Mad Filmmakers: Beyond Bellflower Part 1
Comic-Con can be a fantasyland where people go to indulge their dreams. So in that sense, the presence of the cast and crew of Bellflower fits perfectly.
A low-key slacker drama with a dollop of post-apocalyptic menace, Bellflower is at its core about a boy who gets his heart broken by a girl. But then there's this fantastic car, Mother Medusa, outfitted with amazing tail pipes that shoot flame, and a realization that Woodrow (played by writer/director Evan Glodell) may not be all that keyed in to reality in the first place.
Causing a stir at both Sundance and SXSW this year, Bellflower will unsettle many. In contrast, the cast and crew are upbeat and enthusiastic about the film's reception and the chance to visit events like Comic-Con, where Glodell and producer Vincent Grashaw let Mother Medusa rip near the South Park Experience.
We sat down together on the Thursday of Comic-Con, happy to be there, and excited about the attention Bellflower had brought them.
Naturally, the conversation circles around Glodell, the triple-titled creator of the film. "I don't have any formal training," Glodell avers, "Just making tons of short films, projects with friends, trial and error." Some of those friends are in the room, laughing along with him when he says "I didn't choose them; they were the only ones around."
Sometimes our friends choose us, and this cast displays a clear (and long-time) affection for Glodell. And some of them had been there for the genesis of Bellflower.
Glodell explains, "I went through the end of a relationship that was the most intense and terrible – the second half of it was the most intense and terrible thing that I had ever been through. " And out of that came the script for Bellflower, but not the film's unique visual style, the result of tinkering with existing cameras and jury-rigged add-ons of Glodell's own creation.
Some of the film looks like a standard video shoot, but occasionally it bursts into an oversaturated palate of ambers and yellows, with darkness creeping into the edges of the frame. Though heightened, it's almost like looking into someone's memories of old Kodachrome photographs.
"It's a hobby I've had for a really long time now," Glodell offers. "There's four cameras that were used, three of which I built. Two of the three that were used to the first half of the movie, the default look of the movie, those were the ones that I spent time trying to get the way that I thought was right. The other camera was built just to be used for certain scenes in the movie.
"It had real unusual specs. It's a large-format camera and there's no other large format motion picture camera in the world. And so we got to use lenses that no one else has used. It was meant specifically to set apart certain parts of the movie."
And yet the look may not have been one hundred percent on purpose. Glodell continues, "It was pretty intentional, but with limited resources there's always going to be a wild card."
When directing, actors can also be a wild card, but Glodell clearly felt comfortable with his cast. "I met Jessie (Wiseman, as love interest Milly) when I first moved to L.A. a super long time ago. As an actress. I saw her in a play. I was making a lot of films that were way more abstract, but were about the same subject matter, that me and her were in."
"When I got the idea for Bellflower, it was always going to be her."
But for the film, Glodell needed someone to inhabit the puckish Aiden, best friend, possibly bad influence, but the guy you're going to need at your back when the apocalypse comes. Tyler Dawson fit the bill.
Dawson laughs thinking about their first meeting, after Glodell saw him in a play. "I was charming…" he offers, and Glodell leaps in – "YES! There's a certain mix – he walked outside and said something really rude to this group of girls and they all blushed. You could tell they liked him, and I thought, that's a special kind of man."
Dawson laughs, short sharp and loud.
"I went and talked to him," Glodell continues with a grin, "and he was excited, but it didn't happen for four or five years. But we worked on tons of other projects. By the time we started shooting Bellflower, we'd become super close friends. We were roommates at one point,… I guess there's a story like that for everyone."
Producer and actor Vincent Grashaw chimes in, "I had seen the short films that they'd been in together. They'd posted them on line. One in particular was so outrageous, it's ridiculous. And he played like, five people, all in a room just doing crazy s***. He basically rapes himself at the end of the short, and it's so awesome, I contacted him. You could tell there was talent. "
Actress Wiseman laughs at the awkward turn of this conversation. She points at me and notes good-humoredly, "he's turning off the recorder…" In person, she gives off exactly the same gleam that her character does in the film, hopefully without the dark turn.
Glodell sews the connection with Grashaw together. "I'd known Vince for years. I'd always known him more as a filmmaker than as an actor. But I had all these people that I'm so close to playing all the main parts, and I was like, f***, I have this one character and I really want to find someone that could be as close to us as everybody else."
Grashaw argues, "I'm not an actor."
Glodell responds, "I can't do that to him! I can't have him playing that part! Then I called him."
With mock gravity, Dawson puts his hand on Grashaw's shoulder. "And then Vince took full responsibility. He showed up on set. We were all just out of control."