We caught up with John for a brief chat about filmmaking, the importance of getting a film made ‘at all costs’ which includes not skimping on equipment.
*As of February 2021 (selected regions only).
Years of filmmaking experience
FF: Could you tell us a little bit about your filmmaking journey and what led to your current project Body Brokers (2021)? Did you attend film school? How long have you been a working professional in the industry?
I have always been interested in films and film making. For me, writing was my “in”. I did not go to film school and the only way I was ever going to make a film was if I wrote and produced it myself. I have been working professionally for about 7 years.
From Melissa Leo to casting unknowns
FF: Can you tell us some more detail about Body Brokers (2021)?
Jack Kilmer, Alice Englers, Melissa Leo, Michael K. Williams, and Frank Grillo star in the film. It’s about insurance fraud in the drug treatment industry.
FF: I see you were also heavily involved in casting actors for this project. Can you tell us how you approached that? How did you secure your key cast and what drew you to them? When finding unknown actors, what qualities/abilities do you look for and how important is the ‘look’ for your characters?
For this we started with our friends and relationships – Melissa Leo, Michael K Williams etc. Then we built out from there. Jeremy has a great eye for casting and we enjoy the process of finding the right people for the role. In an unknown actor, we try and look for someone who naturally has similarities to the character. The “look” is important in terms of wardrobe etc., but their physical appearance isn’t all the time.
FF: Let’s talk a little about genre. What genres do you prefer to write/shoot and what led you to those?
Crime and action. A lot of my favourite films are in those genres.
Casting: a personal connection
FF: How, as a director, did you approach creating the atmosphere in Body Brokers (2021)? What methods/strategies/techniques did you use and why?
I used real people and locations. I tried to cast people who had a personal connection to the material.
FF: Where do you get your inspiration from? Writing is often revealing something of ourselves, isn’t it? What inspires your desire to tell such stories?
I love writing and I want to get better at it. The only way to improve is to continue to work at it and tell more stories.
We subscribe to the “at all costs” method when it comes to getting these pictures made. Whatever we have to do.
John Swab’s advice for filmmakers
FF: Do you have any advice for filmmakers looking to pitch their film for funding?
There is never enough money, so my opinion is don’t waste your time. You can tell any story on a shoestring budget, you will just have to get creative. Know what you need and once you have it, get to work.
FF: What funding methods did you use or how did you connect with the right producers to get Body Brokers (2021) made? How long did the process take to get all the finance you needed, in order to make a film that would have the production value worthy of the distribution it has now found?
My producer and partner in these pictures is Jeremy Rosen. He is a juggernaut and a machine when it comes to getting these things done. We complement each other very well. We subscribe to the “at all costs” method when it comes to getting these pictures made. Whatever we have to do. This film came together within the span of about 6 months.
FF: Is there any equipment you would recommend for low budget filmmakers and why?
Don’t get cheap on sound or your lens.
Trust in your decision-making
FF: Can we talk a little now about film festivals… We see you have won some awards for Run with the Hunted (2019), can you tell us about your experience in the festival circuit? Do you feel you gained much from the experience?
Not really, if I’m honest. I find that most festivals aren’t truly champions of indie cinema at all – quite the opposite actually. Very bureaucratic and run by people who have never made a movie themselves. I make movies because I love the process and I love trying to get better. The pageantry aspect isn’t my favourite.
FF: What was your single biggest error in your filmmaking journey and how would you suggest others can avoid making the same misjudgement?
Not knowing when to trust myself. Film reflects life more than any other art form. You have to make split second decisions that have major implications on the picture constantly. Knowing when to go with your gut is key.
FF: John Swab, thank you very much for your time!
Images courtesy of Vertical Entertainment.
Thanks to Katrina Wan PR
Artwork & Editor: Richard Williams
Scottish Tunisian actress. Yes, that’s a thing. BAME. POC.