Members of a punk band are forced to fight for their lives after their limbs are weaponized in Andrew Thomas Hunt's Spare Parts, and with the film now on VOD, Digital, DVD, and Blu-ray from RLJE Films, we caught up with Andrew in our latest Q&A feature to discuss the making of his action-packed movie.
Thanks for taking the time to answer questions for us, Andrew, and congratulations on your new movie, Spare Parts! What was it in particular about this screenplay by David Murdoch and Svet Rouskov that made you want to bring this story to life on screen?
Andrew Thomas Hunt: I just loved the basic concept, and how the film was a mash-up of multiple genres. Though when the film was first pitched to me, the girls were actually rock climbers, but along the way we thought it would be a lot more fun to make the girls a punk band, which lends itself so much better to the overall tone and aesthetic of the film. Plus, it allowed us to start the film with a kick-ass bar brawl.
Where did filming take place, and how many days were in your shooting schedule?
Andrew Thomas Hunt: We shot the film in 18 days, primarily in Sudbury, Ontario, which is about three hours north of Toronto. We filmed in an actual metal recycling facility, and built the arena at a real auto-wrecking yard. We had to clear the ground of debris and brought in two tons of sand so the girls and stunt players could roll around without actually losing a limb... We then did our last two days here in Toronto, where we shot the opening bar scene--we shot the performance portion on one day, and the fight portion the next--which was a fun way to end a very intense and demanding shoot.
I love how the band members of Ms. 45 learn to embrace their newfound weapons and use them to fight for survival. Did you collaborate a lot with Nora Burns and Trevor Tenhave in the art department to bring these weapons to life in a stylish yet functional way?
Andrew Thomas Hunt: The weapons were actually scripted ahead of time based on what we imagined one would be able to find/make in a scrapyard. But once we got to our actual location, Nora, Trevor, and art directors Calle and Vince were constantly finding cool scrap pieces to use as armour, or set pieces both in the arena and elsewhere. I will say, though, that the weapons were very hard on the girls' arms, as they weren't all that comfortable inside, especially when they were constantly smashing them against someone else, being blocked, or hitting the ground with them. Those girls endured a lot, but they rarely complained about it.
You worked with a talented cast on this film, including Julian Richings, Michelle Argyris, Emily Alatalo, Kiriana Stanton, and Chelsea Muirhead. What was it like collaborating with all of them to make Spare Parts?
Andrew Thomas Hunt: We had hundreds of women audition for these roles, but our four leads very quickly stood out, not only because they can act, but because they could do their own stunts and fight choreography. They also all identified with their characters in some way. Emily and Michelle, for instance, are polar opposites in how they approach developing their characters - Emily is more methodical with lots of pre-planning, whereas Michelle is more emotional and free-flowing, which very much mirrors Emma and Amy. So that, in and of itself, added a level of authenticity to the sibling rivalry they had on-screen. As for Julian, he's a legendary Canadian actor who truly can inhabit the characters he plays. Thankfully for us he doesn't do this in a method way - once the cameras stop rolling he's the nicest, most genuine and professional actor one could ever hope to work with.
To me, filmmaking is all about collaboration, my job as director isn't to come up with all the ideas, but to filter everything that comes my way and decide which ones end up on the screen. So I told all my actors; "This isn't Shakespeare," if you have any ideas or suggestions for your character or dialogue, let's talk about it. I want them to have that freedom to really make the characters their own. So things like their tattoos, hairstyles, and clothing, were all chosen primarily by the girls themselves, which helped them bring these roles to life.
There is so much amazing fight choreography throughout Spare Parts. Did you have a lot of rehearsal time to get those fight scenes prepped before filming?
Andrew Thomas Hunt: A lot? No. Certainly not compared to Hollywood standards. My stunt director and I broke down the scripted scenes and decided how to best make them work for the time & budget we had. He then worked with his stunt team to work on the beats and pick the best angles to sell them. They then filmed and edited all the fight scenes together. We then watched that pre-visualization, tweaked it accordingly, and once we were happy with it, we locked it in. That took place over 3-4 weeks. We then brought the girls in for some basic fight and endurance training, then taught them the choreography according to the locked pre-viz. That took another 4-6 weeks. We then shot all the fight scenes in 6 days total on location, which left us 12 days to shoot the narrative portion of the film - the other 80 minutes...
Looking back at your time on set, is there a favorite or memorable moment that stands out?
Andrew Thomas Hunt: Overall we had a lot of fun making this film. Sure, it was tough and grueling, shot in dirty locations, primarily at night, much of it outside in cold, rainy weather - but we all bonded as a team and got through it. But that said, definitely my favourite scene to shoot was the opening bar scene. We were indoors, it was warm, dry, not dirty, and I had some friends and family there as extras, so it was a great way to cap the production.
While making Spare Parts, were you inspired by any other movies, TV shows, books, comics, or video games?
Andrew Thomas Hunt: Honestly, nothing in specific. I try to stay away from watching anything that is too referential to the film I'm making. That way any inspiration isn't direct or conscious, but more sub-conscious. These days, pretty much everything has been done, so it really is a challenge to come up with something completely original. If anything is similar to another film, it truly is by coincidence.
Ultimately, what do you hope viewers take away from Spare Parts?
Andrew Thomas Hunt: First and foremost, I want to create a film that is fun and entertaining, but has some depth and layers to it that you either pick up on and connect with, or you can discard and simply enjoy what unfolds in front of you. What's been nice so far in reading many of the reviews are the people who did see and connect with some of the themes explored in the film. That's one of the more satisfying things for me as a director.
What has it been like to team up with RLJE Films to release Spare Parts?
Andrew Thomas Hunt: RLJE is amazing, and such a great group of people to work with. As a partner at Raven Banner, we've worked with them a lot over the years, so it's a pleasure to be releasing my own film with them.
With Spare Parts now on VOD, Digital, DVD, and Blu-ray, what other projects do you have coming up that you’re excited about, and where can our readers go online to keep up to date on your work?
Andrew Thomas Hunt: I shot another film last year just before the whole Covid thing happened - we literally wrapped production a week before lockdown. I'm wrapping up post on it now - it's called The Fight Machine. It's based on the novel The Fighter by author Craig Davidson, who also wrote Rust & Bone, and the horror novel The Troop (under the pen name Nick Cutter). Raven Banner's website or Facebook page is the best place to keep up with everything.
Thank you very much, Andrew!
Andrew Thomas Hunt: Thank you!