The Congressman releasing today is a movie about a Congressman. But Charlie Winship is lot more than that. He’s a veteran, husband, a lover, a lost soul, and a lot more. And the movie manages to capture a lot of that. This is not really a very political movie, even though it has political background, political characters and even political subjects. It still feels like a journey of a man, a wonderful & interesting man.
The film is written & co-directed by former Congressman Robert Mrazek, and it is semi-autobiographical and semi-fiction. He does a wonderful job of creating complex characters, with complex storylines, and weaves them together to tell a meaningful and good story. And as per him, the movie would not have been possible without the wonderful lead, the very talented Treat Williams, who plays Charlie. He brings a true humanity to the complex character. He makes it funny, he makes it rough & tough, he makes it honest, he makes it emotional and he makes it truly human. It may seem too fairy-tail-ish at some points, but it still has a degree of believability and positivity, with a message of hope. IT’s good to see such movies these days.
We had an opportunity to talk to both Treat and Robert. Here are some excerpts:
A.S: Congratulations on a wonderful performance in a wonderful film. What motivated you to work in this film and what was inspiration for your character?
Treat: I never saw it as a political movie, if it was a political movie, I won’t be in it. I was very moved by the Capra’esk quality of the film. There’s this guy who has worked very hard, has done his best for his people, almost sacrificed his life. And then the guy he really loved very much, like a son, Jarrod, throws him under the bus. And he’s losing faith in himself, people and life. And he has this deep seeded sense of honor. There are people whose love for country, patriotism is deep & profound and very quite, like my dad’s was. Charlie is that kinda guy, who fought in war, served his country, and I think he’s deeply hurt by this attack on him. He’s kinda suffering from PTSD. And I think he’s fighting demons, but he’s able to battle through and say “I’m hanging up my armor”, I love that line. And he goes to island and hopefully has another 20 yrs ahead of him.
I have been through similar journey. I was making bad action films in Asia, I was doing these really B movies, and wondering to myself what was I doing. I had an epiphany and I came back, and oddly enough I lost everything in the economic crash. I was building a very big house in Park City, Utah, and couldn’t keep up with payments. This big TV star lost his house. And we drove back to Vermont, with trailer at back of the car. I started over, and we started to recover. By going back to my town, where I was being invited to more theatrical things, I began to return to my roots of theater, love of my farm, my family. In a way, this event was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m just very happy acting, its a great joy to be a working actor.
A.S: On this film, you were not just an actor. You also collaborated heavily with the team as a writer, helping with the script, producing and overall, you contributed a lot to the film.
Treat: When I’m with a guy like Robert and Jarrod, who are first time directors, I had to do a lot. I only stepped up when it was necessary. After the movie was done, we went back to island to shoot 4 more days. Because Joanna who made this movie, just amazing, editor & producer, said I’m missing footage, I can’t make this film. So I flew myself over in my plane, back to island. I was the star of the film, the gaffer, the grip, I did food service, I carried stuff around. We all including Joe, the DP, we were tiny film crew. We reshot multiple new scenes etc. And my agent said, you get paid for that? I said No. He said, I’ve never had an actor who put so much of himself in a movie. You should be producer. And they said of course. It was a title given to me as a trophy for my hard work. And now I’m more involved, in the sense of how does it work. And it’s great.
A.S: So would you do more of this filmmaking stuff? Will we see Treat the writer/director/fimmaker?
Treat: Yes, it's possible. But I would make some changes. I hope my show Chesapeake Shores, runs for 5 years, and then I can do any independent films I like. This was one of the most difficult shoot I ever had to do. I think the making of this film will make an interesting film in itself.
A.S: Congratulations on this wonderful film Robert. So, as a first time director, how was the process of directing and filmmaking?
Robert: As a first time director, I wasn’t frightened, but I was concerned that I won’t be able to work with my co-director and harness the energy, and create good atmosphere, give the DP enough opportunities, and actors too, who were all accomplished actors. But what I found, that they all made it very easy. It was a truly collaborative process. Charlie helped me evolve the script, to where it finally arrived. He’s not a method actor, but he does, what he needs to do, to get in character. It was the best cast one could get, thanks to Fred Roos. George Hamilton, Elizabeth Marvel, its just wonderful. Ryan did great job, with physical comedy. Specially the scenes on the boat, we only had few days. But all the actors, DP, producer, the entire team made it very easy.
A.S: Would you direct again? Or what would you like to do more?
Robert: I don’t think so. What I enjoyed most was writing the movie. And casting. It was an honor and pleasure to work with Fred Roos. That part was fun. But if I ever be to direct again, it’ll be with a budget, which would not require putting off so many fires everyday. I was so exhausted, by the end of the shoot. I had as much hair as Treat, when we started this film (laughs). Definitely less now!
A.S: You’re a writer, director, producer and an activist as well. You’re a wonderful storyteller. So what’s your message to other storytellers, who want to tell stories and make difference?
Robert: Persistence. If you have the passion, you have to somehow retain the passion. You never know when opportunity is going to come. And when it does come, you have to be prepared. The first 2 books I wrote, it didn’t matter what connections I have, all it mattered how commercially viable they were. It took me 3 yrs writing these 2 novels, both of which were rejected by every publisher in New York. I decided I’ll try another one. The 3rd one did hit, and enabled me to believe that I could make a living as a writer & author. So my message would be, stick with it, and keep fighting. And eventually the opportunity would be there for you.
Congressman Charlie Winship (Treat Williams) is at a crossroads in his life both personally and professionally. After he publicly refuses to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance he finds himself in a downward spiral. From being badgered by the media to being undermined by conniving lobbyist, Laird Devereaux (George Hamilton), Charlie needs to find a way out of this series of unfortunate events. He embarks on a journey with his Chief of Staff, Jared (Ryan Merriman) to a small remote island of the coast of Maine, where he comes into contact with an offbeat group of constituents who are fighting to protect their island and livelihood.
Through experiencing a different way of life Charlie is re-introduced to the ideals that molded him. Making the choice to go toe to toe with his past may give him a second chance at personal happiness, professional enlightenment, and perhaps, even a lifetime supply of lobster.
The film opens in today at Cinema 1,2,3 on 3rd Avenue in Manhattan, Cinema Arts Center in Huntington, Long Island and at The Avalon Theater in Washington DC
For more details, check the film’s website below