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Interview with director Michael Oblowitz!

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Hello everyone, I have been in contact with director Michael Oblowitz for the last weeks. He was willing to do an exclusive interview for our website.
Thank you Michael Oblowitz for this opportunity!

Here we go:

Can you tell something about yourself? How did you become
involved in the movie business?


I studied fine art & art history & photography & then film-making—I started directing b&w art-films in the 1970’s & early 1980’s and then I started directing music videos & TV comercials---eventually I started directing commercial narrative films…

I don't know which movie was shot first, but how did you get involved in the making of The Foreigner and Out For A Kill and was this always suppose to be a 2 picture deal for you?

I was introduced to Steven Seagal by a lawyer who represented both of us to direct The Foreigner. That movie went well and then I was asked to direct Out For A Kill.

How long was the shooting schedule on both movies? Did you get enough time for preparation?

Seagal was still a pretty big international movie star when I made those two movies, and I had more than enough preparation and shooting time.. I was working in Eastern Europe for a few years on both pictures.

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Did you get to choose your own filmcrew?

Well I was working in foreign countries with local production companies. So I got to chose my key crew members like Cinematographer and Editor and Production Designers

What was your experience on set during the filming of both movies? Any anekdotes?

We always had a lot of fun on the sets. Steven is a good guitar player and he played a lot of blues in Poland with some good local musicians, during The Foreigner. During Out For A Kill we were filming in Bulgaria and he didnt play much blues over there

How was it to work with Steven Seagal on set? I mean, there are the rumours that he is not easy to work with and has a big ego. Was he dedicated to the project this time?

Seagal is just like any actor. He wants his brand protected so he wants his vision of the film created. If he feels conflict with the direction that the film is taking, he can be upset. If he feels comfortable its a fun experience.

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Did you have enough influence during the filming of those 2 movies? Were
you free to use your own vision?


The films were a combination of my vision with Seagal’s vision.

What everyone is always talking about is Seagal's fightscenes. Did he do them all by himself and did he choreograph them?

On the Foreigner we had a terrific Eastern European fight choreography crew, headed up by a great Second Unit Director from Scotland, Tom Delmar, who had worked on the James Bond films. On Out For A Kill we used a Shaolin fight crew from Mainland China. They were extraordinary. Seagal would design his Aikido choreography with the fight choreographers, and then they would integrate Seagal’s fight choreography into the style of their fight choreography and then the Second Unit Director and I would break the choreography up into parts and decide who was going to film which part.

What was the budget for The Foreigner and Out For A Kill and what was the most
difficult aspect of making these movies?


The Foreigner was around 20 million dollars and Out For A Kill was around ten million .

The Foreigner was filmed during the bitter Polish winter- A seemingly endless dark, grey, icy coldness, that endured for months on end. It was a war of attrition against the elements.

We were on location shooting many exteriors o take advantage of the iconic Polish countryside and locations. We froze our asses off…

Out For A Kill was different. We were shooting in South Eastern Europe. On the borders of Bulgaria and Romania and Serbia and Croatia. Summertime. We were replicating the Steppes of Mongolia and China. We constructed a few blocks of New York City’s Chinatown in an Olympic swimming pool in the Bulgarian city of Sofia. I had a terrific Production Designer from England, Michael Seymour. He Production Designed the original Alien movie for Ridley Scott. His design and execution of the Chinatown set inside the Olympic swimming pool was sheer genius.There were exterior and interior sets. Michael was also the original Production Designer on Blade Runner with Ridley Scott. So the attention to detail was extraordinary. I love the fight scene in the barber shop, where Seagal fights the Shaolin fighter doing the Chines Monkey Style choreography. All filmed with suspension wires and harnesses which were later removed digitally in Post Producton. The set Michael designed fort hat scene was spectacular. A Blade Runner style barbershop interior with break away walls that could be filmed from inside and outside the barber shop, from the streets of the fabricated Chinatown.

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Were The Foreigner and Out For A Kill always suppose to go dtv or was there a theatrical release in mind by the producers?

I think both films had theatrical releases in some countries, like Italy and Asia and other markets. They had big TV releases in the United States.

Can you shine a light on the making of a dtv movie? What kind of problems are you up against when making these kind of movies?

I dont know. All movies are the same no matter what the end user distribution outlet. There are technical requirements for all the different distribution formats, but that can be accomodated in the camera framing on the set and the various finale masters.

Is there anything you would have done differently regarding the making of The Foreigner and Out For A Kill?

No… I wouldnt have left my 35 mm projection print of Out For A Kill with the projectionist in Bulgaria, after the Bulgarian premiere, thinking I would get it back!!!

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Did you have some influence on the post-production of the
movies and were you happy with the final product?


I edited and audio mixed and supervised the soundtrack and total completion of both movies.

On Out For A Kill I worked with my dear friend and brilliant editor, Bobbie Ferreti, who amongst the many great action films he edited, was Under Siege, On Deadly Ground, Rocky, Tango and Cash, and many other great films…

How big is Seagal's influence during filming and postproduction?

Steven was very involved in pre-production. He basically rewrote both original scripts with me before each film started shooting, during pre-production.

I watched The Foreigner last week and I noticed that sometimes Seagal's voice was dubbed. How did that happen? Wasn't he available for post-production?

We post recorded some of his dialogue - perhaps where we had a poor recording on the set, but a good physical performance - it's Seagal doing the line- in a studio in ADR recording.

Who are your dream actors or stars you would like to work
with in the future?


Mel Gibson

What are your plans for the future? Any projects you are
working on?


I like making surfing movies

Thank you for your time and good luck with your future projects!


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Comments

#5
Thanks to both you and him for this; positive, seemingly honest responses to the questions too, good on him.
 
#6
Thank you guys! What did you think of it. It seems Obkowitz and Seagal could get along fine.
Great interview. Thanks for making it happen. When a director and the star can get along, it usually bodes well for the end product. If either simply tries to impose their will on the production to the exclusion of others, the film will suffer. I really liked The Foreigner (especially enjoyed the great atmosphere and scenery from the Polish winter countryside). Out for a Kill was okay, but seemed to lack a focused narrative. The lesser budget may have had something to do with the final results. Always great to hear details of a film from the main names involved. Thanks again.
 
#9
Clearly Oblowitz is mad
Can you be a little more respectfull please? No reason for calling him out. I am greatfull that he did this interview for us!
I know Mr. Oblowitz is reading this page, so come on man. You do not represent our forum this way.
 
#10
Nice to have some insight on them, missed a trick by not asking him to explain The Foreigner plot to us though.

Have actually grown to quite like The Foreigner, but am sure most of us would admit Out for a Kill is less than good.

When Seagal is at the podium saying, "My mentor..." and his lips are clearly saying something else before the audio just chops off abruptly.

In the same scene, the panning over the front row in one shot and a few moments later, the same shot is reused but printed in reverse.

The worst green screen in the history of cinema during the binoculars-at-the-airport moment.

The never-ending massacre at the start, am not usually a violence prude but it just goes on forever. Am still not sure if it's supposed to be a flashback as we see the club later on, business as usual.

The big chunk in the middle where Seagal seems to disappear from the movie.

The random chase scene which appears out of nowhere and the random blips of other scenes chopped into it.

The funny model shot at the start and the cheap title logo.

Most of the movie sounding like it was post-synched.

Seagal's cell-mate being cut away from mid-sentence - did someone just give up?

The silly red type which appears over each villain's appearance listing their skills and interests.

The obvious doubles for Seagal, especially at the end when he gouges two villains' eyes out.

Could keep going.

Over the years, these issues have become part of Out for a Kill's weird charm and I would still rather watch it than Flight of Fury, Contract to Kill, End of a Gun, General Commander, Cartels or Shadow Man.

Would be interested in similar behind-the-scenes on Out of Reach and Kill Switch though I doubt they'd be as positive.
 
#11
Nice interview Dida (appreciate your effort)
As others have said, 'The Foreigner' (despite it's confusing set-up) is a solid, well made movie (with sparse fight scenes)....Whereas 'Out For A Kill' is confusing (with some great fight scenes) if only they could meld the two movies (in terms of their shortcomings) Methinks Seagal was having one of his 'No-More-Violence-Spiritual-Moments' for 'The Foreigner' (and wanted a more straight up spy thriller) Whereas, by 'Out For A Kill' he seemed to bring the action, but forgot about the performance.

$30m budget (for the pair) is no loose-change (for the early noughties) I'm almost certain 'The Foreigner' was destined for cinemas (being a 'Franchise' release) but I think 'Half Past Dead's' poor reception, put paid to such?

Glad to hear a director *NOT* rag on Seagal (for a change)
 
#15
Can you be a little more respectfull please? No reason for calling him out. I am greatfull that he did this interview for us!
I know Mr. Oblowitz is reading this page, so come on man. You do not represent our forum this way.
You are delusional Dida, quite delusional, and insane. Oblowitz started the rot Seagal found himself in and he is not even apologetic about it, worse still he enabled him to become the lazy star of today. Shame on you for enabling the enabler.
 
#16
You are delusional Dida, quite delusional, and insane. Oblowitz started the rot Seagal found himself in and he is not even apologetic about it, worse still he enabled him to become the lazy star of today. Shame on you for enabling the enabler.
We treat eachother respectfull on this forum. Calling me insane? No manners, I guess. If you disagree with things you can discuss that. That's where forums are for. Not for calling people insane. Last warning or you will be banned.
 
#17
It’s nice to see some decent conversation on here as it’s usually pretty quiet these days. There’s always one who has to drag it down.

As much as there is some truth to the Oblowitz years being where it all started to go downhill, there’s no need to be trolling.

Kudos to Dida for the interesting interview, it’s nice to learn some background info on the films which seemed to come and go so quickly when it, shall we say, started to become quantity over quality movie-wise.
 
#20
As much as I love an interview we thought we'd never get, there's definitely some truth to movies like Out for a Kill and, especially, the infamous Keusch trilogy having a big part in his downfall which is a shame. If I wasn't a Seagal devotee, absolutely nothing in any of them would make me want to watch a Seagal film ever again.

Part of me wishes he'd gone ahead with the movies Nasso had planned for him (though I understand why he didn't). Blood on the Moon et al sounded interesting and, if they'd been with big studios, would have kept him going strong when all the other action stars were floundering. Exit Wounds with Warner proved he still had it and it was a great film. Van Damme movies were gradually going straight to video when Knock Off, Universal Soldier: The Return and Legionnaire just weren't doing the business anymore. Desert Heat was okay but seemed to be the start of the DTV spiral. Saw one called Derailed which had train crash effects which look like they were achieved with model toys in someone's bedroom.

I'd be more than happy with movies of the Attrition quality at this point. Just no more Beyond the Laws...