Enter Sandman: James Quinn Talks About His New Supernatural Boxing Film

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James Quinn Sandman Interview

We've seen the trailers online for SANDMAN, but we all know that trailers aren't often representative of the whole story. What can you tell us that's a bit more in-depth about the film?

SANDMAN is kind of a passion for us, for our whole team. It's a project that I wrote about a year and a half ago. Some of the premise is based upon my own life, so it made it a little bit easier to bring the story together.

It's about an ex-boxer. This guy was the middleweight champion of the world. (I was not). He takes on an injury, and has to go out into the family business and the labor union. He gets involved in union politics, and gets himself blackballed for going up against a corrupt union boss running for office, and suddenly he finds himself in this precarious position of, "What do I do now? I'm going to lose the house." It's been a year since he's been blackballed, and he's juggling three or four odd jobs to make ends meet, and they're down to days before they lose the home. And the only thing that this guy knows how to do is fight.

So he wants to get himself back into the ring so that he can get a chance of maybe winning back what they're about to lose.

The twist of this thing is, and I've never seen this in a boxing film before, and the element that we've added, is The Sandman is actually a supernatural entity that takes over the fighter. When he lost his last fight, he did it on his own. He told The Sandman to piss off, he didn't want him there, and they parted ways. So now not only does he need to resurrect his career, but he also needs to resurrect the entity known as The Sandman. But will this entity show up when push comes to shove and he has to get back into this ring and do this.

We really think that we have something unique with this. It's something that basically possesses the body of the fighter, so when he gets in the ring, he shuts down, goes to sleep, and the Sandman takes over. Only his wife and his trainer know what this is, but the crowd just thinks it's this bad-ass fighter who can't be stopped.

So I would assume one of the major story elements would be this guy wrestling with himself as to whether he can accomplish something on his own, or if he always has to rely on supernatural assistance.

Yeah, there's a lot of different things taking place. He was wrestling with that demon when he lost the title fight; he wanted to do it on his own, and he found out that at that point in his career he needed The Sandman. Now it's ten years later and he's going to wrestle with that demon again. Only now it's "Is he going to come back? Is he going to help? Are we going to deal with this together?"

Looking at the trailer, you've got some pretty big names pulled into this project.

Yeah! First and foremost we have Jose Caraballo. Jose is a professional boxer from the Pittsburgh area, and was also in SOUTHPAW, he was Jake Gyllenhaal's trainer.

We have Jillian O'Neil, who has been active in the film community, not just in Pittsburgh, but also in L.A. and Las Vegas. She stepped in to play Paige, my character's wife. And she did what she does best. We were just in the Las Vegas film festivals, and she won Best Supporting Actress. So we took home that award thanks to her. That was magnificent.

We have Eddie Holliday, another fighter from the Pittsburgh area who's on the rise big time in the acting world. This guy's taking flight right now. He came into the picture to play Nixon, who is the champion I've got to go up against. He's the younger, bigger version of possibly who my character used to be, and I've got to go through him if I want to make this comeback. Having that, it almost gave it that Rocky vs. Drago feel to it when you get to the ring, and it felt really great. Having the three of us as fighters, we meshed really well because we knew what we were doing. We took those necessary shots that we needed to take to sell it to the camera.

So there are some amazing people attached to this film, and I can't thank all of them enough.

SANDMAN isn't your first rodeo. What were some of your prior filmmaking experiences that you built on to make this project look so good?

Experience, that's exactly what this is. I came back into this business in 2011 strictly as an actor, but I fell in love with writing and creating. I tried my hand at directing a short film, CALLED UPON. We're doing a film called THE LOONEY BIN in the near future. I've written a teaser for it, it's a film that takes place in the nut house (it's a comedy).

We learned from trial and error from different things that we wanted to do on set, and things that we don't. Every set that I've ever been on, I've taken away a positive experience, but I think we've learned some of the things we don't want to do. When we came into SANDMAN, we put in people who had been around for a long time, and learned from all their own mistakes as well as my own. And we put that knowledge together and took a shot at knocking one out of the park...and for the most part, it's been a home run. The key element is that we had the drive. I think when everybody's heart is in it, the project will shine through, and that's what it's been for us from day one.

Being a writer, I know one of the things we're taught is to not make our main character a writer. With you being a boxer, did you have any trepidation about writing a film about, and playing the role of, a boxer?

This time I think that it needed to be. I felt like it was one of those deals where art imitates life, and life art. It was the best way to convey the story we wanted to. We could have gone another road, maybe like TEEN WOLF or THE INCREDIBLE HULK -- there are very similar characteristics about them. They use those particular entities, if you will, to tell their stories. They use the wolf, they use this green creature.

In this particular case, the fact that I had a boxing background, I was dying to finally be able to use that in a film one day, and to convey this particular story. I though, "Man, I've never seen a boxer who had this supernatural ability before. I wonder how people would take to it?" And so far they've taken to it really well, with the positive reinforcement we've heard from fans and festivals. We're just coming out of the Las Vegas festival about a week or so ago, and it was received really well. I mean, you gamble when you do that, you don't know what will happen.

When will the general public be able to go see SANDMAN, and where?

We are currently still touring the festivals. I just got notification today from Tokyo, Japan and we're going to be involved in the Genre Celebration Festival in December. I think it will probably be the turn of the year before we have our distribution deal in play. We want to do this film justice by letting it take its course and going to the festivals, so I would say early spring that we would have some type of deal in play. I've already had people come to me and make a deal for Amazon Prime. We haven't taken anything yet, but it's nice to know that those offers are on the table. But we want to get the best deal that we can, so I hope to tell you a little bit more here in the coming months, but we will have distribution, we will have some type of streaming service, and we'll have DVDs.