Tribeca Festival : Mcveigh / Q&A with Director Mike Ott, Actress Ashley Benson, Actor Tracy Letts, Actor Anthony Carrigan and Cinematographer Daniel Vignal

Tribeca Festival : Mcveigh / Q&A with Director Mike Ott, Actress Ashley Benson, Actor Tracy Letts, Actor Anthony Carrigan and Cinematographer Daniel Vignal

Photo by Nobuhiro Hosoki

Mcveigh : After the Waco siege, an unthinkable plan brews in the mind of army veteran Timothy McVeigh. A psychological thriller based on the harrowing real life events of the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.

Director : Mike Ott

Producer : Miles Alva, Nicolaas Bertelsen, Joe Pirro, Monte Zajicek

Screenwriter : Mike Ott, Alex Gioulakis

Genre : Drama, Mystery & Thriller

Original Language : English

Runtime : 1h 30m


©Courtesy of Obscured Pictures


Q&A with Director Mike Ott, Actress Ashley Benson, Actor Tracy Letts, Actor Anthony Carrigan and Cinematographer Daniel Vignal


Q: You’re known for making challenging work. The obvious question is, why this project? Why this story?

Mike Ott: I was tired of making movies that nobody saw.

Q: So much is unknown about this story. Where did you take liberties and where did you try to stick to known facts? 

Mike Ott: Tracy, what do you think?

Tracy Letts: Don’t know…lol

Mike Ott: Tracy knows more about him than I do.

Tracy Letts: I don’t think that’s true.

Mike Ott: Listen, Tim never got laid and didn’t smoke cigarettes. I think there’s also a bunch [of things] to the story that makes me believe I don’t really know what is true and what’s not.

Q: How did you work with your cast on something like this to get these performances out of them? It’s super realistic and is such a slow burn of a movie. Ashley, you read the script. What are your thoughts? 

Ashley Benson: I was really interested to see how Mike would tell the story. It’s such a heavy subject, and I think he did a really beautifully [job] with the topic. We had FaceTimed, I think seven years ago, and we were on the phone for two hours, and it felt like I was his long time friend. We finally got to make this movie. He’s such a good director. He really lets you have freedom; he knows what he wants. It was a great experience. And Daniel is an amazing DP.

Anthony Carrigan: From the beginning, it was a very complicated topic in our initial conversations, and one that came with a lot of questions. A lot of things just didn’t quite add up. There were a lot of conspiracy theories, especially with what my character was based on —  is shrouded in mystery. On set, we really tried to find that tone of how unsettling this character of Timothée Mcveigh was, exploring all the factors that would tilt someone towards the direction of becoming unhinged. Exploring that was very heavy, but at the same time, it was very creatively rewarding as well.


©Courtesy of Obscured Pictures

Q: Tracy, what about you? You’re such an experienced actor, what drew you to this project? 

Tracy Letts: The script was great, and what I loved about it was so elliptical and mysterious on the page. I thought the blanks were one of the things that made it really compelling. In a way, you just try to play the truth of the moment and let the blanks be blanks. Let those elliptical spaces be what they are. much of it in the mind’s eye of the audience. Which is the way I saw it on the page, and this is my first time seeing it. That’s exactly what was described on the page, so that’s always thrilling to see. It doesn’t always work that way, so it’s thrilling that it translates to the screen.

Mike Ott: Tracy was really intimidating to work with. He was just very quiet, and after the first take, he was just sitting there very solemn, and I said, “Hey man, What do you think? How do you think it was?” And he goes, “I liked it.” I said, “I liked it too. That’s good. Let’s go.”

Tracy Letts: That doesn’t sound intimidating. Convivial.

Q: Daniel, what were some of the visual techniques you used? There’s so much loneliness and isolation with this character. What were some of your tricks that you used going into this?

Daniel Vignal: When we started talking with Mike about how to shoot this, an idea that was important was of being removed from Tim, [to create the] feeling that you’re surveilling him and watching him from afar. It was a lot of slow zooms, shooting through glass, shooting through things, not necessarily in the same room, but getting a glimpse into his world without being close to him physically.

Q: What was the hardest part of doing that? 

Daniel Vignal: I think there were different challenges. It was a quick schedule. We had to shoot a lot in a few days. But not enough joy to shoot it, honestly.

Q: It’s visually stunning. You let those empty moments play themselves out. How much of that is in the script; did you let those long things just happen? When you’re coming into the script stage, do you feel like that’s what’s on the screen or did it change a lot from the conception to now? 

Mike Ott: I think the actors had a lot of room to do whatever they wanted. I told them they could throw whatever they thought. I was bad at what I wrote, so they threw a lot at me and Alex. I really liked working with these guys. They can make your kind of shitty writing better. I also had a moment with Tracy at the end, where I said, “Tracy, I feel like everything I wrote is so cheesy, man. Do you think you could sell it?” And he said, “That’s my job. Good job.”


©Courtesy of Obscured Pictures

Q: What were some of the harder moments for you, as the cast, to do something like that?  Do you prepare for this role differently than something that’s more straightforward? Ashley?

Ashley Benson: For me, my character was the light in the movie. She didn’t really have to be in that heavy mindset. She wasn’t really aware of what Tim [was thinking], who he really was and what he was doing and planning on doing. Working so closely with Alfie on set, it was just, again, very quiet. He had to be in a hard head space the whole time he was filming. Everyone kept to themselves and let Alfie have his time to be in that headspace.

Q: Mike, was that something you purposely did, that you wanted the cast to be a part of?

Mike Ott: I don’t know. Ashley and Alfie were just avoiding each other for some reason. Which was great, and I also think it worked. I think Alfie was avoiding everyone, so it worked out. It was interesting to see what people brought to it. Brett didn’t tell me what he was going to do.

He just showed up the first day and fucking killed it, thank god. It was a very nerve-wracking experience because I’ve never worked with famous people. You don’t have much time to ask them questions except for Ash, who was cool with that. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Robert Altman has this quote, “Once you give someone the role, you have to trust what they’re going to do with it.”

Q: What’s the biggest difference working with actors that are more of a seasoned group? Have you taken on more roles in some of your other films where you’ve had a lot of non actors? 

Mike Ott: That’s what’s nice about working with them. They’re always on point. Very chill, I know what to do. Anthony did the toothpick last minute, [makes a ticking sound with a toothpick], he’s down for whatever I tried.

Daniel Vignal: It was just a good way to stay away doing what’s being prescribed in these really long shots holding the camera on the characters. Even if you do plan for things, there’s enough time that’s going by that you can just  drop it and explore; to just be there and drop in. I think that’s the most interesting stuff to watch.

Q: Mike, are those long takes something that you do in all your movies or was this purposely done for this film?

Mike Ott: We didn’t have a lot of time, so we just had one take for most of the takes. Luckily, it worked out where the performances were good. You hold on to them for as long as we could.

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