Interview with GLASS JAW actor and producer Lee Kholafai
With the boxing drama GLASS JAW now available on VOD, I got an opportunity to ask lead actor and producer Lee Kholafai a few questions about the film including; how he prepared for the role, the injuries he sustained during filming and working with such a talented cast.
Q. GLASS JAW has just been released on DVD and VOD. What can people expect from the film?
Hi Phil, thank you for taking the time to interview me. Well, I am hoping people honestly watch it and just feel inspired to do whatever their heart craves and never give up. That’s the point of GLASS JAW really. To give the story of just keep fighting the good fight and eventually it will pay off.
Q. In the film you play boxer Travis Austin, what sort of preparation did you do for the role?
I boxed at City of Angels Boxing Gym with the owner who is also my friend Alex Brenes prior to filming. We actually used his gym as one of the locations as well. With indie filmmaking, we are always thankful for good friends and favours because of our tight budget restraints.
Q. Are there any elements of your character which you feel reflect your own personality?
Yea, I would say the part of not giving up and taking one for the team. Also, about keeping my word, if I say something I am going to do it, no matter what.
Q. I know you wanted to make the boxing scenes as realistic as possible, did you sustain any injuries whilst filming some of these scenes?
Yea actually. We had to move fast. We filmed all the boxing scenes in three days including the fight choreography. Most big studio boxing films spend three weeks at least just on the fighting choreography, but we didn’t have that luxury. So, I got punched in the face a couple times. We had to cover up the marks to not mess up the continuity of the film. The hardest blow was slamming my face against the canvas to capture that moment of the knockout. I think I honestly got a concussion. I had a headache for days, but the shot was worth it.
Q. The film brings together an experienced and talented cast including; Jon Gries, Jaime Camil, Mark Rolston and Steven Williams. What were they like to work with?
Oh wow! I just want to say they are amazing, and I thank them for giving a first-time filmmaker as myself a chance. I learned a lot from them on set and definitely hope to work with them all again. They were all professional and easy going and wanted to give it their all to make GLASS JAW the best it could be which I couldn’t be more thankful for.
Q. In addition to acting, you also produced the film. What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to bring the film together?
Well, the biggest challenge was during filming. I so badly just wanted to be an actor, to show up to set and just rehearse my scenes. But I had so much going on and wore so many hats that it wasn’t possible. My head was so many places and I felt like a zombie. For example, I’d be outside raising money because we hit insufficient funds and our director Jeff Celentano would be calling me to set for my scenes. I didn’t sleep at all during our three weeks of filming. So, I hardly got any rehearsing etc. that I would have liked but oh well. Live and learn and we had a movie to make. Next movie, I definitely don’t want to wear as many hats. That’s the biggest lesson I learned with GLASS JAW.
Q. It is always difficult trying to complete an independent film on a budget, were there any elements of the original script which had to be changed during filming?
Yea, we had to cut a lot of scenes due to time and budget constraints. I’ll be honest. Making an indie movie is hard. Especially when you want it to look BIG like a studio film. I am so thankful for all my friends and all the favours and resources we were able to pull together to make GLASS JAW possible. Fun fact, we ran out of money three times during filming. I ended up just maxing out a bunch of my credit cards. Certain things hit us like we didn’t have VFX in the budget etc and that isn’t cheap. I had a drive to finish GLASS JAW because most people thought I wouldn’t. I like to prove people wrong, I guess you could say lol.
Q. What were some of your favourite moments during filming?
I would say my favourite scenes were the boxing scenes. Just because it was the most exciting and learning how to fight for the camera and working with our legendary fight coordinator Charlie Picerni. It was fun, physical, and I just had a great time.
Q. There have been a lot of boxing dramas which people will make comparisons to, but what makes GLASS JAW stand out as something different in the sub-genre?
Well, we didn’t try to reinvent the wheel with GLASS JAW. It’s important my investors get paid back so we wanted to be very commercial with a lot of action but with a good story that is relatable. We also included the love story, so couples could watch it together as well and they both could enjoy the film. We have been told we are like Rocky in a relationship with The Fast and the Furious (2001) and their best friend is Fight Club (1999). I guess because GLASS JAW shows a brotherhood like The Fast and the Furious and the cars we have and some of the flashiness. I suppose we relate to Rocky (1976) for the story of never giving up and also our love story involved and to Fight Club because maybe we have the fight club scene and some of our grittier scenes.
Q. Do you have any other projects which you are currently working on?
Yes, my next project is GREED and we will start filming soon. In Greed we want to deliver to message to always stay humble.
Q. If someone was looking to get into acting what advice would you give them?
You are what you do. So just keep doing it and you’ll get better with every take and job. Every day just try to wake up better than the day before. Baby steps really do add up
You can find out more about the film GLASS JAW by visiting the website http://www.visionfilms.net/film/glassjaw