Emotionally depending on someone you have sentimentally developed a deep connection with to help you maintain your happiness can take drastically different paths; it can become either a liberating process that guides you in achieving your goals, or a restrictive situation that begins to deteriorate your pride. The new independent drama, ‘All Mistakes Buried,’ which had its world premiere last night at the 31st Boston Film Festival, enthralling encompasses both experiences. Actor Sam Trammell developed captivating working relationships with the film’s director Tim McCann and producer Shaun S. Sanghani on their previous indie drama, ‘White Rabbit,’ that the trio reunited to co-write ‘All Mistakes Buried’ together. The intriguing relationships between the three filmmakers allowed Trammell to make his feature film writing and producing debuts on their second intense drama together. However, their follow-up project once again grippingly proved how the characters’ continued reliance on each other began impeding on their own respective mental developments.
‘All Mistakes Buried’ follows the heartbroken and drug addicted Sonny (Trammell), who’s been living in squalor before he becomes obsessed with returning a necklace to his estranged wife for their anniversary. When the necklace is stolen by a gang of criminals led by a tough small-town madam named Franki (Vanessa Ferlito), he risks his life navigating the seedy underbelly of his Louisiana town to get it back.
Trammell generously took the time recently to talk about co-writing, producing and starring in ‘All Mistakes Buried’ during an exclusive phone interview before the drama premiered at the Boston Film Festival. Among other things, the actor discussed how he decided to make his feature film scribing and producing debuts with the indie after he had a positive experience working with McCann and Sanghani on ‘White Rabbit,’ and how he was interested in shaping the story that his character underwent throughout the drama; how he enjoyed shooting on location in a small town in Louisiana, which is where he was born, as well as co-starring with locals who had never acted before, because it helped infuse an authenticity into the story; and how he, the director, producer and the rest of the cast and crew are grateful for, and appreciative of, the Boston Film Festival, as the organizers and audiences have been really supportive of both ‘All Mistakes Buried’ and ‘White Rabbit,’ which also premiered at last year’s festival.
ShockYa (SY): You play Sonny, who’s so heartbroken over losing his wife that he becomes obsessed with returning a necklace to his estranged wife that he gave her for their anniversary, in the new independent drama, ‘All Mistakes Buried.’ Why were you interested in playing the role of such a complex character in the film?
Sam Trammell(ST): Well, the film’s director, Tim McCann, and one of the producers, Shaun S. Sanghani, had made another movie together the summer before we made this one, called ‘White Rabbit,’ which also played at the Boston Film Festival. We had a really good experience together on our first film, so we decided to make another movie. We also decided that I would star in it again, and that we would all write it together.
We determined that we were going to film the movie in Alexandria, Louisiana, which is where Shaun is from. I also have ties to Louisiana, as my parents happen to live there, and I lived there as a child. So there was a real coincidence to shooting the movie there. We also knew we could film for relatively cheap there.
So the three of us wrote the script in the spring, and it took us about four months to finish that process. Then we went and shot it together. So the film came together because we worked together before. It was a great experience for me, because I had never written and produced a film before.
SY: Speaking of the fact that you made your feature film writing debut on the thriller, what interested you in working on the script with Tim and Shaun, who you just mentioned?
ST: Well, I’ve been in the business for awhile, so I obviously have worked on a lot of other people’s projects that they created. Since I was going to be playing the character, I was very interested in shaping the story that he was going to be involved in, as well as his dialogue. So working on the script, and being one of the three creators of the character, helped me feel much closer to the part. I felt as at home in a character as I have ever felt when I was playing Sonny.
SY: Besides co-writing the script for ‘All Mistakes Buried,’ how did you prepare to play the role of Sonny before you began filming the drama? Was there any particular research that you did in order to help connect with his mindset?
ST: Well, I was playing an addict, so I actually did a lot of research, and spoke with people who had been addicts. We spoke about what that experience was like for them, as well as what life was like for them overall, and how it changed their lives. We also spoke about the specifics of how you did the drug. So there was definitely a lot of research that I had to do, because I had never been in that situation myself.
SY: With the necklace being stolen by a gang of criminals led by a tough small-town madam named Franki, Sonny risks his life navigating the more dangerous neighborhoods of his Louisiana town to get it back. How did that process influence his outlook on life-did it influence him to try to better himself for his wife?
ST: That was one of the most exciting things about the film. Tim is a real master at shooting this kind of movie. He wrote and directed another film called ‘Another Zero in the System,’ and that was one of the things that made me excited about working on our movie. He shot ‘Another Zero in the System’ with a bunch of people who weren’t actors, and had gotten them to improvise. I saw the movie and was really floored. I was so taken by the performances and the people who I have never seen before.
So we took the same approach with this movie. Tim and Shaun went down to Louisiana early during pre-production, and cast real people who weren’t actors to play a lot of the supporting roles. These people were just phenomenal. Most of them had never acted before, but they were able to improvise and really just be their characters. A lot of them were really close to the characters they were playing.
They were also shooting in their own neighborhood. We went to a lot of those neighborhoods in Alexandria, and I had never been to a lot of them. So it was a lot of fun for me to see a lot of the city. I also loved that process of working with people who aren’t actors, because there’s a certain rawness to them that they bring when the cameras are turned on.
SY: Speaking of the fact that many of the performers in the film’s supporting roles are locals from Alexandria who made their acting debuts in ‘All Mistakes Buried,’ what was the process of rehearsing and bonding with them?
ST: I loved that process of working with people who aren’t actors. Each person would be different, and when we’d rehearse, we’d sometimes re-write things that better fit the person who was playing the part.
But there were also a lot of times that we didn’t have to do anything at all. There was one actor who blew us away so much, and I was just trying to hold on. He was better at improvising than I was, and he had never done it before.
SY: Also speaking of improvising with your co-stars while you were filming, how did the fact that you co-wrote the script influence the way you improvised on the set?
ST: Yes, I definitely found improvising to be easier since I worked on the script. There’s a certain comfortness that you develop if you’re one of the creators of the whole project, as you feel a certain ownership to it. Having worked with Tim and Shaun before also helped me feel very relaxed and comfortable. I also knew the story very well, as well as how I wanted to shape Sonny’s journey.
SY: You previously worked with Tim on last year’s independent drama, ‘White Rabbit,’ like you mentioned earlier. What was your experience like reuniting with him on ‘All Mistakes Buried,’ and collaborating with him on developing this film’s story and character?
ST: I’m such a huge fan of Tim’s work. He’s extraordinarily talented, and I really love his style. He brings a richness, rawness and truthfulness to his movies, as well as the performances he gets out of people. So I was really excited to work with him again, and we collaborated well together.
We had a lot of work to do, because we only had about 12 or 13 days to shoot the whole movie. So we were moving fast, and everybody was just doing their jobs. We were really focused, and everything turned out great. We had a great time making the film.
SY: Speaking of having such a short shooting schedule on ‘All Mistakes Buried,’ what was the experience of shooting the thriller independently? Did it influence your creative process at all, and how you approached playing Sonny?
ST: When you don’t have the time and money to be able to think about the different choices you want to make, all the locations you want to use or the equipment that you want to have on set, it can be difficult. When you only have an hour or two to shoot a scene, it does affect your creative choices.
But I think it affects those choices in a good way, because you become very limited, and have to learn to use what’s around you. You have to make things work quickly, because you don’t have time to talk about things too much.
You see that happen in all different kinds of films. Creativity can really be enhanced, and choices can be made more interesting, when you have fewer options, and have to work with what you have. So I think that process helped a lot with this movie.
SY: With the thriller being set in a small Louisiana town, what was the experience like of filming it on location in Alexandria? How does the process of shooting on location, as opposed to a soundstage, influence the way you approach developing your character and the story overall?
ST: I love the process, because it feels so much realer if you’re in an actual motel, or an actual car on an actual street in the real town that you’re supposed to be in, than if you’re on a studio-built set. It affects everybody, and focuses you, as it’s an inspirational process. I grew up in this town and love it. For many of the scenes, being in the town where my parents grew up added a heaviness and an authenticity to the scenes for me.
SY: ‘All Mistakes Buried’ (had) its world premiere at this year’s 31st Boston Film Festival, much like ‘White Rabbit’ premiered at the festival last fall. What does it mean to you to return to the festival with another movie you collaborated with Tim on?
ST: I love the experience of bringing the films to the festival. We had such a great time in Boston last year (with ‘White Rabbit’), and we’re so grateful for the Boston Film Festival. They’ve been really supportive of our work, and we really appreciate it. I love going back up there, as I went to college in Rhode Island, and lived in New York for a long time. So going back East is always a nice thing for me, personally.
SY: How does preparing for roles in films, including ‘All Mistakes Buried’ and ‘White Rabbit,’ compare and contrast to your roles on television, like on ‘True Blood?’ Do you find it easier to have the character’s complete arc presented in a film’s script, or do you enjoy discovering new aspects of the character during each new season on television?
ST: That’s a good question. With film, it’s definitely easier to make big choices with characters, because you know how that decision is going to affect the end of the story. But it just depends on the project and the script, as well as the character itself.
I loved playing Sam on ‘True Blood’-it was a great part. But since we did 80 episodes, I didn’t know what the end was going to be. (laughs) Also, during the first season, none of us knew that much about our characters.
But the whole process depends (on the project). A lot of times you just look at the scenes and play them as intensely as possible, but you don’t necessarily always think about the whole thing.
SY: With ‘True Blood’ being based on ‘The Southern Vampire Mysteries’ book series by Charlaine Harris, and ‘All Mistakes Buried’ and ‘White Rabbit’ featuring original stories, do you prefer acting in projects that are based on source material?
ST: Not really-it doesn’t really matter to me. With ‘True Blood,’ we followed the books for the first three or four years, and then we did our own thing. So the books that Charlaine wrote, as great and entertaining as they were, weren’t necessarily always the source material to how I was playing the character, although I did read them.
If you’re doing something that’s based on a book, you certainly read it, because it provides more information. But you’re also making your own creative decisions about your character. Like I said with ‘True Blood,’ we went on for enough years that we stopped following the books.
SY: Besides starring in films and on television, you have also appeared in Broadway and Off-Broadway plays when you lived in New York. Are you interested in doing theater again in the future? How does preparing for, and starring in, theater compare and contrast to shooting films and television shows?
ST: Yes, I’m definitely interested in going back and performing in more plays. I think it’s been about 10 years since I was in a play, which is just insane; I can’t believe that it’s been that long. I have a family now, so it would be a little more difficult to travel to New York to be in a play. But it’s definitely starting to get under my skin-I definitely want to get back and do another play.
SY: Now that you have made your feature film writing and producing debuts with ‘All Mistakes Buried,’ are you also interested in trying directing in the future?
ST: I probably will. I definitely enjoy this process, and it’s a really incredible thing. One of the things that made it easier to do was that we knew we were going to do it. We knew we were going to only raise a little bit of money; well, Shaun raised the money, but we all knew the film was going to happen.
I would like to do the same thing again, especially if I knew it was definitely going to happen. (laughs) If you’re working on a spec script, it’s a little harder, because you don’t know if it’s really going to happen.
Somewhere down the line, I’ll probably become interested enough in directing to pursue it. But for now, I still have a lot of characters I haven’t done in acting who I would like to play, so I’m still focused on that.
SY: Since ‘All Mistakes Buried’ and ‘White Rabbit’ are dramas, and ‘True Blood’ was a horror series, are there any other genres that you’re interested in acting in on your future projects?
ST: Oh, of course. I’ve done just about everything, but it’s been awhile since I’ve done comedy, so that’s something that would be a lot of fun for me to do again.
SY: Besides ‘All Mistakes Buried,’ do you have any other projects lined up that you can discuss, whether in films and/or on television?
ST: Yes, I have another movie called ‘About Ray’ that Elle Fanning, Susan Sarandon, Naomi Watts and Tate Donovan are in. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (on September 12). The release date was just pushed (the drama was originally scheduled to be distributed in theaters yesterday, September 18). It’s now going to be released sometime within the next month, but I’m not sure exactly when it’s going to come out.
I also have another movie coming out with Missy Yager, who’s my partner in life, called ‘The Track,’ that she stars in. That’s also going to be coming out sometime soon, and it’s about sex trafficking in Las Vegas.
I’m also in a movie called ‘I Am Wrath’ with John Travolta, Christopher Meloni, Amanda Schull and Rebecca De Mornay. It’s a thriller that’s probably going to be released next year.
Written by: Karen Benardello