We last joined Director Max Kane in conversation for his superb road trip film Duck. It was a short with an impressive production history where Kane and his lead actor, as a two-man team, narrativised their own road trip, creating a gonzo adventure film that was an example of genuine guerrilla filmmaking. Kane returns to our pages today with a notable shift in his filmmaking ambition. He has taken the fundamentals he learned when making Duck and cast his sights higher with a much larger and complex production. This new film, which Directors Notes is proud to premiere today, is House of Brotherly Love, a family drama about a brother confronting his sister’s troublesome boyfriend at a family gathering. It’s a film with a big cast and even bigger drama, and DN was fortunate enough to speak with Kane once again to learn more about the challenges this seismic production presented for him and his crew in addition to the creative similarities that link House of Brotherly Love and Duck.
House of Brotherly Love is quite a different film from Duck. What inspired the idea for it?
The idea for HOBL started with a simple question: if I discovered someone was hurting the people I loved most, how would I react? I have a younger brother and sister and I’ve always strove to protect them but I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that they are growing up and becoming their own people. I returned home for a year during the pandemic, and during that time, I was able to spend more time with them than ever before. And now, as I leave Philly to continue my career in LA, I view this film as my send-off; my nod that no matter what happens in their worlds, I’ll always have their backs.
Do you see any thematic or stylistic similarities between Duck and HOBL?
I enjoy writing with limitations. For my last film Duck my limitation was one static frame on the hood of a car for the entirety of a short. For HOBL, my limitation was telling a story in one location over the course of one night. I completed my first draft in a few days, then spent the next three months rewriting and fine-tuning.
It’s definitely a short that works through the portrayals of these relationships by your actors. It must’ve been an interesting film to cast.
Casting was one of the most difficult parts of the process because we were tasked to create a believable, unique, and likeable-yet-flawed family in a short amount of time. It took us a few months to find our Jaylen and Breonna, this was happening in conjunction with writing, then, over the course of a few weeks, we built the Robinson family during pre-production. We cast relatives from Philly, NYC, Ohio, and LA, all via Zoom, and finalized our group the day before shooting.
How long did the shoot take? I’m assuming you worked with a slightly larger crew than the two-man team on Duck?
Production began in April 2021 at my childhood home in West Chester, PA. We shot over one week, all overnights. The majority of our crew were friends and family. For example, my dad managed location, sister headed makeup, family-friend led production design, and best friends filled the roles of AC, AD, and UPM. Our crew was young, the vast majority being in our 20s. We took COVID safety seriously, which significantly affected our schedule and budget. We tested every individual before they stepped on set, every other day, with rapid-PCR kits.
My limitation was telling a story in one location over the course of one night.
I’m most proud of the group we brought together for this shoot. We championed a cast of 60 and crew of twelve, which is the biggest set I’ve led. Every person had a purpose and contributed in a major way. Overnights are never easy, but we worked with genuinely kind, talented people who believed in our story. For many people, this was their first time returning to set since the pandemic began. By the end of the week, everyone knew each other by name, and it hurt to say goodbye to those we had grown close to. I’m confident that lifetime relationships were made during this shoot, both professional and personal.
What kit was used across the film to bring each aspect of it to life?
HOBL was written in Final Draft, shot on a Black Magic Pocket 4K, edited in Premiere, colored in DaVinci. Lighting was china balls and practicals, and a few LED sources. Lenses were Zeiss Standard Speeds.
And how did you find post-production? The editing is really slick.
Joey Krulock and I cut, sound designed, and mixed HOBL in five months. The editing process was an emotional rollercoaster that took a great deal of patience and re-imagining. We spent about half of the time on picture, half on sound. Colorist Cameron Marygold and Cinematographer Bradley Credit, both masters of their own fields, worked together to execute their vision for color.
Duck was such a great example of guerrilla filmmaking but HOBL feels like a big step for you in terms of your ambitions as a filmmaker. What, or maybe even who, do you attribute to being the driving force in this creative leap?
This project would not have come to fruition without my filmmaking partner, Joey Krulock. Joey assumed many roles, which included (but were not limited to): villain, production sound, producer, editor, mixer. I am constantly in awe of Joey’s ability to flourish in every aspect of production and look forward to continuing to work with him on bigger and better projects.
I’m one project closer to making my first feature, which is a goal I believe to be attainable in the near future. I’ve started writing again, and once all is said and done, I am excited to share the finished product with Directors Notes!
Each character in the film feels so realized. Was it important for you to create the sense that this was a dramatic family on the whole, in addition to the tension between Breonna and her boyfriend?
I wanted the family to feel as real as possible. In order to do so, I mirrored each character after someone in my own family but had them be extreme caricatures of their counterpart (for the record my mom/dad are actually very kind and loving people). I wanted to get across that no matter how absurd and dysfunctional this family was, they came together and stood up for what was right.
Casting was one of the most difficult parts of the process because we were tasked to create a believable, unique, and likeable-yet-flawed family in a short amount of time.
What would you say were the most challenging scenes to shoot? Some of the party scenes must’ve been great fun yet pretty tricky to capture!
The film was actually supposed to open with a one-take that weaved thru dozens of conversations at the party, ultimately ending on Jaylen watching Will/Breonna share a kiss as the ball dropped. We spent a full night rehearsing and the next night shooting. Our team worked hard to execute the 7-minute shot, and it turned out very cool, but we ultimately decided that the film would be stronger without it.
Our 360° shot around the dining room table was also a challenge. The move required two camera-ops and two boom-ops (for each side of the table). We placed our camera on a rotating slider in the center, and as our camera and boom-ops danced around their side of the table, our actors had to either duck out of the way or completely leave their seat for a few seconds. Major kudos to our cast/crew for pulling the shot off without any rehearsal, as it required so much coordination, timing, and problem-solving on every level. We only had time for 10 takes, and we nailed it on the 10th.
And last but not least, what will you be working on next?
I’m writing my first feature which I hope to shoot by next year. I’m so excited to fully dedicate myself to this new project.