The Honey Badger screened at Vancouver Lift-Off as part of a sports genre screening. We spoke to the director, KB Kutz to hear all about the production process, and the star of the short documentary, Daniel Hayes, to hear about his career in sports and how that crossed over into a passion for the arts.
Interviewed by Claire Richardson and Bailey Schafer
So you both attended the screening in Vancouver last week, how did you find the Lift-Off festival experience?
D – I thought it was great, the venue was amazing and it was very well run. I was very pleased to see all the films, in my screening they were all sport-related, so I really, really enjoyed them. I got to meet one of the co-founders, Ben, who was cool and really welcoming.
KB – Yeah it’s actually funny being familiar with all the stories in our screening. GAME, with Rick Fox in as the coach, was my favourite. That was really, really well done. For the feature, Longshot: The Brian Upson Story, I played at UBC, so I don’t know Upson but I’ve heard that name. My coach Kevin Hanson actually mentioned him a few times, so I’m familiar with that whole story and it was kinda cool to watch it.
So Dan your first love is sport, did you always want to be a professional athlete?
D – Ever since I was a very very young kid. I was extremely hyperactive, way too much for my mum to handle. From the age of like two I was just always running, I was like a kid out of rugrats, so thank god there was organised sports! It was a self-soothing thing, I love team sports, I love working together etc…
In high school is where I was introduced into boxing. I did not end up loving it at first, however I started using it to cross train for basketball. Basketball took me to the collegiate level however my basketball career didn’t extend into the professional ranks. From there I started doing mixed martial arts, and after a match, my uncle persuaded me to focus on boxing. That’s pretty much how I got into boxing.
So at what point did the interest in the arts come into it all?
D – How I got into acting… playing sports in college, you do get certain privileges. One was to be able to select your courses in advance, the reason being so that they are in sync with your practice schedule (for those that will scrutinise!) The class I wanted to do was already full, so at the opening day of school I was given a list of classes, one of which was theatre.
When I first went there it was biggest case of reverse-bullying I had ever seen! You know, you walk in after practice with your team gear on and then you have these theatre guys, warming up their vocal chords. It was really like something out of a movie scene! But as the semester progressed, you make friends, and then when I really got bitten by the bug was at the graded performance, where you had to perform a monologue. It’s pitch black… a spotlight… and backstage I was seeing the theatre guys getting nervous. I was a little nervous too, but for me, if it’s freeze, flight or flight, being an athlete you tap into the necessity to perform. I remember stepping out into the spotlight, and it really reminded me a lot of sport.
Where did the first idea for the biographical film first come from. Was it from this new love for acting, or was it you as a filmmaker KB who had the first inspiration?
KB: Well Dan had a boxing match coming up, and he wanted me to kinda just film it. I wasn’t intending for it to be shown at film festivals, I just wanted to film and continue working on my craft. It just so happened that it turned out to be really good! So we put it in some festivals, won some awards, and it all just worked.
D – Yeah KB had been doing really well with a lot of music videos. I was always a big supporter and he’d always send me stuff, so I asked him if he’d like to make something out of my fight coming up, as he was going to come to the fight anyway. He said, “yeah sure let’s give it a try!” With me and him, it just seems to be that we stick together and things start to happen.
So you two go back far!
KB – Oh man, we go back from when I was sixteen years old, we played basketball together at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops! We continued to stay in contact, both kinda chasing this pro dream, and I remember in the summertime we were always training together.
KB when did you first learn the art of filmmaking?
KB – I probably just did about seventy, eighty films. Just whatever I could do, whatever I could shoot. Knocking on doors, “Can I film you?” “Can I film the company?” “Can I film this?” So I just learned by making errors, a ton of errors. Even now I’m still making errors. I treat this film thing like basketball right? I’ve got to continue to train, continue to train if you wanna be good and play at a high level, so I just treat this the same way.
How did you find working together and the production process?
KB – *laughs* It was really me, chasing Dan around with the camera, handheld everything, GH4. Just being creative in the editing process. The filming stuff was all easy and smooth because Daniel is really, really amazing on camera. He’s been acting for a long time. But also he’s just very natural, so it made it easier for me to help direct him. And tell the story better.
Were there any obstacles during the production?
D – Tons! One for example is the gym that I fight out of is called The Wild Card. There is a lot of stringencies, because you have a lot of high level fighters and celebrities, so you couldn’t even go in there with a camera.
What was your favourite part of the whole process?
D – Meeting cool people on the festival circuit, you meet a lot of interesting people, and the feedback you get, even after the festival. The well wishes and positive vibes are great, and you get people coming up to you, saying they loved it and found it an inspiring story. The fact that people are finding any sort of inspiration and positivity from it is a major plus for me. That is by far the most enjoyable part of the process.
For you personally then, how does it feel when you watch it back and have that section of your life unfold again in front of you?
D – To be honest, two or three years from now I’ll be able to look back on it and think that was such a great moment. But for me now, even seeing it in Vancouver, it reminds me of such a dark place I was in after, with breaking the hand, the depression etc… In some ways that’s good though, as then that is a motivational force for me to keep going forward. That point in time, that process, really was a life-changing moment for me.
As a producer KB, what were your goals with the project and do you think you achieved them?
KB – Well, like I said before, my goal was to just create something for Dan. So the fact that it even won an award, and being accepted into a fourth film festival, like, I’m already gone! Because it showed me that I can actually do this. Being a professional basketball player, turned to filmmaker, people tend to take me as a joke. But now people can see that I’m actually legit and that I actually really want to do this and I’m motivated to do this.
Are you currently working on any other films?
KB – Right now I’m doing a short film in Toronto and it’s a story about a young black Christian male who’s trying to get out of the ghetto, so that’s the story I’m looking into right now. I just went to Toronto, I shot four scenes, a couple of test shoots to see how it looks. We have the script, everything’s all ready!
What about you Dan, what’s next, more sport of more film?
D – Both! We’re actually trying to lock down the next fight date, and want to make a full length documentary, covering the fight and the process. We are starting an Indiegogo campaign to get some funding to go towards that and we’re trying to shoot as much as we can whenever KB Kutz and I are together… but I do actually have to train for the fight too!!
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