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Director Nicholas Bushman Talks w/411 About His Action-Horror Film Union Furnace

August 16, 2017 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Union Furnace

The B-Movie Interview: Nicholas Bushman

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Nicholas Bushman is an independent filmmaker from Ohio who has been making movies for most of his life. Bushman’s first major movie was the comedy/drama Sandbar, which was released in 2012. Union Furnace, a horror/thriller he made along with frequent collaborator Mike Dwyer, was made in 2015 and received a limited release. Now, Union Furnace is set for a full home video release starting August 15th, 2017. In this interview, Bushman talks about making Union Furnace, the world of independent film, and more.

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Bryan Kristopowitz: How did you get involved in Union Furnace?

Nicholas Bushman: It all started when Mike and I were finishing up the long post-production process on our first film, Sandbar, and were both desperate to make a new one; something quick, cheap, short and not-so-sweet, essentially a complete 180 from what we had just done. I had been kicking around the Cody Roy McCloud car thief character for a while already with no real story for him, or no good one, anyway. The idea of a series of crazy, underground games was exciting to us and also practical, in that it would only require a single location and yet could still be very visual. Once we had that, Cody Roy finally had his story.

BK: Where was Union Furnace made?

NB: Basically everywhere in Ohio except the actual town of Union Furnace, which is where we got the title but nothing else. I hear it’s actually a lovely little place and probably way too nice for some of the darker requirements of our story. The “town” you see in the film is really stitched together from a bunch of random locations across the southern part of the state that we felt all had the right vibe for any given scene, especially Shawnee, OH, where they still have those amazing 1950’s-looking streets that you see at the beginning of the film. One of the great things about making a movie in Ohio is that you can generally just roll into a location without a permit and start laying dolly track in the middle of the street, and the locals there are usually cool with it. Excited about it even.

BK: How long did it take to make Union Furnace, from co-writing the script with star Mike Dwyer to post-production?

NB: Very fast. Without even knowing what each game would ultimately be, we dove blindly into the script and hammered it out in about two weeks. Since we were in the unique position of having Mike fund the film almost entirely himself, we didn’t have to suffer through the usual process of finding the money after we finished writing and instead could jump directly into building sets, scouting locations and finding the cast. Less than two months later, we were already making the movie. The shoot itself was completed in 22 days and then the cutting took about a month after that, so it was a pretty insane 6 month turnaround altogether. Intense, to be sure, but I totally recommend trying it. It’s a really great way to make a movie because you don’t have the luxury of second-guessing yourself and are instead forced to live and die by your instincts. And the results, despite some of the automatic imperfections of working that fast, can often be more interesting to look at than something you agonized over forever until it was perfect. Now, getting this film out into the world all by ourselves has obviously taken a little longer but such is independent filmmaking.

BK: How important was the setting to your story? Was the movie always meant to take place in Ohio or is that something you figured out later on?

NB: Setting is always crucial and certainly for this one, which we conceived as a southern Ohio thriller from the beginning.

BK: Explain your working relationship with Mike Dwyer. You’ve worked with him on every movie you’ve made so far, correct?

NB: Yes, since my very first short films in middle school, in fact, which is where we first met. Everything we’ve made since then has just felt like a natural evolution of those days, even when Keith David or Rick Rossovich are there. There’s also the obvious benefits of having a shorthand between us that at this point borders on telepathic.

BK: How did you come up with the somewhat “seedy” look of Union Furnace?

NB: The Deer Hunter was a big deal for me in terms of how we should capture the town and Cody’s whole weird world. Just the way that movie manages to feel ultra-real and dirty but still staggeringly beautiful at the same time, like most everything Vilmos shot. And then for the actual games, I wanted to get a little more surreal so we looked at a lot of Argento stuff for those. I was hoping that we could successfully cross-breed a 70’s Italian giallo thriller with a 70’s New Hollywood movie, or a “white trash giallo” as I liked to say on set.

BK: How did you come up with the masks?

NB: The funny thing about the masks was that when we first had the idea, Mike and I both thought it was just a cool, creepy thing that hadn’t really been properly capitalized on since Eyes Wide Shut. And from a low-budget filmmaking standpoint, it meant we could easily double-up on extras by having the same people wear different masks. And then it seemed like the day we finished filming, suddenly a never-ending glut of “mask movies” started coming out of the woodwork! I still refuse to see any of them out of spite, but I suppose I’m at peace with it now.

BK: Do you consider Union Furnace a horror movie, a thriller, or some kind of satire?

NB: I set out to just make a good old-fashioned thriller but the story definitely took us to some pretty horrific places, and some weirdly funny places, too. You could almost say that each game is a different movie genre each time.

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BK: How did Keith David get involved?

NB: During the writing, I became utterly convinced that Keith was the only person who could and should play that role. Luckily, he agreed and just so happened to be available on the very short notice that we needed him. And man did he deliver!

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BK: What sort of release did Union Furnace get back in 2015? Why has it taken two years to get Union Furnace on home video?

NB: In 2015 we did theatrical screenings in Ohio and Los Angeles and released it digitally on Vimeo On Demand. The delay in getting the film out on home video was an unintended result of simply making sure that it had the right home, or, in this case, building our own home by adding a full-blown distribution arm to our company, Metropol Pictures. Not the easiest thing to do but very rewarding now that the film is coming out exactly the way we want, from the trailers to the DVD sleeve art. Our hope is that Metropol can grow to become a viable distribution path for other filmmakers too, where they don’t have to sign a bad deal with some sleazy company and sacrifice creative control just to get their movie out. Because it’s a jungle out there!

BK: Do you enjoy working in the horror/thriller genre? Is it something you want to continue doing or are there other genres you want to take a shot at?

NB: Those are certainly the stories that have been appealing to me the most these days, but there pretty much isn’t a genre I wouldn’t love to fuck with at some point! Seth Hammond in a musical maybe?

BK: Who are your movie making heroes?

NB: It’s a long list but off the top of my head I would say….Antonioni, Polanski, Zulawski – I guess anybody whose name ends with an “i”.

BK: Any new/upcoming projects you can tell us about?

NB: Our next film Stranger in the Dunes is already finished and will be playing at festivals this fall. It’s another thriller but a very different kind of thriller. Three characters going crazy at an isolated beach house – Mike again, the French actress Delphine Chanéac – who a lot of people know from Vincenzo Natali’s film Splice, and an amazing New York actor named Andrew Hovelson, who everybody will know soon. I’m so excited about it! And we’re back in Ohio again to start shooting the new one, Future Lies, in October.

BK: Is Keith David cool as hell, or merely awesome?

NB: Super cool as hell!

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A very special thanks to Nicholas Bushman for agreeing to participate in this interview and to Tatum Wan for helping set it up.

Union Furnace is available on Blu-ray and DVD starting August 15th, 2017.

Check out the Union Furnace Facebook page here.

Check out the Metropol Pictures website here.

Nicholas Bushman image from Union Furnace Facebook page

Union Furnace DVD cover from Dread Central.

Keith David image from Horror Movies Uncut

Union Furnace poster from Union Furnace Facebook page.