Saban Films’ Take The Night is out today in theaters and will receive its VOD and digital releases on July 12. ComingSoon spoke to director, writer, and actor Seth McTigue about his first feature film and his career.
“An inventive, edgy crime thriller, Take The Night is a twisted tale of sibling rivalry and family secrets,” reads the synopsis. “An elaborate surprise birthday stunt heads into increasingly dark places when career criminals hired to stage a fake kidnapping go rogue. Older brother William secures a crew to stage a fake kidnapping of his brother Robert. But the crew has plans of their own. The brothers must put aside their sibling rivalry if they want to save the family fortune.”
Take The Night is a very exciting project for you. When you’re involved in every single aspect of a film, from directing and writing to action, how personal and exciting is it that people are getting to see years of hard work come to fruition?
Seth McTigue: It’s like the greatest thing on earth. I got a movie and I got a theatrical release. That’s almost impossible nowadays, unless you have someone famous in your movie. So the fact that I’ve been blessed with this opportunity … no complaints here, super happy. And yeah, like you said, it’s very personal, you know? All the characters are based off of facets of myself [or] based off people I know. Then intertwining that with facets of my own life and just different relationships that I’ve had. And every character is a part of me. So yeah, when you are doing top to bottom, it is extremely personal and it’s like you’re putting your soul out there. So it could be soul-crushing if people hate it, but it’s okay. That’s why we make art. Art is open for interpretation, whether someone loves or hates it, as long as they watch it and they got the opportunity to make their own opinion. That’s fine. I can’t control [what] people think, but yeah, it’s personal and I appreciate that question.
Tell me a bit about your background. What led to you getting involved in filmmaking?
I’m one of eight kids, and when you’re one of eight kids in New York City, based off of a mailman salary — my dad was a mailman, my mom was a stay-at-home mom. You got eight kids living off of like $40,000 a year, 10-person family, [and] almost everyone at home. You can only imagine what the quality of life is not going to be … it wasn’t horrible! They took care of us, but like … we’re not going to get many luxuries. We’re not getting on any plane, that’s for sure. We’re not going for any fancy dinners. So like Wacky Wednesdays, $2 and 50 cents for a ticket. Yeah, we could do that. So we went to the movies all the time, and as a kid in New York with normal friends that aren’t in the business, you don’t talk about this stuff.
So you don’t think you can do this, you just enjoy it. And it’s awesome. I wanted to play basketball. I wanted to be in NBA! But I was going to school for business and college, and then the financial crisis of 2008, I think the end of 2008. My family was a victim of that, and I just was in school one day on campus. And I was just like, “man, I can’t do this. Like I can’t, I can’t, like, I can’t.” I called my brother up. I’m like, “so I was thinking to myself, I can’t.” I’m literally just walking on campus. I’m like, “I can’t sit in the office the rest of my life. Why am I going to school for business?”
Because this is what I’m supposed to do? So I called my brother and I was like, “yeah, dude, I’m switching my Majors to media. I’m not going to sit in an office the rest of my life.” And he said, “cool.” And that’s all I needed. He was cool with it. I was cool with it. I was going to do it. That’s it. And I just moved forward and over the years realized that a media study degree wasn’t gonna do anything for me. So I’m really self-taught, but hey, you know, whatever! I got a college degree out of it. So yeah, that’s how things happened.
This has a pretty unique setup as we have the prank kidnapping turning into a huge situation. What inspired you to come up with this storyline, and such a fun twist on the thriller drama?
So back in 2013, I had my college degree and I had done some modeling and definitely wasn’t fulfilled. That wasn’t what I was trying to do. I wasn’t trying to be a model, I was trying to make movies. I was like, “screw it.” I called two friends over and we hung out in the bedroom and we’re like, “all right, let’s, let’s come up with ideas.” I threw a concept out there. I was like, “Let’s think about ideas that feels like it’s rated R, but it could be PG.” They’re like, “Oh, okay.” So we’re just thinking, [and] I just blurted it out. I was like, “what if we kidnapped someone for a surprise birthday party?” So literally the first idea I ever came up with, I made the short film, my first short film ever. And now my first feature, and it’s crazy to think of the hundreds and thousands of ideas that I’ve had since then, that that has kind of stuck. It’s crazy, dude. I can’t believe that I got to make the feature. Just a great, great, great moment in my life.
To see that idea iterate over time and evolve, what has been most rewarding about that process of really honing in on the story you wanted to tell?
Writing the story and the original draft of 2013, just being young and naive and excited, and every character was the same: cracking jokes, this and that. There’s no depth. Over the years, giving the characters depth and dynamics and pain and backstory and relationships. Definitely one thing that I am proud of, I know for certain, is this movie is definitely not as surface level as people are going to think it is. People are going to hear the concept and going to see the trailer. “Oh, this is just another surface-level thriller,” but no, there’s definitely some deeper, darker elements of the movie that I think will really connect to people on a human level.
There are so many great crime thrillers throughout cinema. What are your favorites in the genre? Were there any like particular inspirations for this work?
So my favorite director is Christopher Nolan. His first movie, Following, [is] epic. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, he made it for like $6,000 or something ridiculous like that. He shot over weekends for months, [an] incredible feat. And then Memento‘s my favorite movie ever. Once again, Christopher Nolan. There’s just so much. I’ve seen hundreds, maybe thousands of movies, but yeah, it’s funny — a lot of people will compare this movie to The Game and say that I’m ripping The Game. I didn’t even know The Game existed before I wrote this or made the short film. Someone’s seen the short film, [and is] like, “Oh, wow. You’ve seen the movie The Game?” And then I watch it. I’m like, “Oh, wow. That’s so funny.” And now everyone thinks that, “Oh, he’s just copying The Game.” It’s like, dude, I didn’t even know that movie existed, but it’s a great movie and I love David Fincher. So just want to put that out there, so it’s common public knowledge now.
You’ve done quite a few shorts, including the one you mentioned before. When doing a feature film for your first time, what really stood out about that experience? Was it much different? Were there any unique challenges?
My short films, I always kept it as minimal people as possible. Like I’ve never had an AD, you know what I mean? Like me, cinematographer, sound guy, the actors. I always try to keep it minimal because I didn’t have the money to do anything grander. So to be on a feature film set, and you got like at least, bare minimum, 20 people per day, working under you, at the bare minimum. 30, 40, 50 people some days … it’s crazy. Having to impart your vision in your head to them and … it’s hard to explain. It’s nuts, just letting everyone get on the same page. Because you can say what you want and they can interpret that in a thousand different ways, you have to really, really get specific, because they don’t know exactly what’s in your head, and that’s important. You can’t just be like, “oh, I don’t like that.” Well, then you need to tell them what you want exactly.
What really impressed me about the film was just the pacing. It knows it never really drags. It never goes too fast. You let it breathe in moments. How important was it to balance the drama and action there? Because if done poorly, it can really take people out of the film.
I appreciate you saying that because my brother edited the movie and we edited it in my bedroom. So he’ll definitely appreciate that compliment. He’s never edited a film before, and he edited a feature film. For me, what he did is the most impressive to me. Honestly, I’m still baffled by how good of a job that he did for literally the first time ever editing a film, short or feature. And I completely agree that pacing, I think, is just spot on. I remember one night going to bed and he was like, “yeah, this scene is just not going to work. This is crap.” I’m like, do we need this scene? He’s like “no, this scene is horrible.” You’ve got tp cut some stuff, but I just knew, like this scene was pivotal and I woke up and he literally restructured the entire scene.
It was not the scene I wrote. It was not the scene I shot, but it was definitely the scene that he edited. So it just really important. And I appreciate you saying that, because that’s one thing that is so important to me. I’ve made thrillers, I’ve made dramas, and even with the dramas, it’s get in and get out. I’m a minimal dialogue kind of guy, get in and get out. Once you get the information you need to the audience, especially nowadays … people’s attention spans are just getting shorter. I’m not the type of person who likes [to] linger, unless it’s that moment. Like there’s those couple of random moments where I’ll let that shot hold just a little bit, but pacing and rhythm — that stuff is so important for a movie, man. So, yeah. I’m glad you said that.
There are a lot of great themes relating to family in the film. Obviously like you were saying, art is so subjective and people will take away from it differently, but what do you hope audiences take away from the aspect of family in the film?
I hope they see that nature versus nurture. You could assume that’s just someone’s nature, this and that. And I think this movie is showing that the way you’re raised really does affect who you are. I don’t want to talk too much about the characters, obviously for people who didn’t see [the film], but the way you’re raised can really affect you. This movie is about these sets of siblings, but it’s also about how parenting affects who they’ve become. How this character feels like they can’t be themselves because their dad didn’t approve of that, and how he now becomes this other rebel-type person. Whereas this other person, his personality type meshed well with his dad and his dad accepted him, so he got to become this great person. And it’s like, was the other one a bad person, or did he just not have the same personality type?
It’s such a good study about family and how parenting really affects you. And because I’m one of eight kids, so I do know how parenting affects you. I see my siblings and how they might feel towards a certain parent and how I may feel, and it’s amazing how all eight of us can have different views and different relationships with our parents. And I think it’s a fascinating thing that I think people, especially people with siblings, will really appreciate that. We kind of go into that a bit.
I hope you get time to really enjoy this film being out and let it all sink in, but what’s on the horizon for you?
So I am definitely going to enjoy this movie coming up. I’m definitely going to ride the wave. I’m definitely hitting up all the cities, going to do Q&As. I’m just really, really, really, really enjoying this. I already got a sold-out NYC opening night, family, friends. It’s going to be epic. LA is the following night, it’s going to be epic with all the cast and crew really enjoying it. But yeah, I definitely have another thriller in the pipeline. A bunch of producers and script people has read it and [are] giving notes, and just going through the early stages and getting people interested. I’m excited about that one. That one’s going to be fun for sure.