Exclusive Team Clayne interview with producer of Clayne Crawford movie Tinker

Recently the producer and co-screenwriter Tom Bhramayana took some time out to have a chat with Jo from Team Clayne about Tinker, Clayne Crawford’s new movie out now in selected movie theatres in the US, hopefully around the world soon, and available to pre-order on Amazon now.

Words: copyright Team Clayne

Photos: copyright Tinker / Tom Bhramayana

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Sonny-and-Clayne

Thank you for you time Tom, it was much appreciated by the whole of Team Clayne.

How did you come up with the idea for Tinker?

Sonny (Marler, Director) actually is a long-time friend with Clayne Crawford and Christian Kane, they met 20 years ago and that was at a time when they were all pursuing their acting careers.

They took a class with Tom Ardavany and he actually runs a phenomenal course for aspiring actors, people who want to learn the craft, and as their friendships grew over two decades.

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Sonny had experience with reality TV documentary and videos and short films but he always said he wanted to make a feature film, Clayne and Christian well, they both committed to doing a feature film so he brought all the main talent together that we have in Tinker.

As far as the writing goes, it was a combination of years of ideas at first and those notes that were passed down to me from Sonny was the brain child of him and Clayne coming up with the idea of a family film.

Of course, Clayne wanted his son to be a part of it too, so when we first started writing back in November/ October of 2012 we had a very minimal script but it was approved by everybody that was involved and we decided to go ahead with this seed into production.

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The Tinker script wasn’t complete or full until the following year when we came back having raised money through Kickstarter so it was probably about a two year process to get to the story that you see today, or you will see.

What were the inspirations for the characters?

Sonny is a huge fan of Nikola Tesla and I am a huge fan of science and mechanics and we wanted to provide something that the average person could relate to.

So all the characters that we have, whether it’s going to be Grady Jnr (a recluse, keeps himself to himself, you know a farmer), or the child which is played by Colton Crawford, called Kai.

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Kai was an inspiration based on the book called ‘Beyond The Indigo Children’ by PMH Atwater (who actually has a cameo appearance as Aunt Meko in Tinker).

We wanted to have another culture that was going to be involved because everybody in this film has a different position or a different belief, so while Grady is an agnostic character he doesn’t believe in much but science, we have Colton Crawford who represents a new generation of children who are wiser and smarter than they’ve ever been before.

And then Christian Kane who represented more of mother earth, based on his character being half Choctaw and half French – so we wanted to connect to people. What I mean by that is everybody has their own viewpoints, millions and millions of different views, but that does not mean that shouldn’t be able to come together for the benefit of the greater good.

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So those characters were created originally and we built the supporting characters and cast around those characters and the events that were going to unfold.

But we did know that we wanted Clayne Crawford to play a character that he’s never played before. He does fantastic as a tough guy and a leader and as someone who knows what he’s doing and knows what he wants, whether he’s a criminal or, and if I can use the term, as a red neck like in Baytown Outlaws or as Riggs… I was so happy to see him get that role because I knew that they had the budget to really push him to provide the best character and acting he could do. He totally exceeded my expectations and I’m sure almost anybody’s expectation who was in love with the original franchise of lethal weapon.

Sonny told Clayne you’re gonna have these ticks and these movements and kinda like an autistic nature, on the spectrum, but we didn’t really put that into the script but that was the type of thing that we wanted because this is this person, this is Grady Jnr – he was a loner, kept to himself, nobody understood him but it didn’t mean that he wasn’t a brilliant man and he had a lot to contribute to society.

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We wanted Grady to emulate that but we didn’t want people to think that he was an outcast. This is a movie about people who are under the radar and when inspired they can change the world so that was the core of our cast and of our characters.

What was Clayne like to work with?

Disciplined – that was one of the things that I respected about him because I come from a disciplined industry.

First off, he was dedicating a lot of his time away from his family because the only times we were actually able to shoot was during the Christmas holiday and Clayne already had a very busy slate whether it was Rectify or going in to shoot Spectral and other projects like NCIS.

He already had a very busy schedule and the fact that he opened up his doors, his property, his workshop, his family and gave us access to his farm it was amazing – and we were amateurs, we’re all amateurs to a certain degree, in the grand scheme of things and what he did was, he allowed us to take up his time, which was Alabama based.

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For the very first shoot we started in November/December 2012 and then we came back a year later and shot again in around the December in 2013.

But when I’m saying disciplined he really was, he got into his character – and his character is very quiet in Tinker but he did come totally on board and he did give advice to Sonny because he had been in the industry and he’s very knowledgeable on camera angles, he’s very knowledgeable on directing films and what it would look like so between him basically being an agent for Colton and then also acting in the movie we tried to do our best to be respectful of his time.

Now, of course, in this industry you might miss out on something and the producer will say it will cost time – Clayne was missing time with his family, it was freezing cold and at one time it got down to -9 degrees so the environment by itself made production very difficult but it pushed us to be better, so we took any feedback as constructive criticism, and to this day we can’t thank him enough for being more of a person on our set, than an actor.

He was a pleasure to work with.

Did the son outshine the Dad on screen?!

I would say he did!

A lot of people that have seen the movie say he did but the main reasons why Colton excelled in what he was doing is he was actually being directed by his dad during takes so I think that because he had a familiar face like his papa on set, that kept a certain focus because he was a six year old boy when we first turned up on set and this kept his discipline because Colton is a playful person and he joked around and he loved to grab the camera but then when we weren’t ready he’d be like, ‘Can we go back to the RV and sit up on my top bunk and play my games?’, so a child at heart and a child in person he was really…

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As a matter of fact the stuff that you see in Tinker were moments when Colton took the script and turned it into a child and so his ability to take what we had as far as an idea and then turn it into a characteristic or dialogue coming from a six year old that was really all him.

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Such a young bright mind and actually very talented – we didn’t know what to expect because Colton wasn’t playing himself and he was really doing this to be alongside his dad but what came was phenomenal, they fed off each other and the results… well, we couldn’t have asked for more, especially from a 6 year old who had never acted in front of a camera before, never taken any acting classes!

Was a special part written for Chalet Lizette Brannan?

Correct, Chalet did not come in during the first production, she actually discovered Tinker during our Kickstarter campaign in 2013.

Her father reached out to us and Glen said that Chalet loved the 8 minute reel that we posted and she wanted to be part of the film.

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We knew that we were missing an element for Colton’s character and that element was another child, a sounding board, something that gave a kid’s fantasy imagination type of friend.

When we actually spoke to Glen and he said ‘my daughter would love to be in this movie’, I told him we don’t even have a character for that so after giving it some thought, after we got a commitment from Chalet and her team, we decided to go into the script that we originally had and embellish on some of these elements and make the story arc much more rounded and much more surprising, so we created Abby, which she was basically of Choctaw descent, that she was the niece of Boudreaux, which is played by Mr Kane.

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Abby was a fantastic sound board and we saw Colt open up, he really enjoyed acting with her and she did fantastic basically bringing that childlike environment to the front, the way we wanted her to because we didn’t want this film to be your cliché family film.

We wanted to have a family childlike imagination but at the same time to bring in real life adult situations that everyone is faced with and the combination really worked out.

In fact, Chalet probably has more titles after her name than most seasoned actors, she’s been acting from a very young age and what’s interesting about her is she can read a script and memorise it.

When I sent her the script she literally had her dialogue down days later so it wasn’t ever an issue of if she knew what to say. However if we would ever go adlib or improv or off-script she was so tied to the dialogue we had to tell her actually it’s ok you can go organically and play along because otherwise Kai/Colt was going to turn it into his own and we want you to do the same thing.

We only had her on set for three days but we got so much out of her and what I’m talking about is what a strong individual she is because she has had to battle cancer and overcome that, so it was a blessing that we had her, everything was put together divinely.

How did Mr Kane get involved?

Christian has an army of reps and managers and they were very picky about what he was going to do, but I had a chance to communicate with him throughout the process and he already was committed because of his best friend – they always hang out together when they have an opportunity – that’s Clayne Crawford and Mr Kane.

Sonny had the commitment from Christian before all the deals were made with his management team so when it came down to actually getting him on set he basically said ‘look we’re gonna go into this and we don’t know what we’re gonna get out of it but I’m going to spend Christmas with Clayne’, so he was going to Alabama no matter what ‘and while I’m there I will give you say 4 or 5 days to be able to get what you need from me’.

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Then of course he had to leave because he was actually filming Librarians first season, which was pretty neat because when we came back and filmed all the second production 12 months later, we were watching the premier of the Librarians together at a bbq place – the whole crew – so we watched the premier of the first episode together and it was really fun.

But as a producer I actually had a lot of time to speak with Christian while he was on set and he was…,look I can’t say it lightly – when you are dealing with sets that cost thousands of dollars and then you come on a set like Tinker and we’re literally spending tens of thousands, there are a lot of resources that you can become accustomed to as a calibre actor such as Clayne and Chrisitian, and we just didn’t have those resources. We wished we could have offered it to them, they deserve it all, but we were just so limited because we are an independent film with minimal budget.

But with their experience, they were able to say this is what you need to do, this is what needs to happen, you need to contact these people… so they were really a good at helping to guide us through the production process as well. Christian has had on four years of Leverage and so many movies, so yeah we really fed off our talent’s knowledge because we didn’t bring that type of knowledge to the set.

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Can you tell us any funny stories from set?

Well I can tell you that anytime they (Clayne and Christian) got together they would laugh and joke non-stop and it was almost like inside stories and jokes because they knew what they were talking about because of their history you know, they have done so much together.

We know in this industry you can find people that you can actually feed off and that you can reflect off of just like me being the producer and my partner, Sonny. We have had our ups and downs but in the bigger picture we know that we can work together and we know that we can complete the tasks.

They (C and C) would talk about old battle wounds, but that’s something they would have to disclose!

I will never forget the first day on set – that it was a very simple set in the junk yard with Christian Kane and it was simple.

Basically the DP (director of photography) line was like, ‘just hold up this tuning fork and then you’re going to listen to it’ and then at that time we were shooting and the wind blew and Christian had long hair and it just looked like it was almost set up, blowing in the wind – but it was just nature and Sonny was like, ‘ohhhh that’s beautiful Christian!’

Well both of them work on a much bigger set but we were really feeling inspired by this event. Christian got back and Clayne goes ‘how’d your first day go?’ and Christian goes ‘Man I’m not sure; they said hold up the tuning fork, they shot, I didn’t say a word, and then they said cut and then they said it was beautiful! It was like, wow, is that all I need to do!’

I think they got a kick out of the simplicity of what Sonny’s vision was based on; all the stunts you know and all the supporting cast they usually have, so it is funny being able to see these pros take this independent film and go, ‘OK, I guess we delivered, we’ll see!’

They had a few moments on set together but unfortunately we didn’t have Christian for long, and they weren’t together at all times because we had to shoot with separate crew many times.

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One of my favourite scenes was actually cut from the movie and so we have a lot of behind the scenes or deleted scenes that we definitely want to get out for everybody but anyway, it was a scene where Christian is taking a wood order from Grady (Clayne) and Clayne got into his character so much he was rocking back and forth.

When he walks, he is hunched over, he changes the speed, it’s almost like he can relate to that farmer – that has strong hands that has a strong back but just from being constantly working – taking on a distinctive posture and walk, that you go ‘look, at that farmer, he’s worn out!’ No, he’s beaten his body up for decades but he can rip a log in half, so another one of our favourite moments was when Clayne was chopping with an axe or doing chores around the farm, which believe it or not were chores he had to take care of because he does still work there; he does cut is grass; he does feed the cows and chickens; but basically this was the day when the whole crew was off and Sonny grabs the camera and says ‘I don’t need a mic, I just want to get some b-roll shots of Clayne chopping wood, feeding chickens, feeding cows’ but there’s one part where he’s cutting wood and he looks like he cuts one of those logs like butter with an axe and I’m going like ‘ he might be an actor but he’s just a country boy at heart!’

When can we see Tinker?

We do know that it’s gonna hit the world circuit – we’ve been talking to purchasers in many territories.

Cardinal XD have been brought on because they have a good presence, they know the American film market and they have a good reputation.

We don’t have the luxury of giving it to some large distributors strictly because with us being first-time filmmakers we haven’t proven ourselves yet so the task is great, but luckily we’ve secured Cardinal XT as our international rep before we committed to other conventions for domestic distribution.

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So we have a lot of fans that were on board during our Kickstarter campaign and once we started to get the word out and take it to social media those fans who like the Librarians in the US and Lethal Weapon in the UK, they have had an opportunity to see the talent that we worked with on Tinker and once you have seen them, you fall in love with these actors because they’re just so good.

But we were really concerned because we know that if you’re a fan of Christian or Clayne then they have a certain action character and you don’t see that in Tinker, you don’t see the traditional gun-wielding kung-fu!

You know, we’re not giving that but we did want to deliver and what we did want to do with our first film was to be able to show the audience these talented people but within an environment that was totally different and basically to touch the hearts of people, and they totally delivered!

So internationally I don’t have a firm time, I do know that because of the way everything works so fast in technology we expect the international market will start seeing what it’s going to be like and then it will be up to the buyers; it’s going to come down to what they feel like they can do with the film.

They have the rights and will do the best they can to make it as attractive as possible for overseas and we feel that the UK market will love it.

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One of my favourite movies is Remains of the Day, it’s a slow burn film but it’s a drama and sometimes you don’t have to have all action, you don’t have to be spoon-fed the story if you just let the story grow and you do it right and give an audience a good ending that people will fall in love with.

So we were worried that people would watch it and go ‘you didn’t do my man Crawford or Kane justice, or you didn’t do our favourite actor justice’ but when we went on the festival circuit, the feedback that we got was actually surprising, the film was welcomed.

And on top of that the audience started to go to other festivals and see it and then see it again at other festivals.

We had fans that literally would see it at different festivals and take away something completely different each time or have seen something they missed because we don’t take our audience for granted, we believe that people don’t have to be walked through a movie, so the results are speaking for themselves.

I personally think the movie is not exactly what I envisaged, it is not exact what Sonny envisaged and it’s not exactly what Clayne or probably Christian Kane envisaged. If you’re reading this then understand that Tinker is a movie whose sole intention is to inspire people – the message about the movie is to say however unique you are, or how quiet and unknown you are, you can make a difference in the world and sometimes it just takes the smallest things to put you over the edge to find your purpose and see the goals that have been set for yourself.

In Tinker, Grady doesn’t realise his fate until he is faced with taking on the responsibility that he does not want, but he does it out of duty, and that relationship blossoms.

It’s not extreme, not a big enlightening moment, just the smallest change the way somebody thinks and the way that we can help somebody can make a big impact moving forward, and I would like the audience to understand that – so please do order it on Amazon!!!

We were surprised when we released it to pre-order on Amazon, it was in the top 50, and now we’re following it up on iTunes.

If you’re not into DVD or Blu-ray you can get it on iTunes. It’s not actually coming out until December 4 but it’s perfect for the holiday, so if you’re worn out with cartoons and worn out with superhero movies, Tinker is movie that is safe for kids but adults can love it too, so definitely give our movie a shot.

 

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