Director Chris Fuller discusses his first feature-length film "Loren Cass," which includes performances from Din Thomas, Aaron Riley and Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett.
MMAFighting.com: How would you describe your film?
Fuller: "Loren Cass" is about adolescents in St. Petersburg, Florida following the 1996 riots. It's a sort of southern gothic coming of age story that I started writing when I was 15. It took us about 3 years to get the financing together, followed it up with principal photography when I was 21, and now we're in the seeking-distribution stage 8 years after beginning. It will be premiering at a major film festival this Summer. The announcement on where and when is coming in a week or so.
MMAFighting.com: What was it like working with Din Thomas, Aaron Riley, and Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett?
Fuller: It was exactly what we needed with this film. They're pretty much fearless, and certainly didn't have a problem beating on some of our actors (perhaps they even enjoyed it?). They're all good guys and it was definitely great hanging out with them for a few days. They sacrificed a lot of hours with very little in return and did an amazing job on film. Fighting-wise, the first thing that jumped out at us when we started filming the main fight scene was Din's hand speed...and obviously his power. My original hope to do multiple takes was quickly dashed and we ended up only doing two or three of each scene, there's only so much punishment folks can take. It's great to see him back in the UFC at the end of this month in UFC 71.
MMAFighting.com: How did each of them get involved in the project?
Fuller: We wanted to make sure that the fight scenes were real. I just have a huge respect for film as a medium and to not go all out on everything would just be a disservice. If the material demands it, you have to do it. Period. That being said...my first contact was with Dan Lambert of American Top Team. As you know, they're based in South Florida and there's a lot of amazing fighters coming out of this state in general, and the Top Team specifically. They're pretty widely known for their first-class fighters, both on the mat and off. I had looked through the ATT roster and had a few fighters I wanted to talk to about one particular role, "The Fight Kid", and his group of friends who are in constant conflict with the main characters throughout the film. Din wasn't originally on that list until Dan brought him to my attention. Once we settled on Din as the main guy, we started pegging the supporting slots, and Aaron Riley came on board along with Justin Thrift. Hermes Franca was originally going to be a part of it but got injured prior to filming. After that happened I got a call from Din saying that Hermes was hurt and couldn't make it, but he had a friend he was going to bring...Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett.
Now, I actually have an interesting story about this.
I lived in Orlando for a few years prior to moving back to St. Petersburg to work on "Loren Cass" and we used to watch quite a bit of MMA. This was back when Krazy Horse was tearing through people in 'King of the Cage.' So we definitely knew who he was and he's from Ocala, so he got involved and we were very happy with Din, Krazy, and Aaron Riley as our fighters. Funny enough, at the house we were renting in Orlando, we'd get mail all the time for a fellow named "Din Thomas". We didn't know who he was at that point and didn't think anything of it at all, since it was a rental we got other people's mail all the time. Later on, while filming the movie and talking with Din, we realized that he had lived in the same house in Orlando prior to us moving in. It was absolute chance that he ended up being in the film, and then to find out that we lived in the same house for a while was a very strange coincidence indeed.
MMAFighting.com: What was your experience like working with Krazy Horse in particular? After his last fight, he said he wanted to pursue acting.
Fuller: It was great, Krazy's a fun guy to hang out with and put King of the Cage on the map as far as I'm concerned. Some of his early knockouts were really spectacular. He's just a pure athlete and he'll fight anyone, you definitely have to respect that.
MMAFighting.com: What was it about the riots that inspired you to write and direct a movie?
Fuller: I wouldn't say the riots in particular were what inspired the film, it's just an element of the story, it's kind of a featured background element that sets the mood and effects everything you're seeing on the surface. It's an interesting part of St. Petersburg's history that I think needed to be touched on, and it certainly had an influence on everyone around here when it happened. There's still some residual tension that I'm not sure will ever go away. We did a couple rounds of re-shoots for the film to pick up some pieces that we thought were missing in the story, and in the middle of that more violence related to the 1996 incident broke out. It's definitely something I want to continue learning about and spend more time exploring in the future.
MMAFighting.com: I read that you had no formal training in filmmaking. What do you credit with in your ability to learn the trade without attending film school?
Fuller: While I don't really have any "formal" training, I've never really wanted to do anything else since I was young. I've been studying film and filmmaking since I can remember and have been gearing up for this project the whole time. I definitely come from the do-it-yourself school where if you want to be in a band, you grab a guitar and play till your fingers bleed, if you want to be a fighter, you hit the gym and study the technical details every waking moment, and if you want to be a filmmaker, you study films till you want to throw up. You reach a certain point in all that where other films and "influences" stop being all that important and your own work starts to grow. There's always been a debate in the film world about whether or not film school is really "worth it." Should someone spend a significant amount of money to go to school for years and work their way up the industry ladder? Or is that money better invested in an actual film? While I'm sure it's different for everyone, the latter just always made more sense to me, and everything you can learn in a film school is freely available. It's just a matter of finding it and learning it on your own, then forget the whole mess and make your films.
Click here to watch the trailer for "Loren Cass."