From Stunt Man To “The Skin Trade” – One Producer’s Journey

Cannes Film Festival

David Michalek

If you had asked Kevin Arbouet ten years ago if he thought he’d be executive producing George R.R. Martin’s novella, "Skin Trade" on the heals of Martin’s successful creation "Game of Thrones," he might have thought you were a little crazy. 

"I would love to say that I always wanted to be a producer, and that I worked hard to get there, but it was truly way more round-about," said Arbouet.

A martial arts professional from an early age, Arbouet began his film career in his early twenties working as a stunt man on both indie and feature films, such as Spike Lee’s "Clockers."  While continuing his stunt work, Arbouet started dabbling in model representation.  As models transitioned into actors, he found himself helping them get projects off the ground that would highlight their acting skills.  This experience opened the door for Arbouet’s producer career.

Developing skills as a model representative and budding producer weren’t quite enough to satisfy this renaissance man’s desire to explore his interests.  In the mid 90s he also began writing screenplays as well as writing and recording music, with songs appearing in MTV’s popular animated series "Daria."  He also discovered an interest in directing, cutting his teeth on commercials.  In 2007 "Serial," his first feature film that also showcased his producing, writing, and directing skills (as well as editing and camera work) unspooled at the Long Island International Film Festival, earning him a screenplay award as well as an audience choice award.  From that point on, Arbouet found work as a producer and director was plentiful.

"It’s been good," said Arbouet.  "This kind of business is one that, once you do something that gets people’s attention, it just kind of steamrolls." 

While Arbouet flexed his producing muscles on a number of independent, short features and internet projects, he found directing commercials was a way of obtaining a lot of experience in a short amount of time.  To this day he continues to direct commercials, recently completing work on a Nokia commercial as well as a campaign for Aunt Jemima. 

 

His interests in challenging himself creatively have also led to unique opportunities such as producing an outdoor video installation piece commissioned by the Lincoln Center of New York.   "Portraits of Dramatic Time," directed by artist David Michalek, features an international cast of film and theater actors who each perform 15 second pieces. Shot with the Phantom Flex at several thousand frames per a second, the segments were edited together in super slow motion in a clip that ran roughly seven minutes.  

 

Anxious to branch out a producer and develop the type of feature length projects that speak to his sensibilities, Arbouet recently founded his own production shingle: Breakout Vine Productions.  To fully realize the foundation of his production company, Arbouet calls to mind the lessons he learned from Lee Daniels who he worked with on “The Woodsman” and “Shadowboxer.”

"One lesson I got from Lee Daniels is that you can be creative and be a good business person at the same time," said Arbouet.  "There’s no reason in the world to say ‘well my role is only going to be in packaging.’   The second is if you are different, and look different, then you better brand yourself in that manner.  I’m 34 years old, I’m black, and I have more of a rock-and-roll style.  I’m not suited up every day.   So I’m using that, and building that as a brand.  Breakout Vine is actually an anagram of Kevin Arbouet and it goes to what I’m looking to do now, to products that are breaking out and continuing to grow."

"George R. R. Martin’s The Skin Trade" will be Breakout Vine’s first feature.  Arbouet had originally been speaking with the company that optioned the book about another project when they suggested "Skin Trade" as a property that would be a good fit for him.  With a female police detective investigating a serial killer while encountering supernatural elements, the story is being summed up as a "Silence of the Lambs" meets "True Blood." Arbouet jumped at the chance to work on it.

"You have to be very careful and you have to be respectful of the material, but I’m really excited.  It has every single element you could expect from a popular movie," said  Arbouet.  "Also exciting was the day that I signed the deal for this project, ‘Game of Thrones’ was literally number one on IMDB.  I know it’s intensely popular.  As we move forward, every single piece of marketing is going to say ‘From the creator of Game of Thrones.’  It’s never going to say ‘From the producer of Serial.’  I’m totally ready for that.  This has to be a quality product; you don’t want to disappoint George R.R. Martin with some quick straight to video nonsense."    

With the film in the development stage, Arbouet has spent a good deal of time doing research to aid in the development of the screenplay.  He’s been studying evasive serial killers who lead calm lives while performing terrifying murders, such as the B2K and Zodiak killers.  He’s also involved in securing financing, as well as casting and securing a director.  While unable to discuss any individuals who have been approached about "Skin Trade," Arbouet indicated the director will be someone with a very keen cinematic sense who has the ability to incorporate practical effects instead of relying solely on CGI.

While working on "Skin Trade," Breakout Vine Productions is simultaniously developing an original project written by Arbouet called "Big Bad Billie Gunn."   Arbouet does not see developing two very different dramatic properties as a conflict, but rather a wise business practice.

 

“It’s funny, most people talk about the projects they want to do in the future, and a lot of things don’t materialize,” said Arbouet.  “The only way to do things and make a living is to do things at the same time all over the place.”

To see a clip from "Portraits in Dramatic Time," visit:

 http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=146781172082215