Friday, February 15, 2013

That Which Does Not Kill You Makes You Awesome: The Making of Bloodsucka Jones (Part 2)

That Which Does Not Kill You
 Makes You Awesome

The Making of Bloodsucka Jones (Part 2)
by Aaron Allen 

You're either in the indie movie business for the love of film-making or you're not in it at all.

These days, no one sets out to make an independent movie, let alone a horror comedy, expecting to get rich quick or find instant fame. Although movie-making technology is more accessible than ever, the men and women who set out to make self-financed movies still face countless challenges, chief among them the threat that their movie may never get finished or even released.

So what keeps indie writers, directors, actors, and producers motivated under the threat of failure and obscurity? As we learn today in part two of our interview with the Bloodsucka Jones creative team, it was the support of a talented and dedicated cast that helped Bloodsucka Jones survive despite scheduling nightmares and on-set injuries that threatened to put a stake in the heart of the vampire comedy once and for all.

Start with PART ONE

Calling all Bloodsuckas: The Casting of Bloodsucka Jones

Horror in the Hammer: So, by 2009 you have a script for Bloodsucka Jones. You have Preston Gant to star in the title role, and you start to assemble a cast. Since it takes you about four more years to finish the movie, with re-shoots and pickup shots and ADR years later after the bulk of the movie is shot, where did you find such a devoted cast to stick with you for so long if you couldn't afford to pay your actors?

Justin Armao (writer/director/star): We knew that I would be in it, Preston would be in it, Andy [Cauble, producer] would be in it, and a couple other people that we kind of knew, but then we also wanted to get real actors...

Jessica Dercks
Andy Cauble: Although Justin's pretty damn fantastic. 

Preston Gant: Yes he is.

JA: Thank you. Yeah, we put out an ad in a place called LA Casting and found a lot of the people. We scheduled all these people, and not only that -- something they never get -- we gave them some food. We gave them a time and a scheduled time so they didn't have to wait around with other actors and worry. We did all this, and we reconfirmed five times with each person. And still, like, half the people showed up.

AC: It was maddening. Maddening. Jessica [Dercks] was the first person to show up. She plays Christine.

JA: She totally changed our idea ... I thought [Christine's] got to be the brow-haired, brown-eyed girl next door, and [Jessica] comes in and she looks like she's from Russia. We went up there and did the scene and Andy, or somebody else, came up and said, "That's the girl. I don't care what you say. She'll make you better."

Jessica Dercks vamps it up in Bloodsucka Jones

AC: That was the first hurdle. All the flakes. We were there from eight in the morning until six or seven at night. What was it? 30% of the people showed up?

JA: Yeah, about half. If someone was nice and we liked them, even if they sucked, we wanted them in the movie just as a thank you for them coming down. Then we had people like Tawny; she actually unzipped her shirt during her audition. So we wanted to use her for sure. Every other girl would just mime.

AC: She's just an incredibly cool person. Incredibly cool.

Tawny Amber Young keeping it clean

JA: So we found a place for her. And Matt [Kelly], who plays Stuart, was just automatic. He handed us his headshot and said, "How's this for Douchebag?" And we said, "That's....fine."

PG: But Matt's so cool because he even offered to be the water boy if he didn't make it into the movie. He just wanted to be a part of it because he loved what he heard about it.

Matt Kelly
AC: And that's the atmosphere we tried to set up even in the auditions. We just tried to be friendly. It actually brought out a lot of cool personality traits. Being who we are -- mellow -- it totally brought people out a little more. Will [William Cutting] is the guy who played Kenny, and he was great when he came in for his audition too.

PG: Kenny's part was really short.

JA: Will came out to play for Tony, the shitty vampire hunter, and I almost hired him on his picture. His picture was so friggin awesome.

AC: He has one of the best headshots in the history of mankind

JA: When he read the script, I thought there was something weird here. He wasn't right for this part. I had this small Kenny part, and he was so good that we rewrote that entire role after hiring him.

HITH: Any other surprise casting choices?

JA: [Erin Holt, who plays Heather] completely fucked around and didn't even really audition, but we liked her so much that we emailed her and said, "You know, I don't really remember if we actually auditioned you. I think we were all just fucking around, but can you be a bitch?" She emailed be back and said, "Oh I can be such a bitch, Justin." You're hired!

Erin Holt sinks her teeth into the role of Heather
JA: [Maria Canapino who plays Bloodsucka Jones's silent sidekick Vanessa] came in for the audition process and she looked like she was 14. She was a gymnastics instructor, but she came in and was totally in this velour jumpsuit. She came in and read for something else, and we thought she was really cute, so we looked at her for a second and said we had this other character and asked her, "What do you about short shorts?" And she said the shorter the better. I said, "I think this is the girl."

AC: But she was totally the opposite of what we were going for. We were going for long, tall, comic booky vixen chick. We forgot to mention Travis in casting too. [Travis Woods, who plays Tony] is awesome as well by the way. For me, he's the star of the movie.

JA: Travis is a friend of mine. I wanted him to play the vampire cop that chokes Bloodsucka Jones. Tony was going to be played by my friend Tony. [Travis] just came came in to help us read with people, but he wanted that part [as Tony]. He was not even remotely what I thought, but as soon as we started doing it it was obvious that he was right for this.

The Almost Death of Bloodsucka Jones
(aka. What's a few cracked ribs among friends?)

 JA: There were a lot of happy accidents where things you think are going shitty really just turned out awesome.

AC: It was a long production, but we didn't have an accident that wound up destroying anything.

PG: Except for my shoulder.

JA: Oh my god. We almost killed Bloodsucka Jones.

If a tree falls in the woods, does Bloodsucka Jones make a sound?

PG: On the last day of shooting, someone had this awesome idea to pick up a tree that had fallen the night before from a storm and then have a vampire kick it over, so we all get up...

AC: And it's way bigger than we thought.

PG: I forget who the first person it was to let go....

AC: Oh, that'd be me because I saw it falling.

PG: It started turning in our hands, and Andy let's go, and somebody else let's go, and it's about to fall on this kid. Somehow, [the tree] caught me in the shoulder and hit me in the ear.

AC: Oh, it was bad. He still has a scar to this day.

JA: It was my idea and I felt so bad.

AC: I felt bad but I couldn't stop laughing all day.

JA: That being said, it would have been so awesome if it worked.

HITH: Did you have any other accidents?

JA: Yeah, if you look at credits it says, "Most Injuries Incurred: Travis Woods." When we get in the house where the girls are pillow fighting, basically when we're running around the corner and he jumps up to grab that pole but he falls down, he cracked three of his ribs.

Pillow Fights Can Be Murder!
AC: You can actually hear him go, "Ooooooh!"

JA: That was early in his shoot. Then when we had him doing his little pick up lines, we have girls throwing books at him, we have him rolling down hills, and so basically we just re-injured him throughout the movie.

HITH: Four years of production. Killer trees. Cracked ribs. You must have had quite the dedicated cast and crew.

JA: The cast and crew ended up at 150 plus people. I hope we gave them all credit. Everybody says [Bloodsucka Jones] is the favorite thing they've worked on, and they've all worked on an insane amount of stuff.

AC: Our cast was awesome. They stuck with us. We just did ADR...

JA: And we had people we hadn't seen in two years...

AC: They showed up without an argument. They've completely stuck with us the whole time.

HITH: Is it fair to say the making of Bloodsucka Jones became a community atmosphere amongst all the actors?

AC: Matt Kelly, who plays Stuart, basically calls us all family.

The Future: Bloodsucka Jones 4000?

HITH: What's next for Bloodsucka Jones? What do you hope or the future?

JA: If it just gets respect and people like it and it becomes a cult thing, hopefully it builds and doesn't lose steam. We don't want to sell it outright and never be able to make another one again.

HITH: Sequels?

 JA: We want to do four.

AC: Me and Matt talk all the time and our goal is pretty much to have it on that [Evil Dead cult] level. I'd love to do it for a living, don't get me wrong. It'd be nice to make money doing it, but I'm not counting on it. I want people to love it. I want a cult following out of it. But the fourth one has to be in space. It has to be called Bloodsucka Jones 4000.

HITH: Any final thoughts about indie film-making and the trials and tribulations therein?

PG: That which doesn't kill you makes you awesome.

BLOODSUCKA JONES has its World Premiere tonight! Come see the bad ass mofo in the killer fro make his big screen debut right here in Hamilton.

Friday, February 15th.
Preshow: 7pm / Movie: 8pm
27 Dundurn Street North
Hamilton, Ontario L8R 3C9

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