INTERVIEW: Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead
Interview by The Blue Took & Folklore Art:
We’re lovers not fighters here at The Slaughtered Bird HQ, givers not takers. To prove it, here’s an interview we did with cool American fellows Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, directors of RESOLUTION, WRECKED (& soon to be released) SPRING:
Have you always been interested in cinema and becoming a filmmaker?
A: I was one of those lucky kids who discovered that they wanted to be a filmmaker forever at a really young age. I made little VFX tests and shorts based on Star Wars when I was really young, and it was one of my only hobbies. Never really doubted that I would do this for a living after about age 12.
J: My whole life was surfing and chasing girls, and then in a relatively short period of time I saw a bunch of indie films that really spoke to me. I thought it looked like something I could make a living at and be passionate about. That’s called being Naïve. But it worked!
Is there a certain genre you’ll be sticking to, because to call RESOLUTION a ‘horror’ film would be unfair as it delivers on so many levels?
A: We like the fantastic aspect of cinema, the little possibility that maybe, beyond established myths (horror or otherwise) there’s still something mysterious in the world. So in that regard, we consider ourselves filmmakers that work in the fantastic realm, but with an incredibly important primary focus on characters. All that said, though, we just want to make good movies, no matter where the film would be placed in the Netflix categories.
What films are you influenced by and are there any directors that you follow specifically?
A: Tons. Tons and tons. However, Justin and I actively try to see if our films are like some other filmmaker we respect. If it does, we find it absolutely necessary to find a way to just go the opposite direction. We’re not always perfect at this, but we don’t understand the idea of knowingly retreading storytelling ground. It’s already been done, why do it again but this time with your name on it? But in no particular order, here are some films/directors I love: Cuaron (Children of Men specifically), Ben Wheatley (Kill List), The Assassination of Jesse James, Amelie, Jurassic Park, P.T. Anderson (There Will Be Blood), Star Wars (Holy Trilogy), and your mom.
J: All the same. I’ll add Lord of the Rings and everything Danny Boyle has ever done except Trance. And then everything Richard Linklater has ever made. I’ve never seen Star Wars though.
What do you think of the current trend of ‘teen horror’ films such as the Paranormal Activity series, Insidious, etc? Film companies seem to throw a lot of money at this shit but are afraid of green-lighting an indie film that has the balls to say something different. For example, Rob Zombie’s The Lords Of Salem wasn’t even given a theatre release in the UK but is personally one of our favourite horrors, whilst The Conjuring received tons of publicity but was, in our opinion, far less original.
A: I honestly wish I could say much about them, but if a movie looks bad on the outside I am just plain unlikely to see it, no matter what genre. I know marketing quality and movie quality don’t always go hand-in-hand, but what can you do unless you want to deeply research every single movie you hear about? If a movie follows a trend and it’s still a good film, power to it. If it’s bad, shame.
J: I agree that Lords of Salem is a better script than The Conjuring, though James Wan directed the shit out of it. He absolutely killed it, did an amazing job, and it might be the most unoriginal script in recent memory (Wan didn’t write it). And I’m not saying Zombie did a bad job with Lords of Salem at all. Unfortunately it might just be a supply and demand thing. You can crunch the numbers on The Conjuring way easier than Lords of Salem, as there’s a bunch of movies almost exactly like it story-wise. It might be as simple as when audiences start paying for original we’ll get it. Kill List is one of my favorite movies of the decade, I wish more people would see it.
Who’d win in a fight between Batman and Superman?
A: Well, Superman, but I’d really wish Batman could win somehow.
RESOLUTION was made on a fairly low budget – do you aspire to make a big budget movie given the chance or stick to more independent films?
A: We’d LOVE to bump to larger budget levels, and we intend to. SPRING was definitely a step up, but still really low-budget. Right now the fear we always hold is that moving into, for example, studio financing comes with a heavy cost, which is the loss of creative freedom. Resolution was 100% controlled by us, and it succeeded so well because it was risk-taking and new. Not to pat ourselves on the back, but if we took every note we were given, that would not have been the case. When a bunch of others start offering input before the audiences see it as something we’re saying “here it is, it’s done and this is what we think works,” it can get really, really creatively muddy. Then you’re making something middle-of-the-road, which is never the intention for us. But as we work our way up incrementally, we’ll have more of a pedigree. That is, if you have one success and one failure, you have far, far less clout than four successes and one failure, and we can control our movies the way we like to. So we have to be cautious that as we get these larger-budget offers, we’ll be jumping into bed with the right people.
J: Better to go the Coen Bros. route and slowly work your way up at lower risk budget ranges. It’s good to move up and challenge yourself but in a way that people leave you alone to do the thing that got you the job in the first place. This town is full of stories of filmmakers who took the massive budget thing and destroyed their careers for something they didn’t totally believe in. In the long run it’s just not worth it.
Initially, we had the pleasure of communicating with you via Twitter – is the whole social networking thing important to you with regards to gaining fan interest in your work or do you genuinely enjoy speaking to fans, because some/most directors don’t normally give a shit?!
A: Building up a grassroots fan base is a complete necessity for any indie filmmaker, period. We love speaking to fans, but not because of the popularity it brings, but rather because it just brings like-minded people together. We made our film to be watched, not to exist in a museum basement somewhere, so I can’t imagine why a filmmaker wouldn’t want to see how others liked it and talk about their thoughts on cinema in general.
J: Consistently interacting with fans of the films is literally one of the best parts of being a filmmaker in 2014.
What can you tell us about your next flick, SPRING? Give us the lowdown, man! A scoop! Is there anything to link it to RESOLUTION or is it a completely different beast?
A: SPRING is in the same world as RESOLUTION in many ways, but is not overt. The link is the same naturalistic performances, the same realistic cinematography (taken to a different place, though), and the same strong character dynamic at the front and center of a creepy story.
J: Yeah, like RESOLUTION there’s a mystery there, with an innovative mythology that’s never been done before. It’s everything you liked in RESOLUTION with a lot of really fun practical FX, and turns out coastal actually sort of looks like East County San Diego.
Spring follows young man in a personal tailspin as he flees Southern California to the Italian coast, where he sparks up a romance with a woman carrying a dark secret.
There’s so much to say about SPRING we should probably just do it separately, or when the premiere is coming up, what think you?
Who’d win in a fight between Lee Majors (The Fall Guy version) and Mr T (Clubber Lang version)?
J: Let’s not even talk about it. It’s risky.
We loved WRECKED! Did it look slicker than RESOLUTION on purpose (considering RES’s plot) or was it down to lessons learned?
A: Very much on purpose. All our movies are shot the way they are on purpose, we promise you, it’s never a compromise. As raw as Resolution looks, aesthetics are incredibly important to us. As you said, the plot necessitated the cinematography on RESOLUTION. With WRECKED, the cinematography morphs as his theories change on what is happening to him.
J: Yeah, the first script lines of RESOLUTION literally specify the shooting style.
Over the last few years classic horror films are being turned into TV series’, such as Hannibal and Bates Motel, with many more being developed. What are your thoughts on this? What would you like to see turned into a series, if any? Would you ever consider doing anything like this for the purposes of character development, etc?
A: YES! We’d love to do these. TV has broken out of the sound stage and can finally tell real, unconfined, long stories that AIM to have an ending. That was the problem with TV for so long, that they never seemed to have an end in sight and thus was just a postmodern open-ended story. But now we have, basically, 40-hour-long movies to watch and we get to fall in love and have our hearts broken over a natural period of time, and bend our minds by the end. It’s incredible. Whether it’s classic horror or an original idea, we’d love to go to TV and plan to. For now, our big target is to try to be a part of PREACHER.
J: PREACHER PREACHER PREACHER. It’s an obsession. But, in general the ultimate goal is to move into TV and do stuff like True Detective.
As we’re your biggest fans (in a non-creepy stalker way), are you ever going to grace our shores and attend a horror convention with us, or better still invite us over to one of yours? We reckon American audiences would love us as we’re like Pegg and Frost, only funnier (and cheaper!).
A: Yes. See you tomorrow.
J: Have to write and return e-mails, but sure.
A: Editing SPRING, then we hop onto another project we’re working called BEASTS about Aleister Crowley. Prepare for glory.
J: Flying skateboard.
And finally, can we have a job?
A: Will you work for a song and a hug?
Because we’re beautiful, giving creatures here at TheSB, here’s the excellent Benson & Moorhead short WRECKED. Thank us in the comment box…