rarely happens so perfectly, so I’m enjoying the ride while it lasts.
Tell us a little bit about how you became Director for SWAT: Under Siege.
My agents at APA sent me the script. It was a bit odd. They told me the project was “down the road” with another director. Which usually means they’re in deep negotiations with someone else, but they really wanted me to meet with the producer at Original Film, Jonas Barnes. They sent the script on a Friday and my meeting was on a Monday.So I prepared, even though I was told I didn’t have a shot at the job.I met with Jonas, who, if he’s not the tallest Producer in town, he’s in the running for tallest, has worked with Neal Moritz at Original Film for 16 years, and he had actually co-wrote the SWAT script. He was incredibly passionate about it. He knew ALL my work – and liked it which made me suspicious…
Kidding. We briefly discussed the project but we had a much broader conversation about film in general, what we each like, didn’t like, etc.The meeting concluded with Jonas telling me he wanted me to direct the film. I didn’t ask about the other person. He was going to push Sony to meet me ASAP. I thought that was just talk.It wasn’t.The next day I got an email from Jonas saying I needed to be at his office tomorrow to meet the Sony Executive. I did. It went well and by the end of Wednesday I was told to expect an offer.
This was end of March, early April. Our first day of Principal Photography was July 6. That’s fast.
Can you give us an elevator pitch for the movie?
The film is a modern take on John Carpenter’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 but with much more action and a few more twists.
Did you encounter any hurdles producing the film? If so, how did you manage to overcome them?
Just to be clear, I was only the director, not the producer of the film.As far as hurdles… oh my, yes. We were a low budget film. 21 day shoot. No 2nd or “Action” Unit. When you’re trying to make an action film with hardly any money, there are always hurdles.The biggest hurdle was Vancouver, where we shot the film.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Vancouver. It’s a beautiful city. Amazing restaurants and people. I shot my film CHAOS there. I love the cast and crews. But it’s SO busy there it’s tough to get things done. We were limited to which locations we could use. All the top cast and crew are all working all the time. It’s not like in LA. You have actors up there that turn paid acting jobs down to take a day off. In LA, Actors would kill for one line in a film produced by Neal Moritz. In Vancouver, we actually got a pass from Pascale Hutton for the wife of Sam Jaeger, because she wanted to rest before her TV show started. Pascale is a talented actress who I cast in my film CHAOS 10 years earlier.
So I had our casting people call her people back and guilt trip her into saying yes. It was one lousy day! Thankfully she agreed.And, we somehow our luck regarding casting continued. We were able to get an amazing group of actors, helped out by our amazing Casting Director, Candice Elzinga, and a top notch crew, made possible by our Canadian Producers.We didn’t get everything we wanted, but that’s the life of the low budget show. But there’s nothing that takes away from our story or action. We made everything work.
Michael Jai White and Adrianne Palicki, how awesome was it to direct these two?
Very awesome. Michael’s a true pro. A gentle giant. He’s such an underrated actor. He’s very meticulous when it comes to his fights. At first we thought he’d want to “take over” the fight scenes since he has more experience. But Michael WANTED to know what I wanted. He wanted to see what the fight coordinator prepared. Many guys who have reached his level would just do what they want. Or what they think is cool. He didn’t want to do that. He wanted to know his character’s background and what style he’d use. He wanted to execute what I wanted.
Adrianne is always late, never knows any of her lines, is constantly yelling and screaming for no reason and you don’t want to see her before she gets through make-up and hair.
Kidding! Adrianne was everything I hoped for and more. Anything for the shot. Did all her own stunts. Complete pro. The total package. Great dramatic actress, ridiculously attractive, very funny. My only regret is that her role only shot for 2 weeks. We should’ve had her on the entire run of the show.
What were some of the more enjoyable or funny moments you shared during production?
From L to R: Sam Jaeger, Adrienne Palicki and Tony Giglio
My 1st AD on the show, Patrick Weir, was easily one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and made coming to work so much fun. When you’re making movies, you deal with so much needless drama. You have to laugh. Patrick’s one of the most Politically Incorrect people I’ve ever met and would crack me up with jokes, I’m sorry, but I can’t reveal any of them or they’d get everyone in hot water. Have you ever gone back and watched Eddie Murphy’s DELIRIOUS? How that stand up routine would never happen today. That was Patrick. Every day.
One of my favorite scenes was the fight between Adrianne Palicki and Monique Ganderton. Monique is one of the top stunt people in the world and she’s now taking on more acting roles. Adrianne and Monique are both these tall, gorgeous women, who both have tremendous fighting skills. It’s an amazing sequence I think fans will love. The trailer was very “gun” heavy, but there are 7 or 8 really intense, cool fights that balances the action out so it’s not all shooting.
On Michael’s last night, we needed a shot of him handcuffed inside the interrogation room waiting. It was to be played on a security monitor. At most we needed about 10-15 seconds. So we rolled camera, I yelled action and then I had all the crew leave. We left Michael in there alone. 20 seconds… 30 seconds… 1 minute… In the days of shooting “on film”, on a low budget show, I wouldn’t have been able to do this, but it’s Digital so who cares. Now about 2 minutes have passed and Michael, God bless him, he’s sitting there, stoic, still in character. I realized after 2:30 minutes that Michael was never going to complain or break the moment, so I yelled cut and the crew stormed the room to laugh and say good bye to Michael. Michael was laughing so hard too. He said, “I thought you forgot about me.” Great guy and moment.
Overall what is your favorite part of the filmmaking process?
My favorite part is that I get to do this job. This marks my 6th feature film I’ve directed. That’s insane to me. I feel so fortunate. It’s not an easy job and you run into a lot of craziness, which I won’t go into because the good outweighs the bad. In my career, I’ve had the honor to work with so many cool people I love and respect: Jason Statham, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, Til Schweiger, Danny Glover, Milla Jovovich, Clark Gregg, and I could go on and on. I love getting the script right. To me, the script is everything, especially on a low budget show.
I then love casting. Putting real people with characters that were nothing more than names on paper. I love working with a crew on set. I started as a PA. I feel very at home on set. I love editing, bringing everything you shot together. The toughest parts are the shooting days. I’ve never been afforded much time or money on my productions. When I was a PA, I routinely worked on big studio films. We’d have 50-60 days to shoot. We’d do 2-3 pages a day. The most days I’ve ever had on a project I directed was 26 (on TIMBER FALLS). This was 21 days. We’re doing 8-9 pages a day and we had something like 15 major action beats. Those action scenes take time. Not just to shoot, but when you deal with stunts, you have to put safety first. A 2 second explosion in the film takes a few hours to set up and execute.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned that you might be taking with you from this project into others from here on?
|“My favorite part is that I get to do this job”|
Wow, interesting question… Always cast Adrianne Palicki, Sam Jaeger, Michael Jai White, Monique Ganderton, Matthew Marsden, Ty Olsson, Mike Dopud, Lisa Chandler, Marci House and everyone else from S.W.A.T. But seriously, we didn’t have enough prep. We got through it. No one will notice anything, but film’s are made or broken in prep. And I can honestly say if it wasn’t for this remarkable ensemble cast and hard working crew, we would’ve been broken. It’s tough. I’m a perfectionist and I hate having to settle when I know with just a little more time it can be better.
Are there any other projects or actors you’re lining-up to work with at some point in the not too distant future?
Yes. I have 2 very exciting projects – a TV Series and a Film – I’m about to start, but they’re not quite ready to announce. I promise, when they are, I’ll hit you back. But they’re 2 dream projects finally coming to fruition. I might’ve said too much already.
What films are you looking forward to this year? We’ve had a few great ones so far and the year is looking terrific in my view. What’s your take?
GET OUT and JOHN WICK 2 have been my 2 favorite 2017 releases so far. I also liked THE FOUNDER (was that 2017?). I can’t wait for ATOMIC BLONDE, IT, BABY DRIVER, DARK TOWER, DUNKIRK, DETROIT, BLADE RUNNER & THE LAST JEDI.
I always try and support any original film a major studio releases because those are the films we desperately need more made of. The Comic franchises are doing fine. See Baby Driver. See Atomic Blonde. Those are the films that, I think, will inspire.
If I were to browse through your current film collection or, say, your Netflix queue or VoD wishlist, what titles might I expect to find?
Just a few because the library is vast. All of Fincher, Kubrick & Nolan’s films. The Back to the Future trilogy, Toy Story trilogy. Alien & Aliens. To Kill A Mockingbird, It’s a Wonderful Life, Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window. Godfather 1 & 2, Goodfellas. Infernal Affairs. Let The Right One In. Warrior. Old School. Caddyshack. Fletch. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Rogue One. Conjuring 1, Insidious 1 & 2, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Oculus.I have a ton of foreign films and documentaries in my Netflix Queue that I’ll probably never watch, but if someone ever hacks into my Netflix account they’ll think I’m this real deep auteur. (That’s sad, I know, don’t judge me).
Any last words for our readers and fans of your work?
That sounds pretty ominous. How about “final remarks” or “in conclusion” instead of “last words”? I just really want to thank you for supporting my work and allowing me to talk to you today. I hope everyone enjoys S.W.A.T. UNDER SIEGE, coming out August.