Available now on VOD and in theaters this week is 13 Sins, a sinister thriller about a good natured, down on his luck everyman who must decide how far he’s willing to go to provide for his family. Elliot (Mark Webber) is expecting a child with his fiancé (Rutina Wesley), caring for his mentally ill brother (Devon Graye), and about to take in his deadbeat father (Tom Bower), so when he’s unexpectedly fired his entire life is thrown into a tailspin. That’s when he receives a mysterious phone call explaining that he has been chosen to participate in a secret game show – 13 tasks, if he can complete them all he walks away a millionaire, but as each task proves more perverse than the last, he discovers he may not be as in control of the gameplay as he thought. 13 Sins also stars Ron Perlman and Pruitt Taylor Vince.
At a recent L.A. press day I sat down for an exclusive interview with Mark Webber. He talked about director Daniel Stamm‘s unique rehearsal process, plans for the DVD, his favorite scene to film, portraying a character who undergoes such a big transformation, his passion for directing, working with real-life wife Teresa Palmer on The Ever After and more. Check out what he had to say after the jump and please be aware there are some spoilers.
MARK WEBBER: I don’t really know what I’m ever looking for, it’s kind of like whatever happens to resonate at the time with me. For this one it was like, “Oh this is a hell of a character. It’s a hell of an arc. I’m in every single frame. I’ve got to go from one end of the spectrum to another and this seems like it would be a really fun movie to make in terms of the situations that I’m put in.” So I thought it seemed like it would be awesome and I just kind of went and fought for it. I was also a fan of Daniel’s work so I knew I’d be in good hands, he’s a good director. So it was all the right elements.
Without any huge spoilers, was there a scene when you read the script that you were really excited to do, or were there any that you were kind of apprehensive about?
WEBBER: Yeah, I was excited to do it all. I wasn’t really apprehensive about any of it. I definitely was like, “This is going to be crazy. How am I going to pull this off?” No apprehension, just pure excitement about getting to do these things. That’s the fun thing about making movies is that you get to do stuff. You get to be things, say things that you’re not, kind of walk in someone else’s shoes and play dress up and make believe. It’s pretty cool. [Laughs] It’s cool. It’s definitely cool.
Tell me a little bit about what the shoot was like. Was it a shorter shoot than your used to? Longer?
WEBBER: It was pretty standard. I think it was about a month, kind of a normal set amount of shoot days, a moderate budget. It wasn’t like a scrappy low budget indie, but it wasn’t a studio movie- we didn’t have to deal with any of that stuff. It was really fun to make. We were able to just really focus on the type of movie that we wanted to make. Daniel’s really smart and really great at what he does. He was so supportive that we were able to just dig deep. I felt like, “Okay, I’m in really good hands here. I get to do something that I haven’t been really able to show people that I’m capable of.” That’s always great to be put in a position like that.
Did you guys have time for rehearsal?
WEBBER: We had a great rehearsal. That was what was really cool about it was that Daniel created these games for us in order to develop a connection. So me and Rutina and me and Devin, for example, we’re in the rehearsal room, Daniel handed me like fifteen index cards with questions and Rutina a set of index cards with questions, and then he left and was like, “I’ll be back in an hour.” There was this series of questions that we had to ask one another that increasingly became more and more intense and revealing, leading up to being “Tell your co-star a secret that less than five people in your life know about.” So talk about a really catapulted way of establishing a connection between you and your co-stars. Now me and Rutina and Devin know some things about one another [laughs], and when you have that you both feel like, “Okay, cool, we can be vulnerable with one another.” When people can be vulnerable to one another then you’re kind of giving people permission to really be yourself and not try to impress all the time and you get into more interesting work. You’re being real and you’re not afraid to mess up or seem weird.
That’s interesting, I thought you and Rutina had a lovely onscreen relationship, so I think that translated nicely.
WEBBER: Thank you.
When it comes to the script did you stay very close to the word of it or did you do any improv?
WEBBER: We were closer to the word of it than the improv, but improv is in the movie and it was also a great way to kind of jumpstart some scenes. Yeah, we adhered to the script more than we improved, but we did improv and used it as a tool. But yeah, not a ton.
Compared to the script, was there anything that wasn’t in the final film that ended up on the cutting room floor that you really wish was in there?
WEBBER: No, there’s nothing that I miss, but there’s interesting stuff that ended up on the cutting room floor. Which is cool, because Daniel’s putting together a really kickass DVD. All the deleted scenes, even my audition. He told me that they’re cutting in my audition scene with the actual scenes in the movie. I’m like, “Man, can I like authorize and see that first?” [Laughs] But yeah, it’s exciting. We’re going to have a DVD full of features that are really interesting and kind of show the process in a way.
That’s awesome. Are you going to go back and do a commentary for that?
WEBBER: We did. We recorded a commentary yesterday; me, Ron, and Devin with Daniel. Rutina couldn’t because she was doing a True Blood thing, but yeah, it was funny. I love Ron. He’s recording this commentary and he has this really deep voice, you know, and this presence and it’s 9:00 AM, we’re all in Santa Monica. I had to get up at 7:00 to even get to Santa Monica. We’re sitting in this room with the headphones on and Ron starts talking and I’m being hypnotized [Laughs]. I’m like, “Oh wait, I’ve got to add something.” I’m just listening to Ron talk. It’s so soothing.
I know that you’re a director as well, and you’ve spoken a bit to Daniel’s abilities as a director, but tell me a little bit about what he’s like working with on a day to day basis. And was there anything you learned from him that you’re going to take away to your own projects?
WEBBER: Yeah, Daniel in his rehearsal process, that thing I told you about with the cards. He had us do all these other exercises that were really cool. He had a photo of me and Devin’s dead mother that he put down and we had to like, talk to her and share stories. It was just these really unique exercises. Like, acting exercises, the cliché version, can be kind of cheesy, but he went above and beyond and I am definitely stealing those. Definitely. They’re really awesome ways of developing a connection between you and who you’re working with. It’s really cool.
Did you have a scene that was your favorite to shoot? To be honest, I was pretty jealous watching you smash the shit out of everything at diner.
WEBBER: Oh, that was amazing. That’s definitely, probably it. That was the most cathartic scene ever and I got to do it a couple times, which is great. Yeah, I wanted to keep breaking shit for the whole time. I’m like, “Can we keep going?”
When do you ever get to do that?
WEBBER: I know. It was really awesome. I looked forward- the anticipation about doing that scene, and when it came I was like, “Yes!”
You touched on this a bit, this is one of those characters where you get to do a full arc and complete character transformation. Talk a little bit about what that was like for you during the process, getting to stretch your legs so to speak.
WEBBER: It was fun. It was really fun. It was so much fun. To be given this certain level of responsibility for the movie. it’s like okay- I’m kind of putting this thing on my back. If I suck, we’re all screwed here. So my own personal stakes are heightened, and then having to play a character where the stakes get crazier and crazier and crazier, it just was fun. It made me really dig deep and explore how I was going to pull this thing on off, which thankfully, because of Daniel the director, and the crew, and the other cast members, it was fun getting there. It was full on exploration in a really awesome way.
WEBBER: It was a little bit some nights. We had a whole stretch of just shooting nights, and the whole motorcycle scene where everyone kind of gets all chopped up, that was not fun shooting that. That really sucked. It was like- I was actually legitimately distraught. It was weird. It was three in the morning and I’m like totally tripping out like, “Oh my god!” I’m crying and yelling and running like, “Ah! we got to be done with this man.” So yeah there were moments when it was tough, but that makes for good stuff sometimes.
I was actually very curious about that scene, on a more technical level what it took to pull that stunt off.
WEBBER: It was difficult. It was really difficult. We had to lay down all these scooters and body parts and blood, and then one guy- we had to shoot one part where [he] had a green motion capture cap on, because they were going to CGI part of his head off. So there was all this technical stuff happening, but then also really, I’m just standing around, people are dead and covered in blood and moaning- heads, prosthetic heads that looked real. Yeah, it was a lot, a lot of set up. It was intricate and very difficult to do . [Laughs] It was really hard.
Yeah, I can only imagine. So tell me a little bit about the next feature you’re directing, The Ever After.
WEBBER: Yeah, The Ever After. I wrote it with my wife. My last film, The End of Love, I made with my son, who was two, and I took a turn in the type of movies that I want to make as a director. I’ve found my voice and my process, which is that I’m really fascinated with realism in films and using real life relationships and dynamics and kind of folding that into fictional story that I want to tell. So we wrote a movie about a married couple and we’re really married. So you get to see kind of like this fucked up love story with two people who are really with each other. So it lends a certain level of vulnerability and intimacy that you don’t see in this way very often. So yeah, I’m really excited about it. I think you get to see Teresa give a performance that she hasn’t done before. It’s been great. Making your own stuff is a really empowering act. Then for her also as a woman in this industry it’s like, you know, it’s kind of shitty. Up until that point she just played somebody’s girlfriend.
The “pretty girl” part.
WEBBER: Yeah, the “pretty girl”, and it just sucks. Yeah I could go on and on and on about that [laughs] and the sad state of Hollywood and the industry and how dysfunctional and wrong a lot of it is, but that’s what’s great, you go and make your own stuff. She gets to play a role in a way that she hasn’t before and so do I. I’m hopeful that people are going to see a movie about a marriage and it’s going to feel really different to them. There’s a base level of realism that I can’t achieve when I go and do a movie with Keira Knightly and she’s going to be my fiancé. It’s like, “Hey nice to meet you. I’m a fan.” “Hey, great.” And we’ve got an hour of like, how are we going to pretend? That is great, too and there’s an art in a way of that’s the art of acting and how you guys can just kind of, “Hey, it’s nice to meet you. Now we’re married.” And what that does. So it’s really cool when you’re able to go really deep with someone. I was joking around with someone and I said, “You know for my next one I’m going to call up my mom.”
WEBBER: It’s time to get into the nitty gritty about our fucked up life together, mom.” It’s really cool. I’m excited to share it and for people to see it. I love directing and that’s where I’m headed. That’s where my head is at.
Are you already planning your next feature?
WEBBER: Yeah, I am. I’ve already got that idea. I love putting things together. I love putting together a team and making stuff with people. It’s great, that’s what’s cool about movies it’s such a collaborative effort.