Brian Smirz makes his directorial debut with the movie 24 HOURS TO LIVE starring multiple Oscar nominee, Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight, Boyhood) , Chinese actress Xu “Summer” Qing (Looper), Paul Anderson (The Revenant), and Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner). Smirz cut his teeth first as a stunt man and then as a 2nd Unit Director on the movies X-MEN: APOCALYPSE and FRANTASTIC FOUR.
In 24 HOURS TO LIVE, Ethan Hawke portrays a career assassin who is given a chance at redemption after his employer brings him temporarily back from the dead. The catch? He only has 24 hours to make things right.
What are the challenges that are unique to filming an action movie vs. a comedy movie?
“Action sequences are very time consuming to shoot and take a great deal of planning and rehearsal. There are almost always safety concerns and often there are practical and/or visual effects needed for a shot to be complete. Actors must rehearse and train with stunt professionals so that they feel comfortable and safe, which in turn will help make a scene believable. As an example, the car chase in 24 Hours to Live is less than 3 minutes in length but took a total of 6 of the 42 shooting days I had on the film. There were green screen shots, layered visual effects shots, practical effects, stunt doubles, towing shots, and even shots in which a stuntman drove the car from a seat mounted to the roof of the car through traffic so that the actors could concentrate on the scene. In contrast a comedic scene that is 3 minutes in length would most likely be shot in 1 day, unless of course there was action involved. “
The fight scenes are exceptional. Since you have a background in stunt work, did this help when directing an action sequence?
“My background in stunts was invaluable to directing the action sequences on this film, especially with its relatively small budget and short shooting schedule. On bigger budget films there is most always a 2nd unit that shoots the bulk of the action sequences because of the complexity and time needed. We did not have a 2nd unit so it was imperative that we had a clear plan of execution that we could stick to.”
It looks like it was filmed on 3 continents. I would image that could quickly become a logistics nightmare?
“I am glad that you believed we filmed on 3 continents, but that is the magic of film making. The entire film was shot in South Africa. Florida was shot at a local beach just outside of Cape Town which is evident by the low level surrounding hills. The two Hong Kong scenes were both shot in Cape Town with sets that were built by our production designer, Colin Gibson. Stock footage was used for the establishing aerials.”
Without giving away the plot line—are you satisfied with the ending? Couldn’t that doctor have removed that thing from his arm?
“The movie is meant to be fun, not taken too seriously. I tried to instill subtle humor throughout and felt the ending fit that tone. “
When did you become interested in being a director?
“In 2002 while filming Xmen 2, I was given the opportunity to direct several of the action sequences including the Lady Death Strike fight with Hugh Jackman and Kelly Hu. I really enjoyed working with both of them and have been interested in directing an entire feature since that time.”
What do you look for when choosing a movie to direct?
“I look for interesting characters in unique situations. It is also very important to have a good production company behind the project. Working with Basil Iwanyk and Kent Kubena from Thunder Road Pictures was a big factor in my wanting to direct this film. They are a first class group all the way.”
Do you feel that stunt people do not get enough credit?
“I do think there should be some sort of category for action at the academy awards as it is probably the only group of artists that is completely left out.”