Tyro feature filmmaker Keith Sutliff releases his debut The MasonBrothers this April in theaters. Starring Sutliff, Brandon Pearson, Matthew Webb, Michael Whelan, Julien Cesario, Chris Park, and Nazo Brava, the movie tells of a group of outlaws that attempt to reveal their brothers killer from a neighboring gang after being set up during a bank heist.
Keith, do you consider yourself an actor or filmmaker first?
Filmmaker, the reason why is because I consider myself more of someone who can visualize how I want a story to play out on screen and piece together the shots in my head. Also I have a very specific vision of how I see each character and how they should be played out. I also have a very specific dark desaturated overhead lighting effect I use for all my films as a style. However I do act in other projects but I feel I know how to put a story together with unique shots that flow just right and capture an audienceâs imagination on screen.
Was it always intended youâd play the lead role in the movie?
Absolutely! Well thereâs actually 4 leads in the film. My character Ren, Jesse, Gage, and Orion. I always cast myself as one of the leads or strong supporting in all my films starting with my first short film. This is my first feature. The reason why is because when you make a film you spend so much time on it making the darn thing it becomes a part of you. Also since I write my own material I know each character from front to back. Same with the script. I know how they should be played out. I also cast myself in my own films as one of the main roles as a trade mark. Kind of like some director/actors do such as Ben Affleck and Clint Eastwood. Quentin Tarantino kind of does it too.
How did you cast the other actors?
Mainly through auditions. However some of them I have worked with before so I casted them based on prior business relationships. The actor Matt Webb who plays Gage is a child hood friend of mind and a very talented up and coming actor. I have always wanted to work with him on a film of mine and we have been talking about it for years. Brandon Sean Pearson who plays Jesse I met through Matt Webb and he was referred by him. This guy is great too! Takes direction very well and is a very hard worker. It wouldnât be a surprise if Matt or Brandon win an Oscar/Academy Award one day. These guys are great and are true students of the art. Julien Cesario who plays Fredrick is another one. All the actors in fact were great on set and it wouldnât surprise me one bit to see any of them on a red carpet at the Academy Awards one day. Very talented team and very thankful.
Would you say any other films played an influence on the tone of The Mason Brothers?
Well I can say me wanting to always do a heist film and it be my first feature I have always loved films like Inception, Point Break, Drive, Heat, and Reservoir Dogs. I came up with this film through an assortment of ideas I have had for a while for my own heist film. I do all my films with this dark desaturated color tone and overhead lighting effect as my style as you will see in this film and any other one of mine.
Did you do any research into crime and heists before writing the screenplay?
Not really, I just had an idea of how I wanted to do a heist film and wrote it non-linear as all my scripts I write. I have always written all my scripts non-linear as that is my writing style for showing a film on screen. I grew up watching all the classic heist and crime films as a kid.
How long of a journey has this been? When was this film completed?
From the start of me writing the script to the release in April it will be a year and a half. I started writing the script in November of 2015 and it took me 4 weeks to write. It has felt longer though. The film is just now being completed. It just got done with the quality control process at a post house and other things are being added for distribution like subtitles, captions, time coded transcripts, etc.
And itâs getting both a cinema and VOD release, right?
Correct. I am releasing/distributing it through my company KS Pictures LLC theatrically and my distributor for after the theatrical release on VOD, foreign territories, etc.