“The Refuge” is the latest movie by Keith Sutliff, a writer, director, producer and star of “The Mason Brothers.” “The Refuge” which is a crime drama about a getaway driver in L.A. that is opening late June.
Recently, Keith took the time to grant an exclusive interview to HVY where he discussed this movie and more.
Meagan Meehan (MM): You always wear so many hats – but which one fits the best, in your opinion?
Keith Sutliff (KS): Directing. I feel carrying the overall vision of the film from start to the finish is my strong point.
MM: And what did you originally set out to be- actor?
KS: An actor yes. I came here to Hollywood with no idea of really wanting to write, produce, direct or even edit. Be a filmmaker overall basically. But I feel making my own work and acting in it has been a better route for me to control my destiny and career here in this town then doing the audition runs.
MM: l I assume part of the purpose of directing movies that you star in is so you can control your own career, in some respects? Instead of waiting for people to knock on your door… you knock on your own!?
KS: Yes absolutely. Kind of leading off the last answer above. I feel you can’t wait around for work in this town you have to be proactive and make your own and act in it if you really want to act. Hollywood is way too saturated with actors and not enough jobs to wait around for work. More competition then you know. Making your own work you control your destiny and career as an actor. Also, as a filmmaker/director/producer as well.
MM: Was “The Mason Brothers” your first major film – in terms of one you directed/starred in?
KS: Yes, before that I just did short films practicing my art from film school. I then opened my company in 2016 and made my 1st feature film “The Mason Brothers”. However, I took the same business model of playing a lead role in my films as I did with my short films and applied it to my 1st feature The Mason Brothers. I still do it to this day and especially with this upcoming film “The Refuge” as the only lead character (the getaway driver “Markus Hunter”).
MM: How different an experience has it been working on “The Refuge”?
KS: Well, “The Refuge” is a completely different type of film then The Mason Brothers. The Mason Brothers is essentially a stage play taking place in a cobbler shop over a span of a few days for the entire film. There were multiple rooms in the shop we filmed. Then there were 2 other locations we used and that was it. In “The Refuge” half of the film takes place in a getaway car all over Los Angeles at night. The set is constantly moving and there are tons of locations seen. Also, a lot of outdoor locations. Then some locations in an apartment. We were always on the go at night from location to location.
MM: What did you learn working on “The Mason Brothers” that you decided to do or not do on the new film?
KS: I learned to keep the cast and crew to a minimal number since we were always going to be shooting on the go from location to location. I have always shot with a smaller crew. When moving from location to location smaller is better than bigger because it takes less time to move a smaller crew/cast then larger. A smaller production team overall is better for any film, I think. The less communication and information needs to be relayed to producers and people on the management side to send on down the chain for people on the film.
M : And who do you play in the film?
KS: Markus Hunter, the getaway driver/gunman for hire.
MM: Tell us about your co-stars – and where you found them?
KS: I had a working relationship with some of them prior and knew them from years before. Reine Swart is an excellent actress and plays across from me in the film as a strong supporting part. She is fantastic and very talented. I met her at a premiere of hers a while back called “The Lullaby”. Same with Demetrius Stear I met him a few years ago at a premiere of his from a mutual acquaintance and we have become friends since. Then Matthew Webb who plays an organized criminal doing jobs with my character I have known since middle school.
MM: The trailer suggests a tone similar to the Ryan Gosling movie “Drive”- is that a close comparison?
KS: Well I think “Drive” is a good movie, but this is a totally different film. Yes, it is about a getaway driver in Los Angeles. However, this guy is more of a gunman for hire and this film is very dark overall. Also, to mention it all takes place at night. Like all my films a very dark theme is my approach to them. The film also has a completely different plot to it so I would say not really a comparison to “Drive.”
MM: Does the movie involve you driving dangerously?
KS: Yes, I would say so. You have to watch the film though and judge it for yourself.
MM: Can you talk about your character’s arc?
KS: For sure, I don’t want to ruin the film, but this character is strictly all business. However, in the story things go bad for him when he takes a job involving obtaining millions of dollars of casino heist money from a guy’s warehouse that he gets contracted for from a business associate of his. People start going after him, his associates, and his partner Staci (Reine Swart) which over the story forces him to prioritize things in his life that mean more to him. So, he changes by the end of the story from who he was.
MM: And you’re having the premiere for the film at the Egyptian?
KS: I am. Great historic theatre. Had my first one there too “The Mason Brothers.”
MM: For those who want to ‘star’ in movies, would you recommend they do their own projects – like you have?
KS: Well you know that is a question people always ask. I think people should try both and what works best for them they should stick to. I mean some things work better for others so there is no one way or answer. People need to try out what works best for them. I have seen people have success both ways by doing the audition runs only or making their own stuff and being in it.