“Least Among Saints” WINS AUDIENCE AWARD for BEST FEATURE at the Sedona International FIlm Festival!
The Entertainment Industries Council, Inc. (EIC) has announced the nominees for the scripted categories of the 17th Annual PRISM Awards. The PRISM Awards honor TV, movie, music, DVD, and comic book entertainment that accurately depicts drug, alcohol and tobacco use and addiction, as well as mental health issues. The Nomination Review Committee of over 80 representatives of both the entertainment industry and health field, selected nominees from over 400 productions submitted, according to Brian Dyak, President and CEO of EIC.
“The entertainment industry continues to create dynamic productions about mental health and substance use that are both insightful and meaningful. We salute all the nominees and the numerous airing partners who help bring the positive, proactive messages created to vast audiences,” said John Landgraf, FX Networks President and PRISM Awards Honorary Committee Chairman.
In the Feature Film categories, nominees were Barrymore (Image Entertainment), California Solo (Strand Releasing), Deep in the Heart (28 Entertainment), Flight (Paramount), Least Among Saints (Papazian Hirsch), Return (Focus World), Silver Linings Playbook (Weinstein Co.), and Smashed (Sony Classics).
Feature Film – Mental Health
Least Among Saints
(Papazian Hirsch Entertainment)Director: Martin PapazianWriter: Martin PapazianProducer: Robert Papazian, James G. Hirsch
(Focus World / Fork Films / Meredith Vieira Productions) Director: Liza JohnsonWriter: Liza JohnsonProducer: Noah Harlan, Ben Howe, Liza Johnson
Silver Linings Playbook
(The Weinstein Co. / Mirage Enterprises)Director: David O. RussellWriter: David O. RussellProducer: Bruce Cohen, Jonathan Gordon, Donna Gigliotti
Review: A veteran seeks redemption in ‘Least Among Saints’
Two lost souls join up in this effective drama.
A scene from “Least Among Saints.” (Handout / October 11, 2012)
By Gary Goldstein
October 11, 2012, 6:30 p.m.
Writer-director-star Martin Papazian proves a solid triple threat in his feature scripting and directing debut “Least Among Saints,” a modest, surprisingly effective drama about one man’s redemption through an exceptional act of kindness.
After an uncertain start, the film develops into a deep and authentically moving story about Anthony (Papazian), a haunted war veteran who moves into his parents’ empty Tucson home after his marriage crumbles. But when the ex-Marine’s troubled next-door neighbor dies of a drug overdose, Anthony winds up the default guardian of the woman’s sensitive 10-year-old son, Wade (Tristan Lake Leabu), against the better instincts of a no-nonsense social worker (Laura San Giacomo) and a watchful local cop (Charles S. Dutton).
What follows is a finely etched portrait of lost souls Wade and Anthony as they co-navigate a new normal and lay out a tentative map for the future. An ill-fated road trip to find Wade’s estranged father and Anthony’s audacious effort to help the boy avenge a school bully are just two of the film’s many memorable, emotionally rich sequences.
Papazian brings Jason Patric-like intensity — as well as that actor’s smoldering good looks — to his involving role. But it’s his well-calibrated direction, resulting in uniformly strong performances (young Leabu is especially good), confident pacing and an impressive lack of knee-jerk sentimentality, that distinguishes this special piece.
“Least Among Saints.” MPAA rating: R for language. Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes. At AMC’s Loews Broadway 4, Santa Monica; Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, Pasadena.
- Least Among Saints Movie Review
- Movie Review written by: Erin Whitehead, Web Editor and Military Spouse
- It is a story we know all too well in the military community. A warrior comes home from a deployment with wounds that are not visible to the naked eye, but have an impact on their daily lives and their relationships. Some are able to get the help they need, while others struggle silently for years. Some marriages can withstand the effects of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and some, sadly, fall apart. Some Veterans survive, and some, as statistics show, will tragically take their own lives.
- The movie, Least Among Saints, is an honest, touching, and compelling drama that follows the story of one Marine, returning home from a combat tour. At times heart wrenching, the film deals with PTSD and the struggle of one man to redeem himself, after decisions he made during war continue to haunt him. He seeks this redemption by helping a neighborhood kid who is perhaps haunted equally by decisions that were made on his behalf for years by a mother who could not win the war with her own demons.
- At the heart of this film is a realization that our warriors, who come home with the invisible scars of war, deserve support, kindness and the opportunity to rebuild their lives. It shows the audience just a few of the ordeals some of our veterans face in the simple, every day actions of their lives, without painting the picture of a “crazy soldier” who can never be the same again. In fact, the main character possesses some of the traits that make so many of our nations heroes unique. Honor, courage and commitment… to name a few.
- Now open in theatres (check local listings), Least Among Saints is a movie that will touch the heart of anyone who has ever served in uniform, and will be an eye-opener for those who may not have much experience with the military community. Although language and adult situations are not appropriate for younger audiences, teenagers (and adults alike) will benefit from the lessons this film has to offer. Most notably that no matter what scars may keep you awake at night, there is hope… and that reaching out to help someone else, can truly be the best way to start on a path to healing what haunts you the most.
October 19, 2012
Catch-Up: Passion, Fashion, People, Places, Productions & Lessons (PHOTOS)
Posted: 10/16/2012 3:24 pm
It’s been awhile since we connected but… here we are beginning an exciting new autumnal season.
By the far the BEST (and most meaningful) film I’ve seen recently seen, is the newly released, Least Among Saints. Written, directed and starring Martin Papazian, and produced by his famed Hollywood father, Robert A. Papazian with James G. Hirsch, this intense narrative follows Antony Hayward, a returning combat veteran. Suffering from acute PTSD, he painfully struggles to readjust to a broken life — finally finding salvation through a different kind of service — Wade, a 10-year-old neighbor in distress. Brilliantly acted by the young newcomer, Tristan Lake Leabu with dynamic Laura San Giacomo and wonderful Charles S. Dutton, Least offers up a vision that is tough and gritty, but definitely worth the ride.
The special film screening was presented by TCC: The Creative Coalition — the important non-partisan advocacy group founded in 1989 by members of the American entertainment industry. TCC educates leaders in the arts on issues of public importance including First Amendment Rights, arts advocacy and public education.
College English Instructor in Northern California
Movie Review: Least Among Saints
Posted: 09/28/2012 12:50 pm
As Anthony, the ex-Marine protagonist of the new film Least Among Saints, astutely points out, life sometimes comes down hard and we find ourselves plummeting toward the bottom of a psychological and philosophical abyss worthy of Dante, so wracked with guilt, disappointment, and the pain of being abandoned by all we hold dear, that we think the churning in our guts will never end, that the only way out is death. But then, if we’re lucky, circumstances present themselves that give us the opportunity, if we’re careful and we don’t screw up, to crawl out of that hellish pit one painful step at a time.
Such an opportunity comes to Anthony in this indie film written and directed by Martin Papazian, who is also its star. Anthony arrives home after yet another night of driving around Tuscon drunk in his pick-up truck, an important stop having been his ex-wife’s front yard (restraining order be damned), his desperate plea inarticulate except for a couple of honks of the horn and a wounded hound dog stare. Yes, we’ve already seen him get his discharge papers from the U.S. Marine Corps, and have taken the hint that Anthony is not a bad guy, but a suffering war vet, a good man who knows not where to turn. The powers-that-be assume he’s a loser, but we can see beyond the rough edges to the troubled but honest soul beneath.
Next door, a woman is being assaulted in front of her house in full view of her young son, and Anthony is able to rescue the damsel in distress. Yet it is soon evident that she is no damsel and that her distress is mostly self-induced. She’s a junkie with little discrimination in her choice of male companions. Her son Wade is a fatherless10-year-old whose surly behavior obviously reflects his loneliness and fear. Yet the next day, when his mother leaves the boy with Anthony because she needs to go for a ride with the same guy who was beating her up the night before, Wade and the ex-Marine see the pain in each other’s eyes and a connection begins to form.
A night or two later, Anthony is in his garage, grappling with suicidal tendencies, when Wade comes pounding on the door, seeking help. Something is wrong with his mom! Okay, I think that’s enough of the plot. If I tell any more of it, the movie will be spoiled. Let me just say that Michael Papazian is so likable as Anthony, and Tristan Lake Leabu imbues Wade with such an innate understanding of courage as well as loss, that the movie’s initial downbeat mood steadily evolves into a shining monument to the power of the human spirit.
Least Among Saints takes its place within a tradition of coming home stories involving soldiers who have fought in foreign wars. A few that come quickly to my mind are Oliver Stone’s film Born on the Fourth of July (based on the book by Ron Kovic), Hal Ashby’s Coming Home (starring Jon Voight and Jane Fonda), William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives, and Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Soldier’s Home.” Least Among Saints is probably closest to the Hemingway story because Papazian chooses to forego the scope and wider political themes of the films, and Anthony is not physically disabled, although he suffers from tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But Anthony does not have a real home to come home to — his parents are not mentioned, and his ex-wife makes it clear to him that “you don’t live here anymore.”
As I said, I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but I must mention in vague terms one scene that stands out for me: It takes place out in the desert, where Anthony takes a chance on a questionable father-son-like bonding opportunity with Wade. When things go tragically wrong, Anthony’s response is at first very unsettling — I felt a shiver of fear — but ultimately cathartic and therapeutic. You’ll know what I am talking about when you see it, and you will be impressed.
A word of advice: At times it seemed to me that the movie was a bit unrealistic, that some of Anthony’s actions eluded consequences that we would naturally expect. But don’t be dismayed. Papazion has a strong directorial hand here and is not cutting corners. The actions of police detective George (Charles S. Dutton), social worker Jolene (Laura San Giacomo), and a certain nurse at the local hospital make sense in the context of the story, given the tight local community that is established early on.
Besides, the story has a subtle, almost naive, fable-like quality that makes us hope that, at least sometimes, honorable people with little power can, when it is most important, overcome obstacles put in their way by well-meaning but jaded bureaucrats. The movie brings more than one tear to the appreciative eye. It premieres October 12. If you’re sick and tired of all the blockbuster shoot-’em-ups, try Least Among Saints.
Hollywood has yet to make a movie that has the same impact on issues for returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans that Coming Home had for Vietnam vets, but they sure keep trying. Who remembers Stop-Loss? The Lucky One? The Lucky Ones (different movie)?
Writer/director Martin Papazian’s Least Among Saints is the latest movie to take on the subject and represents the best effort so far. You might remember Papazian’s performance as Brian Dettman in Sam Mendes’ excellent Jarhead and he plays the lead role of Marine vet Anthony Hayward, a man who’s finding it difficult to adjust to life back home.
Anyone who’s looking for a broad discussion about the lives of returning vets isn’t going to find it here: Least Among Saints focuses exclusively on Hayward’s troubles and doesn’t promote the idea that the character is any kind of stand-in for the men and women who’ve served abroad over the last ten years. Papazian’s performance is great: his character doesn’t talk all that much and lets his eyes and body language tell the story.
Every other character in the movie talks a lot. There’s some background on the plight of veterans and kids trapped in the family court system delivered by Laura San Giacomo, who plays the social worker who allows Hayward to care for an orphaned kid. There’s some sympathetic old veteran wisdom dispensed by Charles S. Dutton as the cop who doesn’t arrest Hayward because he can see his pain. There’s documentation of the struggles faced by milspouses in the Audrey Marie Anderson’s portrayal of Hayward’s frustrated ex-wife.
Hayward’s redemption/salvation/socialization comes through his friendship with the kid next door after the boy’s mom is killed by a drug dealer. In the end, how much you like the movie will depend on how much patience you’ve got with Tristan Lake Leabu’s performance as the kid.
Papazian gives a great performance here and has made it a point to reach out to veteran support groups while making and promoting this movie. Least Among Saints is playing right now in New York and Los Angeles and will open in cities around the country over the next few weeks.
Five Questions with Least Among Saints Director Martin Papazian
on Tuesday, October 9th, 2012
Martin Papazian has been a working actor for nearly two decades, supporting a list of heavyweights in projects like Jarhead and 24. For Papazian, learning on the sidelines from his colleagues and directors became an essential task, and ultimately has prepared him for his most pivotal role yet — a filmmaker. Working at break-neck speed for a total of 19 shooting days, Papazian made his feature debut as a writer/director with Least Among Saints. The film, in which he is also the lead actor, begins with a soldier returning from war and a boy who’s had to grow up in a domestic nightmare, taking care of his drug-addled mother. The two seemingly have nothing in common on the outside, but as the story unfolds and the lives of these two individuals are painted parallel to each other, the heart of the film is revealed. The war vet, who’s striving to reconnect to the basic principles of his own humanity, finds momentary grace and empathy in a universal connection with the young boy, who’s desperately looking for an ally.
Watching Least Among Saints, it’s hard to believe that this is Papazian’s first feature as writer/director. Papazian and his camera closely follow the performers when it counts, while at the same time he knows when to pull back and let instincts unfold for spontaneity in his frame. He serves justice to every character, as sympathetic as they are flawed, that steps into his vision.
Filmmaker sat down with Papazian to discuss his humble beginnings, inspirations, and finding authenticity in his work.
Filmmaker: What inspired you to make this film?
Papazian: I was really affected by friends and people I was meeting that were coming back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s our generation’s war, and it was such a complex and conflicting thing. It was so emotional after 9/11. I was really moved by it as an artist. I needed to express something about this because of what was going on. I started to write about the marines that I met, and then I melded this experience I had with a kid when I was young that lived next door to my buddy. Between those two characters I created this narrative, about these two lost souls that come together and find healing and redemption together.
As an actor and a director, it’s so exciting to get involved in heightened situations. The more heightened, and the more dramatic, for me it turns me on. That’s when as an artist you get to play. That’s when you’re really painting those broad strokes with those bright colors. For me it’s exhausting and it’s tiring but in a good way. You’re getting to express yourself in such a big and bold way, so it’s satisfying. I like the idea of controlled chaos in the sense of the theater; you can rehearse the scene to the point where you can create that madness. A lot of it you have to leave up to the moment. You have to be available in the moment because that’s where a lot of exciting things can happen.
Filmmaker: You’ve written these characters with obviously rich backgrounds. Did you write Anthony with the intent that you would play him? Did that affect the process of the script from outline to the screen?
Papazian: I didn’t and it did change the process. When I wrote it I was simply writing, and I had a mentor who was encouraging me with the narrative and was really pushing me to develop it. Once it was finished and I started the production, I went into rehearsals with the acting coach, and one of the first things he was talking to me about is that I had to rediscover the journey, and I couldn’t know anything about the character. It was a great experience in the rehearsal to let go of being a writer and being a director. I had to constantly not know what Anthony’s next move was. I come from the theater so that’s how I treated the process.
It’s so important for something to feel really real. In this film you’re learning about these people that will never make the headlines. They’re simple people in America and we really wanted to shine a light on these two characters. The reason why we didn’t get really well known actors, even though we do have amazing actors, we wanted people to get lost in them.
Filmmaker: Rarely do you ever see the core relationship of a film exist between a boy and a man. The age difference is so vast, but that relationship really works because they seem to be on the same playing field emotionally. They’re both scared of being fallible and vulnerable. Where did the idea to showcase this dynamic come from?
Papazian: As I was researching children that suffer trauma, I was meeting a lot of social workers specifically for the character of Jolene (Laura San Giacomo). I was finding more and more that these children also suffered from PTSD and it made me realize that trauma is universal. I really started to see that the two characters were really on parallel journeys. As a writer I was really interested in the father/son dynamic. Even the soldiers that I was meeting wanted the ability to be soldiers and perform their duties in war, but then also to have capabilities of being so gentle, humane, and compassionate and I thought it was a magnificent dichotomy in a person, and I wanted to explore that.
As for Tristan Lake Leabu who plays the boy, Wade, I liken him to River Phoenix with his ability to tap into raw emotions like that. He’s a real artist; he’s a real actor. He was so dedicated, and devoted, and prepared like crazy, and that was a big deal because before we met him that was a crucial part of the production. We had to find a 10-year-old kid that could carry the movie. He was the first kid that our casting directors brought to us and we were sold in the room. He’s a soldier. He’s so hungry to work, and it was such a pleasure to work with him. Everyone else had to keep up with him.
Filmmaker: Being in Jarhead as an actor, as a new director, did you pull from inspiration from other directors you admire or have worked with? Was it a challenge for you to act and direct?
Papazian: I’m a huge fan of Mexican directors, especially Alejandro González Iñárritu, especially with his films Biutiful and 21 grams. Of course Sam Mendes with Jarhead, was a great experience to have as an actor. Having that sense of freedom where the director really allows you to explore, but you still feel like he’s there watching you and supporting you. He directs very subtly, at least he did with me, so I tried to take that back to my actors as well. Certainly all the greats of our generation — Steven Soderbergh, Clint Eastwood with Gran Torino is something I studied as well. All the new filmmakers that are coming out too, like the Duplass brothers. I’m constantly watching what my contemporaries are doing as well.
Filmmaker: I wouldn’t categorize this as a war film but it does deal thematically with the after effects of war. Did you as a director feel a certain kind of responsibility to show an authentic war vet experience?
Papazian: Absolutely, and that’s such a great thing that you said, because it’s not a war story, it’s a love story. When you think of movies like Kramer Vs Kramer, A Perfect World, and Sling Blade, that’s the genre of my movie. In terms of the flashbacks we took time to figure out what to show and how to show it. I’m very proud of the work that we did because through my research I found out there are certain images that stay with these men and women that go through combat, and go through trauma. Through that research I let that inform the flashbacks and the way we cut it. It was very important that it felt authentic. A buddy I grew up with is an army ranger and fought four tours and he was a central part in developing the script with me. He rehearsed with me as far as building and taking down weapons. Whether the character of Anthony was a soldier or a butcher, the work needed to be done as an actor.
We had to have some passion from the lead characters, and the character is an anti-hero and those are my favorite characters. We had to create a character through his actions that we were going to fall in love with and want to see him take this journey with this kid. Also in terms of the writing, especially in the third act, it was really important to push emotional boundaries with this journey because it was the core. In the end we wanted to make sure we were delivering the primary message, which was hope and redemption.
Interview & Review: LEAST AMONG SAINTS, a Tough and Tender Tearjerker from Martin Papazian
LEAST AMONG SAINTS, a moving drama of hope and compassion, recently held a private screening and reception at the ICM Building in Century City, California.
Written and Directed by Martin Papazian, LEAST AMONG SAINTS, also stars Tristan Lake Leabu, Audrey Marie Anderson, AJ Cook, Azura Skye, and Laura San Giacoma with Charles S. Dutton and Papazian in the lead.
LEAST AMONG SAINTS, tells the story of an Iraqi Freedom Vet, Anthony Hayward/Martin Papazain who suffers deeply from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, has re-entry issues and is attempting to find a place in his old hometown where no one seems to “want” him anymore.
The story weaves in the realities of small town, USA, and doesn’t shy away from disturbing realities of contemporary recession burdened life, single parenting and escape mechanism. As Hayward tries to adjust his new life is met with a former wife who has filed for divorce, a new stung out neighbor and her young son, Wade, portrayed by Tristan Lake Leabu, and frequent suicide attempts.
Leabu gives a convincing performance of a street tough kid, with a tender, wounded heart, trying to cope with life, his absentee mom and adolescences. He witnesses his mother’s drug over dose and clings to hope that his deadbeat dad will remember him, show up and rescue him from this hell.
Laura San Giacomo, also gives a convincing performance in her portrayal of Jolene, a tough as nails burnt out Social Worker; her light in the end of the tunnel hope is rare in those situations. She was able to see beyond the black and white report and into the eyes of humanity which again is rarely accomplished in real life.
Azura Skye, embodies May, and delivers an outstanding performance as an ICU Nurse who in a symphonic exchange she lovingly acts as a conduit between a child, Wade, who whispers his last words to his dying, and already brain dead, mother as May whispers back and provides a few loving moments, before the scene crescendos with death. It was tender and tearful.
Papazain gave a stellar performance as a returning Afghan vet. He is able to, and it seemed effortlessly, portray the veteran suffering deeply from re-entry. His service record weighs heavily on Police Chief George, portrayed by Charles S. Dutton, who suffered through the same “welcome” years before. The film implies George/Dutton served in Vietnam and suffered from the same reoccurring nightmares. He is a saint, as he saves Hayward from the seriousness of his actions as Hayward believes he is due, which he is a better homecoming, welcome and opportunity.
Having the opportunity to participate in the press day held at the Los Angeles Offices of PMK ∙ BNC the following are an excerpt of the interviews with Laura San Giacomo and Martin Papazian.
Janet Walker: What was your most memorable moment from filming LEAST AMONG SAINTS?
Laura San Giacomo: Um. Well, I think the two things actually about quite a few moments, certainly the moment on the couch with the necklace was really kind of big and the last scene too.
LSG: Cause they were such . . . the way that the writer took some of the metaphors of the story and injected them into the scenes really had that quiet resonance that makes you have chills or you can sort of hear the silence, it sort of echo’s and I think that I really experienced it. Not only the first time I read it and you have that moment but then after doing it and you feel it the moment to be in the story feeling it. And in that scene and the scene with the milk and there are these little metaphors that come to life, when you start acting them, it’s almost like a heighted real moment, a heightened reality, but not over the top it’s almost underneath. It’s a lovely resonance.
Marty Papazian: One of my favorite moments, something she does in the last scene, which I don’t want to say because I don’t want to give it away, something so charming, as she turn to the boy, and say “Okay” (voice projecting a happy everything’s fine tone) after she gives Hayward this litany of things he’s not going to do.
When we rehearsed together, we had a little time to rehearse, and Laura said, ‘Let’s just leave that one alone. Let’s not talk too much about that. And that was something that was improvisational on her part, and had such charm, and it’s so perfect. We knew in editing, we would always say in editing, it works so beautifully and because in that moment everything comes, it’s the quality of the film. This is a tough story of two people who are incredibly wounded and there is some beauty that comes out of it. You know it’s like the flower that grows out through the sidewalk in New York.
I think for me in post production, you know putting it together, working so hard in the edit and then there was one moment in the mix when we laid in a piece of score and we were having trouble finding it and my father’s the producer said, ‘just move it eight frames’ and he slide the cue and we played it and somehow it all kind of fit together and I kind of kicked back and I was bouncing around like a boxer because I had this overwhelming serge of like it works, it works, it really works, it’s going to work, but having not had the feeling for nine months was like what have I done. That was a moment.
JW: After seeing LEAST AMONG SAINTS, I feel it could be considered and some would say this is a scathing post mortem on American society and values and how we welcome home our Vets or lack of that and the integration of Veterans, re-entry and also with children, and as a former’s children’s advocate I understands how real those moments and how we dump in society both veterans, re-entry and children and thing that challenges us into veteran polices, including re-entry and the difficult or challenging and again with children. So what message would you like audiences to take away from seeing this film?
LSG: Well, Marty you put it so eloquently I think you should take this.
MP: I think we can find personal freedom through acts of compassion. So I don’t, that’s the only thing that has ever worked for me to sort of get me out of my own darkness and I’ve been taught that in those times, to reach out and try to help somebody else. And sometimes our closer side of the world seems overwhelmingly negative and I think the only real truth is acts of kindness for one another, those simple acts of kindness, throughout the day and throughout our lives that mount up to be really meaningful for ourselves and those around us. Yes, the integration process of Veterans, we all know, is really challenging and hard on these guys, and also Social Workers and healthcare but what this story is about are the people who go one step beyond that and do what they can.
That’s what soldier’s do, that’s what nurses do, and that’s what social workers do you know, they’re there and they do what’s needed. They’re the least among saints; all the people in our society that help us along the way. They’re there in the trying times. They’re the regular unsung heroes.
LEAST AMONG SAINTS is filled with those moments when people who are passed by, dedicated professional, Nurses, Social Workers and even law enforcement officers, step in to cover we weaker mortals during the most difficult moments without expectations.
LEAST AMONG SAINTS opens in select cities Friday, October 12, 2012 and rolls out the following week, October 19th into larger release.
Posted at 12:17 PM ET, 10/15/2012
Charles S. Dutton and Martin Papazian go in front of and behind the camera in ‘Least Among Saints’
By Erin Williams
In the new indie film “Least Among Saints,” Martin Papazian decided to knock out three birds with one stone. He’s the movie’s writer, director and star. The actor has played in movies such as “Jarhead” and “The Island” and on television show’s such at “24,” but the movie, which opened on Oct. 12 , is his directorial debut.
Charles S. Dutton, left, and Martin Papazian in the movie “Least Among Saints.” (Courtesy of Papzian Hirsch Entertainment)
The film is a coming home story of a war veteran named Anthony, who befriends a boy whose mother dies. Alongside him is fellow actor and occasional director Charles S. Dutton, who, in his role as a cop and former veteran, can connect with Anthony’s struggles returning from a war. The two men talked with The Root DC about seeing double vision on both the acting and directing side of film, driving home a deeper message than just entertaining audiences and honing creativity.
Mr. Papazian, you performed triple duty on this film as the writer, director and star on the film. How was that?
Papazian: It was an insane task. You have to kind of rediscover the text as an actor. I went into the theater with another director and other actors and rehearsed and workshopped and explored the character. And the main thing I had to sort of do was unlearn the journey of the character so that I could rediscover it fresh for the first time, every time. When I came to the set, I could be there for the other actors. A lot of times I would put the camera over my shoulder first and cover them first so I could be there for them as a director so that I could rehearse as an actor, and then I took care of myself afterwards.
Charles S. Dutton as George in “Least Among Saints.” (Courtesy of Papzian Hirsch Entertainment)
I know you also, Mr. Dutton, have experience in both acting and directing. How do you feel that having both of those perspectives helps to assist with the performance that you deliver?
Dutton: You get a chance to actually cheat a little bit. There’s something about the creative process when, as a director . . . you really are the director. Although you’re acting in the film, you have to let that actor go and concentrate on the directing of the other cast members. But the luxury that that brings you, or gives you, is that you work with them so much and you give yourself to them so much when the camera is on them, and when the camera finally turns around on you, you’ve actually had the luxury of doing eight or ten rehearsals . . . and then when the camera turns on you, you’ve actually purged yourself of all the bad performances.
The film goes a lot further than just being entertaining. It centers on a character who is struggling to get his life together after serving two tours of duty in Iraq. Why did you choose to tackle such a heavy topic for your first film?
Papazian: I was meeting men and women who were coming back from combat, some of them were friends of mine, and the effect that it was having on their souls . . . it just really affected me. I felt sort of duty-bound, that if I was going to write something, if I was going to direct something, it needed to be about something important, and this certainly is important. It was really important for me to make work that was serving a higher purpose. I felt connected to them, and I felt like I had a responsibility to tell their stories.
Mr. Dutton, you play a policeman who is also a war veteran and serves as an adversary to the main character. What was it about this role that spoke to you?
Dutton: What affected me was that although I didn’t go into the military myself . . . all the men in my family had served in the military, from World War II to the Korean War, and through Vietnam. I had a profound respect for men who fought for this country.
When I read my character, I said, “Well here’s a guy who’s obviously been a Vietnam War vet, and who understands what the guy is going through.” He’s looking in the mirror at himself 25 years earlier. It had an emotional connection for me, and I said I’d try to find a time to move my schedule around and get it in.
You have a great advantage of being able to explore your interests both in front of and behind the camera. How have you continued to grow creatively in being both an actor and a filmmaker?
Martin Papazian as Anthony “Least Among Saints.” (Courtesy of Papzian Hirsch Entertainment)
Papazian: Becoming a filmmaker was really about taking what I was doing as an actor and then just intensifying it. It challenges me to grow as an artist. It’s a greater expression; there’s more responsibility. I think there was a decade of preparation in becoming a filmmaker, and certainly having now had this experience of creating a film — it’s all I want to do. So now it’s about: How do I take this to the next level? How do I refine my choices, how do I develop, how do I evolve, how do I become a better filmmaker and a better storyteller? I look to the greats among my contemporaries and those who came before me and just to try to investigate what they did, why their pictures are successful. Hopefully I can continue making pictures that move people and are successfully in the market.
What are your hopes on how the film will resonate?
Dutton: I think it’s a film that really needs to be seen because it reflects a huge problem we got with returning vets. We no longer live in a draft world — we live in a volunteer [world]. I’m volunteering to go risk my life or lose my life to defend my country — and yet when they return, it’s not reciprocated. It’s just appalling the way our government treats our returning vets. A reflection of a society to me is how you treat your returning veterans who defend that society. If they’re treated like we’ve been treating them, then there’s something wrong with that society.