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‘The Gunfighter’ Director Eric Kissack on How He Cast Nick Offerman: TheWrap’s ShortList Quickie

Credit is due to an early episode of ”Deadwood“ and ”Role Models“ director David Wain

Eric Kissack’s “The Gunfighter” is a finalist for the top prize at TheWrap’s third annual 2014 ShortList Film Festival.

Written by Kevin Tenglin, the story follows a weary gunfighter who walks into a bar, looking for a drink. What he finds instead is a building full of raunchy people and an audible, bloodthirsty narrator.

The cast includes Shawn Parsons, Scott Beehner, Eileen O’Connell, Jordan Black and Timothy Brennan, though it’s the unseen narrator voiced by “Parks and Recreation” star Nick Offerman who steals the show.

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Kissack spent 10 years working as a feature film editor in New York and Los Angeles, where he cut such comedies as “Role Models,” “Cedar Rapids” and New Line’s upcoming sequel “Horrible Bosses 2.” He made the leap to directing in 2012, and is currently represented by UTA.

“The Gunfighter” won the Audience Award for Best Short at the Los Angeles Film Festival and was a Best of Fest Selection at the Palm Springs Short Fest. The movie also screened at the Cleveland International Film Festival and the Seattle International Film Festival.

TheWrap spoke with Kissack on Monday afternoon.

TheWrap: I had no idea Nick Offerman was the narrator and he was hilarious. How did you get him to do it?
Kissack: Well, I worked as an editor for many years and one of the filmmakers I worked with was David Wain. We did two movies together, “Role Models” and “The Ten.” I knew that David knew Nick and that Nick would be perfect for this, so David put it in front of him. It had already been shot and we put in a temporary voice to help sell it, but we wanted to replace the temp with someone great, like Nick. So we sent him the finished piece and I guess he liked it because he said he was in.

Did you always have a big comedy “name” in mind or was it luck of the draw?
Originally, we just thought it would be fun to get someone who had a little cachet and would do a great job. I was watching “Deadwood” to get some style ideas for the film and Nick is actually in the second episode of “Deadwood.” I thought, ‘wow, he’d be perfect!’

The idea of a talking narrator who everyone can hear is pretty good. How’d you come up with it?
I can’t take credit — the concept came from Kevin Tenglin. He sat down to write a Western short story and thought, ‘wouldn’t it be funny if the narrator spoke and everyone heard?’ He wrote a two-page short story and gave it to me. I thought it was clever and wanted to expand it into a short film, so we added some characters and a Mexican standoff.

Where did you shoot the film and how long did it take?
We shot at the Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita, which is the best Western town near Los Angeles. It’s where they shot “Deadwood,” “Django Unchained” and “Gunsmoke,” so it has a storied history. We shot it in two days over the course of a weekend for under $25,000. When you do a period piece, the sets and costumes and props cost more money.

Do you have any plans to expand the short into a feature film?
We actually don’t have any plans to expand it. We toyed around with that idea but felt like we had already explored it. It’s hard to expand it without scraping the same jokes from the bottom of the barrel. We do have an idea for a similar thing with a private eye or gumshoe.

How’d you finance “The Gunfighter?”
I financed it myself. I never went to film school, so all the shorts that I’ve made have been my film school, in a sense. It’s a fraction of the cost, so I justified it that way. I’d been editing commercials for a while and making good money but my soul was being eaten away a little bit by the process.

If you win the industry prize or the audience prize, what will you do with your $5,000?
I should say I’ll use the money for my daughter’s college fund (Kissack is a proud new father and spoke to TheWrap while caring for his newborn baby), but … I’ll probably use it to make another short film.

And if you win the industry prize, what will you offer at your pitch meeting with a studio?
I’ve got a couple scripts I’ve been writing with Kevin. We’re not ready to talk about them but they’re good and ready to be shown.

Anyone else you’d like to share the credit with?
Sarah Platt, our terrific producer who made it all happen. Her, Kevin & I were the main creative team