Arts & Culture News

Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco and Texas Filmmaker J.J. Perry Premiere Day Shift in Dallas

Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco and director J.J. Perry talked vampires at the Dallas premiere of Day Shift.
Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco and director J.J. Perry talked vampires at the Dallas premiere of Day Shift. Vera "Velma" Hernandez
Film marketing companies work hard to create compelling moments within the first few seconds of a trailer in order to suck the viewers’ eyeballs to the screen. If you caught even a brief glimpse of the trailer for the Netflix movie Day Shift, it probably hasn’t been easy to forget the image of Jamie Foxx firing a shotgun at an elderly female vampire.

“To be honest with you, in the trailer when you see me pull a shotgun and shoot that grandma into the back of that bathroom, people are like, ‘What is this?’” says Foxx. “We haven’t seen anything quite jarring like that in a trailer, so people now want to take a peek and see what this is. I think it really matches Netflix’s DNA, the fact that it's sort of quirky and sort of off. I think it really worked.”

His co-star, Dave Franco, agrees.

“Shooting the grandma, it just sets the tone for the rest of the movie,” he says with a laugh. “It’s like, ‘Oh, we’re shooting grandmas?’”

Foxx came to Dallas on Friday with other members of the cast and the film's director for a screening at the Alamo Drafthouse Lake Highlands followed by a press conference at the Ritz Carlton.
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Perry, Franco and Foxx at the press event for Day Shift.
Vera "Velma" Hernandez

Day Shift is a buddy adventure zombie film directed by veteran stuntman and second unit director J.J. Perry. It tells the story of vampire hunter Bud Jablonski (Foxx), a blue-collar dad who stalks the ghoulish creatures in the San Fernando Valley in order to provide for his 9-year-old daughter.

After different sects of vampires start forming an alliance, Bud is forced to team up with the straight-laced merchant Seth (Franco). With a little help from Bud’s former war buddy, Big John Elliot (played by none other than Snoop Dogg), Bud sets out to stake his claim and protect his family.
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James Franco attends the Dallas première of Day Shift.
Vera "Velma" Hernandez

Perry may be a first-time director, but he’s hardly a novice when it comes to this type of material. A Texas native and veteran of the armed services, Perry gained stunt and second-unit directing credits on projects such as Bullet to the Head, Angel, Pineapple Express, Gangster Squad, Iron Man, Django Unchained and Walker, Texas Ranger, among others.

Perry says that while picking a favorite stunt sequence from the film is like “choosing between my kids,” he has a particular fondness for the viral “grandma shooting” moment that Foxx referenced. The creation of the sequence was much more complex than some viewers may have realized.
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James Franco was happy to promote his new film.
Vera "Velma" Hernandez

“There were four doubles for her — there was the actress, there was a stunt double, there was a fight double and there was a contortionist double," Perry says. "It was putting makeup on all four different performers. It was something that we are indeed shooting the contortionist, and weaponizing and reactionizing the contortionist. You’ve seen them move, but I think we’ve taken it a step further, shooting it in reverse and playing with frame rates. I think we did OK!”

It’s a lot of effort to put into a moment that happens so quickly, but that’s the type of filmmaking that appeals to Perry. As a veteran of the industry, Perry was excited to take a turn sitting in the director’s chair.

“When you’re working as a second unit director or stunt coordinator, you’re really helping someone else realize their vision,” he says. “This was my chance to have my team help me realize my vision, so it was a real treat for me to be able to guide the ship and dump out what was in my heart and mind.”
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Jamie Foxx got personal wth fans.
Vera "Velma" Hernandez

Perry knows action, and he certainly knows vampires. He performed stunts on projects such as the Blade trilogy and the cult series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Given his unusual level of expertise within the subgenre, Perry wanted to make sure that the vampires in Day Shift were up to his standards.

“I had a vampire genogram,” he says. “We created our own vampires and how to kill them. We took vampire lore and tried to throw it on its head. I worked with the makeup effects department, who’s super cool, and we’d worked together a few times before. I had done Buffy, I was on Blade ... we’ve done a bunch of vampire movies."

Makeup is already a long process, Perry says, and it's harder for him in some other ways.

"I’m color blind, so I need help with the color of the eyes and I need help with my costume designer," he says. "I had to talk to my DP [director of photography] and my production designer. I had such a great team that was so far in front of it; it was really, really awesome.”

Day Shift isn’t just nonstop blood and gore. Perry wanted to create a film that was equally action-packed, funny and scary, similar to the films he grew up with, like Fright Night, The Evil Dead, The Lost Boys and Big Trouble in Little China.

“The action is what I’ve been doing for 32 years, so I hope it's good, and I hope people like it,” he says. “I feel like it's my wheelhouse. I feel like I’m very confident about it. The horror and the tension, it takes good directing, but I felt like I had a command of that as well. I think I’m funny, but I’m not sure if anyone else thinks that I’m funny. When we cast Jamie Foxx, pretty much all of my worries were relieved at that point.”

Franco agrees. He says that Foxx was “everything” to the production, and that the film’s tone would’ve been impossible to crack if it wasn’t for his talent.

“He’s my best hype man, and I love him for it,” Franco says. “He’s obviously one of the most talented people on the planet, so working with someone like that is easy where anything that I throw at him, he’s taking it and turning it into gold. We had a lot of freedom to just improvise and just say whatever we wanted, and we were basically just coming in every day and trying to make each other laugh, and there’s nothing more fun than that.”

Foxx is also ready to shower his co-star with praise. He says that getting Franco to join the production was one of the chief reasons he signed up.

“Here’s the secret; I said I wasn't going to do the movie unless Dave Franco was doing the movie,” he says. “J.J. basically handed over the comic moments to him, and counted on him. You watch him work, similar to Robin Williams when I watched Robin Williams work, he said go here, let’s get a couple more moments here. That’s what you see, the building of that chemistry. I say all the time, you have to be serious about doing comedy, and he’s definitely serious.”

Franco knew that working with Foxx was a treat, so he liked leaning into what his co-star referred to as “the subtles.” While “taking comedy seriously” seems like an odd phrase, the nuance it took to craft each joke was important to both of them.

“It’s not leaning too far into the joke. It’s having a strange perspective and just doing it very earnestly,” he says. “When we got to the point where I was making squirrel noises, that was early on. In the moment, it was like I didn’t even know what was coming out of my mouth, then it was like, ‘Oh, OK.’ We could do whatever we want.”

Foxx found that he was pushing Franco to take the jokes even beyond what was written in order to create the type of moments that you can never plan for.

“I think people will appreciate that when you go back and look at this film, I know we’re being surface and we’re being funny, but it's moments like that you need that connection,” Foxx says. “If we play everything up, then we lose you. That’s gold in a film. You need those — I call them little linchpins or alternators. You can have a Ferrari, but if the switch isn’t on, it’s the little things.”

Foxx has been directing since The Jamie Foxx Show back in 2000, and Franco made his directorial debut last year with the thriller The Rental.

“I relied heavily on Jamie and Dave,” says Perry. “Both of those guys are directors, so they knew what I was getting myself into. In directing the second unit, I knew how to direct, but in making those elements come together, I was relying heavily on the tools that were on the table with me. If I would’ve had a different cast, we probably wouldn’t be talking about it right now.”

Franco says that directing gave him a new sense of purpose as an actor and made him appreciate the art of filmmaking even more.
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Perry says his directorial debut was made easier by stars Franco and Foxx.
Vera "Velma" Hernandez

“I respect actors more than ever because when you’re behind the camera, you’re watching these actors build themselves up and get into this really intense place while hundreds of crew members are watching and scrutinizing their every move,” he says. “This job is weird; this is hard! I just love actors now. Not that I didn’t before.”

While Perry relied on Franco and Foxx's expertise, Franco says that his experience directing allowed him to enjoy acting even more.

“Directing has helped me a lot as an actor just to know what’s going on, on the other side,” Franco says. “For whatever reason it’s really freed me up and just made me have more fun as an actor. I honestly don’t even know why that is, but I’m having the time of my life. That might just be working with people like Jamie who just remind you that this is supposed to be fun, this is supposed to be a good time.”

Shooting Day Shift may have been a fun experience for Franco, but it doesn’t mean that he didn’t put a significant amount of preparation time into the project. Franco’s character, Seth, is an expert on the different vampire subcultures that reside in San Fernando, and he had to know the film’s mythology like the back of his hand.

“I was rattling off these paragraphs and paragraphs of vampire facts, so it was really just knowing when those scenes were coming, and really just taking the time to do my homework and say them over and over and over, so that when I was on set it just felt second hand,” he says. “I wasn’t even thinking about it. That was the toughest part. Saying this vampire jargon in a really quick, succinct way where it felt effortless.”

Franco also knew that when he signed up to work with Perry, he was working with one of the industry’s best. As ludicrous as the vampire world gets (this is a movie where Snoop Dog mows down a barrage of living dead with a machine gun), Franco had to take the stunt training seriously.
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Jamie Foxx says he enjoyed portraying a father on Day Shift.
Vera "Velma" Hernandez

“There was a good amount of training,” he says. “We were working with the best. This is the team that taught Keanu [Reeves] on the John Wick films, and so I love doing this physical stuff, and so I really pushed them to push me. I said, we have certain goals of what we want to get to, but I was like, let’s push it further. Let’s come in and actually surprise the director and go further than he was ever even expecting, and I think you see it on screen. Our director really let things play out in these action sequences, and you see that it's us doing the moves.”

Perry constructed all of the film’s action sequences ahead of time using previsualization and was determined to rely as little on computer generated-imagery as he could.

“I did everything on camera in this movie,” he says. “If I couldn’t do it in camera, I was going to do it. I used only visual effects to augment what I was doing. I learned this business back when you couldn’t say ‘We’re going to fix this in post.’ I think in about 10 years, there won’t be car chases anymore, but I’ll be long gone.

"I don’t want to do those movies. What I love is the smell of brake dust, the smell of the gas getting poured from the explosions. That’s what I signed up for, and that’s what I love doing, the actual, practical filmmaking. That’s a dying art right now, unfortunately.”

Perry hopes that audiences enjoy watching Day Shift as much as his team enjoyed making it, and he’s proud to have added his own personal touches to the film’s story. After working with the film’s writer, Tyler Tice, Perry helped turn Day Shift into a story that he could relate to.

“Jamie Foxx has a 9-year-old daughter in Day Shift, and strangely I have a 9-year-old daughter,” he says. “When we worked on it, I made it in the movie that Jamie Foxx’s Bud Jablonski was a veteran. I was a veteran. Snoop’s character was a homage to my old platoon sergeant. Then there’s Dave Franco, Seth’s character, who is that Gen Y/Gen Z/millennial that I’m on the road with as a stuntman and a GenXer. I don’t understand them, but I love them. I needed to make all of those relationships familiar to me, because it's a big opportunity for me to become a director, and I wanted to make sure I nailed it.”

Something as simple as a “dad looking out for his daughter” is what Foxx connected to as well. Foxx says that it’s not as much fun “mowing down vamps” if there’s not a reason to come home.

“I’ve got two daughters,” he says. “I have a 13-year-old, I’ve got a 28-year-old, and for a matter of fact, they’re on the phone right now in a group text working out some stuff right now. When it comes to your kids, and you really love your kids, you’ll do anything for them, and that’s what this was about in the movie. Bud would do anything just not to have his kid be away from him, so he’s willing to walk through fire, and in this he’s willing to walk through fangs, to make sure that he’s able to have a relationship with his kid.”

Day Shift will be available to stream on Netflix on Aug. 12.
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Franco says he enjoyed working with a comedy star as Foxx.
Vera "Velma" Hernandez
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Liam Gaughan has been covering film and television since before he had a driver's license, and in addition to the Observer has been published in About.com, Schmoes Know, Taste of Cinema and The Dallas Morning News. He enjoys checking classic films off of his watchlist and working on spec scripts.