Brad Jurjens • Director
by Laurence Boyce
13/01/2012 - Moving from Estonia to LA at the age of 19, Brad Jurjens has gone on to direct low budget action and genre films including Hired Gun, Identity Crisis and The Bank Job. Jurjens also launched distribution company Tavix Pictures with producer Casey Evans in 2008.
Cineuropa: Tell us a bit about your background.
Brad Jurjens : I’m from the small Estonian town of Viljandi, an only child, grew up with my mom. As a kid I used to write little books and dream about making movies out of them with friends. We even had all these locations picked out where we’d want to film. But growing up in the Soviet Union meant you were lucky to have sausage on your bread, let alone getting your mom to buy you a camera. So when I turned 12, I got into heavy metal and borrowed an old East German electric guitar from the local music school. By age 19 I had saved up enough to move to LA and become the biggest rock star since the Beatles. Which really didn’t work out (but I did get to play with some of my idols, like Tommy Lee & Slash). Eventually I turned back to writing, taught myself how to write screenplays, ended up making a few short films with my like-minded friends and that’s how it all got started.
It may sound obvious, but why did you move away from Estonia in the first place?
It became too small. I felt like I had accomplished everything there was to accomplish. Which wouldn’t be true now but 16 years ago things were way different. The country was still in its diapers, while I was ready to rock out with my cock out! Plus the weather, I hated it with a passion. Now, being from Estonia is a great conversation starter, because most Americans think I stole it from “Encino Man” or simply made the country up.
Tell us a bit about some of the films you have made whilst in L.A.
My last film is called Hired Gun. I did it in Hollywood with a great cast, notably Michael Madsen, Said Faraj, Fahim Fazli , Shane Wood, and fellow Estonian Johann Urb. It was sort of an experimental action feature where the “good guy” really wasn’t that good, but compared to the “bad guys” he was a real angel. Hence the tag line, “Bad vs Evil”. We did our own US release with my company, Tavix Pictures, which did pretty good domestically, and sold it to a few foreign territories as well. Nikkatsu, for instance, picked it up for Japan and marketed as the US action DVD release for 2010.
Do you think there’s ever a hope of being able to make decent genre cinema in The Baltics?
Yes! Of course there is. It’s just hard because the budgets are very limited. Filmmakers from small countries just need to get away, work in places like France or L.A. for a while, leave their comfortable backyards and figure out how to do bigger and more interesting genre films on tighter budgets. Become more open-minded to things other than their usual deep and artsy-fartsy crap. Otherwise it will never change. International co-productions are another way out, but they are tricky, because depending on your co-producers, they can really screw things up and vice versa. Cultural and other differences come to play. For Estonia, co-productions have only worked well on a very few occasions.
You’re currently casting your new movie here. What prompted you to return?
There is a great story which nobody either wanted or had the balls to tell so far. It’s about the Estonian guerrilla resistance to occupying Soviet forces right after WW2 when a large number of men took to arms and hid in the forests, living there and carrying on attacks, believing the Western powers will soon come to their aid. It’s a story of great courage and tragedy, and of course, there is a ton of action in it as well.