Tuesday, August 26, 2014

SPRING: Director Profile + 5 Questions for Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead

Spring receives its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival's Vanguard programme, but why exactly should you care? Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, that's why!

Fresh ta def!
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead met as lowly interns at Ridley Scott's production company and almost immediately became friends and creative collaborators. Although Aaron went to FSU's film school and Justin went to UCLA, they discovered that they had a lot in common and enjoyed working together. Aaron is a director/DP and Justin is a writer/director, but there is a lot more symbiosis in their collaborative efforts than those titles might indicate.

Their first feature, Resolution (2013), has attained the unique honor of a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but if you've seen it, you'll know it's completely deserved. Resolution, which is perhaps the ultimate found footage movie, begins when Mike travels to a ramshackle cabin in the SoCal woods to stage an intervention for his meth-addicted friend Chris, but soon turns into a wholly different beast. It's hilarious, bizarre, and genuinely scary, and one of the most original movies to skirt the edges of the horror genre in quite some time. This is partly because Benson and Moorhead believe in prominent character drama over genre restrictions and partly because they're just that talented.

Benson and Moorhead aren't just interested in horror movies as their taste in film varies wildly from Danny Boyle, Alfonso Cuaron, Richard Linklater, Amy Seimetz, and Ben Wheatley to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Jurassic Park, and Star Wars to recent genre fare like Citadel and American Mary. They're also exceedingly witty (as you can tell from their interviews and Twitter accounts).

We put forth five questions for them to answer and here's what they said.

Can you hand me a towel?
1. Can we expect the same kind of genre bending in Spring that we got in Resolution?

Aaron: Spring won't be nearly so hard to define as our last: it's a mystery with romance (instead of Resolution's bromance), and this time we show a lot more of the visceral imagery than we imply. You can expect the film to deliver the same things Resolution did, but on a significantly larger scale. And at its core, preemptively recognizing the pitfall of sounding like every director on the planet, character always always always comes first.

Justin: Tough one because I'm not sure if our movies are "genre-bending", we've certainly never consciously "genre-bended" anyway. Comparing ourselves to Spielberg here ONLY in terms of ingredients, you could argue Resolution and Spring use roughly the same proportions of character drama, levity and visceral thrills as Jaws, but most people simply call Jaws a horror movie. At least when I was little that was the section of the rental store it was in.

2. What's the funniest and/or craziest thing that happened to you when you were filming in Italy?

Justin: When everyone was thinking we'd be rained out and put two days behind schedule, a "man of the sea" went to the top of a building at some Roman ruins being used for our climactic end scene. He took one wise look at the sky, and told us precisely the rain would stop in 30 minutes. He was exactly correct. The Old World, right?

Aaron: Our practical makeup FX was done by MastersFX in LA, and they created all the molds out here in California. But when it came time to ship them, Italian customs agents held them from us for DAYS for further inspection. Meanwhile, we needed them desperately to shoot. They let one box (of four) through...it had a fake headless cat in it. THAT was the one they were cool with. I don't even want to know what our Italian producer Luca had to do to get the rest of the boxes on time--and we got them hours before we needed them to shoot. Luca looked... tired.

3. I know you're huge movie nerds so what are some recent movies that you loved and why?

Aaron: Don't put me on the spot like this, dammit. Very recently I re-re-re-rewatched Perfume: Story of a Murderer, Children of Men, and The Assassination of Jesse James (all with rich, monumentally mythic storytelling matched by cinematography that will never be topped). I also just finished my first run at Twin Peaks, which frankly couldn't be more different from those and still perfect in its own right, how plot matters so little when the characters and surreal flourishes keep you perpetually entranced. And then the little film that could, Short Term 12, reminds me that minimalist indie films don't all say the same thing, they can really hit as hard as the big ones.

Justin: I'm gonna be punk rock and say TV shows here. True Detective, Breaking Bad, Rectify... shit... those actually aren't punk rock at all are they? I'm going to make Aaron watch the director's cut of Almost Famous with me and report back.

4. When are you going to do the film adaptation of Preacher?

Justin: How do you know we haven't already? We have a T2i, David Lawson, our computers are pretty good, and Aaron found Seth Rogen's address.

Aaron: ...
Just waiting for the Celestial Messiah to land his vessel.
5. What's next after Spring?

Justin: I'm taking a break from the third draft of a rad movie about Aleister Crowley to do this interview. So, probably that, or whatever ceremonial magick curse via the wrath of Egyptian Gods is beget for writing that script... Maybe just play Mortal Kombat X for the next six months? Make one of the other few feature scripts we have chillin' in the ol' top drawer? Make the TV show that we wrote over the last few months that's a coming of age story about a kid growing up in San Diego seeking a mysterious supernatural McGuffin? Wanna democratize this and vote on it fools?

Aaron: And while we're on the film festival circuit this year we have this insane plan to make a scrappy feature that is about the UFO cult members from Resolution (us) traveling the world, "seeking ascension" through debauchery and learning life lessons. You think I'm joking. I'm not. If you want to be in it, just ask.

Justin: We'll buy a whiskey for anyone who adds Untitled UFO Cult Comedy to our IMDB pages.

Sign me up for the UFO cult member movie! You think I'm joking. I'm not In the meantime, here are the screenings for Spring.

SPRING screening times:
Fri., Sept 5th, 6:00 PM, BLOOR HOT DOCS CINEMA
Sun., Sept 7th 7:00 PM, SCOTIABANK 4
Sat., Sept 13th, 3:15 PM, SCOTIABANK 3

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