Interviews: Writer and Director Scott Teems Talks The Quarry

TMS: How are you dealing with all this craziness that's going on?

ST: You know, it's a little intense but I'm finding it refreshing to have a lot of time with my kids that I wasn't having. We're making the best of that and enjoying having everyone home. I've got a high schooler so he's always gone. So having him around has been a real gift. 

TMS: Where did the idea for The Quarry come from?

ST: It's based on a novel by Damon Galgut. I stumbled on the novel ten years ago as I was looking for a project to follow up my first feature film That Evening Sun. I stumbled on the synopsis and the blurb online, probably on Amazon. I was intrigued immediately by the premise. The book was set in Africa as a sort of post-apartheid racial injustice story. The premise of the stranger who rolls into town and says he's someone he's not which is something we've seen before. But the core took a really unique approach to it. All these themes and subjects that really intrigued me as a, violence, religion and where those things intersect and collide. It felt like something universal because there was a great hook there. 

TMS: The cast here is damn amazing. Michael Shannon is obviously one of the best actors working today. What's it like working with him?

ST: He's great. You recognize when you're working with really great talent. It makes you step up your game. Shea is amazing as well. They're both really great actors. They always have been. It was really very fortunate to me. Mike and Shea have this long running friendship off screen and on screen. That really creates real trust between those two guys because they both know that they're going to bring their A-game. They're both fully prepared and ready to go. That's so vital on a film like this. Most independent films you have limited time. We were always racing. It's great to have actors that can get it in a couple takes because sometimes that's all you have. That's crucial to a filmmaker to know you have that trust. 

TMS: You've done a lot of work on documentaries and shorts. What's it like moving from that realm to features?

ST: The first thing I ever did was a feature That Evening Sun. That was my first film as a professional. From there I moved into television actually for a few years. I worked on a show called Rectify. I worked on Narcos. For me, I feel like my career...I've been very fortunate to bounce around. And I've written a bunch of stuff for other directors. My writing career is my main focal point right now. There are different ways of telling stories. It's been a real gift and I enjoy that. 

TMS: We all know how this outbreak is effecting the film industry right now. Initially The Quarry was meant to screen at SXSW. How has that changed things and how are you adapting to this new climate?

ST: It was unfortunate to lose the screenings as SX. I love the film festival experience. It's really great. But we're all in this together. That's just the way of the world right now. We were very fortunate, we had a distributor. So Lionsgate is putting the movie out on April 17th. We thought it was the right thing to do that and give people something to watch during this crazy time. I'm hopeful that people will get to see it and more than would have seen it in some other scenario. We all are at home looking for something to entertain us. We all love stories and stories can heal us. 

TMS: What's the release schedule like now. 

ST: April 17th it'll be on VOD, video on demand. There will also be a theatrical release...depending on what happens in three weeks, but it looks like mostly streaming right now which is exciting. 

TMS: Shea and Michael had worked together before on Boardwalk Empire. How did their previous relationship translate to the screen?

ST: They also did Take Shelter and Waco....I think there's like 6 or 7 others together. They just have that mutual trust. They know the other so well. They know how each other works. And they both work very differently. Shea loves to try things, take swings at other things whereas Mike comes in and knows what he wants to do and does it really well every time. He's very consistent. And Shea likes to take swings at different things. 

TMS: I hate to continually use the term 'character actor' but they both kind of fit into that category and both are dramatic powerhouses. Take Shelter is one of my favorites. That said, what films influenced The Quarry?

ST: I'd say it's a sort of Texas noir so any type of Texas crime film of the last decade lives in the shadow of No Country for Old Men. This one does as well. You're always thinking of that. No Country is one of the greatest films of the last quarter century. And one of my favorites. The Coens are masters one of my favorites. Paris, Texas from Win Wenders has been a long time inspiration. I'm really influenced by a lot of Eastern European film makers. I'm always looking for that human connection. 

TMS: What has critical reception been like so far and how do you react to potential negativity?

ST: Since we didn't do SX, there really wasn't a critical response up to this point. But as I've been doing interviews and stuff. It's a unique experience. Everything I've done before, I've got to watch in advance and I've got to know what the world thinks about it. This is a strange new experience because of the situation we're in. But you can't please everyone. And if you do, I think you've done something wrong. To me, I've accomplished my goal if some people really like it and some really dislike it. I like it to move something in you. Even if that's negative. At least it's challenged something in you. I'm looking for a reaction. Not a provocation. I'm looking for it to touch something inside that you have to deal with. 

The Quarry is available for rental on Amazon Prime. 

Read our spoiler free review here!