Howdy Horror fans. Being the generous and awesome person that I am, I wanted fellow fans of horror to check out a movie that I feel has a lot of potential. The Badger Game. And directors, Tom and Josh, were gracious enough to answer a few questions about the movie, equipment used for filming and future projects they have in store. Oh, and don’t forget to check out The Badger Game teaser trailer and photos taken on-set. You can support the makers of the film on Kickstarter and stalk them on Twitter.
NP - What was the inspiration behind the creation of this film?
TOM – Truthfully, it was born mainly from logistics. We were able to raise a small sum of capital to make a feature film, but the budget was tight and we began writing a project to fit those constraints. The first draft of the script was pretty much set in one location, and from there, the film expanded to a place we were both comfortable.
Given that funds were scarce, we tried to focus on two things that, we felt, would belie the lack of resources: character and genre-specific-elements. The movie revolves around a kidnapping, but it’s really about the people within that framework battling their own personal demons. Additionally, I used to work in marketing for Anchor Bay Entertainment, touring the country to various comic-cons and horror conventions. I used that experience to really engage with fans and see what they responded to in a film – practical effects, a sexy cast, a memorable score – anything that stood out. We basically took a lot of these horror/thriller/cult-film trademarks and rolled them into a “caper-gone-wrong” movie.
JOSH – For years we’ve been trying to collaborate on a project we could affordably pull off and hone our craft as writer/directors. Unfortunately, said projects would outgrow their limitations, as The Badger Game almost did. Suffice it to say, we have plenty of material to choose from for our next outing. It turns out that a more simplistic story was just the body we needed to avoid going “plot crazy” and watching the budget soar. From there, we built the characters and both agreed that the plot was always going to be secondary, next to story.
NP - What were the hardest scenes to shoot? And which was/were your favorites?
TOM – Liam (Sam Boxleitner), the cheating husband and kidnap victim, is tied up in a garage for most of the film. We thought containing many scenes to one location would be easy, but for me, shooting in the garage was the most difficult. Blocking in a small space – with as many as six actors at a time – can be a challenge for lighting, and you’re always trying to come up with new ways to keep the audience engaged. We also had an intense sex scene to shoot that required some delicate handling (and a little bit of Jack Daniels, just to take the edge off). My favorite scene to shoot might was actually a simple, two-person conversation between Alex (Augie Duke) and Jane (Sasha Higgins). They were both sleeping with the same man and bonded together in their quest revenge, but their true feelings and resentments towards one another finally come out. It’s one of those scenes that doesn’t feel powerful on the page, but when you see two incredible actresses bring it to life, you realize it shapes the entire story.
JOSH – It’s funny because we shot a bulk of the film in the first week in the garage, and felt like we had gotten the tough stuff out of the way by week two. Such wasn’t the case, and we had to add another day to get through it. Then we got to week three; cake, right? No, it was all exteriors, and our highest number of locations, even though it was only fifteen total script pages.
I do know there were three different occasions where we were behind and it became apparent that scenes were going to have to be altered. We had to cut some of my favorite material to stay on track. The movie works without it, but I still regret not getting some of those things.
My favorite stuff to shoot was anything that seemed to challenge the actors; the sexy striptease, an intense oral sex scene, Augie and Liam’s heated exchange, etc. I could go on, but don’t want to give too much away. I will say that Tom and I were extremely satisfied at the end of each shoot day.
NP – What other works do you have coming up this year?
TOM – We have two other projects we’re shopping around. They’re still in development, so we can’t speak too much on either, but we’re hoping for good things.
JOSH – Keep your eyes peeled for “Gong, But Not Forgotten: The Original Johnny Blaze Story,” a documentary about an aging Elvis impersonator who was a Gong Show winner in the seventies and now wants his own late night talk show. I’ve been working on it for the past three plus years, but it got put on the back burner for the better part of a year while we were involved in The Badger Game.
We’re also working with a well-known director, who has signed a letter of intent to direct a screenplay.
NP - Will the film be entered in a festival or film contest?
TOM – To be blunt, we entered into a few of the more mainstream-festivals and didn’t get accepted. I’m really proud of the film, and don’t think it has anything to do with the quality of it. I think it’s more a byproduct of a narrow, homogenized view of what it means to be an indie film. When we see a lineup at these festivals, there tends to be two common threads: the films have star power (which ours does not), or they tend to be dramas. I say this not to sound bitter, or to take away from any film that’s had festival success, but just to point out that it’s sometimes hard for genre films to gain recognition and find their audience. That said, there are several genre-specific festivals on the horizon that we’ve applied to. We’ll see how it turns out.
JOSH – We made a careful decision to apply mainly to the top-tier festivals, and unfortunately we’ve been rejected from all of them at this point. I go through a moment of doubt and discouragement every time we get that rejection letter, then I get pissed, which eventually turns into an awakening experience that makes me stronger and work harder. Tom and I usually have a pow-wow afterwards and try to keep each other positive, and remind ourselves that the rejections should not reflect our feelings about our movie.
NP - When will the film be available and where can horror fans check out the movie?
TOM – No release date is set, but we already have multiple distribution offers for the film and will (hopefully) be able to announce something shortly.
JOSH – Hopefully soon. Every filmmaker dreams of seeing their movie play in a theater on the big screen, but with today’s digital options and advanced home theaters, we’re excited to be talking to the people we’re talking to currently. In the meantime The Badger Game trailer can be seen on youtube, and thebadgergame.com.
NP - What types of cameras and audio did you use to capture the film and what types of software did you use to edit it?
TOM – We used the RedMX and shot entirely in 4K, and edited primarily on Final Cut 7, then transferred to Final Cut X to master it and color-correct in a 4K timeline. This is also a great opportunity to point out two of the fantastic people we had working behind the scenes – our editor, Ethan Maniquis (who co-directed Machete and cut several films for Robert Rodriguez, including Planet Terror) and our sound team at Post Haste.
JOSH – Tom pretty much covered that one.
NP - What directors/writers have influenced your work?
TOM – Too many to name. Hitchcock, Carpenter, Scorsese, the Coen Brothers, to highlight some of the heavyweights. I’ll throw in the Pate Brothers and Jonathan Levine to give some props to guys that don’t get enough credit.
JOSH – I think we are both heavily influenced by the Coen brothers, as every modern filmmaker should be. The works of P.T. Anderson, Wes Anderson, Sergio Leone (I love westerns), Kubrick, David Lynch, and the list goes on and on. I’m going through a Jodorowsky faze right now.
NP - Top 3 favorite horror films and/or books?
TOM – In no particular order…SHADOW OF A DOUBT, IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, EVENT HORIZON.
JOSH – God, only three? The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (74), John Carpenter’s The Thing, The Funhouse. And yes, two of those are Tobe Hooper movies.
NP - What advice would you give to aspiring directors and film writers?
TOM – Movies take time and work. It’s easy to pick up a camera and start shooting these days, but make sure you treat every line and every frame like gold. And don’t let other people define your success.
JOSH – People who aspire to do this for a living are, no doubt, ambitious people, and probably a little Type A. My advice to them (as I keep reminding myself) is don’t let all that energy and passion make you overzealous because it is a carefully constructed craft. If you want to end up in a list of those mentioned in answers six then you will respect yourself and your approach to this beautiful medium. Also, read and write like a madman. Be obsessed, but have fun.
NP - Last question, will there be a sequel?
TOM – Ha, doubtful. We often joked about it on-set, though. Probably best to see if audiences respond to this one before we get ahead of ourselves.
JOSH – We always joke about that sort of thing because sequels are mostly jokes. I bet some sequels actually DID start off as a joke.