Michael Biehn’s directorial debut, The Victim, will be released on Blu-ray and DVD tomorrow. The film stars Michael Biehn, along with his wife Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, and I recently talked to the two of them about the inspiration behind this exploitation-style movie, working as a husband and wife team, and future projects:
You mentioned Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew in the end credits of The Victim. How did your work with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino on Grindhouse inspire you to take on The Victim?
Michael Biehn: I didn’t realize that I had even seen a grindhouse movie and I had never heard the word grindhouse before I worked with Robert Rodriguez. My parents used to take me to drive-in theaters and the main feature would play at 8:00, like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. As kids, we’d be down in front playing before the movie started and another movie would always play at 6:00, when it wasn’t dark yet. They were kind of like a grindhouse movie, but I describe them as low-budget exploitation.
I never would have made this movie had it not been for Robert exposing me to the genre. Quentin brought me over to his house and we watched a bunch of these movies. It gave me a better idea of what these movies were like, how low of a budget you could make a movie on, and how fun they could be at the same time. They really enjoyed them and I can’t think of anyone that enjoys a grindhouse movie more than Quentin Tarantino.
While I was working on The Divide, I saw a kid reading Rebel Without a Crew and it reminded me of the good times I had with Robert. These guys loved movies so much, that I thought I’d make a movie myself just for fun.
Was it difficult to raise funds for the film? How did you decide on The Victim as the project you wanted to move forward with?
Michael Biehn: There was a guy that came to me and wanted to make a movie about Burt Lancaster in his circus days. I told him that he didn’t have enough money to make the kind of movie he wanted, but if anything came up, I’d call him.
I remembered that there was a guy who came to me with a script called The Victim. It involved a man out in the woods and a stripper, but it was a Saw-type of movie. He was a first time film writer, and although he showed a lot of talent, there wasn’t very much dialogue. I thought that maybe I could marry the two projects, asked him and guys that had the money, and they said yes.
If we were going to make a movie for such a small amount of money, I told them that I wanted creative and production control. I also had to decide who we sell it to and how we sell it. They were accommodating and let me do it, and it was craziness while we were making the movie.
We shot The Victim in 12 days and I’ve never shot a movie in less than 24 days previously. Filming was crazy, but I enjoyed the process of post and editing, sound design, and visual effects.
How did The Victim go from more of a personal project into something that played at festivals and was acquired by Anchor Bay?
Michael Biehn: I thought the movie was just going to go away, but it was seen at a couple of places and got some good reviews. It wasn’t just genre reviews either, but places like The Huffington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle.
I thought this movie would end up on Netflix… maybe. I didn’t think this was a movie that anyone would really see. The idea that this movie would be reviewed by the New York Times is crazy… I had no idea… So many times during filming, I said “don’t worry about that, it will never be seen on a movie screen…”. The whole thing just snowballed and got bigger and bigger. The idea that I’m talking to you about this and it got picked up by Anchor Bay is just shocking to me.
This really goes to show that you don’t need a huge budget to bring attention to your movie. If you have a good story and interesting character development, it will attract an audience.
Jennifer Blanc-Biehn: That’s true. I think Michael is a huge fan of a flat-out good story. I live with him and I’m impressed that he was able to put the story down on paper in three weeks and get it executed in such a short period of time. I’m really proud of him.
The success of the film is really based on your performance. Were you involved at all in the creative process to develop your character?
Jennifer Blanc-Biehn: I was kind of over Michael’s shoulder and getting shoed away a bit [laughs]. He definitely gave me some consideration if there was something I felt strongly, but most of that story and character came from him. I have never really shot a character that large in such a short period of time. It was a lot of work, and I really relied on Michael.
I just recently spoke with Rob and Sheri Moon Zombie, and they said that they really enjoy being able to work together and the creative freedom that they have with a more independent production. Do you feel the same way?
Jennifer Blanc-Biehn: We worked together and first met as actors, and I definitely relate to the Rob Zombie and Sheri Moon Zombie situation. They are in love and figured out a way to work together and be able to enjoy their relationship. We’re still in the stage of figuring that out with The Victim coming out, but we have another one under our belt.
It does help, because this profession can take you away from your partner often. If you can figure out a way to be together and be successful at it, it’s really great for your relationship. We seem to be able to work really well together. We get really intense and are passionate, but ten minutes later we’re hugging, kissing and high fiving.
Especially with video-on-demand being so popular these days, you don’t need a huge budget to reach a worldwide audience. I know a lot of people who have been very happy going with a limited theatrical release, followed by the Blu-ray/DVD/VOD release.
Jennifer Blanc-Biehn: It’s a great platform with the limited release so you can get it out there to certain channels and people who really want to see it in theaters. And then there are people like us, who see most of our movies in a hotel room because we’re traveling so much. We stream so many movies, so to see our movie end up on there is really exciting for us.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. I know that the two of you have a number of projects coming up, including a three-picture deal that includes The Farm. Can you tell our readers about what’s coming up next?
Jennifer Blanc-Biehn: We have that three picture deal, but that doesn’t start until next year. We’re partnering up with Xavier Gens and Michel Teicher, and that includes The Farm,Up and Down, and The Predicator. Treachery is in post right now and I’m very happy with how it’s coming together. It’s a more of a psychological horror story about a guy who’s stuck in a house because there’s a big storm outside. He’s there with his friends and family, and he’s been having sex with his friend’s girlfriend and got her pregnant.