As anyone who read our review knows, Bellflower is a pretty big deal, quite possibly the best movie of 2011.
When you think of a $17,000 indie flick, all sorts of images come to mind of a sleepy drama that gets love like the little engine that could. Bellflower is not that movie. It’s deeply personal, but also crazy entertaining, a sure-fire cult favorite for years to come.
More than anything, it’s extremely timely as a unique piece, apart from the current trend of remakes and sequels. If it even fits a genre, it would be misleading to call it Mumblecore. Lunatic Mumblecore makes more sense, a combination of words I wasn’t expecting to ever use. You’re not prepared for Bellflower, but hopefully this helps.
I’m excited to bring you this interview with the film’s writer, director, and star, Evan Glodell. There’s information all over the place now about the battle-against-the-odds five year journey it took to make Bellflower, so I tried to give you something new by focusing on the man, and what we can expect from his next project, which he compares to Being John Malkovich.
Glenn Morris: Evan Glodell. The writers at my site unanimously applauded your movie.
Evan Glodell: Oh, very cool.
Critics are tossing around the phrase “best movie of the year so far,” always with that disclaimer “so far” like the awards season is destined to top this. What if that doesn’t happen? Has that registered with you yet? That your first movie might be the best movie of the year?
Evan: The first time I heard that it tripped me out pretty good. I thought it was gonna be the only time I ever heard it. Yeah… I don’t think I necessarily deserve that title but it sounds pretty awesome.
Do you feel strange about the attention because you seem like this average guy and you’re being interviewed by people, some of them more famous than you are.
Evan: YES! Oh… I mean this… in general this whole experience has been a little crazy.
How familiar are you with the Mumblecore genre?
Evan: Completely unfamiliar until everybody started calling it that and since then I’ve had time to watch The Puffy Chair.
That‘s one that a lot of people are drawn to. But you were actually unaware of the whole thing?
Evan: Yes, I actually had never even heard the word “Mumblecore.”
That’s surprising because Bellflower uses the same techniques really effectively but the second half almost seems like a counter to that movement.
Evan: Yeah, ya know… it must just be a natural progression.
On the subject of progression, when I looked ahead at some of the underground movements that would gain traction in popularity, the two things that always came up were Dubstep music and the Do-It-Yourself mentality that’s been coming out of the Burning Man Festival. Your movie has tapped into both of those before Hollywood has really cashed in on it. Was that a conscious strategy or are those just things that you’re into?
Evan: Yeah, those were just things I’m into. Definitely the do it yourself stuff, but you’re referring also to Dubstep?
The movie feels extremely timely by combining them both.
Evan: Yeah, it feels that way but it definitely wasn’t planned, not as a strategic thing anyway.
You’re movie only cost $17,000 to make?
Evan: It’s funny, cause it’s really just a number. It’s really just zero, because we had zero from the beginning. We totaled up the best we could all the money that the eleven main people in the cast and crew spent to keep it going and it was around 17,000.
And your crew passed around who was supporting the film at a given time, I heard?
Evan: Literally it was fifty, two hundred dollars at a time, ya know? Everybody has a share of ownership in the movie of all the people that made it, and whoever could support the project would, when they could.
It never looks like a cheap movie at all. I imagine your cinematographer has a lot of credit to take for that.
I know you’re working on another project, but what happens if this just keeps getting bigger and bigger? How do you react if Fox suddenly shows up and says “We liked your film about this resourceful machismo guy coming off a failed relationship, here’s a script for Die Hard 5.”
What would you even do in that situation?
Evan: I would laugh and I would be excited about it.
Excited about doing it or happy for the attention?
Evan: The attention. But, ya know, I think I’ve made small mistakes when I was younger of getting off track from what I knew I was supposed to be doing and learned that that always ends badly. I wouldn’t even have the option to say yes if I wanted to. I’d want to but there’s no way it would actually happen.
Sticking to your strength in making smaller movies from the ground up?
Evan: Not necessarily smaller. They’ll be what the world decides they’ll be. Like you said, if this thing keeps going and my next movie does well and I find myself with a lot of money for big names in my movies, then that’s ok with me. A couple people have asked me that question and the only way I can explain it is that all of my motivation comes from the ideas that I get. This movie was always about the script. I had this idea for the script and it was always about the script. It wasn’t that I need to make a movie, it’s that I needed to make this script into a movie. I feel the same way about the script I have now. So it seems like the same thing but taking on someone else’s project would almost be like a different profession.
You have trouble working on other people’s stuff?
The script that you’re working on now, is that something you’re keeping on a smaller scale or is this like The Road Warrior is to Mad Max? Is it open to being a bigger film if Bellflower keeps up this momentum and you have the budget for that?
Evan: Oh, totally. I guess… I’m not sure how to translate but if you look at Bellflower all the elements are there so that it could have been made on a much bigger budget, right? It could have known actors and a whole special effects team. Some of the apocalyptic fantasy sequences could have been way more elaborate… but I think this script is the same way. If I had to make it like I made Bellflower I theoretically could, except (laughs) I won’t have the same budget to ask people to do it quite like that again, but on a small scale or whatever the next couple brackets are.
The director of Versus claims to have seen The Road Warrior hundreds of times before making his film and I have to ask, because The Road Warrior is such a big influence on Bellflower and something that ties the themes together, how many times did you watch that movie in preparation for it or just in general?
Evan: Not hundreds.. no no. I saw it quite a few times as a kid, maybe a couple times as an adult and since I started on Bellflower quite a few times again. We spend a couple days, just between those scenes where Tyler’s talking at the end of the movie and I remember twice a day I would make him watch the movie or watch the scenes back-to back, so while we were doing it, just to get him excited about the character. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it. I don’t even wanna guess.
It seems like your this average, humble dude that just happened to make a movie when I see you in interviews, but you don’t make a movie like this without it having been your passion for a long time, huh?
So what are some of your influences then, where are some we haven’t seen you tap into yet?
Evan: Oh! …I have not been able to come up with a good answer to that question yet. Obviously I’ve been inspired like everybody else but I haven’t made a list which I should probably do.
Evan: Yeah, I don’t ever think about it. There was never a time making this movie where I said let’s make this shot like the one in this movie or that. My mind doesn’t work that way but obviously I draw from reference like everybody else. That’s how the world works.
Have you seen the movie Primer?
Evan: I have seen the movie, yes, but actually I saw the movie Primer when Bellflower was almost finished, but I looked at that movie and it was awesome.
You have noted your next script has a Sci-Fi twist to it. Would it be taking that quote too far to expect that to be a core idea behind the film, like time travel is the core in Primer or is it something in that script but you don’t necessarily want people to think you’re making a Sci-Fi picture?
Evan: Yeah, it’s more on the side. It’s just an element. I’m sort of trying to put together a list in my head of the sort of genres like what I’m working on now, and I don’t know why but you’re actually the first person to say that and I was just thinking today, “Is Science Fiction one of the genres?” I suppose that it is.
What kind of Sci-Fi are you getting into then, there are many types. There’s hard Sci-Fi, soft Sci-Fi.
Evan: What are some examples?
With Primer they stuck with the real science as far as they could. Soft Sci-Fi would be like, the Incredible Hulk is made from gamma rays. It’s far out there.
Evan: Oh! I would definitely say I’m definitely more into hard then. I like how those ideas represent something you don’t quite understand. Like… have you seen Another Earth because I actually just watched that.
I haven’t no, but I understand the basic idea of it.
Evan: It wasn’t what I expected but I really liked it, but would you consider that Science Fiction?
Oh, definitely. I mean, from what I’ve heard of the plot. I haven’t actually seen the movie.
Evan: It definitely seems like that works. There are weird ideas. We’ve all been talking about this thing with Magical Realism and I can’t figure out what that genre actually encompasses. I actually just saw it on a list of genres and I’m trying to figure out what actually falls under that genre. It sounds like what I’m writing right now. I don’t know for sure, I might be way off, but when I saw Another Earth, that’s Magical Realism, like Being John Malkovich. Everything is in the world is real except there’s this door that goes into someone’s brain and it’s fairly easy to entrust that, ya know?
Bellflower has spectacular character development, so it sounds like this new film will be ultimately a character drama but effected by an outside element of Science Fiction?
Evan: That could be one part of it, right? But, the one I have right now is very rooted in reality and I follow a couple characters really closely.
People categorize directors often as being technical directors or actor’s directors. For Bellflower you built a flame thrower, you heavily modified a car with smoke screens, more flamethrowers, a whisky-on-tap filtration system… you even built the cameras to get a certain look out of it, but the character stories are extremely intimate. Would you call yourself a technical director, or was Bellflower something that specifically appealed to your inner gearhead?
Evan: (laughs) That’s actually a very interesting question because I’m wondering the same thing about myself. I said to someone “I’m not very technical minded” but then someone started laughing at me saying “But didn’t you, like, build a bunch of stuff?” and I said yeah… well maybe I am technical minded. I’m not one of those people at all when I watch movies. If I watched Bellflower I wouldn’t be thinking “Ok, what’s the proper order of events, what’s real, what’s not real?” I’d just say “Oh, cool” and totally just zone out and watch that.
Or why these two buddies have a never ending supply of gasoline, road sodas, and cigarettes but no jobs at any point in movie?
Evan: (laughs) No, I would just think “Well obviously they’re just not showing something.” I mean, that’s what I did, we had those things and we took them out on purpose. The reason I took them out is because they didn’t feel right to me. The characters all had menial jobs. They were waiters, and like… janitors. They all had basically crappy jobs that didn’t define them very much. They weren’t careers.
What was your character’s job? (Glodell also plays the main character)
Evan: I think my character was one of the only ones that didn’t have one at all. Oh, no no… that’s not true. There was something but I’ll never tell. It was one of those things where every time I watch the movie I’m like, Courtney and Millie were both waitresses, and when Millie takes a road trip with me, she lost her job. So [off screen] they talk about money, “Have you paid your rent?” They talked about how she lost her job. There were a couple things in the movie where they talked about these things and every time they came up I kind of cringed, because it didn’t need that to feel real.
Did you feel it tripped up the pacing?
Evan: No, not even the pacing, it just literally felt out of place. Every time somebody would talk about money my stomach would hurt. I would feel that they shouldn’t be talking about this stuff, and so I went through it and cut everything out that fell into those categories except two things.
I won’t spoil where the film goes, but it does seem to be more about the state of people’s minds than the state of people’s lives.
Evan: Yes, yes.
For your next project, are you looking to get it put together as quickly as possible to ride the momentum of Bellflower or is it more an approach of its done when it’s done, people will wait.
Evan: Yeah, I’ve heard arguments for both but honestly my biggest concern right now, I mean, aside from the additional resources and help that look like they’re gonna be offered to me because of how this last film went… but what I’m concerned about the most is that I don’t wanna get locked into something where suddenly a timer gets put on my next project because that would be an absolutely nightmare to me.
Die Hard would have a timer.
Evan: [laughs] It certainly would.
You have ten months to make Die Hard, Evan.
Evan: You could with Die Hard because that’s just fun and silliness.