MURDER BURY WIN is the directorial debut from Director and Writer Michael Lovan. It is an enjoyable, darkly comedic thriller about three friends who are chasing their dreams to blow up in the indie board game industry with their game – Murder Bury Win. The objective of their game being how to kill someone and get rid of the body.
For the release of MURDER BURY WIN, Nightmarish Conjurings spoke with Michael Lovan about his creative process and the very real game that accompanies this film.
Thank you for speaking with me today! I know this is your directorial debut so to begin, can you chat about what you loved most about making this film?
Michael Lovan: I think the limitations I ran into during production forced me to not do as many set-ups and as many shots as I would have if I had more money or more resources, but ultimately what I’m left with is a camera that studies all the characters at once, and let’s every actor have a real opportunity to flesh out the character in front of your eyes. It’s more old-timey in that sense, it’s more theatrical, it’s more like a filmed play. Coming from the roots of theater, I’m really glad that this is what resulted from my limitations of a budget- is filming something that I grew up watching and loving. I’m glad that it shares that DNA with those types of films.
You mention the camera focusing on each character, how did you come up with the character dynamics that we see between Chris, Adam, and Barrett?
Michael Lovan: I think all three of them are a part of me. I think that you’ll find those aspects of my personality within all three characters, but also you’ll find that in any creative process there are these three aspects that can be clearly divided by lines in the sand. There’s the heart in any creative process which is Barrett, there is someone that has to drive, and direct the project- which is Chris, and then there’s someone that’s thinking about the means to an end, the financial aspect, and that’s the Adam character. So once I really divvied them up, and made them into three separate people, their personality became very clear very quickly.
One of the main motifs of this film is ‘what will you do to reach your dreams,’ is that motif coming from anything personal in your life?
Michael Lovan: Yeah! I think that I’ve always felt icky about value systems that would have there be a winner if it means there also has to be a loser. You know, what does it mean to win if others have to lose? You can apply that to board games, and you can apply that to any entrepreneurial environment. I guess it’s very personal to me, I’ve always loathed the idea of competition, paradoxically I love games! I love the idea of coming together and having fun, and so it’s a good opportunity for me in the screenplay to explore: ‘what does that mean, and how can you get ahead in an environment that lives on success?’
The Game Changer platform is a main part of this film. Why did you have the platform be so intertwined within the plot?
Michael Lovan: Well, I think that what we see now is there’s this very interesting ecosystem – unlike any other time in our history – where in there is a promise that anyone can be successful through crowdfunding. You see that on Kickstarter, you’ll see that there are probably thousands upon thousands of people putting their dreams out there, hoping that someone’s going to come along and help fund something that they believe in. I think that to omit that – to omit something that really is a necessity for people that don’t come from financial means – would do a major disservice to the themes of the story. While we could do the film and jump straight to the cutthroat situation they’re in, these are three guys that don’t come from means, that have histories, that don’t have a head start that a lot of other people are born with, and I think that it was very important to insert that as an addition to help inform the story that I’m telling.
Would it be accurate to say that privilege played a role within the storytelling?
Michael Lovan: I think absolutely! There’s [an] immense privilege that’s even acknowledged within the film itself, and people absolutely disregarding their privilege and pretending that it doesn’t play a factor. Adam uses it whenever he wants; on one hand he acknowledges that he’s white, but ironically he also plays deaf and pretends that the situation they’re in – that they have a corpse on their hands – isn’t more troublesome, and isn’t more problematic, and potentially lethal to his two friends who are people of color. I think that Adam is a very prototypical example of someone that maybe is aware of their privilege, but also will disregard it to suit the needs of the moment.
Thank you for speaking to that. I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you about the game itself. The design of the game is absolutely beautiful, and I noticed that in the film a lot of these shots really center the games’ design. How much was the planning of the game in tandem with how the movie was being directed?
Michael Lovan: I’m glad you mention the art of the game. The game has two artistic looks to it. There’s the cards which are crude, and there’s the layout which is really beautiful. If it’s crude I drew it, if it looks nice my wife did. So that was a very interesting process developing the screenplay and a board game at the same time. The board game was designed to hit the beats of the screenplay so I wasn’t thinking of the mechanics of the game I was thinking “story first, story first.” Along the way I was storyboarding out “Well how do I want to see this game represented?” Then that extended itself to whatever I can’t show on a board game that would look interesting we’ll just cut to a fantasy sequence. There are criticisms about the game within the film itself by V.V. Stubbs – all the criticisms were actually criticisms the actors gave me about the game itself when we did our first table reading. We did a table reading and our first play test – and when they’re playing it I could see they were grinning, and I could see them thinking and I’m like “what’s on your mind boys?” They begin to offer some of their criticisms and they were like “well do you want to fix it“ and I’m like “no, we’re not gonna fix it we’re going to add that to your dialogue.“ So that’s actually art imitating life imitating art there!
The last question I had for you was about the soundtrack. I thought that was really unique. I read that you wanted a soundtrack that was “playful yet ominous“ and so how did you land on the combination of sounds that you wanted to be used in the film?
Michael Lovan: A lot of it’s to Jonathan Snipes and David Rothbaum’s credit. We did the score and Jonathan did the final pass of sound as well. I know Jonathan from UCLA, I had him scoring my theater projects. We worked together a number of times before he got big with Clipping – his rap group with Daveed Diggs and Will Hutson. Jonathan is a great guy. He’s very creative and we kind of speak the same language cinematically. He used this as an opportunity to do what might get him fired on other projects, which is like go nuts go wild. Does it seem like these guys should hear the sound of an audience applauding? OK, do that, go nuts go wild. This is a film about going bigger or going home, and because games are so big on fostering a collective communal sense of creativity, well let’s show that and let’s feel that. Jonathan just went nuts, [I had] very little notes on what he was doing. I think he just understood what I was going for, and he and David just nailed the entire process throughout.
For more on MURDER BURY WIN, check out our review here. MURDER BURY WIN will be available On Demand on April 27, 2021.