Right now, Canadian filmmaker Amelia Moses has two different features making the rounds on the festival circuit: Bleed with Me and Bloodthirsty, which just celebrated its world premiere at the virtual edition of Fantastic Fest 2020 (you can read my review of Bloodthirsty HERE).
Last week, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with Moses about Bloodthirsty, which is centered around a songwriter dealing with her monstrous transformation into a werewolf, and Amelia discussed what initially drew her to the project, her experiences collaborating with Lauren Beatty once again on the film, tackling the challenges of doing a werewolf story for Bloodthirsty, and more.
Great to speak with you, Amelia, and congratulations on the film. There are some definitely interesting parallels with the transformation that Grey undergoes in this movie versus the creative process and the things that people undergo when they're sort of dealing with their own creativity. Was that what initially drew you to this project? How did this all come about?
Amelia Moses: Well, it was written and conceived by Wendy Hill-Tout and her daughter, Lowell, who's a singer-songwriter. They're both Canadian and they'd been working on the script for quite a while, I think. I only got involved early December of last year through a mutual friend of mine. She put us in touch because I was just looking for distribution advice for Bleed with Me, so I knew that I'd heard of Mike Peterson because he's done a lot of films and stuff. He mentioned that he was looking for a horror female director and then he sent me the script. Within a week, I was talking to Wendy and I had assumed, too, that they were still in development and it was going to be a two-year process or something. But they were like, "Nope, we're shooting next month. Come out to Alberta.” So it was a super quick pre-production.
But I think what really drew me to the script was that juxtaposition you're talking about, with this creative process and this woman trying to write this album, but then also turning into a monster at the same time and this juxtaposition between this really beautiful music and this horror and bloody imagery. I just thought there was a lot to play around with there, and I think that as a theme, the creative process is really interesting, and I also do like werewolves, so this seemed like a good project that I felt like I could do something creative with.
I enjoyed the entire cast in this movie, but Lauren is really just this linchpin to all of it. Can you talk about working with her and pulling back these layers on Grey and who she is and the things that she's dealing with? I think there's a really great sense of humanity to her performance in this movie.
Amelia Moses: Lauren's very talented and she was in my first film, Bleed with Me. At first I wasn't sure she'd be the right fit for this film because she had gotten into a motorcycle accident before shooting my other film, so I was worried about her mobility and stuff in terms of this project because, obviously, there's a lot of running and moving, and there was a lot of commitment in terms of the physical side of things. But she'd actually recovered a lot more than I realized from her accident, so I asked her to audition. So, I guess the main things that drew me to her was that we already had a working relationship because we'd done one film together.
I think she's super talented, but the fact that she could sing and I'd heard a song she had done called “Gaslight,” which she'd written and performed. So not only can she sing, but she's written a song before, so she was going to have a bit of insight into that creative process and become a character with a bit of herself in it, which I think can be really important for an actor to be able to put some of themselves into the role. And then on top of that, she's a queer actor, and obviously I wasn't going to let that be the only factor, but I think talking to her and then Katharine King So as well, who's also gay, I know that they have struggled to play queer characters. So, it just seemed like a good opportunity to bring them in and also bring some authenticity to her and Charlie's relationship.
And working with Lauren, we already had that trust built up from the previous film, and the pre-production on this was really short, like I said before, but we just liked to chat as much as possible and build that foundation for the character. But Lauren just brought a lot to the table. So, we had those initial conversations, but she really just killed it on set, not to use a pun, even with the music. I knew she could sing, but she never played piano before, so she learned all the songs a week prior and we shot the studio stuff first thing.
So not only were we doing a werewolf transformation straight off the bat, but we were also doing the song stuff and she really blew me away and just really nailed it, take after take, which was really exciting because it was something that might've been a bit trickier to achieve. Lauren just really, really commits and she doesn't hold back, and I think that's just something you need in a film like this because there are a lot of difficult aspects to it.
You mentioned the werewolf transformations, and you're doing a lot of live music stuff in this movie as well, which all these things are very ambitious. Can you discuss any challenges you may have faced on Bloodthirsty? I think a lot of people have shied away from doing werewolf movies for so long because it is a difficult process, but I think the way you handled it works really well.
Amelia Moses: Yeah. I think that was the biggest challenge. I had heard the songs pretty early on and they're written by Wendy's daughter, Lowell, who co-wrote the script, so that was an element that I knew someone else had that covered. She knows what she's doing, and the songs were great. But the werewolf stuff was where I was going to have to kind of come in and make my stamp a little bit more. When I became involved, I know that Wendy and Mike had already talked about doing more of this hybrid deal and trying to avoid, for budget reasons, someone in a suit, basically, because that's kind of what we've seen before. And also, it's really hard to get that right and make it believable.
So we decided to go for this more lycanthropic hybrid. I was pretty worried about that choice in the beginning, just because I was scared of not delivering on the werewolf stuff, because I'm a big fan of those kind of movies and I just wanted to make sure we still felt like she was monstrous and grotesque and weird, and that we really felt the transformation. So, for me, I focused on and embraced that hybrid nature. I think what helped was that we were able to still see Lauren's expressions as an actor, which I thought was interesting. But I think that was one of the main things I was worried about going in, was trying to get that right.
Before we go, I really love Vaughn's house and I think it adds such a layer of mystery to the film. Can you talk about that location in particular?
Amelia Moses: Well, location is so incredibly important, especially if it's a single location like this film. And again, when you have a budget limitation you need to have a location that if you can't really afford to bring a bunch of stuff in, you need a place that has a lot to work with for the production designer. There was almost too much stuff in that house because the guy who owns it is, we'll call him a collector, but a collector of lots and lots and lots of things, so he just had so much stuff. It was a matter of really curating those things. But we were so lucky because we just had these beautiful ornaments or weird portraits on the walls, or these beautiful lamps and all these little touches that we could play with in the space, which was really cool.
And for me, what was key was trying to find a house that felt eccentric. We didn't really have a backup option. And I think Vaughn is a character who spent his entire life in this house and it's just an extension of himself. It needed to be somewhere kind of weird and interesting, so we really lucked out on that space.
A lot of the scenes with her running or the hitchhiker scene were supposed to be in the woods, but there weren't that many trees around that area. There was this amazing junkyard that's like nothing I've seen before and that is totally cinematic, too. I figured we should just embrace that, and I think that's the real joy of indie filmmaking: embracing what you have and working with that. Because we've seen a million forests, but I think something like that junkyard location's so much more unique. So we really embraced what was there and wove it into the story.
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