Andy Schlachtenhaufen is no stranger to filmmaking. "I've been making movies with my father and brother for as far back as I can remember," he says. Getting started with while still in middle school, he made an hour-long action comedy as a high school senior in Neenah and only picked up the pace after moving to Madison for college.
While in the course of taking film production courses at UW-Madison, he got involved with the local short-filmmaking group Loose Cannons, the movie is a comedic revenge tale about a showdown between a gang of ne'er-do-wells and a squad of security guards on the campus of the fictional Madison University. Conspicuously set across the UW-Madison campus, and replete with fight and chase scenes, the film features a cast and crew of numerous current and former students. Schlachtenhaufen currently works as the media coordinator for the Instructional Media Center in the Communication Arts department at the university. "Loose Cannons is my first feature-length film," he says, "and I'm happy to be premiering it at the 2008 Wisconsin Film Festival."
Schlachtenhaufen talks with The Daily Page in an email interview about his new film, and comments on its origins, the Loose Cannons universe, and its fight sequences, and more.
The Daily Page: How did you come up with the story for the film?
Schlachtenhaufen: The story is based on the feature-length film my brother Stephen made back in 2001 entitled Loose Cannons: Campus Security. In the summer of 2006 I moved out to Los Angeles for an internship. My brother lives and works there, and he and I thought it would be a good idea to write a script together. We always liked the idea of kung-fu fighting campus security guards, so we started writing and eventually went back to Stephen's first film and made changes from there. The new Loose Cannons is quite different from Stephen's original film though; I'd refer to it as a restart rather than a remake.
How does Loose Cannons follow from the short you created in 2003?
The short followed the cousin of one of the leads in my brother's film. I would say it was really just an excuse to shoot a fight scene on campus.
How did your extensive experience in creating many short films inform your approach to this feature?
Making shorts gave me a lot of confidence in directing. I think that the experiences I had working on a variety of different projects helped inform the decisions I made on set. Aside from technical know how, I was able to tell very quickly whether a take was going to make the final cut or if we were going to have to try it again. Also, a lot of the actors who appeared in my shorts also appear in Loose Cannons. These are my closest friends, so we felt very comfortable collaborating with one another when the project got moving.
Is the film actually set at UW-Madison as "Madison University" or does the campus simply serve as a more general setting?
It's more of a general setting. It definitely takes place in Madison, Wisconsin, but it's an alternate reality and "Madison University" has its own history, a history that's quite different from UW-Madison's (i.e., Madison Mules instead of the Wisconsin Badgers). This decision just gave us a little more room to breathe life into the Loose Cannons universe.
What was the difficulty of choreographing and executing the fighting sequences in Loose Cannons? What about the chases and other stunts?
Of all the demands of an action sequence I actually think that choreographing was the easiest for us. Eric Lim and I would spend a couple days developing a fight based on moves we wanted to see and do or see others do. We like to study all the greats -- Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Wo-Ping, Lau Kar-Leung, and others -- and take mental notes here and there. By far, the biggest obstacle for us is time. We usually had to squeeze our fights into an afternoon here and there. It adds up in the end, but if the weather decides to go sour or if your location's contact drops out on you it can really hinder the process.
Who is Chuharold Sypholatron?
I think you'll have to watch the movie to get an answer to this one.
You describe the humor in the film as "subtle" and "awkward." Can you explain what you mean by that?
The humor is probably most akin to the television series Arrested Development. The humor comes from throwing really strange and quirky people into a room with some fairly "normal" people and seeing how they irritate each other.
What was the most difficult section/sequence in the film to cut from the final version?
The sequence that gave me the most trouble was the opening montage. It fills in a lot of back story for the characters and sets the tone for the Loose Cannons universe. It used to be very long with a lot history detailing the inception of Campus Security on the campus, but I've made a lot of changes to it in the past few months or so and put the focus on the characters.
You have released a PSA video for Loose Cannons extolling the benefits of campus security. What did you learn about the ease or difficulty of shooting on campus while making of the film?
We really didn't run into that many problems shooting on campus. People liked the idea for the film and were very open and willing to help us make the film.
What kind of soundtrack do you have for the film?
Jonathan Lang, who plays Spencer Huntley in the film, composed the music for the film. Jonathan is a very talented musician who likes to experiment with all genres of music. I approached him with the idea of taking Spaghetti Western music and fusing it with hip-hop and drumline music. We more or less scrapped the hip-hop part, but we kept the other two and it sounds fantastic.
What do you have planned for the Loose Cannons website?
Well, you'll have the usual synopsis, trailer, photo gallery, bios, and so on, but we'll also expand the Loose Cannons universe with a detailed history of Madison University and its students. We'll also have a few deleted scenes available online, b-Sides from the movie if you will.
What extras can we look forward to on the DVD release?
We're going to do a couple commentary tracks, one of which will be a commentary of the commentary track. We'll also have cast and crew interviews and some Behind the Scenes action choreography footage. Jonathan and I are talking about releasing the soundtrack with this DVD too.
Why should people attend your premiere at the Wisconsin Film Festival?
View Local. Loose Cannons was shot entirely in Madison, Wisconsin. The actors and crew freely volunteered their time to tell a fun and exciting story that is enjoyable on many, many levels. It's got great laughs, great shots, and great action scenes.
What other films will you be seeing at this year's Wisconsin Film Festival?
I'm really looking forward to Big Man Japan, Mongol, and several of the shorts programs.
What's your next project?
This is a good question. Right now we are working on a Batman short. The film poses the question: "What would Batman be like if Bruce Wayne didn't have any money?" I've got a couple other quieter shorts that I'd like to do in April. I'm also working on a couple projects with my producing partner, Eric Lim, whose film Zero-Trooper F is playing at the festival as well. One is a martial arts adventure and the other is a final installment in his Zero Trooper series. I'm also developing a "special" website, so look for that sometime soon as well.
Where else are you looking to screen Loose Cannons?
After Loose Cannons premieres here in Madison we'll be shipping the film off to film festivals around the country. We're also planning a joint screening of Loose Cannons and Zero-Trooper F at the Orpheum later this April.
Loose Cannons will premiere in the Wisconsin Film Festival at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, April 4 at the Bartell Theatre. A trailer for the film is available here for viewing, and Schlachtenhaufen and other cast and crew from are scheduled to attend the screening.