Any time that I hear a director or an actor or pretty much anyone being described as “having potential”, it almost seems like a really sneaky insult. I’m sure most people take the idea of having potential as a compliment, but I hear it as “that thing you didn’t wasn’t completely awful, but I’m sure you’ll make something better in the future”. With his first feature film “Bellflower”, writer/director/actor Evan Glodell has been described by a few critics as “having potential”. I say “fuck you” to those people. Not because I think they are wrong, but because he has already capitalized on that “potential” in his debut film. It was through multiple mentions of the movie on the podcast “Doug Loves Movies” that drove me to check out Bellflower, and you can read my review for it here. After watching that movie, I can understand where these critics were coming from by saying they’d be on the lookout for what comes from Mr. Glodell next, because I know I will be. To label him as a filmmaker “with potential” doesn’t give him nearly enough credit, because even if he never makes another movie after Bellflower, he’s already turned that potential talent into realized, kinetic talent.
WolfMan: Considering that the character of “Aiden” is based on a real friend of yours, and considering your personal background of building flamethrowers, clearly there were a lot of personal experiences that you put into Bellflower. I read that the first draft you wrote was a very angry script, and you set it aside for a few years before rewriting it. Without going into explicit detail, how much of the relationship between Woodrow and Milly and the movie as a whole do you consider biographical? Was it difficult, as an actor or a director, to recreate scenes from personal experiences?
Evan Glodell: Oh, wow. That’s a tricky one. I guess I’d have to really look at the movie to answer 100 percent accurately, if you’re looking at emotionally, it’s autobiographical, 100 percent. As far as the events and the way things played out…each event in the movie I could tie to an event that was significant in a relationship, but they’re not the same. As far as the actual events, they’re obviously all fabricated or maybe a little bit taken from here or there with relationships in my life or relationships I’ve seen friends go through.
WM: I guess the bigger question was how autobiographical the movie was, but it sounded like you kind of answered that question, in that it was based on emotional experience, and the specific course of events weren’t really grounded in reality.
EG: Exactly. Off of my head, I remember one of my first girlfriends in high school, when we met, we got so wrapped up in how exciting it was that we disappeared on a road trip for two weeks. It was unplanned and we were only 16 years old and we were so oblivious because we were having so much fun that we didn’t think to call our parents. When I got back, I saw my friends before I saw my mom, and everybody was like “Where the fuck have you been? The police have been here and everybody’s looking for you.” When I think of the roadtrip (in Bellflower), I think about that time period. There’s probably some connection like that with everything, especially in the first half of the movie.
WM: I’ve tried recommending the movie to a lot of people but I have a hard time describing what it’s about. The closest I’ve come is from a poster I saw using some sort of tagline like “John Hughes plus Mad Max plus Fight Club”, which I felt was somewhat accurate with some scenes in the movie. While you were writing the movie, were you intentionally trying to surprise the audience by delving into all these different thematic elements?
EG: As far as the specific references…when I saw that quote, I had to look up who John Hughes was. I should know who he is and I’ve seen his movies before. For the story, I realized that the experiences I had and the idea that got me excited was how extremely intense a breakup can be, especially when you’re younger and you don’t really understand how things work. I realized the only way to show that was…well, there’s been lots of movies that show the intricacies of how things play out in reality, but that’s not really what it feels like when you’re the person going through it. It feels much more extreme. Using that idea of the two halves of the movies, the first half to really build the relationships and the world and the characters and let people settle into it, and pray that when it switched into a very different style that people would go with it, and that was the hope. That the people who did go with it, it would be more of an experience than just watching the relationship play out in a breakup.
WM: Going along with the genre constraints that you broke, did anyone ever try to tell you your movie was too ambitious? Obviously there wasn’t a large studio behind the movie to interfere with what you were trying to do, but when you were trying to sell the movie did people ask for more of “this” or less of “that”? How would you describe your movie to people?
EG: That’s definitely the thing I’ve been the worst at. I remember, before we started shooting, I’d try to explain the movie and the only way I could do it was play-by-play and then I quickly realized it was kind of pointless. It never got much better afterwards. It’s funny, one of the things I was most excited about was when this movie got the funding and people were gonna see it, I thought, “Someone else is going to write a synopsis for the movie that’s going to make sense, someone who’s good at that.” The synopsis that ended up getting used, the main one, was one that I wrote and I hated. I wrote it just because I needed one at some point, and apparently no one ever came up with a better one. For me, I don’t know how I would pitch the movie to get someone to watch it. To me, what it’s about is the experience of going through a relationship and a break-up, and something to do with friendship as well…which is pretty vague (laughs).
WM: I do the same thing, where I say, “There’s a relationship and things go bad and he goes cra–” and then I realize I’m saying far too much because I’m trying to sell it. It’s hard to believe that’s an actual movie and a movie that’s being recommended to other people.
EG: Yeah, you’re saying that’s good. I know a lot of us were worried, at first, that the car and the flamethrower being pushed so much, if that was misleading. But so many times, someone sees the movie and they like it and they want to tell their friends, and they don’t want to describe the movie as “there’s a relationship or there’s a this or that…” because it all sounds lame, but instead “there’s a cool car”. I guess in the end, that was how the people watching it chose to represent it.
WM: At one point in the movie, my girlfriend started shouting “This is why! This is why!”, and I had no goddamned idea what she was talking about, and then when we got to the credits, I realized she was talking about the band “Why”. Considering what the budget was for the movie, how difficult was it for you to put the soundtrack together and what was that process like?
EG: That was the most difficult part…aside from just the making of the movie, once we had actually made the movie, none of us had ever made one before so we didn’t know about all the legal stuff so we were just making it and we put in music that we thought fit and we were going to figure out the next step when we got there. After the movie got to Sundance and we started getting help from some people to get ready to bring it to Sundance, the music thing came up, they said there were people saying there was no way in Hell we were going to get all that music. It was the better part of, how long was it…well, it’s still going on right now. I think we have three music licenses that are still coming in, but we have the agreements, we didn’t release the movie without getting the “OK”. It ended up being a very long, intense process, because our choice was either to go through and remove most of the music and just put in stuff we didn’t really want, or just make stuff from scratch, which would also end up not being as good as what was int here. We decided to go on the journey of contacting every band and sending out packages to people and begging them with “This is our budget, we can do this, is there any way you could work with us?” That’s what took so long, and eventually almost everybody worked out…it was a long journey.
WM: One of the things I was most surprised by was reading about how many of the gags or the effects, like the flamethrower and Medusa, were all real. Obviously your engineering background was helpful with those things, but how much of the movie’s budget went right into Medusa? Was this movie just an excuse to build Medusa?
EG: I get asked that a lot, but it’s definitely quite the opposite. The script that I first wrote didn’t have a car or even a flamethrower. The flamethrower came pretty early on, but it was literally just relationships between people. The car and the flamethrower and all of that stuff came in over time of working on it as a way of telling the story better. I worked things in that I thought that we could figure out a way to make because we didn’t have any money. For example, the Medusa car cost more than the movie. We totaled up everything we had spent after three years and it was around $17,000 and more than $10,000 was just Medusa which…drove everybody insane. I was crazy adamant about, “No, the car has to be awesome! It’s going to help the movie! It’s what this needs!”, and we got through it.
WM: Without giving anything away, the end of the movie kind of blends fantasy with reality, and we’re not quite sure what happens to all the different characters. As the writer, do you personally know what happened to Woodrow and Aiden and Milly in the movie and chose not to show it, or did you end the story there because that was all you wanted to invest in these characters?
EG: The real answer to that question is that all of these people are heavily based on people I know, and obviously my character is very heavily based on me. In my mind, what happened to those characters, I know those people so I know where they are. The end of the movie was, I guess, the end of the particular story.
WM: You wrote, directed, and starred in your own movie, is this going to be a regular thing going forward, where you take on multiple responsibilities, or from here on out are you going to focus on just directing or trying to write more?
EG: Definitely going to be writing and directing. I’ve been writing something, which will be my next project. As far as acting…I have no idea. I kind of hope that it doesn’t work out that way, because it was so insanely stressful on Bellflower to do all that stuff and add more on top of it. I guess those answers will be found when I cast the next movie. I never had access to really good actors, it was kind of the luck of the draw of who you could come across or find through casting, but it was only people who were just starting out who’d reply to you. In a movie that you’re writing, even if it’s not supposed to be you, it feels like it’s you and you’re writing from your perspective. I’m hoping to find someone to play the lead in the next movie that I’m really excited about.