An Interview with Reese Eveneshen, Director of DEFECTIVE (2018)
We reviewed the upcoming science fiction thriller DEFECTIVE here at Voices from The Balcony and got a chance to ask a few questions of its writer/director Reese Eveneshen. We’d like to thank Reese for taking the time to answer them and distributor Uncork’d Entertainment for setting up the interview.
1. Can you tell us a bit about your background and why you decided to get into film making?
I’ve had a love for all things movie related since I was a kid. I grew up in Alberta, Canada, which at the time felt the furthest away from a movie-making hub. I quite clearly remember locking myself in my room and building myself sets with arts and crafts, then putting my action figures in those sets and pretending to make movies. Hell even as a child in daycare I would take their video camera and film myself putting on plays with my friends. Basically, I always wanted to get into filmmaking. I’ve just been continually fascinated with it. This carried on my whole life on into high school then past high school and now into my thirties. I wish I knew the exact moment the spark started, but I really don’t remember. At a certain point, we moved from Alberta to Ontario, and I was fortunate enough to be thrust into a location where I had family members working on actual productions! In a round about way it has just sort of spiralled on from there and here we are with, Defective.
2. You’ve done several shorts as well as two features. How would you compare the two formats and which do you prefer?
I actually have quite a tough time with short films. It’s easier for me to sit down and write ninety pages than it is to write five or ten. Often any time I was doing a short was because I was trying to get a feature off the ground, or it was a fun little film challenge and I was making it up on the spot. I’m envious of some filmmaker friends of mine who can run out and put together these wicked short films in a matter of weeks. And I admire how in a short you can kind of throw story structure and character development out the window, it becomes more about tone and embracing concepts. However, it’s more exciting for me to work on feature films, I didn’t grow up wanting to make short films, I wanted to make feature length movies. Also it’s hard enough to build a career making feature films, it’s even harder if your go to format is short films. It is easier for people to carve out ten minutes over ninety minutes, but at the end of the day they want to know if you can handle long form narrative.
3. Your other feature DEAD GENESIS is a zombie film. Tell us a little about it and what makes it different from all of the other zombie films out there.
Oh boy, well that was a long time ago, it’s going to be ten years ago next summer. I just wanted to make another movie, and I loved (still love for that matter) zombie films. We went to a bank, got a very small line of credit, grabbed some people, went out into the woods and shot a zombie movie for around 6k. Much to my surprise (or horror) the movie was picked up and released worldwide! At the time, I didn’t think it was original or different, what I was trying to do however was make something closer to a Romero zombie film. Around the 2008-2009 time period, indie zombie movies were just “run and kill them” type of flicks. I thought they had strayed far from the original George Romero zombie idea, so I set out to make a character piece, commentary piece, slightly artsy version of a zombie movie… with no money! It was more for myself than anything. It turned out okay, I did the film a disservice by shooting it myself… A cinematographer I am not! A couple years after we finished it, The Walking Dead came out and successfully brought back the original Romero narrative… to a point. Anyway, I wouldn’t say Dead Genesis offered anything new or different, certainly doesn’t feel like it now. But it was fun to make, and without it I don’t think there would have been Defective.
4. A lot of DEFECTIVE’s plot points seem to be related to an extension of trends, like for-profit prisons, “security companies” that are actually private armies, drone surveillance, etc. Were these what inspired the script?
Right now as a writer it’s impossible not to be influenced by what’s going on in the world. And I won’t deny that certain aspects of the world we’re living in did find their way into the script… But I definitely did not set out with those intentions. I mostly just wanted to write a science fiction action film! I wish I could give some romantic social commentary inspired answer, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. As we were making the movie, some of the trends you refer to became much more prevalent to us. A lot of people in the cast and crew started pointing out the similarities of aspects of the script to real world issues. If that’s the kind of conversation the movie sets out to create, then I think that’s more of a sign of the times then it is what was intended. But I have seen some things while travelling and even articles online that make me a little concerned… Parts of this movie seem to be coming true!
5. DEFECTIVE had some major problems with its financing and only raised about half of its budget via crowdfunding. What made you decide to go for it anyway, and did this change your opinion of crowdfunding?
Actually we didn’t do any crowdfunding for the movie. We had talked about it very briefly in post-production, but then we decided against doing it. I think crowdfunding is incredibly risky, and it’s a hell of a lot of work to. We were already busting our asses finding the money ourselves, the idea of properly building a campaign then keeping track of it for 30-40 days was taunting. I think those campaigns are even harder on indie films with no recognizable talent in front of or behind the camera. You also need a strong idea that sparks enough interest with the general public. It also doesn’t look good if your campaign completely fails and you raise a whopping $400 from a family member.
With that being said we did have major financing issues regardless. We raised all the money ourselves by going out and pounding the pavement. We talked to anybody who would listen, we came with a business plan that was very carefully researched. Still, it wasn’t enough to raise the full budget. We had a choice to keep trying to get to that final number, or just start shooting the movie. We opted for the latter and started making the movie with what we had. It took us about a year to finish shooting, we had to stop periodically and raise more money to shoot the next block! Not the most efficient way to shoot a movie, but we had to do something, and I was getting sick of waiting around.
6. What effect did the budget have on the script? How did you decide what to cut and what to keep, while hoping you would raise enough funding to make it all work?
We shot everything in that script, we didn’t a cut single thing. We all had a rough idea of how to pull off pretty much everything in the script. And we would only consider cutting something out if we absolutely 100% knew that there was no way in hell we could do it. It was a fun challenge for us, we liked that we were pushing ourselves. It would have been very easy to give up and cut stuff out, it was more full filling to grab some supplies and make things happen with what little we had. Now, that doesn’t mean everything worked out. There are a handful of shots and scenes that just didn’t quite look right, most of that ended up on the cutting room floor… but at least we tried. What was scary on set was anytime we shot elements for visual effects! We had no money for any VFX work at the time, we were just crossing our fingers and hoping that’d we’d figure it out. I would tell myself, “This is a future Reese problem”… then I would promptly have an anxiety attack.
7. For a low budget film you have a good amount of effects; almost all of which work well. Am I right in saying they were mostly all practical effects?
That is correct! We did pretty much everything in camera. There is only one shot in the movie that is about 95% visual effects, but it still has a practical element in it. Up until this movie I hadn’t really worked with visual effects at all, I was used to doing most everything in camera. And because we didn’t know what things would look like in post production, we did our best to put everything in camera. Besides, practical effects will always look better. We naively tried to do every single thing in camera, but our budget was a hinderance.
We wanted to use blanks and squibs. Well we couldn’t afford the insurance coverage to do blanks on sets. Those were all digital. Then we wanted to go for squibs! And again, our insurance wouldn’t cover it! Luckily we had our main set dresser build some really cool mini blood-blasters that worked like a charm. That way we’d only have to go in and augment some of the hits here and there. Every single shot of our Preservers of Peace are practical, those were fully functioning (and very uncomfortable) suits. We did have a full size puppet of our Drone on set that we could puppeteer in and out of shots. However, it took a very long time to get that set up to work, so we ended using the digital version more often than not. Though the practical one does pop up in the movie in a handful of shots. And we had some wonderful grisly special make up effects on set courtesy of, Mitchell Stacey, who I’ve known and been working with for ten years!
8. What other challenges did the low budget create and how did you, the cast and crew work through them?
It’s the little things that got to us. We didn’t have enough money to cover a lot of the travel expenses for cast and crew. Which feels awful, but at the same time you know that it doesn’t exist. We had money that was off the books that was coming from our wallets and credit cards. Now luckily nobody seemed to really raise any complaints with that. I wish we would have had more money for hotel accommodations, but we didn’t. We had one hotel room that we’d have to share between us. Even then we still had people either driving back and forth everyday, or staying the night on set. The biggest thing we felt was the lack of money to pay people properly. That’s it, and there wasn’t much to do other than beg, plead and apologize. We didn’t want to lie to people though, we made it very clear from the get go how little we had to work with. And we told people that if they weren’t comfortable with that than we would not hold it against them if they needed to leave. And because of that we did lose some crew members, but you just power on. The movie still has to get made or else we have an outstanding balance with our investors and nothing to show for it. I think the one thing that helped our cause was that myself, the producer (Peter Szabo) and the cinematographer (Isaac Elliott-Fisher) took no pay for our work on the movie. We were often paying people out of our own savings just to keep them on set another day or two. It was a passion project, we had come this far with it and wanted to see it through to the end. It was worth it.
9. What films influenced you in making DEFECTIVE?
There were a ton for sure, all kind of following a certain period of filmmaking from the 70’s to early 90’s. I’ll narrow it down to sci-fi to simplify this list: Soylent Green, Logan’s Run, RoboCop, The Terminator, The Running Man, They Live, Total Recall etc. All of which I think are pretty obvious influences in the movie. It’s a really a hodge podge of different ideas that are thrown into a blender. There’s just something about those movies that you do not get with films now. And I am by no means saying that you get that feel with Defective, because I do believe it is its own movie. But we definitely tried to make the movie feel older tonally, without trying to purposely go out of our way to use fancy tricks to make it look aged.
10. As a follow-up to the previous question, what would a list of your favorite directors and films include?
This one is too tough for me. There are too many, and the problem is that some of the filmmakers I like most also happen to have some not so great titles amongst their others. And my tastes are changing year after year! I will say that Jaws has continued to be my favorite movie of all time. I know that is sort of the safe answer for most filmmakers, but it’s true… that movie is fantastic. Some others in no particular order: Arthur, Trading Places, Casino, Day of the Dead, Videodrome, American Psycho, Jackie Brown, Fargo, Rocky, Zodiac… lots. Between my wife and I, we have a collection of close to 1000 blu rays and dvd’s. Avid movie and television watchers in this household.
11. What’s next? There’s certainly room for, if not a direct sequel, at least other stories in DEFECTIVE’s world. Would you revisit it, or want to do something totally different?
There are no immediate plans for anything Defective related at this point. The movie has a pretty definite end in my mind. Though I do have a nugget of an idea for a sequel, I don’t really have an interest in writing it anytime soon. But you never know, it could happen! Right now we have four other projects in some stage of development. All different genres. It’s looking more than likely that the sci-fi one will be the one to get made next, Defective has made that a bit easier for us. It’ll be completely on the opposite end of the sci-fi spectrum than Defective was, we’ll see if that happens!
12. Do you have any advice for the aspiring filmmakers reading this?
Always focus on making the films you want to make. I’ve heard a lot about other filmmakers trying to make their work fit certain algorithms or follow what they’ve heard might be “sellable”. That’s a dangerous path to head down, this market changes weekly. And nothing good as ever come out of trying to make a movie fit within a box. And don’t let one failure dictate the rest of your life or career. Use that anger or depression and put it towards a new project!
And as a side note, please check out our Facebook page! Look for Defective-The Movie! We’ve had the page up and running since production started, its got tons of behind the scenes photos, videos and cool stuff. And we keep it consistently updated with new release dates and information.
Thanks again Reese. best of luck with the release of DEFECTIVE and please keep us up to date with your future projects.
Uncork’d Entertainment will release DEFECTIVE on VOD 2/13/2018.
*Thank you for the interview! And thank you for asking a couple questions that I haven’t been asked yet!