By DAKOTA DAHL
We recently got to review the oddly charming CUT AND CHOP, which featured Drew Hale in the powerhouse role of Writer, Director, Producer and Star. The film follows Tom, a struggling actor who is slipping away from reality, presumably losing himself in an upcoming role. His antics become less “method” and more “maniac” as he becomes increasingly unhinged. Our diagnosis was that the film is definitely worth a watch.
The movie itself filled us with innumerable questions, so we were lucky enough to get some answers straight from Drew Hale’s, the driving force of the project. Fittingly, our Zoom interview was one of the CHOPPIEST ever recorded, but after a struggling back and forth, we’ve managed to Frankenstein the interview back together and deliver you some much needed answers.
You’ve said that CUT AND CHOP was inspired by a drunken nightmare. Care to elaborate on the contents of that dream?
So, I was living in New York City and moved out to LA to do some more writing and what not. I got here and was really creeped out by the perpetual sunshine and the superficiality that’s just out here. I got drunk one night, while living in a small studio apartment and woke up in the middle of the night, 3 a.m. or so, and I had had a nightmare. I dreamed that I had killed my girlfriend and I was preparing her to eat. From what I remember of the dream, I had strangled my partner in her sleep then slowly crept out of bed and retrieved a butcher’s knife from the kitchen. I proceeded to cut her up into pieces with intentions of cooking her in a casserole. My actions within the dream felt mechanical, however, when I awoke, I was horrified. It really freaked me out, but what I did, I jumped up and I knew I could turn this nightmare into a script, and that was the impetus to the screenplay.
The film follows a troubled “method actor” who seems to be coming apart at the seams. As a director, you must have an opinion on method acting. Tell us what it is?
I studied method acting, so I took bits and pieces of what I learned for the story. However, I feel that most actors who practice “method acting” do so for attention. CUT AND CHOP pokes fun at a method actor who went a bit too far. This piece here isn’t criticizing method acting, it’s a satire. I don’t have a problem with the methodology, it’s more poking fun at the issue.
And what are some of your feelings on the Meisner Technique, which is also referenced in the film?
The technique is useful in certain mediums, particularly film work, but probably shouldn’t be applied when playing a horror villain. I wasn’t really trying to make a statement on it, per se, I studied that technique at University while getting my theatre degree. I used it in the script, to play with, so that maybe other actors could know what I was talking about.
What was more demanding, being a writer, director or actor?
Producing! Ha-ha! Producing a film while having to be the creator is really tough. Each role has it’s own demands but acting and directing simultaneously proved to be the really difficult. Directing is certainly the most long-winded demand of the three, but it’s also the most fulfilling. Having to be in character on set and then jump into director mode, look at the footage, look at the monitor, it was really tough, and I don’t know if I’ll ever do that again. It was so mentally taxing, I hope I didn’t miss out on anything because I was having to bounce back and forth to different points in my mind.
This is your feature length directorial debut. What problems arose while filming that you didn’t anticipate?
At one of our locations is started raining, which was really upsetting, because in LA it hardly ever rains. We had to fix the lighting and the setup outside Tom’s house, and that was the first day of filming. As far as the creative stuff, I went into this knowing that I would be busy acting and playing Tom, so I shot listed the entire film with the Director of Photography, my good friend Danilo Rodriguez. We sat in my place in South Hollywood and shot listed this for seven days, so we knew every shot we were going into, and the blueprint was there. Then it was a matter of getting it down, then running into logistical problems such as “oh, the owner said we have to be out by 8am” when he originally told us 10am, or the dog that kept barking in the other room. I knew what we were getting into with the actors, we went through seven rehearsals with each of the principle actors.
What did you learn while filming, that you would go back and teach your younger self at the start of the shoot?
A lot more room for spontaneity on set, don’t be afraid of “specials” is what it’s called. It’s important to have a blueprint, so you know exactly what you want when you sit down with an editor, but also to leave yourself more room to move around and have more fun. There were time constraints, as well, when you have a crew on a tight schedule, you have location, crew, and you want to get them out of there without abusing them. I would also say to raise a little more money to give more room for spontaneity.
What was the motivation behind casting Ron Jeremy?
The role was originally based on someone I have an actual relationship with, he was a guy who lives around the corner here in Hollywood, he’s a Korean guy with a thick accent who I had several antagonistic experiences with. I wrote the role for him, but I knew he wasn’t going to play the role, because he didn’t want to be on camera. Subsequently, Ron’s manager claimed that he wanted the part. I met with Ron and rewrote the role for him, knowing that it would add another layer of grease in the wheel.
Are there any aspects of yourself in the troubled “Tom?” If so, what are they?
A liking for the absurd and a deep love of classical music.
What’s your favorite scene in the film?
Probably when Tom is going to the grocery store with the cooler in tow and “And the Glory of the Lord” playing on screen. That moment kind of solidified, for me, how crazy and unpredictable Tom can be, and will the audience buy it. That’s pretty much when shit hits the fan, things have gotten out of hand and crazy. He’s killed his girlfriend, now he’s going to the grocery store to try and get this guy to keep remains in his meat freezer. Favorite scene.
What was up with that tartar? It didn’t look like any tartar I’ve ever seen.
We actually did albacore tuna and avocado. The production designer, I gave her instructions on what I wanted the tartar to look like, but for some reason she didn’t get that down. She ended up making tartar with avocado instead, so it ended up coming out green. It tasted pretty bad, actually, I don’t know what she did to it, Production Designer Arnella Barbara. We were running a little short on time, but I’m going to justify this by saying Tom made his own mysterious concoction.
You actually had a tremendous singing voice during “that” scene. What kind of musical background do you have?
A musical scholarship to Kennesaw State University. I initially started with classical opera, and so I started off on that track, I always sang in choir as a kid at school, I did All State choir and all that. I feel like, as an artist, it helps me in rhythms. For phrasing and getting a pacing, I listen to classical music, and I feel that really helps to clear the head and get exactly what I need. So I wanted to incorporate that into the movie because I do have a deep love for classical music. For the movies I’ve seen, I feel like they don’t use classical that has already been written, so much as an original score. Writing the script, I thought it would be really strong to incorporate the classical into the story.
As always, what future projects of yours can we look forward to?
Things are a bit complicated now, of course. I wrote this script, Skinwalker, it’s a sort of Southwest Horror film. It follows Bill, who’s an alcoholic, and he marries this destitute woman Marlene. She Native American, and her family is cursed, so Bill is cursed as well. So that’s the next project, for now. I’m going out to seek financing for that once things cool down with the pandemic and we can safely film.
CUT AND CHOP is available to stream on iTunes, Spectrum, Google, Amazon and most other platforms right now!