Union Furnace is a dark, raw and gritty movie. An elite class forcing a select few of citizens from the small town of Union Furnace to compete in a series of “games” for money as they watch. Not original in plot, but definitely in execution. Director/co-writer Nicholas Bushman is a hell of force. Bushman chats it up with us about making Union Furnace, coming up with the story and working with acting legend Keith David.
Slack Jaw Punks: Hey Nicholas! I got a chance to check out Union Furnace. I grew up lower class/poor and I always enjoy movies like Union Furnace that confirm my belief that the upper/elite class are just terrible and want to do horrible things to me because I’m poor.
Nicholas Bushman: [Laughing] Right. I know. I know. That’s right! [Laughing]
SJP: Union Furnace is raw and gritty movie. It’s dirty. Not pornographic. When I was done watching it I felt like I need to take a shower to wash away what I was apart of. There is nothing glorious or charismatic about what this group is doing. Is that how you wanted to set yourself apart from movies like Union Furnace with similar themes?
NB: Definitely. Yeah. We wouldn’t have even thought of doing a movie like this if we didn’t think we could bring something a little different to the genre. I think that boils down to the inspiration behind it. Which aren’t so much modern horror films, but more like 70s New Hollywood sort of films like ‘They Shoot Horses Don’t They?’ Well that was 1969, but a New Hollywood film. That’s a horror movie about a dance competition. That was a big influence for us. Just to put our own kind of twist on this sub-genre.
SJP: Your main protagonist, Cody Roy McCloud (Mike Dwyer), is a very unlikable character. I feel like I have at least 9 friends I grew up with just like him…
NB: We did too! He is totally one of “those guys”!!
SJP: You know he has had many of those conversations that started with “Oh that teacher is out to get me” or “That manager just hates me” He will never take accountability for his own actions. Out of all the characters he seems the most willing to play the game. Then (without giving anything away) at the end he has this one moment where he redeems himself and proves maybe he’s not such a piece of shit.
NB: Yeah! I think that’s it. In the games he has the chance to prove his worth, in a way. He has something to live for, or die for. We don’t want to give anything away!
SJP: Why tackle this subject? Why tell this story now? If this your reflection of what’s happening in the world now?
NB: I think it is. We shot it a couple of years ago and now that it’s finally coming out on DVD it only feels more resonant. Unfortunately it feels that way. In terms of how it came about, Mike [Dwyer] and I were finishing up our first movie, which is called Sand Bar and that has a long post production process. We made that movie for nothing. As we finally finished that movie and got distribution for it we were like: “Let’s just make a anything, just something we could do right away.” So the idea was really exciting from a practical stand point, because it’s one location, but still be very visual by the nature of each game. Then it became a structural thing, because each game can feel like its own movie. One game is really funny, one game is really horrific, but each one is different. And the stakes keep getting higher each time.
SJP: How was it working with Keith David?
NB: He is as cool as you think he is. He’s absolutely amazing. He’s wonderful to work with. It was incredible because we wrote that part for him and to our endless surprise and delight he said “Yeah! I love it!” and we said “Well, we start shooting in 2 weeks…” and he said “I’ll be there!” 2 weeks later we were making the movie with him. It was a really quick process. We only had him for a week. It got really intense because we didn’t know if we could get everything we need with him. But it actually turned out easy because he would just nail every take. He was incredible. He’s Keith David and he’s PERFECT!