Filmmaker Alex Orr takes us into the future, the frighteningly plausible future, where gas prices have sky-rocketed to $40 a gallon. At prices likes this, nobody can afford to drive and so the world turns into one giant abandoned car lot. This leads Archie, a reserved kindergarten teacher to explore alternative fuel resources. An accident brings human blood into the mix which effectively makes Archie’s car go. So he soon finds himelf having to spill the blood of the innocent in order to keep his wheels alive. This is a particularly trying task being that Archie is a vegan. Nice behavior from a hippie!
Throughout the year, “Blood Car” has been wowing audiences at festivals everywhere, earning it the New Visions Director’s Award at Cinequest 2007, among many other accolades, including the fainting of a festival audience member in Sarasota. Could you be next? Find out more as we speak to “Blood Car” filmmaker Alex Orr.
So…I hear someone passed out during a recent Blood Car screening. Do you take that as a kind of compliment to the chef? ^ I take it more as a compliment to the whole kitchen, a lot of really important and lucky things came our way to be able to pull off such a great gag. The kid passed out at the Sarasota Film Festival. The effect that got him was when the main character, Archie, takes some of his own blood to test the Blood Car. He does that with a box cutter and some plastic tubing, it makes lots of people cover their eyes.
After Adam Pinney and I wrote that scene we didn’t really know how to pull it off without some help. A friend of ours hooked us up with Toby Sells Creature Effects and he made us an amazing fake arm with a bladder of blood inside. He put in each arm hair individually, it was really a piece of work, really incredible. The rest was figuring out ways to shoot the scene and not make our fake arm look like a bad cutaway, you know, to keep it looking like part of the scene and not stick out. It was one of the few times in the film we didn’t want the special effects to generate laughter. The editing of that scene is really what sells it and keeps people from guessing that there’s a double arm. It’s fun to see it with an audience, they always have a priceless collective groan. The kid in Sarasota ended up being ok. He just got some carpet burn on his chin. He Myspaced Blood Car and said he wished he could see the rest of the film. That was nice.
When exactly was it that you decided you needed to make Blood Car? ^ In 2005, Adam Pinney (Blood Car’s co-writer, DP and Editor) and Hugh Braselton (story writer) and myself were in the car pitching ideas back and forth. We started talking about making a silly horror movie full of jokes to get a feature under our belt. Someone said a car that runs on blood and pretty soon we had an entire outline and we were starting on the script. It was great because the only rule was, ‘Can we do that with our limited resources?” as opposed to, “Will they let us do that?”
The thing that got it off the ground was that it was a good time to write it and we were sick of having the ‘When I shoot a feature” conversation. It was time to just go and shoot one.
Do you feel that Blood Car has the chops to stand alongside such cinematic vehicular manslaughter giants such as “Christine,” “The Cars That Ate Paris” and “Maximum Overdrive”? ^ Oh, I dunno. “Maximum Overdrive” is a really special film. I think the whole thing must have just started with the image of the goblin face Mac Truck. I think “Christine” and “Maximum Overdrive” have this scary car with a mind of its own thing that we don’t go for at all. “The Cars That Ate Paris” has an awesome title and is a Peter Wier film but I really don’t like it at all.
I think we can sit beside those movies on the video store shelf, but Blood Car is more about a guy with good intentions and that is his ruin. I like the idea of a character trying to help people through science and then that science brings on death and gratuitous nudity. That’s more interesting than just a car that kills to me. But some people may argue that a little league baseball coach killed by a vending machine (best scene in “Maximum Overdrive”?) beats that any day and they’re not wrong at all because a killer vending machine is awesome.
Do you have a background in horror filmmaking, or was it just high gas prices that drove you to spill cinematic blood? ^ I’ve helped friends make their horror and zombie movies, but I never had dreams of making a killer car movie or any horror movie. I’m primarily into comedy. Blood Car is actually more comedy than horror. The thing that attracted me to the idea was the high gas prices and the fact that it is topical and there’s room for tons of jokes. When it came to doing the blood and special effects we got help from our friends who make nothing but horror movies. But I get more excited by making people laugh than gag.
I understand that Blood Car is very much a collaborative work between yourself and a group of filmmakers called Fake Wood Wallpaper. What’s the story there? ^ I met Hugh Braselton, Adam Pinney and Mike Brune in film school at Georgia State University. We were all working on each other’s short films and Mike Brune came up with the name and we started calling ourselves Fake Wood Wallpaper. I’ve worked with those guys and Katie Rowlett (who plays Denise in Blood Car) on basically everything I’ve ever shot. I think you need a really close core of friends to keep a low budget indie like Blood Car above water. They’re a great gauge of what on set or on the page is working or not because you have similar tastes and respect each other’s opinions. And because we all know each other so well we have a shorthand that really makes shooting go smoother.
The cast of Blood Car is an interesting one, most notably due to the inclusion of Anna Chlumsky who movie buffs will remember from such films as “My Girl” and “My Girl 2.” How did Anna come to be a part of the cast and was this former child star squeamish towards the subject matter? ^ I met Anna on a small film called “My Sweet Misery”. It was a four person crew so you got to know everyone really well. After Adam and I finished the script for Blood Car we sent it to her and she got it. She thought it was funny and was excited to do it. She was never squeamish at all. She got what we were doing and laughed when we had her do horrible things in compromising positions. As horrible as some of the things are that the actors do, no one really had a problem with anything. We laughed right through all of it.
Being this is your debut feature film as a director, did you learn any major lessons that perhaps you would like to pass on to up and coming filmmakers? ^ Oh, I’m still learning things. That’s what filmmaking is all about, right? There’s something about not having ever directed a feature and just jumping into it and shooting that is amazing. You make mistakes and bad decisions but you have to do those things to learn and take the lessons to the next project. Even if people have the world’s greatest advice, a first time director needs to learn it for themselves.
With that said, I would definitely like to have more shooting days next time around. We had so little money we did our principal photography in just 12 days and it was tough. In doing a couple of added scenes and reshoots I learned that I really like to shoot things to death. I like to do a lot of takes when I can. On Blood Car we were running like Fassbinder- doing one take and running to the next thing. Giving the actors one maybe two passes at a scene sometimes before we had to move on. I also learned that your script isn’t finished until the movie is cut and done. On everything I ever do there will be room for tons of reshoots and pickups. We did a few on Blood Car, and I think they are essential. You should always be able to juggle around scenes and really write the final version of your story in the edit room, and for me that means more shooting because things on the page change when you add actors and shoot them. Or you may find something you didn’t know was there in a scene or character that you want to explore.
Where can people find Blood Car in the next few months? ^ We’ll be at Sidewalk Film Festival, Firstglance Philly Film Festival, Austin Film Festival, Eeerie Horror Film Festival, Starz Denver, Film Festival Toronto After Dark Film Festival, Indie Brazil, Bend Film and Connecticut Film Festival. We have a week long run on Olympia, Washington and a screening in Baltimore. On November 6th, the DVD will be available everywhere and its packed with special features and commentaries and tons of low budget tricks that can help any filmmaker. We keep our website updated regularly at www.bloodcar.com of anymore screenings or festivals.