In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, director Brandon Slagle talks about this action-packed sci-fi thriller, Crossbreed, starring Vivica A. Fox and Daniel Baldwin! Co-Writer/Director Brandon Slagle opens up about the filmmaking and world-building behind the sci-fi flick from Uncork’d Entertainment.
In the near future, the President of the United States of America hires a team of military veterans to retrieve an alien bio-weapon from a top-secret research facility orbiting the Earth. These highly trained mercenaries must infiltrate the space station and recover the deadly experimental alien cargo located onboard. All is going according to the plan until the cargo escapes.
Now available to watch on Video On Demand, filmmaker Brandon Slagle opens up about directing the iconic Vivica A. Fox, his collaboration with producer/actress Devanny Pinn, and his upcoming projects. Make sure to check out our review as we walk into the director’s studio and discuss the independent filmmaking process.
Villain Media: Tell me how you and co-writer Robert Thompson came up with the concept.
Brandon Slagle: Its origins go back to a script called “Nebulus,” that I’d written for a large Syfy Channel pitch a now-defunct company was doing. It was part of a 5-feature deal. Ultimately, as happens with these things sometimes, it didn’t happen. A few years later, after our action film, Escape From Ensenada, completed principal photography, [the] primary investor was impressed and wanted to do something bigger, and resurrecting that concept seemed like the best way to go.
We ultimately simplified it quite a bit — there’s actually only a few details from “Nebulus” that remain in Crossbreed, such as the alien species, a team leader mourning the loss of his family, etc.
VM: Sci-fi works on many levels, which is why the genre works so well with big and small ideas. Tell me coming up with the headgear for Ryker’s face and the twitchy robot stripper at the club. Were those aspects written into the role or done later in production?
BS: A bit of both actually. It was written that there were headpieces that the team put on at some point during the film, specifically the Boss and Slaughterhouse characters, but we made the decision to give each team member — except Four-Eyes since he has his own eye-tech going on — as some sort of identifying piece of gear.
It’s funny! Some people seem to have interpreted those headpieces as being cybernetic implants, even calling the team “cyborgs.” I don’t really see them that way, but if we were able to come up with something that worked in a way, where the audience draws their own conclusions like that, then that’s great! And also part of the fun of worldbuilding!
The Cyborg Stripper character portrayed by Tammy Jean – who refers to the role as “Damaged Barbie” – has a background in ballet. I believe at one point it was written that the exotic dancers had cybernetic and alien implants, but it felt more appropriate to portray them as holograms and full on androids. The twitching was really an on-the-fly bit of direction I threw out at Tammy which, thanks to her dance background, she was able to do something really unique with that seems to have become memorable to people. I’ve actually seen her singled out in a number of professional and user reviews alike. The repeated “baby…baby…baby…” at the end of her, “Don’t you want me, baby,” line we added in post production.
VM: Tell me about directing Vivica A. Fox as The President. I loved her in Kill Bill and Independence Day.
BS: She’s incredible on set, an amazing presence, and a great and supportive person. She definitely ranks as one of the easiest actors I’ve ever worked with, because she’s a great combination of collaborator and bringing her own ideas. She’s such a natural and so giving to the other actors.
We’d wrapped her character at one point and she was due to get on a plane to – I believe – continue shooting Empire, but opted for a later flight because she didn’t want the other actors to have to perform to a stand-in as opposed to her. That’s really one of the best things you can ask for from any actor.
VM: Tell me about working with Devanny Pinn as Crossbreed. Not only is she covered in makeup and prosthetics, she’s also very expressive in a silent role.
BS: First off – a lot of people assume that acting is about dialogue. It’s not; it’s anything but that. Acting is about what happens between the words. Anyone can recite words from a script – not everyone can do the work between the dialogue. Remember that Holly Hunter won a Best Actress Oscar for The Piano, which from what I can remember, is a largely silent role. It’s not about how much dialogue your character has folks! It’s about the presence.
Anyway – her sight and sense of hearing was severely limited due to the contact lenses the character had, as well as the makeup covering her ears. She mostly followed visual cues from myself and Stunt Coordinator Jason McNeil, and really made it her own. Some reviewers have likened her role to a fallen angel, which I definitely agree with.
I should note she also did this while being the sole creative Producer on the film, something I don’t think she’s gotten enough credit for. You’d think in this age of equality, it wouldn’t blow people’s minds that a woman can produce this sort of brawny action movie, but it still seems to do that.
VM: Tell me about creating the camaraderie between Stink Fisher, Jason McNeil, Ryan Kiser, and the others. Fisher really stood out as the leader of the group.
BS: What’s interesting is that the main guys playing the merc team – Stink, Jason, Antoine Lanier, John T. Woods, and Brandyn T. Williams – had never met before a fight rehearsal we had a couple of days before shooting, yet you’d think they’d known each other for decades! I guess you could equate it to fighting being the best way to know someone, but also I’d like to think the tone of the set really helped. Also, I typically encourage actors to interpret the dialogue as they’d say it, as opposed to the way it’s written, and I also encourage lots of improvisation. These actors really ran with that, which I’m sure helped create the amazing chemistry they had.
VM: Tell me how Crossbreed changed you as a storyteller.
BS: To keep things simple and create characters the audience will enjoy following. Don’t get me wrong. I love things like Total Recall, Minority Report, etc. that have these dense, layered plots, but until I have tens of millions of dollars in the marketing budget, the most effective way to make a sellable feature it to make it easily digestible to buyers and ultimately the audience.
VM: How can readers find your movie?
BS: All major Video on Demand Platforms and as of me writing this now, the DVD/Blu-Ray should start appearing on shelves. It has bonus features – rare for an indie film these days – with a ton of deleted scenes and bloopers.
VM: What are you working on now?
BS: I just wrapped another action/sci-fi film called, Attack of the Unknown with Richard Grieco (Booker), Robert LaSardo (The Mule), Jolene Andersen (Queen of the South), and Douglas Tait (Hellboy 2019) – it’s basically a gritty cop movie that has a science fiction movie dropped on top of it. Very similar to Beyond Skyline, Battle: Los Angeles, etc. After that, there’s always things in the works but – as it often happens – we don’t always know what that is until we’re literally on set shooting!
[Writer’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity. Links are highlighted in bold.]