The Movie Sleuth talks movies, werewolves, and Blood Moon with up and coming director Jeremy Wooding.
TMS: In the pantheon of Werewolf movies there is a lot of good and a lot of really bad. What would you say is the defining moment in cinematic history for Werewolves?
JW: There are a few bench marks I think. In 1935 Universal Studios made their first foray into this particular horror subgenre with Werewolf of London, but it wasn't until 1941, that they would find what audiences wanted with The Wolfman and again in 1957 with I Was A Teenage Werewolf. In 1981 there were two notable werewolf movies: The Howling kept the upright stance of the werewolf, but had the creatures walk on their toes (digitigrade) and gave them a much more lupine feel overall. While dated and maybe even a little naive by modern standards the Joe Dante film really set the standard for what we think of as werewolves today. Also in 1981 came An American Werewolf in London, kicked into gear because John Landis was scared of losing his effects artist, Rick Baker, to the production of The Howling. While previous films (such as The Beast Must Die) had used large dogs to portray the post-transformation lycanthrope, Baker's designs were the first to build a huge puppet for this stage of the creature's cycle. The film is so pivotal they invented an Academy Award for it (Baker got the Best Makeup Oscar in 1982). In 2002 the UK got back in the game with Dog Soldiers, which started the trend of low-hair werewolves. Chosen as much for budget reasons as anything else, the exposed musculature and digitigrade stilts of Neil Marshall's lycanthropes left an indelible mark on the public concept of werewolves. In 2003 we were shown the first chapter of what would become the biggest grossing werewolf franchise so far - Underworld, which had beasts which were a hybrid of all that had gone before.
TMS: How is Blood Moon being received so far? I know we gave it a good review. On that note, how do you deal with negative reviews and/or internet trolls that might not be so nice to your hard work?
JW: The film has, by and large, had a positive reception. It’s interesting to see how reviewers wrestle with the concept and the cross-genre approach. And it's also interesting to see how some reviewers don’t seem to be able to use spellchecker! Ha. But what is most informative is to see what the main plus points of the movie are for people and what are the most mentioned negative aspects. This will help us with our PR pitch in the UK market, and help me with any sequels.
Your review was well-written and one of the most intelligent and insightful. However, only one person (an audience member at a festival screening) has picked up on the movie as an analogy of colonialism and as a Native American revenge movie. I look to reviewers to discover and illuminate things that may have been subconscious decisions on my part. One interviewer spotted that a Cowboys vs. Indians motif is something that runs through all three of my feature films. And it made me think about why.
As far as the trolls and haters and the negative slag-off merchants go…well, I’ve got a pretty thick skin and mostly they just reveal their ignorance and lack of education, or they have some axe to grind. I do read as much coverage out there as I can, and I’m not deaf to constructive criticism, but I’m aware of most of the short-comings of the movie (I lived it for two years) way before release and so having them pointed out to you in a malicious way can be a bit tiresome.
TMS: When working in the context of the horror genre, you decided to mix in a western dynamic. Are there any specific movies that influenced your decision to go this route?
JW: Blood Moon was written primarily as a western and then screenwriter Alan Wightman added the horror element to the mix, combining two of his favorite genres. The film really comes under the banner of ‘a weird western’, which is a well-known concept in comic books. I have seen other movies that could be classed as ‘weird westerns’ like Cowboys vs. Aliens, Gallowwalkers, The Wild Wild West, Jonah Hex…But I was interested in creating a heightened-realistic western, something that played out like a comic book come to life. And getting that tone right was the most difficult thing about making this film. I have watched hundreds of westerns, classic, revisionist, surreal etc etc., but the ones that influenced me most were Wild Bill, Heavens Gate and The Assassination of Jesse James. All beautiful and idiosyncratic movies.
TMS: Who is your biggest influence as a director and why? And what is your favorite movie in the Werewolf sub-genre?
JW: The filmmakers who I admire and who made me want to be a filmmaker were the visionaries with individual voices – poets of the cinema. They are filmmakers who show you another reality and who make you see life in a different light, and filmmakers with passion. In America those are, amongst others, the ‘maverick’ filmmakers like Coppola, Scorcese, Cimino, De Palma, Jim Jarmush, Hal Hartley, Mike Nichols, Polanski. In Europe Wim Wenders, Francois Truffaut, Tarkovsky, Kieslowski, Nic Roeg. And not forgetting the great cinema entertainers – Billy Wilder, Hitchcock, Walter Hill.
My favorite film in the werewolf subgenre is American Werewolf in London. It was wildly entertaining and moving. It had a fantastic finale set in the heart of London (when it was hard to get filming permissions at that time) and the Rick Baker transformation FX were ground-breaking.
TMS: We’re experiencing a huge influx of remakes in the last decade or so. If you had one choice of a movie to do over (any genre), what would it be and what would you do differently?
JW: I would remake Heartbreaker, a French film from 2010. I don’t think it has been remade. It’s a comedy-romance set in the south of France about a brother/sister team who are hired to break up romances. I’d give it a glossy L.A. spin. It would give me a chance to work with some of my American comedy heroes. It was a great movie in French, but I think there is plenty to play for with American social mores and sticky, embarrassing situations. It would be a feel-good movie, not cynical.
TMS: Was it hard to get funding for Blood Moon and what methods did you have to use to raise money for the production?
JW: It was really hard to get funding for the film, and I had many sleepless nights. We still weren’t fully funded when we started production (which was a headache for me as director because I kept getting pulled away to my role as producer). Money people just didn’t get the pitch, and often I would hear ‘westerns don’t sell.’ Django Unchained changed all that. People can be so unimaginative.
I was inspired by John Landis talking about American Werewolf in London and saying he gave up pitching it as a comedy-horror mix and just said comedy to make it an easier sell.
We used all manner of methods to get investors on board – tax breaks, personal involvement with the filmmaking process etc. And friends and family helped. For such a small budget ($700k) it was sometimes like we were raising millions…
TMS: Where do you see movie making and the industry heading in the next ten years? The formula has been rapidly changing for the way films are released. Do you think we’ll see a reinvigorated move back to movie theaters or have we passed the point of no return?
JW: I think there will still be the big VFX-driven blockbusters from the studios which are the multiplex/Imax bread and butter, but I see an emergence of new ‘online studios’ like Netflix and Amazon breaking release conventions of holding back movies before VOD release. I think audiences nowadays want to watch a movie where and when they decide after release. I don’t think that is the end of cinemas. Far from it. We are doing a mini indie cinema tour with Blood Moon in the UK (I’ll do Q&As after one-off screenings, and I’ll take along the werewolf head for people to get selfies done with it), and whilst researching this tour I have seen a lot of new ‘boutique cinemas’ opening up where you can get a great cinema-going experience (good coffee, wine, beer, food etc.) in a comfortable environment, and often in architecturally interesting, rejuvenated old cinema buildings. With the effect that older audiences (over 25’s) are flowing back to the cinema. And that’s the new theatrical audience for indie movies – the under 25’s watch at home on computer devices and in huge cinemas, as far as I can see.
TMS: What is your next project and what do you want people to know about Blood Moon?
JW: I have several films in the pipeline, some I am producing and directing, others where I am a director for hire. They are different genres – supernatural, comedy, musical, thriller. It’s exciting to be faced with different genre challenges. As to what the next film with be – whichever film captures the financiers eye first.
What I want people to know about Blood Moon is that it is fun and funny too. Also that when I saw Blood Moon on the big screen for the first time, it became clear to me that I had made an origins movie. In a way Blood Moon could be seen as a preview of bigger and better adventures with our creature-hunter hero Calhoun.
TMS: Where can people see Blood Moon and what’s the best way to watch it?
Blood Moon is available to download and rent on most major platforms – Amazon, I-Tunes. And also the DVD (with great making-of extras) via Redbox and Walmart. Enjoy.
Oooooh Walmart!!! Our favorite!
Like this article? Please share!