Hastily judging people for the actions they take, without giving much thought or consideration to the reasoning behind their decisions, can often be a problematic impulse that society has trouble contending with on a daily basis. While some of those acts are illegal and/or immoral in nature, there can often times can be an underlying detrimental motive that has led people to commit those unethical acts. That is certainly the case with the relatable anti-heroes in the independent crime thriller, ‘7 Minutes,’ which is set to be released on Blu-ray and DVD, as well as on Digital HD, VOD and iTunes, on Tuesday. The complicated protagonists’ good intentions often lead them to take drastic measures to protect the people they care about, even though they’re well aware of their potentially disastrous consequences, in the drama, which was written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker, Jay Martin.
‘7 Minutes’ follows three men who are determined to overcome their economic hardships in their desolate town in Washington State. Sam (Luke Mitchell), who was the star of his high school football team a few years before, and had the potential to have a successful career before developing an injury, was forced to leave college and begin working in the town’s local factory. He’s determined to financially support his girlfriend, Kate (Leven Rambin), who was a cheerleader while they were in high school. She’s now resolutely working at a diner to help make money, despite Sam’s concerns, as she’s pregnant and almost near her due date.
When Sam is laid off from his job, his older brother, Mike (Jason Ritter), tries to financially help him, even though he has a wife and daughter of his own. So along with Sam’s friend Owen (Zane Holtz), and against their initial doubts, the trio decides to deal drugs for drug lord Doug (Chris Soldevilla), in an effort to earn more money. When Owen then flushes the pills, in a desperate attempt not to get caught by police who he worries are following him and his friends, the three must find a way to quickly raise money, so that they can pay Doug back.
Mike then suggests to Sam and Owen that they should rob their Uncle Pete’s (Joel Murray) bank, as he overheard him saying he illegally has taken money himself, and therefore won’t report the heist, in fear of getting caught himself. Thinking nothing will go wrong in their planned seven-minute robbery, the three quickly realize that everything won’t go according to plan. Brandi (Mariel Neto), a woman who Mike cheated on his wife with, is upset he won’t pay more attention to her. So after she sees him with a gun, she tells local police officer Jerome (Brandon Hardesty), who has a crush on her and a strong sense of responsibility to his job, about her suspicions about what Mike plans on doing. Jerome then follows the trio and tries to stop their crime.
Tuckey (Kevin Gage), who’s a colleague of Owen’s career criminal father, Mr. B (Kris Kristofferson), also decides to stop the heist, after he hears the friends taking about it, in attempt to take the money for himself. In the process, everything learns that even their most well-intentioned ideas don’t always go according to strategy, as the people in their lives have misconceptions about them, as well as conflicting ideas of their own.
Martin generously took the time to talk about writing and directing ‘7 Minutes’ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the filmmaker discussed how he was inspired to pen the script for, and helm, a heist thriller that explores how the characters were driven to commit a illegal act out of their necessity to survive, but their well-intentioned ideas went wrong very quickly, which instantly changed their lives; and how Mitchell, Ritter and Holtz immediately responded to their respective characters when they first received the screenplay, and they instantly formed their connections during their rehearsal period in the film’s filming location of Everett, Washington.
ShockYa (SY): You made your feature film writing debut by scribing the screenplay for the crime drama, ‘7 Minutes.’ What was your inspiration in writing the script? What was the overall writing process like for you, including researching how life in a small town can lead men to commit such a crime?
Jay Martin (JM): Well, this wasn’t the first screenplay I have ever written. I have written several other scripts, but this was the first one that had gotten produced. When I was writing this story, I wanted to create a small, contained heist thriller. My inspiration was to create a story about how things could go wrong very quickly. In that short period of time, people’s lives dramatically changed. I was also inspired by this family story that took place in the 1940s-one of my ancestors robbed one of his uncle’s banks. So that led me to always want to write a story that chronicles each minute of the robbery in real time.
SY: ‘7 Minutes’ is unique and clever in the fact that instead of focusing on the perspective of one character throughout the entire story, it shows the point-of-views of each of the characters. They each receive their own introduction, and the story’s not told in a linear fashion. What was your inspiration in showing the diverse viewpoints of each of the characters, and how they affect the overall story?
JM: The idea was to show each person’s path to that robbery. I wanted to show how Sam, Mike and Owen all end up in that situation. In the beginning of the film, you see the three of them putting on the masks so that they can participate in the robbery, and the story then shows what drove each of them to that point. So it was interesting to show how the people who commit these crimes aren’t all evil criminals; they’re people who are put into terrible situations where they don’t have any other choice.
SY: Besides penning the script for the thriller, you also made your feature film directing debut on the thriller. Was it your intention to helm the drama as you were writing the script? How did working on the screenplay influence the way you approached directing the movie?
JM: Well, it allowed me to be a little less precious about the process. Since I wrote the script, I knew the intention behind the story. So if the actors had any questions about it, we could talk about it, as well as explore and develop it a little more. I didn’t feel as tied to what was on the page as I was to the story’s intentions. I immediately felt comfortable with that overall process from the moment we began filming.
SY: Jason Ritter, Luke Mitchell and Zane Holtz star as the three men, Mike, Sam and Owen, who commit the robbery in ‘7 Minutes.’ What was the casting process like for them, since the story focuses on their relationships and motivations in committing the crime?
JM: Eyde Belasco was our casting director, and she’s amazing. She sent the script out to actors who she thought would respond to it. It was during that process that we found Luke, Jason, Zane and Leven, and they were all excited about it.
One great thing was that about a week before we started shooting, Jason, Luke and Zane all came out, and we took that time to rehearse together. We were able to hang out and play pool in the town of Everett (in Washington state, where the movie was film). Their job was to get to know each other and create a backstory for their characters. That way when we started filming, it would feel as though these characters knew each other since they were kids, and didn’t just meet the week before.
SY: Since the film is a crime thriller that focuses on the bank robbery Mike, Sam and Owen commit, what was the process of creating the action sequences for the film, particularly the robbery scene? Did Jason, Luke and Zane, as well as the rest of the actors in the scene, perform their own stunts?
JM: It was a lot of fun. I think the actors wanted to perform their own stunts, but we did have stuntmen on hand who were amazing. We would film the action sequences in a way where the actors would be in the scene up until the point where the stunt started. Then the stuntmen would go into the scene to film the action, and then we would do close-ups of the actors for those sequences. We shot the stunt scenes in that traditional style, which I think gave us the best results. We were filming on a tight schedule, but I think the process really worked.
SY: Since the small town Mike, Sam and Owen live in is plays an integral part in the decisions they make and the lifestyles they live, and the story has multiple setups, what was the process of finding, and ultimately shooting, the thriller on location?
JM: Well, we chose to mainly shoot in Everett because we loved its look. The people in the town were so amazing, and were bending over backwards to accommodate us. The woman who ran the diner where we shot cooked us a barbecue meal, for example. The police force also came and played the officers in the film, and allowed us to use their cars. I think the town was happy to have us, and we were happy to be there.
SY: Before writing and directing ‘7 Minutes,’ you served as a storyboard artist on such studio films as ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2,’ ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ and ‘I Am Legend.’ How did working on creating the storyboards for those movies influence the way you approached making ‘7 Minutes,’ particularly the visual aspects? Did you use detailed storyboards for this film?
JM: I did heavily storyboard this film. I actually storyboarded twice; before we arrived at our locations, and once again when we arrived at the locations, so that my ideas could fit each individual set. Since we shot on a tight schedule, it was really helpful to be really specific about all of the details. We would go onto each location and get exactly what we needed with the help of the storyboards, which was the nature of the shoot.
SY: Speaking of the fact that you filmed the drama on a shorter shooting schedule, was the process of filming the crime drama independently? How did the process influence the creativity of your writing and directorial duties?
JM: When I worked on the script for ‘7 Minutes,’ I wrote it as a small, independent film, so I knew what I was getting into from the beginning. So we created the best version of what I expected. The whole production team was really helpful in putting everything together, and making sure that everything that we needed was there on the set.
SY: Starz Digital (released) the film on Digital HD, VOD and iTunes. Are you personally a fan of watching movies On Demand, and why do you think the platform is beneficial for independent movies like this one?
JM: I think the platform is really good. This is my first experience with it, but it seems like a great way to release films. I think it’s good (that it receive a limited theatrical release), but I also think it’s great that it’s also available On Demand. I watch a lot of movies like that, and I’m sure a lot of other people do, too. I think it’s the way of the future, especially for independent films. With On Demand, you’re going to reach a much bigger audience than with a (limited theatrical release).
SY: The crime thriller had its premiere at the Austin Film Festival, and also played at the Sarasota Film Festival. What was your experience of bringing the thriller to the festivals, and how did audiences react to it?
JM: The Austin Film Festival was amazing. The crowd there really got the film, and was really enthusiastic about it; they were cheering throughout the screening. The reaction was better than I could have imagined. I was really nervous before the premiere, as I hadn’t yet seen the film with a large film festival crowd. I had only seen the film with a test screening audience. My parents were at the festival screening, and I imagined them saying, “Great job, honey,” after it turned into a really terrible screening. But the event turned out really well, and the film was really well received. So it was a really fun experience overall.
Written by: Karen Benardello