Newcomer Evan Glodell burst onto the scene this year as the writer/director/actor of the new film Bellflower, a gripping independent thriller about two boys whose obsession with a Mad Max style apocalypse affects their personal relationships. The film was a true labor of love for Glodell as he financed it himself and spent over 4 years working on it. After trips to the Sundance Film Festival, South by Southwest, and a slew of other showcases for independent cinema, Bellflower has been touted by many critics as one of this year’s finest first efforts.
The film opened in New York and Los Angeles two weeks ago and it expands to additional cities tomorrow. I had the chance to speak with Glodell to ask him about the process of making a film with so few resources and the thematic intricacies of the plot. Here is how the conversation went down:
Q: I understand that it took a couple of years for the project to come to fruition, so I am curious how much of your original script stayed to the end and along the way how much was improvised?
A: Oh, almost all of the original script remained. From the time we started shooting to the time we finished it was three years so there were some changes that had to take place in editing from what we were hoping to get and what we did get, but it stayed pretty close to the script. The major change that happened was the ending and that change came from showing it to people. The original ending was working, but it was leading people into too dark of a place and I was like “I need to elaborate on this a little bit more.”
Q: How much filmmaking and acting experience did you have before taking on this project?
A: Tons and none. I had previously made tons of short films and video projects with my friends and it was all self-taught, so I guess that constitutes previous experience, like 30 short films.
Q: Are any of those films available?
A: No, I used to have them all online, but they were really weird, and when we got into Sundance I was like “Oh my God, people are actually going to be looking at what we are doing,” and it freaked me out and I took everything off. I didn’t want anyone judging me on the weird short films I was making before they saw the movie at Sundance and then thinking it was going to go further than that.
Q: I want to talk about Mad Max. You see the influence that the movie had on your character, Woodrow, but I was curious what kind of affect those movies had on you personally?
A: I saw Mad Max late in elementary school, early middle school with one of my friends and we thought it was the coolest thing that ever happened. So I went through a period in middle school where we thought Mad Max was awesome and we joked around about what we would do if there were an apocalypse. It wasn’t really a huge part of my life until the idea came for the characters to be doing the same sort of thing.
Q: It’s interesting because when the Mad Max movies came out in the late 70s/early 80s it seemed a lot more natural for a guy like Mel Gibson to be taking revenge on the people who had wronged him than in Bellflower where the two guys lacked the same sort of masculinity. They are more sensitive.
A: Totally. Also, Mad Max takes place in a world of violence.
Q: Do you think it’s a generational thing? Is it just the fact that Mad Max is set in the apocalypse or is it something about our society today versus back then?
A: That’s a very interesting question. Someone wrote a review on Bellflower that talks about how the definition of a man has changed and people today love the man-child type of character. Like for instance Seth Rogen often plays that type of character that is emotionally crippled and I think were seeing more of those characters that are less open with their feelings in a not very traditional way. So I think it’s more that the time in general has changed.
Q: Would you say that you got to live out some of your own post-Apocalyptic fantasies, or maybe nightmares, through the character Woodrow?
A: “Nightmares” is definitely a better way to say it. In context of the plot of the movie it would be nightmares, particularly all of the dark stuff in the movie, but in reality there was some acting out of fantasies like have a post-Apocalyptic car and playing around with a flamethrower.
Q: What about the fantasy world that the characters create? Was that something that came out of personal experience or did it come naturally out of the story?
A: It came naturally with the story. Some things are from experience like the running jokes my friends and I had growing up about a fantasy world, but the whole Mad Max theme began when I decided the characters should be building a flamethrower and I had to justify it. The more I worked on it the idea of Mad Max and the Apocalypse obsession came out.
Q: I want to talk a little bit about the pacing. You used a lot of misdirection very cleverly where you would cut away from a scene quickly and go back to it later to provide a further explanation. Where did that idea come from?
A: It must just be a natural progression thing. It’s one of those things where the movie was worked on for four years including prep so a lot of the results were just the product of experimenting and working things for years. However, a lot of the stuff we thought up at the beginning we ended up getting exactly how we wanted it.
Q: What advice do you have to current independent filmmakers who are trying to express their own vision?
A: I guess it would be the same advice you would give people in any profession – to not give up on what you really want. There were a lot of barriers with Bellflower, but we were having so much fun with it that we ended up attracting a lot of new people to the project. A majority of the cast and crew was made up of people who appeared after we started shooting. A lot of people don’t have a project to focus on so they see somebody else doing it and they start showing up because they want to help.
Q: Evan, thank you for talking to me and I wish you the best!
A: No problem. Thank you!
Bellflower is currently playing in limited release and it expands to additional cities on Friday, September 2.