By. Karen A. Brown
Exclusive Interview with Director Kevin Breslin on his films #whilewewatch, Living for 32 and his latest production New Indie, “Blowtorch” starring William Baldwin, Lois Robbins, Kathy Najimy, Armand Assante, Jared Abrahamson.
On October 29th when Hurricane Sandy hit The Northeast, Director Kevin Breslin was in pre-production to start filming “Blowtorch”. Little did Breslin know, he would first have to watch 100 homes burn to the ground in his neighborhood of Rockaway, NY and lose two cars while being forced to weather the storm on the top floor of his home. He has spent the last two months living in 5 different locations while he’s been filming “Blowtorch” on the streets of Brooklyn. On one night, he had to direct from his car, as the deluge from the sky made it impossible to be out in the street. With a stellar cast of veteran actors William Baldwin, Lois Robbins, Kathy Najimy, Armand Assante, Paul Ben-Victors and Jared Abrahamson burning up the screen, this drama is sure to be powerful. The story, written by Breslin, is set in Brooklyn. “Blowtorch” tells of a murder of a teen over ‘bathsalts’.
I caught up with Breslin to get the inside scoop on “Blowtorch”, which will be released sometime late this year.
Brown: What was it like filming on the streets of Brooklyn?
Breslin: Brooklyn is the greatest place on earth to film. For “Blowtorch” I tried to relive the naked city and on the waterfront. It still has cobblestone. It has the old crumbling factories and the lonely streets. The piers jut out with NYC in the background. The hard edge of the waterfront in Sunset Park allowed me to show the working class world. The rich and the dreams of greatness always twinkled across the river.
Brown: You wrote “Blowtorch”, can you share more about the process of creating the script?
Breslin: This is a story out of my mind. I worked in many factories and knew many tough people. I loaded trucks for years at night in Canarsie. I knew about a few different murders in my life and had to get at some fiction. I have made one doc after the next in the past few years and knew it was time for me to start working with fiction. It is in my blood.
Brown: Your last film, “#whilewewatch” was a raw fast paced doc on the Occupy Wall St Media team, how different was shooting with seasoned actors?
Breslin: I was excited to meet all the actors. I loved them. Billy Baldwin, Armand Assante, Kathy Najimy, Jared Abrahamson, Paul Ben David and Lois Robbins. They were all great. All the characters are New York. The actors gave brilliant performances. This is about a teenager murdered over bathsalts in Brooklyn. I know reality and doc story telling. I trusted my instincts about story and just giving the actors the freedom to work. I loved when they said to me, ‘Hey, I have an idea. Can I try this or that?’ I loved that. They were invested in their characters. I just wanted them to bring the rhythm of their roles to life. Can’t wait to do it again. Actors are smart people.
Brown: Any quirky stories during the shoot that you would like to share?
Breslin: Yeah, I was homeless because of Hurricane Sandy and have been sleeping all over the place till my house is ready. My son Quinn, age 5, thought he was Billy Baldwin’s son. And called himself Jesse. He would run lines with Billy at 3 am. He started asking when was his chance to do a scene. The camera crew put him in makeup and I called action. He
stared throwing out some lines. Insanity… (*laughing*)
Brown: You are editing now, when will the film be released?
Breslin: This is an indie. It will be out sometime next year. This is an edgy murder story on the waterfront in Brooklyn. A teenager dies over bathsalts. His mother seeks revenge and wants the murderer caught. She becomes inexorable and takes the law into her own hands. Lois Robbinsis the mom. Billy Baldwin is a detective who is after the killer and has to use all his skills to keep the mother from ruining a murder case.
Brown: Is there anything else you would like to share about the writing and/or filming of Blowtorch?
Breslin: I was blessed to have a great NY crew. The mayor’s office gave us ‘cart blanche’ and we shot all over the Brooklyn streets. For a film with a small budget I think we will give the streets a big-time look. I look forward to getting the film out for everyone to enjoy. I wanted to a film in the vein of the old NY movies from Lumet…even the edgy look from Billy Friedkin. I used old lenses from the 60′s to give the film a unique look…. Thank god for cobblestones.
Brown: So you were filming after having evacuated from your home? What was that like? Where have you been staying?
Breslin: Like Floridians, I experienced a hurricane. My home is on the beach in New York. The Rockaway peninsula was blasted with ocean water meeting the inlet. We flooded. My home and my wife’s 2 businesses have been flooded. A tremendous loss. We are rebounding. I was filming.. Blowtorch, all during this. It is about a teenager getting murdered in Brooklyn. I slept on air mattresses at friends houses. An exhausting experience.
Brown: What made you not evacuate in the first place?
Breslin: No one expected 5-6 feet of water and a blackout and raging fires. 20 houses around the block from me burned down. The morning after was horrifying humbling. This is our home. My wife, Liz is a New York beach girl. Her store The Blue Bungalow is a hot store for gifts in our town. She has sand between her toes and wanted to stay. It was scary. The fires, the flooding and no lights.
Brown: What were your first thoughts in the aftermath of the storm?
Breslin: I was humbled. I was on the streets at dawn with a camera on a bike. I saw a man stare at his home that was incinerated. I saw exhausted fireman just listlessly aiming a hose….the filth. The devastation from the surf, the inlet and raw sewage. It was mud, and filth. Apocalyptic. The boardwalk was erased from reality. Homes leaning into the ocean. This was a wakeup call about nature and life and what matters.
Brown: We all rely on government assistance in times like this? What was that like?
Breslin: Insurance and all the aid. It is all paperwork not easy. All the adjusters. Everyone had different needs and issues. It is tiring, time consuming and slow going. I want to single out all the help from all the agencies and contractors and laborers who have helped clean up our beaches and town.I must say the New York sanitation workers were brilliant during this massive massive cleanup. It was huge and they did it with precision and pride and passion, brilliant people!!!!
Brown: Where does your neighborhood go from here?
Breslin: Day by day rebuild and live ahead. It is happening.
Brown: What is next for you Kevin?
Breslin: I am editing Blowtorch. I have another movie about a New York love story. I hope to announce a huge cast . It is an interracial love story. A New York Romeo and Juliet. It is what we need. I live to tell stories. I love Florida and hope to get back down there and tell a story. Maybe someone has a good one to tell me. Breslin on #whilewewatch – The gripping portrait of The Occupy Wall St Media team filmed in Zuccotti Park NYC.
Brown: You and I worked 19 hour days to bring #whilewewatch to the public as it was happening in realtime. What brought you to film #whilewewatch about Occupy Wall Street?
Breslin: The people who said….no…I am not getting in a line to nowhere and not opening my mouth. These were the first new voices in this city in a long time. They lined up to yell and scream about inequities. They were smart, young and honest. They created their own OWS media. I knew they were the most original story tellers in a while. They did this for free. Amazing people.
Brown: Where is #whilewewatch now and how can people view?
Breslin: It is sold to SnagFilms for worldwide distribution. It has been shown in festivals around the world. The finest worldwide universities have shown it in their media schools. The film is also available to view on Snagfilms.com
Brown: While you were in Zuccotti Park filming did anything particular stand out to you?
Breslin: Yes, people taking media into their own hands. They did this with no press passes. No media trucks and fancy titles. They worked day and night in tents, in the rain in the snow and cold, 24-7 to tell the world their stories. The line “We are the 99%“, will live in perpetuity that they created. Look at their videos; they put live streaming on the map to get the stories from inside Zucotti out. They highlighted the police brutality. They were media geniuses who knew how to tell their story. They won the media war hands down and were certain the real inside stories got highlighted. Main stream media chased the #OWS media.
Brown: In some places across the country, the #OWS movement seemed to be getting unruly and the meaning of it seemed to be lost, which to me is when the message starts getting convoluted, what do you think?
Breslin: #OWS is fractured they had 100’s of cities around the world. They did their best to keep a unified front. They shared websites and information. It was all front page national news. Especially all the violence and agent provocateurs. The media never focused on the honest attempt to speak about student loans…….debt. Young people being unable to get a job……. They fought for rights of the young. They are starting life looking at massive confusion. We must remember all the violent incidents at Cal Davis, Oakland, New York. Organized law enforcement was very aggressive along with lousy politicians who feared freedom of speech.
Brown: A lot needs to change in our government, what are the 3 items you think need major reform?
Breslin: Student debt. Politicians using police to enforce their mediocrity. Lastly never allowing freedom of speech, no matter how unpopular to be jerked around with by fools in power for a limited time. Our inalienable rights are in perpetuity
Brown: We used New Media and Social Media for #whilewewatch and #OWS taught us new ways of pushing out media, what was that like from your perspective?
Breslin: Brilliant. The live streaming. Creating media worldwide from a park with no money… no generators. Nothing. Through Wi-Fi they spread a story to the world. The writings, the videos, the newspapers, the Facebook pages. The streaming talk shows all came from Zucotti. Show me a worldwide media team that blasted out of nowhere to tell the world a story. They are media geniuses. Kevin Breslin on “Living for 32”
Brown: You were the director on Living for 32 about the Virginia Tech shootings, since then we have has the recent tragedy on Sandy Hook. What is your perspective on gun control? And how did filming Living for 32 change you?
Breslin: I agree with the Mayor Bloomberg in New York on gun control.. I resented how he allowed the NYPD to bully its citizens learned from Colin. He lives with 5 bullets in him from the killer at Virginia Tech. He knows the great need for background checks. There is no way
around responsible background checks. Finally our elected leaders are realizing this. Sadly, It took Gabby Giffords and Sandy Hook to bring it to the forefront.
Brown: How do you feel about Living for 32′s message now that Colin has become such an incredible voice in Washington?
Breslin: It only helps create awareness and that is good, However, we have had 1000′s of murders from a coherent way to control guns being in the wrong hands. Colin does what is essential. He goes to work every day and discusses the issue. The film supports his efforts.
Brown: What were your feelings on the set while filming..?
Breslin: I felt that Colin would emerge as a powerful voice. The irony is that he is listened to after people are murdered. A wonderful way to have to be understood. He is finally getting the NRA people to pay attention to his lobbying efforts at Brady.
Brown: Where is the Living for 32 now?
Breslin: Living for 32 is on ShowTime and the BBC. It has run for 2 years. It has been at festivals around the world and universities. It was shortlisted for an Academy Award, in 2012. It should have won. The testament is that it probably has more recognition that most docs made in the last few years. It will be showing for a long time and it has helped establish the greatness of Colin Goddard and what he does. Google him and the film.
Brown: Is there anything you would like to add on Living for 32?
Breslin: Yes…politicians and lobbyists and gun manufacturers all have to sit together and come to an understanding that life is a remarkable thing and help eliminate all the murders in America. This is way more than a financial or 2nd amendment threat; it has to do with life and humanity