WWE and TNA's Al Snow, Matt Niehoff, and Brian Cunningham Talk Overtime
Okay, kids! Overtime: The Movie (review) releases to the masses on January 1, 2013, and fans will laugh until their eyes bleed in this latest sliver of horror/sci-fi lunacy.
We recently had the opportunity to set down with WWE Superstar AL Snow and the creative geniuses behind the film - Matt Niehoff and Brian Cunningham.
AMANDA DYAR: Overtime stars wrestling legend Al Snow and John Wells as the hit duo Raph and Max. How did you guys go about recruiting these two actors for the roles, and what directing tips did you give the duo that allowed them to work so well together?
MATT NIEHOFF: As a director, I wish this answer was more exotic. But honestly, John Wells and I used to play in bands together back in our younger years (there was always a debate on who had the bigger arms back then... Now... It's John). Anyway, he is good looking and has a fantastic personality, I knew he was perfect for the part of Max. How did Al get in the movie? He just showed up to the audition (he lived in Kentucky at the time).Since Al Snow was one of my childhood heroes, I wish I had a more epic story, but that was how it went down. As far as directing tips to get the chemistry between al and John down, that was really all them. I feel like the thing I said the most to them was: Forget what the script says, just do it how you would do it... John and Al had such great natural chemistry that Brian and I actually rewrote many scenes as we went along based on how we thought Al and John would play it out.
AMANDA: The film was in large part written, directed, edited and created by yourself and your partner in crime, Brian Cunningham. How difficult was creating Overtime with so many duties falling on your own shoulders, and were there any parts of creating the film that was easier with just the two of you working on it?
MATT: Coming from a commercial industry background, one of the biggest challenges is dealing with final creative approval, which can sometimes go through as many as 12 people. So, just having to work with Brian was a luxury. Brian and I are total opposites in every essence of the word, however, we are best friends. This is a formula for complete and perfect compromise. We both negate the negative aspects of our writing and visions. Meaning, we disagree a lot, but when we do agree on something it applies to a wider variety of audience. That's where Overtime came from. When you write, direct, and edit a movie I actually thing that it makes it easier because you almost have a finished product in your head before you even film anything.
AMANDA: The soundtrack of Overtime features many songs from the music group The VilleBillies. Were you guys familiar with the group before the film, how did you decide you wanted to feature the band's music in the film and how much of the great soundtrack was composed specifically for the film?
MATT: This one is a straight shot answer. I grew up with Demi (one of the lead singers) and before Overtime, I became friends with Tuck, the other lead singer. So when I said I was making a movie, they were all about being involved. Plus, being one of the biggest bands to come out of Kentucky, it was an honor to have them be a part of the film. My good friend Donnie and Amy created the Overtime theme song at the end credits. Since Overtime is sort of a tribute to the action movies from the 80's, it seemed right to have a theme song. All the rest of the music in the film was composed by the films sound designer Jason Paige. He is a musical genius.
AMANDA: Overtime is a horrific tale of survival all while presenting plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor throughout. What made you guys decide to incorporate so many different genres into the film, and what difficulties did it present as a writer to feature the different elements needed to make the movie work?
BRIAN CUNNINGHAM: When we decided to make Overtime, we really just wanted to incorporate all the elements we loved in movies growing up. That included our favorite family films, action films like Lethal Weapon, and horror/sci-fi movies like Aliens among others. There was a lot of brainstorming and trial and error (at one point we had a pretty heavy drama on our hands) until we worked the plot into something that was off-the-wall, had all the elements we loved and still had a strong story backbone...that of a Dad trying to be the best Dad he can be under tough circumstances.
AMANDA: A short ways into the film, our heroes encounter a building full of undead extraterrestrials appropriately named Zaliens. Where did the idea for these creatures came about, and how fun was is to write and create the violent scenes of Zalien slaughter?
BRIAN: Well, I feel like these kinds of movies live and die by how creative you go with the creatures. That doesn't mean you necessarily need millions of dollars of effects, though. We wanted to create a monster that was evocative of a bunch of different screen monsters without being immediately identifiable. So the idea of a zombie-alien, which is a group of dead, slimy, tentacled humans acting as a sort of alien collective, came from that. Then we added the overly-phallic tentacles, and John and Al just sort of ran with the humor. We had a blast coming up with new and horrific ways to dispense with our Zalien horde.
And the fact that a new sting would reanimate a previously dead host meant we could use our favorite extras in multiple scenes. Which was great when we were working with such a small budget.
AMANDA: Any horror fan can appreciate the work that went into creating Overtime, but gamers that watch the film will notice plenty of video game references throughout the film. Where did you draw inspiration for some of these parody moments in the film and what are some of your favorite games, personally?
BRIAN: To be honest, I'm not a huge gamer. I know Matt is, so this might be better suited for him. Instead, I was the guy in college who would watch his friends play Metal Gear Solid for hours on end just so I could watch all the cut scenes.
I do love to watch movie adaptations of video games though. Most of them are pretty bad, and Overtime is kind of a parody of video game adaptations as much as anything. Video games and horror movies have elements that players/viewers just expect, so we decided that instead of fighting those we would embrace them and play them out in a tongue-in-cheek way. So you have the "boss" fight. You have the bottle-neck machine gun shoot out. You have the inexplicable cache of weapons and the harrowing race to safety. It's all part of the fun of the genre.
Then when we worked out the idea of the Y-Box 720, it was a great way to really have fun with the video game influences and tie the movie together. The Y-Box commercial was a blast to shoot because it put the gaming culture under a magnifying glass and let us lovingly poke fun at it. And hopefully it lets you know that we aren't taking ourselves too seriously.
AMANDA DYAR: You play a badass hitman named Raph in the film Overtime. Can you tell us a bit more about your character in the film and how you got along with co-star John Wells on and off set?
AL SNOW: I believe as a character Raph is truly a good guy. Yes, he is a hitman and does kill people, but being a religious man he justifies this by believing he is doing god’s work (as he only kills those he believes deserve it and have slipped through the law). Raph also feels this is his way of making the world safe for his family.
As far as working with John Wells―I really think I could not have gotten any luckier to have John as a partner on this film both figuratively and literally. John is a great actor, but more importantly, a really great human being. John and I had never met, and the very first scene was like we had been best friends for years, and that chemistry I think is what really makes this film.
AMANDA: Obviously, Raph is a good guy and a family man at heart, despite his rough exterior and his unusual job. How difficult was getting in the mindset of playing the killer we see in some scenes and then showing your softer side when Raph was at home with his family?
AL: Getting into the mindset of living such a dichotomous life was actually not all that difficult―considering I’ve been kind of doing that throughout my whole wrestling career. (laughter) Being on the road and becoming the character you would see in the ring night in and night out―then returning home and just being a regular guy who was a dad and husband.
A guy who one minute was ramped up and wanting to tear a guy’s head off to just like in the movie―then getting a call from my wife asking why the lawn mower doesn’t work. (laughter)
AMANDA: In addition to your acting career, you've also have a Hall of Fame worthy wrestling career that spans your work with ECW, the WWE during the Attitude Era, Tough Enough and now TNA under your belt, and we'd be remiss not to ask you about it. Is there any one moment of your wrestling career that sticks out above the rest in your mind and what does the future hold in the business that you've already given so much too? Also, what in the world ever happened to Head?
AL: I’ve been very lucky to have gotten to do what I have loved doing for as long as I have gotten to do it. I have told people that I have been on vacation for 30 years now. (laughter) Presently I have had the good fortune of being involved with TNA and Impact wrestling on Spike TV―as both an on air character and the Senior Director of talent relations and programming. It is truly a great opportunity to still be an active part of the business I love so much and a part helping a company grow into something that could eventually rival WWE.
When I started getting to the end of my in ring career a big concern was what would I have to replace what I had been so driven by and passionate about―thankfully I feel I can now direct all of that into acting. My hope and aspiration is that I can be lucky enough to get to do something yet again that I truly love for another 30 years.
Oh and HEAD is still by my side. You know what they say "Good HEAD is hard to find and when you do you’ve got to keep a hold of it." (laughter) Not to mention if I don’t it’s not like they can get around on their own since they don’t have any legs.
Overtime is scheduled to release on DVD, Blu-ray and Video-on-Demand January 1, 2013. For more information on the film, check out the official Overtime: The Movie website.
Raph (Al Snow) and Max (John Wells) only kill bad guys, and only after their boss Sam, a high-powered attorney, has cashed a nice paycheck for getting her sleazy clients off the hook. When Sam sends our heroes on a routine hit, they find themselves caught up in a conspiracy they never imagined. But whatever trouble they’ve gotten themselves into is nothing compared to the wrath of Raph’s wife if he doesn’t make it home in time for his son’s birthday party. Being a good hitman is tough; being a good dad is killer!
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