Today we have directors Powell Robinson (left) and Patrick Robert Young (right) in to talk about their first feature film Bastard. You may recognise the title of their horror film as I’ve previously sat down with stars Rebekah Kennedy (here) and Tonya Kay (here) to talk about their roles in the film. Robinson and Young however bring a fresh perspective on the film, the horror genre and what it’s like to be stuck in the middle of the woods for days on end making your passion project a reality. You’ll find all of that and plenty more below…
Hi guys! Thanks for sitting down with me today, how are you both?
PA: Awful. Dainty. Empathetic.
Excellent! First things first, congratulations on BASTARD! It was clearly a passion project for you guys!
PO: Thank you! Passion is a very kind way to say crazed obsession. Luckily we were surrounded by a bunch of talented people with the same obsession.
PA: The actual production was rough. You throw 27 to 40 people into the woods for 19 days and ask the 6 leads to fear for their lives every day…it becomes an emotional battle as well as physical. But every member of team BASTARD was completely game. Our crew members would be warriors, our actors would act brilliantly, and then we would all leave to stay at the same cabin. I know my love for this project, as great as it already was, grew exponentially once I became friends with the crew. And Powell’s mom.
PO: My mom was the wardrobe and hair stylist, and over the course of production kind of… adopted everyone. And while the shoot was definitely a trial by fire, I don’t think I’ve ever felt a greater sense of family amongst a crew and cast. We couldn’t have done it with anyone else.
There’s a really nice mixture of humour and horror in here and it’s encapsulated in that first scene with Ellis and Dan Creed. How did you approach getting that balance right when writing and directing the film?
PA: I think the balance between the real effed stuff and the sometimes silly humor comes from just how weird Powell and I actually are as people. And certainly, while I like being terrified, horror films for me have always been about having fun and buying into the ridiculous world these people inhabit. So to be able to reflect a bit of myself and my love for the more fun side of things, as well as the goosh, was more than rewarding.
PO: We knew going into it we didn’t want to make strictly just a horror movie. Our goal was to make something that has a more honest, realistic feeling that places relatable characters in violent, ridiculous situations. Not giving them room to be actual people who joke around but are extremely fucked up at the same time would ruin that sense of realism. Plus, it’s much more emotionally upsetting to watch a character you really care about die in a simple way, than watching Teenager #2 take 17 chainsaws to the face. Not to say that isn’t entertaining in its own right (and don’t worry – we do have some of that as well).
I completely agree with that! Was that scene always intended as the first scene? I really liked that you started off with them but what was your thinking in introducing us to the serial killer couple first rather than the more conventional heroes Betty and Jake?
PO: That scene with Hannah and West (Ellis and Dan) is actually a condensed version of a short film that I asked Patrick to write for me. But they, like the other protagonists in the movie, had the sad misfortune of finding their way into the BASTARD-verse rather than their own happy endings. For the reasons you listed above, it seemed appropriate to put it first as it introduced the horror / dark comedy aspects of the film.
PA: Plus, they’re just so god damn pretty to look at.
PO: Having these quietly dangerous characters helped keep the tension high, which was a fun dynamic to play with everyone. We made sure to weave characters in and out of the forefront so the audience could find a new favorite character they may have not been paying too much attention to before their first favorite character got axed.
PA: A real sense of dread and unpredictability can be bred when all the characters bring something edgy/dangerous to the story. Without resorting to a multitude of fake scares, we tried to build tension through the character dynamics. The biggest thing that helped make each character likeable, to a point, was the sheer charisma coming from each and every cast member. We really lucked out with the ace lineup we accrued. I think we knew what we had very early on with the talent and tried our hardest to get them together every chance we had. Whether that meant a table read in a circus classroom or beers at Powell’s house, we just knew we had to take advantage of what we had. Because while we were low budget, we knew that the quality of acting, relationships, and words would elevate this project higher.
Now if I’m correct then this is the first feature film either of you have directed, what were the biggest hurdles you had to jump when moving from short films to Bastard?
PO: You are indeed correct. I think the main hurdle was certainly adopting a strictly Cheez-it and Redbull diet. It’s easy after the 10th day locked away in the woods to lose track of normal human functions like eating and sleeping properly. Seriously though, tracking each character’s growth across the whole script and identifying their needs and desires scene by scene was a biggie ‘cause with shorts you’ve typically got one or two major characters who have considerable changes to make in about 7 minutes, as opposed to six to seven characters in 80.
PA: Thankfully our producer Lauren Bates sort of kept us sane. She knew when we needed to sleep instead of coloring dailies for another two hours. And Powell and I sort of just fed off each other the entire time. It was a first for both of us it quickly became apparent that we needed there to be two of us. Being able to handle multiple tasks at once as directors was so beneficial that it’s hard to imagine doing it any other way. And damn was there lots of Red Bull.
Haha! When you take on a genre tribute film such as this there must be a fear that you are merely going to create what seems to be a rip-off rather than a living and breathing body of work. Was this something that troubled you and if so what steps did you take to make sure your film felt fresh and inspired?
PA: Rather than a passing wink, or tribute, what we wanted to do with some of the style and feel of the film is pay our respects to the films that inspired us. We genuinely love horror films and don’t like seeing them treated as a lesser genre or a stepping stone. The passion and inspiration started from the bottom…and now we’re here.
PO: While we are describing this as a “throwback” slasher, this isn’t a cut-and-dried copy of every single aspect of 70’s/80’s horror films. That’s been played enough and would feel exploitative / jeering at this point. Our goal was to approach making a cult-slasher script very honestly — a retro attitude in 2015 shoes.
Yes, I think that comes across very clearly in the film. Talking generally now, which of today’s horror films are you inspired by?
House of the Devil, The Conjuring, Drag Me to Hell, Cabin in the Woods. The not totally horror film The Guest. All projects that just ooze love and fun…and blood.
Excellent, I still need to see The Guest! And finally, what’s next for you guys? Do you have any plans for a new film?
PA: The novelization of BASTARD will be hitting local newsstands soon. Jokes. But, yes, we do have plans for another horror film. A much darker film than this. And then we may go in a completely different direction entirely.
PO: We got our horror/comedy kicks out with this one, and are excited to tackle another form of horror – less spine ripping, more possession. Also, Bastard: The Musical should be a Broadway hit soon, with Neil Patrick Harris playing everyone in the first ever live green screen event.
Hah! Thanks again for chatting with me guys, it was good fun!
Thank you so much for having us!
And that’s all folks! I hope you enjoyed this interview, be sure to leave any thoughts and feelings you have in the comment box below!