'HOURS' ROLLING: An Interview With ADMIRAL Director Roel Reine


The name, Roel Reine, appeared on my radar about seven years ago when I stumbled onto a review of the recently released The Marine 2. The only thing that surprised me more than someone feeling the need to make a sequel to The Marine (there are now 3 sequels!) was that the review was actually positive; possibly even more positive than reviews of the first film. A lot of credit was heaped onto the film's director, who had also directed a surprisingly decent Steven Seagal DTV actioner, Pistol Whipped.

Over the years, Roel's name would come up regularly, often in conjunction with a DTV sequel that was leagues better than it had any right to be: Death Race 2 and 3, Scorpion King 3 and 4, The Man with the Iron Fists 2, etc. When I found out he would be directing a sequel to the John Woo cult classic, Hard Target, starring Scott Adkins, I knew it was time to dive into the man's filmography for myself. What I discovered was a treasure trove of surprisingly entertaining B-movies that had were clearly crafted by someone with passion for filmmaking.

When I finally got the opportunity to interview the man in connection to his new (and completely original film) Admiral, I knew I was in for a great interview.

James Couche: Hey Roel, could you tell me how you became involved with Admiral?
Roel Reine: I remember, as a kid growing up in Holland, you read stories about this person (Michiel de Ruyter), and then you go to museums and you see painting of the sea battles he fought and it always intrigued me. But nobody really dares make a movie in Holland about this historical part of us.
Doing a lot of low budget action movies in Hollywood got me the skills to understand how you spend money, how you do visual effects and how you can manage action. So a few years back, I decided I wanted to go back to Holland and make this movie. My best friend and I wrote the script for two years, researching and writing. Then we raised the money and made the movie.
JC: How would you say your experience making direct to video sequels in Hollywood prepare you to make such an epic film?
RR: I believe in the Ten Thousand Hours rule: You have to do something for 10 thousand hours to get good at it. So, when I came to Hollywood ten years ago, I told my agent and my manager that I'll do anything for the next few years because I want to be on the set and I want to be a good director. That's the reason I did a lot of sequels and prequels; on every movie, I learned so much.
Doing the Death Race movies, I learned to do action on that scope on a small budget (6-7 million dollars), and they look like 30 or 50 million. We learned how to spend money, deal with time issues and work with the studio. Same with the Scorpion King movies; dealing with costumes, and horses and tons of extras. From every movie you learn and I was able to use it when making Admiral.
JC: Is there any difference to the way you approach an original film as opposed to a DTV sequel?
RR: I think the way of directing is very similar. I never really viewed it as a prequel or sequel; I viewed it as a movie that has to work on its own. You have to work with your restrictions of budget, time, and location.
Now in movies like Man With the Iron Fists 2, Rza had created a brand and I wanted to respect the brand; the brand he created in the same world and the same style. 
The same goes for Hard Target 2, I wanted to create an homage to John Woo; that's what you do with movies, you speak within the genre and the world. But for the most part, these are their own movies that aren't dictated by their predecessors.
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But for Admiral, the big difference is it was mine and I could do whatever I wanted; I wasn't dealing with a studio. I had final cut, I decided ever shot and every costume; It gave me so much control. This movie is a very personal one.
JC: All of your films look so much more epic than you'd expect considering the limited budgets you work with. For all the indie action filmmakers out there, what advice can you give them for making the most out of limited resources.
RR: I always shoot on location; all those sequels and prequels were shot on location. I never build sets because it's a lot of money you waste when you could save money and get authenticity from a real location.
As a director and DP, I have a very solid plan. In pre-production, I map out everything I want to do and communicate that to every department. Even during location scouting, I'm planning out every shot, where the cranes will be, where the helicopters will fly; I'm shooting the movie in my head. This means, when we hit the set, we start shooting immediately. I still see a lot of colleague directors get to the set and need to figure it out, they have to think about what they have to do; I know exactly what we're going to do. That's the reason I get, like, 100 shots a day while they can only get 20. All those shots will help you create the scope; you have more footage, more angles, more freedom in editing. It just looks richer.
Because of the way I plan my shoots, I already know that the shots will work before we even shoot them; we don't waste any time. So when you're doing a low budget action movie like Death Race or Admiral, when you do action you only get one take. When you do a Fast and Furious movie, you have 12 versions of the same car that can be blown up. I only get one car...I have to make the most of it.
We had about 3 ships for the Admiral. We had to use visual effects to create entire fleets. We shot tons of angles of the ships and we composited them into the background. We were only really filming 2 or 3 ships for real and the rest were copies of the same ships with the sails recolored. So that's how we did it. Then we did the “Google Earth” shots which I call them, which were from a far distance. Those were very expensive so we had to previz and storyboard them to make the most of what we had.
It's the managing of money and resources that is essential.
JC: It's all about having a solid plan and executing it.
RR: Yes. I think also, I always try to take it very seriously. Even if it's a direct to video prequel or sequel. Even if you only have 3 million dollars like for 12 Rounds: Reloaded, I'll take it very seriously because I want to make the best movie possible. I really don't like a lot of straight to video prequels and sequels today that look like shit; it doesn't need to be that way. For that money, you can make a movie look really good by being smart; by approaching it like “I want to make a really good movie” not “I have a job making sequels.” I never saw it that way.
Every day I'm fighting for the best angles, the best lighting, the best acting and biggest stunts. All that energy goes onto the screen.

Admiral, featuring Rutger Howard (Surviving the Game) and Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), is available now on VOD and in select theaters, and we'll be waiting with baited breathe for Hard Target 2 later this year. Fingers crossed!.

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