By: Trevor Chartrand
After sweeping the festival circuit, Badsville continues its public theatrical run at Toronto’s Carlton Cinema with a VOD/digital release planned for early this year. I recently talked with director April Mullen and screenwriters/actors Benjamin Barrett and Ian McLaren about the inspirations behind their latest film.
Trevor Chartrand: How were you first approached to direct Badsville, and what appealed to you most about the project?
April Mullen: David J. Phillips, a fellow Canadian filmmaker, had read Ian and Ben’s script and decided to produce it. He recommended me and, from there, I had an interview with all three of them. I walked into the room and saw two leading men with passion and a new voice to offer to the screen. In my gut, I knew how special Ben and Ian were and I wanted to help them bring their story to the screen.
We were all on the same page creatively. I showed them a visual look book, and I had some songs that came to mind while reading the film – one of the songs was very unknown, and it turned out they actually listened to it while writing. I also connected strongly with the themes of loyalty, love, friendship, family, dreams, and trying to reach outside of your world to want something more which ran through the film’s core.
TC: (to Ben and Ian) What was the collaborative process while writing the script? How was work divided between the two of you?
Benjamin Barrett: Badsville was written in a tiny studio apartment – Ian’s tiny apartment – where we would take turns yelling dialogue and typing. Ian and I met 4-5 times a week for 5-6 hours at a time, and we flushed it out together.
TC: What inspired you both to explore the concept, characters and themes of Badsville? Where did the initial idea stem from?
Ian McLaren: Badsville is loosely based on the town Ben is from, which is on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Even the idea of escaping (‘getting out’) stems from the town. When people ask what Badsville is about, we say its a love story. Because for us, thats what we wanted to show. Love ain’t perfect. Love is where you find it, or don’t. Love is a million inexplicable actions, feelings, behaviors. It’s everywhere. It’ll never get old….
BB: And, that’s the story we wanted to tell most. Each character represents a different version of love. The greaser gangs and the style act as a vessel to amplify, inform, provoke. “Cigarettes and gangs, man. Shit’s always been cool”.
TC: When writing Badsville, had you always intended to also star as Wink and Benny? Knowing your strengths as performers, was the writing influenced by your intention to play these roles?
BB/IM: Yes and yes. We wrote Badsville knowing we would play these specific roles. Ultimately, we just wanted to tell the best story possible. Although we wanted to give ourselves the beefy acting roles (as any actor would), that always came second to the story.
TC: One element of the film that really stands out is the surreal sense of timelessness. Characters with 1950s-styled back hair and old-fashioned speech patterns inhabit a somewhat modern, if grungy, world. What inspired the era-defying look of the film?
AM: The script really paid homage to the rockabilly/greaser scene and had a truth to it if we were able to keep it in a world unto it’s own. We wanted it to be timeless, but yet have a very strong style to it. It was bold, and I loved the challenge of keeping it all still set in honesty. It’s a fine balance to have such an extreme world, one lost to all but those who live there. There is an innocence to the world, one filled with love and a sense of wonder opposite brutal violence.
TC: What was the biggest challenge you encountered while making Badsville, and how did you overcome it?
AM: This is indie filmmaking at it’s best; all passion – no time – no money. The very tight shooting schedule with the extremely ambitious movie did not go hand in hand. It takes everything you’ve got in your soul to get through the shooting days on a film like this, and you have to constantly reinvent your shot list as the day moves on. I had my indie tool belt on 24/7! A film like this one is run on dreams and magic; the momentum carries it and you have to be present every second to make the day and keep spirits high.
TC: Throughout your career, April, you’ve taken on a variety of different roles both in front of and behind the camera. What elements of filmmaking do you find most rewarding, and are there any roles in the industry you have not pursued, but would like to?
AM: I find every role – large and small – rewarding while putting all the ingredients together which brings magic to the screen. Directing and producing allows me to dive into all aspects of the filmmaking process. The process of creation from page to the screen and being a part of every step as it comes together is fascinating and rewarding.
I also love that it’s a collaborative effort bringing so many artists and creative people together to accomplish one major mission to connect to and move human beings. I love the creative process and capturing the moment. I aim to bring new elements and discoveries from within to the screen everyday whether that be through television or film. I did some camera operating in my younger years and feel a strong to potential to tap into that on my next film.
TC: (to Ben and Ian) With Badsville being the first feature writing credit for you both, is writing something you would like to continue to pursue? Do you prefer to write with a collaborator, or would either of you consider writing a project independently?
BB: In this day and age, we both feel you can’t be one-dimensional. You need to create your own content. If you don’t, you have to continue to wait on someone else.
IM: That being said, we have collaborated on another script and, yes, we’ve both written things independently. Hopefully, we will be able to share these things with audiences soon!
Read my review of Badsville here!