By Ryan McPherson
You’ve seen the movies. You know the ones where the guy opens the door and there’s another guy sitting in the shadows. The second guy is a contract killer hired to take out the first guy who owes money or just messed with the wrong people. You’ve seen that right?
Have you ever noticed the hired gun is waiting there, just at the right moment, to finish the job? Well Christopher T. Wood and the crew behind, Time To Kill, did. Rather than just shrug it off as mere coincidence, they set out to explore the idea further: What does a hit man do while waiting for his target to arrive? Better yet, what happens when he is unsure if he even wants to go through with it?
So your film centers around a hit man who is having second thoughts about life when he is left with too much time on his hands. Where did this idea come from and how did it evolve?
We were sitting around by the barbecue one day and Scott D. Frank, amidst sips of whiskey, pondered as to what the hell a hit man does while he was waiting. In the movies, they were always there, ready to go, gun pointed at the door, but they couldn’t have known when the victim would arrive. I loved the idea and typed up the script. Though I retired as a corporate lawyer twelve years ago to transition to acting, I was still keenly aware of what it was like to hurry up and wait. The script wrote itself, Justin made some tweaks and we were off!
You are so good as Harris the Hit Man. Doubling as one of the writers of the film as well, was it easier to bring the character to life when you’re able to write to your strengths as a performer?
I suppose so. I made my bones in film and TV in comedy. I knew the rhythm and mood that this character would bring. Curiously, once Justin Rettke locked the script, we didn’t make any changes on set. No improv at all. We really didn’t have time and he had planned out the shots perfectly. As best as I can remember, we did each scene maybe twice and then had to move on. Although we had a cast of two people plus one dog, we had a huge (and VERY) talented crew that had paying jobs to go to, so time was decidedly of the essence.
Will the film standalone in the short form it is now or is a feature film in the works?
The aim would be for one of the non-Networks (Netfilx/Hulu) pick up the piece as a webisode or episodic. That would enable folks to see how precise and rich Justin Rettke’s directorial skills are. In anyone else’s hands, this script degenerates into a sketch comedy piece, but Justin, together with Michael Pessah as DP, really set a mood that was VERY grounded. Michael was actually nominated against features for best cinematography for his work on Time To Kill at the SoCal Independent Film Festival. The key is, Justin was always in absolute control. He actually cut off my water supply coming up to the scene with the dog without me knowing because he knows I shake when I’m dehydrated and he wanted a slight quiver. He and his crew really made this picture the story it became. The set, run by Cindy Hong, our Producer, ran as smoothly and professionally as any I have been on. If you were to let these guys create with even a modest budget and I didn’t screw it up, you could have a show that people would love.
Is it hard to not fall into a place where a short comedy like this becomes campy and over the top?
If the folks involved aren’t good, yes. One thing you do have to concern yourself with is “set laughter”. Things that become funny on set because everyone knows what should be, but are meaningless to an audience. Luckily, Justin ran a VERY tight ship.
You said you’re hoping for a webseries to come out of the short. Are more episodes currently in the works?
Not immediately in the works, but the welfare of Harris’ dog is at stake.
Any chance you’d give us an idea as to what we should expect?
Harris is a man that is constantly being pulled in two directions, similar to many of us. Pursue your dreams or stick with the job you hate.
Do you feel your any closer to understanding what a hit man actual does while waiting for his target to arrive?
Not a clue.