Michael J. Larnell's directorial debut is a film that feels equal parts dangerous and playful. Employing stunning black & white cinematography and documentary talking heads, Cronies paints a picture of a hot summer day of boredom, dope smoking and deep seeded history boiling to the surface.
We caught up with director Michael J. Larnell and cast (George Sample III, Zurich Buckner and Brian Kowalski) at Tribeca to discuss their first filmmaking experience.
NFS: Where did this project start for you?
Michael: I actually went to film school. This was for the NYU graduate film program. That's where I started developing the characters and the backstory. I knew I wanted to take place over the course of a day.
NFS: What is it about condensed timeline that you find interesting?
Michael: It was almost easier to do it because you didn't have to worry about wardrobe, matching haircuts. It's simplified. Just going in one direction.
NFS: A lot of the time documentary elements in movies are very fly on the wall. But I like that the documentary aspect in the film was highlighted. How did you choose that?
Michael: Since it was a lot to cover, there's so much history between these characters, that's why I did the documentary style. It was easier to ask questions and give the information to the audience.
NFS: And it adds a layer of reality to it. You feel like they are real people. In terms of crafting the dynamic between the guys -- how did you find them and what steps did you take to set up the environment?
Michael: I just allowed them to be themselves. All of these guys have a natural energy about themselves. I just allowed them to take on the role as they see it, and help form it with them. We did a lot of work just bringing their natural abilities and realness and depth, and adding it to the characters.
Brian: Getting used to Jack's character -- I think it was the first rehearsal that we met. I was reading and I was like, "This guy is a douche," so I have to act like he's an asshole. So we kinda clashed at first but it worked out in the end because we bonded over simple guy things too. That definitely played a factor.
NFS: What kind of preparation did you do as actors to bring a realness to it?
George: For me it was more of a self reflection of how I used to be in a younger day. It was like "How would I handle this scenario? How would I feel? How would I do it myself?"
Zurich: I just took it back from people in the neighborhood. It was my first time acting in anything, so when I got the script, I read it and tried to understand the story. Since I was gonna be in sunglasses the majority of the film, I was thinking about how I was gonna get across my emotion to people. So I practiced that in the mirror. And people from the neighborhood, how they moved and talked.
Brian: I had never read a script before. I just read it, memorized it and then that was it. It was really just me, or things I used to do. I don't want my mom hearing that, but...
It was just something fun, everything in film doesn't have to be so serious. You can have fun and it could be beautiful.
NFS: The Jack character really stood out to me as a dynamic performance. The sunglasses obviously being this shield. And when you see the glasses come off you really see the pain behind the eyes that you didn't get to see. It's powerful, but simple.
Zurich: Running around as a live wire. He did a good job at balancing certain things, like the scene with the young girl. I did really pay attention to things that probably have happened to put that sad emotion out there. Feeling bad about the disagreement in the real. I really worked on it.
NFS: I also think about the use of black & white and color. It seems different from what you would usually associate black & white usage as. How did you arrive at that choice?
Michael: The main thing is that I had to make sure that people knew they were flashbacks. And the interviews at the end it was cool to see those guys in color, something creative. It was just something fun, everything in film doesn't have to be so serious. You can have fun and it could be beautiful.
NFS: What did you take with you from the making of this film?
Michael: Writing for sure. That's always number one. I knew I could write this better. I learned a lot about writing more than anything. I wrote the Andrew character to be similar as Jack, they are from two different worlds but I could've made them more dynamic.
George: The whole process was a learning process for me. It was my first time acting so I'm just trying to absorb that and figure out how I can do it better the next time and make it my craft and my passion.
Brian: People say your hardest critic is yourself, but when I watch myself I will always pick up mannerisms I'll do. I definitely want to keep acting though; it's an unbelievable experience.
Zurich: I'm still focussed on the acting. What I took away from it is that it is work. It is a job. And I want to do my job the best. After we filmed that, I want to look into more styles of acting just to have the knowledge, but at the same time remember to give the director some options by allowing a little of myself within a character too.
Thanks, Michael, George, Zurich, and Brian!