Known to action fans for his role as Beckett Jr. in the Sniper series, Chad Michael Collins is now taking his particular set of skills against a group of motorcycle driving werewolves in the action/comedy/horror hybrid High Moon.
Chad stopped by to chat with me about the movie and if we’ve seen the last of Beckett…
How did High Moon AKA Howlers come about and what appealed about the project?
I was fortunate enough to have a mutual friend introduce me to Josh Ridgeway who is the genius writer, creator and director of this movie; he happened to be a fan of the Sniper movies. I’ve done of the 4 Sony Sniper movies now and he had watched every one of those and was a big fan; he thought I’d make a great Colt who is the lead character. So a friend put me in touch with him and he sent me the script which I loved so it was pretty easy hopping aboard the project.
I was going to ask about Josh Ridgeway; what was he like to work with?
Josh is a really cool guy; we’re still really great friends to this day. We shot this 3 years ago and it’s taken a while for it to come out and find the right partners to get it out there. We’re here now and we’ve always kept in touch; I came on this movie as a producer on the back end just to try and help with the sales and the distribution and the marketing. We remain close but onset it was nice, man. It was a collaboration; if I had any interesting dialogue that was more true to the character he was more than open to it. We could kinda do that for other roles as we saw fit so it was really fun and very lowkey. He’s one of those directors who likes to see what kind of magic happens in the moment and just roll with it.
So were you encouraged to do improvisation?
Yeah! For the most part; this was a low budget independent film so we were always chasing the daylight and always on the lock. We didn’t have as many days as we wanted to film; if you get behind one day then it kind of messes up your whole schedule. So we shot fast and furious with one or two takes of this and that which was in the script then the next day we would play a little bit and see what kind of gems we would uncover and just loosen it up a little bit.
Anything you had to leave out due to budget restrictions that you regret?
No man, we used everything we could, dude (laughs); we stole the scenery as they say; we had some really fun locations like this little Old West town that we shot the opening of the film in which was our flashback period piece look. It was a beautiful little place off the grid in Texas; it had fully built up storefronts and a Saloon and everything else. We just shot in and around Dallas in little towns; everyone was really generous in letting us use this place or that place cos it’s all about production value because you don’t have the money to build sets. So you have to use what’s there and get creative and just get that camera around and grab what you can then slice it all into the movie.
Was playing the role of a cowboy a bit of a dream?
Oh man, it’s a bucket list role for sure; not just the cowboy but a werewolf slaying cowboy (laughs).
I loved the look of Colt; can you talk a little about that and his choice of weapons?
Yeah! We had him as the man in black; he’s got the back cowboy hat, the black three quarter length duster, black jeans and the black cowboy boots. We had the ammo belt and the pearl handle revolver so yeah the look was really important to the character obviously being from a different time period. When we see Colt kind of reborn mysteriously in the modern age 10+ years later, I thought it would be cool to keep the Western theme going but modernize it a little bit. An idea me and Josh had which we see towards the end of the movie where I partner up with the local Sheriffs and we hop into the arsenal as we prepare for the final stand with the werewolves ripping apart this small town; I thought it would be cool if Colt was in a tactical vest so you have that Old West meets modern police officer sort of look. So we have him in all the black attire with a tank top and tactical vest which was a fun and unique hybrid look.
Do you do your own stunts for the most part?
I did! I was 100% on this one. All the fight choreography and the shoot-outs obviously were all me but I think they had a stunt double for me on 1 or 2 days. Sometimes you move so fast and it always looks better when the actor can do it; they didn’t ask anything too crazy of me so I was more than happy to do 100% of it. We had really great stunt guys which makes that whole process so much easier. We were almost making up choreography on the fly and our stunt guys were that good and our coordinator Freddie Poole was that awesome that we would have exchanges like “when I fight with this werewolf it’ll look like this! and then we move on to the next werewolf and it looks like this!” We did a lot of this stuff 10 minutes before the cameras were rolling so it was really what you saw is what you get and if a punch actually landed we got it on film and we used it (laughs).
Adds to the realism…
Any special training required for this movie?
I did come in a couple of days early to work with Freddie; he is a world class martial artist and he does very well keeping busy as a stunt coordinator. He’s got dojos all across Dallas and I believe he’s highly trained in Taekwondo. I went into one of his studios and worked with him basically with sticks doing Filipino stick fighting, Ascrima I think it’s called. He put me through some basic paces of learning that because I do have the double small axes and so I was working with sticks and trying to get those movements down. So basically when we shot the movie we replaced those sticks with actual axes. I did work with him a little bit and we had some of the choreography laid out in advance so that was really fun to use that kind of weaponry. You know me, I’m used to pulling the trigger or using my fists so it was really fun to mix it up with axes and a knife and it was a really fun adventure for me.
I love the car too; that looked like you driving, was it?
I drove the car somewhat; the car wasn’t as cooperative as it appeared to be on camera. We had some issues with the car here and there but let’s just say it wasn’t as ballsy as we thought it was going to be; we had to cheat a lot of stuff with the car but again with indie filmmaking you’re trying to use what you have and everything. For some of the more involved car stuff Freddie Poole got in the car himself and did some burnouts and high speed emergency break yanks. So yeah, a lot of that was him.
Nice to see Chad law and Mike Lobo Daniel make an appearance; was it a fun shoot? It looked it…
I had a blast; I thought working with the local Texas actors was awesome. They all brought their A game and they were all excellent. Our main villain Tom Zembrod played Willie Price the werewolf outlaw; I just thought he hammed it up in the best way possible. He was so fun as that bad guy; Matt Tompkins who plays the Sheriff was phenomenal and we had a great cast up and down like Ted Ferguson and some of the character types from town. Everybody was just really fun to work with and the stunt guys in particular were great; there were some local guys who were awesome as well. I was impressed and it was really wonderful to get to know some of the crew down there. I had never worked, in fact I don’t think I’d ever been in Texas before I shot that movie. I really enjoyed my time there and it was just a blast, dude. The people there and being in and around Dallas; so much about Texas makes it such a unique place and I got to experience that first hand.
It’s very much open for a sequel; any plans?
We’ve got some ideas kicking around; Josh at least in his mind if not on paper has ideas for sequels and prequels. I think what we’re really trying to do now is just get this out there; it has been a 3 year journey to finally release the film but knock on wood the response has been good. The reviews have been wonderful; people responded to the trailer which we dropped in March. The interviews have been awesome so we’re just kind of taking the temperature of the audience; I think what we’re finding the most is people just love this movie. It’s an 80’s throwback with a mix of action and horror; we have a bunch of interesting wrinkles with the Western theme and the custom motorcycles just mixing and mashing it all together. So far the response has been great; it’s released today and we’ve got DVDs and Blu-rays coming out on July 2nd so I’m sure Colt will ride again in one form or another at some point. We just don’t know what direction we’ll take it.
What do you want audience to take away from the movie?
Honestly, it’s one of those movies where you sit down, get comfortable, have some popcorn and maybe a beer and just go for a ride. It’s just under an hour and a half and I’ve watched it 12 times and every time I watch it I just enjoy the hell out of it. Maybe that’s just me being biased because I’m in it but it just moves and is just a lot of fun. I think it was important for me and Josh to lean into the humour and campiness of it because there’s nothing worse than putting pressure on yourself to be self-righteous. You know when you make the film and everything is sober and serious, then you’ve really gotta get it right cos otherwise it falls flat and the audience will be like “what is this nonsense?”. So by laying into the humour and camp of it I think we made a more enjoyable and fun product. There are parts when Sean Patrick Flanery was on the screen where he was brilliant in this. I laughed no matter how many times I’ve seen it as he does his thing as the sketchy mayor of this small town. You get your laughs, your action, your fill of werewolves if you’re into the horror stuff and it’s just really, really fun.
The fans need to know, have we seen the last of Beckett and the Sniper series?
(laughs) You know, there have been whispers; we’ve had some talks with the studio last Fall and something was looking like it might happen this year so something might be in the works right now. I don’t have anything tangible to report but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him for sure. Unfortunately I’m one of the last to know but when I do I’m happy to share that with everybody. I was reading this interesting article this week where Netflix has put this pilot project in place revealing their most popular TV shows and films. They’re very cryptic about their numbers and I came across this article that said Sniper: Ultimate Kill ( the last one) which is airing right now on Netflix UK/Ireland and they’re using that market as a litmus test to reveal some numbers and Sniper: Ultimate Kill was in the top 10 most watched movies over there. So that just indicates that there’s a demand for it and hopefully that means we can just keep making them. We’ll be on the 8th one when this next one goes and I’m happy to make 80 more.
What upcoming projects to you have?
I’ve been working on a secret project so I can’t say anything about that just yet but hopefully by the summer I’ll have something for you; it’s a very big and exciting project that I am sworn to secrecy on. I’ll be on an episode of the new Creepshow Anthology series on Shudder; I did an episode of that playing a lead character in one of their stories that will be coming out probably around Halloween. That was a blast to shoot and I also have another Christmas movie out this year and little odds and ends but High Moon is the big one right now and hopefully another Sniper movie before the end of the year.