Hello dear listeners, I wanted to issue a public service announcement: this episode gets into some darker territory than most episodes do and goes beyond horror into explorations of sexual trauma. As such, I wanted to issue this trigger warning....
Hello dear listeners, I wanted to issue a public service announcement: this episode gets into some darker territory than most episodes do and goes beyond horror into explorations of sexual trauma. As such, I wanted to issue this trigger warning.
Ben Young is an Australian writer-director whose feature debut, Hounds of Love, completely blew me away. Hounds is an extremely gut-wrenching depiction of a criminal couple who engage in serial rape and murder. I'm usually not the biggest fan of this kind of horror BUT, this movie is not nihilistic, in fact, just the opposite - despite the brutality of its subject matter, the movie itself is executed in a way that's extremely compassionate, not to mention suspenseful - the ending had me losing my mind. It's a masterful exercise in gut-wrenching human drama, true horrors of humanity, and is loaded with very compelling performances. But again, I'm going to offer a strong trigger warning up front; Hounds of Love is a very brutal movie; it deals with rape and murder, both of which we discuss in this episode. Listener discretion is advised.
- Always have multiple answers for 'what do you want to do next.’ Ben's first pitch to the Australian film commission was not accepted, but luckily for him, he had multiple concepts and was ultimately able to make Hounds of Love even though it was not his first choice. Many would-be filmmakers have that one script or one idea. That kind of exclusive focus is a shot in the foot for your career. When you're fortunate enough to get an at-bat with a powerful producer, they may pass on your first idea and ask what else you got. If you don't have an answer, you've blown a very big opportunity. Always be developing multiple ideas. This runs counter to the importance of focus but think of it as tending a garden of projects that you nourish and develop over time, so when opportunity strikes, you have multiple developed options.
- Rehearse remotely and over time. Most indie filmmakers don’t have time for rehearsals, but that’s no excuse to be pausing cameras to discuss the emotions and motivation of a character, you still need to have that worked that out ahead of time, ideally with full collaboration with the actor. Ben has an elaborate system of questions around characters and scenes that he gives to his actors via Google docs. They answer, and he comments, and together they work out the character details over time instead of through typical rehearsals. This is very powerful because, over time, these character nuances are able to sink into the actor's psyche while the director has also had the opportunity to flesh them out fully.
- Build trust. This is a big one. Horror typically deals with very dark subject matter, which can be difficult, even triggering for actors. A movie like Hounds of Love deals with elements of rape, murder, and slavery. The actors had to go to extremely dark places in a believable way, but they wouldn't have been able to go there without trusting Ben implicitly. Ben stated to his actors early on that he would never ask them to do anything they were not comfortable doing, BUT he would explore why they were uncomfortable and find a compromise with the actor that gave him what he needed. This is compassionate directing and can lead to not only better performances but an enjoyable and meaningful set experience. For an example of what not to do, see Stanley Kubrick and Shelley Duvall in The Shining.
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