New Orleans has long been a favorite backdrop for action filmmakers, but Richardson native William Kaufman was drawn to the Big Easy for another reason.
Kaufman relocated several years ago from the Dallas area to the Irish Channel neighborhood along the Mississippi River. It’s where his latest low-budget thriller, The Channel, was set and shot. The film opens on Friday in Plano and The Colony.
“If I go on a walk with my dog, I’m touring all of these locations from the movie,” Kaufman said. “It was very useful to be here.”
The ultraviolent story features heavy doses of bullets and bravado. After spearheading a bank heist and killing some cops in the aftermath, siblings Jamie (Clayne Crawford) and Mic (Max Martini) must team up to navigate the criminal underworld in the Irish Channel, whether fleeing from authorities or confronting a rival gang over their money.
The working-class community just south of downtown New Orleans is a melting pot of ethnicities and backgrounds, with churches and other historical structures dating back centuries. Kaufman’s half-Irish, half-German family became enamored with the area when he was a child.
Kaufman lived in various countries as a child but grew up primarily in Collin County. He attended film school at the University of North Texas and started his career here with his debut feature The Prodigy more than a decade ago. His subsequent breakthrough film, Saints and Sinners, brought Kaufman back to the bayou and prompted him to move there permanently.
His screenplay for The Channel is his most personal to date, intended to pay tribute to his blue-collar surroundings while remaining grounded in his action-film wheelhouse. Authenticity in settings and characters was key.
“It has to come from the heart and voice of something that’s real,” Kaufman said. “It’s a city with such history and culture, good and bad. There’s a story around every corner.”
Kaufman has been prolific of late, with three films opening in the span of a month. Besides The Channel, he co-directed the war thriller Warhorse One, which is now streaming on digital platforms. He also helmed Shrapnel, a cartel saga starring Jason Patric opening on July 28.
Although Kaufman is firmly entrenched as a director of indie action films, he wants to diversify his resume in the future.
“I love the genre — film noir, I love that vibe — but getting away from straight action, I would like to lean that way. I’m happy with our budgets because of the level of creative freedom. It may not be the best thing for your wallet, but it sure is rewarding for how hard we work.”