(This article orginally appeared on Examiner.com 10/6/14.)
Everywhere you look these days, it seems like there’s a pregnancy horror film coming out, from the Hollywood production of “Devil’s Due,” to the NBC remake of “Rosemary’s Baby.” But independent filmmakers Brian Netto and Adam Schindler actually were the first of this current wave with their film “Delivery: The Beast Within,” which was released on DVD September 30. The indie film world vs Hollywood may seem like an unfair match, but the two friends were determined to make their film their way, and sat down to discuss the making of “Delivery” and tackling the horror genre they love so much as writers and directors.
DIANA PRICE: So how did you guys team up creatively to create a horror film?
BRIAN NETTO: Well, we’ve been friends since like 4th grade, so that’s pretty much the answer to that question. We were friends since fourth grade and grew up in Minnesota and just started making movies. It’s the same old thing; we started making movies in 6th grade running around with a camera shooting bad remakes of “Child’s Play” with Cabbage Patch dolls… I’m sure our parents thought it was a phase at some point, but it just never stopped.
ADAM SCHINDLER: It was a long phase…
BN: We always just wanted to make movies like this. After college we saved up money and said “Are we going to do this as a job? Let’s see if we can do this,” and drove out to Los Angeles with the U-haul and all that. We’ve been out in Los Angeles now for about 13 years. That’s pretty much the story.
AS: That’s us in a nutshell. Obviously coming to Los Angeles… We came without any connections or jobs really, so we just moved out and did our best to learn how this industry works while working within it, and then figured out what’s the best way we can get in ourselves and create and make a film. So it was just a matter of navigating that.
BN: We’re genre fans, so we love everything about genre films. We love all films but specifically genre films. So “Delivery” was never a conscious choice: “Oh, let’s do a horror movie because that’s a good starting point.” It was just always what we wanted to do.
DP: It was the obvious choice, because what else is there besides horror?
BN: These are the movies we want to watch; these are the movies we want to make.
AS: We got a lot of “Oh, that’s really smart doing a horror film.” It was not any sort of cash grab or anything that we thought of as a good business decision. Look, if we even tried to create a story that didn’t have some sort of genre element, it always seeps in there somehow. We like genre bending, we like mashing stuff up… it’s the stuff we’ve always enjoyed, so it was a natural first step to try something like this.
DP: So what is this thing lately with men writing about pregnancies from hell? Do you men really have a deep-seated Freudian thing about pregnancy?
BN: I think its a very frightening time in general. It’s a frightening time regardless of the fact that we introduced a supernatural element. But there’s so much that’s unknown, All we can obviously do is speak from a man’s perspective but there’s so much that’s out of your control And as filmmakers, filmmakers in general, they love control. You love putting your thumbprint on something, you love your vision, you want to get that across, and this is something we literally have no control over. I think that’s even more frightening than just the unknown that comes with a child coming into the world.
AS: It’s not just inherently scary, pregnancy and having your first child, but its also the changes that your wife or spouse or partner is going through. I have a three and a half year old and my wife was pregnant through the whole pre-production and production of “Delivery” and literally gave birth two weeks after we finished shooting. So I was in it; it was like watching my wife kind of change in subtle ways. The hormones in their body makes them change so that’s scary too, it’s not just the impending birth of your first child. It’s watching your wife kind of change and shift into a different person, too. Becoming a mother, she’s already a mother in my opinion at least… she’s carrying the child for nine months, it’s already growing in her. My idea is fathers don’t become fathers until the child is born. They’re there to be a companion to their spouse while they’re going through pregnancy, but until they actually see the child and have to start parenting, they don’t really become a father.
DP: It’s sort of an abstract concept for men till they can hold or feel the baby, whereas the mother feels it moving inside her throughout the pregnancy. It’s not really real till you can touch it or feel it. But that must have also made it more stressful making this movie about everything that can go wrong with a pregnancy.
AS: For me it was actually calming, because it was like we were going to such extreme places in the movie that our pregnancy in real life was peanuts compared to this. It actually was kind of nice because we did tons and tons of research before we wrote the script, so I kind of had my brain wrapped around it, way before… a couple of years or so before we actually got pregnant. I had my brain wrapped around it far more than my wife did.
BN: Our lead actor gave birth two weeks before we started production; then Adam, his wife giving birth two weeks after production, we had babies on the brain and it was really helpful to have so much real life experience to draw from. That was important to us. And obviously we did research… [although] midwives were tough to get a hold of once we told them what the film was about… but we wanted the birth sequence to feel really, really drawn out and worth the wait.
DP: There was a wave of pregnancy horror films, but really, because your release time was slower due to being an independent film, you guys were really the first of this wave…
BN: Thank you for recognizing that! A lot of people are like “Why did you make a rip off of ‘Devils Due?'” We actually premiered “Delivery” at the LA Film Festival before “Devil’s Due” was even shot.
DP: Right, and the whole remake of “Rosemary’s Baby” Which was like, why bother remaking a good film? But that’s Hollywood and especially horror. But has that helped give a boost to your film with all of these other films coming out?
AS: The response in general has been really, really positive. That’s been great. Obviously people have seen it over different periods of time when we did our festival run. We sold out of LAFF (Los Angeles Film Festival) but then we didn’t have our release until probably a good 11 months after that and in that time period there were a number of pregnancy-themed horror films that came out. So for the people who had seen ours first, they were kind of touting ours. And then actually, after the fact now, there’s a curiosity factor because there were so many that came, it was just like “Hey, what’s one more? Let’s check out another one.” But also in general, horror fans tend to be very… you don’t usually compare dramas to dramas, but for whatever reason horror films get compared: vampires films are compared to other vampire films, ghost stories to ghost stores. It’s almost like you are very aware of what other people are making, and for the audience they seem to love to see a different version similar of a similar theme. I think ultimately a great number have responded favorably, but I think the fact there are so many, it does beg the question… what is it about this…
BN: What’s in the water?
AS: What is it about this subject that is hitting? Audience members clearly haven’t soured on it yet so they’ll just keep making them till that happens.
BN: The good thing about it is with “Devil’s Due” coming out before our film, you know there’s two different versions of even the “found-footage, demonic pregnancy” movie. I mean, “Devil’s Due” is the big budget Hollywood version; ours is the slow-burn indie version, so its not for everyone. So for the people that didn’t like “Devil’s Due,” maybe they’ll like our movie because they prefer the slow burn. We will be the first to say our movie is not for everybody. It’s definitely not for everybody, but for people who like those slow burn horror films, we hope that they like ours, you know what I mean. That’s what we were going for. There wasn’t any budgetary constraints; that wasn’t the reason. We always wanted to make it the slow burn.
AS: It was always going to be performance driven, in part particularly because of the total shift and you need time… and its a difficult trick to pull off going from one genre to the next. That transition needs to be handed off very carefully and we just took our time doing it and we’re hoping the audience was going to go with it. I think the great thing about the first part of the film, reality television has this knack for sucking you in and before you know it the show is over and they’ve accomplished very little in the scheme of things. It’s a reality show about grocery shopping, but for whatever reason, 20 minutes in you’re just watching these people live their lives. And that was the hope with “Delivery,” that 20 minutes in you’re watching these people live their lives and you’re kind of sucked into this story.
BN: And you care about the characters. It was also a subtle way of getting the audience to actually care about Kyle and Rachel without them knowing they are caring about Kyle and Rachel.
AS: Which is funny because so many people bring up the fact that “You must really like your characters.” Well, I hadn’t really thought about it that way… I think so often in horror films you don’t care if someone lives or dies and if you’re at that point, unless your goal is really interesting with never-seen-before kills or just showing off effects work — which is not the goal of this film — then you’re in trouble because that should be the goal, survival.
DP: You know, horror fans are tough to please and a hard audience to shoot for. Most genre films go for that big “Boo!” moment at the beginning, then keep hitting people with more of the same even though you do risk not being able to develop characters well and make the audience care about them when you take that approach. Having said that, in a culture that is so ADHD, were you afraid people wouldn’t stick with the film as it turns from a light reality show to the eventual horror?
BN: We weren’t concerned about that. We felt if it was engaging enough — and those reality shows are — that people would be fine with it being introduced that way. There were other people that we brought in, at a later date, that we brought in to give us their thoughts… [But] we felt if it’s interesting enough and the characters are engaging enough, that you’ll be interested in seeing what they are doing. That’s the beauty of reality shows.
AS: I’m going to say one slight contradiction. We were slightly concerned with it, but not enough to put us off what we were going to do. We were very aware looking at it that this was going to alienate a certain element of the audience and in particular a certain element of the audience that you just pointed out. The genre audience is — as members of that audience — we know what people are looking for when they sit down to watch a film. Obviously, if you’re gonna sit down to watch “Evil Dead” you need that great opening to really hook people and get people talking and let them know what’s about to come. We didn’t have that opening, we fought against that opening, and we were confident enough in that story that we didn’t feel we needed to put that in there.
BN: We loved the fact that “Delivery” played at LAFF and played at horror-centric festivals like the Telluride Horror Show, but we did have a big “hold our breath, we’re showing this to the horror community, I hope they like it” moment.
DP: Well, if nothing else, you definitely have a promising future in reality tv if this horror thing doesn’t work out.
AS: We joked about that. We said, “Well, if we get any work in may be in realty television.” Yeah, its amazing how much you can glean from just watching a show here and there. Format wise they are all very similar; obviously the subjects are different… but, talk about ADHD. That’s basically what the shows are built on, keeping your attention with upbeat music, flashy transitions and graphics, and it works.
DP: I know your film was low budget, and you sought out cast and crew who were more interested in getting a good film credit than getting rich. That might seem like an obstacle to overcome, but do you think in some ways it’s a benefit to indie filmmaking, in that you get people who are passionate about a project?
AS: It’s huge. The only way we could have gotten this film made was — and we’re actually in the editing room right now of our second film — making sure we got people that were here for the right reasons, not here for the payday. None of us are, but if they’re here either in front of the camera or behind because they want to put their name on it, that means more than someone that’s there for a paycheck. Ultimately, we’ve all worked jobs where you just look at the clock waiting for lunch and then go home. If you’re on a film set and you have that attitude the work is going to suffer.
BN: It seeps into everything, it seeps into the actual movie. So you want people that are there for the passion… that want to direct or produce at some point in the future and this is their ticket to doing that and to getting better credit. They bust their ass and do the best job they can on this. We had a skeleton crew in comparison to even your normal indie film. We had… our crew was like, less than 25 people maybe? So everybody was wearing multiple hats, but I think the people that we brought in… everybody latched onto that, that everybody had to have several different hats and kind of liked that process of being responsible for more than just their one job.
DP: I read how you used an interesting casting method by having auditions that were improvised. Obviously, that was custom made for a found footage type film, but do you think that unconventional approach might be a great tool for other formats as well, in finding out more about your potential actors, or even triggering ideas to tweak the script?
AS: The one thing that I found — I can’t speak to what Brian thinks — I think I’ve become more aware of how much an individual person brings themselves to their characters, like everybody says George Clooney plays himself in every movie. I think that is true of every actor. What I found is that’s more true than I knew; that people bring themselves into their characters and they are those characters. Or what’s true to them they bring to that character. That aspect kind of opened my eyes.
BN: Well, we didn’t [use improvisational casting] on this latest one, but I think there are other ways to glean personality or glean where someone is comfortable at. With “Delivery” the casting process was tailor-made for that film, and I think we had people that came in that we knew were really, really good actors and actresses just because we’d seen their reel before. But if you asked them anything off script you’d get “deer in headlights…” I think its all about tailoring the practice to that particular film. Going forward, it’s not a found footage film but a traditional narrative, but we’ll do anything we need to do in the casting room to answer “Is this person the right fit for this role or not?” And I mean casting is fun, we love the casting process, so I look forward to whatever we come up with to find that out.
DP: So tell us a little bit about this second film that you are editing as we speak.
AS: Like Brian said, it’s not a found footage film. It’s called “Shut In,” starring Beth Riesgraf and Martin Starr and Rory Culkin and Jack Kesy. Its basically about an agoraphobic woman who is the victim of a home invasion, but we like to say that agoraphobia is not her only psychosis. It’s a genre mashup.
BN: It’s a fun movie.
AS: But we’re in Louisiana right now cutting that film. So hopefully it shows up sometime next year. The powers that be make those choices but we just try to make the best movie possible and enjoy doing it as we go along.
Hopefully “Shut In” will get a release before the Hollywood machine cranks out a wave of agoraphobia movies this time around. In the meantime, check out “Delivery: The Beast Within” on DVD.
(This article orginally appeared on Yahoo! Contributor Network 11/9/11.)
The only thing more complex than watching Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” is reviewing it. I sat down to write this review with absolutely no idea what to say, or even what I felt after this movie, but this is what I can tell you. “Melancholia” is not the kind of movie you go see for mindless action. Or horror. Or humor. Or suspense.
Honestly, I don’t know what on earth you go to this movie for. In fact, the genres cited seem somewhat trivial to something so multi-layered and weighty. Which, I think, might sort of be its point: the triviality of, well, everything.
Love It or Hate It
I glanced over some reviews before watching this film, noting the divisive “love it or hate it” nature from reviewers. Some negative comments may be related to von Trier’s crazy Cannes comments about Nazism, which I am so not getting into. Some probably just don’t understand it. But for those who do (or think they do), this kind of commentary on the pointlessness of everything we cherish — marriage, family, career, wealth — makes folks mighty uncomfortable. The last time I felt this kind of heaviness was watching “Revolutionary Road,” where Leonardio DiCaprio and Kate Winslet find their own version of domestic hell packaged as the American dream.
After some surreal imagery to open the film, “Melancholia” starts with what should be Justine’s ( Kirsten Dunst ) fairytale wedding and the happiest day of her life. But slowly and steadily, it all starts spiraling down the drain before our eyes. Many critics have complained about how slow the movie is, and it certainly is. But the snail-paced way von Trier eases us into the relentless destruction of everything in Justine’s life is beautifully subtle and real — which is what makes it heartbreaking.
Dunst Shines in Unconventional Role
Dunst gives an amazing performance, evoking a character who knows that all these great things — a handsome husband (Alexander Skarsgard), a beautiful wedding, a job promotion bestowed on her at the reception, all the wealth and luxury surrounding her — should bring her joy. And she seems to really be happy — at first. But you can see it in Justine’s eyes when she not only realizes none of this will make her happy but, indeed, nothing ever will.
So she proceeds to burn all bridges to any hope of a “normal” life and resigns herself to her hopelessness, to the point where she is unaffected by even the planet heading for Earth that will end mankind. When her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) asks Justine if she doesn’t believe there might be some other life beyond Earth, Justine deadpans her answer, “I know we’re alone.” And her words carry the weight of the true depression Dunst so convincingly portrays — not emo, melodramatic posturing, but that flat, expressionless weight of the real thing.
Or at least that’s what I saw in Dunst’s performance, which earned her the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival. The sad truth is, one probably has to have — or, at least, have had — a little melancholia to understand “Melancholia.” It doesn’t draw tears, or make you laugh, or make you embrace life. It leaves you feeling sort of numb and empty — and alone. Yet it isn’t pure misery. As the characters watch that huge globe creeping up on Earth, it mixes a sense of wonder with the pain. And perhaps a peaceful resignation to the fate that eventually waits for all of us.
And I suspect that’s exactly what von Trier was going for.
(This article originally appeared on the Yahoo! Contributor Network which was discontinued and deleted, so it is reposted here.)
It’s easy to become jaded about the music industry these days with the shameless commercialism and all the melodramatic music contests, but there were two truly defining moments in the first season of “The Voice” that sent a clear message this wasn’t going to be the same old status quo. The first was when the coaches opened the premiere by actually, you know, singing, showing they walked the walk. And the second was the blind audition of one contestant in particular. The kind of larger-than-life singer who doesn’t fit the sweet ingénue mold the label executives love so well. Someone who’d likely never even been given a chance to be heard in an industry of surgically-enhanced Barbie dolls with her extensive tattoos, and her shaved head, and her blatant disregard for playing by the rules.
If you are a fan of “The Voice,” you know exactly who I’m talking about. If not, then I suggest you get to know the force of nature that is Beverly McClellan. Like…now.
McClellan and I intersected on a phone call where I was on the tail end of an all-nighter and she was just waking up and getting her caffeine on after a last-minute gig the previous night opening for none other than Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Which, despite getting the call only a few hours beforehand, seemed to have gone very smoothly.
“The guy is amazing, and his crowd really received me well, so I was very happy. Very, very happy,” she said. “I mean, I walked out there and they raised the curtain and I was standing out there by myself and there were tons of people and I was like ‘Hey, how y’all doin’?’ And I could see a lot of their faces go ‘Hey, man, I remember her from…’ And I just said ‘Yep, I’m from ‘The Voice.'”
Although she performed for a sizable studio audience on Season 1 of “The Voice,” not to mention literally millions of TV viewers, McClellan didn’t think her nerves for last night’s show were out of the ordinary. And in fact, a natural side effect of the rush of performing, and doing the thing she loves — something that hasn’t become even remotely old-hat.
“I mean, is a roller coaster exciting every time you ride it? Yes, it is. So is the stage. So is people. So is life.”
Life after “The Voice” has consisted pretty much of touring. Then more touring. And, oh yes…touring.
And, of course, recording her new CD, the appropriately titled “Fear Nothing.” It was the first time she was able to sit down and record an album straight through, without having to stop and earn more money to work in the studio in bits and pieces. Not to mention having seasoned studio musicians and a great producer to work with for the first time, making this different from any of her previous CDs.
“I think the actual players and David Z., who worked with Prince and Etta James — c’mon, just those two names changed the whole process right there, man. That’s better than me saving up my Ps and Qs that I don’t have to use for the electric bill and taking it down to the studio and trying to put up maybe another two songs and wondering when I can release this…it’s like, a whole different level.”
And speaking of James, if McClellan could only sing with one person in the world, she would pick James or Dolly Parton. Little did she know she wasn’t the only one in the room at her audition who shared a great love of the blues legend.
“When (Christina Aguilera) and Adam (Levine) turned around, I thought, if anybody has anything to teach me, it’s going to be Christina. I did the right thing — I found out we had Etta James in common, so that made me very happy. And that’s something we didn’t know when she turned around.”
Aguilera was obviously a fan of McClellan, as well, who ended up being the singer representing her team in the finals. If McClellan had to sum up her feelings about the musical diva in one sentence, she has no problem hitting in on the head.
“She’s lipstick on fire is what she is,” McClellan laughs. “With perfect pitch.”
And speaking of fire, if there was one thing she could have done differently on “The Voice,” she can tell you exactly what it would have been, without the slightest hesitation.
“I might have set the piano on fire. I asked them to do that but they said no. It was one of four in the world, so instead I laid on it. They told me not to do that, too. But hey, it’s live television, what are you gonna do? Don’t tell me not to do something, cause that’s the first thing I’m gonna do.”
As fearless as McClellan is, wasn’t there at least a sliver of doubt or worry about how she would be received as she was waiting for her blind audition?
“Hell, no. Cause I don’t give a [expletive] whether they accept me or not. I’ve done walked around in this skin for 42 years so I don’t give a flyin’ pazzizi what they think about me. They don’t pay my bills, I do. I think it helped me with my music because I was like screw it, I am who I am. If you don’t like me, oh well. I got nothing to lose, I’ll go home and pet my dog, he loves me just fine.”
Apparently, her dog isn’t the only one who loves her — viewers voted McClellan into the semi-finals and the finals, proving that the exception to the rule can gain a widespread audience. And proving sexuality really doesn’t matter, as it was never even an issue on “The Voice,” unlike some other music contests.
Of course, in a perfect world, it wouldn’t even be mentioned, but it bears noting that three of the eight semi-finalists on the show were openly gay, indicating that perhaps Americans weren’t quite as concerned about such irrelevant facts as some politicians would make you believe.
“I was a singer way before I was gay. I knew what music was at three years old, but I didn’t knew what that other was. You don’t discover that till later in life. I love it when people say how is it to be a gay singer…I didn’t set out to be that but I just am. But it’s okay, the Indigo Girls get it, too. And I’m sure Melissa Etheridge does, too.”
As McClellan was covering one of Etheridge’s songs on an episode of “The Voice,” it occurred to me maybe she was borrowing her trademark shaved head from one of her inspiration’s looks. As to which did it first, I should have known the answer.
“I did. Hers was cancer-related. Mine’s just crazy. ”
She may be a little crazy, but McClellan has used her new-found notoriety to start her own label and go the DIY approach. But unlike most do-it-yourself musicians, she also has the backing of the prestigious William Morris Talent Agency, creating a “best of both worlds” situation any artist would envy.
So how does she plan to wield her creative power?
“I’m gonna make the world sing the blues. That’s it. I’m gonna conquer it. You know, they don’t have to give me a genre. Love will find its way out cause music is universal.”
The next season of “The Voice” debuts Feb. 5 after Super Bowl XLVI and will air Mondays for the rest of the season. This time, each coach will start with 12 instead of eight contestants, so expect more songs, more laughs, more tears and more drama. Which is to say, more awesome for the new year.
(This article originally appeared on the Yahoo! Contributor Network)
When faced with a life-threatening illness, the word many people fear most is “hospice.” Obviously, it is not a recommendation one wants to hear, but some of those fears are based on myths about what hospice does and that it means giving up hope. Nothing could be further from the truth. When is a hospice recommended?
To put it in the simplest terms, a physician will recommend hospice when he or she feels the patient has a prognosis of six months or less to live. This is certainly not good news, but there are people who elect to discharge from hospice either to pursue aggressive treatment, or because conditions change enough they no longer qualify and the hospice initiates discharge. Or as some say, they “graduate.”
Common? No. But it does happen.
Most people also think you have to be diagnosed with cancer to be hospice eligible, but that isn’t the case. There are guidelines for admission for many chronic, debilitating diseases, such as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and end stage dementia, amongst others. The hospice benefit continues past the six months as well, as long as you remain eligible per guidelines to remain on service, so there is no time limit.
Hospice and pain medication
Another common misconception is hospice wants to give pain medications till the patient is sedated, or some even believe to the point of euthanasia. This is illegal and unethical, and absolutely unthinkable to hospice nurses, who specialize in symptom management with the goal of extending as much quality time of life as possible. Nurses work closely with doctors to adjust medications up in small doses to prevent over sedation and find the right amount to control symptoms with minimal adverse effects.
Even when people aren’t afraid that too much narcotics will be given to the point of overdose, they often have a fear of developing an addiction to pain medications. When taken strictly to control pain, it does not have addictive qualities – that only occurs in cases where it is abused by people who do not need it, or take it in excess of what is needed to control their pain.
Care in a hospice
Once those fears are put aside, many often think signing onto hospice means going into a facility, but hospice is a philosophy and method of care – not a physical place. The team of nurses, social workers, nursing assistants and chaplains work to keep you in your home or find placement elsewhere if that is what you choose. Most patients die in their own homes, with their family. And if not, most hospices have inpatient units, where families can stay around the clock with their loved ones. And with very low nurse-to-patient ratios, to ensure the kind of individual care their patients need.
As a general rule, hospice does not require patients to sign a Do Not Resuscitate order, but some make an exception when entering into their inpatient unit, as they are equipped for comfort care only, and not acute medical/surgical care that includes CPR and intubation in the case of cardiac or respiratory arrest.
The bottom line is the patient maintains control of decisions regarding their care as long as they are able to do so, and the hospice team supports them in their goals. That also means if the patient chooses to have their primary physician continue to follow them on hospice, that wish will always be respected.
The cost of a hospice
Perhaps one of the biggest concerns is cost, but Medicare does cover anything related to the patient’s hospice diagnosis and comfort care without charge to the patient. In most cases, any supplemental insurance would still cover medications not related to the hospice diagnosis, but the hospice social worker can help review finances and let you know if there are any other expenses outside what hospice covers and assist with resources to help you meet those needs.
Because hospice seeks to proactively treat not only the physical symptoms, but also emotional and spiritual, they do not stop with caring for the patient, but extend their support to the family as well. And by family, we define that loosely as anyone who cares about the patient. That is why if the patient dies, hospice service doesn’t end – hospice continues to follow up with the family for over a year to offer bereavement services and support groups. Many have special programs aimed at children.
The “H word” is scary to most people when they first hear it, but they often say they wish they had found the service sooner, or don’t know how they would have managed without it. Because hospice deals in other “H” words, as well – help, hope, and if not the healing of the physical body, a healing of the heart and soul.