by Sara Michelle Fetters -
SGN Contributing Writer
Made on a shoestring, the independently produced drama Bellflower tells the story of a Mad Max-obsessed adult adolescent named Woodrow (Evan Glodell) who finds himself in an intense relationship with the woman of his dreams, Milly (Jessie Wiseman). As things get more and more serious Woodrow lets his apocalyptic cinematic daydreams fall to the wayside. But when the relationship begins to fall apart fantasy and reality collide, and what was once a harmless bit of muscle car fun suddenly becomes something murderously tragic in its potential for emotional and physical destruction.
Born from past heartbreak, Bellflower is the debut for writer, producer, director, and star Glodell. Speaking just after the film's Los Angeles theatrical premier, I had the opportunity to chat with the freshman filmmaker about his well-received feature. Here are some of the highlights from that conversation.
Sara Michelle Fetters: Where did this idea come from? What was the inspiration?
Evan Glodell: I was in a relationship that ended up being very devastating; it ended pretty badly. I was fascinated by what I was feeling, that shock and awe, and why it was so extreme and why I was having difficulty getting over what had happened. The movie started there, came out of what I was feeling. It built and evolved and changed, of course, and other elements where obviously added, but as for where the inspiration came from, it was completely born out of the dissolution of that relationship.
Fetters: It's interesting that you would choose to tell a story of the evolution, and the eventual dissolution, of a relationship but then use George Miller's Mad Max and The Road Warrior as the accompanying pieces. Not many would think to put those things together.
Glodell: Those elements certainly came in later after a few years of working on the script. We knew we wanted the movie to have this dreamy quality to it - something surreal, especially during the second half when Woodrow and his relationship with Milly are falling apart. For whatever reason, the Mad Max films just seemed to fit right into the characters and into their world, made the perfect companion piece to Woodrow's growing apocalyptic mindset. And, I mean, those are just great movies. I love them. Why wouldn't I want to try and pay homage to them in some way?
Fetters: But did you ever worry you were pushing things a bit too far? That the audience might find what's going on to be a bit more outlandish and visceral than what they were prepared for? Or did you just know you had to stick with your gut, go with your instincts, and in the end make the movie that felt the most honest and true to you?
Glodell: Both of those are actually true. Many times I was worried, worried that we were going in a direction that audiences wouldn't be able to handle, but at the same time I knew I had to put myself out there and remain true to what my vision was. Anyone who's had a relationship crash down around them knows that doesn't feel very good and have had some pretty extreme fantasies about what they might do about it, and I knew if we didn't stay true to those emotions then the film itself would never work.
I was putting myself out there, you know? Watching it now, I put myself out there more than I originally realized. It was coming from my gut, but there were definitely places where we had discussions about how much we should show, how much we should say, and what we should leave to the audience's imagination. How far is too far, right? Is there a too far? Especially during the [last act], and some of the places where we were going kind of scared me and I wasn't always sure if we were making the right decisions. Part of me just said 'Fuck it!' and I knew I had to go all the way. This is what it felt like when that relationship ended, and I knew I needed the character to feel that for it to be real and for the audience to believe and relate to what was happening. But, yeah, sitting there at Sundance, showing it to that audience for the first time, part of me worried a lot of [the film] was too personal, too raw, and I did think for a second maybe I'd made the wrong decision. Thankfully their reactions proved me wrong and put a lot of those worries to rest.
Fetters: It is interesting. In many ways the movie starts out like this Before Sunrise meets ComicCon love story only to suddenly morph into this David Cronenberg meets David Lynch meets Luis Buñuel dreamscape. It can be very disconcerting, this mess of human emotions, but can also quite exhilarating if you're willing to go along for the ride.
Glodell: Goodness. Wow. Thank you. I think what you're saying and the way you're interpreting things is definitely one way to see [the film] and one I wasn't quite sure all viewers would be able to. But, I mean, I think that was part of the experience I had in real life, right? When you're starting a relationship, it is this great, intense, sometimes very witty, incredibly verbose, and extremely intimate thing - and I don't mean just sexually. It captures you heart and soul, at least the important and intense ones do, and I wanted to make sure that people understood that Woodrow and Milly had just that sort of connection.
But when they fall apart? After you've become heavily invested in that relationship? It's excruciating. It's like something out of Blue Velvet. It damages you and throws you to the ground in a way you can't totally understand. You're not prepared for that. It's awful, and that's something I wanted to make sure came through in the picture. I wanted the audience standing in Woodrow's shoes, wanted to put them through his mental chaos.
Fetters: Now, for you personally, this was quite the feat in many ways. You wrote it, basing the script on your own personal experiences, you produced it, you directed it, and you acted in it as the lead character. You made it on an extremely limited budget and many of the people who appear as actors also played other roles in the filmmaking and production process as well. To put it mildly, a minor undertaking this was not.
Glodell: [Laughs.] No, not at all. You're right about that. But it was a community project, and a lot of the hats I wore were more from necessity than from anything else. The same could be said for the others who worked on the film, as well. I really wanted to find someone else to play me [Woodrow], but I didn't have the money to pay them. At the same time, the character was me, after all, and even if I had the money, everyone we looked at would never quite understand the character and what he was going through quite as well as I obviously did.
As for the rest, like I said, it was all born out of necessity. We put everything we had into the movie. Everything. I think by the time it was over, all the penny's penny's pennies were all gone. There wasn't anything else, and had everyone not been willing to help with the editing, to come up with ideas on the production design, to add input in regards to costumes, to do all of that and more, I don't think we would have been able to finish it. But, more importantly, I don't think it would have turned out as well. We put our hearts and souls into [Bellflower], and I think it shows.
Fetters: But did those pressures ever weigh on you?
Glodell: If I say 'No,' I'm obviously lying, but at the same time the reality is that if we ever spent too much time thinking about all of the pressures we never would have finished the film. The normal thing would be to shoot all day, do some editing, try to get some sleep, wake up the next morning and try to fix the camera so it would work for the day's shooting, figure out what we didn't get the day before that we should have while also fitting in the work we needed for that particular day, and then do it all over and over again until we were done. If you let yourself dwell on how absurd and chaotic doing that was, you'd go insane, so for the most part we just didn't dwell on it. You just make the movie, right? You do what you have to do to get it right and to shoot something you can be proud of.
Fetters: Now that the film is getting out there, now that it has left the festival circuit and started getting a general theatrical release, while it's touching a critical nerve, how do you hope regular, everyday audiences react to the picture? What do you want them to take with them when they exit the theater?
Glodell: I want them talking about whatever it is the movie has made them feel, good or bad. I hope they take away something positive, of course, but mostly I want them to feel like they've experienced something worthy of discussion and debate. I want them to be thinking about what the characters went through and how that relates to some of the experiences they've had in their own lives; I think that would be great if that happened. But, I mean, seriously, I just hope they like it. Isn't that what all filmmakers want? People to like the film they've made? In all honesty, I can't think of anything better than that.
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