Director John Suits On Sci-Fi, Editing and His New Film 'Breach'
December 17, 2020
Director John Suits opened up about his current project, Breach, starring Bruce Willis, Thomas Jane and Rachel Nichols. Written by Edward Drake and Corey Large, this sci-fi action film takes us on a journey through deep space, where aboard an interstellar ark to New Earth, a junior mechanic must outwit a malevolent cosmic terror intent on weaponizing the space ship.
Fresh off 3022, which Suits directed, edited and produced, it's apparent that sci-fi is a genre in which Suits feels very comfortable. “In terms of what films I like to watch, I really love sci-fi — it’s a tough genre, so I appreciate directors who do a good job with it, especially with limited budgets or as an independent production.”
A man who loves films about the world ending, but sees himself as a generally “positive guy”, Suits says he’s someone who has always wanted to do a space film. While he was in post-production on 3022, he was contacted by Breach producers Danny Roth and Corey Large with an opportunity to direct. “Here I was, just finished a space movie, and suddenly I was presented with another. But I was such a huge fan of Bruce [Willis] — and Breach, which is action-packed, was a different script from the quiet and introspective 3022, so I knew it would be a lot of fun.”
When any iconic actor boards a film, they usually bring along the film’s lead character. With Bruce cast, “the writer had really tried to cater to Bruce’s strengths, who has such great screen presence.” Suits says though there was collaboration on the script-to-screen character development, “the actors brought their own personalities to it, [they each] elevated the character.”
Regarding the script’s development, Suits “came into the project much later, when there was already a script and a lead, which was neat,” he says. “You usually find the script and then develop it and build it out and cast it, then figure out the logistics of shooting and hoping it all ends up being successful. It’s a much longer process.”
Suits, whose filmography includes work as a director, editor and producer, says his filmmaking style is influenced by his editing background, “It’s how I got into directing,” he says.
The film, shot in fifteen days in Fitzgerald, GA, was an aggressive achievement. “Everyone was in it. We had an incredible crew; to shoot a film in fifteen days, you feel like you can’t breathe or sleep the entire time,” says Suits. But that work energy both suits and parlays into the frenetic energy of the film itself. For Suits, that energy kept him going.
“Coming on Breach as solely a director was nice, because you aren’t wearing as many hats,” he laughs. “I don’t have to worry about everything else I normally need to and I can just have fun. “They say shooting a film is Gone With the Wind in the morning and Dukes of Hazzard at night; you need to be able to manage the flow.”
For that, Suits leans into his editing background. “My editing experience helps me in situations like this because I’m always thinking about the edit. You know what you need and what you want.”
Suits says that he’s often thinking like an editor while filmmaking: “Every page of the script you have is two hours of shooting. So if your script is 130 pages and you need to finish with a 90-minute film, you know you need to cut 40 pages. If you choose not to cut it and you shoot it, you’re wasting 80 hours of your time with scenes you’re not going to use instead of making the scenes you need, better.”
And his advice for up-and-coming filmmakers? “Know where you are on the food chain,” he says. “If you’re trying to network with someone above you, they’re probably already very busy and not looking for what you’re offering,” he says. Instead, he suggests “rather than pitch yourself to someone, compliment them on their work, ask for advice; also don’t look for that one person — don’t look for a gatekeeper, look for someone who can introduce you to someone who can introduce you to someone. Build out a network, one day, someone in that network will help you out.”
Written by: Vanessa KingVanessa King is an NYC-based producer, screenwriter, and professor who has worked in development with top-level industry talent for nearly two decades. Her work as a writer has received numerous awards, having earned her recognition from industry bodies including AMPAS/Oscar’s Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship (feature) and Sony Worldwide Entertainment’s Emerging Filmmaker Program (TV Series). In 2005, she co-founded the New York Screenwriters Co-Op, New York’s only free-to-the-public screenwriting workshop with over 2000 active members. Vanessa is faculty at Gotham Writer’s Workshop (NYC) and Staffordshire University (UK), where she teaches both television and screenwriting to students, beginner to post-graduate. She recently was Showrunner of the TV pilot “Two Roads”, a concept she co-created and co-wrote for Sony’s VUE Network. Vanessa is passionate about diversity and inclusion within the industry and was a consultant on Final Draft Screenwriting Software’s Diversity and Inclusion product build. She’s a board member of the Diversity List, amplifying top scripts written by female-identifying and BIPOC writers. She is a judge for the Hip Hop Film Festival, The UCLA Graduate Screenwriter’s Showcase and The 24 Hour Film Festival. She was named one of The Huffington Post’s 13 Women To Watch and for three consecutive years, has been named to Vanity Fair’s “Downtown 100”, a list that recognizing New York’s top networkers in the entertainment industry. Originally from Canada, she lives in New York City.