With the Dusty Film & Animation Festival just two days away (May 4 – 7 at the SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street), we thought it would be a good opportunity to catch up with current BFA Film and Video student Brendan Steere for a chat about his feature-length horror film, Animosity, which will be screening at the fest.
What was the inspiration for your film?
I wanted to make Solaris as a horror movie. Also, I knew this was senior year at SVA—time to go big or go home. I had made a no-budget feature right before freshman year that was also a horror film, so in a way these films are bookends. The world can directly see what I’ve learned in four years.
Do you feel a personal connection with your story and characters?
Yeah, definitely. I’ve been in a relationship with the same person for over five years now, so there’s a real fear of what will happen if it doesn’t work out. There’s silly sci-fi horror stuff happening in the movie, sure, but the base emotions of hurt are the same. You could say that Animosity is like a pulped-up version of everything I’m afraid of going wrong in our relationship. Also, over the course of the film, the main character really learns how much everyone around her is against her, and I think that’s a really primal human fear—being alone in the cosmic sense.
What was your budget, and how did you raise it?
A little over $10,000. A third of that came from IndieGoGo, a third from my parents, and a third from another private party. There were also little bits picked up here and there from other helpful people, who I’m very grateful for. SVA also donated $1,500 through a grant when I really needed it, which was incredible.
Did you shoot in any unusual locations?
Lots of woods. Ha ha! No, honestly, because I knew I was doing a feature-length film, I wrote specifically to minimize locations. The majority of the film takes place in my house in Pennsylvania, which we completely stripped of furnishings for the movie, as the couple is supposed to be moving in. So that was weird, to see your childhood home completely disassembled for a month. After a while, it starts to have a really negative effect on you psychologically.
We also had a “torture basement scene” that we filmed on Long Island, and when we arrived at the location, we discovered it was home to about two dozen chickens. No one knows how those chickens got there. They followed us around all day, and stole my cinematographer’s lunch.
How did you cast the film?
The main role was written with the actress that we ended up casting in mind. I’d worked with her before and knew her talent was next-level. I knew she’d bring all the commitment in the world, and she stepped up to bat immediately and never let up. I think her performance really elevates the film. Also, she hates horror movies, and people who hate your genre are usually the best people to cast in genre films. There’s a chance for freshness and something new.
Most of the other roles were actually cast with people I knew were talented from working with them before. I was really adamant that this film be well acted, because I feel like amateur acting is a real harbinger of low-budget horror. There were two really important roles that were decided through a Mandy casting call, including the male lead. I got about 100 submissions for the role, read about 20 people, and chose the one that worked best with our locked lead. He kills it. He’s really terrific in the film. Also, it was a really good experience to just jump in with an actor I didn’t know. I’d never done that before on a project this big, and it was really interesting to see how we fell into each other’s pattern. It was a little odd at first, but we were real friends by the end.
Any other interesting backstories?
Tons. We were almost all poisoned by our makeup artist, we crashed my mom’s car during a driving scene, we were almost chased off a section of forest by a crazy hillbilly on an ATV (who later discovered he loved us), we shot a scene in a part of the woods that we later learned had bear traps in it… it’s really kind of a miracle no one got seriously hurt on this movie.
Images from top down: Director Brendan Steere; a still from Animosity.
Related post: SVA Dustys 2013: Q&A with the Director of Rumspringa