At the start of Feb I received a copy of I Didn’t Come Here To Die courtesy of Second Sight Films. I had very little knowledge of the film and was totally blown away by a funny , bloody and very clever horror film. After my review (here) I was still fascinated by this wonderful , refreshing take on the Slasher genre , so I contacted the writer/directorBradley Scott Sullivan who kindly agreed to the following interview.
I Didn’t Come Here To Die is your first full length feature , you write and direct it (amongst others) so how did it all come about?
The idea for the movie really came about when I was in a volunteer organization very similar to the one in the film. There were a few more people on our team, and we probably weren’t quite as secluded, but a lot of elements are really close. We really did have one project where we were working on out in the middle of the woods in Vermont, building a summer camp, and working with power tools. In real life nobody died; just a couple of scrapes and bruises. But as someone who’s bit of a hypochondriac, the movie is kind of my overactive imagination playing out some the potential worst-case scenarios that could’ve happened while working on that project. I hope the film just plays more as a perverted “workplace hazards and safety” video, and doesn’t dissuade anyone from signing up for a volunteer program, because it was truly one of the best years of my life. Just be safe, and don’t play with chainsaws!
The cast of IDCHTD are for the main relatively unknown , what was the casting process and did you have people in mind beforehand?
The only person I had in mind beforehand was Travis Scott Newman, who plays the cop that bookends the film. I met him a few years prior when I was in film school. He was the lead and one of my friends shorts that I was the DOP on. I always jokingly referred to him as my low-rent Bruce Campbell, and had always had him in mind for whatever I was going to do as a feature. Everyone else was just through auditions that we held at a coffee shop in Austin. We just posted on a few different websites, and held auditions over the course of two days. We just really lucked out that Austin has such a wealth of great acting talent.
The whole vibe from IDCHTD is fun even though it is a bloody feast , was this the case on set and was it a good shoot?
I think it was probably a bit more fun for everyone other than myself. I mean, it was a tough shoot for everybody. We only had seven days to shoot, practically no money, and I had the brilliant idea that we would all actually campout in an attempt to emulate what the characters were going through (FYI: bad idea). I just felt a lot of extra pressure on top of it all, because I felt like this was my one shot to really do something. I thought that if this failed, I was never going to get to make another film. So the fact that everyone was inexperienced (myself included), trying to manage multiple positions on the film, all the gore effects, and only having seven days to shoot it all…it was a bit stressful.
How did you go about getting the funding to do a full length feature?
I had shot the behind-the-scenes footage for a Christmas movie that the producer, Kim Waltrip, was making earlier that year. She asked me to edit together some of my footage to show potential distributors for that movie. She liked what I did, and that turned into cutting a sizzle reel, and that turned into cutting a trailer and some other stuff for them. So by the time I got to the end of all my work on that project, she was asking about what I was up to next. I told her that when I got back to Austin (this was all in California) I was hoping to try to get a horror movie that I wrote off the ground. She asked how much I was thinking of making it for, and when I told her she laughed because it was so little. I thought she was just being polite when she asked me for a copy of the script, but she was sending me emails pretty much every 10 pages saying how much she enjoyed it. I think we were shooting only about a month or month and a half after she first asked for a copy of the script. It all came together really quickly, and I wanted to make sure we had it in the can before anyone could change their mind.
When I saw IDCHTD , I found a huge nod towards Evil Dead and also a lot of slashers from the 70′s & early 80′s . Is this a favourite time and genre of yours?
It’s kind of an in-between thing. While I do love the horror films of the 70′s and 80′s; the first horror films I was really exposed to growing up were 90′s slashers like “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, “Scream”, and “Urban Legend”. I didn’t have any friends that were really interested in horror, and my parents were super-strict about the movies I watched growing up. So I kind of came into the genre little bit later in life. When I was introduced to the “Evil Dead” series, I actually came into it backwards, starting with “Army of Darkness”, then “Evil Dead 2″, and lastly “The Evil Dead”. So the comedy element of them ended up really sticking with me, and the horror came later.
As an avid fan of slashers , I hate camping. I just cannot sleep in a tent , every shadow makes me worried and I will lie awake all night . Is there anything from horror films that has had a real impact on you?
I’m totally fine with camping, and I’m generally not too worried about being hacked up by madmen, or having my dreams infiltrated by Freddy Krueger. The thing that really makes me turn away from the screen, is when people are cutting things out of themselves. There’s a scene in “The Ruins” where Lauren Ramsey’s character is trying to cut the vines out of her that I just find totally cringe-worthy. Heck, even the scene in the PG-13 rated “A Beautiful Mind”, where Russell Crowe thinks he’s digging a tracking device out of his arm, makes me grit my teeth.
If possible could you name your top 3 films of all time ?
Children Of Men
There is a wicked sense of humour in IDCHTD , but also some shocking moments . Was it difficult to try and find the right mixture of both?
As far as the dialogue went: I think that most people are pretty funny (or at least try to be), especially when around new people, or when thrust into awkward situations. I knew the horror beats that I was going to hit plot-wise, and I just wrote-in how I thought people would talk in between those beats. I don’t like walking out of a film feeling gross, or bad about myself. A movie can be gross, and have terrible things happen to the characters, but it can still be fun to watch. When I walked out of the theater after seeing “Drag Me to Hell”, I had a huge smile across my face. That’s really what I was trying to replicate here. Just a fun, fast horror film that left you with a smile.
As the horror genre develops where do you see it heading through the next decade or so?
It’s so hard to say, because it seems like the trends change every 3 to 4 years. It was the J-horror remake train for a while there, and now we’re on the found-footage kick hardcore. But the movies that inspired those trends, like “The Ring” and “Paranormal Activity” or “The Blair Witch Project” or “Scream” for the 90′s slashers, seem to come out of nowhere and surprise everyone.
I saw your short Stasche recently and found it hilarious , do you have any plans to maybe expand on that for a full length feature (please) ?
We joked about turning it into a feature when we made it, but everything I could possibly want to do was already done to perfection in “Hot Fuzz”. I’ve got too many other horror ideas to even think about it at the moment, but if I get burnt-out on those, maybe I could always take a break to write a feature about the mustachioed hitman again.
What do you think the secret is of a good Stasche? If I grow one I look like a paedophile rather than a Tom Selleck..
Yeah, if I try to grow something I just look like a hobo or someone’s dad. If I had the answer I’d be doing it myself, but for those who have it, flaunt that beautiful lip spinach!
What are your plans for the future? Anything in the pipeline you can reveal?
Nothing is set up yet. It’s been a full-time thing shepherding this film for the last few years, but now that it’s finally coming out, I’m starting to be able to focus on other ideas. As I don’t have Hollywood banging down my door and throwing scripts my way, it looks like I’m going to have to continue writing for myself. That’s fine; I’m just the World’s slowest typer. So may be a little while, but I don’t have any lack of original ideas.
If you ever do a shoot in the UK can I be an extra?
Outside of the horror genre are there any other genres you would like to have a go at?
I love science fiction just as much as I love horror, and nothing’s better than a crossover of the two. I still have yet to see a satisfying haunted spaceship movie. So that’s definitely something I’d love to try and tackle someday.
What was your grounding in film? How and why did you get into it and what maybe would you like to get out of it?
I’ve known I wanted to work in movies since I was 10 or 11-years-old, when I got a book on the making of “Independence Day”, and learned that there were film jobs outside of just the actors on-screen. Nearly everything I learned about film was self-taught. I learned how films are made through behind-the-scenes featurettes on DVDs, and about the intention behind them through the commentary tracks. I taught myself how to shoot and edit by trying to replicate scenes from some of my favorite films. From there, I just tried to follow in the footsteps of what many of my heroes did, which happened to be making a small film on their own. It’s really the only world I know, and I’d just like to continue to deal with issues that interest me in a fun, exciting, and entertaining way.
Many thanks for your time and any last words?
I’m just really excited that people are getting a chance to see the film. I’m pretty sure the 16-year-old, wannabe-filmmaker version of myself would’ve loved this film. If you stay through the credits, you’ll see that there was a ridiculously small amount of people that worked on it. It’s essentially a movie made by a few schlubs in somebody’s backyard. So for it to be getting any kind of release at all is sort of a miracle, but I’m glad that it’s really connecting with some folks, and I hope that it’s inspiring to other low-budget filmmakers. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me about it and spread the word!
I Didn’t Come Here To Die is released on DVD by Second Sight Films in the UK on 15th April 2013.