Exclusive Interview: Benjamin Jackendoff on “Search and Destroy” and “Werewolf at Night”

Premiering on Redbox and other streaming platforms on August 18th is the new action movie from Millennium Films called Search and Destroy, which was directed by the late filmmaker Danny Lerner (The Expendables, Olympus Has Fallen). The movie centers on an American Ranger named John Cutter (Dylan Bruce), who’s entire squad was murdered by Ukrainian Arms Dealer Igor Rodin (Sergey Badyuk). Three years after being discharged from the army, he is recruited by his former General (Leslie Grantham) to lead a team to assassinate Rodin. When things go wrong, Cutter decides to go it alone and will stop at nothing to take down his bitter enemy. The film is a combination of high-octane action, loud 80’s style rock music, and over-the-top humor. It’s probably best described as a live-action version of Team America: World Police

The movie’s production was unusual, to say the least as the film was written based on an assembly of stock footage from Millennium’s library, and then reworked and completed five years after the director’s death. One of the filmmakers that helped finish Lerner’s final movie is writer, producer, and musician, Benjamin Jackendoff. We recently had a chance to speak exclusively with Jackendoff about his work on Search and Destroy, and he explained how he got involved with the project and its unusual journey to completion. 

“I worked with Millennium off and on in post-production since 2008,” Jackendoff explained. “I met Danny Lerner early on and he and I always talked about making a film together. Danny was known for using stock footage from the Millennium library to make his movies and one of my jobs at the studio was overseeing and building the stock footage library. Several years later we got the opportunity to make the film and I dove deep into the archives pulling all sorts of crazy shots. I then went and cut it together into a story, minus our heroes. Danny then went and wrote the story around what we cut and went to Bulgaria to shoot the movie at Nu Boyana.”

“Danny was very sick during much of this time and when he finished the first cut he passed away,” Jackendoff continued. “It was a heartbreaking moment since Danny was a dear friend and an amazing human being. The movie got stuck in post-production and I didn’t hear anything about it for years until his nephew, Yariv, reached out to me and asked me if I could come back to finish the film. The movie needed a lot of work and being a musician, I knew that music was going to be a key element to giving it the vibe of a ‘bad’ 80s action movie. We got a first draft of it with some music dialed in and showed it to the team at Millennium to give them a sense of the direction we were going. Daniel Bruckner from Millennium fell in love with the picture and jumped in for the next phase of writing and producing it with me. Daniel has an impeccable sense of humor and really lifted and polished the film as we got it ready for final cut and then delivery.”

Jackendoff further explained the process of selecting Millennium’s stock footage to help create the film and the challenges of making it into a cohesive movie. “Danny would give me stacks of DVDs to watch and then we would go into the archives to pull stock shots to cut together for all our actions scenes,” he said. “We pulled from so many movies. Rambo, The Expendables, Frogmen, U.S. Seals, and Death Train, to name a few. Danny then went and shot all the interconnecting scenes with the actors on stages and on location in Bulgaria at the Nu Boyana Studios. Luckily, it is an action movie and Millennium being an action movie studio, we had a ton of films to pull from if we needed to beef up the action and explosions. The biggest challenge was matching everything so that it all felt cohesive but when I went to Bulgaria to color time the picture we built a very 90s palette and grain style so that the whole movie felt like it had just come out of the Millennium archives.”

Lucas Bakker and Tyler Forrest, who created the music for the film, knew Jackendoff from attending weekly jam-sessions held at his home called the JamNation Collective. The writer/producer talked about the inspiration for the film’s music and working with Bakker and Forrest. “The music is inspired by my love of John Carpenter and his sound,” he explained. “I’ve always been a fan of synths and arpeggiators accompanied by those big Phil Collins style toms and lots of that gated reverb. When I first went back to recut the picture I did a whole temp score using songs and a score from John Carpenter, Com Truise, Magic Sword, Lazerhawk, and others that are in the synthwave/vapewave genre. Luke and Tyler went off and built a sonic palette that we then used to re-score the entire film. Luke and Tyler even wrote all the original songs that are played throughout and open and close the picture. These guys killed it and brought the whole thing to another level.”

In addition to writing and producing Search and Destroy, Jackendoff is also currently writing Werewolf by Night for Marvel Comics with Taboo from the Black Eye Peas. He talked about the upcoming comic and what fans of the classic 1970’s Marvel character can expect from the new series. “It’s a brand-new character and origin, introducing Jake Gomez a 17-year old kid from Arizona,” he said. “He lives with his Grandma on the Hopi Reservation and works at a nearby top-secret Pharma lab out in the desert. It turns out that the lab is up to some shady business, and Jake finds himself smack dab in the middle of it. The inspiration we drew from the original Werewolf by Night series and Jack Russell centered more around the ideas of family and mysticism. We both love the original series and the idea that his curse came from his homeland through his lineage became a key element we used in building the new mythology. Where Jack Russell’s curse came from Transylvania ours comes from the jungles of Mexico.” 

“With regards to the art, it is literally a masterpiece,” Jackendoff continued excitingly. “Scot Eaton takes everything to the next level. The monsters leap off the page. This book is filled with action, monsters, cyborgs, and everything in between. It’s a total genre blender of tasty goodness.” Jackendoff also discussed what it’s been like for him to write for Marvel Comics. “Working for Marvel is a dream come true. I have been a Marvel reader since I was 11 years old and my dream was to make comic books. It has been a true honor and blessing to be a part of the Marvel family and work with our editors Jake Thomas and Lindsey Cohick. I can’t say enough wonderful things about them and how supportive they have been regarding all our wild ideas.”

Finally, regarding Search and Destroy, we asked Jackendoff what he thinks Danny Lerner would think about the finished film. “I think Danny would get a kick out of this cut we have,” he answered. “Our goal was not to be overtly funny and instead let the humor come from its own self-awareness. To us, the film is sarcastic and ironic but doesn’t try too hard. Just like Danny.” 

Search and Destroy is being released by Quiver Distribution on Redbox and other streaming platforms beginning August 18th. 

The Search and Destroy soundtrack is available now through Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, Apple Music, iTunes Store, and other music streaming platforms. 

You can pre-order Werewolf by Night issues #1-4, signed by Taboo and Benjamin Jackendoff, by clicking here: https://www.comicsandcards.net/store-front/signature-series-werewolf-by-night-1-4-signed-by-taboo-benjamin-jackendoff-pre-order/

Written by
A graduate of Emerson College, Jami Philbrick has worked in the entertainment industry for over 20 years, and most recently was a Senior Staff Reporter and Video Producer for Mtime, China's largest entertainment website. Before that, Philbrick was the Managing Editor of Relativity Media's iamROGUE.com for 4 years and has written for a variety of magazines and online publications including Wizard Magazine, Nerdist.com, and Collider.com. Philbrick has also been a contributor on Fox News, News 12 Westchester, AMC Movie Talk, and the PBS movie review series, Just Seen It. Philbrick was the 2019 recipient of the International Media Award at the 56th annual ICG Publicists Awards, and has interviewed such impressive talent as Tom Cruise, George Clooney, Bill Murray, Al Pacino, Oprah Winfrey, Bruce Willis, Mark Hamill, Spike Lee, Frances Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Stan Lee, and Kermit the Frog.

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