Coming off of his directorial debut, Tapped Out, Toronto native and former New York Film Academy student Allan Ungar returns to the action genre with his film, Gridlocked. Written and directed by Ungar, and co-written by Rob Robol, the film stars frequent NYFA guest speaker Stephen Lang, as well as Danny Glover and Dominic Purcell.
Gridlocked is about a former SWAT leader and a hard partying movie star who have to cut their ride-along short when a police training facility is overrun by a team of mercenaries. It’s a throwback to 80’s and 90’s era action films that spawned the buddy cop genre.
Recently, we had a chance to chat with the writer/director before his film’s release On Demand and BluRay / DVD this upcoming June 17th, 2016.
Are you primarily interested in creating action films?
I’ve always been fascinated with the action genre; there’s a great adrenaline rush to it. My goal is to continue pursuing projects that have action in them but they need to have heart. I don’t think audiences care about action unless they’re invested in the stories and the characters. Ideally, I’d like to work on films that can resonate with viewers. I want projects that are largely character driven so that the set pieces have more impact.
Would you say your experience at NYFA was useful in terms of writing and directing GRIDLOCKED?
NYFA helped me build and utilize the basic skills that eventually lead to writing and directing Gridlocked. In the three summers I spent doing workshops, I found that the fundamentals of filmmaking were largely grasped due to NYFA’s intensive and hands on programming. The ability to grab a camera and work with industry professionals vastly helped kickstart my career.
When did you and Rob begin your working relationship? Did you meet while at NYFA?
Rob and I met in my final year at NYFA. He was a counselor and I was a student. We became friendly, but it wasn’t until he saw the shorts I was making that he got excited. Most people thought I was crazy for trying to bring guns on the Universal Backlot. He applauded it. After that, it was happily ever after. We began writing scripts immediately.
You’ve worked with Lionsgate, and now Magnolia and Magnet to get your film distributed. Can you tell me how you’ve formed these relationships or how that came about?
It’s kind of the same thing with trying to break into the industry in the first place; you knock on a lot of doors and you try to turn heads. Lionsgate came from cold calling and sending around a trailer. With Gridlocked, it was a lot easier because there was already a foundation that was built. Sales agents had already become familiar with us and distributors remembered our conversations from the first film. When we got invited to premiere Gridlocked at Fantastic Fest in Austin, there were a lot of agents and buyers who attended the screenings. We got to shake hands and get to know more about that side of the business and expand our list of contacts. In the end, we were fortunate that we had several options lined up for the film, but Magnolia was ultimately the right home.
Was there something you learned from TAPPED OUT that you were able to implement or correct in GRIDLOCKED?
Like anything, you learn a great deal from your first experience. You get accustomed to the inordinate amount of pressure that falls on you as captain of the ship. There’s a lot of do’s and don’ts that you pick up pretty quickly, but you’re always learning and adapting. Being extremely prepared is one of the most vital things I took away from Tapped Out. Even though I considered myself prepped and focused, there were so many things that happened on a daily basis which made me realize that I hadn’t even scratched the surface. When things don’t go as you planned, you need to think on your toes and be more creative. Having learned that the hard way on my first film definitely paved the way for some great scenes in Gridlocked. Being able to communicate your vision is also extremely imperative, especially when you’re under the gun and the clock is ticking. Gridlocked was such a daunting task, so I’m glad that I got to go through boot camp with my first film.
Are you currently working on anything else?
I was recently brought on to write a new action film for director Dominic Sena called Johhny Two Guns. He did Gone in 60 Seconds and Swordfish. Another NYFA alum is actually producing that; Alex Lebo. I also just produced a thriller with Rose McGowan and Christopher Lloyd called Lower Bay, which should be out later this year.