|Insdie THE BLEEDING HOUSE with Writer/Director/Editor Philip Gelatt.|
|Written by jmauceri|
|Wednesday, 20 April 2011 00:00|
THE BLEEDING HOUSE is a terrifying portrait of how the sins of one can stain the entire family by . Philip was born and raised in Wisconsin, where he misspent his youth in front of videogames and fantasy novels. He attended NYU where he earned his undergraduate degree in Cinema Studies and Anthropology. His career began writing for both Oni Press and Dark Horse comics. For Dark Horse he worked on INDIANA JONES ADVENTURES and for Oni he has written a number of original graphic novels, LABOR DAYS volumes 1 & 2 and the forthcoming PETROGRAD. He is currently writing an original screenplay for Kevin Misher Productions.
THE BLEEDING HOUSE, Philips’s directorial debut, is having its world premier on April 22nd, 2001, at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.
FEARS: You come from a comic/graphic novel background. I was wondering what your initial inspiration was for the screenplay, THE BLEEDING HOUSE? Also, what was the process like for you crafting the screenplay?
Philip Gelatt: I guess I'll answer the first question first. I wrote comics for about a year before I wrote the script that would become THE BLEEDING HOUSE. I come from a film background. I went to film school and my first jobs were in film, at a desk job. I kind of got into comics because I thought it would be a lot easier then collaborating with a lot of people.
This was always a story that I thought should be a movie. Having never written a screenplay, I wrote THE BLEEDING HOUSE as something that would be easily producible. I tried to keep the setting small and contained, and not a lot of characters. I was thinking to myself that those things would make it easier to produce as a movie. In terms of writing the screenplay, it really wasn't that hard. Some of my earlier jobs were actually reading scripts so I was more familiar with a screenplay format then I was with comic book formats. That being said, there is quite a difference in writing for comics and writing for film. In comics you have to write in static moments. You have to write from panel to panel and each panel can only have one action. When you're writing a movie it's a little bit more of a free-flowing format. It's almost like writing in past tense when you're writing for a comic and writing in present tense when you're writing for movies.
FEARS: I think THE BLEEDING HOUSE is more of a traditional, classic style of horror film. What is your take on the genre and how were you looking to balance tone and effects in this film?
Philip Gelatt: I'm a big horror fan in general, but I'm not a huge fan of all types of horror. I love the genre but I'm picky horror fan. In writing the script and subsequently making the movie, I wanted it to feel more atmospheric than out right gory. I think the script was actually gorier than the film ended up being, and that was due to budgetary and other reasons. I wanted it to be a movie that felt unsettling all the way through and then spike into moments of shock, surprise, and tension. It's not a “Texas Chainsaw,” it's more of a… I really don't know what I can compare it to. It doesn't have the manic energy that you find in “Texas Chainsaw” or more of the really intense horror movies. THE BLEEDING HOUSE has more of a stayed pace.
FEARS: I think the film has the feel of a stage production in the tradition of the Grand Guignol. The location and the elaborate bloodletting act are what call that to mind. Was that something you were thinking about?
Philip Gelatt: It was, definitely. I don't think I was conscious of it as I was writing the movie, but it is something I was aware of and I think ended up in the screenplay. It's funny because a lot of things like that happened with the script. The killer in the movie, his name is Nick, actually came from a song by Nick Cave. I didn't realize I had named him because of that. Later on I realized that I sort of had borrowed this idea from a song off of one of Nick Cave's albums. It's interesting to look at one's own work and not realize the lines of influence that goes into it. It sort of happens to me all the time. It makes me nervous because I don't want to unintentionally steal something and then get accused of stealing it. It's always a worry and I try to be conscious of things. These types of things just pop-up from some random stew of subconscious influences.
FEARS: I'm glad you mentioned Nick. The character, played by actor Patrick Breen, as well as Gloria, played by actress Alexandra Chando, is the real linchpins to this story. Was it hard to cast these roles, and what was it about each of these actors that made you feel they will correct for the characters?
Philip Gelatt: It wasn't terribly hard to cast them, but Gloria was harder to cast then Nick.
In the screenplay Gloria doesn't speak much, and she speaks even less in the finished movie. The audition process for her was weird. She actually has only one scene in the film where she is engaging in any kind of dialogue. So I knew that I needed an actress that had a face that would hold the audience even when she wasn't speaking. I needed an actress who could emote without speaking, and emote in a specific way. Alex came in, she read, and there was still another whole room of women waiting to read. I felt that Alex did a good job with the lines, but there was something about her physically that just wasn't right for me. We had a lot of discussions whether we were going to call her back in and have her do another reading. Again, there really wasn't anything else for her to read. So I decided to take her out for coffee to discuss the role with her and see what she was like as a person. I was trying to get a vibe of who she is in a regular life. That's not to say that she's like Gloria in her regular life, but she showed me something in that meeting that made me believe she could definitely do it.
In terms of Nick, it was not really tricky. I had been aware of Patrick Breen for a while. He was one of the names on the long list of actors that we were thinking about for the role. We didn't even actually audition Patrick, we offered it to him and he was interested. I got on the phone with him and had the same kind of discussion with him that I had had with Alexandra about the character and got a feel for him as a person, as well as an actor. We seem to have had very similar ideas about the character. That was kind of it for Nick. It was definitely much harder for Gloria and the Nick process was simple.
FEARS: The two key components of horror films are the balance between special effects and score. As the screenplay didn't really call for elaborate or gory special effects, that meant that the score was even that much more important in setting the tone and mood for your film. I was curious how you met your composer, Hildur Gudnadottir, as I'm not really familiar with her name?
Philip Gelatt: That's a bit of a complicated story. First, I didn't initially cut the film to music. This is my first movie, I never cut a movie before, and wasn't really sure how to do it. Everyone kept telling me that I should cut to music. I resisted that because I really wanted to get the movie to work as well as it could without the music, and then put the music on it to emphasize what we shot instead of using the music as a crutch. We had a cut of the movie that had absolutely no music and the time came to add temp music. I added a vast array of temp music into the film. I used everything from atmospheric music to doom metal, and then I tried more synthesized music from films like the original “Hellraiser.” My wife had given me Hildur's first album, which is very stark cello music. I took some of her music from that first album and putt it behind some of the scenes. I thought it was working well and making the film work in ways that I wasn't really expecting. I asked my producer to watch the cut of the movie I had with Hildur's music in it. The producer liked it as well. We went back and forth about trying to get a composer who could replicate the kind of mood of Hildur's music. Eventually my producer turned to me and suggested we just contact Hildur to see if she was interested in scoring the film. We did and she told us she would love to. I was a little shocked. After she agreed she began composing. I went to Berlin, which is where she lives. I sat with her and we worked on it together for a while. She was really fantastic to work with. It's funny, she's a very happy Elvin, Icelandic person and her apartment is covered in books on transcendental meditation, a big David Lynch TM person, but she loves horror movies. She loves to watch them and watch people get murdered on-screen. She was really excited to score our film and I think she really brings the atmosphere I wanted out of the movie. It's nice to have a movie without any music on it, show it to someone, and have them understand it in a way that you were hoping they would. See absolutely emphasized it and made it better than it had been, she brought that all to the table. I really recommend her albums, they're magnificent.
FEARS: This is your directorial debut and it is premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, what do you feel this does in terms of validating your career as a filmmaker?
Philip Gelatt: It is massively validating. I kind of still can't believe that we're in the Festival, I'm still pinching myself. Honestly, I never intended to be a director. I think I'm more suited personality wise for writing. However, having directed this one time I really loved it. It's incredibly nerve-racking to finish the film, especially your first film, a not know what's going to become of it. To have it have found a home with Tribeca is fantastic.
FEARS: I wanted to talk about another component of this year's Tribeca film Festival, video-on-demand. THE BLEEDING HOUSE will be available on-demand during the festival. What is your take on it as a filmmaker, is it a positive or negative? Are you a purist who believes his film needs to be seen on a big screen?
Philip Gelatt: I would love to be a purist. For myself, I know when I'm sitting in my living room it's not an all-consuming experience. I try to make it one but the movie doesn't overwhelm me the way it does in the theater. I think in my heart of hearts I'm also a realist, so I'm actually excited about video-on-demand. Especially, in terms as a way to let smaller films where it's just not feasible to get a wide release. To get them in front of people is fantastic. It makes me a little bit sad because I believe the theater experience is a pure filmic experience, but on an economic level I think it's really positive.
FEARS: Having now directed your first film where do you see your career going from here?
Philip Gelatt: I don't know. It keeps me awake at night. I love writing but I would love to direct again. When you talk about genre movies – like horror, thriller, sci-fi – those are really all that I honestly love. I want to keep working in genres. I would honestly love another shot to make another movie because I learned so much in this process. I'm dying to take this enormous list of things that I've learned directing my first movie and apply it to a new property.
Right now I have a new comic coming out this summer and I'm working on trying to promote that to make sure it does well. I'm also finishing up some script work for hire that I've been doing. Then maybe I can think about another script in terms of produce-ability for a second time director and getting that done.
The Tribeca Film Guide Site - The Bleeding House
Official Film Website - The Bleeding House