Wednesday, December 15, 2021

INTERVIEW - TIMOTHY COVELL / CHRISTINA BEHNKE - INDIE HORROR FILMMAKERS - BLOOD CONSCIOUS

A salute to everyone reading this interview. Today's interviewees are a couple f indie filmmakers who decided to embark into the sinuous, mysterious, sometimes bleak, but always interesting and gratifying world of making a feature film, and they are TIMOTHY COVELL and CHRISTINA BEHNKE, this year was premiered their first feature film called BLOOD CONSCIOUS. TIMOTHY as the director and writer and CHRISTINA as the producer, they together brought in a riveting horror film about a brother, sister and her fiancĂ© are planning to spend some time at their parent's lakeside cottage, but when arrived to the cottage they find their parents and neighbours haven been murdered, the killer reached them out but he claims he had to kill them because they were demons, is it true or not? This movie is "What happens after a typically horror movie ends". The movie had the THEATRICAL, DIGITAL and VOD release on August 20, 2021 and the DVD release on September 28, 2021 distributed by Dark Sky Films.

TIMOTHY and CHRISTINA were open to discuss and talk about the hard journey they had making the movie  and watch it "on screen" finally, I tried to take the opportunity and ask about everything in terms of making of and emotions flourish during the movie making, the setbacks, the way the destroyed their obstacles and how others indie filmmakers can read their experiences and take in out of the advice.

EFF: First things first, thanks for your time. Timothy, where are you from and when or how did you realize you wanted to go into the film industry?

TC: I grew up in a small farm town in western New York state. In the early 90s, my dad became interested in amateur video production and animation. Subsequently, I gained access to his camcorder and video mixer, which enabled me to shoot and edit my own videos. I caught the bug, and by high school I knew I wanted to pursue filmmaking.

EFF: "BLOOD CONSCIOUS" is your first feature film as a director and writer, right? Tell us how the idea came about.

TC: The concept came from watching EVIL DEAD 2. The first half of the movie involves the character Ash fighting demons in a remote cabin. At some point, a vacationing couple arrive and discover him covered in blood. They immediately assume that he's a maniac who's killed their parents. They lock him in the basement, but shortly thereafter come to realize the truth. I thought it would be fun to write a story from the point of view of the vacationing family members and intentionally withhold from them (and the audience) for as long as possible confirmation as to whether or not the demons actually exist.
Blood Conscious (2021)
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EFF: Pretty interesting approach. How many drafts did you write before get the definite one?

TC: Several. The script continued to evolve right through production.

EFF: The story is, as I read once, "What happens after a horror movie" or something like that. Tell me how your process was during writing. If you had any block, how did you overcome it?

TC: The first half of the script came together quickly. But about halfway through, I found myself adrift. I didn't have a strong enough conflict between the characters. This was at the time of the Ferguson protests in the aftermath of Michael Brown's murder. I was observing how the media was able to pick apart Michael Brown's character by citing circumstantial facts about him and his actions. I thought this aligned with what I wanted to depict Kevin doing in the film. At that point I invented Margie, who is basically what we today would call a "Karen," even though that wasn't a term I was aware of back in 2014. By imbuing her with a strong sense of victimhood and entitlement over the family, it helps to drive Kevin's resentment and suspicion to the point where things inevitably come to a head.

EFF: Now, both of you, tell us a little bit about the project itself. I mean, after you had the script done and understood the locations and cast needed, how did you start pursuing these things? Christina, you as a producer, what was the first thing you started to look for? How did you approach the producing itself, having in consideration the budget?

CB: I had really been keeping an eye out for cast from the time Tim had started writing the script. Whenever I met actors I thought might fit the characters, I filed them away in my head, and we got back in touch with them when we were approaching production. I did the same thing with crew as well. I met a lot of great people on sets when I was just starting out, and those were the first people I approached when we were crewing up. This was extremely low budget, but it was also my first time being in charge of a budget of this size. I took it day by day using what I knew and following my instincts for what I didn't.

TC: For me, aside from casting, I was primarily concerned about location. Since pretty much all the action takes place in the one place, I knew that the look and tone of the film would largely stem from the location we ended up choosing.

EFF: The cabin is a character itself and definitely establish the tone and look of the film as you said before. How was the location scouting for this one? Tell us the journey you made for.

TC: Scouting took most of that year. We looked all over the state, and we looked at very different styles of vacation homes. Eventually we realized we were running out of time and started looking farther north, in the Adirondacks. That's when Alex Lane, our 1st AD, found the cabin we ultimately used. It was a good choice, because it looks just like the type of cabin-in-the-woods viewers expect in a slasher film, so it was perfect in that regard.

EFF: Let's talk about casting three lead characters with three different personalities and giving each one a fundamental aspect to the story. What did you focus on when you were casting actors to embody these roles?

CB: Lenny Thomas, who plays Tony, was the first actor we cast. We had worked with him on one of Tim's short films and knew his energy would make him a natural fit for the role. It was easy for me to imagine his voice when reading the script. For the role of Kevin, we knew we wanted a young actor. Because we were filming during the school year, we looked at recent college graduates. Tim recommended his alma mater, Ithaca College. When I looked at their 2017 theater arts showcase, Oghenero Gbaje's headshot immediately jumped out at me. He had a very warm, empathetic quality that I thought would be crucial to making this character work and it became clear very quickly that he was a perfect fit. Brittney was the last role we cast. We posted the role on Actors Access and DeShawn White was one of the actors who auditioned. I really fell in love with her look and the sense of fear that she was able to get across in her tape. When Tim met with her, she really embodied the character.
Timothy Covell - Lenny Thomas - Christina Behnke

EFF: Let's dive into shooting itself. How long did it take the principal photography?

TC: We shot for 15 days.

EFF: What were some of the logistical problems you faced during that stage?

CB: Being at a remote location really limited our options in terms of vendors. There was literally one restaurant in a 20-mile radius that was able to provide catering. They were great about making deliveries on our weird schedule. But at one point we had to convince them to stay open, because we were in the off-season. I think we may have been their only customer at that point!

EFF: What were some of the most significant problems you had to overcome in order to keep on schedule? Was there one particular scene hard to shoot?

TC: Anything outside with sync sound was a pain. You wouldn't know it from watching the film, but the cabin is about 200 feet from the highway. Constant traffic echoed off the lake. We knew it would be a problem going in, but we couldn't pass up that cabin location.

EFF: How long did it take post-production?

TC: I edited the film myself, nights and weekends. It ended up taking about 2 years before the film was completely finished in post.
"Blood Conscious"

EFF: What style did you try to impress on the film, maybe any references to other movies?

TC: We employed a 4:3 aspect ratio to help give the one-room cabin a confined feel, since you then need to block actors more for depth than width. That also provided us the opportunity to shoot in a more classic style, with long takes, smooth dolly moves, and reframing within shots. We looked at films like FUNNY GAMES and THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY for reference.

EFF: What camera did you use and why?

TC: We shot on an Alexa Mini. I like the Alexa grain texture best of any digital camera. This was especially important given how dark many of the scenes were.

EFF: How has the audience response been so far?

TC: Pretty good. I think people going in with an open mind, ready for something a little different, have been enthusiastic. Obviously, people looking for a literal slasher film have been befuddled.

CB: It's been really rewarding to talk to audience members who've connected with the film. I've watched this film a million times, but every time I've spoken to someone else who's felt passionate about it, I've been able to view it in a whole new way.
BTS "Blood Conscious"

EFF: Does working with your wife or husband make things easier or harder? I think watching the face of the person you love when things get tough is very comforting.

TC: For me, it's great that I know Christina, as my producer, has my back 100%. There is complete trust there. The downside is there's no easy way to turn off the film stuff. It can easily take over everything.

CB: Luckily Tim and I are both film geeks, so we don't mind too much! For me, I would say that I've developed a very easy shorthand in understanding Tim's vision, which makes my job that much easier. I don't have to second-guess anything.

EFF: As an indie filmmaker, and taking into consideration the limited budgets indie horror films typically have, what is the most important thing an indie director or producer needs to take into consideration when filming a horror movie? Timothy as a director and Christina as a producer.

TC: I always say you can do anything, but you can't do everything. So prioritizing is key. As a filmmaker shooting on a micro budget, figure out what your priorities for the film are early on and make sure you're devoting the right amount of budget, time, and planning to those elements.

CB: For horror specifically, never underestimate the importance of the special effects. Whether you're approaching it practically or via VFX, you need to nail it in order for your film to resonate with horror audiences.

EFF. What kind of director do you consider yourself, directing actors, your crew, etc? Do you storyboard all the scenes? What pre-preparation do you usually do when shooting a scene?

TC: I do a lot of storyboarding ahead of time. On BLOOD CONSCIOUS, since many of the ensemble dialogue scenes were fairly complicated, Sung Rae Cho, the cinematographer, and I spent the prep week plotting all the shots and dolly moves from overhead on a blueprint of the cabin. That method was much more helpful than the storyboards at helping me visualize how to cover those scenes.

EFF: What are your inspirations; directors or films?

TC: In terms of filmmakers alive and working actively today, I really enjoy the films of Kelly Reichardt, Ben Wheatley, and Todd Haynes. All three continually push themselves and the craft to tell interesting stories.

EFF: Christina, taking this experience as a reference, what advice would you give to filmmakers who wants take this adventure to make their first film. In general words.

CB: My number one piece of advice is to figure out how many roles you yourself can take on and be honest with yourself about how much you can do. For our film, Tim wrote the script, directed, and edited; but he also took care of other little jobs that people don't even think about. I produced, did the casting, styled the costumes, and even cooked the meals on some of our overnight shoots. No one is going to care as much about your film as you. When you're starting out, you're only going to get as much out as you put into it. At the same time, you can't let yourself get burned out, because the buck stops with you. You have to find that balance.
Timothy Covell

EFF: How have you lived this pandemic? Personally, Professionally...

TC: Day-to-day, our trials have been similar to everyone else's. What was particularly frustrating for us was that, in spring of 2020, we were ready to release Blood Conscious. We had a world premiere lined up and were poised for an exciting festival run. Then COVID swept across the globe, festivals were canceled, and for several months we really felt like our little film was going to disappear into the dustbin of cinema history. Luckily, things turned around at the end of last year. We just needed to be patient.

CB: We've experienced 99% of delivery to the distributors, the festival cycle, and the film's release within our Brooklyn apartment!

EFF: Are you a horror fan? What film do you like most?

TC: I've been a horror fan since I was a teenager. JAWS, THE SHINING, and THE THING are probably my top three go-to horror films, if you twist my arm.

CB: I've had an interest in the macabre as long as I can remember. My favorite horror films are SUSPIRIA and HOUSE. I guess '77 is my year.

EFF: What new projects are you working on now, something you can anticipate us now?

TC: Right now, we're working on a film with themes very personal to me. It's a noirish murder mystery set in rust-belt town.

EFF: If a producer gives you a chance to direct a horror film remake, what would it be and why?

TC: Over the years, there have been a few screen adaptations of J. Sheridan Le Fanu's gothic novel UNCLE SILAS. There was THE INHERITANCE in the 40s and then a miniseries sometime in the 80s. I'd love to take a crack at adapting that story myself.

EFF: Would you like to say anything else?

TC: Thank you very much for such insightful questions.

CB: If you've watched the film once and still have questions, watch it again. You get more out of every viewing.


**TIMOTHY COVELL'S | IMDb Twitter | **


Blood Conscious (2021)
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