Interview with Evan Glodell, writer/director of Bellflower


Bryn: Tell me a little about your background as a filmmaker? What movies or directors inspired you, and what was the first camera you used?

Evan: Oh, whoa! I don’t think anybody’s specifically asked me that! I like lots of movies, but I’m really bad at nailing down who my favourite people are. But the first camera I ever used was a Sony DX 1000, the first mini-DV camera.

B: You’ve worked mostly as a cinematographer, did you study that, or are you self-taught?

E: Mostly self-taught. I’m from Wisconsin and I moved to L.A. to try and get into filmmaking, the film business, and I didn’t know what I was doing, but I just started making movies on a camcorder with my friends. Like, really short, small films. And I basically kept doing that for a couple of years, and then I got into the hobby of modifying cameras. Then people started seeing things I made and noticed that it looked different, so sometimes people would hire me - only a couple of times - to shoot things for them. I think it was more like, “What are these cameras, why does this look weird?” It was just a couple of favours I did.

B: Oh, okay [laughs] Well, yes, it was certainly the look; the lighting and the whole look of the film that struck me initially, captivated me; a dreamy mood of listless summer days. It was only afterwards that I found out that it was a unique camera that you’d designed and built. Was it expensive to customise? Was there any kind of post-production tinkering or grading at all?

E: Oh, very little. There are things going on. There are four different cameras that we shot on, and three of them were pretty heavily customised, and then also the Silicon Imaging SI-2K, which was the base for everything we built. I still use their sensor and their recording electronics, and that camera has a colour correction programme built into it. So if I built something around that sensor and an image would come in, sometimes so messed up that you couldn’t really see it, then we’d heavily colour-correct it back, to get it to look the way you wanted it. And in doing that, the couple of different rigs we had, we could put out two or three distinct looks. In a way it’s kind of like analogue and digital processing, but it’s all put on while we were shooting. In post-production it was more like if something was too dark, or two angles didn’t match, we’d adjust them.

B: Imdb lists the cost of the feature at about seventeen grand (U.S.), is that pretty accurate for the actual shooting cost? What was the most expensive part of the production?

E: It’s accurate as any of us are able to figure out. We never actually had any money. I think the most money I ever had in my hands was money I’d saved up right before we started; I had a couple of thousand dollars and most of that went into buying the Buick Skylark. Slowly, bit by bit, it sucked up money, ‘cos every time we needed to build something, paint, and hydraulics and switches and gauges and stuff, it kinda builds up. I think if you cut it down the middle; how much money was spent on the Medusa car and how much money was spent everywhere else, more than half of all the money that was used over those three years went into just keeping the car running and modifying it.

B: So it took three years to shoot?

E: Yeah. We tried to shoot the thing in one non-stop go at the very beginning; it went on for three months. And at the end of three months we had shot most of the movie, but not all of it, but we gave up ‘cos we were so out of money, and the car was broken down, so we just had to stop. And then I tried to finish the movie with what we’d shot, and realised I couldn’t do it. So for the next two-and-a-half years I just kept editing and we would get together and build the stuff we needed for the next scene, which was mostly the hard scenes.

B: So tell me a little about the screenplay. How long did that take to write, how much of it was improvised, and how much of it was autobiographical?

E: Oh wow. The first draft probably took a couple of months. And that was in 2003 or 2004. And ever since I had finished that first version I was trying to figure out how to make it, and failing everywhere I looked. We could make this for ourselves, and then when that turned out to be too difficult, then I started focusing on getting better so I had a better reel so I can raise some money. It wasn’t until years later that we realised that wasn’t going to work either, so we decided to go back and just do it ourselves. So how much is improvised? I know when we were shooting we would try and do each take different just so we wouldn’t feel like we were reading lines, but in the end most of the scenes are pretty close to what was written.

B: And how much of it was autobiographical, ‘cos it feels very personal?

E: Yes it is. It’s really, really, really … It makes me uncomfortable how personal it is. To me it feels like emotionally it’s 100% autobiographical, but I purposefully switched all the details out. We’re talking about the first half of the movie. Because after that it all kinda goes insane. But a lot of stuff is taken directly from my life, or ideas that happened to my close friends, or happened to me when I was younger that I mixed in. I’m not sure if that’s a good answer. It’s based on real life, but it’s not a recreation of anything.  

B: Tell me then a little bit about the casting. Did you audition many actors? Rebecca’s character Courtney was one of the movie’s more interesting, and her performance one of the strongest.

E: Yeah, she’s awesome. All of the main roles; me, Tyler, Rebecca, Jessie, and Vince, were all people I had known for a long time and had worked with on other short films and projects. We had a couple of casting calls, just in L.A, we rented a place for the day and we had people come in to fill the bit parts. I was very adamant that I didn’t want any of the main roles to be played by people who weren’t close to me.

B: There were four editors, you included. How much of the movie was made in the editing room? What was your shooting ratio?

E: I don’t know the exact ratio. There are some parts that changed quite a bit, and other bits that didn’t change. The longer it went on the more we wanted the movie to be the best it could be. I had watched the movie with every single scene deleted, and a number of scenes re-ordered, especially in the second half. It’s definitely not like the script, but the overall structure is there.

B: I see it as a kind of hybrid buddy movie and dark romance, but then after I watched it I read that it was being included in this “mumblecore” sub-genre, of which I’ve seen maybe one or two! Where do you see Bellflower fitting in?

E: If I had to, I would say exactly what you said. It’s a movie about the friendship of these two guys, and it’s also a dark romance movie. I had never even heard of mumblecore until the reviews come out saying that we were part of the mumblecore movement, and I had to go look up online to found out what mumblecore was.

B: Yeah, me too!

[both laugh]

B: Apparently it’s been around for ten years!

E: I know! I had no idea!

B: What next for Team Coatwolf?

E: I have a script I’ve been working on for a couple of years that I’m just about to start showing people, so I can hopefully start shooting.

B: That sounds great! Look you’ve got an amazing little film on your hands; I wish you all the best for the future.

E: Thank you. Yeah, it was good talking to you.