Interview: Sam Trammell of All Mistakes Buried

AMB-posterSam Trammell gives an intense, nervy performance in All Mistakes Buried, a gritty, but nifty little film about Sonny (Trammell) an addict, who just wants to get his wife (Missy Yager) back. He puts together a plan of action, but in the process, Sonny meets an assortment of strange characters who disrupt and distract him from his goal.

Trammell, who co-wrote the film’s story, with director Tim McCann and Shaun S. Sanghani, spoke with Cinedelphia about making All Mistakes Buried.

Gary M. Kramer: All Mistakes Buried was a passion project for you? Did you have a personal connection to the story?

Sam Trammell: No, I was one of three people, the director, producer and I all wrote it together. We had made White Rabbit the year before and we wanted to work together again. The director was good with a small budget. It wasn’t a personal story I had to tell, it was more “Let’s find a story that we want to tell… What kind of character do we want to have?” It was a guy with an addiction problem who had a thing with his wife. We wrote it in four months and then shot it in 12 days.

GMK: This film is markedly different from your work on True Blood. Were you looking to show your range, or get out of your comfort zone?

ST: Yeah, for sure. There’s always that agenda to do different things to show people you can do it, and get more opportunities. The driving force was more that [Sonny] is a great role. To co-write a script and get it made and star in it is a good opportunity. I was lucky.

GMK: How did you find “Sonny” as a character? He is both a responsible husband and businessman in one part of the film, and a desperate addict in another.

ST: As an actor, you are also doing different parts. Here, it’s two parts in the same film. The addict is the tougher part. The other role is closer to who I am as a person. Sonny’s physical movement was important to me, and fun as an actor to do. I found it as things went along. I talked with addicts, including a guy who smoked crack and freebased. He was a friend of the producers. He came out of it. He showed me how to “use” and when you’re on the set you feel it out.
It was a gift to co-write it and be aware of the throughline, which deals with time and memory and cycles.

GMK: What observations did you have about addiction?

ST: Sonny’s repression…I don’t know how much it’s a part of being an addict. For this character, there’s guilt of the fight with his wife. That’s the only way he can deal with things. The drug helps the process of repression but the guilt is the key element; it has nothing to do with addiction, but the fight Sonny has with his wife allowed his downward spiral to happen.

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GMK: Sonny jerks off with shaving cream, gets beaten up, tied up, and put in a trunk, dunked in water. He vomits, has beer or piss thrown at him, snorts coke, and more. What was the most fun to do on screen?

ST: It was such a sort of exercise of abuse! It’s like After Hours but a totally different take on that story. It was fun to do some of those things in the scenes, but it was exhausting. The Asian woman throwing ice at me—she was rough with me! The smoking and the snorting—the pretending to do drugs—that was fun. It was a harrowing, exhausting experience. I was really in the mood to do all that stuff. Jerking off with shaving cream!? I didn’t know that was possible! The director said to do it. It was our Bad Lieutenant moment. Part of the fun of being an actor is you get to do these things that you wouldn’t do otherwise.

GMK: Have you ever committed a crime, or hit bottom in a particularly notable way as Sonny does?

ST: [Laughs]. I have somehow not ever had any interesting run-ins with the law, other than changing a lane without a blinker in Louisiana with my family in the car.

GMK: There is an assortment of colorful characters in the film. What can you say about the supporting players?

ST: One of the great things that Tim [McCann, the director] was good at was using non-actors. The only actors were me, Missy, and Vanessa Ferlito [who plays a key role]. The rest weren’t. A couple people had done one or two things, and they improvised. The motel clerk was great. The woman who plays Sugarbush had never acted. Silky (Shane Guiilbeau) teaches drama. The drug dealers were [allegedly] real drug dealers. As an actor it’s exciting to be with a real person. Chemistry is a thing that happens. Sugarbush wasn’t a hooker. The motel clerk was good at improvising. That all made it more real for me: I’m in your territory. I have to bring it up to you—you’re the real thing. I have to bring it up to your town, your block, and your lingo for selling crack. Even the people who weren’t who they were playing, I loved seeing faces I’d not seen before. There is a rawness and realness to using non-actors. They are more believable. Part of that atmosphere and moodiness is how Tim shoots. He gets the raw nature of the town and the people.

GMK: Sonny wants and seeks redemption. Do you think he deserves it?

ST: I do think he deserves redemption. He didn’t do anything really bad (at the beginning) other than this argument with his wife. Was he going to respond to the woman (Vanessa Ferlito) who gave him her number? He’s screwing himself up and breaking into his father-in-law’s house. He doesn’t have control of his life. I think he’s a good person and had some bad luck and made some bad decisions. You have to figure out how to correct them, and you see the consequences. Are they going to get out of trouble and if so, how?

All Mistakes Buried opens today at the Roxy Theater in Philadelphia.

Author: Gary M. Kramer

Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer. He is the co-editor of Directory of World Cinema: Argentina. Volumes 1 and 2, and teaches seminars at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer.

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