Note: This Q&A contains some minor spoilers.
Would you ever rob a bank? Chances are you wouldn’t, but what if you had no other choice?
“7 Minutes” is the story of three friends who are forced to commit a brazen robbery due to a series of bad decisions. We spoke with actor Luke Mitchell and writer/director Jay Martin about the inspiration behind “7 Minutes” and what it was like on set. (Also check out our interview with the cinematographer and another lead actor!)
Shuffle: So “7 Minutes” is your first feature film to write and direct, correct? Why this film, and why now? What was your inspiration? How did it get started?
Jay Martin: I had been directing music videos, and I wanted to direct a feature, so I was trying to form an idea that you could do for a small budget and that would be not impossible to find financing for. So, in my family history, one of my ancestors actually robbed his uncle’s bank in Red Level, Alabama in 1943. And then I came up with this structure idea that these violent crimes and robberies take place in such a short amount of time – like 7 minutes. And so I said “What if we took a violent crime like a robbery and broke it down into the various elements, and in between those minutes filled in the backstory?” So that you could tell the story of the robbery while finding out how it went exactly the way it went, and then at the end you’d be back to real time.
Shuffle: That kind of leads into my next question, actually. One of the big things that stuck out to me while I was watching the film was the non-linear narrative structure – the mix of flashbacks and present day – and how you made it all come together in the end. Why did you decide to tell the story that way?
Jay: I think it was in the trying to create a situation where you could have a ticking clock underneath the whole story. So it was kind of always simmering, always moving forward with suspense. So that’s why I wanted to do it.
Shuffle: Who are your major filmmaker influences?
Jay: I”m a huge Scorsese and Tarantino fan.
Shuffle: That’s what I thought! I could tell.
Jay: I think you can see it in the movie. [Laughs] I probably borrowed a lot, but those are my inspirations.
Shuffle: Kevin Gage’s character was reminding me of a Tarantino character the whole time. That fringe jacket and everything…
Jay: When he put the fringe jacket on, it was like a magic moment for me.
Shuffle: There has to be a story behind that jacket.
Jay: So the wardrobe girl, Ashley Russell – who’s amazing, and she’s a costume designer – she brought in all this stuff for him. And his character is written as, like, this badass, rural, hick… badass… criminal.
Luke Mitchell: [Laughs] Yeah, that was two badasses.
Jay: Did I say he was badass? [Laughs] There was all this stuff – like more standard “Sons of Anarchy” kind of gear – and then there was this fringe jacket. And we were like “No, it’s too crazy.” And then we were like “Put it on.”
Luke: I thought it was a joke. When I saw it just hanging there I was like “Why do they have this? This is ridiculous! What is this, a Halloween party?” And then when Kevin Gage put it on, I just went “Okay. That’s why.”
Shuffle: Awesome. So what drew you to this film?
Luke: [Points to Jay] This guy. I got sent his script, and I read it, and I loved it. It was fun, and adrenaline-packed, and it was the sort of film that I would want to see at the movies.
Shuffle: What about the character of Sam?
Luke: Well it’s a great character. I mean, I saw myself in the role. He’s a good guy who wants the best for his family. And he has that innocence about him – he had these hopes and dreams, and they were crushed. Literally. His ankle was snapped. [Laughs] And he couldn’t continue. So where he thought he was gonna be, he’s so far behind that. So it’s just about him trying to make a better life, and in that process he makes some bad decisions. He doesn’t have the best examples or people around him. And I think everyone can relate to wanting something better for themselves and their family, but then not knowing exactly what to do or how to go about that. And if you happen to have, you know, a best friend who just got out of jail and a brother who’s a drug dealer, those influences are probably not the best.
Shuffle: If you were in Sam’s situation in real life, what would you do?
Luke: Good question… I would take my pregnant girl, I would drive away from my best friend and my brother and just start a new life somewhere else and hope that things picked up.
Shuffle: Maybe not rob a bank?
Luke: Maybe not rob a bank. Um, yeah. Maybe not be debted to a drug lord.
Shuffle: One last question. What was it like on set?
Luke: Fun. Very fun. The whole thing was fun. It was exhausting, but we had too much fun on set. We all got along really well, so we’d hang out off set and on weekends and stuff. And in the lead-up to the shoot, through the rehearsal process, we’d all hang out at the actual bars that we’d shoot at. And, you know, get to know the locals and really immerse ourselves in the town. I think that was integral.
Jay: Yeah. It was great. We had some promotional time ahead where it was more hanging out, where these guys got to bond. And I think it shows.