Chad Law is the writer of the new post-apocalyptic action horror flick Daylight’s End starring Johnny Strong and the movie is directed by William Kaufman.
Chad and William sat down with The Action Elite and we had a great chat about the making of the film, overcoming obstacles, shooting in Dallas and more.
If you haven’t seen the movie it is set years after a mysterious plague has devastated the planet and turned most of humanity into blood-hungry creatures. A rogue drifter on a vengeful hunt stumbles across a band of survivors in an abandoned police station and reluctantly agrees to help them defend themselves and escape to the sanctuary they so desperately need.
Eoin: Chad how did you come up with the original concept for Daylight’s End?
Chad: The original idea was something we did a long time ago for Project Greenlight and it was actually the first script I ever wrote; this was around the time that Feast won. The script was written in like 10 days; it wasn’t a lot of time because by the time I realized that it was completely outside the system I was just like “Oh cool! This might be my chance to be a screenwriter.” So I wrote a script really fast and turned it in; we didn’t place super high but we placed in like the top 100 or something like that. From that point on I thought “maybe I’ll continue to try and write screenplays” so Daylight’s End sat in a computer all that time. The movie that’s been made is very, very different but that was the origin of it.
Eoin: Did you find Project Greenlight gave you your foot in the door?
Chad: No… but it didn’t hurt. It was a long process after that before I made an actual movie or anybody paid me for it as a real job. It did help because I could say I placed in Project Greenlight and people would go “Oh Ok! He’s not terrible let’s at least read it.” (laughs)
Eoin: William what made you want to become a director?
William: It’s something I’ve wanted since I was a little kid; a little boy running around with a Super 8 camera so it was always a passion of mine. I think I was just raised in the movie theatre and that was my passion.
Eoin: What was it about Daylight’s End that made you want to sign on?
William: I’ve described it before as kind of a love letter to my childhood; it’s inspired by and definitely throws back to a lot of movies that I loved and took me off in the direction of great genre material whether it’s The Road Warrior or Precinct 13. It just seemed like a great hero’s story and the post-apocalyptic world when it’s done well is something that really intrigued me. The stars aligned and we had a chance to do it and I jumped at it.
Chad: I should say that this movie came about a little differently than a lot of movies that Will and I have done in that we had a certain bit of financing in place; we didn’t have it all and it was a struggle but we kinda knew we had an opportunity to make a movie and we weren’t going to let that pass. So we talked about the genre that we wanted to do and that brought me back to Daylight’s End and we completely revamped that. But there was that jumping off point where we realized we had the opportunity to do a movie outside the normal channels that oftentimes we are making movies in and so we jumped at it in that way.
Eoin: One of the main characters in the film is the city of Dallas; how important was it to film there?
William: For me it was critical; it’s home and I did my first movie there. So to get to come back and do it again but to also show another side of Dallas; so much of it is connected to JR Ewing and I think as a city it’s way, way more than that. Also, to do a movie with such a modest budget we really called on all our friends, family and favours to pull this movie together and make it as bold and big as we could.
Chad: Dallas has become like a second home to me; it was my favourite place to shoot a movie. I’m not from Dallas but I’d spent a couple of times there with Will but nothing like the amount of time for when we were shooting Daylight’s End. I just feel like it’s totally my second home now (laughs).
Eoin: I hear it was quite warm there…
Chad: A little bit (laughs). That’s Dallas in the summer you know? What was it Will without air conditioning?
William: It was routinely 110 degrees; all that sweat you see dripping off the talent wasn’t spray bottles and misters to make them look hot, they were hot.
Chad: Yeah we were losing weight as we were filming.
Eoin: You snagged a legend of cinema in Lance Henriksen; how did he come on board?
William: One of our producers Farrah White had worked with him in the past and I was a huge crazy fan of his so she put us together and we really connected. Lance is a dream for a director; he’s just so enthusiastic and supportive and collaborative. It was perfect!
Chad: In the world that we’re playing in whether you’re thinking of him from like Aliens or Terminator it’s just a no brainer. Let’s get Lance!
Eoin: He’s one of the earlier interviews I did for this site and he was one of the nicest people I’d ever spoken to. Just a genuinely pleasant person to talk to.
Chad: Yeah, he’s making pottery until someone needs him for a movie and then he’s like “okay, let’s go do it!”
William: I’ll never forget our first day working together; we were shooting on the roof and it was also the first day of shooting the movie. He came over to me and told me how excited he was and I was like “what do you mean?” and he said “I’m in your first shot; the first shot of the movie”. To have someone who is THAT enthusiastic after being in the business for decades going back to Dog Day Afternoon, Close Encounters and so on…
I’ve got him running down stairs, shooting M16’s off rooftops and he’s a good motivator to get the rest of the cast to go “Well if Lance isn’t complaining then I’m not going to complain”. I mean they were an awesome ensemble collaborative cast.
Eoin: Speaking of the cast, the lead Johnny Strong not only stars in the film but provides the atmospheric score. How involved did you like to get with the music to Daylight’s End?
William: Johnny and I have very similar sensibilities; I think the secret to being a director is hiring people who are better than you I guess I could say at different aspects. While I lean on Chad as a writer, Johnny’s an amazing musician and I got to work with him on the original Sinners & Saints so I gave him a huge amount of latitude and he did his thing. He came back and I was so happy with it; speaking of characters in the movie I think the music is a big character itself.
Chad: Yeah, I just saw it with my mom and she’s not a critic by any sense of the word; she’s gonna like what I do anyway but she was like “this is like a rock opera” and I was like “Yeah, that’s pretty cool, mom!”
Eoin: There’s your poster quote right there.
Chad: Wonder if I could get that on the DVD cover… (laughs)
Eoin: Are either of you musically inclined at all?
Chad: I’m not at all; I mean I’m a huge fan and I Spotify daily but that’s about it. I like a variety of music but I don’t even know what a note is. I look at it and go “what’s that?” (laughs)
William: I’m not a musician at all.
Eoin: I can play a mean triangle and a little cowbell but that’s where my talent ends. Say hypothetically that the events of Daylight’s End took place and there was a vampire/monster apocalypse. What would you do and who would you want in your corner?
William: I think we’d surround ourselves with a number of characters from the film; having Johnny and Sonny Puzikas’ Vlad. We’d have a small army of pretty dangerous guys so we’d be in good company.
Eoin: Not THE Mike Lobo surely?
Chad: Yes, this next year will become The Year of the Lobo according to The Action Elite… and Mike Lobo.
Eoin: The film had this air of tension from the start and this is a question I enjoy asking directors as they always give a different answer but William what do you think key ingredients are to building tension in a film?
William: I think it’s about setting the stakes, setting the characters up and I think that’s something we tried to do with Daylight’s End. We took a crazy idea as seriously, gritty and grounded in reality as we could. We tried to develop the characters and I think we did some more than other movies in this genre so that adds weight to the danger. I think that’s what’s so important; also not directing the audience to see everything coming around the corner. Try and throw things sideways, try and come up with some things that people don’t see coming.
Chad: I kinda don’t follow a lot of the typical screenwriting rules I guess you could say. A lot of actors will come up to me and say “this reads more like a novel!” and I’ve heard other guys like Joe Carnahan say that. I mean you’ve got one chance to get your blueprint before it becomes a village and a full on collaboration. So you try to write as detailed as you possibly can so I at least understand it and hopefully if I understand it then hopefully the right people will get what I’m going for. Those things always change and are always modified; because I’m working in a fictional setting and then at some point we have to make that a real thing and so it’s obviously gonna change. Like the corner I want to go around doesn’t exist or whatever it is, but I will write as detailed as I can in my limited time in that fictional universe.
Eoin: Let’s say the movie had a big studio-sized budget; is there anything you would have done differently or set-pieces you had to remove?
Chad: There were a couple of things we lost that I know we didn’t want to lose. If we were at a certain level like with Universal or Sony on board like we have been with other movies we’ve done but on the flip side we didn’t have any interference. We had all the other problems that come with a movie on a lower budget so it was just… the freaks running the asylum. (laughs)
William: That’s a very good way to describe it.
Eoin: I was going to touch on that actually; you’ve both worked on studio films and independents, do you find there is more creative freedom on indie pictures?
William: A hundred percent and I think Chad will agree independent; the studio process is a lot more comfortable but usually a lot less rewarding because there’s a lot more cooks in the kitchen and far less creative control. I think that’s what makes a project like this so worth it.
Chad: Yeah, you’re not doing it for the money; you forfeit a lot of things just to go “but we can do what we want! Yaay!” and it’s kind of exactly that.
William: I think there’s something to be said about putting something out there and saying “hey, this is me and this is what I believe in” so if it falls on its face I can live with that. I’ll give you my best foot forward and being able to make the film I wanna make if that’s not appreciated then so be it. If you feel confined and you end up in that kind of situation, then that’s pretty frustrating. Getting to do something like this, especially where it seems to be so well received by the audience and to get messages from people that are as complimentary and excited about the film is about as good as it gets for a filmmaker.
Chad: That’s it for me; I’ve seen it with audiences in Dallas, LA and Miami… my mom wasn’t in any of those by the way (laughs). People react the same to different scenes or respond to the same kind of moments in a similar way and I’m like “oh okay, I guess we did good!” (laughs)
Eoin: Someone was saying recently that if you want to make movies just for money then you’re in it for the wrong reason. There are easier ways to get rich. Would you agree?
Chad: Once it becomes your full-time job then you do have to make a living from it so there are things that you do to make a living and keep the wheels on but I know for a fact that I never came into this for the money aspect at all. When I got my first cheque I was like amazed that somebody had given me money for words that I’d typed to make a movie that I wanted to make. Next thing I know I’m in Bulgaria with a bunch of money and I’m like “This is insane! What happened?”
So for me it was never a monetary thing; like I said that becomes a means to an end but it was never the intention whatsoever.
William: I speak for myself but I think I can speak for Johnny as well where we’ve made choices not to do certain things where we could’ve made paydays to get to do things instead which we find far more rewarding and that’s the thing when you do too many projects where you feel you have to, that can kind of crush your love of the process.
Chad: Yeah and I’ve been in those situations.
William: It’s about doing the best work you possibly can and if you take the hit financially that’s okay; if you’re happy with the end product and you love the movie then that’s fine.
Chad: The way Daylight’s End came about was that it was a low budget film but a high budget version of the movies I used to make as kid with my camcorder in a way. One of my best friends who is a filmmaker called me up and said “I think we have a way to make a movie. Let’s make one!” so literally everybody in the movie is connected in some way or another as a friend, family or other. It was like making a bigger budget version of the films you made as a kid except we’re not children anymore but it felt like that to me. It was hard and Will put a lot on the line.
William: You’ll see a lot of the same people on the films I’ve done working and they are again working on this film. I remember calling people going “guys, this is gonna be brutal; it’s gonna be miserable. It’s like a giant student film with a little bit more money and a more talented crew but it’s gonna be rough. We’re trying to do something that’s way bigger that what makes sense for the budget or what anyone else would budget for.”
Chad: It was literally just making phone calls to people, some of whom I’m really good friends with and still thinking they’re gonna pass because they’re professionals and they’ve got other things to do, mouths to feed and so on. Hakeem Kae-Kazim was on Black Sails on Starz at the time; he’s a good buddy of mine via Gary Cairns who I made my first movie with called Hero Wanted. We wondered if we should call him and we thought he wouldn’t want to do it but then it was totally worth the call and he was in the movie!
Eoin: Do you have any ideas for Daylight’s End 2?
William: I think we’d love to but we’ll see where the success of this movie goes.
Chad: I’ll say this; if we could get people to stop pirating it then maybe! Honestly I think the story can go a million different places so if every one of those pirates would just give us a dollar then we’re already there.
Eoin: Thanks so much guys and all the best with the movie!