Screenwriter Chad Law is the co-writer of the new action picture Section 8 from director Christian Sesma; the film stars Ryan Kwanten, Scott Adkins, Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke. Chad stopped by to chat with me about the movie and some of his other upcoming projects.
Today we’re talking about your latest film Section 8 which you co-wrote with Josh Ridgway. What is the process like having two writers?
Well, it can go a number of different ways with Josh and I. A lot of times I’ll come up with the idea but we’ve done it several different ways. A lot of times in this case, I came up with the idea and then he rolled with it and then he passed it back to me, and then I rolled with it, and then we kind of passed it back and forth and he would roll with it. Eventually we ended up with the draft that became the movie. It’s a lot of back and forth. It’s kind of like playing ping pong as far as here’s our general concept, here’s where we want to go with it, here’s what we want from it – beginning, middle and end kind of thing. Then jump in and do the dialogue. I go critique everything he’s done and he says “well, you didn’t do that much better” and then eventually we go, “Oh, this is great and pat each other on the back.
How did the idea for this one initially come about? Was it inspired by something?
No. You know, the main thing that it came from for me was I love revenge. First of all it’s probably my favourite motivator for a movie, but I wanted to do something where revenge was sort of the catalyst. So we start with the revenge and then what happens after the revenge; that’s really where the idea came from and usually you’re watching a movie and the revenge is played out throughout the movie or the character gets revenge at the end. I wanted to do something where the revenge is over in the first act. What are the consequences? And things could happen from there. So that’s really where the idea came from.
Did you have any of the cast in mind while writing?
We actually wrote this with someone in mind. It became very different. I won’t say who it is because it became a much different movie. We did have somebody in mind who’s not in the film. That’s not uncommon either. That’s usually what happens. You’ll think “this is Denzel” or “this is whoever” and you’ll write it in your mind how you think Denzel or whoever the actor is that your envisioning would say these things. Then what you realise is it doesn’t really read like it has to be Denzel or it has to be anybody specific, and it could be people who are not even remotely similar to the way you envisioned it. It still works really, really well and I learned that on my first movie where I had written the lead character with Josh Hartnett in mind for whatever reason, and it became Cuba Gooding Jr. and I went, “Oh, okay, that works”.
I always liked Josh Hartnett.
Yeah! That was sort of back when he was he was leading a lot more movies than he does now but I do think he’s kind of having a bit of a comeback here. But anyway, the point is you can have something in your mind and it could end up totally different as far as casting goes. But usually it works as well, if not better than what you were thinking. It’s a very weird thing to see. These things come to life in a way that is different than what you saw but you’re like, “oh, that’s great. That guy’s perfect”. But he would never have been in your mind for the role that you were confident had to be Denzel Washington.
Has there ever been something where you’re having an argument back and forth with the director and they’re like, “no, I really want this person” or “I really don’t want this person”?
Well, I should say it happened one time and I completely regret the decision. In hindsight, I won’t say who it was because that person passed on and at the time I thought they weren’t a great actor. Then I really became a fan of them eventually later.
How has your writing process changed over the years since you first started?
Oh, it’s changed a lot. I mean, I like to think that I’m still learning and still getting better for one, but I mean, I definitely feel like every time I sit down, well, that’s not true. Sometimes I sit down and still feel like, “fuck you, fraud, you can’t do this. You’re terrible.” Then you get up and just go do something else. But I think that’s most people; I do feel a lot of times, like I’m still getting better and I’m definitely more diligent at it than I was starting out. I think part of that’s because I’ve seen the results. I’ve been very lucky as far as results go from going script to screen. So that kind of lights the fire, whereas maybe I would write one or two or three or four scripts a year.
Now, whether, by myself or with the help of co-writers like Ridgway I have a group of guys that I like to work with and so we’ll just like bang stuff out and I’ll try to get as many scripts that I’m a fan of in a year as possible. Whereas I used to be like if I wrote three scripts in a year, I was like, “Oh, good I’m taking a break”. But now for me I know seeing the results helps light a fire, but at the same time there’s also more understanding of just how to do it. I guess in a way even when I go through my little “You’re terrible. Quit. Hang it up” phase there is some sort of feeling that I know what I’m doing, even in my moments of frustration.
Yeah. I know at that point in time, just to get up, go watch T.V., have a beer, do something else and come back another time. Whereas I used to probably try to force myself through it. Now I’m like, it’s a bad day, come back tomorrow and you’ll look at it and be like “my problem is easy”. It’s something real simple that’s easy to fix or whatever, or the line’s not as bad as you thought or it is something meaningless in the grand scheme. I love what I do, of course, but I used to take it very, very, very seriously and I still do take it very seriously. But as you get older, other things start taking precedent and you start to see things being more important in the world than just yourself and what you’re doing. So I think at the end of the day, I just look at it and say, “none of this shit really matters”. I would get all tangled, all the things that used to tangle me up. Now it’s just like I’ll come back another day. It’s no big deal. Fucking imaginary worlds (laughs).
Exactly. But you’re living the life I want (laughs).
I’m very thankful for that and I’m very happy it’s me and not you (laughs). I’m kidding.
I am thankful and I am conscious and aware of how lucky I am. I guess there is a sort of self-importance and maybe that’s with a lot of people in their twenties and that sort of self-importance no matter what your job is. But a lot of the self-importance that I used to have about the job where it was like live or die, get this made, live or die, finish the script. That’s sort of like the mentality and I don’t have any of that anymore now. It’s like what will be will be.
How do you write fight scenes? I know a lot of people just say “they fight” or do you go into more detail?
I never write “They fight”. I’ve seen a lot of people do that and that’s sort of a pet peeve. A lot of fun in it for me is trying to think of action sequences but I will say, the more action sequences I’ve written, the more I start to feel like I’m repeating myself or think this is just going to change based on our location or the choreographer or the actor anyway.
I don’t get as hung up in what the action sequence reads like as I used to, or I should say I care more about what it reads like than I care about what it actually is, if that makes sense. I know as long as it reads well, it can be modified and will be modified, however we need it to be. Whereas Hero Wanted the first movie that I did the fight between Kim Coates and Cuba Gooding Jr. in the bathroom is beat for beat the script like everything that happens is exactly as it happened in the script because I really saw that. Like he hits here and gets near and grabs him and so on. Fight choreography has changed so much, for better and for worse. Sometimes a lot of it’s gotten really great, but a lot of times you can’t even see it. So, it’s hard.
It’s hard to write as fast as what you know is going to be happening on screen when you’re doing a lot of these martial arts in particular fights is done like John Wick stuff or The Raid stuff like, how do you write all the moves that they do in one fucking millisecond? It takes a page, so I don’t get into all that, but I do try to be detailed. I could never just write “he fights him”. I mean, I write a little book-ish. Most people say that throughout time, it’s like, you’re kind of like detailed. I’m like, well that’s supposed to be how I’m seeing it. If I can’t see it, I don’t feel like anyone else can.
The last time we spoke, a few years back you always used to like being on the set of the films. Were you on the set of Section 8?
No. Because, of COVID so everything was pretty limited. I actually had COVID at the time when the movie started. Usually I would be. I wanted to be. I was getting ready to fly. I couldn’t. So that was that but usually yes, and still yes. For Lights Out, which I did after, and all the movies I’ve done since it happened, so I’ve actually been busy this year.
Yeah. You’ve got some good stuff coming up…
I’m pretty excited. Like, I feel like I hit my stride. I always say I’m entertaining myself first and foremost. Like I’m writing for me. I’m assuming other people will like what I’m doing as well, because there’s a certain type of thing that I like but when I talk to Ridgeway we’re trying to fill a void so that we do have shit to watch.
Yeah, because that’s why you must never quit. It keeps me and my website going.
Thanks. Yeah, that’s the fun of it for me, too, when you see the cast that we got together and I helped with some of that coming together as well, even though I wasn’t like boots on the ground from my COVID bed (laughs). No, I wasn’t that sick, really. But I did have it. I was in bed seeing that all come together and I worked with Dolph Lundgren on his character and I worked with Scott. This was the first movie that I’d made coming out of the pandemic, too and it’s also honestly, probably the first movie that I’ve made that I have really been into and cared about for, I don’t know, probably since like 2017-ish. It’s been a while since I’ve been excited again by the process and the making of everything, not to say anything about any movie I might have done in that time. But I think there was a certain point where I was looking at it as it’s just a job and I think a lot of people go through this in entertainment careers, but other careers as well, where you’re missing the spark or whatever it is that got you there and I don’t think I had it. I don’t think it was there for a while. With this movie, it just lit for me again for whatever reason and since that point, that’s why there’s all this other work that I’m excited about coming out after it as well. I feel brand new.
You also executive produced this movie. What does that entail?
That could mean a lot of things. That could mean you took a pay cut. That could mean you called an actor and helped them come on board. It could mean a lot of things. And on here, it kind of means all that and none of that. It means I’m really good friends with the producer who made all this happen, which is Brandon Burrows and ultimately he and I had many, many conversations. Long, boring conversations really during what felt like two years of COVID, just talking about if this ever ends, we should make a movie. He had made some movies without me, and I’d made movies without him, but we’d never made a movie together, but we’d been friends and talked about it. When it happened, it sort of felt like all the things we talked about might never happen, right? Because, who knows what’s going to happen in this crazy world at that point in time? So we had a lot of conversations like if we ever get to make this, if we ever come out of this, let’s make a movie with all the guys that we like. That started with us having a conversation about casting Luke Goss and as a small thing that we were just going to do, and then that turned into this movie, which is a lot different than what we started talking about. He asked to see some scripts I had been working on. I wrote a lot during COVID. So that’s the other thing that you’re seeing, a lot of things going in production, because there was nothing else to do during that period.
You’re currently working on Warpaint with Scott Adkins; can you tell us about that? I’m getting sort of Double Impact/Nightwing vibes.
Yeah! They’re all of the above. We’re just getting started on it. I’m hoping that things continue to move along on it. We’re kind of just getting started so we’re that phase where I am hesitant to talk too much about it as far as what I think about it because I’ve been in a situation that you’ve seen movies fall apart at this early stage. But I mean, hopefully by next week I’m feeling good about it. I feel good about it right now but I don’t want to jinx it.
But yeah Double Impact, maybe Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, Nightwing, all of these things kind of put in a blender. We’re very excited about it. I think the script is really good now.
That’s good. What stage is Lights Out at?
That’s in post-production. So that should be out probably early next year – February, March, give or take. Just guessing. I don’t know the release date of it and I haven’t seen the finished film. It’s not finished yet, but we shot that in January, February of this year.
Finally what would you like audiences to take from Section 8?
A Good time. Beer and pizza and enjoyment. That’s it. I just want you to have the fun that I used to have going and watching action movies, which I really feel is something that we’ve kind of lost, not to shit on anybody who’s out there doing it. I used to be very entertained by the stuff that was lower budget but I’m not very much anymore. My goal was to make a movie that I would be entertained by and I’m entertained. So I hope you and everyone else is. If you like it, other people are going to like it. That’s fine. A lot of times I watch a movie and I go, “I don’t like this. I don’t know how I feel about this”. Nine or ten times the results that I read online are my opinions as well and usually when I’m feeling good about a movie others like it too.
Thanks for taking the time to chat and all the best with the upcoming projects.