Interview: Brian and Laurence Avenet Bradley Talk Directing, ‘Echoes of Fear’November 7, 2019
Recently we had a chance to talk with Brian and Laurence Bradley about their careers, including their new co-directed film ‘Echoes of Fear’
So how did the two of you get into this movie-making business?
Brian: For me, it all started when I was a kid, I basically started shooting short films with my friends when I was about ten years old. The first thing we did was actually House of Frankenstein, where I was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but unfortunately, those films got lost to time. So that was the beginning of it and I’ve always been into horror, my first memory when I was three years old was pulling back the blanket on my bed and finding a skeleton there and my second memory was my mom chewing out my dad for putting a skeleton there. Since then I’ve always been attracted to the macabre and horror.
Laurence: I’ve always liked the genre but first I studied television, then I met Brian who made short films and that’s really how I got involved in making the film.
At what point did the two of you decide you wanted to work together?
Laurence: Well right from the start, when Brian wanted to make a future and he had done that short and that’s when I met him, but when he wanted to do a feature and he was like, well what can you do, and we just wanted to work creatively together. We figured a way to make our first feature and that’s how we got started, we’ve always wanted to do more together.
Brian: Yeah, the first one we did, we did it by sheer force of will, we kind of bootstrapped it. There was a family farm back then, on the border of Virginia and Tennessee, and I spent a lot of time growing up on that farm and I knew it was a great location for a horror film and so we basically came up with this idea, the movie was called Freez’er, we shot it over the course of a year.
Laurence: Yeah, we tried to make things work, we’d work all week, then at night, Friday night and the weekends, take the car, drive five hours and set up for the next day’s shoot, shoot a bit on Sunday and go back home.
Brian: Yeah, if you can survive that you can survive just about anything.
In terms of Echoes of Fear where you’re both co-directors, how do you decide the workload in terms of directing?
Laurence: It kind of became organic, really. As we did more and more movies I became more and more involved. In the first couple of films, I just wanted his vision to be seen and as we went along, by the time we did Echoes I was heavily involved in the stories. With directing, we would make decisions on how we would do the scares, how we would approach the whole character, the house, so it was all kind of mixed together. We would even sometimes re-arrange the script, based on how we could best feature particular things, so it was really a collaborative work, re-working the script and working with the actors to get what we want.
Brian: Yeah, on our previous films the lines had really started blurring because we wear a lot of hats in these indie films and it just becomes more and more collaborative, so when we started this one we made a decision from the beginning, let’s just break down these artificial boundaries and work together co-directing and I really felt we made our best film, I’m glad we decided to do that.
You mentioned wearing a lot of hats and you both do that in this film, besides directing you do cinematography, writing and producing. With so much on your plates, what became your biggest challenge or challenges?
Laurence: I think that biggest challenge was how do we make it look and feel right, with such a small crew and such limited access to materials, so that was the biggest challenge, how do you make this happen. In the end, we just decided that we’d take our time and make it work.
Brian: I think when you do an indie film like that and wear a lot of hats, the key is doing a lot of prep, that’s how we approach it. We prep as much as possible before we start shooting, making sure we’re on the same page, breaking down the script, the storyboards and coming up with a schedule, so as much as possible is already taken care of before we start shooting. This way, when the time comes to start filming, you can spend that much more time on the creative part. In post, maybe the biggest challenge is to get yourself to step back, because you’re so close to the movie, and kind of see what the movie wants to be and divorce yourself a little bit from the intended goal of the script and directing because I think the movie takes on a life of its own in post. I guess the challenge is when you’re doing so many different things is taking that step back and being objective with the film.
Where did the idea for Echoes of Fear come from?
Laurence: It’s a multi-part idea where first we move you through the house that’s in the movie, experience different things in it…
Brian: Basically, with almost everything in the first act, the creaky floors, the screaming cat, the pipes, everything escalated with the dark shape, which I know is a woman, I don’t know why, but we were jotting down notes not knowing what they meant, where the movie was going. We actually did another movie in between, Malignant, with Brad Dourif and Gary Cairns, and then we came across two other real stories, two real events, one was near our house and one was in another country, and we realized we could take those events and combine them with what we had, and that’s when the story started, the script started coming together.
Echoes of Fear has a nice buildup of suspense and dread. As directors, is it hard to transfer that from the page up onto the screen?
Brian: That’s one of the things we worked really hard on, even when we’re initially scripting the movie. As for scripting, we kind of look at those sequences and moments and work together as a team to figure out the best way to build that moment and execute it.
Laurence: Yeah, Brian has some really strong ideas about some of the scares, it’s like magic for him, how do I trick, how do I get the audience into that scare. It’s the same with music, he likes to work with the music that way, to build the tension for the scare.
Brian: Well, that’s the thing we really wanted to do with Echoes of Fear, not just the scares, but we wanted to build that overall feel of dread and tension. We slowly kept tightening the screws as it went along, a lot of that came from Lo’s lighting, camera work and the design of the shots we worked out together, and a lot of that came from the sound of Benedikt Brydern’s music, and Trista’s performance as Alisa. You just have to keep building that tension so it starts slow, and then as it builds and builds, by the time you head into the third act you’re already so tense that it replaces the joy of the scares.
Laurence: He really works hard on breaking down the whole script so there are changes of tone, it’s very subtle but it’s all planned out. Sometimes it’s like, well maybe these particular things shouldn’t be changed at night, let’s not go there yet. Also, we work on making sure we’re not always doing the same thing, like changing angles, we really worked hard to move slowly at first then we just build onto the visuals. I’d also change the lighting so as we move forward people are discovering something new.
Do you find it hard for a movie like Echoes of Fear to find a voice in the horror world these days, simply because there is so much content out there?
Brian: Yeah, I think it’s really challenging for any indie film, especially indie horror, because there is so much content out there, and getting fans to become aware of the movie. It’s weird, there are a million distribution options now but the real issue is not so much the distribution but making people aware to look for in on all the different distribution platforms, without having a marketing budget. I think it mainly has to be done through word of mouth, which is why we decided to do a festival run for about a year, so we did fourteen festivals, won six best feature awards and got a lot of positive feedback from the horror audiences.
Laurence: That helps too when approaching other audiences, how they reacted, what do they prefer, which helps us with the marketing a little bit in terms of the general public.
Brian: It also was a way to approach different distributors, it was a good talking point when you contacted them. You could talk about oh, we just did another festival, we just won another award, here’s a clip of the audience’s reactions to the film, it all helped.
Laurence: It’s hard, no question, we’re trying to figure out how to reach people.
So what projects do the two of you have coming up next?
Laurence: Well the first thing we have that’s been in the works is a horror novella. We’ve been working on that for a while but now it’s coming to the end. We have a local artist from L.A. who did the illustrations, the concept actually came from a script. It’s a script that’s pretty high budget and we looked at it and said there is no way we can do this on our own, or it would look terrible if we don’t have the money to support it. We came up with the concept of having an illustration for each different page, there’s like 123 different illustrations, it’s pretty cool. They were ink illustrations, now I’m coloring them and we’re getting a great reaction, we can’t wait to put this out. Of course, we’re always pitching a script, Brian has multiple scripts.
Brian: Yeah, and just to drop a name, that illustrated novella is called Inner, it’s very different, a wacky creature horror movie, so a very different type of genre of horror, but I’m happy how it’s coming together, I can’t wait for people to see it. It’s fun, very different, a kind of creature rollercoaster ride, wacky is a good adjective for it. In terms of the other movies, there’s a script we’ve had since the last two movies, so we’re trying to see if we can move forward with that. It’s a very intense psychological horror movie, with a very disturbed female lead, I really feel like its time has come, so I really hope that is going to be the next one. We have about three other scripts in horror sub-genres that we’d like to do, and Lo actually just came up with a great supernatural horror idea, so I’ll be curious to see how that develops.
I want to thank Brian and Laurence for taking the time to talk with us