Director Brady Kiernan talks Stuck Between Stations, music, and Minneapolis
Photo by Kris Drake
Local director Brady Kiernan knows how to work. Since finishing his film degree in 2002, he's made his mark on the Twin Cities scene the old fashioned way, through blood, sweat, and skill. Working his way up has paid off with project after project: he's produced multiple videos for P.O.S., Cecil Otter and the rest of the Dommtree crew, as well as artists like To Kill A Petty Bourgeosie and The Owls, worked in freelance commercial production and as a cameraman on several films, and acted as the line producer in the homegrown indie suspense film "Four Boxes," all the while also playing bass for local punks 24 Reasons Why? and keeping the bills paid.
It was "Four Boxes" that lead him to his latest new challenge: directing "Stuck Between Stations," the story of two uncertain 20-somethings who find themselves on an accidental quest through Minneapolis's seamy underbelly. Named after a Hold Steady song, this home-grown indie production has a big enough profile to pull Josh Hartnett and Michael Imperioli in supporting roles, and has people buzzing before it's out of post-production. Brady took a few minutes to talk with us about film, rock and roll, and trying to tell a uniquely Minneapolis story.
How exactly did "Stuck Between Stations" come about?
I came to this project through the star and one of the co-writers, Sam Rosen. Sam was one of the stars of the film "Four Boxes" and I met him when we were both working on it a few years ago. When we were at SXSW in 2009 for the premiere of "Four Boxes," we started talking about scripts that he and his writing partner, Nat Bennett, were working on. They have a project that has been optioned for a couple of years and were basically in a holding pattern waiting for that to get made and in their down time wrote the script for "Stuck Between Stations." They are both from here and now live in New York. Sam knew my work and we started talking about what it would take to make the film here. He showed me the script and I loved it so we started to get the best people we knew to get involved. All in all, from that one conversation in March we threw ourselves into it and began principle photography at the beginning of October 2009.
What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I have always gravitated to films. My older brothers and I used to make movies and music videos when we were kids, but I never thought I could do it as a career. I was more excited about being in punk bands and going to Naked Aggression shows at the Bombshelter. My high school was weird and actually had a couple of film studies classes that qualified as English classes. We got to watch 16mm film prints of Orson Welles "The Stranger" and old Ronald Coleman movies, and while most of my peers were reading "Catcher in the Rye," I was taking a Literature into Film class and watching the Danny Kaye adaptation of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." I hated school but I never had any trouble staying interested in those classes. I went to college at Arizona State University right after high school with no clear cut idea of what I wanted to do, but in my freshman year I took a class with a guy by the name of Gus Edwards who was this awesome, foul mouthed Caribbean guy. The class was called "Film: The Creative Process" and was awesome. It was at that point, getting college credit to watch John Ford films, that I realized that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. ASU didn't have a film production program and I knew a couple people in Minneapolis that swore by the program at MCTC, so I packed up my stuff, moved home and started their program. It was the single most fulfilling educational experience that I had and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in Filmmaking as a career.
As far as filmmakers that I admire, Orson Welles, Sidney Lumet, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick, Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch are all people who I admire. If I could make ONE movie like any of those guys I could die a happy man. I love "12 Angry Men" and I am blown away when I think about that being Sidney Lumet's first film and it is essentially a bunch of guys in a room talking for 2 hours. "The Apartment" with Jack Lemmon and young and spunky Shirley MacLain is one of Billy Wilder's best films, dialogue-wise. I also love Michel Gondry's early stuff, I think Tim Robbins is AMAZING in "Human Nature", and that movie really got overlooked.
Movies tend to create myths about a place rather than show what that place truly is. Do you think your version of Minneapolis in "Stuck Between Stations" is a more accurate, or at least distinctively true version, as opposed to how it's been depicted in other movies?
Our view is definitely a romantic one, I'm not sure about it being more true to the city than other films. I think the main distinction is that the writers and I are all from here, so we aren't setting the story here because people have quirky accents or because it is snowy. We used the city to create a mood for our characters to interact in, but we didn't want that to overshadow the fact that our film is about these two people. I think growing up here, everyone on the creative team has had experiences like our characters do, so it was pretty easy to find places to set those. We tried to find places that were iconically Minneapolis to us, but at the same time we tried not to cover the same territory that every other movie that has shot here has. There are no shots of the spoon and cherry, no scenes at the Metrodome or Mall of America. We did, however, shoot at First Ave.
You're a filmmaker who plays in bands and a musician who makes music videos--how do the two interrelate or influence each other?
I think I am really attracted to the fact that they are both collaborative art forms. One filmmaker that has really inspired me is Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Network, Dog Day Afternoon). He wrote a really great book about filmmaking called "Making Movies." In the first chapter he totally shits all over "the auteur theory," which basically says that the director is the author of the film. The idea that I am somehow solely responsible for everything that goes up on the screen is totally ludicrous. There are the writers, the actors, the Cinematographer, the producers, the art director, the editor, everyone that has participated has offered great ideas and insight into making this film better, it seems a bit unfair for me to get all the credit. I guess that the mentality of a band where everyone contributes to writing the music and the songwriting gets credited to the band as a whole. It's just that the band that I'm in now has 50 people in it.
What things do you have in the works for the future? What sort of things do you want to be working on--videos, TV, film?
At this point I have a couple of scripts in development, but mostly my focus is on finishing this movie and taking it on the festival circuit. I have what I can only describe as an indie epic that I'd like to do, though the logistics of doing that as a second film may be challenging. My brother Spencer is also a filmmaker and we have talked about trying to write a script together, though given our strange shared sense of humor I am pretty sure that we would end up writing "Short Circuit 3" or another Police Academy movie. I'd really love to make a true sequel to Purple Rain, but I don't know Prince. Why, you got a good idea?
Bonus question: What's your definition of the perfect film?
2001: A Space Odyssey, Touch of Evil, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Night On Earth, Koyannisqatsi, No Country for Old Men, Vivre sa vie (My Life to Live), Full Metal Jacket. This could take a while....
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