I recently got the chance to talk to Vincent Grashaw about his role in ‘Bellflower’. Here, Vincent talks about how he got involved in the project in the first place and what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set…
Hey Vincent. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Bellflower’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
‘Bellflower’ is an ode to masculinity and the affirmation of that ideal. It’s a unique look at love, and just how insanely hard we as humans fall for one another. When a relationship is great, the world is beautiful. When the relationship tumbles, it can become Mad Max style anarchy.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play the role of Mike. Mike is Milly’s roommate who clearly has lingering feelings for her. His aggravation stems from her choices in men and her irresponsible behaviour. In the movie, it doesn’t really establish what our relationship is, but I like that it’s vague because it leaves a lot up to interpretation. People have come up to me after the movie and usually say something like, “Oh hey, you’re the asshole in the movie! You’re the bad guy”. I didn’t want him to be just a one-noted, bad guy. I wanted him to be every guy out there who thought the Woodrow and Aiden characters were crazy and pathetic – which I think some circles feel so. I feel he’s definitely a character with more layers a lot of people can relate to. Mike is the complete opposite from the others. He’s a guy who does have a job and responsibilities. He doesn’t approve of these guys’ lifestyle or understand Milly’s interest in them. He’s your ordinary, backwards-hat-wearing-20-something who watches sports, has employment, and pays rent when rent is due. When you are very attracted to a girl and it just isn’t the same for her, it can cause you to do things out of character. I know I’ve been in those shoes before. Mike is someone who wants so much for Milly to feel the same way he does. Milly knows she can count on him and he serves more as a device.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I’m a filmmaker, I don’t really even pursue acting actually. I had met Evan back in 2004 after watching a crazy short film he made. After seeing it, I felt the guy was really talented, so I reached out and we collaborated on projects, even acted in some together. We became good friends from there and in 2008, Evan asked me to play Mike. I read the script and freaked out. I felt if you didn’t know Evan or his aesthetics, you may not understand what he was trying to do here, but since I had seen his work I knew it was going to be outrageous. So I told him I was definitely interested in it. From there I noticed the production was a mess and they needed some help on the producing side.
I decided to throw myself into the madness because I really felt we had something very special here. It was an experience I will never forget.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
This is a loaded question. For me it’s hard to distinguish between ‘the film’ ‘Bellflower’ and the experience of ‘making the film’. Sometimes I feel like we were all as insane as the characters to have taken on this movie. These characters made a flamethrower and a muscle car with no money the same way we made ‘Bellflower’ (the movie), the car and the flamethrower for no money. I think all of the raw emotion, the blood, sweat, and tears comes through on-screen with ‘Bellflower’. Not just from the actors, but through the photography, the props, the music and Evan’s style. It doesn’t make it a movie for everyone, but it is a movie that is undeniably unique.
The film stars Evan Glodell, Jessie Wiseman, Tyler Dawson, Rebekah Brandes, your good self and Zack Kraus – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
Working with this cast and crew on set was nothing like I had ever experienced before. It wasn’t even your typical functioning independent set. One small, close-knit family of 5-11 people who dropped everything for 90 days and shot almost everyday for an entire summer. Our crew literally consisted of a few filmmakers and a group of friends who saw what we were doing and wanted to be a part of something.
It defies logic when I think about some of the experiences we had on set. It was very fulfilling at times, even when we were plagued with problems, ie, no money, blowing engines, flat tires, stranded in remote locations, almost burning power lines, camera issues, not able to back up hard drives, no sleeping, no eating, etc, etc. I could go on and on. I know individually we were all separately pushed way beyond our limits. Each one of us had one or several “what the fuck am I doing” moments. Persistence tested if you will. But to get a movie like ‘Bellflower’ made, you have to throw the book out the window and be open to all and any obsessive and irresponsible behaviour. It wouldn’t have been completed otherwise.
Let’s talk a bit about you Vincent. What made you want to get into the world of film in the first place?
Movies have affected me my whole life. Ever since I first began watching them. I have no issues calling something a perfect movie (‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘Forrest Gump’). There are films I can watch over and over again which I call comfort movies (‘Tremors’, ‘The Burbs’, ‘Death Becomes Her’, ‘What About Bob’, ‘Ghostbusters’). I never ask someone their favourite movie, I ask for their Top 5 (‘Se7en’, ‘The Lives Of Others’, ‘City of God’, ‘Tyrannosaur’, ‘Magnolia’). You can have movies that affect who you and that doesn’t even mean they are great. When I was 17, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘The Thin Red Line’ changed me. It dealt with the reality of war and at the time my grandfather who served was still alive. I was really moved and found myself either saying “thank you” or buying their groceries when I’d come across a veteran wearing a hat. Those movies affected me at that age immensely. When I was 15 years old I watched the movie ‘Kids’. It was so similar to a group of friends I had (on my tournament hockey team), I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It portrayed a certain part of my life, and although I was more of an observer, I could still heavily relate. I took a lot from its cinematography and raw performances because I felt like I knew them.
I’d have to say the movie which has had the most profound impact on my life is ‘American History X’…it’s not necessarily a perfect movie, but I think what hit me so hard was the journey and transformation of Edward Norton’s character and the influence someone can have over another person, especially a brother. One’s path to change is never easy. Portraying it in a movie this intense accurately should be heralded. All of the drama and issues this production went through in post-production and the release between Tony Kaye and New Line/Ed Norton is strange/interesting to me, but also sad because I know it affected the release of the film, i.e. less people saw it. The proclamation in the movie that ‘hate’ is baggage couldn’t ring more true in life. It’s not a dead-end… it’s a road to nowhere. This movie didn’t punch me in the gut, it took a sledgehammer to it.
There are movies that have affected and inspired me at different points in my life. It’s interesting how you grow naturally as a person over time. For me, movies are a thread in doing so. This is why I want to make movies.
We should mention that you’re also a writer, editor, producer, director and camera operator – what advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
If you are just starting off and want to pursue a career in this crazy industry I would do whatever you could to try to not be overwhelmed by the potential competitiveness of it. It isn’t and should never come off competitive. Just go out and strive to make the best film you can. Be relentless and tenacious. Be humble and friendly. Enjoy learning. Make mistakes, it’s okay. Take it and share it with the world. Show anyone and everyone. When you exude passion and humility, people will be attracted to you. And with a little bit of luck and good timing things will fall into place and things will begin to happen for you. If they don’t, keep doing it. Maybe something bigger will happen with the next one. Bottom line: have fun being creative.
If you could invite three guests to dinner – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
My uncle Rob Grashaw…he was like my second father, died too young from a massive heart attack in 2007 and I didn’t get to say goodbye. I would love to have one more dinner with him.
Steve McQueen…more interested in his life than the movies he did. I would love to just shoot the shit, do a dinner and then ride motorcycles on Laurel Canyon.
Lee Harvey Oswald … I have a lot of questions for him.
If you were stranded on a desert island – what three things could you not live without?
a beautiful woman
What’s the most interesting/funniest news you’ve heard in the last month or so?
The funniest / most interesting thing I have heard in the last month was the article from CRAVE.NET about the guy who was arrested at Large Hadron Collider claiming he was from the future. The funniest thing about it was his statement, “Countries do not exist where I am from. The discovery of the Higgs Boson led to limitless power, the elimination of poverty and Kit-Kats for everyone. It is a communist chocolate hell hole and I’m here to stop it ever happening.” I found it really interesting that he was taken to a secure mental health facility in Geneva but later disappeared from his cell. I would love to hear what happened, or if there is a follow-up to this.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
In the near future I am gearing up to make my feature-length directorial debut with a story called ‘Coldwater’, which I co-wrote. I just secured the funding, so we will probably shoot in late spring/early Summer in northern California.
I am also producing Evan’s second feature film, which he is currently writing. We have big plans for Coatwolf Productions this year!
In terms of ‘Bellflower’, we are looking forward our theatrical releases abroad in Asia and Europe. We are also attending the Independent Spirit Awards in February since we garnered two nominations: the John Cassavetes Award for Best Feature (under 500k) and Best Cinematography.
Thanks for the interview!