It's in the Blood: An Interview with Scooter Downey and Sean Elliot
In their NJFF film submission, It's in the Blood, Scooter Downey and Sean Elliot create an enthralling tale of a father and son who, after becoming lost in the woods, must do everything in their power to survive against a terrifying beast whose very form is the amalgamation of grotesqueness and horror. Inside Beat had the pleasure of interviewing Downey and Elliot and picking at the creative minds behind this film.
Inside Beat: What influenced/inspired you to create this film?
Sean Elliot: From a produtorial standpoint, the film was largely designed to offer the highest production value-to-cost ratio. As all first-time filmmakers know, it is exceedingly difficult to find funding for a film, and even more difficult to sell that film for a return on your investment. With these issues in mind, we wanted to create a film that offered the highest chance for a return on our investment, while simultaneously entertaining the audience. In this way we were able to determine that a psychological horror film would give us the best cost-to-value ratio.
Inside Beat: What were some of the biggest challenges you encountered when making this picture?
Scooter Downey: Every aspiring filmmaker knows that in this industry it's tough to get your foot in the door. The gatekeepers don't want change; they want to maintain the machine. So when you've never made a feature, and you don't know who you can trust or even what the workflow is, every aspect of production becomes a challenge. We got kicked in the teeth a lot, both literally and figuratively! I think the biggest challenge is maintaining your faith, your integrity and determination when things don't go your way. Every filmmaker needs a certain amount of luck and a plethora of providence. Luckily I had a friend in Sean who was there with me every step of the way. I wasn't alone and that made a huge difference.
IB: This film is ultimately a father and son movie and a young man's journey of letting go of the past and growing up. Why did you choose to use monsters and supernatural forces as imagery and metaphors?
SD: Many coming-of-age movies feel like after-school specials, so we wanted to throw the story into a more mythic, psychological and entertaining context. Sean and I both love wilderness survival movies and schlocky creature features so the fit seemed pretty natural. Plus we're very interested in the way horror movies and horror monsters are projections of the psyche. We may think zombies and Freddy Krueger are modern day concoctions, but these images have been with us in some form or another for thousands of years. They represent our repressed fears, our buried guilt and our dark side. The only way to deal with these "monsters" is to directly confront them. That's what a horror movie is all about; that's why I think we go to see them. The creature in It's in the Blood becomes a literal and physical manifestation of the character's past, the wilderness a "wilderness" of their own minds. That's how the film "deconstructs" the typical creature feature. The protagonists are thrown into a situation where the only way to escape is through a confrontation with their own past.
IB: How was the experience of working with veteran actor Lance Henriksen?
SE: Working with Lance was an overwhelming pleasure. Considering this was my first time as a lead actor, there was a tremendous amount of pressure on me to summon the necessary emotional depth of October's character. Having the privilege of performing opposite an actor of Lance's caliber made my job far easier. He is a tremendous actor, an incredibly hard worker and kind to a fault; above all else his is a character of the highest order. In short, they don't come any better than Lance.
IB: How did you prepare for the physically demanding role of October?
SE: The physical demands of the film dimmed in comparison to those of the emotional. Nothing in my life had prepared me for the emotional toll acting this film would take. I can say for sure that acting in this film has irrevocably altered me. At that time, I had experienced very little emotional trauma in my life from which to draw upon for the character. As a result, it was often very difficult for me to go to the places I needed to in order to portray this character.
IB: The creature in the film is a brilliant creative feat, and since the audiences only sees glimpses and parts of it for the majority of the movie; it creates an overall feeling of suspense and anticipation. How did you come up with the idea of the creature, and why did you decide to make it look and act the way it did?
SD: Like everything in the film, it evolved as we evolved. Initially it was a pack of wolves, then a giant bear and at a certain point it was even the Grim Reaper. What remained consistent was the desire to keep it in the shadows. Movies are a striptease; you don't want to go full frontal until the very end.
IB: This film has a number of very powerful, yet disturbing scenes, were any of these scenes specifically difficult to film?
SD: Those scenes were more difficult for the actors than they were for me. Once the camera starts rolling I put on the mask of "manipulator" and become pretty emotionally detached.
IB: Was this the first time [both of you] have collaborated together?
SE: Scooter and I first met in kindergarten and have been partners in crime ever since. We have collaborated on countless projects of varying scales and will do so again on countless more. It makes walking the path of a filmmaker far easier to bear when you can do it side by side with your best friend.
It's in the Blood will screen on Saturday January 28th at 7pm, in Voorhees Hall, room #105, on College Ave.