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Meet the 2011 Sundance Filmmakers | “Bellflower” Director Evan Glodell

Meet the 2011 Sundance Filmmakers | "Bellflower" Director Evan Glodell

An apocalyptic love story for the Mad Max generation, Evan Glodell impressive feature debut paints a classic, yet urgently contemporary, tale of the destructive power of love.

“Bellflower” follows two friends who spend their time building flamethrowers and other weapons in the hope that a global apocalypse will occur and clear the runway for their imaginary gang, Mother Medusa, to reign supreme. While waiting for the destruction to commence, one of them meets a charismatic young woman and falls in love–hard. Quickly integrating into a new group of friends, the pair set off on a journey of betrayal, love, hate, and extreme violence more devastating than any of their apocalyptic fantasies.

With highly stylized photography and editing, “Bellflower” is an exhilarating, character-driven joyride. Fueling this narrative with fantastic imagery and extraordinary performances, writer/director/actor Glodell elevates the ordinary experiences of friendship and romance into the stuff of legend. [Description courtesy of Sundance Institute.]

[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the Sundance U.S. Dramatic & Documentary Competitions as well as the World Dramatic & Documentary Competitions and NEXT section to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. To prompt the discussion, iW asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]

Director: Evan Glodell
Screenwriter: Evan Glodell
Cast: Evan Glodell, Jessie Wiseman, Tyler Dawson, Rebekah Brandes
Executive Producer: Brian Thomas Evans, Josh Kelling
Producer: Vincent Grashaw, Evan Glodell
Cinematographer: Joel Hodge
Editor: Evan Glodell, Joel Hodge, Jonathan Keevil, Vincent Grashaw
Coproducers: Paul Edwardson,Leonard Powell,Chelsea St. John, Jonathan Keevil, Jet Kauffman

Responses courtesy of “Bellflower” director Evan Glodell.

Going from “strange person” to filmmaker and off to Hollywood…

I’ve had it in my head since I was a kid that I would grow up to be an engineer. People saw me building a lot of weird contraptions and fixing things and told me that’s what I should do. On the other hand I always had these intense emotional images and ideas in my head and desperately wished I had a way to get them out. I was identified early on as a strange person, but for some reason had never been introduced to the arts and felt like I slipped through some cracks in the system. It wasn’t until I was in college for engineering that I suddenly realized I had no place there. It hit me that I could build these images and ideas in the real world and capture them with a camera, something that had never occurred to me before that moment. That night I told my one friend at school that I was going to Hollywood to become a filmmaker, packed my stuff up and left. There was obviously a huge journey between then and now, but that’s how it started.

Making lemonade…

I had my heart broken really badly when I was 23 and my whole world sort of collapsed. I didn’t know how to deal with it so I locked myself in my room and wrote the first version of the movie. I decided I was going to make that movie my first feature film. While I was preparing to make the film on a camcorder with the help of my brother, life happened. I was handed a good job, things were fairly uneventful and I stopped making short films and started doing work for hire. The script got put away for a couple years. I pretended that everything was okay, but eventually I had a second collapse. I realized I wasn’t pursuing my dreams and that things were gonna get ugly if I didn’t get back on track.

So I got the script out and started working on it again. I got it stuck in my head that I had made a major mistake by forgetting about the movie and I was gonna die if I didn’t go back to where I fell off the path. So now I had this crazy movie written by some pissed-off heartbroken kid that I didn’t even know anymore. I still thought it was important, so I tried to rewrite the script with the same ideas only now not about some victim who had his heart ripped out by a girl, but a story about life and mistakes and forgiveness that is hopefully much deeper. This process went on well after the initial shoot, I spent two and a half years obsessing over the movie, re-editing and re-shooting shots to try to get the story and idea to come across the way it should.

Forget about the money, let’s make the movie…

I had been collecting things for the movie for years. From building the various versions of the flamethrowers and the custom cars that we needed, to meeting actors that I thought were perfect for the main roles, to building the cameras that we used to shoot the film.

I had tried with absolutely no success to raise money to make it possible to make the movie. I finally realized that it wouldn’t be handed to me so I called everyone I had been talking to about making the movie over the years and was like, “We will never be ready to go into production, we will never have everything organized and all our locations locked down. It’s just too big, and we will never have the money we need. Let’s just shoot it, we have the cameras and a microphone, and I don’t care if the entire movie takes place in our various friends’ apartments. Lets just do it. Who’s in?” All these people I had been meeting and talking to about the movie had become my closest friends over the years and they said yes. And we struggled through at all cost and just made it happen.

…and overcoming fear

I think my biggest challenge was my own fear. I had been obsessing about this film for so long and it was my first feature length project. In my mind it had to be perfect and that can make it very difficult to start. On another level, there was the entire style of the film and some of the choices I had made about how the story was going to be told. After I recovered somewhat from my heartbreak one of my friends went through something similar in their lives. I could tell it was devastating, but to just look at them it didn’t look that exciting – it just looked like a sad person who had their life and energy drained out of them.

But to be them while that was happening was quite the exciting thing. Emotional pain is much harder to deal with than physical pain, it can be literally like a living hell(as I’m sure most people know). I wanted to find a way to tell the story in the script in a way that could actually illustrate what it’s like to go through something like that. That meant dealing with some extremely dark and risky ideas. Some of the scenes might have been fairly easy to write alone in my room, but if I left them in the script one day I was going to be on set with a bunch of people making the scene reality and having the actors act these things out. I definitely spent many sleepless nights wondering if I was doing the right thing, if I had gone too far with some of the scenes and what people were going to think of me. I guess I will find out now.

Creating a fireball in the sky…

Shooting the scene where me and Tyler first test the flamethrower. The one we used in the movie was actually the third one we built. They all worked, but we kept wanting it to be bigger and shoot further. So in the last minute before shooting that scene, I switched it to run off of diesel fuel and CO2 instead of propane and gasoline. The flamethrower was an object of fear for all of us throughout the shoot, but once the cameras roll and everybody is excited you always go a little bigger. I unloaded the whole CO2 tank into the fuel chamber and it went well above 200PSI, much higher than we had ever been brave enough to try. So in that scene the fear and surprise is real when it poured out like 2 gallons of diesel in about a quarter of a second and made a huge mushroom cloud. And the second shot we did as it was getting dark, when we really opened it up and made that epic fireball in the sky, one of the most surreal moments for me cause i was standing right next to it and it was so unbelievably huge – I was in complete awe.

It is a very personal film, that has had a lot of work and love poured into by many people for years. I have tried my absolute best against all my own fears to tell truthfully a very private and intense story.

Some inspirations…

I watched the documentary about the making of “Apocalypse Now” when I was about a year and a half into editing and it made me cry. Watching all these people obsess over this project and not really know why – just knowing it was the most important thing in the world to them. I know it’s silly to compare the epic making of “Apocalypse Now” with the making of “Bellflower,” but I was at a particularly low point when I watched it and it made me feel like I wasn’t insane. It helped me start the final push to finish the movie.

Oh, and of course “The Mad Max” movies. Also the character Fender from the movie “Cyborg” who I think would enjoy battling Lord Humungus.

And what’s next…

I have been working on a series of scripts tentatively titled “Tales from the Apocalypse.”

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