Moving from the killer prom queens in his feature length directorial debut “Pep Squad,” Steve Balderson has set his sights on the true life murderous events in a small Kansas town as the subject matter for his latest film, “Firecracker,” which is currently in post production.
The film is brewing quite a bit of word of mouth not only due to the mysterious nature of the story, but because of an eclectic cast featuring Karen Black, actual circus freaks, and the acting debut of Tomahawk and Fantomas frontman, Mike Patton, in a dual lead role as an abusive alchoholic and a sinister carnival owner. It’s needless to say that an interesting time is in store for audiences as this “Firecracker” is primed to explode.
Steve Balderson took some time with us to talk about his new film.
First off, since I know that you’re now in post, how’s the film coming along, Steve?
Actually, it’s coming together better than I ever imagined. I mean, on one hand, it’s exactly like I planned. I did scene analysis and storyboards for every shot in the entire film. But I never really appreciated what the images do to the viewer until I saw them next to one another. I’ve almost finished the rough cut and will next move on to music, score, and sound design.
When can we expect to see “Firecracker” and where?
This is hard to say. We’ve shared snippits with several ‘industry insiders’ who are suggesting this is the performance of Karen Black’s career – that she deserves another Oscar nomination. Well… because we’re a true independent film, this opens up a whole set of topics to worry about: Do we get a producer’s rep? Where do we market it? When do we sell it? Shall we do Festivals first? Who knows!? There are endless questions. And a great many untrustworthy people in Los Angeles to avoid. There was a lot of talk about Linda Fiorentino getting nominated for “The Last Seduction.” But it showed on HBO first, and she was disqualified. I want all my options lined up and defined before anything is done with the movie.
At your website, “Firecracker” is described as a Steve Balderson tragedy. What’s the tragedy?
The story is like a Greek Tragedy, a Shakespearean Tragedy. So I felt it needed a word to separate it from being an ordinary, traditional American film. Because it’s far from it.
What inspired you to make this film?
Firecracker is based upon actual events that happened in the Kansas town where I grew up. I first heard about it when I was still in high school. My aunt was actually there when they dug up the body. You can download interviews I did with locals from the website. So, originally, I was addicted to the story itself. When I started sketching the shots and developing a picture for the story – I became obsessed. I’d never seen anything like it.
“Firecracker” sounds a bit like a David Lynch movie. Was Lynch an inspiration?
Yes and no. I actually called David Lynch at home and asked him to be in the movie. Before I heard about his response to the script, I’d rewritten it and cut the character in question, so I felt stupid to call back and check. I love Lynch’s perception, but I must say that Hitchcock is my favorite. Hitchcock and Fellini. In some ways, “Firecracker” is Lynchian because it isn’t a traditional narrative – it’s like a poem. Yet it’s more straight-forward narrative than most Lynch films.
How did Mike Patton come to replace Dennis Hopper in the film?
My original conception of the material was to have two of the actors play dual roles. From the get-go I felt Patton would make the best David. But when Hopper invited me to his house and said, “I want to play Frank,” I suddenly lost track of why I was making the movie to begin with. I was disillusioned. Hopper was too old to play David. But whoever played David also had to play Frank. So I had a choice to make. Either be true to myself and make the movie the way I see it – or don’t. So I wrote Hopper a nice letter explaining my decision and cast Patton in both roles.
He’s incredible. He has a rare energy about him “Firecracker” needed. It wasn’t until the second week of filming I realized how clear and perfect his performances are. Just to look at him embody one of his characters…it’s breathtaking. Then to realize he’s playing two totally different people… The man is amazing.
Get the rest of the interview in part two of STEVE BALDERSON SETS OFF A DEADLY FIRECRACKER>>>