I walk into a popular New York City nightclub, Pacha, to see Method Man wearing dark shades and talking about the upcoming scene with the director, Brendan Murphy, while Brendan’s younger brother, Kieran, examines the settings on a very expensive camera rigged to a dolly.
The Murphy brothers are working on their first week of filming a feature-length movie, Lucky N#mber, starring Method Man with Brendan as director, and Kieran as director of Photography. There is a talented cast which includes Tom Pelphrey, Natalie Hall, Malcom Goodwin, and Joey Russo.
I can see Brendan relaxed and grinning, but I know he is charged up with a million things on his mind, constantly thinking about the perfect shot to complete the current scene. I see many familiar faces working around Brendan on the film set as he takes the same talented crew members from previous projects he has worked on, including Christopher Buchakjian, a multi-talented artist that they continually convince to work as a gaffer on their projects.
Chris does wonders on enhancing the lighting and feel of the film. If Chris isn’t doing a creative project in an awesome place like the Pyramids, he is probably relaxing in Bali, waiting for his next creative project.
One thing some of us know about the Murphy Brothers – they are obsessed with American cinema. The first thing I see when I walk into Brendan’s home across the street from Universal Studios in Los Angeles – a ridiculously, massive collection of DVD movies. Whenever you hang out with him, he will constantly be talking about movies, art, or music, but most of the time, movies, movies, and what movies he is currently planning, making or writing. Some may call it an obsession, deep passion, or movie madness, but the reality is that two kids from New York probably couldn’t have gotten to where they are now if all they didn’t think about was movies. How does a middle-class New York kid with a dream of becoming a major motion-picture director make his dream a reality? This competitive industry only allows so many directors, and you don’t see a lot of young ones on the up and up. Most of directors have major family connections and wealth to fund their first few films which helps make the initial career boost and possibly prove to investors that they are capable of handling bigger budget films, as movies are a very risky business.
The movie idea of Lucky N#mber is based on a real-life, weird, random occurrence. Executive Producer, Michael Cuccolo explains how a friend of his accidentally found the cell-phone of famous, Yankee baseball player, Alex Rodriguez. I can’t go into detail about what happened, but if I heard right, lots of extravagant spending was involved at the baseball player’s expense. Although the facts have been changed, this movie is based on that idea.
I see Brendan’s hardworking producer, Michael David Lynch, constantly handling business details and multi-tasking. Movies are filled with annoying business tasks, countless meetings, location permits and all kinds of detailed planning with many financial hurdles. Michael is one of the most dedicated, hardest-working guys I know.
When Brendan first started making short films in Los Angeles, he was a guerrilla filmmaker, illegally shooting movies in public locations without permits. That’s what you have to do when you don’t have the money to get permits and pay for a rent-a-cop to zone off areas and stop traffic. I laugh when I see police on his film set now as I remember the days when he was running from the police. He had a popular Los Angeles rock band, Cage 9, rock out in the middle of the street in downtown Los Angeles at sunrise, the optimum time to shoot with the least possibility of getting caught. His film crew trekked deep into the locked sewer tunnels of Los Angeles and got some incredible footage for that video. If you can get away with guerrilla filmmaking without getting arrested or fined, well, with the right film equipment, you can make a shoestring budget film look like it was shot with a real budget. They were smart though as they always had a lookout and a getaway plan, a trick he probably learned by hanging out in New York city as a kid. But that’s how he started his career, making great short films and music videos with no money and daring crews that had faith they would follow him into a hopeful, working future. Those guerrilla days are long over now as the Murphy Brothers have money behind them, which came from years of creating films and living in Los Angeles to make the right industry connections. And now they still apply that same mindset – if someone gives them a million dollars to make a movie, well, they make it look like ten million dollars was spent on the film.
Brendan was pretty much unstoppable, a mindset that he has kept from the beginning as he always reminded himself the sacrifice he made by moving from New York to Los Angeles.
A New Yorker in Los Angeles is like a fish out of water. One thing about New Yorkers is that they love New York – I guess most of the world feels that way about this modern day Rome.
If you talk with Brendan about New York, you might think he loves it more then anyone you know. He is surprisingly quiet about one of the craziest days of his life, 9/11. He was working downtown that day when the planes hit, and of course, he had a camera with him. He was rushing away from the wreckage, taking video footage of himself talking to the camera, and panning to the burning buildings. He doesn’t really share the video footage with many people, but he did submit it to the government for evidence.
There is 99.9% failure rate of people that come to Los Angeles to make movies or be an actor, so you have to be a dedicated monster when you move there. Like I said before, he has a madness about what he does, but don’t all successful people need that type of attitude to get to the top? Professional athletes live, eat, dream, and breath their sport, and that’s what they have to do to be the best. You have to set yourself away from the pack with your talent as there are so many other people with the same dream, ready to take your place. This is his first feature length movie in New York, and I can see him in the groove as he is in his teenage stomping-ground. He is shooting scenes all over New York City, from Tompkins Square Park in the East Village to one of the most popular clubs in New York City, Club Pacha.
Club Pacha use to be called the Sound Factory, an old stomping ground of Brendan’s in the late 90’s. All of the major DJs in New York played there and they still do, but now Brendan has this club as his own film-playground filled with extra actors – one of the many cool locations, including the Prudential Center this past week.
I can see he feels more in his element at home in New York, reminiscing of buying 40 oz beers at the corner deli and bragging about the best pizza in the world at every other corner. Many visitors don’t quite get the heavy personalities of New Yorkers and how strangers naturally vibe together in public places like the deli. But that’s what makes New Yorkers feel at home at every corner. They are loud in a friendly way, which might seem obnoxiously brash to the outsider.
I get to talking with Method Man about how the production is coming along and what it has been like to work with the Murphy Brothers thus far. He explained how they are a bit crazy like himself, but mad-talented.
In the beginning of the production, he didn’t know that they were brothers. Once he found out, it explained to him how the Brother’s working relationship was so intense, without any barriers.
I told Method Man about the time I saw him outside the MTV Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in 1999, outside the Rockefeller Center, walking on parked cars and making a spectacle for the paparazzi and fans. He laughed and explained how he thought he was invincible back then. I guess he has settled down a bit since his wild, younger years in Wu-Tang Clan.
Method Man has an unforgettable, powerful voice in the rap group, Wu-Tang Clan. He explains how he finds difficulty choosing acting roles now as his faithful music audience might confuse a comedic acting role with his real-life personality. Don’t let his acting talent fool you. When there was noise on the set that was disturbing the production, Method Man offered his help to quiet down what was slowing down the production. He explained to the crew that they should let him handle the noise so it wouldn’t ever be heard again. Method Man looks like he is hitting the gym hard and even professes his physical readiness for a great boxing role. He maintains that strong, comedic, street personality that commands attention, but we have all learned on the set that he is just a downright, real good person. He is extremely generous with his time, joking around with the extra actors and constantly agreeing to take pictures with fans.
He said he is releasing a new album soon, but most of his focus has been on developing his acting career. He has opportunities in television, film, and music, requiring some difficult decisions ahead as to where he should focus his time. One thing is for certain, Method Man is a well-rounded talented artist, a professional on a movie set, and still maintains a countless amount of beloved fans around the world. Brendan explains how it is unreal for him to be filming a movie with one of his favorite musical artists in New York City.
Brendan has plans of filming many more movies on these busy streets. He loves the grit which suits his style of filmmaking. Brendan and his brother are constantly talk about Darren Aronofsky, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino. Walking into Brendan’s Los Angeles home, you would immediately see his strong affinity for Japanese Samurai films and culture, just like Tarantino. If you sit down with him near his movie collection, he will most likely play a film that he has watched time and time again. That’s what he intends to make, films that you will want to play again and again.
He will play certain scenes that he loves – like the long the shot in the Scorsese movie, Gangs of New York, when the Irish Immigrants disembark the ship, sign up for war, and then the coffins of their dead brothers are loaded back on the boat for Ireland. He will explain with excitement how beautifully it was all done in one take. Then he will throw in an Aronofsky film and explain in detail how the director made an amazing time-lapse shot where the mom is cleaning the apartment, and what editing technique was used in certain scenes. Brendan has worked as a professional editor for Disney for many years now in Los Angeles.
Brendan is also a heavy critic of acting as he studied at Lee Strasburg Theatre Institute after he graduated film school at Hofstra University on Long Island, New York.
Brendan’s younger brother, Kieran, on the other hand, will know exactly what camera was used in every film, and probably what lense was used in a certain scene.
You might hear an intense argument between the Murphy brothers about who is right and who is wrong regarding the technicalities of film, as they are constantly challenging each other. It must be that Irish family, fighting-blood, making them stronger and better at what they do.
Although they constantly challenge each other, they are inseparable and have been there for each other during some very tough times. When Kieran first moved to Los Angeles several years ago, he suffered a horrible accident playing in a Lacrosse exhibition game, leaving him paralyzed from head to toe with absolutely no movement in his fingers or toes. I remember visiting him in the hospital and seeing the Murphy family devastated to see their gifted, young brother sipping out of a straw while the doctors gave an uncertain future. This was a guy who played DIVISION I Lacrosse at Syracuse University in New York and won the National Championship.
His neck got snapped back the wrong way in a freak-accident at a kid’s Lacrosse camp, exhibition game. When Kieran was paralyzed, I couldn’t understand how he was keeping it together. He was so determined, constantly professing aloud to his shaken family and friends that he would walk again. He really kept that family together and stayed positive even though the doctors said that they were uncertain about his future.
I remember his sister, Maura, a talented musician, extremely angry at the doctors for giving the evaluation they did. Maura, Kieran, and Brendan had a dream to come to Los Angeles and work in the entertainment industry. They thought their dream was shattered. At the time of the accident, Kieran was working the camera at the Hugh Hefner’s mansion, shooting the reality show, The Girls Next Door. I remember him laying there paralyzed, laughing and telling me to check out what the girl’s had signed and sent him from the Playboy Mansion.
It took him a long time to recover, and he did it with that same mindset the Murphy brothers have towards living their dream of being filmmakers. That’s exactly what they are doing in New York. They are unstoppable. Kieran now travels all over the world with his camera, and shoots on odd locations: shrimp boats in the Gulf of Mexico, shark week for discovery, and many other crazy locations. You would never have guessed that this guy was once paralyzed. The doctors say it was a miracle that he pulled through his injury. After witnessing his attitude just after it the accident, I know it was his mindset, pure dedication, and hard-work that had him focusing on one toe at a time, which eventually helped him make the steps towards walking again.
Maybe that’s why he was a Lacrosse Champion and maybe that’s what the the Syracuse Lacrosse Championship team knew and said when they went down on one knee and prayed for him at the championship game. I am excited to see what the future holds for these two, and the great films they will make.
I think when this film is said and done, Method Man will watch the work these guys did and will hope to work with them again. For me, it’s just special to see them now after they have overcome some of the challenges they have faced. Keep tabs on the films these brothers are making if you want to watch something spectacular.
Badass! Wish I could go check it out!