Who’s the cast member you’d most likely want to share a pint with? Should more women wear polka dots?

Find out from The Dodgy’s interview with Joshua Wagner and Thomas Zambeck, the filmmakers behind the award-winning dark comedy, The Badger Game, which co-stars Jillian Leigh, who was featured in our interview “City Babes.” This film had its international premier in Ireland, so raise a pint to that.


Jillian Leigh, Augie Duke, and Patrick Cronen in “The Badger Game.”

How did you get the idea for the film?
TOM: Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. When I first sat down to write the script, the design was to write a single-location film. Most of that was driven by budgetary concerns, but also because I’ve always been attracted to films that make use of one set, creatively, to create a feeling of claustrophobia and tension. CUBE, RESERVOIR DOGS, and TAPE all come to mind. Of course, as the script evolved, we abandoned the single-location format, and really tried to make the film a character study. We wanted people with complex motivations, who are neither good nor evil, trying to make snap decisions amidst impossible circumstances. That mantra became the driving force behind the writing process.
How did you find the cast?
TOM: Josh knew Augie Duke through a mutual friend and was a big fan of her previous work in BAD KIDS GO TO HELL; I was familiar with her from the TV show GRAVITY, which I worked on during my time at Starz. Josh saw Jillian Leigh in a film called A BIG LOVE STORY and immediately called me, saying we have to get a hold of this girl for Shelly! After seeing the film, I saw why: she’s an amazing on-screen presence and has a natural instinct for tapping into the emotional core of her characters. Sasha Higgins we had both worked with previously on a film called DARK FIELDS. We were old friends from the Detroit-area, and in the back of our minds, I think we always had her in mind for the role of Jane. Patrick Cronen and Sam Boxleitner were both cast from open auditions. Patrick read the role of Kip COMPLETELY different from anyone else and it blew us away. He saw something in the character we didn’t see ourselves – a theatricality that really made Kip almost desperate for attention and added an additional layer of motivation. Sam looked the part from the moment he walked in, but did something similar with Liam by making him vulnerable and, at times, sympathetic. His performance makes the film work, in that you never know who’s really telling the truth, or how bad anyone is.
If I had to pick one cast member to have a pint with, who should it be and why?
TOM: That’s difficult, because we’re a close-knit group and I really love all of them for different reasons. Some of our best moments were hanging out after the shoot, or after the film wrapped. I’d probably say that, if you have the chance, try to hang out with Augie, Jillian, and Sasha at the same time – their dynamic together is incredible and contagious. You would think they’ve known each other since high-school.
JOSH: Depends on what kind of night you want to have. If you want to get into fight or kicked out of a bar then have a beer with Marc Siciliani (Clive). If you want to have a philosophical conversation then have a beer with Patrick Cronen (Kip).
Was that anyone’s house in particular in the film?
TOM: The interiors of the main house belonged to (co-producer and composer) RJ Gallentine and Leesa Gallentine. Both are genre fanatics and have impeccable taste. Every object in the house had a story behind it, and just being there added a higher-level of production value to the film. Fun fact: the latex tree in the dining room was a leftover prop from HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES. I think you can only see it in one or two shots, but I always liked that as an added bit of film trivia.
JOSH: Yeah, we basically asked friends if we could shoot at their homes. The one house location including exteriors and the garage is actually 4 locations. Every room in the house though; bathroom (with the pornographic shower curtains) and bedrooms all belong to the Gallentine’s. It helps keep the consistency and with such a low budget you don’t really want to travel too far.
Those weird masks in the film. We are they now? 
TOM: A closet in my apartment, although we did bring them out of retirement for the Arizona Underground Film Festival. We’re talking about doing a giveaway in the near future where someone has a chance to win one of them. They can all fight over the frog.
JOSH: I don’t know Tom. Those masks have just about had it. They’re pretty beaten up and torn. I’m pretty sure Sasha (Jane) couldn’t see out of her mask. That makes the frog/stripper scene all the more impressive doesn’t it?
Kip has a lot of great lines . How fun was it to come up with those and was Kip based on anyone you know?
TOM: An amalgam of different people, yes. When we were writing it, one particular friend from high school kept coming to mind. He was good-looking, charming, popular – but, deep down, you always knew he was a bit unhinged. He was fun to write because we were trying to craft a character who was naturally witty, but simultaneously insecure and always trying to prove himself. Additionally, he asks a lot of questions and makes a lot of bold assertions – but it’s not to be condescending. It’s because he genuinely thinks and feels a certain way. In fact, he’s the only “honest” character in the film – and Patrick really brought that out with his delivery.
JOSH: I like that. “He’s the only honest character in the film”. You’re right. Kip is a bit of the comic relief, even though he does some of the worst things, because this isn’t all that serious to him. He more looks at it as a game whereas the girls have an emotional attachment.
Jillian wears a polka dot dress in a key scene. Should more women wear polka dots? 
TOM: Only if they’re going after guys with a Minnie Mouse fetish! I’ll credit Josh with that bit – he’s the one who brought the polka dots into play.
JOSH: I have this friend I used to work at a bar and every time he saw a girl in polka dots he was drawn to them. It was an obsession for him. But there is something sexy in an old school way about it, like Marilyn Monroe or Betty Boop. My girlfriend kept the dress from the movie and she wears it from time to time.
Are you guys going to team up again on another project? What kind of project would you/the both of you like to do? 
TOM: Josh and I actually have two projects we’re collaborating on – one in the microbudget vein of THE BADGER GAME, and another a bit more ambitious in terms of scope. I have a true-crime mini-series that I’m shopping around to several networks, and another script entering its third draft. Hollywood can be fickle, so it’s always good to have a lot of things going.
JOSH: Yeah, we’re always talking about future projects and which one we want to focus on. We hope to get a bigger budget for the next one though. My manager says he’s “a hair” away from getting one of my scripts green-lit, so we’ll see how that goes. Like Tom says, it’s a fickle town and unfortunately that keeps you from getting too excited. It seems like one minute somebody loves your ideas and the next day they love your ideas a little less and then you never hear from them. I compare it to “online dating”. There’s always something “better.”
Where is a good place to get a beer in Detroit? LA? (Tom is from Detroit. Josh from Chicago, but we already know the good beer places in Chicago). 
TOM: Detroit has really blown up in the past few years, so the locals will probably have some new additions to the list. Some of my old favorites are the Town Pump, The Old Shillelagh, Nancy Whiskey’s, and The WAB (Woodward Avenue Brewers) in Ferndale. LA has no shortage of great bars. I’m a huge fan of Tony’s Darts Away in Burbank, which specializes in IPAs. It’s more of whiskey bar, but as far as ambiance, it’s tough to beat the Wellsborne on Pico. Angel City Brewery in the downtown arts district makes some of my favorite beer of all-time.
JOSH: I find myself in the valley most of the time because bars are so expensive in L.A. and Hollywood. I like the BLUE ROOM in Burbank/Glendale; they only takes cash and have a jukebox or the Griffin in Atwater Village; again they have a good jukebox. But if you’re looking for a good late-night happy hour with pretty people then try the Hudson in Hollywood or Bar Lubitsch, a communist-era themed bar.
Out of the two of you, who would the cast say was the biggest pain? 
TOM: Me, definitely. I’m a schedule keeper and obsessed with micro-details. Josh is more laid back. I think that’s why we worked though.
JOSH: Tom.
Where can people see the film?
TOM: We’re exclusively on Vimeo as sort of a “sneak peek” before our official release in June, at which point we’ll be on other VOD platforms like iTunes and Google Play. We’ll debut on Amazon a few months later, followed by a Blu-ray and DVD release later in the year. Our distributors (Stadium Media and Severin Films) really believe in a tiered release campaign, allowing the film to build some momentum over time, instead of debuting everywhere at once. I’d like to think we made a cult film, so our vision for the film long-term is perfectly aligned with theirs.
All the goods are at thebadgergame.com.