Talent On Tap – Let’s Take a Drive to Muskie Point to Talk

Gangster movies have an M.O. They’re violent, there’s guns, there’s dark characters and sometimes they can be funny when they get clumsy. Muskie Point is all of that set in the woods. There’s bugs and animals but trees don’t talk, so if you need to cash somebody’s cheque – you go to Muskie Point.


This very cool mobster movie with a twist, will take you on a wild ride – spinning and testing loyalties with unforeseen double crosses that will leave you exhausted as you beg for more. Not to worry though, there is sure to be more from this unique group of filmmakers – that also happen to be brothers, the Sewell Brothers.


All actors in the film, brothers Eric, Ian and Stephen Sewell have all made their feature film debut recently with Muskie Point. Eric co-produced, edited and created the music, and Ian co-produced, co-wrote and directed it, brother Stephen produced and co-wrote it. A bulletproof team of brothers that have a passion for gangster movies with strong characters and dialogue so realistic, you feel like a witness to a crime that needs to go into hiding.   


The rules are simple. Mr. Mannericks is the boss, your score is his score and he gets his share.  If not, you may find yourself taking a trip to Muskie Point for a final conclusive chapter to your story. The entire shoot was done on location in Southern British Columbia, utilizing the thick forests of the region. 


This is the Sewell brothers third film, after previous short films, 100 Miles to Hell and Rosedale.  I caught up with Ian and Stephen Sewell, as well as actor Steve McNaughton (Abrams) through Zoom and it was a very entertaining chat.


HNM “This is a very dialogue driven film with an ironic twist at the end. What do you want the audience to walk away with after watching this film?”

STEPHEN SEWELL “The goal was to be entertaining but if you’re going to take a message away from it, I’d say – crime doesn’t pay. What goes around comes around.”


HNM “How did you brothers get involved in filmmaking, where did the interest come from?”

IAN SEWELL “I initially started in high school. A friend of mine had a camcorder and I had to make a project for school, so I used it to make a video presentation on history. We threw in some comedy and added a time traveler theme. Later on, we created a time-traveller series – every time there was an excuse to make a video project at school, my friends and I would do it.”

STEPHEN SEWELL “When we were younger, I had a neighbour whose parents had a camcorder, so we started making a movie with swords, guns and ninja stuff until we eventually got some editing software. We ended up making a cop spoof movie parody series, called Fatal Bullet, a Lethal Weapon parody. We used to put them on Youtube years ago, but eventually we moved on and decided we should try a feature length.”       


HNM “My next question is for Steve. How did you get connected to the project?”

STEVE MCNAUGHTON “I believe I had seen it in the Vancouver Actors Guide and I gave Stephen a ring. We met up at a Starbucks and talked about the process of how they were going to shoot it with a more improvised dialogue, in comparison to Curb Your Enthusiasm. I’ve always found that appealing, that liberating aspect of being free with dialogue and trying multiple approaches to see what sticks. The more I talked to them about their approach, I was interested right off the get go. After Stephen gave me the general description of the role, I started painting the character and it all morphed together from there. It was a lot of fun.”


HNM “Now Steve, you play a pretty callous character in this film. How did you prepare for your role?”

STEVE MCNAUGHTON “I always wanted to do something a little darker mixed with a little comedy. I’ve always enjoyed comedy as well as dramatic performances, so for me it was a perfect opportunity to merge the two. Stephen was great at letting me do my thing and run with it. It gave me the freedom to create this insane, narcissistic idiot and it was fun to play a character that wasn’t all there, the entire project was a complete blast.”     




HNM “How difficult is it to film in the forest?”

IAN SEWELL “It came out of necessity and it was easier to do with a low budget film, rather than trying to get permits to film in urban areas – which can get quite tricky. It was difficult because there wasn’t road access and we went pretty deep into the forest and we had to carry all the equipment in, the actors helped us out but with all the bugs everywhere, it was a rough go.”  


HNM “There was great chemistry between everyone, where did you find the cast and what was the process like?”

IAN SEWELL “It took a little over a month to cast everybody. We met a bunch of people at a café in Vancouver, we lined them up for a meet and greet. We wanted to talk to people to see what their personalities were like and how outgoing they were because there was a huge emphasis on improv.”


HNM “When does the film come out, and where can we expect to see it?”

IAN SEWELL “It’s out right now on Amazon Prime in Canada, US, Australia and the UK. It’s on Google Play and it should be coming out on DVD and Blue-ray in the next couple months.”  


HNM “When did you shoot it and when did it become available?”

IAN SEWELL “The principal photography was done in Sept. of 2017 and it took 9 days to shoot. Post-production took a while, we all have day jobs. It just became available in September.”


HNM “Steve, have you been in a gangster film before where you’ve shot guns?”

STEVE MCNAUGHTON “Nope, first time. It’s the first time I can recall playing a character that dark or gangster and definitely the first time shooting an air gun.”


HNM “Steve, did you go through any other preparation for shooting the gun/how to hold a gun?”

STEVE MCNAUGHTON “Through scene study I did some exploration and my teacher recommended I go to a shooting range, which did give me some preparation in what to expect when shooting the guns.”


HNM “Do you enjoy playing characters Steve, that are quite opposite from yourself?”

STEVE MCNAUGHTON “Oh for sure, anything that allows you to escape, as well as challenge you emotionally to go places you wouldn’t normally go to on a regular basis. I’ve always looked at it as a form of therapy and an opportunity, where you get to unleash any rage or frustration going on in one’s life. Certainly, its dramatized and exaggerated but I’ve always viewed as free therapy (laughing).”


HNM “How was this film/story inspired?”

STEPHEN SEWELL “We wanted to see what kind of movie we could make with limited resources. We’ve always enjoyed movies like this, we wanted Deliverance meets Reservoir Dogs. We wanted to make a film that makes you keep watching after you turn it on.”



HNM “Ian, you wrote the entire script?”

IAN SEWELL “Stephen came up with the original concept and we worked out the details and the ins and outs of the characters. The dialogue was entirely improv, but for each scene we’d have the actors in discussion and we’d tell them to keep it up for 10 minutes. We’d do 3 or 4 takes from different angles and individual shots – then I’d transcribe it all. From there, I’d take pieces from all the takes and create the most interesting conversation possible from it. I tried to make it as long as possible so we’d have a lot to work with. The dialogue was improv but I trimmed it down in editing after determining what stays and what goes. In some of the conversation that I had spliced together, I was able to take different parts from different conversations and put them together, so they work as a single coherent conversation.”


HNM “That’s an interesting process. Have you used that same technique on other films?”

IAN SEWELL “Our previous film was called 100 MILES FROM HELL and we used a similar process to create the dialogue. We’ve written dialogue in the past but with the improv approach, you really get the personalities come through. Every actor brings something different that you won’t necessarily get if you were to write it out in advance. When you capture something spontaneous you weren’t expecting, it can be entertaining or funny, which can really add to the film. It’s a process that’s worked very good for us.”


HNM “This question goes back to Steve. Have you ever done any theatre acting, because the performance in your character seems to hint at a theatre background?”

STEVE MCNAUGHTON “Yes, I did theatre in high school and a brief stent at Studio 58 at Langara that didn’t quite work out. I do have some experience and its deep in my bones in terms of where my acting comes from. I’ve been told to tone it down from other acting teachers (laughing), stating that the dramatic acting style can sometimes translate as ‘over the top’ on camera. In this case, it played in perfectly and sometimes bigger is better. I’ve always heard that it’s easier to tone it down as opposed to asking an actor to create bigger and bigger.”                


HNM “Back to the Sewell brothers; how did you finance the project?”

IAN SEWELL “We’ve always been pretty good saver’s, the budget was pretty minimal though. The post-production was done by the 3 of us, which would’ve cost us thousands of dollars, so that made a huge difference.”


HNM “Considering there are three of you brothers involved in filmmaking, what types of films do you hope to make in the future?”

IAN SEWELL “I’d love to make an epic Star Wars or Lord of the Rings type film but those cost a lot of money. It’s the big dream that requires our careers to go very far. Our next film will be based on characters and dialogue because it’s the kind of film you can make on a low budget. As an indie filmmaker, you have to lose the ideas that you want to do and think along the lines of ‘what do I like and what can I do’. Depending on how things go, the next film will be similar in scale to what we made here.”

STEPHEN SEWELL “We’ll be doing more John Huston style, where it’s more about the character and more about the sense of directing.”


HNM “There were some fight scenes in this film that had you Stephen rolling around on the ground amongst some pretty jacked terrain. Did anyone get hurt and was there a stunt coordinator helping out?”

STEPHEN SEWELL “No, we just kind of went for it (laughing). I got pretty sliced up in that fight scene, so did the other guy, but nobody really got hurt. A lot of it was grabbling and Matt Butler and I, know each other pretty well. I think I gave him a goose egg on the head and I had a bloody nose.”


HNM “So Steve, what characters are you most drawn to playing?”

STEVE MCNAUGHTON “Usually comedic. The part that I played was exactly what I like, a mix of drama and comedy. I like anything from playing an average man to insane to a judge and all over the spectrum. It’s always a challenge and fun.” 


HNM “What’s your biggest takeaway after being in this film and playing a character like this?”   

STEVE MCNAUGHTON “I realized that I love the freedom of being able to play with dialogue instead of being completely regimented to a script and the freedom of the improvisation is also a big takeaway – it was so liberating, I loved it.” 



HNM “I find it very unique that the three of you brothers are involved in film. Have you inspired other family members or relatives to get involved in the film industry?”

STEPHEN SEWELL “Our parents have a small part in the film – I guess they’d be two people. They play the hikers that we come across on the path. Other than that, I don’t believe any of the other relatives have wanted to get involved in film but they’re all very supportive and watch our movies.”

IAN SEWELL “They’re very interested in what we’re doing and are so supportive in us doing this.”


HNM “What’s next on the forecast?”

STEPHEN SEWELL “Getting the film off the ground and spreading the word. Whatever happens next will determine the next film and if more doors are opened after the launch of this feature film.”


HNM “Will the next film also be a feature?”

STEPHEN SEWELL “I can’t speak for Ian but I have no interest in making shorts anymore, I like features.”

IAN SEWELL “Once you start making feature length films, you can’t go back. We enjoyed operating at that level and we want to continue that.” 


HNM “The car scenes were shot so well. Were you able to shoot it in chronological order?”

STEPHEN SEWELL “It was a 9 – day shoot but not all days were shot together. We did it on weekends because of everyone’s work schedules. It was a lot of back and forth and piecing it all together.”

IAN SEWELL “Each car was filmed the same day with 4 or 5 go throughs for each individual car in order to have a source to build the scene from.”    


We are all watching more TV and movies at home these days and Muskie Point is a must have addition. Watch on Amazon Prime before it’s illegal to.   



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