The Movie Waffler Interview - MAD GENIUS Director Royce Gorsuch | The Movie Waffler

Interview - MAD GENIUS Director Royce Gorsuch

royce gorsuch
Gorsuch discusses his sci-fi thriller.

The Matrix meets Mr Robot in the most captivating and topical science fiction film of the year, Mad Genius, available on VOD July 3rd from Film Mode Entertainment.   

Mad genius and hacker Mason Wells (Chris Mason, Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists) has a mission to “hack the human mind” in order to save humanity, but first must reconcile his multiple alter egos. His most threatening alter ego, Finn (Scott Mechlowicz, Euro Trip) pushes Mason to do whatever is necessary to accomplish their mission including theft, bribery and intimidation. 

As their mission reaches the brink of danger, they become hunted by a nihilistic madman named Eden after they steal his technology and discover that he is working on the exact same project that they are. Ultimately, Mason discovers the only way to defeat Eden may be the ultimate hack, one he never thought imaginable.  

Featuring a superlative cast, including Spencer Locke (Insidious: The Last Key) and Faran Tahir (Iron Man, Charlie Wilson’s War), Mad Genius is a visually-arresting and exhilarating depiction of the modern-day geniuses who risk everything to change the way society lives through science and technology. 

From visionary new director Royce Gorsuch, a film that captures the voice of the ultra-connected generation, Mad Genius.

mad genius poster

How would you describe the movie?

Mad Genius is a psychedelic sci-fi film, born from the modern-maker movement, about a young mad genius attempting to hack the human mind… in order to solve humanity’s problems.

Ultimately, I wanted Mad Genius to be like a secret graphic novel, hidden on the shelves of the comic book store that aims to unlock the viewer’s imagination, thrill them, entertain them, and possibly open their mind to new and interesting concepts that get them to think about the world in a different way.

Is it fair to say that audiences will be surprised by what’s on offer here?

I certainly hope so! As an artist, it is difficult to become objective from your work. Because I cut the film, I’ve literally seen it a billion times haha. But we absolutely aimed for originality, and I did not want to spoon feed the ending to audiences, but rather leave it open ended for them to think about.

Who or what were your influences on the film?

I had a cadre of films in the back of my mind during the entire process of creating Mad Genius. Most notably of course, Fight Club, The Matrix, and psychological thrillers of all kinds, but the one that might surprise you most is my reverence to the fantastic banter and buddy story of Swingers.

I’d say the biggest influence on Mad Genius was the ground-breaking cyberpunk novel by William Gibson, 'Neuromancer'.

Ironically, Mr. Robot came out during our pre-production, solidifying my thesis that this type of story was missing from the marketplace. And I’m a fan.

And in terms of your directing choices, any shots inspired by other filmmakers?

Emulation is a funny subject, because, as I think about it, I’d say, “Yes, I want to be like this filmmaker or that one,” but at the end of the day, the film is an amalgamation of  all films I’ve seen through the Mad Genius team’s lens.

How tough a shoot was it? There’s some effects elements that, I imagine, would’ve taken both patience and a lot of work?

It was a tough shoot in many respects, but the film gods seemed to be smiling on us constantly as well. VFX wasn’t as difficult as you might imagine because we had mapped out our shots, and the VFX team was in full support.

A moment that is funny now, but at the time was terribly difficult was the final scene on the final day. We were doing a scene in Elysian park above downtown LA. We were actually ahead of schedule, set to shoot in the evening light. All the difficult stuff of the film had been shot, and this scene was a pretty simplistic but pivotal scene between Mason and Sawyer as he makes the choice to go back and help his alter ego Phin. But as I get to the location I see a limousine parked in front of our entry point. I get out, and Sean Vawter, our First AD, comes up to me and says, “The city double booked the location with the LA Symphony. There is a group of saxophone players on set who are scheduled to play every 15 minutes.” I’m not shitting you. Of course, it was also Saturday, so the city was shut down and no one was answering the phones. We ended up having to make amends with the saxophone players, and halt production every 15 minutes while groups of symphony goers would arrive by limousine and listen to the sax group play out over the city…

How did the cast go working opposite all those effects?

The cast was pro. Everyone had done major Hollywood films with much larger effects than we had on set. The script was also pretty descriptive of the effects work, which the actors took to heart and played off of. It’s really a tribute to the actors who had to “pretend the effect is there” when they weren’t!

It’s also interesting how the VFX artists played off of the actors’ performances, and in fact added in even more VFX elements than were called in the script because they were inspired to go further.

What’s one thing you learnt on this movie that you will or won’t apply to the next one you do?

Great question. I could write a book on this topic. I think the number one thing I would advise to a would-be-filmmaker is to fully know the marketplace. Because the marketplace is how your film is seen. And don’t just know it “via osmosis” of your life experience and here-say. Really know it. Know the DATA. Know the facts. Read Read Go to AFM or Cannes, or whatever big marketplace you can get to and see how films are truly bought and sold. It is fucking mind blowing. Knowing the marketplace through and through gives you power as an artist.

Is there a moment in the film that you’re particularly proud of?

I would say, I am immensely proud of the entire film. I’m not kidding when I say I put my life on the line to bring this project to life, and shepherded it for three years to fruition. I used to be a greater critic of films. Now that I know what it takes, I am humbled by all filmmakers brave enough to set out and create their vision on their own terms. If I had one wish, it would be that I could watch Mad Genius one time objectively, with completely fresh eyes as a first time viewer. That would be a trip.

For more Mad Genius movie details and upcoming informational essays by the filmmakers check out: