Alex Davis recently chatted to writer and director Phil Stevens about his film Flowers.
Abstract and surreal, Flowers is a return to the dark art-house horror film. A movie that tells it’s story in silence. Without any spoken dialog and surrounded in a cryptic and dark visual atmosphere, Flowers is a film that builds on the journey and not the destination.
Six dead women wake up in the crawl space below their killer’s house only to discover that they are trapped in their own limbo and purgatory. The house itself contains many rooms revealing hints and clues to their past lives and how they’ve come to end up where they are. One by one and alone, each girl is forced to accept their fate or remain in place, between the walls of a rotting house.
First of all, thanks a lot for taking the time out to talk to us here at Film Gutter. I've tried to do your directorial debut Flowers justice in my review, but how would you describe it to our readers?
THANK YOU AND HELLO READERS!
Flowers is a viewing experience. Open to interpretation. It’s a piece of moving art and I would dare to even call it a movie. Flowers was written, designed and structured in every aspect to be whatever the viewer wanted it to be or saw what they wanted it to be or believe it to be. It’s a horror film. It’s a nightmare. It’s a journey. It’s an experiment in filmmaking.
The setting of the film is absolutely incredible – there's a claustrophobic quality in the crawlspaces, but a strange sort of beauty outside of them. How did you go about creating that location?
Everything was dictated by the shooting space we had available even before I sat down to write Flowers. I was forced to squeeze a lot of these sets into a small area. We basically built a real section of a house for the making of this movie. Outside of physically making these sets, I knew lighting would play a huge part of Flowers - lending more to the claustrophobic atmosphere. I did a lot of lighting tests with various light sources and found a happy balance between light and shadow.
There's not a single line of speech in Flowers – something I've rarely seen done in film. Why did you decide to go without any dialogue in the script?
Most of my time is spent painting and drawing. In this process, there is no dialog. I don’t really verbally socialize, so there is no dialog even outside of my art. Therefore, a project without dialog came only natural to me. On the production side of things, I really hate writing and recording dialog - just wasting so much time and energy trying to get lines to sound halfway decent without burning out my cast. It’s also my least favorite part of the process - so, I completely eliminated it from Flowers. The last few projects I did gradually got quieter and quieter on the lip blabber.
The film cost just $20,000 to make after a successful Kickstarter campaign. How on Earth did you make that stretch so far to create something as striking as Flowers?
Welps, Kickstarter only raised five thousand and a lot of that went right back into fees and other stuff when the campaign ended. After that, i think we were left with three thousand for production. THEN we got lucky and found an investor who got onboard almost immediately - someone who believed in the project and funded a greater majority of the budget. Everything else came from my own personal savings and credit cards which I’m still paying off. ARGH!
You've got a succession of absolutely stunning art on your website and Facebook page – how important an influence was your own artwork on the movie?
Just like the writing process, the more I drew or painted, common elements kept finding their way into my work. These images lingered in my head where they would later find their way into the script. A short answer, but sometimes simply writing or drawing something is not enough. On FlowersI finally had the chance to exorcise a lot of demon junk from my head.
How did you find your actors and actresses for the movie? Each of the 'flowers' gave a wonderful performance, I felt, especially without dialogue to convey anything.
When you work on other projects with other people, you sometimes form bonds that flow naturally into the future work you do. On Flowers we had this seed and root effect where one girl knew a girl that knew a girl. Most of the cast come from a pretty stellar haunt attraction we have in the city every year where their jobs every night for the season is to scream and emote agony at total strangers. When it came to audition for the movie, it was nothing to them. Just another night playing a victim.
What have you got next in the pipeline – are we liable to be seeing any further movies in the future, perhaps even a follow-up to Flowers?
Absolutely, I’ve been making movies since I was 12 and it would kill me to just stop because it’s always been such a huge part of my life. I’m married to it – till death do we part! As for what is literally the next movie - many ideas but I tend to drift in and out of scripts which makes getting to the next movie some strange battle in itself. Kind of like - Hey, Phil. Here are many beautiful women BUT you can only pick one, which one are you willing to spend the next two years living and breathing with?
Are there any other directors, artists or movies that you'd suggest our Film Gutter readers watch out for?
Always watch out for Eric Stanze (SCRAPBOOK) and Adam Rehmeier (THE BUNNY GAME). I always get so damn giddy when news hits that new films from either are in the works. True artists through and through. Aside from those two, keep a close eye on Unearthed Films where a new sorta renaissance indie underground is about to burst open. Bottom line – BE curious. Snoop around and see what’s out there. Support the scene and SEE what everyone is talking about. The indie community is vast with many gems to uncover – jump in.
You can find out more about Flowers at http://www.flowersfilm.com/. For more information on Phil Stevens' artwork, visit http://manomatulart.storenvy.com/
'FLOWERS will be available through UNEARTHED FILMS this Fall as a special edition release.'