Excl: Director Tammi Sutton Talks 'Ripped-Off'


With Isle of Dogs’ director Tammi Sutton’s latest feature Ripped-Off gearing up for principal photography in Los Angeles, CA this spring, we caught up with the filmmaker to discuss what happens when car thieves steal the wrong vehicle (this being a Sutton film, all sorts of stylized hell will break loose, more than likely). Read on.

Currently casting, Ripped-Off was written by Jeff Sisson, and will be produced by Caprice Conley, with cinematography by Jonas Navickas. The film’s tagline is as follows; “They stole the wrong car... Now heads are gonna’ roll."

“The inception of Ripped-Off honestly started when I was winding down filming my last two features in Europe and England,” stated Sutton (her last feature currently in release, the gritty Andrew Howard and Barbara Nedeljakova-starring crime thriller Isle of Dogs, bowed to DVD via Green Apples on January 28, 2014.)

“When I was there and homesick for Los Angeles, all I ever thought about while filming on those cold, rainy nights in the quiet UK countryside was about filming again in sunny California,” she expounded.

“Los Angeles has always held a certain chaotic attraction for me (even though) I was never truly interested in making a movie about L.A. until I missed it so bad, and then it became an obsession. L.A. stories have been told so many times and in so many ways that it’s an absolute daunting subject, but one that I was finally ready to explore. Some of my favorite films have been adventures and misadventures in this city, (and) it’s clear to me now, that movies set in L.A. were an original attraction to me when deciding to move here 18 years ago.  After living here this long, I now have an intimate relationship with the city and it’s diversity in culture that stretches across its many neighborhoods and people. It took a long time to get through every dive-bar, drive down every city street, meet thousands of people from different walks of life, work on every studio lot, love, hate, cry, deal with rejection, enjoy the successes, and simply embrace what living in this city means to me. Until now, it was liken to trying to paint a picture in the dark. Writer Jeffery Sisson finally tempted me to get off my ass and do my ‘L.A. movie’.”

“Every time I leave my house in Hollywood, I’m basically on a location scout, whether I’m thinking about it or not,” Sutton continued.

“It’s easy to get caught up in your daily life as a filmmaker and shut out the world around you, so when you have those moments where you’re jerked out of your shell, they really start to add up. Sometimes it’s as simple as walking into an East L.A. liquor store and I’m overcome with a desire that I have to film there. Or driving on one of the many freeways at just the right time of day or night and seeing the perfect city skyline shot that calls to your soul and begs for filming.  Some of my best writing has gone down in laundry mats waiting for my clothes to dry, or on bar napkins in dark watering holes like the Drawing Room, and back in the day at Boardners. I’ve got an exhaustive amount of moments that now all need to be put together in a film, with great actors and memorable set pieces.”

As for what attracted her to the script, “It was the backdrop of Los Angeles playing a major roll in the film,” she provided.

“I (while I) don’t want to be cynical, however, there is no shortage of moral decay in our story.  I love films that take a slice out of life, and this one offers a big, nasty bite of that in a very gritty way. I’m also attracted to the challenge of showing my unique take on some of the things this city has to offer, visually, and emotionally. I’m not making a movie about filmmaking in L.A., (as) those stories don’t really appeal to me. I’m more interested in exploring the dirty underbelly of this town with a perspective far from the comfort of a writing desk-job at a studio, and far from the cocktails of the poolside Hollywood Hills.”

Given the unique visual and narrative story-telling of Isle of Dogs, we queried Sutton in regards to her approach to Ripped-Off, and as to whether or not for her there were any previous cinematic touchstones in mind.

“Every film I approach as a director and or writer or producer takes on a life of its own,” she replied, “and there is going to be a disturbing amount of gunplay and bad intentions in Ripped-Off.” 

“It’s inspiring me as a director to visually create a style I’ve not done before, with some experimental camera-work that we’re working on, which is taking me beyond the safety of traditional thinking.  I’m obsessed with lighting and in that sense, Los Angeles usually has a very unique look, which I am very fond of, but am tired of recognizing. I am very interested in adding a touchstone film to my own list of films, and to the long list of great L.A. movies.”

Of those films, Sutton became ‘L.A. whimsical’, and rattled off the following;  To Live and Die in LA, Chinatown, Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Mi Vida Loca, Body Double, Heat, End of Watch, Drive, Less Than Zero, Crash, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, Die Hard, Barfly, and The Limey.

“The Long Goodbye with Elliot Gould has to be one of my favorites,” she stated, and then went on to offer some good SoCal courting advice.

“It’s got my favorite tagline: ‘Nothing says goodbye like a bullet.’ And although it starts out in Detroit, who can argue how fun and memorable True Romance is when Clarence and Alabama drive into Hollywood in that purple Cadillac? If you’re looking for a hot True Romance date in LA, go see a movie at The Vista in Los Feliz, then drive across town to Rae’s Diner in Santa Monica for some pie and a hot cup of coffee.  Of course, you could always drive back and get a room at The Safari Inn to make it complete.”


For more, ‘like’ Ripped-Off on their Facebook page here - and follow the flick on Twitter @RippedOffMovie