Rites of Spring receives a limited theatrical release today and is now available across the country on IFC Midnight VOD and the following services: SundanceNOW, iTunes, Amazon, Xbox Zune, Playstation Unlimited.
I had a chance to interview one of the film’s stars, AJ Bowen, who talked to me about working on Padraig Reynolds’ first feature. He also gave some great advice for aspiring horror actors:
Can you tell me what attracted you to Rites of Spring and how you became involved in the project?
AJ Bowen: I was shooting A Horrible Way to Die and I got an email from John Norris, who manages my good friend Ti West. He told me that Padraig Reynolds was directing a movie and asked if I wanted to read the script that he wrote.
I was instantly attracted to the script for specific reasons. I’m very fortunate to be a working actor for a living and I’m grateful that most of the work I’ve done has this arthouse sensibility. Sometimes I just want to watch a movie-flavored movie and wanted to be in one where we didn’t have to justify some really dark angle of humanity.
When I read Padraig’s script, it reminded me of the tone of the first Wrong Turn. I loved Wrong Turn] because it was a completely lean, straight forward movie that took itself seriously. Structurally, Rites of Spring is two different movies, cross-pollinated into one. It’s similar to From Dusk Till Dawn, but it’s not a comedy and there is no winking at the audience. This was also interesting to me; that there are these two types of movies that run together into a third type of movie.
Selfishly, the character Padraig wanted me to play was 180 degrees removed from the serial killer I played before. I get to go somewhere and not choke girls out… that sounds great. I actually get to be a nice guy? I loved that. It was great for me because it was so polar opposite from what I had done before.
You previously worked with a number of directors including Ti West and Adam Wingard. With this being Padraig’s first feature film, what was your experience like with him as a director and how did it compare to other directors you’ve been working with?
AJ Bowen: He was really hands on and I mean that literally. He would physically come over to try to move me the first few times [laughs]… It was so positive working with Padraig and I would absolutely work again with him in the future.
What was great about it being his first feature is that he’s not a 20 year old kid. He’s been writing for a long time and he’s made a bunch of shorts. He’s directing his first feature, but he already has a background knowledge of cinema and doesn’t have the ego like a kid out of film school.
Padraig was very aware of the privilege of making a movie and was excited. It was really infectious for the entire cast and crew. It reminded me of why I wanted to be an actor. Padraig reminded me of one of those kids I grew up with in the 80’s sneaking horror movies in the basement. He’s that guy grown up, so it was like meeting up again with my childhood friends.
You’ve had success as an independent actor and turned this into a full time job, without having to go through the normal channels. What advice would you give to our readers who may be interested in pursuing a career in acting?
AJ Bowen: I would say that, with technology being where it is, go out there with your friends and make stuff. I don’t mean just make something that looks cool. Pool your money and get a great camera and editing equipment. Almost everyone has a computer now, and you can teach and educate yourself on the process of film storytelling. That’s what I did and it has strengthened my sensibilities as an actor and how to set a character into a movie.
I’ve been making movies with my friends since I was 10 years old. Hopefully, they have gotten better since then. I started with a movie called The Signal. We made it for $50,000 in 10 days and sold it for a lot of money at Sundance, but we spent the better part of a decade learning how to cut a movie, write scripts, and act… all of the jobs on the set.
In the world we are in now with VOD, it’s a great idea for anyone that wants to act to not engage in the studio system. You don’t need an agent or a manager. Those things take care of themselves after you have made a few movies. You need to be really good at your job. You need to keep doing it and the way you keep doing it is by making your own content with friends. Don’t wait for someone to cast you.
That ended up putting me in a world with other people that had been doing the same thing like Ti West and Adam Wingard. We found each other and kept doing it on a professional level.
Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects? I know you wrapped up You’re Next and that should be released theatrically next year.
AJ Bowen: We had the good fortune of Lionsgate picking it up. The core people who did A Horrible Way to Die worked on this one. Originally, it was set to be released this fall, but I think it’s coming out early next year. As soon as I know, I will shout from the rooftops about it.
My next project I’m really excited about, because I get to have Tom Savini play my dad. It’s called Silent Night of the Living Dead. My good friend Paul is directing it and it’s a great screenplay. I’m really excited to get paid to go to London for work. I also have written a couple of screenplays and we’re on pre-production on a couple of those. So that’s it… day in and day out… I’m also trying not to get fat as I reach my middle age.
I want to thank AJ Bowen for taking the time to talk with us. We’ve included photos, the trailer, and a poster for Rites of Spring below. If you are in the NYC area, there is a midnight screening with director Padraig Reynolds taking place tonight at: IFC Center- 323 6th Avenue New York, NY 10014
Rites of Spring: A group of kidnappers abduct the daughter of a wealthy socialite and hide out in an abandoned school in the middle of the woods. But feelings of guilt soon overtake the kidnappers, dividing the group and putting their entire plan in jeopardy. The evening further spirals out of control when their poorly chosen hideout becomes a hunting ground for a mysterious creature that requires springtime ritualistic sacrifices.