ATTRITION: Cinematographer Wych Kaos Talks Film Details, Working With Steven Seagal And Career Growth
If you're new to my work here or to my stances on certain films and figures, then as a point of relevance, I'll tell you right off the bat - I haven't been hugely interested in action star Steven Seagal for a while. To date, my favorite film is Nico: Above The Law next to the 1991 film, Out For Justice while having grown up with all of his movies right up until he entered the straight-to-DVD arena.
Wych Kaos: It's pretty funny. Someone sent me the article from City On Fire and it mentioned Attrition, which has been around for a bit now but it also had the latest update, which was pretty accurate, and I was like, how the heck did he know? There was a link on the word confirmed for my involvement and I clicked it. As it turns out, I confirmed it through my own Instagram pictures while on our scout. [laughs] I'll figure out this social media thing one of these days.
WK: This movie has been a pretty interesting process. I met Steven years ago as he and I were both cutting our respective movies in the same building at Franchise Pictures. He took me out on a couple of dinner meetings and we hit it off. Fast forward to last year, and my company was doing Production Services for Daniel Zirilli on Asian Connection and Steven was in it. I didn't think he'd remember me but he did instantly, and he was only here for a short time but we had a good time together. From then on, we stayed in touch.
WK: Around December Steven let me know he wanted to make the film and shoot it here in Thailand. He was working with some producers and had Raul Ingles on as a director. I thought this was a very good move because Raul is a terrific writer, although after a few months of false starts, the project eventually switched over to Steven's hands whereby he could handle the financing himself.
We spoke and he told me he was tired of other people running his career and told me about how there's always two, three sometimes four groups selling a Steven Seagal movie at every market, despite that he's usually never heard of any of them. He went on to inform me of how these people would presell the movie, get a budget and then make him an offer to come shoot for however many days and Bam! You have a Steven Seagal movie.
WK: Strange indeed, and now you and your readers know why. He's tired of it. He wants to do things differently and take control of his own destiny now. He talked to me about how his budgets were getting smaller and smaller, and with Bond fees, finance fees and everything else, there wasn't much left to make the films. It was a vicious cycle and he knew he needed to do something about it.
He wrote the script for Attrition a couple of years ago, so he owns it. He then went out and got his own financing; Steven knows a lot of people and I can attest to that first hand. He's producing the film, as well as directing and starring.FCSyndicate: So he's really getting his feet dug in on this one.
WK: Indeed. The movie isn't just a paycheck to him. He's not just coming in to hit his marks and say his lines and then hop back on a plane. He rewrote the script to fit Thailand and he's very well aware that he has a fiduciary responsibility to his investors. Basically, he's taking a massive gamble on himself. And I don't think he's ever felt better going into a movie as he does right now.
WK: Our financing isn't a hundred percent in place yet, but he's been in Bangkok for almost two weeks now. On his own dime. We've been working on the script and going on location scouts. In the BANGKOK HEAT! All of us have been extremely impressed. He hasn't complained about anything - he's been very positive and has made himself available to all of his crew. I've spoken to a couple of people who have worked with him and everyone is pleasantly surprised.
WK: Thanks! Personally, I think it's a great thing that he's doing, and while I can, I will help him in anyway I'm able. For now, this means I'm helping him produce the movie here and he's been kind enough to ask me to be his DP. Which I've gladly accepted.
WK: Steven told me this is sort of like the start of his second act in his career; Not only does he want to make his own movies, but he wants to start to producing them for other up and coming martial artists. Again, I think this is a great idea.
WK: We haven't started our casting process at all, although I told Steven that there are a lot of talented new faces in the region in both acting and martial arts. Moreover, we have a lot of familiar faces that may be less well known but are good actors who live around here that are in pretty much every movie that shoots here.
Steven will have a look at everyone and do a few casting sessions. If it doesn't work out then we'll reach out beyond the region.
WK: Steven is an extremely smart person. He's been doing this for so long that there have been so many evolutions of Steven Seagal-the person and Steven Seagal-the movie star to more recently Steven Seagal-reality star, YouTube star and so on. He is very aware and conscious of his fans, and he has a lot of fans. Yes, he's lost a lot of fans over the years but very few people are able to have a career in front of the camera for as long as Steven has. And the fans that remain are extremely loyal.
I've been able to spend a lot of time with Steven recently either in person or on the phone (thank God for FaceTime) and I can unequivocally say, Steven has been extremely honest and open with me. The conversations that he and I have had are unbelievable to me. There are not many moments where anyone gets to see a vulnerable Steven Seagal, I mean when was the last time you remember seeing Steven getting hit, kicked or punched in a movie? I'm not saying he was ever vulnerable with me, he wasn't (I'm barely five feet and 64kgs soaking wet). But he's been extremely honest with me, and to the point where I can see how unhappy he's been with some of his more recent movies.
WK: Attrition is still very much a Steven Seagal movie, and we are still confined to a budget dictated by the current market. It goes back to Steven having very loyal fans. It's the reason why so many financiers and producers want to make Steven Seagal movies. The demand is still out there. His movies still make money. It's diminished significantly especially from his heyday, but in order to turn it around, it has to be an evolution, not a revolution where you can just throw out everything and say, jump into a straight comedy.
His first step is taking control and stepping back into the director's chair. He's gone over every single scene with me, what he wants, how he wants to do it. The script itself has evolved from the first draft I read to the current draft we have and it will continue to evolve as locations are locked and casts are filled in. But more importantly and simply because he is directing this one, it will be the first Steven Seagal movie in a long, long while that will truly be a Steven Seagal movie. Not just as a filmmaker reading a script, but as a fan first and foremost, that excites me more than anything about this movie, and as a filmmaker, I'm very honored that Steven came to me and asked me to not just be a part of it, but to help him with what we all hope to be his next evolution in his career.
His hope, our hope is that Attrition will more than satisfy his fan base and at the same time, find new fans, but most importantly, bring back some of his older fans. He knows he has a tall order for the goals he's now set himself with, we have to turn a big enough profit, bigger than what the market has been in recent years in order for him to obtain a bigger budget for his next movie. Then, we hope we can repeat and create a new cycle, and this time around, one that is constantly evolving and not just rehashing. He already has his next movie locked in, and that script I'm very excited about as it's something he hasn't done before.
But again, however. Steven knows it's a process. He's going to take things as they come and not rush it. You aren't going to all of a sudden Steven in Attrition with a bunch of wirework or CG for that matter, but you also aren't going to see him in a shoot out where the bad guys stand at point A, Steven stands at point B and bullets are fired and a hundred squibs go off and then bad guys die.
There will be prop guns, squibs and gunfire, etc., but Steven has really thought out how he wants to execute them and I think his fans will be pleasantly surprised.
WK: I don't wish to get too much into the plot details at the moment and would rather let the audience experience and observe it for themselves. The most important and exciting thing to me right now is Steven's dedication to his new goals. And he's picked Attrition as the first movie in this new chapter of his, and I think it's a perfect choice. It's still very much a Steven Seagal type movie that audiences are used to, but it has enough opportunities in there for him to try new ideas and explore new ground.
WK: I don't know what will happen nor do I even know how Attrition is going to be received. However, as someone who grew up a massive Steven Seagal fan, I'm really excited to be able to play a part in Steven's new direction. We're going to do our best and give it everything we've got. Steven's going to lead the way and we'll see where we end up.
Stay tuned for more info on Attrition, as well as upcoming titles Killing Salazar and The Asian Connection.