Thoroughly Hard-Boiled: Vilan Trub On His Film, The Dirty Kind
Vilan Trub is a cinephile who jumpstarted his career by filming movies without a budget or a crew in his neighborhood in Queens, New York. He learned film technique by watching every movie he could get his hands on, dating back to the silent era, and studying their structure, which inspired him to start writing at a young age. The Dirty Kind marks his second effort as a writer/director, which he financed, produced, and shot himself over the span of only 9 days. His debut movie Susie Q, an homage to the early films of Truffaut and Godard, premiered at the NYC Independent Film Festival and was viewed by people around the world on Amazon Prime.
You can catch The Dirty Kind May 2 at the Monica Film Center in Santa Monica, California, or at the Music Hall from May 3-9 in Beverly Hills, California. If you don’t reside in the Golden State, don’t fret. The film will be available on VOD and DVD later this summer.
Viddy Well: It’s awesome that you were able to bring Michael Madsen on as a producer. How did he become involved in the project?
Vilan Trub: The answer is a combination of producer Derek Zuzunaga being one of the friendliest people on earth and the fact that the film is an exciting, slick looking movie right up the actor's alley. Derek developed a friendship with Michael while assisting on a feature film in Mexico, and he was able to get Madsen to view some footage. He loved how the movie made him laugh at all the most despicable parts, and he wanted it to find as wide of an audience as possible. Mr. Blonde liked the film, so it didn't take a lot of convincing before he agreed to help out.
VW: How did the idea for the film first germinate?
VT: I’d previously made a movie, Susie Q, that was inspired by the French new wave and was black and white and stylistically did things that aren’t necessarily general audience — or any audience for that matter — friendly. It was a freshman effort and although I’m proud of the fact that I made the movie, it was not at the level of what I felt I was capable of.
I remembered Stanley Kubrick in an interview explaining how after the failure of his first movie, a very philosophical and artistic tale, he decided to do something rooted in a genre, something with more action that could better entertain audiences. I felt this was a good idea, using a genre as a springboard, because it comes with a built in foundation that you can work off.
I love the crime-thriller genre and living in Queens, NY had access to a wonderful outer-borough to film such a movie. I wanted to make a crime-thriller, a “noir” movie. I love the “film noir” world because it’s dark and seedy and it’s real.
Living in Queens, Anthony Weiner was a story I couldn’t avoid — and I wouldn’t want to because it just kept going and was fascinating. I started thinking, what if this character, this politician with deep-rooted issues, didn’t just destroy himself, but caused a domino effect that ruined lives he never even came into contact with? It seems very plausible, and it definitely inspired the narrative of the film.
VW: I can see a similarity to the work of the Coen brother in The Dirty Kind. Were they a conscious influence to the film, particularly the script?
VT: The Coen brothers are a huge influence on me. They are masters of noir, and at the same time, Raising Arizona is perfection. Between Raising Arizona and Blood Simple, it hurts how strong an understanding of storytelling they had so early. They get it. Fargo and No Country for Old Men were particular influences on the structure of The Dirty Kind’s script. Those two movies seamlessly introduce the protagonist in the second act and use the first act as exposition. It’s a beautiful way to tell a sprawling story without having it feel too loose. Hitchcock did it in Psycho too and created a revolution.
VW: Is there a particular feeling you want to evoke from the audience?
VT: I want them to feel uncomfortable, but at the same time, I also want them to feel like they just watched something incredibly cool. I want people to want to dress and act like Raymond. Some people started wearing cowboy boots because Travis Bickle wore them. It doesn’t mean that they’re homicidal lunatics. It just means they’re either lonely or introverted or frustrated. Something about the character resonated with them. I want the audience to relate to Raymond, someone who lives a life totally different than their own. I want them to see something of themselves in how he reacts to the weird situations he gets into.
I want the audience to relate to Raymond, someone who lives a life totally different than their own. I want them to see something of themselves in how he reacts to the weird situations he gets into.
VW: Did you write the role of Raymond specifically for Duke Williams?
VT: Everyone in the movie was cast through an audition process, whether in person or via video submission, and the lead role of Raymond, the private investigator, was written without anyone in mind and went to the best actor who showed up.
Duke Williams was cast because he is one of the greatest actors I’ve ever had the pleasure to come across. I’m still blown away by his performance. There’s talented people, and then there’s people that have “it.” He has it. He understands how to talk and move for the camera and most importantly, he always knows his lines — he even knew the lines of the other actors.
Making a movie is about one thing, does whatever you’re doing feel like a movie? Duke came to the audition and performed the lines given to him, and it immediately felt cinematic. When he acted, it looked like a performance in a movie, and I had to make sure he was a part of the film.
VW: The film was shot over the course of 9 days and with a limited budget, which is super impressive. What difficulties came out of the movie-making process?
VT: The biggest difficulty came when locations were agreed on and minutes before arrival I was told that the agreed upon schedule would be slashed in half. Shooting a scene in 4 hours is difficult enough, doing it in 2 forces you to rely on everything you know, technical and creative, and is where you really understand what it means to be a producer and a director. This is why rehearsal was important on this movie and my own technical knowledge of lensing and lighting a scene. I’m a student of cinema and when you have seconds to decide where to put the camera, you rely on what you know and it helps to have a catalogue of so many movies on the mind. Sometimes a shot from a Raoul Walsh movie from 1939 is the only way to go.
VW: Given there were a lot of challenges, what was it that made the project successfully come together?
VT: I’m not going to be humble. This project came together and is going where it’s going because I willed it every step of the way. I put the load on my shoulders and carried it, and I corralled everyone who wanted to be involved and kept them moving forward.
People will help but they’ll help the amount that exists in their sphere. That’s not enough to complete a movie, and get it on screens in front audience. Everyone stops once they feel they’ve done their part. I don’t stop until the movie is in front of the audience and that means knocking on every door, breaking through every window once that fails, and moving forward without the expectation that there’s a defined goal line.
That’s advice I tell every filmmaker, actor, etc. No one will help you succeed. They can help you only with the few tangible things you ask of them, but in the end, it’s on you. The audience doesn’t get the movie with a notecard detailing your limitations. They don’t care. It’s on you to win them over, and it’s up to you to figure out how to do that. I don’t think it’s a process that has an end.
VW: It must feel pretty amazing now that it’s over and the film is making its way to audiences. Is there a moment in particular where the results of your hard work hit you?
VT: There was definitely a moment where I felt all of the work had resulted in something special. It’s when the movie screened at the Midway movie theater on Queens Boulevard. It’s where I grew up, and that theater is my cathedral. Todd Strauss-Schulson, director of Isn’t It Romantic?, also grew up in the neighborhood and felt similarly about the theater, and we both filmed a segment talking about the place and why it was important to us.
At the time, he was gearing up for the release of his big Hollywood romantic-comedy, starring Rebel Wilson, and I was planning the next steps for The Dirty Kind. He talked about his first movie that screened at the theater, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, and I talked about mine. It was at that moment that I realized I wasn’t just an audience member, appreciating what I saw on screen. I had crossed over to the other side. I was a filmmaker.
VW: What’s next for you?
VT: I have another crime-thriller I recently wrote called Tanglewood that I’m looking to make. It’s far larger in scope than The Dirty Kind, and it deals with the world of the wealthy and our fascination with conspiracy. It also features a private investigator but is in no way a retread of The Dirty Kind. Ultimately, Tanglewood is about the decline of a wealthy and powerful family.
I’m also collecting every book I can find on the history of coal mining, Appalachia and Colorado, and the robber barons, but won’t go further than that.
Support independent film, and follow Vilan throughout his endeavors via the links below:
Vilan Trub personal Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VilanTrub
TrubFilmCo. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrubFilmCo/
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