Jan 1, 2012

Director Brian Crano one of PASTE MAGAZINE's Best New Filmmakers of 2011

Not only does Crano deftly juggle humor and pathos simultaneously, he also juggles actors with wildly different styles, from classically trained (Rebecca Hall, Carrie Preston) to mainstream-swimming (Jake Sandvig, Amanda Seyfried) to child prodigy (Chandler Canterbury) to the comedic force of nature that is Jason Ritter."

Sep 16, 2011

BAG Special Screening @ The Light Factory - Charlotte, NC - OCT 20


Directed by Brian Crano
2010 / USA / Color / English 

Thurs. October 20- Sat. October 22
7:30 PM 
Hodges Taylor Art Consultancy 
(401 N. Tryon - Transamerica Square) 
$5 Members / $7 Non-Members 

Not Rated / 87 min  

For directions and parking, click 

Sep 1, 2011

BAG to be the closing night film at EDMONTON FILM FESTIVAL

We are very excited to be playing at Edmonton, it's an honor to be asked to be the closing night film.  

May 13, 2011

eFilmcritic.com Review!

"You know the old tale about the slacker ne'er-do-wells who are suddenly forced to face responsibility. Tales is more appropriate, and of course you do. Now, remember the last time you were faced with such a film and it turned out to be the kind of honestly funny and sweet tale that is often failed by pandering filmmakers? Brian Crano's A Bag of Hammers turns out to be that rare tale that surprises in its maturity while never losing the reality of leopards trying to change their spots. 

Your two slackers in question are Ben and Alan (Jason Ritter & Jake Sandvig), two best friends who specialize in the kind of phony valet service that gives you a ticket and then steals your car. If anything can qualify as their good deed of the day, it is renting out part of their duplex to the unemployed Lynette (Carrie Preston) and her young son, Kelsey (a very good Chandler Canterbury). When Alan's sister, Mel (Rebecca Hall) notice that living conditions over there might not be up to the child's standards, the boy's handsome teacher and former Child Services worker (Gabriel Macht) may be just the answer for the single mom. Or does Kelsey's situation stir up some old feelings in the pals to take charge, both of whom were the product of neglect and forged their friendship because of it?

It all sounds like a by-the-numbers script by Crano and co-star Sandvig, but they refuse to shy away from the harsher implications involved with Lynette and the economy, nor in the potential of a child being traded through the system for food stamps. The film does take some dark turns along the way, but necessary ones to shake the guys into a new reality (though their seemingly easy-to-trace valet scam is never in danger.) The first ten minutes of the film with Ben & Alan's banter perfectly establishing their relationship and a hilarious encounter with Ben's ex (a cameo by Amanda Seyfried) is funnier than the likes of any of the faux responsibility films we saw in 2010 (Life As We Know It, etc...) Those laughs continue throughout the film but never at the expense of some rich, dramatic truths. 

Bravo to Crano and Sandvig for not cutting away from a bravura monologue delivered by Ritter (who deserves a shot in the next James L. Brooks or Judd Apatow production) that perfectly bridges the shifts in tone. There is also a wonderful bit of wish fulfillment for the future in a late sequence that recalls the strength of similar moments in (500) Days of Summer and Spike Lee's 25th Hour. A Bag of Hammers can't help but simplify the reality of the situation just a little, but that doesn't stop it from feeling more real than the spate of condescending trite that has come before it."

May 2, 2011

Whysoblu.com review of BAG

A Bag of Hammers is very much a film that I hope many will get to see.  It has all of the right kinds of charm and energy that one would hope for in an independent film from talented young filmmakers.  While the film will eventually see a limited theatrical release, it is definitely one that should be picked up in whatever form is available to a wide audience.  The spark within the cast is superb and the writing is clever and well done.  Bringing in both comedy and drama, I was highly entertained throughout this film, which is all I ever ask for.  The added bonus is how well crafted the film was and meaningful the relationships between the characters were.  Surprised and delighted indeed.

Newport Beach Film Festival kicks off to big crowds

"A conversation at the Lido Theater with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” “The Social Network”) played to a huge house, as did a directing panel I moderated to a room full of filmmakers and producers featuring Penelope Spheeris (“Wayne’s World,” “Suburbia”), Oren Kaplan (“Hamill”), Brian Crano (“A Bag of Hammers”) and Irish filmmaker Tom Hall (“Sensation”)."

Mar 29, 2011

Gordon and The Whale Interview With Brian Crano director of A Bag of Hammers

Brian Crano's first feature A BAG OF HAMMERS premiered just a few weeks ago in Austin at the SXSW Film Festival, where I saw it and instantly fell in love (with the film, not Crano - sorry, dude, that just might be too creepy). A BAG OF HAMMERS follows two misfit best friends, Ben and Allan (played by Jason Ritter and Jake Sandvig, respectively), who get by doing no good. They're thrown a bag of hammers when they take a mother and fatherless boy under their wings.

I unsuccessfully tried to interview Crano in person at the festival, but my schedule kept train-wrecking so he was nice enough to pass along his email for us to conduct an interview that way. After the break is our conversation about the film, which I believe you will find very fascinating, especially if you're a young filmmaker hungry for originality and exposure. Enjoy! 

A BAG OF HAMMERS is your first feature. The film deals with serious tones but in a lighthearted and comical way. Where did the idea of this film first come from?

In the most simplistic terms from a desire to make a buddy comedy. At the time we wrote the script, pre- Apatow rightly turning into the Sun, pre- Wedding Crashers, there was a kind of buddy comedy drought. I wanted to use the central relationship in the film -- two best friends -- as a metaphor for alternative families and the tropes of a buddy comedy seemed like the perfect fit. The idea was to start the film true to that style, broad comedy - light on consequence and kind of lure the audience into a false sense of security about what they are watching. Then when the plot turns and the rug is pulled out from the two lead characters to do the same thing to the viewer, so the tone and seriousness of the film is suddenly asking a lot more of them emotionally than what they might have bargained for. This was very deliberate, as I really believe that form and content should marry, so I want the audience to be on the same ride as the characters. It's fun for me to have seen this play out for the first time with an audience at SXSW. It was a big experiment that seemed to work really well, there were a lot of laughs and a lot of sniffles in all the right places. I never want watching the film or anything I do to be a passive experience. I want the audience to have no sense of where the story is leading them and really fight to preserve some sense of genuine surprise, which is such a rare, rare thing to feel when you go to a film, the economics of which dictate that they must branded and advertised within an inch of its life just to get you to the theatre.

You’ve worked with Rebecca Hall three times now [first two have been Crano’s shorts, RUBBERHEART and OFFICIAL SELECTION, respectively]. What is it about her that makes you want to keep casting her in your films?

I met Rebecca in the early 2000s when I cast her in a workshop of a play that I wrote, 12th PREMISE. And it turns out, without knowing it at the time, I had cast my favorite actress and one of my best friends. We approach work in the same way, I think. Rebecca wants to be challenged. She works hard, is rigorous in her approach but has a really good time on set. She's always treading new ground. And she's never a pain in the ass. When you work with Rebecca, it's like one less thing you have to worry about because she will reliably do something brilliant, much better than whatever you had in mind. I will keep offering her work forever and hope very much she keeps saying yes.

I have not seen your shorts, but I have seen A BAG OF HAMMERS and it’s obvious you have an eye for finding actors who mesh well together on screen. What’s your casting process like and how do you know when you’ve found the right people?

Casting is really a fun process. So I like to take my time withit. With BAG we knew that the chemistry between the two leads was critical to the film's success. I wanted to meet a lot of people, to just talk withthem first, get a sense of who they were, how they like to work and what they thought about the film. Then if they seemed like they would fit in, we would have them come back in and read. This took a few months but was worth it because you end up discovering people like Jason Ritter, who I hadn't thought of for the role and ended up being perfect; or Carrie Preston whose audition was so strong it changed my perception of the character. I come out of theatre background where the idea of repertory company is really prevalent and it appeals to me greatly. There are about ten or twelve actors that no matter what I'm doing, I'm always looking for a way to cast with them.

You wear many hats in all your films (writer, director, producer) - do you want to keep this trend going or would you like to eventually just write or direct?

I think that I'll keep it up. I really enjoy the various stages of the process, and they all interrelate, so why not? I'll keep directing what I write, but I'd like to produce for others as well. Rebecca has a movie that she's working on that I would like to work on as a producer. And I am attached to direct a film that I didn't write, at the moment, which is really exciting. It's a very different process being not emotionally attached to any particular part about the script, having no baggage or whatever. It's been really cool starting this process. But ultimately, it's so appealing to have an idea and see it through from the writing process through completion I think I'll keep doing it all.

A BAG OF HAMMERS deals with young adults who unconsciously refuse to grow up. Being 28, I relate to it because there are times when it hits me that I’m almost 30 and still don’t have it all together, so I often call my sweet mother to see if she’s proud of what I’ve down with my life so far. With that awkward introduction to my personal life, does any of this story come from your personal experiences?

I think the part of the story that relates to my personal experience the most is about the desire to have a family and the knowledge that that family isn't going to be made up of a husband, a wife, 2.3 kids and a dog. In another way, the film is about people who have had bad things happen to them and still have to move forward. That is close to my experience, my mother was very sick for a while and the weight of that stays with you and changes you, whatever you are doing. But I'm a total momma's boy and definitely seek approval constantly, so you are not alone.

What’s it like having your feature premiere at a very prestigious and popular film festival like SXSW?

It was really very special. It took six years to make this film and throughout that process you are really formulating the A side of a conversation. South By gave us a huge platform to hear the B side of that conversation and let us engage with a big broad audience. It was honestly the festival where we wanted to launch the film because, having been there in the past, the energy and spirit of the festival was right for this kind of movie. And the whole SXSW team was so great to us and the response to the movie down there was so strong -- it was a dream.

A BAG OF HAMMERS is on both Facebook and Twitter. How do you think this has helped market the film?

Well it certainly makes us more accessible. People have written us little questions or notes, and we've been invited to screen at other festivals via these mediums so that is helpful. It's also a useful way for us to feedback, watching Twitter after screenings was kind of a group pastime. And the obvious things like sharing reviews and press stuff with people who are keeping an eye on @abagofhammers orabagofhammers.com (shameless plug).

What’s next for A BAG OF HAMMERS?

We're screening at Nashville Film Festival and Newport Beach Film Festival and we've been asked to screen at a few others. And we're in the process of selling the film, which is a nice thing.

Mar 23, 2011

FILM.com Review

Mar 22, 2011

Joblo.com Review

Mar 20, 2011

Gordon and the Whale Review...

DirectorBrian Crano
WritersBrian CranoJake Sandvig
Cast:  Jason RitterJake SandvigChandler CanterburRebecca HallCarrie PrestonCarrie PrestonAmanda Seyfried

Alan and Ben are a pair of slackers who pay rent by working valet at funerals. No, wait, wait that’s very incorrect. Alan and Ben are a pair of slackers who pay rent by boosting cars while posing as valet employees at funerals. Sounds morbid and cruel, but A BAG OF HAMMERS is actually a that is a bag of charm.

In any case, Alan (Jake Sandvig) and Ben (Jason Ritter) are too lazy to work normal jobs, so they steal cars and sell them to a local car shop for scrap. They live in a little duplex and rent one out to a struggling mother and child, Kelsey (wonderfully played by Chandler Canterbury). When that mother winds up abandoning the child, Alan and Ben take him in to build a family of their own. Think Two and a Half Men, but without the tiger blood. 

A BAG OF HAMMERS is co-writer/director Brian Crano’s first feature film, and I’m crossing my fingers (and torso) that it’s not his last. Crano manages to give an unhealthy story about two misfit adults who commit grand theft auto a lot of heart. Crano understands how to mix clever adult humor with serious life themes. A BAG OF HAMMERS does take an unexpected turn, but Crano does not drop the ball, not once; as the title suggests, sometimes life throws us a bag of hammers and we just have to deal with it.

Full disclosure: I’ve never really paid much attention to Jason Ritter’s career and now I’m thinking this was a bit foolish of me; Crano’s feature-length directorial debut is a hammering heads up that it’s now time for everyone to be more aware of this man. Ritter channels his brilliant father’s comedy and gives us a hilarious performance as Ben, that slacker you just hate to love. He’s charming, funny, and means well – even if he doesn’t know he’s meaning well. I must also note that Ritter bounces wonderfully off fellow actors Sanvig, Canterbury, and Rebecca Hall.

A BAG OF HAMMERS is a heavy reminder that you don’t need to be fast and furious to tell a smart and entertaining story about stealing cars.

Mar 19, 2011



"This is a movie that can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a madcap comedy or an intricate drama, and that turns out to be a very good thing. Most films marry their comedic and dramatic elements by watering down each to create a somewhat consistent tone. But A Bag of Hammers repeatedly juxtaposes sharp, quick-cutting wisecracks with sober treatments of some truly heart-rending issues. The back-and-forth could give you whiplash in an inferior movie, but first-time director Brian Crano makes it work in spades. In fact, it’s one of the most moving comedies in years. It doesn’t hurt that he draws such wonderful performances from his actors. Rebecca Hall — who will win an Academy Award someday — is superb, and Jake Sandvig is an excellent comedic sidekick. Carrie Preston gives the film an incredible anchor with a heartbreakingly desperate performance. But Jason Ritter is the story here. He’s hilarious, he’s charismatic, he’s effortless on screen. When he has a run of physical comedy midway through the film, you can almost feel the audience fondly remembering his father. And his father would be proud, of this movie and of his rising star of a son."

Mar 16, 2011

Lost In Reviews reviews BAG

A Bag of Hammers had its world premiere at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival on March 12, 2011, and Lost in Reviews was in attendance.  The movie follows two young men (I would say they were in their 20′s), Alan (Jake Sandvig) and Ben (Jason Ritter), who have made a living out of scamming people and stealing from them.  Both men have had something happen in their past that was traumatic, and this forged a strong relationship between them.  They both make decent money considering how good they are at scamming and stealing.  They live in the backyard guest house of a house they rent out for income.  They live fairly unattached to the world around them; they do not have girlfriends and only have a couple of friends.  One of those friends is Marty (Todd Louiso) they take the nice stolen cars to for a cut of the profits.  The other would be Alan’s sister Melanie (Rebecca Hall) who works at a quirky little diner, but still relies on the occasional financial help from her brother.

The story gets complicated when the men rent out their house to a mother and son, Lynette (Carrie Preston) and Kelsey (Chandler Canterbury), who have fled Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.  Lynette does not have a job and is having a hard time making ends meet.  She does try to get a job, but she is not qualified enough for an office job.  The stress of the money situation and trying to raise her son on her own results in Lynette repeatedly yelling at Kelsey and taking her anger out on him.  Kelsey starts at a new school and becomes the victim of bullies almost immediately.  Kelsey is also left to fend for himself most of the time while at home.  He seems to subsist on Monster energy drinks and Hungry Man microwave meals.  Carrie is absent from the home a lot, but the audience does not ever get told why.  One day, Melanie goes inside the house after Kelsey offers her a soda.  She sees that the house is a mess with trash everywhere, and Carrie is nowhere to be found.  Melanie ends up contacting the Department of Family and Child Services about the situation, even though Ben and Alan beg her not to.

Eventually, Kelsey is left without a mother.  Alan and Ben decide to hide the situation from the police, fearing that Kelsey will be moved to a group home.  Ben thinks that taking care of Kelsey is only temporary.  On the other hand, Ben has formed in his mind to try to keep Kelsey and raise him.  This disagreement causes a rift between them.

A Bag of Hammers is directed by Brian Crano and written by Crano and Jake Sandvig.  While many may perceive this film to be all comedy, it is also a drama that deals with some serious issues.  The audience may find itself laughing out loud in one moment and shedding a tear in the next.  This is the evidence of a great script, one that can seamlessly meld the comedy and drama elements together seamlessly.

The actors are top-notch in their performances.  Jason Ritter and Jake Sandvig have great comedic timing.  There are a few times where they banter back and forth and do it so well, I had to wonder if there was a bit of adlibbing.  Both actors were equally as good with delivering the serious lines of their characters.  Their characters change into different people by the end of the movie.  They are no longer selfish and immature, but willing to grow up and give a boy who came into their lives a chance.  They realize that things may not work out, but they take the risk.  Rebecca Hall is great at playing Melanie.  You have to admire an actress who is willing to dress up in a ridiculous waitress costume and make up her own little dance that she uses to greet new customers.  Her character is a bit conflicted morally with what her brother does for a living.  She wants him to stop stealing and get a normal job, but she will still accept money from him to make ends meet while she is still in college.  Hall has been friends with the director, Brian Crano, for several years and this role was written for her.  It was a small enough part that she was able to complete the shots for her character in five days.

Chandler Canterbury as Kelsey is excellent.  He plays a character that is neglected and verbally and physically abused.  While Alan and Ben like to keep to themselves, Kelsey seeks out their company and friendship and eventually breaks down their walls.  Canterbury did have a decent amount of lines, but what really struck me was his ability to convey his emotions and feelings when he had no lines.  I find it remarkable that kids so young can have an understanding of what their characters are going through.  They more than likely have no experience in their own lives to relate to their characters.  I am sure Canterbury will have a long acting career in front of him.

I really have no complaints about the film.  Everything about the movie is well done.  There is a montage towards the end of the movie that may confuse some audience members, but that was not an issue for me.  The way the story ends leads me to want to ask more questions of how everything worked out, but I do not want to spoil the ending for anyone.

The title of A Bag of Hammers refers to a metaphor that Ben uses to explain to Kelsey what happens after something tragic happens to you.  The film is not about tragedy or the many problems you encounter in life, but how you decide to live your life and change to become a better person.  Ben and Alan were immature delinquents who took the easy road in life, no responsibility, no complications.  Then a boy nudged his way into their lives and they changed and grew up.  They became dads.  A Bag of Hammers is truly a great independent film that deserves the wider audience and buzz that SXSW can generate for the film.

***Remember to stay through the beginning of the end credits.

I give A Bag of Hammers 4.5 “Monster energy drinks” out of 5.

indieWIRE Blog about BAG

Not all of the facts are correct... but it's close.

Mar 14, 2011

BAG in a Variety Article "Buyers turned out for Brian Crano's comedy- drama feature bow "A Bag of Hammers."

"A wider array of U.S. and foreign buyers hit SXSW Film's weekend screenings, signalling the fest's evolution as a key post-Sundance destination for talent discovery and pickups or, at least, the start of formal negotiations."

"The enthusiastic aud and industry reception for haunted hotel thriller "The Innkeepers" bodes well for Chicago writer-director Ti West, while Brian Crano's comedy-drama feature bow "A Bag of Hammers" saw a full complement of buyers turn out."

PAPERMAG's SXSW Top Ten List...

Mar 10, 2011

VARIETY calls BAG a film with "Buyer Buzz"

"Docu competish feature "Fightville" from SXSW vets Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein ("Gunner Palace"), is attracting buyer heat. While features like Alison Bagnall's "The Dish and the Spoon," starring SXSW darling Greta Gerwig; misfit comedy "Bag of Hammers"; Matt D'Elia's directorial bow "American Animal"; Joseph Kahn's teen horror-comedy "Detention"; and Kyle Smith's "Turkey Bowl" -- all world preeming at SXSW -- are among dozens of acquisition titles with buyer buzz."