When I saw the film IT'S IN THE BLOOD (check out the review) I had to find out more about the film and was lucky enough to get to speak with both Sean Elliot & Scooter Downey about their film. The two have known each other since childhood, so finding out how that relationship translated to working together on a film with a big time actor Lance Henriksen was very intriguing to me. See what the guys have to say about IT'S IN THE BLOOD and more below.
IgorsLab: You two are childhood friends. How did you guys meet and who was the first one to say let’s get into film?
Sean: Scooter and I have pretty much known each other our entire lives. We met in Kindergarten, but didn’t really establish a friendship until we were asked to enact a scene from the circus. Naturally, Scooter chose to be the Lion… So I, in turn, chose to be the lion tamer. The rest, as they say, is history.
I would say Scooter was instrumental in leading us to film. He had always enjoyed making movies with his home camera, and editing them on his computer. Somehow, I was always roped into being Scooter’s on-screen “dancing monkey.”
As our filmmaking abilities grew, we developed a working relationship that has carried right on through into adulthood.
Scooter: We met in kindergarten. Sean came in about halfway through the year. I thought he was cool because he could write in cursive. He thought I was cool because I had all the Jurassic Park toys. Once we realized that we neither of us were really that cool, we became friends.
I started making little silly short videos when I was a teenager. Sean and some of our friends would act in them and our parents would supply the fake blood. It wasn’t until after college that we decided to try and produce an indie.
IL: At what age did you guys make your first horror film and what was it about?
Sean: Oh man, that’s a tough one… I suppose it depends on how you would define “Horror Film”… Growing up, Scooter and I predominantly made short, spoof films. Some of them were so bad they could have been considered horror. However, I would say our first official horror film is, Its In The Blood.
Scooter: When we were fifteen we did a shot-for-shot remake of the trailer for M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs” where the alien was replaced with the high-school mascot, a really adorable looking bear. The school loaned us the costume and I had put it into a garbage bag and my dad threw it away by mistake. That’s when I realized the importance of E&O insurance.
But our roots, if you can call them that, are in comedy.
IL: Do you guys remember the first horror movie you saw that inspired you to make horror films?
Sean: I’ve always had a thing for Sci-Fi/Horror/Fantasy. In fact, if a film doesn’t contain some elements from those genres, it can often be difficult for me to get really engaged in a film. I will almost always pay to see a creature feature, regardless of the reviews. Some of the horror films that have had a strong effect on me are Poltergeist, Pumpkin Head, and Aliens. However, for me, the reigning king of horror was the film Fire In The Sky. I saw that one when I was really young and it haunted my dreams well into adulthood.
Scooter: When I was five years old, I was viscously and maliciously attacked by a deer at a petting zoo in Indiana. My mom was filming me at the time, so she got it on camera. The deer comes out of nowhere and plows right into me at full speed, then starts curb-stomping me to death. A total cheap shot. My mom drops the camera and starts screaming. Offscreen, my dad jumps into the pen, kicks the deer in the face multiple times, and saves me. True story.
I think watching that video over and over again in the hospital not only inspired my utter contempt and hatred for deer, but it created enough of a mental imbalance to also inspire me to make horror movies. I would love to make a slasher summer camp film where the main characters are these wild and impetuous teenage deer who are being murdered one by one by a redneck hunter out for revenge. Deer Hunter II starring Christopher Walken. Look for it on kickstarter.
Around the same time as the infamous deer video I saw Jaws. I was way too young to watch something that frightening, and I remember muting the TV during the opening scene. That was the movie that made me love movies.
IL: Your new film is IT’S IN THE BLOOD. Who came up with the idea for the film and can you tell us what the film is about?
Sean: I couldn’t really credit either one of us with the original concept. Each of us contributed so much to the development of this project every step of the way, that it truly is, and has been, a joint project.
I believe the film is essentially an exploration in guilt. How does one move on with their life, when all they have left is, “What if?”
Scooter: About the only thing we knew about the film when we started was we wanted it to be a character-driven horror movie set in the woods, and really awesome.
It’s In The Blood is about a father and son with a tragic past who go out into the wilderness to reconcile their relationship. After a horrible accident leaves them stranded, they have to confront the demons of their past in order to escape with their lives. We think it has one of Lance’s best performances.
IL: Being such close friends, and writing the film. Did you guys disagree on the direction of the film and how would you settle those arguments, if you had any disagreements?
Sean: We made it a rule that we had to agree on every decision concerning the film up until about a month before shooting. At a certain point, I had to push back from the table, relinquish my producer responsibilities, and just concentrate on the character. I have an unquestioning belief in Scooter’s abilities, so I knew the film was in safe hands regardless of my involvement. However, we had agreed that when we were on set and, and that camera was rolling, I was the actor and Scooter was the director. Period…
Scooter: Usually we try to settle our differences with an arm wrestling contest, but our first A.D. got fed up with that early on in the shoot.
IL: Scooter you directed the film and Sean you act in the film. Was that the ways you guys had it planned or was there some negotiating to decide who did what?
Scooter: In the future Sean is going to act as a creative producer for me -- help manage the team and actualize/refine the vision. Besides being a good collaborator, he’s very talented as a taskmaster. Eventually I think he might want to direct as well. As a director you need a producer that you can trust, is creative, and has an awesome goatee. Sean has all three of these things.
Sean: No, we had pretty much known that was how it was going to be from the start. I had gone to school to pursue acting, and Scooter had gone to film school to pursue directing.
IL: The cast is really small, but you have one of my favorite actors in the film, Mr. Lance Henriksen. How did get on board with the project?
Sean: We went about getting Lance on board the standard way (got the script to his agent). We already had 100% of our funding before pursuing an actor, so perhaps that helped expedite the process. After Lance had read the script, he then called Scooter and I (individually) to audition us. Before he would agree to take the part, he had to know that scooter and I were actually mature enough/committed enough to deliver the film we had written on the page. All I can say is that it’s a good thing Scooter and I both had theatrical training because we somehow managed to convince him to join our team. In retrospect, I’m not sure he still would have agreed to do the role had he known how terrified and unprepared we really were.
Scooter: Lance was the only person who read the script that actually understood all the metaphors and what it was we were trying to say. Something about the father/son story resonated with him, and I think if you read his bio Not Bad For A Human you’ll understand why.
IL: Where you guys over the moon when he agreed to be in the film?
Sean: We couldn’t have been happier! Few people get to work with a living legend; even fewer get to do it on their first rodeo.
Scooter: Does that make Lance the cowboy or the raging bull?
Sean: I think it makes us the clowns.
IL: Sean you and Lance Henriksen had very good chemistry on screen. How much time did you guys get to rehearse with one another?
Sean: We were really lucky that Lance’s schedule permitted him to come in a week before shooting started, so we had a fair amount of time to establish a repoire and rehearse. Scooter had us do a number of odd exercises to help us loosen up, including picking any animal that we felt best exemplified our characters, and then living as those characters for a period of time. It was fitting that I chose a young, feral pup, and Lance chose and old, street dog.
IL: Lance Henriksen has been in some big time films and directed by some amazing directors. Scooter, were then any nerves directing such a big time actor?
Scooter: The man has worked with Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Sydney Lumet, Jim Jarmusch – whoa! It was more of an honor than nerve-wracking. Lance has a way of making you feel like you’ve known him forever. He made it easy on me. In general I love working with actors; it’s a comfortable part of the process. I was much more freaked out about other aspects of the production, like all of the rattlesnakes slithering through the set. Though I will say that on the first take of the shoot, Lance’s character is sleeping and I was so nervous and excited I forgot to give him his cue to wake up. So the very first shot of my professional career is Lance Henriksen sleeping for like two minutes.
IL: I know Lance Henriksen is totally committed to this film and has a lot of faith in it, so much so that he is willing to help really promote the film. How does that feel that he is so committed to the film and not just collecting a paycheck?
Sean: It’s insane! Lance has been so incredibly kind to us. One often has an idea of big time actors being prima donas. However, Lance couldn’t be farther from that assessment. We put him through hell on this shoot and never once did he complain. He is a great actor, but an even better human being.
Scooter: Lance is near the top of my “thank you God for this person” prayer list. We’re very grateful for his support.
IL: I know a lot of people are looking forward to the film. Where and when will people be able to see IT’S IN THE BLOOD?
Sean: We are currently in the process of seeking distribution, and are fielding many potential offers. However, the best way to see the film right now is by visiting our website…
We are in the midst of making our festival run, and expect to screen at some 50-60 festival before we are done. As a result, we are constantly updating the calendar with new screenings across the country.
Scooter: You can also follow us on twitter @inthebloodmovie or check us out on facebook tinyurl.com/ittbfacebook.
IL: What is up next for you guys?
Sean: It’s difficult to say. We are developing six different projects across multiple genres and budget ranges, all of which we are really excited about. We wanted to be able to use the success of this film, regardless of scale, to leverage getting the next one made. Hopefully it will be a comedy.
IL: Lastly, what advise if any can you give filmmakers looking to get into the horror business?
Sean: Never play it safe. Shoot for the stars and dare to be bold. If there is one thing this industry is desperately in need of right now, its original material with a unique perspective. I find the more that someone in this industry tells you an idea won’t work, the better your idea actually is. Stick to your guns and maintain an unrelenting belief in yourself. Ultimately, it is that steadfast belief that will see you through the incredibly long journey of making a movie.
Scooter: Less is more.
Thanks to the guys for taking the time to get together for the interview. If you see IT'S IN THE BLOOD playing anywhere near you, go check it out you won't be disappointed.