“Murder Bury Win”, a dark comedic thriller, is the feature directorial debut of the director and writer Michael Lovan.
The film follows three friends that want to strike it big in the indie board game industry with their original board game, Murder Bury Win, with the objective being how to kill someone and get rid of the body. Things take a turn for the worse when a mysterious millionaire who makes an offer to publish their game as the sole creator gets killed accidentally over the deal dispute, making it look suspiciously like murder. The three friends have to use the board game they created to hide get away with murder.
We got a chance to speak with Michael Lovan about directing and writing the movie. Check it out below!
The Knockturnal: Where did you get the inspiration for this story?
Michael Lovan: I’ve always loved board games, but it should be noted that I prefer collaborative games as I’m absolutely not a competitive person. My best friend, John (whom I have played countless games with) and I sat in a room and shot off movie ideas. We kept coming around to the idea of a board game being central to the story. Once we landed on the game’s goal being murdering and disposing of a body, it seemed too good to pass up. From there, I wove in my perspectives and deepened the themes of the story, ultimately questioning the purpose of any value system where people have to lose in order for others to win.
The Knockturnal: What were some of the challenges shooting this movie?
Michael Lovan: This was truly as independent as a film production can get, as I funded it from my life savings and with some loans. I wore every hat I could to keep costs down – writing, directing, producing, editing – and that’s great and all, but doing so put me in charge of things I didn’t necessarily want to focus on. Like catering, and whether it’s arrived on time! Thankfully, I had my script supervisor and AD come in and save the day, again and again, on that end.
Because my budget locked us into a 14-day shoot, it meant there wasn’t a lot of room for pickups, let alone the extra 300 storyboards I had lying around just in case we finished our shots early – which, of course, never happened. I truly couldn’t have achieved this without my crew, who were firing on all cylinders for the duration of the shoot, eventually taking on extra tasks as we neared the end. I think myself, my AD Matt Thompson, and my DP Jerome Stolly clocked in around 4-5 hours a night the duration of production, as we’d spend a few hours at the end of each night planning for the next day.
Next film, I’m hoping to double the crew. Assuming else pays for it, of course.
The Knockturnal: How did you balance between the comedic aspects and the thriller aspects of the film?
Michael Lovan: My late father loved screwball comedies and my mother loved horror & suspenseful thrillers – I literally have no memories of them enjoying the same thing. I’ve always wanted to make a movie that would please both of them.
Of course, my perceptions of the world were shaped by my parents, and I love everything they introduced me to. So when I wrote and re-wrote the screenplay, I tried to make something that appealed to me, that made me laugh, and made me stressed, and made me feel something, knowing that it’d probably work on them. Were my father alive today, I sincerely believe that they’d enjoy watching it together.
The Knockturnal: How did the story evolve from when you wrote the script to when you shot the film?
Michael Lovan: The first draft of the film was coherent but a bit thematically formless, because I didn’t yet know exactly what I wanted to say, and why things were happening, and who these characters were. But once I landed on the title of the board game in the center of the story – Murder Bury Win – and hence the title of the film – I understood exactly what the movie had to be, why things had to happen a certain way, and who everyone was. I re-wrote the screenplay a number of times, and once I cast the film and had a fully realized perception of who these characters were as humans, I re-wrote it several more times. The film we shot shares the same structure and beats as the original screenplay, but it feels like a different film as the last draft was written with intention in every line, action, and character revelation.
The Knockturnal: What was it like having the film be recognized by several film festivals?
Michael Lovan: I’m so glad that the film is resonating with others. After staring at it for so long on my computer, at some point, the idea of sharing it with anyone outside my home felt invasive. But once it landed at almost every festival I hoped to play at – Cinequest, Austin Film Festival, Salem Horror – those feeling subsided, and I reconnected with the excitement I had when I first convinced myself that I had to make a movie. The process taught me to let go and let the film have a life of its own. I’m proud of the film my cast & crew helped me make and grateful to the festivals for believing in it.
The Knockturnal: What is your favorite scene from the movie?
Michael Lovan: Once the body hits the floor, there’s an intense series of scenes between the three leads that just keeps escalating line-by-line and shot-by-shot. Everyone in these scenes is continuously incredulous and I find their performances simultaneously hilarious and sympathetic. Coupled with the fun but intensely stressful music, this entire sequence in the film is an easy choice.
The movie is available on-demand now on Amazon Prime Video, check out the trailer below!