Brandon Espana (Director, Stir Crazy)
The Horror Revolution: What is your favorite horror movie? What movie scared you the most?
Brandon Espana: My favorite horror movie is also my favorite movie in general and that's Bob Clark's 1974 film Black Christmas! There's something about that film in which everything went right. The cold, dreadful atmosphere, artistic framing of certain shots and unsettling nature of elements like the phone call sequences have not only influenced me as a director but still to this day gives me the chills. Other movies that have scared me the most are Pet Semetary (1989), Dario Argento's Opera (1987) and most recently a British Film called The Appointment (1981).
I don't know what it was with The Appointment, it might have been the fact that I watched it at 1 in the morning as a crappy VHS Rip on YouTube but that film gave me the same unsettling feeling that most people got from Hereditary (2018). That may be a little too much hype, but Hereditary itself has had so much hype already. I want to give some to lesser known films haha.
THR: What made you want to make movies? What inspired you to pick up the camera and make your own film?
BE: I've always been what the cool kids call a "Media Junkie" haha. But the film that made me want to get into films is actually Michael Bay's Armageddon (1998). A very unconventional choice I know. You'd probably think I'd say a horror movie but, I didn't really get into horror movies until high school. I was into Goosebumps and Are You Afraid Of The Dark? when I was a kid however, I guess it was always destined to be haha.
Anyways, I saw Armageddon when I was 11 and was just fascinated at how everything came out, the special effects, practical effects etc.. From then on I definitely wanted to be a part of the filmmaking process.
THR: was incredibly disturbed by Stir Crazy, more than I probably should’ve been to be honest! Did that just come from the lockdown and COVID and everything, or was there something deeper that you were trying to comment on in that film?
BE: Oh COVID 100 percent. I was in pre-production for another film that ended up getting thrown by the wayside. And, with no way to film with other actors or locations I ended up just improvising this entire film. Obviously the effects of being isolated for the character are a bit of an exaggeration to what I actually experienced, but I do feel that it still can connect with people. I think artists especially would connect with this film. as it deals with trying to stay creative at a time where everything has kind of gone to shit. An artist friend who saw it actually cried at the end because it just affected them so much.
THR: If you could work with anyone in the industry, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
BE: This is such a coincidence. I saw this exact question posted on a filmmaking reddit page a few days ago. For alive, I would definitely love to work with Abel Ferrara. Us collaborating on a gritty crime film, with possibly a horror element would be awesome! As for someone who is dead, I think Brion James is a phenomenal character actor. The films I've seen him in (Blade Runner, Crimewave, Southern Comfort) You can just tell he's having a good time with it, which I like. Also I feel like he'd be pretty down with any crazy idea I'd come up with haha.
THR: If you could have one interesting piece of trivia known about you to all of the people who watch your movies, what would it be?
BE: This is a hard question haha. I guess one piece of trivia about me that people who watch my films would find interesting is that all of my films have had scenes shot in my parent's house. Some are pretty easy to figure out, others are covered with atmospheres or are disguised by a set.
THR: What’s your favorite film that you’ve made so far?
AB: Undercover Bike Cop (2019) for sure. My first film, which has a special place in my heart. It dates back to my high school days where my friends and I would come up with different scenarios for the title character. None of us would have thought it would actually end up really existing.
THR: Tell me a little about Retro Video Pictures, your production company. I’m a huge supporter of indie films, and I love to see people starting their own companies to get ahead in the game!
BE: Retro Video Pictures started back in 2018, right as I was about to graduate college (I studied film) . I was already kind of working on Undercover Bike Cop at the time, but to be honest the entire conception of the production company was very impulsive. A friend of mine brought his miniDV Camera during the last week of school and not only did that set off the idea for my next film but it also sparked the interest of doing "Retro" style films, whether through using old school film equipment or emulating a specific style/atmosphere. I think I came up with the name "Retro Video Pictures" and created a logo in just a couple of hours haha.
THR: I described Stir Crazy as being what Argento would make if he made a student film. What were the inspirations for the color palettes and ambience in the film?
BE: Haha. That's great! I love it! Well, this entire film was improvised from the beginning and the only inspirations for it were Suspria (1977) and Italian Giallo films. The name of the film at one point was actually A Killer That Stands In The Center Of The Ever Widening Pool Of Red! but the giallo aspect of it quickly lost itself within the experimental approach I was taking so the title changed to Stir Crazy.
Myself and Composer E.K. Wimmer really fed off of each other while making the film. I would shoot and edit a rough sequence, then send it to him. He would then create an ambience/soundtrack based off of how he felt while watching it, send it back to me and I would add to the scene in one way or another based off of what I felt while listening to the track. It's an unconventional way of doing things but I think that helped shape the atmosphere of the film.
THR: If you were given unlimited funding and access to every actor in America, what film would you make?
BE: Oh most definitely a "The Player (1992) style film. Ensemble cast who are playing both fictional characters and fictionalized versions of themselves. Make It about filmmaking or the industry. Maybe set it in Hollywood haha.
THR: And finally, how would you market ping pong balls if ping pong itself didn’t exist?
BE: Wow. You really saved the hardest for last haha. I guess I would market Ping Pong Balls as a game similar to Ping Pong but not called Ping Pong because it doesn't exist. If that makes any sense.
Check out THR's review Brandon's feature film Stir Crazy, along with his short film, The Replacement.