Recently we had a chance to talk with writer/director Reese Eveneshen about how he started in this business, life behind the camera and his new sci- fi thriller Defective.
So what led you to pursue a career in the world of movies?
Reese: I’ve always had an interest in it, since I was a kid, really. I can’t pinpoint when it actually started specifically, I just know that when I was younger I loved to watch movies, I don’t know what kid didn’t. I was specifically obsessed with any behind the scenes stuff that I could get my hands on. From there is just felt like this is what I wanted to do, I didn’t really have an interest in anything else. The tricky thing was at the time when I was a kid I was living in Edmonton Alberta, which at that time felt the furthest away from any sort of movie making that could be possible. I think it has a pretty good industry now but it sure as hell didn’t back then and through some crazy happenstance, I ended up moving here to Ontario with my family and I actually had some family working here in the industry and they took me on sets as a kid so I got to see first-hand and grow up on set. When I got older I started working on these sets and when I got out of high school instead of going to film school, because I’d been on all these sets and heard horror stories about going to film school, I just started working on my own screenplays and one thing led to another and here we are. That’s kind of the short version of that story.
Now you’ve done writing, acting and directing. Do you have a favorite of do they each have their own individual charm for you?
Reese: Oh, definitely writing and directing, for sure. I mean the acting was only because I couldn’t find anyoneelse to be in my stupid movie. For the longest time when I was a kid I thought I might want to be a special effects make-up artist so I kind of dabbled in that a little bit. I actually still do that, I did some of it on the movie actually but no, writing and directing, for sure.
I watched Defective and I enjoyed it. It was kind of like a mash up of Logan’s Run and Robocop with a little Judge Dredd thrown in there. Where did the idea for Defective come from?
Reese: Desperation, mostly. I was trying to get another movie off the ground, this was five or six years ago, and it just wasn’t happening so I ended up doing music videos on the side. For whatever reason, most of it budgetary, I just could not get this other project off the ground and I said to my producing partner man, we’ve got to make something so I sat down and I was writing out a script and I just started thinking to myself you know, I really like Logan’s Run, Robocop, The Terminator, Running Man, Total Recall and I hadn’t seen something like that in a while, like you said, kind of grittier and dirtier, not big budgeted, sort of shot from the hip, a lot of it came out of that more than anything. I’ve never been able to sit down and write anything sci-fi, just because I had this idea in my head that it would be too hard to do, we didn’t have big budgets to work with, low budget filmmaking, right? So I figured I might as well go and write the movie I wanted to make and then figure out how to do it and that’s pretty much how it came together, out of the love for science fiction movies, wanting to tie into that 70’s and 80’s vibe without really pushing it, where is just has that sort of feeling in there.
The special effects in the movie look great. How hard was that to pull off without being able to rely on a big budget?
Reese: Very tough. Yeah man, like I said, I had a background in special effects, or at least knowing how to do versions of them on my own, basically from dicking around in high school but a lot of it was surrounding myself with people who knew a way to do that sort of stuff. One of them was my cinematographer, his name is Isaac, and he kind of had a similar upbringing that I did where he loved those kind of movies so when we put our heads together we could figure out how to do it, we just needed to contact the right people. It’s just a lot of plastic, hot glue and rubber, I mean at the end of the day that’s the funny thing, that’s all it is, so yeah, it’s really just calling in the right people and having a sort of do it yourself idea to how to pull that kind of stuff off.
I was really intrigued by the Preservers of the Peace, not only the characters themselves but what they represented. What were your influences in terms of creating them for the movie?
Reese: At the time I was influenced by this news article, in Taiwan they have these Taiwanese Death Squads that they bring out for really severe situations, completely covered head to toe, very anonymous looking, they’re there to protect the streets. It’s sort of that growing paranoia that, man, I don’t know about you but when I travel, especially when you’re travelling out of country some of these airports have armed guards standing around. So it was really an extension of that, I didn’t want to have a bunch of people in SWAT uniforms standing around because I’d seen a lot of that at the time, so I thought let’s do something cooler, something a bit more mechanical looking, completely wiping out the idea of any human personality behind it, so that’s where it came from.
As both writer and director, what were your biggest challenges when making Defective?
Reese: For writing nothing to bad, because really, no one can tell you no. I didn’t have to answer to any studio system other than my producing partner, but most of the time it was just him reading going, are you sure we can do this? I’d lie and say, yeah, yeah, it’ll be great. I had no idea how I was going to pull it off. I think the directing was the hardest part because outside of a couple little feature films and the one that did something for me, which was almost ten years ago, was like a cheapo zombie movie so I really didn’t know how to tackle something of that scale, so I was kind of lying my way through it, which I guess was the best way because it worked. I think what was also tough was like I mentioned, we didn’t have much of a budget, we could only raise so much, so it got to the point that we either wait and see if we can raise the rest or just start shooting and see what happens and we choose that option. So, we started shooting with what we had, stop, raise some more money, shoot again, stop, raise some more money and so it took about a year. The tough thing was keeping the cast and crew in order, I mean, as most movies are it was shot completely out of order over the course of a year, it was all sort of mapped out in my head, not like we had a big grand plan for it, so it was just a matter of guiding your cast and crew along. We didn’t have time to do storyboards or shot lists, it was just sort of let’s figure this out and go so that was the toughest part, shielding people from the truth, that we didn’t have any money, although I’m sure a lot of them figured it out.
Marketing a smaller film like Defective can be a challenge, even with the film festivals out there. How has the fan reaction been for the movie?
Reese: It’s been pretty good so far. We had our premiere at Toronto After Dark last October, which was great, then we went down to Austin, Texas and had another premier there. Fan reaction has been good, you said it yourself, it’s harder for smaller movies to get out there but what really helps is getting the movie sold now to specifically this company in the States. They definitely helped us push it a long way ourselves because we only have so much reach on our own. I remember before we had anybody on board to distribute the film we were really struggling, I mean outside of our Facebook page we’ve been running for well over two years now. You go out and you talk to different venues, journalists or websites and it’s really hard to get them to post something about a low budget science fiction movie with no name actors. It’s been tough but I’ve been happy with what we’ve been able to achieve and slowly, with the film now out, reviews are starting to come out, more people are hearing about it, we have people liking our stuff and following us so yeah, it’s been good. The reviews have actually been pretty decent which I’m happy to see.
Now that the movie is behind you, how would you say your overall experience was making Defective? Does it excite you to make more sci-fi or do you want to move in a different direction?
Reese: Yeah, I feel pretty good walking away from it. I definitely feel better looking back on it than I did going through it, it was a really good experience. The people that we were working with were a great little family, we really got to know each other for that year and I miss that, but that’s pretty much what every shooting situation is like. Moving forward yeah, I’d love to do another sci-fi, I still love science fiction and I’d like to do something completely different than Defective but I’m a filmmaker, I like writing stories, I’d like to tackle some other genres too, but yeah, I’d definitely not turn down sci-fi, it was a lot of fun. Now that I’ve had some experience with that, I know so much more about how to say handle practical effects on set, visual effects was a whole new arena for me but now we’ve kind of conquered that, too.
I was wondering, the violent scenes with Ry Barrett, we’re they always part of the script and if so did you take any heat for the blood and gore?
Reese: Yeah, those scenes with Ry were always in the script. Ry is actually in the movie a lot, he’s often playing one of the Preservers of the Peace. Yeah, those scenes were in the script since day one, like I said I’m a bit of special effects junkie, I grew up reading those Tom Savini books and watching George Romero movies, so any chance to spray some blood is fine with me. We’re taking some flak, now that the movie is selling worldwide, there are a few territories that have not been happy with some of the violence in the movie and I know there have been some upset people at a few of the screenings we’ve had. I’ve personally seen some walkouts during a few scenes but hey, it is what it is.
So what other projects do you have coming up?
Reese: Well funny enough, we’re working with sales and distributors right now on actually doing another science fiction movie but we will see if that happens, that’s in the very early stages of development. Other than that, there’s a couple of scripts that are heist/thriller type of movies that we’re working on right now but I’m not so sure what’s going to happen next, we’re still kind of riding the Defective wave.
I want to thank Reese for taking the time to talk with us