Opening Friday, the readymade cult item Bellflower is part demographically specific relationship drama, part grindhouse movie, and part head trip. The film concerns scruffy, wristbanded SoCal hipster bros who go to bars that hold cricket-eating contests, customize their cars to include whiskey taps on the passenger dash, romance a couple beer-chasing blondes, work on making a car, “The Medusa,” an “apocalypse car” dreamt of since repeated boyhood dreams of The Road Warrior, and gradually ascribe the tagline’s “apocalyptic stakes” to their romance as chronology and subjectivity jumble. Featuring jerry-rigged 70s exploitation-film filters and dirt-smeared lenses, the movie looks different than most indie films starring the writer-director-editor-producer and featuring most of the rest of the crew doubling as cast members: mastermind Evan Glodell gets a lot of money onscreen, probably because he’s as toolsy IRL as his character. He answered some questions over email on Friday.
In some ways the film is a cautionary tale about taking too seriously the masculine satisfactions of camaraderie and handcraft—the very things which make the film such a swaggering, charismatic experience. In making the film, how did you reconcile your sense of perspective with your sense of fun?
We wanted to make the shoot as exciting as possible in hopes that the energy would come across in the movie. This is where the idea of making as many things as real as possible came from—the flamethrower, Medusa car, eating crickets, fight scenes, stunts etc… Even though all this stuff is insanely fun, there was never any point at which the act of playing become a priority over serving the movie or creating a particular shot or scene, so there was never any danger of losing perspective. That said, often times the best way to serve the movie was just to play around shooting things, throwing gasoline everywhere and setting things on fire.
Did you write the film around your own craftiness, or did you learn how to make things like flamethrowers because your script called for it?
A little of both on this one. Now that I think about it, the line is so blurred that it is almost impossible to answer. I built the things for the movie after they were written into the script. I wrote them into the script knowing that if I had to I could learn to build them myself. They are also things that I always thought would be cool to build/own, but never thought there would be a reason to take the time out to actually do it. The reason they went into the script was because thematically I felt that they fit in, but obviously the fact that such things would pop into my head in the first place speaks to my experience of building destructive devices as a kid. I don’t think there is a clear answer to this question.
A large part of the film’s appeal is the sense it gives off a close-knit production—we see these people at work and at play and at ease together. Did the cast come together for the film, or was it people you knew? If the former, how much time and effort did you expend building up the familiarity we see onscreen?
This is very interesting, all these questions oddly have similar answers because they all pertain to the blurred line between the reality of our lives and the characters and ideas in the movie. The cast was assembled over the course of years. Most I met as actors, and some specifically for their roles in Bellflower, but by the time we started shooting we had all become very close, not just acquaintances, but very close friends for years. All of a sudden it seemed like I had just cast my friends, but in reality this movie was the reason many of us had met in the first place.
What inspired the look of the film—that smeary, heavily filtered 70s-exploitation flick feel? Was it a product of technical necessity, or a conscious choice to emulate… what, exactly?
In reality it was a natural progression that never required any self-analyzing. I have been experimenting with cameras and optics for almost ten years now. [Cinematographer Joel Hodge] and I have shot hundreds of hours of footage together and when the time came to shoot Bellflower we already had a strong sense of how we wanted it to look. We had been talking for a long time about using different cameras and formats for different parts of the movie to change the mood—even these ideas obviously came out of experimenting with the weird things I was making and realizing how different the feel of the images were out of each camera. I decided to follow through with the idea and built a third completely unique camera specifically for the movie—the Coatwolf Model II. When we first started shooting it became obvious that the decision to use my cameras was going to make production substantially more difficult, and we talked about scrapping them, but we were so happy with the images we were getting that we continued anyway.