Movies & TV / Columns

Gregory Segal On His Directorial Debut Film The Expat, Potential For A Sequel

August 15, 2022 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
The Expat Image Credit: Entertainment Studios

The 411 Interview: Gregory Segal

Image Credit: Gregory Segal

Gregory Segal is a writer, director, and producer who has been working in the movie business since, according to imdb, 2004/2005. Segal has produced such movies as Mother’s Day Massacre, The Insurgents, Sinners and Saints, and Should’ve Been Romeo. Segal’s first movie as a director is the low key thriller The Expat starring Lev Gorn and now available across all major Video on Demand platforms in North America. In this interview, Segal talks with this writer about making The Expat, working with Lev Gorn, making movies in the Philippines, and more.


Image Credit: Freestyle Releasing

Bryan Kristopowitz: How did you decide that you wanted The Expat to be your first feature film as a director?
Gregory Segal: I was looking at the opportunity the Philippines presented to make an aesthetically pleasing thriller at a low cost, with ow language barriers, a friendly environment of hard-working collaborative people and a place I already knew fairly well.

BK: Where did you come up with the idea for The Expat?
GS: Well the movie is, on the most basic level (not the murders and such) somewhat autobiographical. I’d had an idea to write something that was really about immersing oneself in a totally different culture as a foreigner, but putting it in a commercial storyline, like a thriller. I’ve been to like 110 countries, some would say it’s just a rootlessness, and Nick has some of that in him (or at least I wanted to portray that).

BK: Where was The Expat made? Did you mostly shoot on real locations?
GS: Only real locations. Malate (Manila Bay), Manila, Philippines and around Puerto Galera, Mindoro, Philippines.

Image Credit: Freestyle Releasing

BK: How did you cast The Expat? Describe your working relationship with star Lev Goren.

GS: I’ve known Lev for years. I produced a short film he directed and we had been friends for a few years before that (this is going back a decade). I actually wrote it with him in mind (There is a story behind that too but it’s kind of long winded and maybe funnier to me than to your readers) but I was concerned as he was very busy when I presented it to him. He was interested from the beginning, it was just finding an opportunity to make it when he wasn’t busy with The Americans and the other bigger things he was doing.

BK: Leo Martinez is terrific as the police chief. He’s hilarious in the part. Is he just as hilarious in real life?
GS: What can you say about Leo (who is also now Colonel Sanders for KFC in the Philippines ad campaigns)? Just the best. He’s quite a known figure. As a serious actor, he’s the one who brought Shakespeare to the Philippines for stage productions. He’s also a director. On set, I would say he’s quite serious. I didn’t have to do much to direct the scene, he knew exactly the tone i was going for (slapstick) and threw in a bunch of ad-lib little extras to the dialogue which make his scenes absolutely great. It was a true perfect creative partnership. And a shout out to Chris Leonardo, who nails the bumbling deputy with the blank stare so well. I think we only did two takes to get the “coffee” scene – they both had it cold. I’ll tell you something about Leo, though. He knows his way around a movie set and directing so well, having directed and acted so much. He would deliver his lines perfectly every time, and I had a habit of letting the camera roll to see if he’d come out with any more comedic moments beyond what I had written. So, when he was done, he would just stare directly at the camera, which was effectively him calling “cut” on the scene. He’s a unique, amazing talent.

Image Credit: Freestyle Releasing

BK: How long did it take to make The Expat, from finishing the script to completing post-production?

GS: Oof, well from last draft of the screenplay to completion like 5 years.

BK: What was the hardest part of making The Expat for you, as a director? What was the easiest?

GS: Everything was hard to be honest. It was really challenging. Once I got the story in my head fully, though, and figured out the second half of the film, I guess the writing was the easiest. Everything else ties for the hardest, lol. Except maybe our post-house – G2D in Thailand. Weston Thompson made everything they did super easy and cost-effective.

BK: Is it right to call The Expat a thriller or is it more of a mystery drama?
GS: I guess it’s a thriller, but not an action thriller. Its patterned more after Brian De Palma’s movies from the late 70s and 80s, like Blow Out (obviously on a much more simple level, give the constraints of low budget filmmaking). So when I say Brian De Palma, a god to me, I mean that it’s an attempt to do a film with that kind of storytelling (and, hopefully, on a small scale, somewhat successful in that regard).

Image Credit: Freestyle Releasing

BK: How difficult is it to make movies in the Philippines?
GS: It can be challenging, but I wouldn’t say it’s hard in and of itself (making a low budget movie is hard, and I’ve made a lot of them). It is much cheaper than in the USA or Europe, the crews are great if a little raw, they respect directors immensely and I find the actors skilled and really dedicated to their craft. Highly recommended.

BK: According to imdb you’ve worked on a number of movies as “legal services” or as “legal counsel.” Describe what a lawyer does for a movie production.
GS: Just doing every single agreement on a film, from location releases to actor deals and all the financing agreements. And then, hopefully, a nice fat distribution deal (unfortunately this can be a rarity for indie films).
BK: Any moviemaking heroes?
GS: A lot. But I’ll call out De Palma (as I said before). And John Sawyer, my director of photography, without whom this movie doesn’t exist.

BK: Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
GS: Well, there’s been a lot of discussion, happily, for me to do another film or three since The Expat was released. One thing that’s been percolating for a while is a remake, in the Philippines, of the Italian movie, Perfetti Sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers). And I am also writing a few things, one of which is a family adventure movie about three American-Filipino kids who get lost in the Philippines. Totally different kinds of stories from The Expat. And then, I am also trying to finish a thriller I wrote, set in Bangkok and a drama I wrote for Turkey (where I have been living for the last year).

BK: What do you hope audiences get out of The Expat?
GS: I just hope people enjoy it, and maybe they get a glimpse of the other side of the conversation, from the one they’ve been living.

BK: Any chance of a The Expat 2?
GS: Haha, you never know. We did discuss, rather than a continuation of this story, another “Expat” type story in one or more other countries – with different characters and a new storyline.

BK: Who picked out Lev Gorn’s blue flip flops, you or Lev? And why blue?
GS: Lev picked them, I think. He chose a lot of his own wardrobe, but you’d have to ask him. So long as they weren’t incongruous (his choices), I went with what he chose.


A very special thanks for Gregory Segal for agreeing to participate in the interview and to david j. moore for setting it up.

The Expat is now available across all major Video on Demand platforms in North America.

Check out my review of The Expat here!

Check out the official The Expat Facebook page here!

Gregory Segal image courtesy of Gregory Segal. All other images courtesy of Freestyle Releasing.