Interview: Tommy Stovall

 

 

 

Jay Kay of “From Dusk Till Con” sits down and talks with filmmaker Tommy Stovall about his latest film “Aaron’s Blood”. This dark drama with a blend of thick horror and tension has received critical acclaim for the conflict, themes, reality and performances that add a different vision to the sub-genre of vampire storytelling.

 

 

Jay Kay: Thank you Tommy for taking some time out to discuss your latest feature “Aaron’s Blood”. First, talk about where the story came about for this film and why finally go with horror after capturing so many genres as a director since 2005?

 

 

Tommy Stovall: I was trying to come up with a movie I could do with my son Trevor that we could do on a low budget. I asked him once when he was about 5 years old, if he could play any character he wanted, what would it be, and he said a vampire. I revisited that idea and just tried to come up with an interesting story with him as a child vampire. I’ve always planned to do a horror movie at some point, because that’s how I started. As a teen, I started making horror movies with my friends for fun. I like all kinds of movies, and as a filmmaker, I’m interested in doing different things rather than doing the same thing again and again.

 

 

JK: What vampire genre, story and/or legend did you pull from as a focus for the story? I want to say Count Orlok and “Nosferatu” as well as Anne Rice’s “Interview with a Vampire” based on the lighting, facial structure, aging and makeup FX. Am I close?

 

 

TS: All of the above! I actually did a lot of research on vampires and watched a lot of the movies to get familiar with all of the history and folklore. My goal was to incorporate a lot of what we know about vampires into the movie, while making it as realistic as possible.

 

 

JK: What influenced you as a child with horror?

 

 

TS: I was very much into the slasher films of the 70s and 80s – Halloween, Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Anything available on home video, really. The movies I made as a teenager were basically copycats of all of these.

 

 

JK: Can you talk about the title “Aaron’s Blood”? It has layers to it unlike many films that use the title as a flat statement. Was that the original title for the film?

 

 

 

TS: The title was one of the very first things I came up with. I liked the sound of it. Plus, I thought it was cool to have all the blood types in there, including the initials AB. And like you say, it took on more meanings in the story. It’s his son (his “blood”) who is afflicted. And, he literally uses his own blood to help his son.

 

 

 

 

 

 

JK: “Aaron’s Blood” has many conflicts. The father saving his son. Aaron’s guilt after the accident. Aaron conflicted on whose experience and advice he should follow. Father Kane conflicted with a curse that he sees as a blessing. Tate’s bullying. The aftermath of survival and sustainability among many others. A very rich film and story to offer so much conflict and connection. What was the film’s conflict that you struggled with in the writing versus the conflict of bringing to the screen as a director?

 

 

TS: I think my main concern was all about the relationship between Aaron and Tate. Tate is becoming a teenager and has the normal rebellion thing going on, and Aaron’s trying to understand all of that. I wanted their conflict to be subtle and natural – something people can identify with.

 

 

JK: “Aaron’s Blood” has a very experienced cast especially within the major roles. Talk about the casting process especially the lead talent with James Martinez (Aaron) who has fifty plus credits. Farah White (Karen) who has 44 credits. Michael Chieffo (Earl) who has 112 credits balanced against the character of Tate played by a regular of your film projects in Trevor Stovall and David Castellvi (Father Kane) who had just begun as an actor?

 

 

TS: I think casting normally depends on a lot of luck, and we were very lucky with this movie. I had worked with Farah on two other films and I had met Michael, so I was able to just call them and ask, to which they both graciously said yes. I found James while combing through IMDb. I recognized him from Breaking Bad and thought he looked like he could be Trevor’s father. So, I called his manager and asked if he would be willing to audition, which he indeed did on video two days later. He nailed the character, and when I talked to him on the phone, we were on the same page about everything.

 

 

JK: Did James’s television experience bring a different dynamic to Aaron’s character and drama? What was the conversations and direction like to get James to that emotional place as a father?

 

 

 

TS: I think one of the things that attracted James to the part was that playing a parent like Aaron was something he hadn’t done before and was an interesting challenge. He doesn’t have kids yet, but he really understood the character and was spot on in his instincts, I thought. He told me that for his audition, he drew from his close relationship with his own father and what he could see him doing in that situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

JK: How much did David’s look fit what you had envisioned Father Kane’s appearance? Also, you keep Father Kane shadowed through a majority of the film. What was the thinking behind this framing of darkness for him?

 

 

TS: David looked nothing like my original vision for Father Kane. In fact, I had him come in to audition for a different part and during the audition it occurred to me to have him take a shot at Father Kane. He did a cold reading and I cast him right then and there. He brought something I didn’t know I was looking for. In the framing of darkness for him, it just felt like it made sense.

 

 

JK: Did Trevor’s age and experience versus his height and youthful appearance bring depth to Tate’s struggle and unwanted inner conflict? Why was the theme of bullying such a showcase theme for this film?

 

 

TS: Yes, I think his age certainly helped. But he tried to really understand Tate and why he would behave in certain ways. He also knows what it feels like to be bullied and have friends be bullied. I think most of us have experienced bullying on a certain level for various reasons. The very first idea I had for the movie was a sick kid who’s able to get revenge on his bullies after becoming a vampire. Then it just expanded from there.

 

 

JK: What did composer Jakub Gawlina stir in this film with his score? Was this the original focus for the score or did the score take on an emotional life of its own?

 

 

 

TS: Jakub was another unexpected stroke of luck. Considering our budget, I never thought we’d end up with an original score at the level Jakub was able to do for us. He’s amazing. I just tried to explain as best I could what kind of mood I was looking for in each scene, and he did his thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

JK: Why limit the practical FX makeup for a vampire film? Budget? Story? Stomach?

 

 

TS: Well, budget was certainly part of it. But I also didn’t want the effects and gore to overshadow the story and characters. I actually ended up cutting some effects out of the movie just because it worked better without them.

 

 

JK: Why was this film color versus being black and white film? What did the Blackmagic Cinema Camera add and define to the film as well as Cinematographer Taylor Camarot?

 

 

TS: We never considered black and white, but we thought a lot about the tone and colors in the film. We shot in RAW format, which gives you a very wide latitude in being able to control the look of the film. It’s just amazing nowadays how we’re able to get such a high quality cinematic image from a little inexpensive digital box like the Blackmagic. Taylor is incredible. He knows how to use the camera in helping tell the story and a lot of the emotion and drama in the film is enhanced by his camera work.

 

 

JK: Why use the transitional tools of dreams to invoke fright and fear instead of blending these sequences of Aaron’s into the actual reality of Tate’s transformation and confronting horror?

 

 

TS: I thought a recurring nightmare was a good way to show Aaron’s biggest fear in life, which is losing Tate. When Tate starts his transformation, Aaron’s nightmare becomes reality, because he realizes he’s in fact losing his son. So, he desperately does everything he can to stop it from happening.

 

 

JK: What does Arizona mean to you personally, as a storytelling tool and for “Aaron’s Blood”? Has does the locations promote isolation?

 

 

TS: I thought the setting we used was perfect for the story, because the community is somewhat isolated and far away from urban areas. I think it’s interesting and more frightening to think this could happen in any small town across America.

 

 

JK: How is the theme of isolation handled in this film?

 

 

TS: There’s physical isolation that’s more obvious, but there’s a lot of emotional and mental isolation going on that’s not so obvious, whether it’s Tate dealing with his bullying alone, or Aaron being trapped in this recurring nightmare.

 

 

JK: How has the reactions from critics and fans been for the film? What does this release of “Aaron’s Blood” mean to you and the crew?

 

 

 

TS: Reactions have been encouraging so far. People seem to like that it’s different from other vampire movies and they really respond to the father and son storyline. We’ve always hoped that would be the case. And now we’re just happy the film has distribution and we’re excited about it getting out there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

JK: Thank you for taking the time! Find out more about “Aaron’s Blood” at http://aaronsblood.com

 

 

 

TS: Thank YOU, sir!

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