Icons of Fright Talks Murder Mystery UNCLE JOHN With Steve Piet and Erik Crary
We all love a good murder mystery, whether it flashy and hypnotic or like I prefer, a good southern noir tale. Enter co-writers Steven Piet & Erik Crary and their film UNCLE JOHN (now playing in theaters and on VOD), which was directed by Piet. Starring John Ashton (BEVERLY HILLS COP), the film revolves around a missing bully turned Christian and the people around the town, who all have something to hide, especially John (Ashton), a community staple and well-respected member of the community.
Having studied under David Lynch as an assistant and eventually a producer, the inspired Crary and writing partner Piet crafted a solid and completely entertaining film that in the words OF David Lynch: “caught me up and held me for days after seeing it. I loved the story and especially loved the performance of John Ashton.” We had a short chat with the filmmaking duo regarding the film, so enjoy!
UNCLE JOHN is a really interesting film, what inspired you to tell this story in particular?
Steven & Erik: Erik grew up in a small town in Wisconsin where we ultimately ended up shooting the majority of Uncle John. The concept grew out of several conversations we’d had about the differences between life in a small town versus a big city like Chicago (where Steven grew up, and where we both reside now). Though geographically those two places are relatively close, they are worlds apart when you factor in things like reputation, local gossip and generational differences. We loved the idea of setting stories in both worlds, each from a different genre, and then allowing them to play out fully in the same film.
A film is typically on the shoulders of its lead, and John Ashton was absolutely great. Did you have him in mind from the beginning?
Steven & Erik: We didn’t have John specifically in mind from the beginning, but he definitely showed up in the middle of the writing process. We had already developed the character of JOHN when Netflix started streaming the first Beverly Hills Cop movie and, John Ashton popped out to us. He’s such a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy, and also a man’s man that could embody the darkness of the character while still displaying a charm that could persuade a viewer to hope he doesn’t get caught for a crime we witnessed him commit. It’s not an easy feat, but John pulled it off in spades.
I love films where everyone has their own secrets, were there any particular films like that, that might have inspired this one?
Steven & Erik: I wouldn’t say that there was one film that directly inspired that aspect of Uncle John, but I always loved the muddied morality of a film like In the Bedroom. I’m not a parent myself and it’s impossible for me to even comprehend what it must feel like to grieve the death of your own child. But, that movie did a beautiful job of opening a window to help me better understand how a normal, well-adjusted person could be pushed to the point of committing a terrible act.
Erik, you’ve had a good working relationship with David Lynch in the past, did he teach you anything specific when it comes to filmmaking or storytelling in general?
Erik: Definitely — one of the biggest specific practical take always for me was just being around and part of the team as he was executing on ideas. I was fortunate to start working there as the whole internet boom was going on and the web in general was still being figured out. David had a lot of ideas for his site, and there was suddenly a big need for content. Most of that production happened digitally with small teams and quick schedules. I had not worked on a lot of sets prior to that, and learned a ton about common sense production and teamwork in general. Also, aside from the obvious fact that David is one of the most renowned directors in the world, he’s also a lot of fun to work for, and has crews who love him stretching back through everything he’s done. Its very hard not to be inspired by all of that, and the experiences have definitely informed every project since.
What’s next for you two, another film?
Steven & Erik: We’ve been working on new ideas since post on Uncle John finished up, and have been focusing on one specifically that we’re super excited about. After the release, we’ll be shifting full attention back to that.