Robert Beaucage Interview

Robert Beaucage Interview
The writer / director talks about his upcoming project, Spike, exlcusively with HDC.
Updated: 06-05-2008

joining our chat, already in progress


Staci Layne Wilson /  …did a set visit a couple years back now on a Renny Harlan film, and he actually uses speakers throughout the entire set and calls it “The Voice of God”!


Robert Beaucage: Of course, he does.


OK. Let's talk about your movie, not Renny Harlin's… Where was Spike shot?


Robert Beaucage: In the Angeles forest at 5,000 feet elevation in the mountains just off the Angeles Crest highway.


Were you doing night shoots, too?


Robert Beaucage: Yeah, we were doing night shoots in March, and it hailed one night.  We lost a lot of days to the weather. It actually snowed one day. It was cold.


So how does that factor in to the story of Spike? Does it take place in the forest?


Robert Beaucage: It starts like a typical horror movie with a group of people stranded in the forest where there’s something apparently stalking them, and then it takes a turn into kind of a fucked up fairy tale.


So I take it that it’s rated R?


Robert Beaucage: I expect it will probably be rated R.


How did you come up with this whole idea?


Robert Beaucage: I never know how I come up with ideas. I’ve read a lot of fairy tales, the Grimm Fairy Tales, and also books such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  I wanted to do a movie in which the monster is not just a monster, but also is a guy who is not completely evil, whom people might be able to relate to, except for being a monster.


So is the special effects make up and all that involved here? And can you talk a little bit about the look of the creature?


Robert Beaucage: I probably shouldn’t say too much about what he looks like. He’s called Spike, so there are spikes involved, but aside from that he definitely doesn’t look normal.


Ok so he’s living in the forest and he’s a creature who never goes out in public or anything like that?


Robert Beaucage: At the time that the movie starts, he’s been in the forest for several years.


Your cast for this film; how did you connect with them? Had you worked with them before?


Robert Beaucage: No, we put notices in the breakdowns and had a lot of auditions.


What kind of qualities were you looking for the Spike character?


Robert Beaucage: I wanted to find someone really weird and off, because I figured someone who is  not only covered in spikes but who has been in the forest for years is probably not a normal guy.  So I wanted someone who was very different while obviously still being human. I wasn’t going to find an actor who’s not human, very likely.


I don’t know, I’ve met some actors that I have to say... [laughter]


Robert Beaucage: But ultimately we didn’t find someone innately very different, but we found a good actor, Edward Gusts, who was able to become very different even aside from all the makeup.


And is this a romantic story, where he falls in love with one of the people who’s stranded in the forest?


Robert Beaucage: He’s been obsessed with her for most of his life.


What else can you tell me about the story? Is it like a chase film? Is there more psychological aspects to it?


Robert Beaucage: It’s got chasing and psychological drama and character drama. There are four characters stranded in the forest, and only one of them has an inkling of what’s going on, the other three are in the woods metaphorically as well as literally. To them it’s more of a horror movie than it is to the one character who actually has an idea what’s going on.


And who are we identifying with in the movie? Who do you want the audience to be with?


Robert Beaucage: I think different people will identify with different characters. I see Spike as the protagonist in the sense that he initially propels the story forward. but he’s certainly not the hero in any traditional sense of the word.


How do you embody all these characters when you are writing about them? Is it aspects of yourself in each one, a little bit?


Robert Beaucage: I did a weird thing when I was writing this in that I would actually try to become each character in my personal life. I would try to transform myself into each character.


A Method writer.


Robert Beaucage: I would go out into public as the character -- I would try to relate to people in ways that the character would relate to them so that I could feel what the character might feel. And I also took bits of other people and bits of characters from literature. Each character is an amalgamation of myself and a bunch of other elements, and of course the actor.


So as a horror movie, is there going to be blood and gore or is it more implied?


Robert Beaucage: Somewhat implied, but there’s some blood right from the…yeah there’s definitely blood.


"Yes, there will be blood!"


Robert Beaucage: Yeah, I was trying not to say that!


I can’t help it. We’re on with the fourth Saw. I liked the first one, directed by James Wan. When you set out to write a horror film, do you look at any of the classics or recent hits. Are you a fan of the genre?


Robert Beaucage: I am a fan of horror, and pretty much everything I do has elements of horror in it, but this is my first attempt at a full-blown horror story. I watched every monster movie I could get my hands on while I was in the process of writing this, but I was more influenced by books like Hunchback of Notre Dame and Frankenstein...


Like creature features?


Robert Beaucage: Yeah, and I wanted to do something very visual, so I watched a lot of Hitchcock movies because he tended to tell stories first visually and then add dialogue. So I tried to approach it that way.


How important is the score?


Robert Beaucage: Very important. It’s funny because the composer, Eric Santiestevan, at first thought there was not going to be much music, and then we sat down to do the spotting and he kept saying, “Well there has to be music here and what about here, do you hear music here?” And we both heard music throughout the whole thing. It’s going to be almost wall-to-wall music.


That’s interesting because sometimes the score can be really too aggressive and manipulative but then they say if you watch John Carpenter’s Halloween with no music, it’s definitely not a scary movie. And then you watch The Birds, speaking of Hitchcock, which doesn’t have any music which is also very scary. So how do you find that balance?


Robert Beaucage: The Birds has a score composed of birdsong. That’s something I initially thought of stealing -- I was thinking we’d use forest noises  as the entire score. But it’s amazing how in the winter when this movie takes place, the forest is dead quiet, so it would be a very silent score if we used just forest noises. We’re definitely holding back on typical horror movie stings and fright sounds.  I want the music to feel more organic to the forest, I want the audience to feel stranded in the forest along with the characters.


And what about the look of the film, is it very colorful or saturated?


Robert Beaucage: It’s very dark. We’re still color timing. I keep saying, “Make it darker, make it darker.” I wanted to go for a very high contrast look, almost black and white. Expressionistic but in color. Mostly desaturated, but with some colors very saturated; red particularly.


That’s always a good one.


Robert Beaucage: Yeah.  Roses. And of course blood.


What kind of anticipation have you heard from the fans? Because I see your website and you’ve got your trailer and your photos and things like that that. What are people telling you that they’re excited about in regards to Spike?


Robert Beaucage: Mostly I hear general things like they can’t wait to see it.  One specific thing I’ve heard multiple times is excitement about the fairy tale aspect.


Yeah, why do you think that fairy tales endure?


Robert Beaucage: That is a question that people have probably asked for thousands of years, and I don’t know...  They touch into something primal and universal in human psychology. You’ll have to ask Joseph Campbell.


It’s they’re like warning stories or moral parables, it’s almost like when people had religion in their lives, they needed fairy tales to kind of have an outlet for the more horrible, darker aspects. Of course, organized religion isn't all sweetness and light!


Robert Beaucage: Well, it’s not like we’ve gotten rid of religion in society anyway. There are archetypes... 


You just think it’s hardwired in our brains psychologically, that we want to believe in something that’s not real so we don't have to face reality on some levels?


Robert Beaucage: Yeah, I think that’s probably where religion comes from, too.


I’m not familiar with the actors in Spike, so maybe you can talk a little about them and who plays which characters.


Robert Beaucage: Edward Gusts plays Spike and it’s not his first movie, but he’s fairly new. He’s done a couple of other independent films. Sarah Livingston Evans plays the girl, the love interest as it were. This is her first film. It was more difficult finding someone right for the girl than for Spike, which surprised me. But we held a lot of auditions and she was the best.


What were you looking for as far as qualities in her?


Robert Beaucage: I wanted someone who was beautiful and a good actress who had a palpable connection with Spike.  I wanted her to be vulnerable but also strong. And she had to be able and willing to do a certain amount of stunts, hanging off of things and falling and other physical things.


Okay. Now, this is a romance, so usually the thing is the kiss. Is there a kiss? Is there love shown?


Robert Beaucage: Being that Spike is covered with spikes… [laughter]


So even his face is covered with spikes?


Robert Beaucage: He’s very spiky, that’s all I’m going to say. I’ve said too much already.


OK… how does he romance this girl? Does he want to keep her like in The Collector or is he trying to possess her in a more supernatural way?


Robert Beaucage: He wants to have her at any cost, but he wouldn’t look at it as possession or ownership. He wants to keep her safe and happy, and engulf her with his love. He won’t let anything get in the way of his love for her. Why wouldn’t she want to stay with him?


And are you planning on showing at film festivals to try and find a distributor? How is that going to work?


Robert Beaucage: The first thing we’re going to do is show it to distributors and go from there. My goal is theatrical distribution.


Have you got your eyes on your next project yet… writing another script or anything?


Robert Beaucage: I have two projects that I’m developing.  One of them is experimental, it’s not like anything I’ve done before. I’m working with some actors to develop characters, and I don’t know what it’s actually about yet. The other project I’m writing more traditionally, and it’s kind of top secret, but I will say it’s a steampunk ghost story.


Okay. I would pay to see that for sure! [laughter]


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