Red Right Hand – Interview with Film Directors Eshom Nelms and Ian Nelms

Interview with Film Directors Eshom Nelms and Ian Nelms
Magnolia Pictures
Red Right Hand is a 2024 action thriller movie directed by Eshom Nelms and Ian Nelms ('Fatman') and written by Jonathan Easley. The film follows Cash (Orlando Bloom), who tries to live a quiet life in rural Appalachia. However, when the town's kingpin, Big Cat (Andie MacDowell), forces him back into service, Cash will do anything to protect his town and family. Below is a Q&A with the directors Eshom Nelms and Ian Nelms covering various elements of the filmmaking process. In select theaters now and available to rent/buy on VOD platforms.

How did you approach the filmmaking process for Red Right Hand?
In a way, Red Right Hand's journey started in 2017 when we sat down with Orlando after he'd watched one of our previous films, Small Town Crime. We all hit it off and ended the meeting with a vow to work together on something in the future. Cut to: Red Right Hand landing on our desk. Instantly, we could see Orlando playing Cash (the protagonist), and with him doing something so outside his previous work. That excited us!


Red Right Hand and Fatman are action thrillers; what other genres are you interested in, as filmmakers?  
We have eclectic tastes so very little is outside our zones of interest. In regards to genre, we'd love to do sci-fi. Blade Runner, Running Man, Total Recall, and Aliens, are all films we love and adore. Horror has some nuggets we enjoy also! If we were to get something like Alien, Tremors, Critters, Predator — it'd really get us juiced. But not everything we gravitate toward has hard-hitting action and visceral scares. We cherish many of the 1970s gems. Last Picture Show, Last Detail, Five Easy Pieces, Shampoo…  So many wonderful films from that era.


Andie MacDowell transforms into the immoral tough-as-nails crime boss matriarch Big Cat, a surprising departure from her other roles. What was the casting process like for Red Right Hand?
Oh, yeah! Andie was full send as Big Cat. It's not something you've seen her do, so that's another instance where we get excited for an actor to do a character outside their usual wheelhouse.  Many of the actors came to our attention through the casting team. Scott Haze and Chapel Oaks were two gems discovered in that process.  Chapel really wowed us with her auditions. There was some tough competition, but Chapel consistently proved she was ready for her feature debut.

Scott Haze really digs in once a piece resonates with him. On our first meeting, he said something like, "I've read the script five times." You know right there he's deeply invested. From the jump, Scott was always going above and beyond in building his character. All the actors were. That's a quality we really value in an actor. Someone who likes to dig in and craft their character through those thousand little details. Garret Dillahunt is like that as well. He brought the idea of shaving his head and putting the big spider on his neck. His character was a man reformed, but still owning up to his checkered past.

And then there's our group of repeat offenders as we like to call them. It's a group of collaborators we try and bring back whenever we can and it grows with each picture. James Lafferty, Jeremy Ratchford, Tom Fugedi, Michelle Lang, Alexandra Park, Jemuel Morris, and so many more! They're just brilliant people and we love working with them!


What notes do you remember giving the cast before or during production?
Authenticity is something we were striving for on this one. Yes, it has a lot of heightened action, but we really wanted the sets, town, clothes, etc… to all feel lived in and true to the area.


What were the influences for the cinematography of Red Right Hand
Over the past few films, we've developed a look with our cinematographer Johnny Derango. We've done five pictures together, so he feels like a third Nelms brother at this point. That look does shift and evolve for each picture, but there is an undeniable style and look throughout the last three (Small Town Crime, Fatman, Red Right Hand).


What are your favorite scenes in Red Right Hand — while on the set filming and in the final cut?
Andie and Orlando have wonderful chemistry!  They absolutely crackle when on screen together. A couple of our favorite scenes with them are the initial scene where Cash comes to see about his debt and the mid-movie scene where Big Cat steps over the line by murdering one of Cash's confidants. Garret Dillahunt is another fun one. We could watch that man read the phone book, but him rolling up on a lawn with the "hood ornament" was a fun one to shoot.


Mondo Boys took care of the music — can you please tell us how the score came to be?
Mike G. and Mike S. (aka the Mondo Boys) are such tremendous talents! Don't think there's anything those gents can't do! They really impressed us on our previous collaboration, Fatman, so it only made good sense to bring them back for Red Right Hand. Initially, we had very little music temped in, but the more they did, the more we wanted. They crafted a gorgeous and propulsive score. Can't wait to do another one with them!


Where was the movie filmed, and how long was principal photography?
We shot in Kentucky, just outside Louisville. More specifically, Knob Creek, which is an old bootlegger country.  It's some beautiful land, but you can tell there's a lot hidden amongst that lush greenery. Those hollers have stories buried in them. Initially, we scheduled a 35-day shoot, but the tumultuous weather of spring ate up a few of them. Had a lot of firsts on this shoot. Like being shut down mid-day because tornados were inbound. Ultimately, we ended up with 31.5 principal shooting days. Could we have used the additional 3.5 days? Heck yes! But we pulled it off and the skylines were splendid thanks to the weather!


Which films/directors have influenced you with this film Red Right Hand?
We looked at a bunch of films in this genre with our Cinematographer, Johnny Derango. A few that come to mind are: Out of the Furnace, Place Beyond the Pines, and Wind River. For us, we like to generate lists of what we like from each of the reference films. Not sure how much it directly informs the work, but it's there lurking in the back of our minds during production.


Which themes and subject matter interest you as a filmmaker?
We really appreciate the everyman or woman, who finds themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Obviously, we typically like to see them come out the other side having learned or taken something away from their respective journey. And as for specific themes, that really changes [from] picture to picture.


What were the last 3 films you recommended to others, and why? 
Has to be some of the Oscar-nominated pictures, because it's that season, and no doubt someone has asked us for our 2 cents. Hope you don't mind, but we'd like to shift this question just a bit and give you some of our inspirations. Every year as we're preparing to dig into the writing phase of our work, we like to read Stephen King's "On Writing". It fires us up to hear what a legend like King has gone through in his own journey. And before each film, we like to watch the documentary, "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse" about the making of Apocalypse Now. Just seeing all the hurdles they had to overcome in that film, and it results in such a great final product. It truly inspires us.


What are your favorite films of 2023? 
The Holdovers, American Fiction, Oppenheimer, and Air are some of our faves from this past year.

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