Money dictated what the film that started out as ‘Spider Ninja’ would be. Blood Widow director Jeremiah Buckhalt talks about the long, laborious but exciting journey of getting the horror flick done.
LEGLESS CORPSE: When did you get involved in the production?
JEREMIAH BUCKHALT: The process started on our back porch, before we even had a budget or a treatment ready, and certainly before we pitched it to our investors. The investors wanted a horror film, and we were trying to figure out what would make them happy. None of us had ever worked on a horror film before, but we were always fans of horror. I had always liked the slashers, like Jason and Freddy, and after a number of discussions of what genre to choose, we decided to do a slasher. Once we decided that, I realized I had a concept of a side character for use in something or other, and I had shelved it. When I dug it out, I realized the character would make a good slasher villain. I showed it to my team and they all loved it. Phil, our art director and one of our executives, came up with the name before we even had a treatment. Chad, one of our writers and the producer, kept throwing around the terms “spider ninja” and that’s how the title came about.
LC: What people probably don’t realise is that independent productions not only take a long time to come together, but just as long to hit the screen. When did this journey begin for you?
JB: The journey began with its initial conception in 2011, and then we pitched, got funding, and then shot it. Pre-production to the final edit took about two years. However, the sound design took a year to finalize. For the most part, the process was very smooth and fast for an indie.
LC: How much say did you have in casting? And where were your leads discovered?
All of our leads were out of Orlando, Florida. As far as casting goes, a lot of directors don’t like to be present during casting, instead relying on the casting director. I’ve done some acting before, and I know what the process is like being on the actor’s side of the table. I sat right next to Kyle, our casting director, through all the auditions. In this case, if I had not been there, I probably would have never would have cast one of the actors—it was only when I saw their personality come through when they weren’t trying to act is when I decided to have them on board. When you’re actually there, you can get more of an idea of what they have to give. That’s my personal preference.
LC: Would you say the film is somewhat of a homage to the classic slasher films of the ‘80s? How would you pitch it to someone?
JB: It’s absolutely paying homage to Halloween and other slashers that came before and after it. The film in particular that I spent a lot of time studying before we began was that movie. Carpenter had similar resources at his disposal that I knew I would end up having, so I studied his film the most. I wanted to make a slasher that paid homage to those older classic films from the ‘80s, because that’s what I grew up with, and that’s what I enjoy watching. As far as a pitch is concerned, if we were to do it all over again, I would emphasize that I wanted to make a film that was a classic American original slasher: with a low budget–just like in the old days, no big-name actors, and a lot of integrity.
LC: Did you find the budget at all limiting? How would a big-budget studio version of the movie differ, you think?
JB: I did find the budget limiting, but I believe with a smaller budget, it forces you into contingencies that otherwise would not have happened. Usually, happy accidents occur because of that. Working with a smaller budget forces the story out of you a lot more organically. It’s more interesting to see a vision that I initially had take shape its own way. The boundaries of budget aren’t always a bad thing.
If this was a big studio picture, it would certainly have been a smoother process all around, but that’s what the studios do well. Whether or not it would have hurt the integrity of the film, I don’t know. It would have depended on what kind of freedom I would have been given.
LC: Who did the effects and make-up on the film? Good find! Amazing job they’ve done…
JB: Michael Gore and his small team did the effects for us. We went to film school together, and we both ended up working on my thesis film, with him doing the makeup and costuming. He started his own special effects company right of school. I love practical special effects. If I couldn’t have been a director, special effects would have been my second or third choice of career. He humbly refused to take too much credit for his efforts, but I would love to have him work on future projects with us. He and I are both passionate about special effects, and given the resources he had to work with, he exceeded my expectations.
LC: How did you snare distribution? Was it a point of showing the film at festivals, in turn hoping for some good, early reviews?
JB: We tried a few festivals initially, with an earlier cut of the film, and the festivals weren’t too interested at the time. We then resorted to emailing various horror and indie distribution companies, and most were interested but not committed. Phil, myself, and Chad were actually waiting for food at our favorite local Chinese restaurant when Chad checked his email and there was a nice query from what would end up being our distributor. We would have liked to have distribution set up before production began, but it wasn’t possible at the time. I’ve learned my lesson, and will definitely have a distribution deal set up for next time.
LC: Is Blood Widow 2 a possibility?
JB: Yes, it’s certainly possible. It’s not matter of whether or not we want to, but if we are able to
Blood Widow is scheduled to be released Jun 3, 2014 by the Midnight Releasing studio
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