Film

Burning Passion: An Interview with Badsville Director April Mullen

Q: You have said many insightful things about the female gaze in cinema. What does your female perspective bring to the world of Badsville (out now on VOD)?

A: THERE is this pulsating raw guttural feel to the violence in Badsville and I approached it with love; that might be female or just a choice I made, or both.

I know that sounds strange, but the motivation of each character’s actions, no matter how horrific, were innocently motivated by love and protection. This was important to me, to allow the human spirit to fuel every punch.

Badsville explores how difficult it is as a male to want to protect, dominate and be vulnerable as a result of expressing their feelings. These are old themes but they still hold true today in terms of what society expects out of a man, and what I see them struggling with daily.

Q: Ian McLaren has an incredible presence and look, but this is only his first film. What was your approach to casting?

A: YES it is his first film. He is a gift, an ex pro hockey player with one of the biggest hearts I have ever met. He is extremely dedicated and transformed into his character.

He gives everything to the screen. He holds absolutely nothing back, feels everything in the moment and allows it all to happen. As a director this is what I look for in a lead. He is unconscious and completely loses himself.

It is Ben’s first film as well (an ex pro wrestler). He too has this cinematic quality. He is charismatic, makes strong choices as an actor and is fully transparent. I look for magic, that spark – both Ian and Ben are leading men who physically and emotionally can captivate an audience for 90 minutes.

Ian and Ben wrote the script with these characters in mind and were attached to the film when I met them. The second I walked in the door and heard them speak I knew and never doubted they would be incredible as our leads. It is a gut instinct thing with casting. I love working with new faces, especially ones I love.

Ian&April
Ian and April

Q: We often hear actors say they like to work with directors who have had acting experience. Do you feel your work in front of the camera has helped you as a director?

A: IMMENSELY. Big time, oh ya baby, it is something I lean on every second while making a film – finding those moments in a scene that break into the subtext.

I am completely obsessed with performance – allowing, pushing and finding new moments with actors. I always aim to go deeper and love the challenge of finding the keys into every actor’s personality to get them there.

I am so invested in every breath the actor makes at the director’s monitor it hurts. Seriously, I crave it if I am not on set for a little while. I love the craft of acting, the discovery and fragility found in the moment of the take and capturing it.

Q: How would you describe your style as a director? Do you have any influences?

A: LIFE influences me. Every moment, scent, touch, sound and memory makes an impact, resonates and somehow these heightened experiences find themselves into my work one way or another.

So much inspires me daily. It is as if my brain files it all away for a film to come. My style as a director is to deliver stunning images wrapped in moments of impact where audiences are compelled to feel something. I love tackling different genres and losing myself in the creative process.

There are similarities now standing back that I can see as I continue on this journey. Some of them are bold visuals, strong performances, unique worlds, refreshing scores and music, raw emotion and lots of neon lights. Ha!

Q: Below Her Mouth is fantastic piece of work and has reached a global audience. How do you reflect on the project and its success?

A: BELOW Her Mouth brought to the screen something original. A raw female perspective on love, intimacy, sex and even the female orgasm with its all-female crew. It was a film that audiences saw before they knew they were craving a refreshing point of view. It is a landmark in cinema – at the forefront of the movement towards equality as the voices in film change and how women are depicted on the big screen. I feel honoured to have been at the helm of such a special film.

BelowHerMouth
Below Her Mouth red carpet

Q: After the love story of Below Her Mouth, what attracted you to the more violent world we inhabit for your latest film Badsville?

A: BADSVILLE was shot first. The film did the festival run to build up some momentum before its release. When I read Badsville I could see the world come to life and it seeped into my heart instantly. That is just what happens when I respond to a story.

I see the image play out all hours of the day in my head. The script was so refreshing in terms of its throw back rockabilly greaser style and it showcased this vulnerable side to our lead gang members.

Overall it was the various love stories enwrapped in the harsh polarizing violence that appealed to me. I felt compassion for Wink and Benny and wanted to go deeper with both Ian and Ben (our writers and stars) to unravel them and expose them to the audience.

After my first meeting with Ian, Ben and Dave it was clear we were all on the same page creatively, which is crucial. Working alongside the writers is something I put a lot of value on. I want to build their vision as a team, and I believed in this team instantly.

Q: What was it like working with an inexperienced actor in Erika and an experienced one in Natalie? Was it a conscious decision to go for that dynamic?

A: AFTER auditioning for months for the role of Dallas we did not find the right person. Then I saw an image on-line of Erika Linder and in my gut felt this was our Dallas.

She was modelling male clothing at the time and her motto was: “I’m too creative to be one gender”. We met and auditioned her several times with different Jasmine. Then in Toronto, when she read with Natalie there was this spark on screen and instant chemistry which we were looking for. It was all about the connection while casting these two leads.

Badsvilleset
April in action

Yes, it was completely different working with Erika vis a vis Natalie. Every person is so different when it comes to my approach with communication and building trust with an actor.

Erika has all these natural mannerism which make her mesmerizing on screen. I wanted her to feel confident and never doubt her natural instincts – it was important to keep these elements.

For Natalie, she has this vulnerability and honesty she shows as an actor if and when she feels safe as a performer. This was crucial to bring out as a director.

Q: Below Her Mouth has plenty of intense, physical scenes – just as Badsville does. How did you set about constructing them?

A: EACH one is a completely different beast. It would take a novel to go into how much detail and planning is put into these types of scenes. To generalize, every aspect has to be meticulously plotted – physical movement, camera positions, locations, clothing, lighting and motivation. But then during the shoot it all has to be forgotten. As a director you have to surrender to the moment and be with the actors.

Q: What have been the biggest challenges – and the biggest joys – during your rise as a filmmaker? Do you have any words of advice for young female filmmakers?

A: BIGGEST Challenge? I feel everything always takes so long and by the time you complete a film you are literally a different person and your work feels dated before you even start editing.

Joys? Connecting to audience members who are moved or touched by your film, delivering something human beings can all relate to. I also love watching people all excelling creatively on set doing what they do best. It is both motivating and thrilling to watch.

Advice? Take Big Risks, Create Your Own Work, Stay Focused, Be Bold, Never Doubt, Thrive & Indulge In The Moment, Keep Your Head, and Have Fun Always – no matter how hard it all is. Laugh, jump, play – we are all building an imaginary world together. It is like playing outside in those summer nights as a kid. Love it!

BadsvilleOnSet
April on set for Badsville

Q: What are your ambitions for the future? What kind of stories would you like to tell?

A: I HAVE so much burning inside me to be told, I can’t wait to keep creating moments for all of you.

Some of my ambitions right now are to grow and learn to be a better person every day. To bring light and love into the world, to motivate people on set to create things they never thought possible, to protect my sense of wonder and push it even further. Laugh my head off, be with my family, roll around in the tall grass as much as possible, make special films and content that moves audiences.

Q: Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

A: I AM super pumped up as I am going back to my roots as a filmmaker and doing a WANGO film next up. WANGO films is my production company, co-funded with Tim Doiron. We have done five films together, 88 being our last. All Indie. We have grown so much as filmmakers I can’t wait to work together again. We are going to camera this summer on our new feature.

Badsville is out now on VOD – click here for more info

Follow April and Badsville on Twitter

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