Katie Aselton Talks Black Rock, in theaters this Friday
Beloved as Jenny, the odd woman out amongst a gang of fantasy football obsessed men on The League, actress and filmmaker Katie Aselton directors her second feature, the white-knuckle thriller Black Rock, which is in theaters this Friday.
The film follows three lifelong friends who set out for a private camping trip at an iconic setting from their childhood. This empty island off the coast of Maine soon turns into a nightmare stomping ground for our trio of young women when they encounter a group of recently returned servicemen on a hunting excursion. After a misunderstanding quickly turns into a tragedy, the three ladies find themselves the targets of the hunt. What started out as a simple getaway to recall old times is now a race for survival as these ordinary woman must find extraordinary strength in order to beat the odds against violence and the elements.
Its one heck of a ride, and proves that Katie Aselton is a master at the craft of storytelling, both in front of and behind the camera. We recently caught up Katie to talk about the screenplay, which was written by her husband and The League co-starMark Duplass, her fantasy to be in a Jason Bourne movie, and her thoughts on future endevors.
Is a sci-fi period piece in the works? It just might be. Here is our conversation with one of our favorite (top three at least) multihyphenates working in film and television today.
How is your day going?
Katie Aselton: I am in full press mode.
Have you taken your dogs to Rattlesnake training, or signed them up for a course this summer?
Katie Aselton: My dogs? I don't have any dogs! No!
Funny, you strike me as a dog person.
Katie Aselton: I have kids. (Laughs) I don't know that they need rattlesnake training, but maybe I should take them!
Black Rock isn't the movie I thought we'd see from you after The Freebie. Do you see a thematic tissue that connects the two films?
Katie Aselton: I think they are both movies that have strong characters in them, more than anything. And good relationships. That is how I approach a movie first and foremost as a filmmaker. And its what I'm interested in exploring, the interpersonal dynamics. And how that affects a situation. In The Freebie it is how it affects their marriage. In Black Rock it is how it affects them when the shit hits the fan.
Did you look at The Freebie as a horror movie, a little bit?
Katie Aselton: The Freebie is definitely an emotional horror movie, for me.
Explain to me how the script for Black Rock came about? Your husband wrote the screenplay for Black Rock...
Katie Aselton: Yes, he did...It honestly came from...Post The Freebie, that movie was shot all inside a small Spanish bungalow. I got itchy. I wanted to get out and move my body. I will admit, I do have a secret desire to be a girl in one of the Jason Bourne movies. I wanted a chance to do something actiony. That is the cool thing about being an actor and a filmmaker. You can create these roles for yourself when they are not presented to you.
You said Jason Bourne, and I thought you were going to say Jason Voorhees...
Katie Aselton: I don't know...Who's that?
From the Friday the 13th movies.
Katie Aselton: Oh, no, no, no! I want to do something super physical, and action based, and intense, and crazy. I do love watching movies like Deliverance and Misery...That is a perfect movie, and its terrifying. As you are trying to find your voice as a filmmaker, I think its great to get into different genres, and find out what different types of stories you like to tell.
So your husband knew this and went down into the basement and wrote the script, or was it more of a collaborative effort as the story came together?
Katie Aselton: We had talked about me wanting to do something really different. We sort of spitballed the idea of Deliverance with girls. Throwing some really strong women into a situation and then having only their inner-strength to be their weapon. Women can lift cars off babies. That's rad.
I've seen that happen.
Katie Aselton: You've seen it?
Not personally. I've seen the videos, I've watched the news reports.
Katie Aselton: Okay, but that's different. I wish you'd seen it! For real!
Directing a movie is like lifting a car off a baby, a little bit...
Katie Aselton: Its very much like lifting a car off a baby.
When you are facing the challenges of that, and you are acting in front of the camera as well, how do you balance those two things out for yourself?
bold}Katie Aselton: Its definitely tricky. It takes a lot of preparation and a really talented team of people who know how to do their jobs without you standing over their shoulders. I feel like, when I am ready to roll on a scene, I can walk away from behind the camera, because I know my DP and the camera operators, and my AD and my producers, they all...We all are telling the same story. I can place it in their hands. I also don't need to be standing in front of a monitor to know when a scene is going well. And when its not going well.
If you're caught up in the moment, I would think that you knew whether or not it is going well...
Katie Aselton: Exactly. But, I also have a strong enough relationship with the people I work with that afterwards, I can look up and go, "Did we get it?" And they are like, "No! It was not good!"
So if you're a little bit off, and you don't realize it yourself, your team doesn't mind pointing that out?
Katie Aselton: No, they totally will, which is great. I have no ego when it comes to that. I have an ego about a lot of things, but not with that.
I can't imagine that you'd ever screw up a line...
Katie Aselton: Oh, that's not true!
Back when The Freebie came out, I had talked with you, and you explained that there were some major casting challenges that went into getting that movie made. And you explained how Dax Shepard came aboard and saved the project. Did you experience anything similar when it came to the casting of Black Rock?
Katie Aselton: No, it was the exact opposite. Once I found the girls, they exceeded my expectations of what I could have possibly hoped for with these characters. And for the experience itself. This was not an easy shoot. It was incredibly challenging. And the girls were very brave.
Were you all friends before taking on this challenge?
Katie Aselton: I was definitely friendly with Lake. We were acquaintances. I had never met Kate. What happened was, I happened to be at the Solo House with Lake, and I told her, "There's this movie I'm interested in making this summer. Are you interested?" And she goes, "Yeah. Give me the script." I sent her the script, and she reacted exactly how a director wants an actor to respond, with this passion and excitement, and this fire in her eyes. She really got it, and she got the vibe of what I was going for. We immediately teamed up on it. Like, alright, now who is this other girl going to be? And Lake threw out the idea of Kate. I was a little hesitant, because I didn't feel like it was her type of movie. She is so chic. I didn't think she'd be interested in crawling through the mud. So I sat down with her. That girl's spirit is so wild and fun, and adventurous. She was really excited. I was bowled over by her. She was amazing.
For yourself, do you feel like you've scratched that Jason Bourne itch? Have you fulfilled your action movie wants and needs, or do you want to do more?
Katie Aselton: I certainly loved dipping my toes in. I would love to be called upon for a big budget action movie. For sure. I would love that.
Would you ever consider writing your own big budget action movie?
Katie Aselton: I don't have the interest in directing a big budget action pic. Because that leaves the demands an audience has for a movie like that. That goes beyond my comfort level of the kinds of movies I want to make. That is just not my forte.
Do you mean just budget wise?
Katie Aselton: I mean, just in fulfilling the desires of an audience.
Well, I think you do that here very well...
Katie Aselton: I hope so, I hope so...We'll see. Its sort of a nice experiment to see if you can satisfy an audience with less choreographed fight scenes and less bells and whistles.
I personally feel that there is a great hunger for this type of movie. Maybe its smaller, but it has a lot of heart. You can tell it came from the people making it, not a committee.
Katie Aselton: I would always like to think that I can notice that. It depends on who is buying tickets.
How does the idea of buying a ticket challenge a filmmaker nowadays? You go to VOD, its hard to get a weekend box office number that is truthful to how many people are actually watching it on opening weekend. I like to use The Comedy as an example. It came out, critics were indifferent to it. People didn't seem to respond to it well in theaters. But then it comes to Netflix, and it's the highest rated new movie on there for a month. It seems harder than ever to guage your true audience...
Katie Aselton: Every film certainly has its audience. Its about how that film finds its audience, and what way are they going to get it. Unfortunately, The Comedy is not making a ton of money by being super successful on Netflix.
Yes, and when the audience is more apt to want to sit at home and watch a movie like Black Rock, or The Comedy, that has to become somewhat of a struggle for the artists.
Katie Aselton: Yes, that's what I'm saying. This is an interesting experiment to see if it will work at the box office as well at the VOD level. Where people actual have to pay for it.
Going back to one of my earlier questions, do you consider Black Rock a horror movie?
Katie Aselton: It's a thriller. I think a horror movie is a very different movie.
When it played Sundance, there were some quite loud reviews that were negative. And they were quick to call it a horror movie. Do you think having reviewers who set it up as such hurt the movie?
Katie Aselton: Definitely. Of course. You are given the expectations of seeing one kind of movie, and then you are given something else. That, for the most part, can be damaging.
Did you see those reviews? It was a couple of genre sites, and I thought it was weird in which they sort of went after the movie.
Katie Aselton: Oh, yeah. I absolutely know what you are talking about. And yes, it did...I don't think it was personal. You can't please everyone, and I think they had an idea about what they were going to see. And this wasn't it.
Last question. As much as I love you as an actress, I want to know what you plan on doing next as a director...
Katie Aselton: You know? I don't know what I'm going to do next. I'm not sure. What other genre can I jump into now? Foreign films? I'm going to make a French film.
Wow, I don't think the audience is so strong for that here in America. I think...A mystery?
Katie Aselton: Okay, I will take that into consideration.
Actually, I want to see a sci-fi movie from you...
Katie Aselton: A sci-fi period piece?
That would be awesome!