Interview: Marc Senter Talks ‘Brawler’, ‘Red, White, & Blue’
Interview conducted by Marc Patterson – September 2010
It was not but a couple days before Fantastic Fest that I got the opportunity to talk to Marc Senter, an extraordinary new talent on the independent film scene who talked with us about everything from Led Zepplin to sinking into the role of Ray Pye from The Lost, to figuring out the subtle nuances of his character in Simon Rumley’s newest film Red, White, and Blue. Not to mention we talked at length about Senter’s newest project, a down and dirty fight film aptly titled Brawler.
Prior to our conversation we had played phone tag for a bit, chatting on and off and finally caught up to each other early on a Saturday morning after we had our respective nights out on the town. With coffee in hand we reviewed notes from the night before, talked some music (turns out Senter is a big Led Zepplin and Pink Floyd fan, same as myself – and he happens to rip it up on the guitar from time to time). We finally settled into the groove and got down to business, talking about making movies.
Warning: This interview contains spoilers for Red, White, And Blue
Brutal As Hell: I want to start on Red, White & Blue because while I know we want to talk about Brawler I think it’s important considering that Fantastic Fest is starting up next week and Red, White and Blue will be playing there.
Marc Senter: Yeah, they’re actually doing something really cool. IFC and Fantastic Fest teamed up. Basically, what I read is that IFC is releasing Red, White & Blue on Video OnDemand and theatrically while it’s in Fantastic Fest, but be careful quoting me on that because I could have my information a bit wrong because I did just read this the other day.
Brutal As Hell: No, you’re right, you’re right.
Marc Senter: Am I saying that right? Did you read that too?
Brutal As Hell: Yeah, you’re correct. It’s gonna be really awesome!
Marc Senter: Yeah, we’ve been lucky because it’s like, I’ve been a part of independent films before and it’s just… I don’t know man, these guys just really have their stuff together. It’s just amazing, teaming up with IFC and this whole thing and releasing it at the same time and giving it a theatrical release. Tim League is such a bad ass, such a good guy, and such a smart guy organizing this whole thing where they’re gonna play it at Fantastic Fest. I think it’s awesome. It’s cool to see a small independent film get this much attention and be taken care of. It’s pretty awesome.
Brutal As Hell: Yeah, it’s actually really cool. One of the things I’ve been trying to do on my site is to highlight more independent films as opposed to some of the larger studio films. So for something like this to be happening around the festival scene, really allowing people to see the films that otherwise… I mean, the people who visit our site can read about these films for years before they’ll ever get the shot to see it, so this is gonna be really cool.
Marc Senter: Yeah, and I guess on Tuesday we have a screening here in Los Angeles at the silent movie theater. IFC’s doing a little screening for us and we’re gonna do a panel…
Brutal As Hell: Oh cool!
Marc Senter: And then it comes out just a few days after that. Yeah, I’ve been really impressed with IFC, it’s a great company and I’m glad we found a home there and it sounds like they’re gonna treat it really well.
Brutal As Hell: They’ve been kicking ass for the past couple of years with the films that they’re picking up and the way that they’re doing stuff like this.
Marc Senter: Yeah, it’s a cool company.
Brutal As Hell:So, in terms of the film, again because a lot of folks haven’t seen it, do you mind kinda giving us a brief top level overview of it, and your character is really interesting so I kinda want to talk about that a little bit too.
Marc Senter: I have to first say that Simon Rumley, the writer/director is just a really talented, interesting guy. I don’t know if you saw his first film The Living and the Dead…
Brutal As Hell: I loved it! Yeah, it was great.
Marc Senter: Oh man, it’s amazing! When I saw that film I was just blown away. I just couldn’t believe… it’s actually kind of a funny story because normally before I do something, I love to watch all of the director’s stuff. I love to gets as much hands on their work as I can before I get in there and work, but for some reason with this one, I don’t know why and maybe it was just subconscious but I chose not to. I actually didn’t watch The Living and the Dead until after I did Red, White & Blue and when I saw it I was just blown away. I was like, “Man this guy is so talented and such an artist.” But when I read the script, I mean truly it was like, you know right off the bat when you read something, even the first fifteen pages if it’s good or not, and the first fifteen pages I read of it, I was just like, “This is awesome, man!” Basically, Simon had seen The Lost and came to my manager and was like, “We’re interested in Marc for one of the roles,” and I was just sitting there hoping and praying that every other actor that was more important than me was either too busy or doing something else so I could have a shot at getting this thing.
So, long story short, basically Simon contacted my people and sent the script over and I read it and I thought it was just totally awesome. But basically, Red, White & Blue to me feels a lot, in tone, like Requiem For A Dream. It’s about these three characters in Austin, Texas and how their lives come together. The lead girl, Amanda Fuller, who is totally awesome in the movie, plays this girl Erica who is just a damaged soul who clearly was sexually molested as a young girl and had problems with her father or whatever, and we see her later on in life and she’s very promiscuous, having sex with all these different men, but very much kind of out of touch and just kind of like, checked out. And all of this, in a weird way kind of like a zombie, just kind of going through the motions, you just see her being kind of promiscuous and sleeping with all these men. And then she comes across this guy who Noah Taylor plays, and Noah was awesome in this film as well, and Noah plays this guy who’s a discharged Iraq war vet. He’s coming home and trying to figure his stuff out, and figure his life out, and he gets this job at a hardware store. And she needs to get a job, so she goes and gets a job at this hardware store as well, and then those two meet. In a lot of ways, it’s kind of funny because after watching the film and seeing it a handful of times and it sitting with me, it really is this cool love story between the two of them, and my character is just kind of like, gets thrown in there and is a person from Erica’s past and kind of throws the thing off. My character is one of the guys that she slept with prior to meeting this guy. My character is just an average guy in Austin, Texas, whose got his band, he’s trying to make music, his mother’s got cancer so he’s basically just trying to take care of his mother, wants to play music and that’s kind of his thing, he wants to make it as a musician. He’s been donating blood to his mother so, one day he finds out that he has HIV and he completely loses it and tries to figure out how the hell he got it and then when he starts thinking about it he remembers that maybe it was this girl that gave it to him. That in a nutshell is basically the story.
But the one thing that really drew me to the character of Franki, which I played, is that he’s a nice guy. And coming from playing Ray Pye in The Lost and even my role in Cabin Fever 2, it was really refreshing to pick something up and be like, “You know, this guy is just very simple,” he’s just a guy, just a simple Austin musician, playing music and having dreams and ambitions of making it big so he can go on tour, make money and support his mother and do all of these things. He’s just a simple kind of momma’s boy, and that’s the one thing about the role that I loved because I just liked how human he was. This wasn’t just some crazy guy. This was a man who ultimately became a victim to the circumstances and all of the things that have happened to him.
That’s the one thing, aside from the script just being all around very well written and just a really solid story, I just really loved that part about that character. You know he’s just trying to get by and make it in the band, trying to take care of his mother and then this terrible thing happens, but he’s not gonna be sitting around sharpening knives getting ready to torture and kill her. He’s going, “Shit, what am I gonna do?” And he also tries to connect with her because he wants to settle down, he wants to be grounded, he wants to find some foundation and it makes sense to him that the two of them should get together and settle down together because, she’s got HIV and he’s got HIV, and he still finds some hope in the two of them coming together and making something out of this.
I don’t know if that makes sense, I’m not the best at explaining things sometimes. But I really liked how good of a guy he was. A simple guy, a momma’s boy, and I thought that was really interesting seeing these type of things happen to him which could easily happen to any of us.
Brutal As Hell: Right, and I think how you’ve described it – and I may have to trim a couple parts out because I don’t want to give spoilers away to folks who haven’t seen it…
Editor’s note: A few parts were indeed trimmed out to reduce the amount of spoilers, however Marc Senter’s quotes remain otherwise intact.
Marc Senter: Yes, trim it all out! Please! Go to town! I know I’m not the best, like, blabbering…
Brutal As Hell: No no, I think you’ve explained it all really, really well. Like I said, I’ll edit a couple parts out so we’re not giving too much away. But, to the point of the conversation you actually mention The Lost and one of the things I found interesting with Rumley’s style of film is, you know, it’s tough to kind of shove it into a box and say “This is horror” because I don’t really feel like his film The Living and the Dead was really horror, per se. It’s the same thing with Red, White & Blue. I don’t really feel like it’s “horror.” It is horrifying and I think it has very terrifying aspects, but his style of filmmaking is extremely grounded in the concrete world. It’s real and it’s very visceral. It’s a gut punch all the time. And I think this is more interesting to watch sometimes than some psycho who’s just out to, like you said, hack people up.
Marc Senter: Right.
Brutal As Hell: And that said, you really brought something to the character of Ray Pye as well, because here is that guy whose only real motive was, I mean, the guy was just a fucking lunatic.
Marc Senter: Well yeah, the cool thing about him was that he was a purebred sociopath, you know what I mean? Yeah, sure, fair enough, things shake him and he did have very specific motives for things, but at the end of the day, Ray Pye – unlike Franki – was a purebred sociopath where, you know, you’ve got this balance of insecurity and ego boiling under the surface, so it’s just like, yeah, they’re totally different people. You know, Franki does something and then he regrets it and he’s trying to find the best possible solution, whereas Ray Pye is just like…(laughs) … no guilt, no nothing.
Brutal As Hell: So, in terms of how you approach these characters, these are both very different characters, and we’re gonna get into Brawler in a second but, as an actor, I mean, you can watch a torture film like Saw or Hostel, and those guys are pretty purebred sociopaths, but your angle to both Ray Pye and Franki, who’s not a sociopath but just, like you said, a regular guy, again the characters are very much grounded in the real world. Like Ray Pye had vulnerabilities. You could shake his character up, and I thought that you brought that to the screen very well. There are those insecurities that can be rattled. This is still, at the end of the day, flesh and blood.
Marc Senter: Oh absolutely! And I think that truly separates the men from the boys, and I’m truly not trying to be narcissistic here but I truly believe that they are flesh and blood, and I think that a good actor’s job is to not judge those people and just do everything they can to identify, understand and then further connect in with themselves the parallels and see what they can pull out, and obviously there’s manipulation and imagination, but at the end of the day these are real people. And sure, some of them have less guilt, some of them have more anger and whatnot, but they’re just people and they have reasons for their actions, whatever those reasons are.
Brutal As Hell: So how do you sink your head into these characters, because they’re all pretty intense, so talk about technique for a minute and how you approach one of these characters.
Marc Senter: Basically it all just starts with me sitting down with a pencil and the script and I’ll just sit there and read the script as many times as possible. Sometimes I’ll sit there and read it maybe fifteen or twenty times and I won’t even begin to think about what I’m gonna do. A perfect scenario for me when I’m reading something is it’s gonna start reminding me of things, it’s gonna start triggering emotions inside me and, not to get too out there, but I try to get as relaxed as possible and just be in a private environment and I’ll just sit there and go through it and through it and as I’m reading through it more and more and more, I’ll just start making notes on the side, like, “Oh, this reminds me of this,” or “This is funny, this is kinda bringing this up inside of me,” or “Wow, this is weird, this girl he’s talking about is reminding me of this girl in my life,” and I’ll start making all this chicken scratch all over the place and, really, it’s just me absorbing material and then just letting anything that comes up inside of me, I’ll just write it on that page. And once I’ve done that a handful of times, I’ll sit back, look at everything I wrote and start sorting through the things that I think hit me the hardest. And then I’ll start going, “Okay, this is reminding me of these personal things in my life,” and then once I identify with what I feel is very strong, I’ll then start focusing in on those areas.
I mean, there’s a lot. It takes me a while, truthfully, to get ready when I’m doing something because I want everything to be organic and I want it to come from an organic place. So, if Franki’s overall need as a person is to earn money to take care of his mother and to be a good guy, then inside me I’ll say, “Okay, how can I identify with him? What drives him, and what inside of me is similar? What’s that similar drive in me?” And then once I crack that, then all of the scenes are just like little pieces all going to that main driving need. I always start with the character first, you kind of have to start there and each character is different. Sometimes I may have to go outside and study somewhere else and bring back some more physical mannerisms. It just depends. Each character is just totally different. But once that’s done, I’ll just sit down with the individual scenes and I’ll start breaking them down and figure who exactly is that I’m talking to and who that reminds me of. It’s just, like, a lot of internal listening and mapping all the stuff out.
Sometimes it hits me like a ton of bricks and I’ll be like, “Oh my god, this is exactly what this is!” and other times I’ll sit there for days and be like, “God I just have no idea what is going on here!” and then all of a sudden out of the blue I’ll just be doing something random and be like, “Oh my God, that’s it!” And then I’ll spend some time swimming in that area. A lot of it is exploration. I never try to make decisions, I just try to explore it so that I’ve tried and explored everything so I’ll go, “Okay, I feel strongly that it’s these few things.” And then when I go and meet the other actors, I start seeing how they make me feel and I combine them with what I’ve already done. I don’t know if that makes sense or if that’s kind of out there…
Brutal As Hell: No, that totally makes sense. It really does because, again, your characters tend to be more grounded in the realistic world. I was doing my homework for this and somewhere along the line you had mentioned Carl Jung as an influence to your acting method?
Marc Senter: Sure, absolutely! That’s cool you said that. There’s so many different approaches you can take and I’m obsessed with externals. I don’t know if you saw Wicked Lake…
Marc Senter: It is what it is, but that character for instance… I loved playing that character and, long story short, Chris Siverston and I were at a horror convention down in San Diego and we met this guy, this totally weird and eccentric guy. Whenever he was around us we felt so uncomfortable but so incredibly intrigued at the same time and we’re like, “This guy is insane, man!” Just such a character! And I remember telling Chris “You’ve got to put him into a script somewhere!” And then he wrote him into there. And my point is that there’s always different approaches. It’s totally dependent on who you’re playing and what you need to do to make that real. But at the end of the day, the goal for me is always be organic and real. That’s the most important thing to me. It’s got to come from a real place and it’s got to be believable. That’s always at the forefront for me. And sometimes I miss! There’s definitely a scene or two in Red, White & Blue that I look at and go, “You know what? I missed the mark on that one.” Now when I see it as a whole, I’m like, “Eh, this should be different, I just see him different there.” But at the time, I went with my instincts. For the most part I’m very happy with the film, but it’s tough. Sometimes you sit back and watch the whole thing and go, “Eh, I don’t know about right there, I kinda feel it should be more like this.” But you just gotta work your ass off and go with your instincts, make solid choices and – most importantly – show up and be prepared. You’ve got to listen to your director, take direction and be open to the unexpected. That’s when all the best stuff can happen.
Brutal As Hell: So you mentioned Chris when you were down at ComiCon, and one of the things that I wanted to ask you because you guys have worked together a few times now…
Marc Senter: Oh, you know what Marc? I just remembered, I forgot to answer that question about Jung. In brief, Carl Jung is the godfather of sub-personalities, and that’s another approach that I think is incredibly awesome that sometimes I will use. We’re all made up of different sub-personalities and they can be activated in different ways: through music, through sound, through clothing, through different stuff like that. For instance, Charlize Theron in my opinion totally got into that sub-part, and when you really click into something, you’re just flying. It’s almost like hitting a groove and you don’t even have to look down at the page or your friends, you just hit that groove and you’re just cooking.
Brutal As Hell: Exactly.
Marc Senter: I’m sorry brother, what were you saying?
Brutal As Hell: No, that’s totally cool. So, I was actually backing up a little bit because you had mentioned Chris and you at ComiCon and I think that was around the time of Wicked Lake or before because obviously you’d based the character in the film on that, and as a sidebar note, I actually found it to be tremendously hilarious, and I said this to Britt. I was talking to her the other day and I told her I was going to be talking to you and I asked her if she’d seen Wicked Lake and I don’t think she had. She was really big on The Lost and thought it was great, and I said, “You gotta watch it!” And no offense man, but I didn’t really care for the film…
Marc Senter: I understand, totally!
Brutal As Hell: And I said, “BUT! You have to appreciate the fact that Marc spends half that film skewered on a wall! And he still brought this character to life in a very oddball sort of way,” a little bit of comic relief, and I said it’s worth watching just to watch that. If you pin the character down and literally stick him on a wall, I think that really boils down the essence, and if you can still deliver, there’s obvious talent behind that! You know?
Marc Senter: Dude, honestly? That was one of my favorite characters that I ever played. I love Johnny Depp, I think he’s so awesome, and he actually works a lot in externals. He’ll take different outside things, whether they’re people or animals or objects and he’ll start working to get an essence of those things and he’s very good at inhabiting and believing that, and I’m also very fascinated with that type of work, and I’ve thought about the Wicked Lake character and I would love to do that more and more and more. It’s just fun, man! I mean, I don’t wanna show up and just say lines. I want to do something different, something fun, something interesting. And, perfect scenario whether I’m known or not, I’d love to be known as just a character leading man, someone who’s always doing very specific characters that are all very different, yet still interesting and exciting.
Brutal As Hell: Yeah, and I think it’s worked so far. So let me go back to the question…and I interrupted myself. So where did you and Chris first hook up? I know you did The Lost I think that was your first film together, but tell me a little about that because, you’re working on Brawler and we can probably lead in and start talking about that.
Marc Senter: I basically was a young actor in town, auditioning just like everyone else. My agent at the time had sent me that script and I read it and went completely nuts. I think that’s the only script I had ever read and just went completely batshit nuts for. And it’s weird because sometimes in L.A. you hear these things about going into an audition room and people are always like, “Well, be careful! You don’t want to scare them or go over the top. Just be calm!” But when I read that I just said “Fuck it, I have to do this!” I felt like the second I read it, I just got it. I was like, “Man, I have to play this role!” And I remember after reading it, I went and dyed my hair and put on the make-up and I put on the clothes and I just showed up at that fucking audition and fortunately had a couple of good sessions with them and basically just got the job.
Brutal As Hell: That’s awesome!
Marc Senter: So I met him just going in and auditioning. And I’m not the best audition at times because it really is a different process than taking the time to prepare a character. But I did and that’s how I met him and Lucky McKee and all those guys and that’s kind of the start of our relationship. It was just a real special time and I feel really grateful for that opportunity, and I said this before and I’ll continue to say it: I think Chris Siverston is probably one of the best young filmmakers I’ve ever met. He’s just such an intelligent, interesting, sensitive, creative guy, and I would work for him any day for anything because he’s just such an awesome awesome awesome artist.
Brutal As Hell: And generally, with Wicked Lake being the one exception, I’ve loved his films. They’ve been great films and I’m interested to hear about Brawler. From what I understand, you and Nathan Grubbs actually pitched the idea to him?
Marc Senter: Yeah, this is actually a really cool story. Long story short, Nathan Grubbs is a really good friend of mine out here in Los Angeles. He’s like a big kid, and I’ve never met anyone before who had more of an imagination. During the day, he’s a river pilot. He takes these giant tankers down the Mississippi river and that’s his job in New Orleans, but he’s just a huge kid! He almost never grew up from playing Cowboys and Indians. It’s like, the older he got, the more he connected to his child sub-part or something. And Nathan and I became good friends out here in Los Angeles. We met at my acting studio where we both trained and, in so many words, this guy was doing all his own stuff. He had this big idea of this period piece film and he raised the money and he shot a friggin’ trailer with hundreds of extras, and I saw what this guy was doing and I was really impressed. We kind of started talking and I said, “Man, we should do something together!” And he’d seen The Lost and Nate’s a real good ideas guy. He’s got tons of ideas and he said, “You know, I love the UFC,” and I said, “Man, I LOVE the UFC! I love that stuff!” I was never like a fighter in high school, I was kind of the hippie with the long hair, playing music and hanging out with the football players. But I still have this fascination with that world. And aside from that world, we both also love the seventies films like Mean Streets and Hard Times. We’ve always had such a strong love for those films, so Nathan had this idea. It was his original idea which he had come up with because of his father telling him stories when he was younger. I mean, New Orleans is like its own world, there’s such a crazy culture and history. You walk down the street and there’s ghost tours and crazy people running around drinking and buildings that are two hundred and fifty years old. It’s such an incredible landscape. And basically, Nathan had heard these stories growing up about these two brothers who were underground fighters, so it’s loosely based on this true story about these two brothers, and all hell breaks loose, but it’s just this really cool drama that takes place on the streets of New Orleans and there’s all this great fighting and what-not.
But when he originally told me the idea, I was like, “I don’t know, man.” I just saw these guys and it was like cheesy Octagon in colored shorts brawling and as much as I loved Bloodsport and movies like that, I just don’t think I want to be the guy to go out and make a martial arts film. And truly it was my ignorance that I didn’t see as he saw it at first. And the more I thought about it, and the more he was patient with me, we finally brought it to Chris and Chris’s eyes lit up and says he thinks I’ve got something. And so we sat down and Chris being Chris is real introverted, and he sits down with his notebook and says nothing but just listens. He’s like a sponge. He’s hilarious because he just sits there and he observes and he listens, soaking it all in, and you never know what the hell he’s thinking. And then sure enough, a month later, he comes up with this draft and we were just like, “Holy shit, man! This is awesome!” And we just spent a couple of months getting that draft and the perfect place and Nathan went out and with a couple of his finance contacts was able to generate some dough and he raised the money. I was more on the creative end as far as hiring talent. And I certainly don’t necessarily fancy myself as a badass producer, but it was kind of a thing where I was like, “You know, I miss working with my friend Chris, and I want to do it again, and I want to do stuff we’re excited about and we’re passionate about.” And just sitting around and waiting for all these companies to give us money or asking, “Well, is this script gonna go, is this script gonna go?” We just said, “Screw it, man, let’s just go do it on our own. If we fail, we fail but let’s just give it a shot.”
Brutal As Hell: Fuck yeah!
Marc Senter: And that’s kind of how the whole thing happened. Just on a quick side note: it’s like I know so many talented young directors out here who are like, attached to nine projects and the truth is that a lot of those things are never gonna go. And even if they do go, who knows how much control they are going to have and if it’s going to be the movie they want to make? So it was just us going, “You know what? I’m not sure if it was like giving Hollywood the bird, but we’re all competent guys, we’re all passionate guys, we know what we like so lets just go give this a shot.”
Brutal As Hell: Totally, yeah.
Marc Senter: We went out there, we got down and dirty, Nathan was able to do a phenomenal job in the community and get us some of the most incredible locations and get us on tanker ships and on helicopters. I mean, there were days when I was just out there laughing like a little kid because I can’t believe what we’re doing right now. I mean, we look like a ten million dollar movie and if people only knew that the budget for our film was not even a quarter of Bruce Willis’ salary on Red, which was filming up the street. It was just funny, being down there. But I’m super excited about it, we’re editing right now and like I said, it’s really a throwback to an old Walter Hill tough guy film, like those movies you used to see, like Hard Times. That’s the best way I can explain it. It’s not Blood Fist or Blood Sport, it’s a family drama that takes place in New Orleans, and in between this family drama there’s brutal, really friggin’ schlocky brawling that takes place in the ship holds, these big tanker ships on the Mississippi, and… I hesitate to use the word “mafia” because it’s not like it’s a mafia run thing and we wanted to avoid that. We didn’t want to mess with that world. We wanted to make these characters as real as possible, like small time bookies, these colorful New Orleans people just making their money and doing their thing and running this underground fight film. So that’s basically in a nutshell what it’s about. My character is kind of the Bad Seed that gets into a lot of trouble in the city and his brother has to bail him out, and he tries to bail him out one too many times and it just doesn’t work out, something explodes and it’s like, this crazy thing happens at the end which I won’t reveal to you right now.
Brutal As Hell: Yeah, don’t do that! It actually sounds really exciting, so It’s definitely going to be really exciting to see this take place. You mentioned avoiding the Blood Sport and things like that, so it sounds like it’s going to be pretty down, dirty, gritty, another film grounded in the concrete world as opposed to some fantastical world, which I always love and appreciate ten times more. I mean, there are times when I just wanna veg out and see fuckin’ Rambo, and believe me, I can watch Rambo all day long, and I told you about Bronson…
Marc Senter: Oh yeah, dude!
Brutal As Hell: Did you end up watching that?
Marc Senter: It’s on the top of my Netflix list! I’m going to watch that probably this week! I haven’t even seen it yet and I already know that I love it.
Brutal As Hell: I think you’re going to watch that and be like, fucking blown away. I want to hear from you after you watch it! It was one of the most incredible films I’d ever seen last year. Was it last year or earlier this year? I don’t know, but it was pretty wild.
Marc Senter: Chris loves that film, and I cannot wait to see it! Seriously, I would be a happy camper if I could play those characters for the rest of my life. If I could go do like Eric Bana in Chopper? And then go do something like Bronson? Yeah, Bronson sounds totally amazing. I HAVE to see that!
Brutal As Hell: Yeah, and Tom Hardy, man. He really just nailed that role. He makes the film. But let’s talk about Brawler one more minute here. So you’re like a self-proclaimed bit of a hippie guy and you did the music thing, not a lot of fighting, so talk about the preparation. You had to learn to fight, then?
Marc Senter: Well, actually, I guess I left some stuff out. When I was younger, I did kind of get into martial arts. There was a lot of stuff I was doing when I was younger. My parents got me into martial arts at a young age and I kind of became, for a short period of my life, I think it was like ten to fifteen, I got really obsessed with karate and I got my black belt.
Brutal As Hell: Shut the fuck up, alright!
Marc Senter: So I did that when I was younger. So the cool thing about this movie, I’m really passionate about this UFC world. I absolutely love watching these fights, I think those athletes are so fricken talented and so good, but yeah the bulk of them are so humble and such peaceful guys that have a lot of respect for each other. So, truth be told, yeah I had a black belt in karate, but it’s like my character in the film is a lot more into ju-jitsu and Nathan’s character is more of a stand up boxer. So what we did, first and foremost, and it’s kind of funny because I like to think I’m somewhat in shape, I like to hike and run, but I was nowhere near where I needed to be.
So when we got to New Orleans, Nathan and I joined this gym and we were going in two or three times a day for about three months straight prior to filming, just working out and getting as strong as possible and doing tons of cardio. And after the gym, there’s this phenomenal organization in New Orleans called Nola BJJ. It’s a ju-jitsu gym in New Orleans with some really talented guys and the guy who runs the studio is this guy Matteus, and he’s just this badass ju-jitsu guy and they’re part of the Gracie Federation. They also have a great kickboxing instructor named Lenny, and Nathan and I just went in there and just hit it hard, every day. I was getting my ass kicked left and right. And I didn’t want to tell anyone that I was doing a movie, I don’t want to be that guy from L.A. that’s like, “Oh, we’re training for a movie.” I just wanted to play it cool and get in there and try to get into this stuff. And after a period of time, I kind of told the instructor what we were doing and I told him that my guy was more of a ju-jitsu guy. In the film, my character is painted as… this is a type of guy who doesn’t have six gears, he’s got two gears, and he goes into them real fast. The second that he’s hit, he throws in the kitchen sink and everything else. My character’s job is to end you as soon as possible, whereas Nathan’s character is more of a traditional, takes his time stand-up boxer who can go the distance. I really wanted to emphasize the importance of all the ju-jitsu, coming in with a quick strike and getting the guy down, throwing him into a triangle and just choking him out. So that was a lot of fun for me because I got to learn some incredible ju-jitsu stuff. So all of the fighting that I do in the film is predominately ju-jitsu based, with some striking, and then Nathan was more of an upright boxer, so it was important to me to stay as true to that as possible, so we had these guys on set working with us with the routines to make them as real as possible. But yet, on the same note as you would say, grounded in reality.
This is not a traditional fight movie in the sense of like fifteen flash frames as I’m doing a flying back kick. It’s sloppy, it’s crazy, they’re getting tossed everywhere and then all of a sudden they’ll just take a guy out and break his arm. And it’s funny, we got to New Orleans and it was almost like the fight community, the stunt community, this is foreign to them. And these guys are amazing. It was kind of almost work, and we were like, “Don’t think Kickboxer, think it’s Friday night at two in the morning, a couple of guys had one too many drinks, a pool cue goes flying and all of a sudden fists just start going all over the damn place.” Someone’s gonna hit a wall, someone’s gonna hit their shoulder and someone’s gonna knock him out. That was just the whole idea, let’s at least try to show a real fight.
Brutal As Hell: Yeah, and that’s difficult to sell.
Marc Senter: Yeah, and it’s still just sloppy blue collar guys going at it.
Brutal As Hell: I remember in college, I took some film courses and some stuff like that and we started talking about fighting and, you know, you watch those kickboxer movies, like what you’re talking about and you hear a punch connect and it’s interesting foley, but it’s not real. When you get in a down and dirty bar room fight, I mean, punch a piece of meat and see what that sounds like!
Marc Senter: Riiiiiiiight, exactly!
Brutal As Hell: Building an effective fight scene is a lot more complex and difficult than I think a lot of people appreciate the films for. So now I’m really stoked to see this!
Marc Senter: Well dude, I hope we did a good job! Because I’ll tell you the truth, we got out there and we’d never done anything like this before and we sure as hell tried our damndest and we got with the best teachers and really put our hearts and souls into this thing, and I do think a lot of the fight stuff, I am pretty happy with that and think it looks pretty bitchin’. Hopefully it translates and is as exciting as we intended it to be.
Brutal As Hell: I’m definitely looking forward to it. And I will tell you that I’m pretty much out of questions. I figure we’d talk for like twenty or thirty minutes and we’re going on an hour now, so…
Brutal As Hell: … are you working on anything right now, now that you’re in post-production, editing Brawler is there anything coming up?
Marc Senter: Well, basically right now, just being home, in a way I’m kind of back to the grind which is always good and healthy, I have a new agent and I’m kind of going in and auditioning which I used to not love too much, but now I’m kind of getting back into the groove and that’s been cool when I’m reading some really awesome scripts so, on one note, the actor side of me is going back into these rooms and giving auditions and sitting down and looking for that great material and meeting the director, and then I’ve also been reading books and trying to find the next thing I want to produce. I want to find the next story and I’ve got a handful of ideas but I’m just not sure yet. Really now, I’m kind of collecting material and asking Chris what are you into, what are you interested in? What about a crime drama in New Orleans with a crooked police department, should we explore that? And Nathan has this period piece idea which is incredibly ambitious, but still, I think it could be absolutely amazing so we’re talking about that. Really, I’m just lookin’ for stuff, brotha! It’s such an amazing feeling to be working, and it’s so fun. When you’re not working, at least for me, I go a little bit nuts. So I’m like (laughs), looking for the next thing, you know?
Brutal As Hell: I do, I do! I’m kind of the same way. Always at it. Like, I was having drinks the other night with someone and he was like, “So, let me get this straight. You work a full time day job in marketing, you come home and run a website full time, you have the band on Friday nights… when do you ever do down time?” Dude, I have never done down time. I fucking work all the time. I can’t stop, you know? And I think I’m feeling the same way, Work work work, some people just get crazy on it so…
Marc Senter: I think that’s really awesome. It sounds like you’ve got a little more balance and I think that’s awesome.
Brutal As Hell: Definitely let me know when you see Bronson! I’d be psyched to hear your thoughts but I know you’re gonna love it.
Marc Senter: Dude, I will! I’m gonna watch it this week and I’ll give you a call. I’m so jazzed to see this thing now. It sounds fucking awesome.
Brutal As Hell: Awesome! Well it was really cool talking to you, we’ll definitely have to connect again because I know you have the additional projects coming up, so just keep me in the loop on what you’re doing and we’ll keep giving you some press!
Marc Senter: I will Marc, I really appreciate it! I appreciate it a lot, I can’t thank you enough, man.
Brutal As Hell: No please, our pleasure, I’m happy to do it. We’re always looking to support anybody who’s out there busting their hump trying to do stuff like you guys are doing without necessarily playing the studio game and whenever I see that, for me it’s big points…
Marc Senter: Thanks, Brotha! We’re in it together, dude!
Brutal As Hell: Well I’ll catch up with you soon, and once again thanks for the interview, I appreciate it.
Special thanks goes out to Annie Riordan who tirelessly transcribed this interview, and without whom this interview may have never seen the light of day! Mwah!
Header Photo Credit: Lionel Deluy