Wednesday 15 February 2012

#37 The Big Bad: We Interview the Writer, Director and Star

Here at Chris Writes About The End Of The World we usually cover apocalypse fiction, but sometimes we like to venture out in the wider horror genre, such as when we get a chance to interview the creators of a film, or get our mitts on a review copy. This is for two reasons- firstly it makes us feel important, which is much why the blog uses the royal “we” when it’s really obviously written by just one guy, and secondly because we really love free stuff.

For both these reasons, we decided to take a look at The Big Bad, a film that’s been getting awards and nominations across a whole bunch of films festivals, and employing our first ever interviewee, Jeremiah Kipp, as assistant director.

“The Big Bad” is a title that calls up to things to mind- wolves, and end-of-season bad guys from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It doesn’t disappoint, and by the end of the film you’ll had your fill of werewolves and badass monster-killing heroines.

The world is one that modern horror fans will easily recognise- There are things that go bump in the night, and those things now have jobs and families and pay their taxes on time. They form a shadowy, behind the scenes society that’s somewhere between Alcoholics Anonymous and the Mafia. It’s a trope that’ll be familiar to anyone who watches Buffy, or Being Human, or Grimm.

That said, care-free quipping interspersed with the occasional “dramatic” scene is really not what this film’s about. In the world of The Big Bad even the most well-meaning people are all kinds of fucked up. Where Buffy will try to talk about the nastier side of life through the lens of a paranormal metaphor, here there are all kinds of monsters, but they exist alongside all the truly horrible regular things that can fuck up your life, and in the end, those are the worst parts.
Okay, I lied, getting your eye ripped out its socket is the worst part.
The Big Bad’s influences are worn pretty clearly on its sleeve, there’s plenty of Noir in here and a massive dose of Quentin Tarantino (including the obligatory view-from-a-car-boot shot). However, this film doesn’t have the flash and zap of a Tarantino film- there’s barely any soundtrack, and the dialogue is far more naturalistic, so that the end result is this feels more like the sort of thing that would influence Tarantino than the other way round.

Having seen this movie, I got a chance to ask a few questions of the film’s director, Bryan Enk, and the film’s writer and star, Jessi Gotta.

1) We write a lot on this blog about how all writers are stealing from all the other writers. Can you tell us who you've been stealing from to make The Big Bad, and why?

JESSI GOTTA: This was my first script, so I am new to the scene and not aware about the stealing amongst screenwriters? (Although it completely stands to reason that plagiarism does happen.) ...a specific writer doesn't really stand out? The idea and story itself was all developed by Enk and I, but I would say the style of moments were definitely influenced by Quentin Tarantino and Sam Raimi... maybe hints of David Lynch.

BRYAN ENK: In developing the script and story with Jessi, I was definitely coming from a director's point of view, so a lot of my input was based on a certain kind of image or a specific kind of tone/atmosphere that I wanted to get across (or at least try to). I think the distinct two-act structure of Tarantino's DEATH PROOF and FROM DUSK TILL DAWN was always something I was thinking of in terms of their sudden tone and content shifts in their respective second acts, even though THE BIG BAD ended up having three acts. And, with us both coming from theatre, I've often referenced playwrights such as Sam Shepard and Tracy Letts when describing the story -- their often surrealist flourishes were definitely influences.

2) Like the TV series Ultraviolet, and so many zombie movies we've made it a drinking game rule, in The Big Bad you never actually name the monster, although anyone who knows a bit about horror will know which monster comes out at full moon, dislikes silver and infects others with its bites. (It's Sasquatch isn't it? This is a sasquatch movie?) Why did you decide to go down this route, running the entire length of the film without naming the monster?
Pictured: Possibly sasquatch
BE: I don't think that was a conscious decision on our part but rather a natural result of the whole process of developing the script. It might have something to do with the fact that there might be something inherently goofy with the term "werewolf," or that the film ultimately approaches monsters (and the idea of something "monstrous") on a heavily metaphorical level (as well as a literal one). I think at some point we realized that our film might be more of a supernatural mystery than a "horror movie," and not naming the monster added to that sense of approaching it as a detective story.

3) Jessi, you produced, wrote and starred in this film. At what point did you decide to take on the lead role, and how much did it influence the writing process. Did you find yourself saying "I want to stab a werewolf (or possibly sasquatch) a whole bunch of times" or "You know, I think I would look bitching in an eyepatch"?

JG: It was always the plan for me to play a lead in the film and for Bryan to direct; what was not planned was me writing it. Looking bitching in an eyepatch was just a coincidence.
Coincidence, suuuuure...
BE: One of my earlier story pitches to Jessi as we were doing our first round of brainstorming was an idea for a short film that I had been mulling over for a while called THAT HAIRY MOTHERFUCKER, which was going to be just ten straight minutes of a woman and a werewolf beating the crap out of each other in the desert with no explanation or context whatsoever. I don't think the actual pitch went into much more detail than that. I had no potential "plot" for it beyond that; Jessi took it and ran with it, and from that came THE BIG BAD.

4) There's also quite a lot of fairytale imagery going on here, with your red-haired protagonist going up against an adversary who has the words "Big" and "Bad" prefixing his name, passing into a hidden world full of various threats and traps. Hollywood's latest thing seems to be fairytales at the moment, at least until they've hashed out a script for the Connect 4 movie. Do you think there's a reason for that, and what do you think makes for a good or bad use of fairytale imagery in movies?

BE: Fairy tales look to definitely be the new "comic book movie." It seems pretty inevitable -- like comic books, they're properties with huge built-in fan bases and all the creative heavylifting has already been done, so all Hollywood has to do is swoop in with a few million bucks and a handful of at least semi-clever twists with which to call it "revisionist" and you've got yourself a blockbuster. I think they've just gotten started, though, and it's too early to tell what might make for "good" or "bad" imagery or approaches. I think it has the potential to be completely polarizing, though -- SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN looks amazing whereas MIRROR MIRROR… does not.

5) Finally - It's the zombie apocalypse. What's your survival strategy?

BE: I recently attended the Anchorage International Film Festival where I saw an animated zombie short called YEAR ZERO. It's the first zombie movie I've ever seen that made me feel like I just wouldn't make it under such circumstances. With zombie movies like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and DAWN OF THE DEAD, you put yourself into the shoes of the survivors and kind of watch the story through their eyes. Something about YEAR ZERO made me identify more with the ex-roommate locked in the bathroom (who's now a zombie) or the many zombie hordes stumbling around New York City than with the rogue survivor. Great short, though the whole time watching it I was thinking, "Man, I wouldn't make it through this. I'd be one of the zombies." So I have no survival strategy whatsoever!

JG: One word: houseboat.
It has to be said, houseboat is one of the smarter zombie survival plans I’ve heard.

Currently The Big Bad is touring the festivals. If you happen in be in the States, you might be lucky enough to catch it at one of these festivals:

DC Independent Film Festival, Washington, D.C. - Friday, March 2

Charlotte Film Festival, Charlotte, NC - Monday, March 26

Brooklyn Girl Film Festival, Brooklyn, NY - Friday, March 30

I’ll let you know if a chance to view it on this side of the pond comes up anytime soon as well. If you get the chance, it’s definitely worth checking out.

1 comment:

  1. Cool interview! Bout time there was another Sasquatch movie!