Next week, cult favourite Michael Biehn's debut feature film as writer/director is released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK. Having been inspired by his time on PLANET TERROR, Robert Rodriguez's half of GRINDHOUSE, Biehn wrote the script for a film that he feels is the very essence of grindhouse cinema in both the final product and the film-making process, but perhaps it is more so a prime example of the trials and tribulations of shooting independent movies, and indeed actually getting them to that point in the first place.
Biehn not only penned the script and directed as he also stars in the film, playing Kyle, a recluse who enjoys the tranquil life in his cabin in the woods, only for his peace and quiet to one day be disturbed by a young woman (Jennifer Blanc-Biehn) screaming and hammering away at his door. She is the titular victim, having fled from two men (Ryan Honey and Denny Kirkwood) who were involved in the death of her friend Mary (Danielle Harris). From the moment Kyle opens his door, he throws himself into a cat-and-mouse chase of false pretences and violence.
I recently had the opportunity to discuss the film and the aforementioned trials and tribulations over email with both Michael Biehn and his wife, co-star and producer Jennifer Blanc-Biehn.
BRITGEEK: Michael, I read that working on Robert Rodriguez's PLANET TERROR introduced you to the wild world of grindhouse films.
MICHAEL BIEHN: When I was working with Robert, I was introduced to the concept of Grindhouse movies and they were not a genre that I was familiar with. I have seen so very few of them but I knew they were exploitation and low budget and that is what fuelled me.
BG: Did Robert show you any films in particular?
MB: Yes, they all showed me movies. The cast got together and we watched about 10 Grindhouse movies together to get an idea of what we were making.
BG: What I like about THE VICTIM is that you have essentially taken all the core elements of grindhouse cinema and allowed them to work in harmony without being gratuitous, which is basically a staple of those films. Ultimately, I think the end result is somewhat of a minimalist grindhouse film. Was this your intention?
MB: Yes, what I consider or [my] understanding of a Grindhouse movie to be is very low budget and [exploitive] and you exploit what you can afford and in our case it was sex and drugs and dirty cops. And a little bit of action and torture and serial killers so yes... But if I had had more money I may have explored vampires or zombies. Remember though, we only had 12 days of shooting.
BG: How do you feel your on-screen career helped you to work with actors as a director?
MB: Well I think actors work better with other actors because they usually understand what a scene is about and what the conflict in the scene is. Most actors also support each other and will do their best to get good performances out of each other. For that reason the goal is the same, it's not about the sound and the clothes etc, it's about the performance. I have always gotten along well with all the actors I have ever worked with for that reason I believe.
BG: How did you cope with working in so many different areas of the production with only a 12-day shooting schedule?
MB: It was a small movie, so we had a smaller crew and few actors but I probably didn't cope all that well. I was running around trying to make sure everything was right, probably over extended myself trying to make sure everything was right, probably over extended myself trying to explain to people that we knew what we wanted. If and when I direct again, I want to have the most experienced crew which means more money. But we made this for so very little.
BG: Was the thought of facing it daunting?
MB: Yes, I had never shot anything before that was less than 24 days and knew we had some action sequences. We just kind of plunged into it and hoped for the best. We did about forty set-ups a day where on most other films I was used to ten or twenty set-ups a day. It worked because of the few locations and shooting day for night. Less time waiting for light which usually takes up a lot of time. On this we had to go!
BG: Are there any roles that you were offered but couldn't take for whatever reason – scheduling, etc – that you were especially disappointed that you weren't able to do?
MB: Eight Men Out, Internal Affairs, and Near Dark but to name a few.
BG: Jennifer, how did you balance producing while performing such a demanding role in the space of less than two weeks?
JENNIFER BLANC-BIEHN: I relied on Michael's advice when it came to story and performance. He is such a great actor and the same goes for directing. He has a truth meter and telling the story he wanted to tell I trusted him with completely. I also kind of thrive when it comes to multi-tasking.
BG: Did you familiarise yourself with the same films that inspired Michael to write the screenplay?
JBB: Yes, a bit! I mean actually when I was little we used to sleep over at a friend's house and sneak to watch the old, very crazy version of I Spit On Your Grave, ha!
BG: How would you summarise your experience of THE VICTIM from script to screen?
JBB: Intense – yes, intense. But also fun and passionate and exciting. It's the little that could...
Many thanks to Michael and Jennifer for their time.
THE VICTIM is out on DVD and Blu-ray on September 24 from Anchor Bay Entertainment
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