Earlier this week, I had the chance to do an interview with director Jared Bentley. The first interview of the site and for that, I thank Jared Bentley for taking the time to answer these questions. His latest feature film, Intensive Care, has been available since last January on Amazon Canada. You can read or read afin my review of Intensive Care by clicking here. Otherwise, here is the interview in question.
N.B. A traduction of the interview in French is available in page 1. / Une traduction de l’entrevue en français est disponible en page 1.
I was involved from start to finish. My partners at Engenius Productions and I were frustrated with the process of getting financing for some feature film projects we had in development. We kept getting the same « chicken and the egg » scenario of financiers not being interested unless name talent was attached…and not being able to attach talent without financing in place.
Some production companies wanted to option projects of ours, but the money was always very little, and us having to relinquish all control and not even knowing if the project would ever be made. So in the summer of 2015, we decided to stop waiting for permission, and just self finance a feature film ourselves. So along with a couple other long time collaborators, we funded the film. None of the current scripts we were shopping worked because the budgets were too high, so co-writer and Producer, Darrin Scane suggested a home invasion story, and it all grew from there. Darrin, Eric Storlie, and I spent about 3 months writing the script, and then three months after that, we were in production. It all came together fast.
2- How challenging was it to bring your vision and to bring entertainment on a small budget?
Oh boy, how much time do you have?? 🙂
All of the challenges of low budget, independent filmmaking are too numerous to list. The main challenges were us were getting everything ready in such a short period of time. We had a small window of opportunity with our actors, cinematographer, and location. To push things even a month would mean losing them. It also became clear early on, that our initial budget estimate of $75,000 was not going to cut it. The actors we wanted to use were all SAG, which adds a lot of what is known as « fringe » to the budget. This is frustrating because as a producer, you are paying a lot of money to things that are not ending up on the screen. Also, we knew we couldn’t skimp on the location, so we had to adjust it higher there. So we took out a small business loan to come up with the rest.
3- Before we speak of the lead actress, the house of Intensive Care is also a lead character in itself. How did you find it? Was anything built or modified for like the hanging scene?
I’m happy to hear you say that because having the house be a character itself was very important to us. And in a film like this, the location is very important. Even though we are all based in LA, we didn’t want the film to look like LA, because that’s just boring. Also, people in LA are very savvy when it comes to the film industry, and they expect a big payday when you want to film in one of their locations. When you get our of the major urban hubs, people are much more amenable to a film production disrupting their lives, and in many cases, are excited about the prospect and will work with you and your budget. I ended up finding our two main locations- the house and the barn- on the vacation rental sites, Airbnb and Homeaway.com. The house is in Ojai, CA, which is about an hour northwest of LA, and the barn is in Julian, CA, which is about 4 hours Southeast of LA. Both owners were excited to have a film production take place there.
The Ojai house in particular was perfect because not only in it a very unique looking home in a remote area, but it has the space and the layout we needed for the cat-and-mouse game that ensues, as well as an acre of property for us to do a lot of exteriors.
The hanging scene was especially challenging because the house was very delicate. We couldn’t build any kind of apparatus in that stairwell, but fortunately we had a very experienced Stunt Coordinator in Pete Porteous. He worked out how to do it safely without damaging the location, but also still showing the brutality of it. That was a tough day, because I believe I had over 50 shots to get. When Tara is being suspended there, the most efficient way to do it was to attach the rope to a pole, and have literal manpower lift the pole and suspend her hanging there. The behind the scenes is quite comical as 4 guys are straining to keep a struggling Tara Macken airborne for a full 2 minutes as Kevin Sizemore delivers his long monologue about hangings. I’d call « cut » and they’d lower her down and collect their breath. Then we do it another 40 times.
4- Also I am pretty sure that Tara Macken, a stuntwoman and actress, was a big help to bring those action scenes.How her casting came to be and was it easy to create action scenes around her and the others actors?
You mentioned challenges before, and casting Alex was by far, the most difficult challenge. We received hundreds of submissions and auditioned about 15 actresses, but none of them were quite right. Either they were great actresses, but deficient when it came to the stunts and physicality, or they could handle the stunts and fights, but the acting chops weren’t there. We needed Alex to switch gears between being funny, sexy, vulnerable, and strong…oh and also be an expert in martial arts and stunt work. There is a very short list of women in LA that have all of those qualities AND are willing to be in a low budget film with an unproven production company.
We were about 6 weeks away from production when Kevin Sizemore, who plays Seth in the film, and who is also a producer on the project, sent me her stunt reel and I said « Yes! But can she act? » She came in to read and it was clear after a minute that she was our Alex. Having someone like Tara with her experience, was a huge boost to the film. Her professionalism, work ethic, and talent set the bar for us all in the film and we all wanted to match it. She and our fight choreographer, Mark Parra (another find of Kevin Sizemore‘s) clicked instantly. The other actors, (Jai Rodriguez, Darrin Henson, Jose Rosete, and Kevin Sizemore) aren’t stunt performers per se, but they were all game to do their own stunts. We held several rehearsals, so that on the day of filming, it was all second nature to them. This also enabled me to film the action how I wanted to. A lot of times, in films, they shoot things very tight or dark, in order to mask the fact that there are stunt performers mixed in. That robs a scene of a lot of it’s dramatic tension, because you’re not really seeing the actors in the situation. With Intensive Care, I not only wanted it to be clear that these actors are doing all of their own stunts, but I wanted to film it in a simple, unrestricted way that allowed the viewer to be able to follow it all easily. Just before filming, I watched John Wick, and that was a big influence on me because of how clear and well staged the action scenes were. But of course you need a talent like Keanu Reeves to pull that off…or Tara Macken. 🙂
5- Intensive Care can be seen as a throwback to the 80’s movies. Any big influences in the making of the movie?
My partners and I grew up on a steady diet of 80s and 90s B movies. When I was a kid, if it had « Ninja », « Death », « Force » or « Blood » in the title, I watched it. Darrin Scane is an expert in martial arts himself, so he brought his knowledge to the project in the writing. Co-writer, Eric Storlie wasn’t quite into those things. So he brought a nice balance to the project to make sure that everything we were doing was going to be relatable to audiences outside of those genres. A past reviewer referred to our film as « Under Siege meets Home Alone« . That made me really happy because 1) Under Siege is a badass movie and 2) it means that the humor of the film is also coming across. It was a delicate balance or juggling the violence and darker elements with the comedy. Engenius Productions has mostly worked in comedy over the years, so infusing the material with that element came naturally to us, and early on we decided to not resist or fight it when the film went in that direction. « Intensive Care » is, by design, a simple movie like those we were inspired by. There’s no « message ». It’s just a fun romp with some witty dialogue and a badass lead who is fun to watch wreak havoc on a degenerate trio.
6- To stay in the 80’s, Leslie Easterbrook (Police Academy) has a small cameo in Intensive Care. How she came to the project?
Leslie is the BEST. I want to work with her on every film. The whole set had a sense of class when she was there.
A short film of ours was screening in the Scream in the Dark festival in Omaha in October of 2015. She was a special guest there for the 10 year Anniversary screening of « The Devil’s Rejects« . Eric Storlie and I ambushed her as she was making her exit and told her about our film and that she’d be perfect for « Claire ». Rightfully so, she was a bit guarded with two unknown guys stalking her! But she agreed to read it. A week later she called and said she loved it and wanted to do it. That was an exciting day for us.
Side note: the Ojai homeowner was a big fan of hers, so I asked her if she could autograph a photo for him. She was kind enough to bring several to choose from: Police Academy, Laverne, and Shirley, and more. After wrapping that day we turned into a bunch of fan boys, geeking out on her and she was kind enough to regale us with some stories from the past. It was a real treat.
7- In conclusion, any upcoming projects that you wanna the people to know about?
We just completed our script for a Sci Fi thriller called « The Conductor« . It’s kind of a cyber « Silence of the Lambs« . In addition to that we have a high school suspense thriller called « Covetous‘, which is like « Glee meets Dexter« . So we are shopping those around. We made proof of concepts/pitch reels for each, and the reaction has been great so far.