Orange is the New Black’s Vicky Jeudy leads an outstanding cast in an indie superhero adventure that’s equal parts action, intrigue, drama, sci-fi and heart.
On her first night as an EMT, Lauren, an ex addict trying to atone for her brothers death, is partnered with Eddie, a jaded cynic, exiled to the graveyard shift. Their first call, a mysterious warehouse explosion, sends them into the industrial wilderness outside of Los Angeles. On the way, they’re stopped by a wounded drifter: Armstrong.
When trying to contact dispatch, they realize that their radio and cell phones aren’t working and they’re on their own. Once in the ambulance, Armstrong begins to exhibit strange behavior and becomes violent. Before they can get him out of the vehicle, a fanatically assassin violently attacks them. The soldier is hunting Armstrong and wants to kill anyone who comes in contact with him. Before he can finish off the EMTs, Armstrong saves them and defeats the soldier.
It is revealed that Armstrong is a high tech vigilante on a key mission: to stop a murderous doomsday cult, The Fifth Sun, from detonating a series of nuclear devices underneath Los Angeles to cause catastrophic earthquakes. To complete his mission, Armstrong needs their help.
Pulled into this hidden world, Lauren must make difficult choices and overcome her personal demons to survive the night, help Armstrong carry out his mission and ultimately become the hero herself.
High Octane Pictures’ Armstrong is undoubtedly going to open doors for it’s dynamic directors Kerry Carlock and Nick Lund-Ulrich.
The movie is deep, tense and touching – very different for a film featuring a superhero. Being the co-director, was the primary intention of Armstrong to make something a little ‘different’?
KC: Nick and I wanted to make a movie together but our two sensibilities are kinda different. He loves big sci-fi and comic movies- he’s a visual effects artist through and through! And I like small, intimate character pieces. So it really was about making those two things work together.
Did you base any of the characters on anyone in particular – particularly the EMT officer?
KC: Actually, I have a friend who was tutoring a young recovering addict who wanted to become an EMT. My friend was helping her with her reading skills so she could take the test to get into school. We just thought that was so inspiring and it started to shape how we saw Lauren.
Did you learn much about EMT officers as you were researching the role?
KC: Our friend Ben Dengerink, is an EMT and he read drafts of the script to help us get the medical dialogue right. He also came to LA for production and rehearsed with the actors, gave them the basics and taught them how to move in the ambulance. We also read some EMT message boards where people were commiserating about their shifts or their partners. It helped us get a sense of how Lauren and Eddie would work together. It isn’t easy for some young women who get paired with crotchety old guys who’ve been doing the job for a while- that’s real!
What kind of advice did you give Vicky Jeudy in how she approached the part?
KC: Vicky has a natural openness that we knew we needed. The audience has to feel what she’s feeling so that quality was so important. We just wanted her to take her time and not feel rushed so that she had the space to get to the emotions she need to get to.
Did you have a casting director on the film or did you and your co-director have the luxury of choosing everyone?
KC: We made this on a micro budget so we were our own casting directors, our own location managers and in pre-production we even made one of the props! It’s a total labor of love. And hopefully the audience can feel that we put our heart and soul into it.
A lot of filmmakers seem to enjoy playing a role in their own films these days – for better or worse. Did you ever consider taking on one of the roles in the film? Are you in it anywhere?
KC: Nick and I have both been in some of the short films we’ve made. But when it came to this, I don’t even think we considered it. The bar was too high! We are in some of the establishing shots of the city. We just wanted some movement to lend a sense of eeriness to the composition. So there’s a shot of Nick crossing the railroad tracks and I’m walking past a mural in one shot.
Do you find it easy to watch your own movies back?
KC: When you make a movie, you have to watch it ALOT! There are certain scenes we watched over and over again to get the edit right or the music right or the timing of the visual effects. And I edited the last 4 or 5 minutes of the movie because we just weren’t finding the right rhythm so I tried a bunch of things and we finally hit on the tone we wanted.
Then there were mix sessions and color corrections and screenings. It gets to be very monotonous. But we hadn’t seen it in about 6 months and we recently had to prep it for the premiere and we had fun watching it. That was very satisfying!
What can we expect on the DVD release? Any bonus features?
KC: We shot the movie in 4K so the DVD should look fantastic! If you get the movie on itunes it comes with a special featurette about the making of the film. Making a movie with a very low budget can be stressful so it was important to Nick and I that we at least created a fun, collaborative atmosphere for people to work in. Everyone that worked on the film was incredibly talented and that featurette is kind of a love letter to them.
Armstrong directed by Kerry Carlock and Nick Lund-Ulrich, stars Vicky Jeudy, Shawn Parsons, Jason Antoon and Christian Anderson and is available now on DVD and DVD.