I recently got an opportunity to conduct an interview the two directors of the independent film "SPRING", Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead were very kind and revealed a lot about the production of their film.
Lou Taylor Pucci (Evil Dead) and Nadia Hiker star in the Sci-Fi/Horror. Pucci plays an American who flees to Europe to escape his troubled past. While making his way along the Italian coast, everything changes at a stop at an Italian village, where he encounters and instantly connects with the beautiful and mysterious Louise. A romance blossoms between the two – however, Evan soon realizes that Louise has been hiding a horrific, primeval secret that puts both of their lives in jeopardy.
1) What was it about this story that inspired you to create the film?
We wanted to create a new myth. We feel like once you've seen a few zombie, vampire, werewolf etc. movies, you've seen 'em all, and we couldn't understand why there wasn't a push for creating a new one beyond the ten or so well-worn monsters. Also, in our last movie we attempted a quiet deconstruction of a very old friendship, and wanted to give a shot to deconstructing a romance.
2) The film is certainly a blend of genres, was this something that you realized during production, or was it always the plan?
To fit in a genre or to deliberately blend them never really comes into our thoughts. We just kind of tell the story we want to tell, and find out where it lands later. We're happy with it being called a supernatural love story, that accurately depicts what you're about to watch. Some genres have blended so closely that they are their own subgenre (horror/comedy for example, no one seems to question that one), in our case we were just trying to tell a story the best way we can, and the genre "blend" comes out of that, we suppose.
Even from the trailer, you'll be able to see that "SPRING" is a very strange film, encompassing romance and horror together with ease.
3) What was the most difficult part of creating this film?
We can't complain about production, in which we worked with all our friends (old and new) in the most beautiful place in the world, the Apulian Coast of Italy. And post-production was long and thankless, but there's very little hardship about sitting behind a computer screen.
Getting the film off the ground, though, oh my god. We made one critically-successful film RESOLUTION, and we naively assumed that would help us get our next one off the ground, but in many ways we felt like we were at square one the whole time. Casting was daunting (just lists and lists of hundreds of actors that may or may not green light the movie, be talented at all, and we've never seen their faces before), and we were truly terrified of shooting somewhere so untested for us. At a certain point we doubled-down, shot a proof-of-concept and took it to Cannes for the worst couple weeks of our lives: being broke filmmaker hobos, we stayed 30 minutes outside of town, rode bikes into town every day through the torrential rain that year, ruining our cheap suits and being late to every meeting no matter how early we arrived because Wi-Fi would stop working and we couldn't find where we were...anyways. The point of all this is that it helped a little bit, as did every iteration of a step forward, but we also experienced a lot of failure, a lot of "no's", to the point that we wondered if we actually could pull the movie off at all or if we'd end up going back to our day jobs. Thank god for everyone that eventually said yes.
4) With two directors working on one film, are there ever any conflicting ideas, if so how do you get past these?
Honestly, not really. We have nearly EXACTLY the same taste, and the more we work together the more homogenized it becomes. So we're both working for the same movie, we never have differing views of what a movie or a scene should be, it's always just a discussion of the best way to get there. It's egoless arguing, more like debate, and it's always very honest and open. I don't think we could co-direct if we weren't so cooperative and built on a deep layer of trust in the other knowing what the hell they're doing, as we both very much like to have things our way.
We've seen time and time again that directors working together can either be a great thing or a bad thing. Anthony and Joe Russo working together on "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" was a remarkable achievement, the Coen Brothers have become Hollywood royalty, but someone like the Wachowski siblings have seem to have some issues with their films in recent years. Luckily for Moorhead and Benson, their tastes are very similar because of the time spent around each other.
5) Justin, you also wrote the film, did the film turn out exactly how you had intended when first writing the screenplay?
Yeah. Pretty much exactly. I mean Aaron is the primary development producer on the script, and then we direct, produce, edit, cast, and the list goes on, and I'm such a huge fan of Aaron's cinematography I actually write for it. So you pretty much get whatever you put in that screenplay. Some of the more ambitious creature effect stuff we actually achieved everything on the page which was a bit of a surprise because it reads like it would be 50 million dollar movie. But again that's all just planning. We have everything dialled in way ahead of time so we don't have to compromise later. There was some jazz that happened closer to principle photography though. The scene in the crypt with the monk mummies was an improvement that just came out of not being able to find cinematically interesting catacombs near our primary location. And when we cast Nick Nevern I literally re-wrote almost all his lines two nights before we shot because I was so inspired by just talking to him. It went from being a character that I wrote in the voice of UK rappers Mike Skinner of the Streets and Professor Green, into a composite of them and Nick Nevern's real personality. Same thing with Vinny Curran and Chris Palko (the rapper Cage) in terms of adapting the character to their real voice or a voice they know well once they were cast. We have a particularly special relationship with Vinny. In both RESOLUTION and SPRING he shared something with us that when you watch it with an audience you almost can't believe how well every beat hits when he's on screen.
6) The film's story is quite unique, is there anything in your life that inspired you to create such a story?
I honestly spend so much time writing I sincerely can't pinpoint where most stories come from anymore. I know there's something fascinating about someone with a modern mind who has lived through the changing of Gods, that if I work from a premise that requires good dialogue that kind of storytelling comes a bit easier to me, and that I admire women possibly more than anything on the planet so creating one that my mom and female friends would like is an ambition.
7) Lou Taylor Pucci has been in some rather well known films over the past few years such as "Evil Dead" and "Beginners", what was it like working with him?
Lou is a director's actor. He pulls apart everything, finds out where it comes from, then re-generates it from a very deep place. We spent days going over Evan's backstory, and poring over every line in the script with all of it in mind. He actually brought much more to the forefront that everything that happens to Evan is much more about the death of his mother in the first scene than originally. It had started as something that was the beginning of a chain of events that leads him to where he is, but after doing a lot of digging with Lou, you can now see that everything he does, including his impulsive nature, is directed back to him being subtly but deeply affected by his mother's passing. That's pretty incredible that an actor can bring that kind of depth out without changing a word in the original script, and he strongly focused our own vision of the film and his character too. He doesn't know it, but that revelation and a few others affected the cinematography and editing as well, to really bring that idea home.
Also, one would think that his naturalistic performance is just because Lou's "like that". But he ain't. He is a weird, awesome dude, but he is nothing like Evan in real life, and it's pretty incredible that he's playing such a role because you just assume that's really who he is and that's where it's coming from. We hardly knew he wasn't like Evan at all till really getting to know him during the shoot.
8) The big thing in Hollywood right now are of course franchises, if you were approached by a studio to direct any franchise film, which one would it be and why?
Of the unproduced ones, we want to do PREACHER (the Garth Ennis comic). We're lobbying hard to get it, too. In equal footing on that list is King's THE DARK TOWER saga. There is nothing we love more in the world than those two things.
Of the ones that are already out? We'd take Batman. Not because we could necessarily do it better than Nolan, but because we just REALLY want it.
I could definitely see Moorhead and Benson's style working wonders for a live action "Preacher" movie and even working for a "The Dark Tower" adaptation. Their take on Batman would be interesting to say the least.
9) Are there any filmmakers out there who have inspired you, which ones and why?
There are a million, c'mon. We try not to take a deliberate influence from anyone, because they're already doing their thing and we don't want to imitate. But here are a few. Ben Wheatley - character first genre film, what more can we say? Keep up the good fight, brother. Alfonso Cuaron - taking on a project BECAUSE it's ambitious, every time he makes something new it pushes us a few steps further than we were ready for. And hell, we'll say it, Steven Spielberg - because he made a movie about a giant killer shark, but instead of it being made to eventually cost $1.99 in the Blockbuster used DVD bin, he made us truly care about the real humans in the film, and we worry for them all the more because we feel like we know them.
10) Many of our readers are aspiring filmmakers, what advice would you give to them on how to start?
Every filmmaker will say the same thing here: pick up a camera, and start. Your first thing will not be good. Your second will be slightly better. And your third slightly better than that. Like any field of work, being a filmmaker means constantly learning. We still shoot with our iPhones sometimes when the mood hits, so no excuses about not having the right tools. If you find yourself spending any substantial amount of time merely talking about doing the work, or trying to make some kind of connection who will open a door for you, you're doing it wrong. Get out there and never stop making films.
As most other filmmakers would say, just pick up a camera and go, you won't learn how to make films properly until you start doing it. We've seen recently with films at Sundance that films can even be made with the camera on an iPhone, its that easy to start!