From the GATW Archives: Interview: Noah Buschel (writer/director – THE MISSING PERSON)

Noah Buschel’s recent flick, THE MISSING PERSON, opens this Friday in Los Angeles (but if you’re in New York, you can catch it now). I spoke with Noah last week about the film, which follows a private detective (played by the eerie and awesome Michael Shannon) trailing a man who’s been missing since the real life unfortunate events of 9/11.

The other day I uploaded my interview with Michael Shannon, and now you can check out Noah’s after the jump. Be sure to catch THE MISSING PERSON if it’s playing in your area. If it isn’t, bug the hell out of your local indie cinema!

GATW: Where did the story come from?

Noah Buschel: The story came from seeing a lot of missing person signs around 9/11 around the Village. You know, it’s normally the kind of thing you only see in Western [movies] and all of a sudden there were all these posters up. Everyone was wondering where everyone was and I guess my mind started to wander off those missing person posters. Perhaps, I had this fantasy about what I would do if people thought I was dead and maybe I would I want to take a couple weeks out of my life…you know.

GATW: When you were writing the screenplay, did you follow up with any of [the missing person flyers] or follow any private investigators around?

NB: No, there are elements of realism but it’s like a comic book poem. It’s not really about a detective now, I would imagine detectives now don’t wear suits even. In fact, the one detective I know is pretty much always in a Nike sweat suit. I mean, it’s not about detectives now.

GATW: One thing I noticed about the film was that it was shot with a lot of low lighting, can you talk about that and why you decided to go that route?

NB: Well you know, me and the DP Ryan Samul we were very conscience of not wanting to do kind of sexy shadow contrast noir cliche. You know, one thing about old noir [films] is you’ll see a detective drink four martinis and then he wakes up in the morning and he’s fine. So we wanted to create, you’re in the detective’s mind, everything is through his eyes, so we just wanted approximate some sort of drunken depression, basically.

GATW: How did Michael Shannon get involved? Looking at his IMDb [profile] he has a vast [assortment] of roles and they’re all different from one another, so how did he get involved?

NB: The second movie I made with Amy Ryan and we became friends and she’s friends with Mike [Shannon] and she brought Mike by a screening of my second film and Mike liked it and we started talking and Amy kind of said “you know, I think he’d be really good for that noir movie you wrote THE MISSING PERSON”. And you know, one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have much time on these indie movies and the best thing to do is to cast theater actors and that’s what Mike is. Even though he’s blowing up as a movie actor he’s really a theater guy. If you have TV actors it might not work if you only can do two takes and you’re running around but with someone like Mike, even something like just knowing your lines really well is extremely helpful on these low budget movies. Also, and some people don’t know what I’m talking about, but he kind of reminds me of Steve McQueen. So I thought it would be interesting to have a drunken Bullitt [laughs] .

GATW: My follow up with that is, you used Amy [Ryan] and Merritt [Wever] in your previous films, are you going to keep that going?

NB: Well, I live with Merritt and I don’t think she wants to work with me anymore [laughs]. So, I don’t know. I don’t have any roles for them in the couple projects I have coming up. I’m a movie goer so there’s so many people that I want to work with. If it was a big ensemble I would definitely try to get a lot of those people back in there for sure, but I don’t really have anything like that coming up.

GATW: Is there anything about THE MISSING PERSON that you haven’t been asked or that you want to tell movie goers or you fans?

NB: A lot of people have been asking me, I guess, there’s been some confusion about what [THE MISSING PERSON] is. Some people like it and some people don’t like it, and I’ve been talking to some of the actors and we came up with this term that [the film] is a comic book poem. So maybe that will help clarify what we were trying to do.

GATW: What are you working on next?

NB: I’m doing a film about a woman who is an agoraphobic starring Martha Plimpton. Martha Plimpton is this woman who hasn’t left her house in like four years and John Ortiz plays this plumber who comes in and they fall in love. I guess it’s a romantic comedy.

From the GATW Archives: Interview: THE MISSING PERSON actor Michael Shannon

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Michael Shannon’s one humble dude. You probably wouldn’t expect that after seeing some of his insane performances (BUG, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD). I spoke with Michael on the phone last week about his recent role, THE MISSING PERSON, and the man’s answers to all my questions were very honest, very cool, and very well-formed. Check the out the interview, as well as the film’s official synopsis, poster, and trailer after the jump!

THE MISSING PERSON’s official synopsis: “Writer/Director Noah Buschel’s third feature, The Missing Person, stars Michael Shannon as John Rosow, a private detective hired to tail a man, Harold Fullmer, on a train from Chicago to Los Angeles. Rosow gradually uncovers Harold’s identity as a missing person; one of the thousands presumed dead after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Persuaded by a large reward, Rosow is charged with bringing Harold back to his wife in New York City against his will. Ultimately Rosow must confront whether the decision to return Harold to a life that no longer exists is the right one. The Missing Person co-stars Academy Award © Nominee Amy Ryan and features a strong supporting cast including Margaret Colin, Linda Emond, Yul Vazquez and John Ventimigli

Missing Person Poster

GATW: Can you talk about how you got involved with THE MISSING PERSON? How you met up with Noah [Buschel, director], and what that process was like?

Michael Shannon: Well basically, it was through Amy Ryan [co-star]. Amy is a friend of mine and we had worked together on another project and Noah had written THE MISSING PERSON and he was trying to figure out who would be right for the part of John and Amy suggested me. And there was a reading, I guess they were trying to drum up some financing for the movie, and they had a reading of the screenplay. So Noah asked me to do the reading and he enjoyed what I did at the reading, I guess, enough to ask me to do the film and it was pretty much that simple. But Amy Ryan definitely was responsible for getting Noah and I in the same room.

GATW: For your role, you play an alcoholic private investigator; did you hang out with any PIs? What type of research did you do for the role?

MS: Well, I actually didn’t hang out with any detectives because I felt like was John was a pretty unique character in a pretty unique situation. You know the thing about the film, at least what I see when I watch it, is that it has a very dream-like kind of imaginary quality to it. I think a lot of this story is actually, potentially going on in John’s head, I don’t necessarily think it’s something that’s actually happening. I mean I wouldn’t want to take that possibility away from anybody watching it, but just in the way I personally approached it, I felt like it was much more than trying to convince anybody that I was a detective or that I understood what it was like to be a detective. It was more about— what exactly had happened to this guy? What was wrong with him? Why was he living in a dumpy little apartment in Chicago in a drunken haze? And going on that journey.

GATW: This film is obviously an indie film and it’s fantastic. What about indie films draws you to it?

MS: There’s a lot about it actually, generally on an independent film you have to work with fewer resources in a shorter amount of time. Which is a good thing for the actors because on a film that has a lot of money and a lot of time, you spend a lot of time sitting around. But on a lower budget film you don’t spend much time sitting around at all, you show up and you’re working all day and you go home at night with a sense of accomplishment as opposed to just feeling like you sat around all day long doing nothing. So that’s enjoyable.

I also feel like, if THE MISSING PERSON was a big budget studio film it would be a totally different film and Noah wouldn’t have been able to take a lot of the risks that he takes. It’s a very unusual movie and Noah makes a lot of decisions in it that are unconventional and can be confusing or unclear, [things] you have to think about, you have to meet the movie halfway. In a studio movie, it’s all about making sure that you don’t have to think about anything, that you just sit there and are excited the whole time. So I guess those are a couple of the differences I enjoy.

GATW: You just answered my follow up [question], I was going to ask that you have JONAH HEX coming up and if you could talk about indie [films] versus big budget. But I guess you just answered that with big budget you just go in, eat your popcorn and have some fun.

MS: Although JONAH HEX—for a studio movie—it was not a big budget, they were kind of roughing it down there. On JONAH HEX I was only there a couple of days, I just kind of popped in and out and had fun doing a couple of little scenes. But that was a hard shoot, I kind of know Josh [Brolin, star of JONAH HEX] a little bit, and I talked to him about it and he really had to bust his butt on that [movie] to get it done.

GATW: I recently saw [Werner] Herzog’s BAD LIEUTENANT, which is really awesome and you recently did MY SON, MY SON WHAT HAVE YE DONE with him and it’s garnering a ton of buzz but it’s getting a really limited release. Do you know if it’s going to have a wider release after it’s New York December release?

MS: The film MY SON, MY SON WHAT HAVE YE DONE has played in, I believe, three film festivals. It has played at Venice, Toronto and the Telluride [film festivals]. And the critical response has been…not entirely unfavorable from everyone but largely somewhat unfavorable from most people so, I think that’s had an effect on it. It’s a very unusual film, but I don’t know what that would surprise anybody. I mean it’s a Werner Herzog film. I’ve seen most of films and most of his films are extremely unconventional. But for some reason, this one is really seeming to irritate some people. I don’t know why, I don’t know what they expected when they walked into the theater. So I guess what they’re trying to do, the strategy right now, is to bring it out in New York and see how the general public feels about it here and then if people are digging it then maybe they’ll try to branch it out. I mean Werner’s films are not blockbusters, they never have been, and usually people discover them a few years after they come out.

GATW: For my last question, in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD you were this awesome, crazy guy. Same with BUG. Do you like playing those types of characters or is it just what you audition for and that’s what you got?

MS: I’d say it’s a mixture of the two. I mean, I can’t speak for everyone but I find that a life can be pretty challenging and difficult sometimes, and that people struggle. So the characters I gravitate towards usually are struggling with a challenge of some sort or another. I think that’s kind of why drama exists in the first place. I don’t know how interesting or compelling people who don’t have any problems are. I mean I guess that would be nice if the world was filled with people who didn’t have any problems but I don’t know interesting it would be. So yeah, I guess I’m drawn to people who are suffering in some way or another.