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An Interview with Robert L. Brodmerkel, Director of In Fear of's Agoraphobia: Fear of Leaving the House

by Mike Haberfelner

August 2013

Films directed by Robert L. Brodmerkel on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your In Fear of-episode Agoraphobia: Fear of Leaving the House - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Agoraphobia is about a women named Emma (Anne Bobby [Anne Bobby interview - click here]). She has not left her home in over a year after she lost her family in a bad car accident. She was the only survivor, but almost didnít make it herself. She is in a lot of pain, addicted to all types of painkillers, and is running low on cash. She applies for disability benefits, but refuses to leave the house when asked to be evaluated by the Department of Social Services. So, they send a psychologist named Kendall Pike (Frank Vlastnik) to her home for evaluation. Emma also has a young man who helps her live. Dennis (Blaine Pennington) is her connection to the outside world, getting her food, cleaning her home, and most importantly getting her the meds she needs to survive. With someone new in her house, there is no telling what will happen.

... that is all I am going to say about it. HAHA! It is a rollercoaster ride of a story.

 

What were your inspirations when writing Agoraphobia, and to what extent can you relate to the fear of leaving the house? And any (other) pet phobias of yours you want to talk about?

 

There is one particular story I read in high school English class that inspired one of the ideas in the film. I would rather not reveal that title of the story as I am afraid it would give away the ending, same with one personal fear of my own ... however, Agoraphobia was kind of inspired by my mother, We always joked that my mother never liked to leave the house, which is not true, but at the time my sisters and I always took her car, so she never had any place to go. We always joked she never liked leaving the house unless she really had to. Now that she has a car of her own, she is never home. However unlike Emma in the film, my mom is not nuts. The element of adding in the prescription drug addiction is because I see it all the time, in both my personal and professional life. It an epidemic in the world, when I work out of my job at night and be approached by drug dealers in the parking lot that are strictly just selling prescription drugs out of a shopping bag for forty dollars a pill, you know there is a problem.

 

As far as personal phobias - I hate fucking clowns. As a kid my mother had my room decorated with clowns and for years both my parents wondered why I would never sleep in my room. Honestly I didnít sleep in my own room until I was about eleven years old and the clown statues were gone. Of course I didnít tell my parents this until I was 21 years old. They still talk about it to this day. It's funny when I look back at it now. I also have a fear of someone kidnapping my children, but what parent doesnít.

 

What can you tell us about the look and feel of your movie?

 

Think The Twilight Zone meets Hitchcock.

 

Do talk about your cast for a bit, and why exactly these people?

 

When I first wrote the script I told producer Scott W. Perry [Scott W. Perry interview - click here] that I wanted a local, small group of actors to fill the roles. It was my first time directing a film in over 12 years. Scott and I met at a local diner when I finished the first draft of the script. He read the script in front of me and his reaction was priceless. I remember him saying ďI want to direct this!Ē Of course I was like ďFuck no I amĒ. He loved it and approved the episode right there and then. Then he said we need to get a name to play Emma. We toyed around with different actresses in mind. I wrote the script with Anne Bobby in mind but at the time we had no clue how to get a hold of her. Finally Scott found her on Facebook and dropped her a line, five minutes later she got back to him, within the hour she had the script, and a few hours later she agreed in principal to do the film. Her response was fast, and she became a big part of the project. It was a dream come true for both Scott and I. Growing up as kids we were both very big Nightbreed fans. Speaking for myself I must have seen Nightbreed over sixty times when it was released on VHS back in the day. It is the film that spawned my passion for horror and reading horror novels. So having the opportunity to work with Anne was a dream come true. The greatest thing about Anne Bobby is that she is not only a wonderful actress but a great writer. She actually helped me with make Agoraphobia better with some ideas she bought to my attention. It is always good to have someone from the outside read your script and I incorporated a lot of input Anne has had into the second and third draft. She was very involved in the process of helping us getting things going. She even wrote another episode for the In Fear of-series which goes into production in October. She is an all around great actor also, on set she nailed everything in one or two takes. I loved working with her, because she is an actor that comes to set prepared, as a director the more prepared the actors are the easier your job is. Anne is just wonderful to work with, I cannot praise her performance enough.

 

Frank Vlastnik is a friend of Anne. During auditions Anne bought Frank in. At first he was not what I was looking for in the part of Kendall, but Anne insisted that he would work for the part. When he came in the audition room, his appearance right away got the gears in my head thinking. I was like ďOh my God, this guy is perfect" - I think I had him read the script straight through with Anne three times that day. His audition was about a half hour long. My mind was made up right there and then that he was playing Kendall. Frank is such a diverse actor; He is another guy who is a master of his craft and so much fun to work with. He is the all-American actor and just a great guy in general.

 

Blaine Pennington also auditioned for the role of Dennis, he was the second person that came in that day to audition for the role and he came in character. I was blown away by his performance, he nailed it. My mind was made up right there and then. We had a lot of other actors coming in to audition for the role, but my mind was made up. Blaine is like the Samual L. Jackson of independent filmmaking. He almost had to leave the project because of all the other films and television shows he has commitments too. I tried moving mountains to keep him; I did not want to recast the role. I got lucky that the other production he was working on, of which he has a major role, moved his call time to the evening. So he was able to come early and we got his scenes done first. Honestly I have never met any actor like him. Blaine is so incredibly talented, he was in character on set the whole time, and the fact that Dennis is a socially awkward ... Blaine was kind of creeping out some of my crew. He was awesome, just out of this world. When he was wrapped this whole other personally came out and he was this great friendly guy. He is a name everyone should be looking out for. Blaine is a true talent in his art.

 

I'm taking a wild guess here, but the fear of leaving the house suggests that you are pretty much limited to one location - so what can you tell us about yours, and what were the advantages and challenges regarding this?

 

When I write I always write with the purpose of knowing what locations I can get. I am a very budget minded screenwriter. I have worked on independent films in the past where the producers are up to their heads trying to secure locations that are hard to get without having a big budget. For example if you need a hotel room to shoot in, all the hotel manager hears is movie, and they think you have a million dollars to give them for the use of the room, so they charge you out the ass. I wrote Agoraphobia knowing that we were going to shoot the film in my house. The only real challenge was convincing my wife to take the kids and go somewhere for the day and all the cleaning and preparing that go along with using your own home. I have to give my wife a lot of credit for getting everything ready in the house.

 

What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

It was bit stressful at first - we had some technical issues to deal with and a dam helicopter was flying over my house for about Ĺ hour screwing up the sound; but once it was gone we managed to iron the technical issues out. The shoot went great. All the actors and crew had a good time, but we all worked our asses off. Like I mentioned above the actors were all wonderful in their roles. One concern I had was during a scene in which Anne has to freak out and scream over and over again. Most of my neighbors were warned, but one neighbor I did not have time to tell was having a small party down the road that afternoon. I was scared they were going to call the police or come running down to see what was going on. They didnít, I think they had the clue that we were filming. They know me as the horror guy on the block.

 

How did you get in touch with the In Fear of-project to begin with, and what can you tell us about your collaboration with the In Fear of-family?

 

Series creator Scott W. Perry [Scott W. Perry interview - click here] and I have been friends for close to ten years now. We talk on the phone almost every night like two washwomen. I knew about In Fear of before it was a reality. Having produced some films in the past Scott has always come to me for advice. During Season one however it was all Scott, I think maybe he called me twice to ask about something, but he produced the first season on his own, it is what helped him grow as a producer. He's all business now, in the second season and has really grown as a filmmaker since I met him all those years ago. Our friendship is what got me involved in the second season. Scott treated me like he treated all the other writers and directors that worked on the series, even the scripts and ideas he rejected. I want people to know that Scott even said to me before I wrote Agoraphobia that there were no guarantees he would approve the script for production. One thing about our friendship is that we both know when business is business and we have that mutual respect for one another as friends even when we might disagree. I am just glad that Scott liked the script so much. He went well above and beyond to get this episode made and to go and get me a talent like Anne Bobby, an actress that I grew up watching in one of my favorite horror films. He made a dream come true for me. I never had a friend do something like that for me before and I cannot thank him enough for doing what he did. He truly is a great friend and a great guy. His whole purpose for this series is to get a bunch of filmmakers and talent together to make a great series. No egos, no self-centered filmmakers, just a group of artists who believe in each other's work. When season two is all said and done there will be well over 100 people in the film and television industry that have worked on it. Thatís something we can all be proud of.

 

Any future projects beyond Agoraphobia?

 

Yeah! I have a few things in mind such as finishing up the short story that Agoraphobia is based on. After the shoot last night, I felt empty, with the episode in the can, and tired as shit from filming all day I decided to start writing another episode last night. I donít know what will become of it or if we will ever do a season three. That is all still up in the air. Right now really I just want to go on vacation with my family in a few weeks and then think about what I might want to do next.

 

What got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?

 

I went to college for two years and studied television, radio and film. I didnít have the money to continue my education beyond my two year degree, but was lucky enough to have had a friend that went to film school and brought me along for a few classes and showed me the rope and taught me a lot. I also learned a lot of hands-on just from working on all kinds of productions.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Agoraphobia?

 

I worked for a series of companies right out of college doing commercials, music videos and the likes. I also made a few short films with a friend of mine from college as well as some of my own. I worked on a big teen comedy feature in 2001 that was more of a leaning experience than anything. It went direct to DVD, but kind of went nowhere. After that I worked on some productions both big and low budget, but mostly stuck to helping people produce their indie horror films.

I also ran the successful long running horror movie site The Horror Review (www.horrorreview.com) for thirteen years. Yeah, I am or should I say was Horror Bob. I retired in January, but am thinking about just doing book reviews again. I enjoy reading more than watching movies. I think any horror fans that bitch about horror films not being original should go pick up a horror novel. And start reading. Iím not just talking about Stephen King novels. Iím talking the mid list and low list horror writers. There are a lot of great small press companies where you can find work from a lot of talented writers with original stories.

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

Well, I think I try to make everyone happy, especially my crew. I know I can be tough at times, especially when things get stressful. But stress comes with this job, especially on independent productions. All the attention and questions are aimed at you, and multitasking is something that you need to be good at.

With the actor I try to treat them the way their characters should be treated. Sometimes itís hard, especially if they are in character the whole time. You donít want to cross the line and offend anyone. On set for Agoraphobia I think I was nice to the cast, because some of them scared the shit out of me with their performances. Honestly I try to work with my actors; I take all criticism and ideas and try to work with it. I am also flexible with my script as a writer just as long as it does not change the story. If an actor wants to change a word or a line in the script because they think it sounds better, I am one to let them do so. I was lucky enough on Agoraphobia that both Anne and Frank also happen to be writers as well. I think it is great benefit to a director when your actors also write, because there is something that you might have missed that they can recommend can be better if you changed this word or that line. It is just another element that helps a cast and crew work together as a team. Teamwork is what makes a film good. I think that is what defines you as a director, it's being able to work with the good people you have around you.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

My favorite director of all time is Alfred Hitchcock. I am a lot like him but not as big as he was. I think what he did as a filmmaker and the method of fear he put into his films always worked for me. I also give credits to the likes of George Romero, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, John Carpenter, William Castle, James Whale, Tod Browning and Clive Barker.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Hitchcockís Rear Window is my favorite film of all time. There's something about that film that I just love. Horror film wise I like Romeroís Dawn of the Dead, John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness, Wes Cravenís The People under the Stairs, Clive Barker's Nightbreed, to name a few. I am also a big Star Wars fan and just about anything science fiction. When it comes to favorite movies It has always been a revolving door. Hitchcockís Rear Window has been on top for a while for me. I donít think that will ever change, but you never know.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

The Happening! That is one film I will never get. There are also a lot of direct-to-video films, and I mean a lot, that have wasted 90 minutes of my life over and over again on. I prefer not to waste more time writing about some of them. HAHA!

 

Your/your movie's/the series' webite, Facebook, whatever else?

 

http://www.facebook.com/infearof

http://www.facebook.com/horrorbob

 

Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

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I wanted to mention my crew, especially series producer and director of photography Steven-Mark Glassner [Steven-Mark Glassner interview - click here]. Steve helped me out a lot with shot choices and just putting all the technical stuff together. It is always good to have a great DP one that will work with you and not try to take over your set. Steveís whole philosophy is that the director should direct and leave all the technical stuff to the DP and his crew. He is a master of his craft and very particular. During one shot he was upset with the lighting and asked me to re-shoot the shot. Thank god we were already set up for the shot, and he tweaked the light a little bit more and the shot looked a hell of a lot better. I think he was also happy because I brought in cinematographer Lauren Slattery as an AC for Steve. I got her first gig working on a film I produced years ago. She was still in high school at the time. Now she has a master in film and knows more about film than I think all of us do. I always like bringing in a rookie on set, you can give them the opportunity to learn and also give them criticism and teach them, most of time you scare them right out of the industry or off set. I gave my wifeís cousin Chris Hansen that shot on Agoraphobia doing sound. It is always a good thing to help people trying to break into the industry and give them a shot. Rounding out my crew was actress Heather Drew, who is in Fear of Deformity and Fear of Being Bound and Tied. Heather was a great help-out on set doing all kinds of work for me. My brother-in-law Tim was a great craft services guy and cooked us a hell of a lunch, and last but not least I cannot forget make-up and special effects artist Lisa Forst ... talk about talent: With her skills she made the characters look just the way I envisioned them. She is name the make-up effects word should be keeping an eye on.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

Thank you for the interview Mike. This is the first one I have done in about six years.

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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