Your new movie Don't
Blink - in a few words, what is it about?
I think of it as a psychological horror film. It’s about how fear of
the unknown affects different people in different ways. How do people
react to something that they know is impossible? How do they handle that
kind of primal fear?
What were your inspirations for writing Don't
Blink, and how did the project get off the ground?
Ward [Zack Ward interview - click
here] put together the financing for the film. He’s the reason the film
exists. As for writing the film, I had the idea for years. I
wanted to write a horror film with no “villain”. The original
idea was for there to be no blood and no killing… but the characters had
ideas of their own as I was writing it, so the “no blood” thing flew
out the window.
Blink puts a rather original spin on the horror genre - care to
elaborate? And is horror a genre you're at all fond of in the first place,
and why (not)?
Zack Ward, Fiona Gubelmann
I love horror films, but I’m very rarely
scared by them. Generally, I feel let down when I find out the
“why” of what’s going on. It the “not knowing” that scares
me. When I saw Blair Witch Project, it was at a festival, and
the buzz was that the film was actually found footage. They
did a great job marketing it that way, in the very beginning (this was way
before it came out in theaters). When I saw it, it scared the hell
out of me, because in the back of my mind, a little part of me thought it
might be real. You’re never given a true explanation about
what’s happening in the film, and, as a result, the movie stuck with me.
Do talk about your directorial approach
to your story at hand!
My favorite director is Hitchcock,
so I’ve been particularly happy that a number of the reviews have
mentioned that it was shot in a “Hitchcockian” style. I tried to
use a bunch of high shots and slow tracking to give a sense of isolation
and dread. My directing background is theater, so I’m more of an
actor’s director than a film school guy. I enjoy trying to help an
actor get to the best performance possible.
What can you tell us about your
cast, and why exactly these people?
Brian Austin Green, Mena Suvari
I had a great cast.
Zack Ward [Zack Ward interview - click
here] was a standout, I think he gave one of his best performances ever in
the film. Joanne Kelly had the role the moment she walked in the
room. I actually wrote her ending monologue after she was cast,
because I wanted to give her more to sink her teeth into. I’m glad
I did, because she is phenomenal in that moment. She and Brian Austin
such a good job showing the effects of fear on them. Brian, by the
way, is not only a great actor, but one of the nicest and coolest guys
you’ll ever meet. Mena Suvari was having such a good time on set, she
stuck around a couple days after she wrapped. The whole cast was a
dream to work with. They trusted me, and I trusted them. That
makes all the difference in the world.
You just have to
talk about your location of a bit, and what were the advantages but maybe
also challenges of shooting there?
Ah yes, Ruidoso, New
Mexico. I have a love/hate relationship with our location. It
was perfect for the film, as it was remote and beautiful, but the weather
was unpredictable and it was very remote. I get a kick out of
some of the comments I’ve read on message boards, that the fact that the
characters had no cell signal wasn’t realistic… well, where we shot, we
had no cell signal. No internet either. It made some aspects
of the production more challenging, to say the least.
A few words about the
shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
It was great.
The cast gelled perfectly, and for a low budget film, the producers did a
great job making it seem like they had all the money in the world.
The cast and crew were very well taken care of. The biggest problem
was keeping animals out of the frame. In the movie, there are no
birds or insects. So if one little fly flew into frame, it was a
reshoot. We had a curious deer ruin a couple shots too.
What can you
tell us about audience and critical reception of your movie so far?
critical reaction has been wonderful. The general audience is split,
I think. The problem is the film doesn’t give you all the answers
in the end. Some people love that, some people absolutely hate it.
My favorite example is on Amazon, where a reviewer talks about how great
the acting, pace, tension and writing is, how the film is beautifully
shot, and how the film kept him on the edge of his seat all the way to the
end. He then gives it one star and says it is the worst film ever
made, because the ending made him angry. When I wrote Don't
some people to react that way. The only thing that bothers me is
when they say that it’s lazy writing, or that the writer obviously
didn’t know how to end the film. I know exactly what the
“secret” of the film is. If I told it to you, you would watch
the film and go, “Oh yeah, there’s clues all over the place.”
I wanted to end the film the way I did, because I wanted the journey to be
through the eyes of the protagonists. If they don’t figure it out,
then I don’t spell it out. Believe me, we went back and forth over
whether to add a scene at the end to explain everything. We even
scheduled additional shooting at one point to do just that. In the
end, however, we felt it was scarier the way it is. By the way,
there are just as many folks who love the way it ended as there are those
that hated it. If I ever do a sequel, I promise that an explanation
will be in there.
future projects you'd like to share?
I just went out with a
zombie comedy western called Dead Reckoning. Keep your fingers
What got you into
filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on
I was an actor since I was a kid. As I
got older, I transitioned more into writing. I owned Acme Comedy
Theatre in Los Angeles, and directed hundreds of shows there, (that’s
where I met Zack Ward, Robert Picardo, Lief Gantvoort and Curtiss Frisle).
When I sold Acme, my goal was to direct my first film, and I started
pre-production on Don't
six months later.
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to Don't
I’ve written films for almost every major
studio in town, but none of them have been made. That’s the weird
thing about being a professional writer; you can make a very good living
and have practically nothing to show for it. I sold 6 pilots in 3
years, but if they don’t make it to air, they don’t stay on IMDb and
no one knows you ever did them. I’ve been paid for six pilots and
five feature films, but if you were to look me up, it’s as if the only
thing I ever did was Don't
Blink. It’s a funny industry.
How would you describe yourself as a
I’m an actor’s director. That just
means I spend more time with the actor preparing for the scene than I do
setting up the shot.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
Spielberg, Fincher, Nolan, Cameron…
To Kill A Mockingbird, Shadow of A
Princess Bride, The Ring…
... and of course, films you really
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Anything with a budget over 100 million that still
manages to be boring.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
I’m on Twitter, @travis_oates, feel free to ask me
a question that I can answer in 140 characters! The movie is on
Twitter, @DontBlinkMovie, on Facebook it’s Dontblinkthemovie, and on
Instagram it’s Dontblinkmovie2014.
Anything else you are dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
I just want to thank everyone out
there that has paid attention to our little independent film. If you
liked it, go on Amazon and tell people. If you didn’t like the
film, feel free to complain. Remember, the name of the movie for you
haters is Annabelle.
Thanks for the interview!
you for asking!