Director JT Petty on Hellbenders

Fellow Midnight Madness blogger Sanjay and I will be teaming up for a few combo interviews this year, twisting our brains together in a Hellraiser kind of way... here is the first!

We got a hold of Three Time Midnight Madness Alumni Director JT Petty (S&MAN, The Burrowers) to ask him about his new film Hellbenders premiering in this year's programme!

MM: I have to say, Hellbenders has one of the most insanely compelling ideas that I’ve heard in a while; Priests in essence playing Hell’s rules against themselves to keep an open line and literally drag demons through the fiery gates themselves. Pretty badass! 

1. Tell us about the magic moment that you knew you were going to make  Hellbenders...
JT: Soon as the concept struck me I knew I needed to make a story about it in some format, and from there just trusted that God would make me strong so long as I was doing His work.
2. Describe the relationship you now have in working with your leading man Clancy Brown over two feature films!
JT:  In THE BURROWERS, Clancy Brown was my crutch. In HELLBENDERS, he's my wings. That's probably a bit much, but I'm honestly surprised and humbled every time he agrees to work with me. Clancy's an icon and I knew he'd be good in the movie, but had no idea he could be simultaneously so funny, scary, and ecstatically blasphemous.

3. You already have an extremely diverse body of work; do you consciously strive to challenge yourself with vastly different material, or do you feel your tastes are organically changing?

JT:  I certainly wouldn't want to make the same movie twice, and have even less interest in making something somebody else already made. I try to avoid too much navel-gazing, but I guess I'm mostly concerned with subverting expectations. A lot of my favorite movie experiences, like ODISHON, LITTLE MURDERS, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, or this year's LOOPER are all real conscious of the genres they're fucking with without ever descending into cynicism or post modern shenanigans. I love feeling like I'm being led through unexplored territories.

4.  Midnight Madness is a tough program to get into and this is your 3rd appearance. What advice would you have for genre filmmakers who are making a film that connects with this audience?

JT:  Don't make any safe bets.

5. What was it like shooting 3-D? Was it something you considered while writing the film, and are there any cool effects we can look forward to?

JT: I knew HELLBENDERS was going to be 3D from the start, but wanted to use it responsibly. I didn't want it to be a gimmick any more than the fact that we shot in color or with sync sound. Mostly I was thinking about texture and physicality; comedy and horror both benefit enormously from a sort of tactile experience of watching. And real 3D is all about texture and space. Think about the shot of Ben Stiller's nutsack getting caught in his zipper in THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, then think about how much more painful and hilarious that would be with real 3D volume. It's not about throwing ping pong balls at the audience, it's about immersing them in intimate physical space.
There are a bunch of 3D-specific effects we're doing, especially in the more subjective moments of the exorcism scenes, thought they're a little hard to describe. There are some sequences where we're intentionally using an “incorrect” interocular to make impossible 3D space. My experience of it is a harder-to-grok version of the zoom-in-dolly-out from VERTIGO. Something you want to use sparingly, but real effective in small amounts.

6. Any memorable stories from set in putting the more complex shots together? (You may talk in code to avoid spoilers!)
JT:  I was hiding behind a dresser and holding onto the hind leg of a rabbit who really hated all the lights and the smell of baby oil, while one of the Hellbenders on the bed above me was asking the DP if the camera was seeing his bare ass or if he needed to prop his hips up on a pillow, and one of the producers was angling a small 3D monitor down so I could check frame without letting go of the rabbit. Getting that shot right felt good.

Bonus: Be honest--do you make these wonderfully deranged movies just so you can come back to Toronto and hang out with us?
JT:  You say that like it's a joke, but I couldn't honestly express how much I love the whole Midnight Madness experience without sounding like I was blowing smoke up your ass. But yes, absolutely. 

MM:  No smoke up ass inferred. We are delighted to have you back! Thanks so much for your time JT! We look forward to having our minds expanded, morals tested, and eyeballs melted--with your brazen new film!

Don't miss Hellbenders!

Sun., Sept. 9th, 11:59 PM RYERSON
Tue., Sept. 11th, 7:00 PM CINEPLEX YONGE & DUNDAS 7
Sat., Sept. 15th, 9:15 PM SCOTIABANK 2

1 comment:

  1. ...and suddenly, I'm very worried about that poor rabbit!