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The Mad Scientist: How The Visionary ‘Bellflower’ Director is Risking All At Cannes After Six Years of Hollywood Battles

Back in 2011, Evan Glodell's first feature "Bellflower" was an indie sensation. Then he tried to make his second movie.

Chuck Hank and the San Diego Twins

“Chuck Hank and the San Diego Twins”

Film Number 3: “Canary”

Meanwhile, Glodell was trying to make his own film, “Canary.” He describes it as a sister project to “Bellflower,” although that wasn’t his original intent.

“Bellflower” is the story of two chums (Glodell and Tyler Dawson) who tinker with muscle cars. One falls for a young woman; when things don’t work out, he takes it really, really hard. It’s a spectacular action movie as well as an intimate romance.

“Canary” is set inside a relationship. He began more than five years ago, shooting around the house with his girlfriend, actress Olivia Taylor Dudley (“Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension”) and editing the scenes together.

Then he shot some more. And some more. Since he and Olivia lived together, they could call Hodge to shoot whenever they felt like it.

“‘Bellflower’ is a simple story about someone learning how to forgive somebody and take responsibility for themselves,” he said. “In a way, you take that simple story and you make it bigger because that’s what makes it powerful and exciting in a movie. This movie ‘Canary’ has weirdly become the other half of ‘Bellflower.’ It’s not a sequel, but they are two sides of the same coin. Like whatever started with ‘Bellflower’ is finished in ‘Canary,’ and I didn’t want to do that. I fought against it really hard.”

READ MORE: Different Roads Out of Sundance: ‘Bellflower’ Team, Brit Marling and Benh Zeitlin

Eventually, they shot an entire movie. And eventually, 18 months ago, Glodell and Dudley broke off their five-year relationship. That became part of the movie, too. They are still friends.

Dudley wrote in an email:

As humans we fall madly in love with another person and then poof, something’s wrong and it’s gone, and you’re left to deal with the mess inside your head. Through this journey we got to go through that mess together. It’s about a relationship between two people that’s no longer working. They decide to dive deep into why and how relationships end. It’s been an intense journey into the deepest darkest parts of relationship. It’s an ever-changing beast of a movie that has made Evan and I confront all our demons and learn how to truly be honest with ourselves. We spent years shooting and reshooting scenes and as we grew in our lives the characters in the movie would change and evolve. We have put our blood sweat and tears into this project just to get to the root of why people behave the way they do.

Some time before the breakup, Glodell saw in a flash what the movie was actually about. He threw the film in a drawer, locked himself up for three weeks, and wrote a new script from scratch. When he emerged, he cross-checked the script against the film and saw he had part of a movie that he could use, some footage he’d have to dump, and a 119-page script that he could use to raise money to shoot the rest. In “Canary,” two lovers discover a machine that manipulates emotions hidden in their home. They begin modifying it and become addicted — ultimately upsetting the balance of nature and opening a passageway to hell.

CAA sent him on another round of meetings to pitch his “horror film about love.” Everyone passed, he said, all the usual suspects. A few sat down and asked him what he had in mind; some looked at footage. But most didn’t get that far.

“All of the most respectable production companies in town were interested in working with me,” he said. “And I worked my way through all of them. Everyone, when I showed them my materials for the projects I was working on, said they don’t understand what this is or how this is a movie. I’ve experienced more rejection.”

Of course, this is normal conduct in Hollywood. “It has not been easy for me to understand,” he said, “because it’s not the way decent human beings conduct themselves; it’s an accepted way things are done here. People talk to you all day, take you out to dinner a million times, you give them your project, and if they don’t like it and it’s not for them — psst — they just disappear. For me, going through that feels inhuman.”

Part of the problem is that Glodell doesn’t operate within established genre norms, nor does he know how to do a pitch meeting. “‘Bellflower’ was not definable within any genre or style,” he said. “The structure I learned from all those years. Until the thing is done, they don’t understand how it’s a story, is the feedback I’m getting.”

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