What If You’re Invited To Dinner, And It Turns Out ‘You’ Are The Main Course?
Horror films are here to stay. So say the filmmakers of Bad Blood: The Hunger, actor/director Conrad Janis and Writer/Producer Maria Janis.
Conrad Janis with over 700 acting credits is perhaps best known as Mindy’s dad on Mork & Mindy, the popular sitcom starring Pam Dawber and Robin Williams.
Janis, stars and directs opposite three-time Academy Award nominee Piper Laurie, as Carrie, the wry but menacing matriarch of the film. Janis’ wife Maria, an actress with countless credits herself, wrote and produced Bad Blood: The Hunger and they both talked enthusiastically with IndieFEST about their horror film, why they wanted it to be different, and what’s next.
Q: Why did you decide to write this particular script?
A: Having written, co-starred and successfully produced the November Conspiracy, which Conrad also directed and starred in with George Segal, Elliott Gould, Paige Turco and Dirk Benedict, we didn’t know what the present market would respond to.
Distributors said that the industry had changed because of the world economic situation and that our choices were limited. Horror films SCARE ME (Maria admitted with a smile), but we were drawn to it because of my dramatic childhood in Casablanca full of supernatural and traumatic events. Conrad suggested I delve into those memories, and that same night I awoke at 4:00 a.m. with Bad Blood: The Hunger born from a real life horrific experience involving secret cults, cannibals, and unrelenting terror.
Q: Conrad were you excited about the idea?
A: I loved Maria’s story and doing a classic genre film with a future/retro ‘feel and look’, reminiscent of the classic glamorous Hollywood days was exciting and appealing. The film had wit, character development and no mustache twirling, fake vampire teeth, or phony make-up to generate fear, because the terror in our movie was based on truth.
We followed our instincts, and against all odds, made a film that could appeal to all generations with a gorgeous cast of young breakthrough stars who, according to our story, go on a summer vacation where they are chased and hunted into a modern day nightmare.
Q: What lessons did you learn as filmmakers, and what advice do you have for new filmmakers?
A: Be prepared. Think of everything you need to accomplish and prepare for every calamitous eventuality, because they will happen. Our film was haunted by mysterious disasters, lost equipment and film, near death ‘accidents’, weather and other delays and thanks to Maria’s ‘sixth sense’ garnered in Morocco, we got through, imagining, and preparing for adverse possibilities. Conrad’s advice is rehearse, rehearse and rehearse some more. If you have a big budget, they will pay you and if you don’t, rehearse for free because you will benefit.
Q: Will winning an award from IndieFEST help your career and help promote your film?
A: Winning an award from IndieFEST is an honor and a privilege as it is known for its class and distinction in awarding only quality work, so naturally we are thrilled about receiving eight Indie awards. And now we have won Accolade Competition Awards in multiple categories helping promote our film, and encouraging us to do more independent films of all genres. It has brought us an unbiased validation by our peers in the industry.
Q: What’s your next project?
A: A psychological/supernatural thriller called: Call Waiting, plus we are in various stages of development on 17 other projects for ConMar Productions, LLC, and MiraCon Pictures. We have a much larger budgeted film tentatively titled, Scene of the Crime, which is a political thriller.
Q: Looks like horror films are back in style, why do you think this is?
A: Money. There is a lack of it to compete with movies like Iron Man, as well as the lack of commercial return on more dramatic ‘small’ movies. Anyone with a hand-held camera can make some kind of horror film. Our film, Bad Blood: The Hunger, however was shot on 35mm with all the trimmings of a much larger budget. Horror is also popular because it’s fun and kind of an ‘escape valve’ that scares you while viewing, but once you leave the theater all is safe again. We, however, are taking a huge chance by not producing a conventional horror film, splashing the screen with unrelenting blood, sex, and naked bodies. Our characters are plausible, though their situation is terrifying, a case of: Don’t talk to strangers… Get out of your velvet cocoon or die. .. Life is much scarier than fiction.
Q: Where was the film shot?
A: Where cinema began: Hollywood, studios, private locations, a victorian home in Grenada Hills, the streets of Beverly Hills, Malibu, Santa Monica beach, the ‘red bus’, on the road, Griffith Park, which Conrad quotes from a legendary filmmaker: ‘A Tree is a Tree, a Rock is a Rock … so shoot it in Griffith Park!’ We designed sets, used as much of the Park to create an otherworldly ‘look’ for Lawrence’s Macabre Sect. It was grand.
Q: What is the message that you wanted to send out regarding this film?
A: That the mind is more frightening than any movie. A future-retro ‘glamorous’ film can scare you more than gallons of fake teeth and blood. That you are not paranoid if someone is really chasing you, so keep your eyes open because smiling faces hide darker thoughts.
Q: What was the cost of the film?
A: Over a one million for principle photography and much more for publicity, pick-ups, post and participation contributions. We used our own equipment, cars, art work, set designing, ads, original theme song and original music, color timing, etc. This film had much more put onto the screen than other smaller budgeted films, and it shows.
Q: What was the hardest thing about making this film?
A: A mysterious haunting throughout the shoot: weather delays, change of personnel, freezing nights, an ambitious project on a conservative budget, and the realities of an economy choking independent filmmakers. Still if we had to do it all again, we would.
Q: How long did it take to make the film?
A: The principle photography took six weeks, and a week for pick-ups and a second unit team. Then, of course, editing, post, and a very, very long time to create COLORIQUEtm, the new original color timing technique invented just for this film.
Q: Are horror films here to stay?
A: Yes, but will distributors insist on just gore and guts, or will our Hitchcockian, Agatha Christie approach have a chance? When we filmed, the LA and NY Times dedicated pages of print claiming audiences wanted more romance, character, more ‘story’ in horror- thrillers which is why we ventured into this genre. Hopefully good responses from the press and fans will lead audiences our way.
Q: How would you describe your film in one or more Headlines?
A: Romeo And Juliet…With Cannibals, or What If You’re Invited To Dinner, And It Turns Out ‘You’ Are The Main Course?