Its been said that love is a many-splintering thing. For writer/director/actor Evan Glodell, it’s the profundity of the volatile relationship he shared with his now ex-girlfriend that inspired his feature-length directorial debut, Bellflower. He sacrificed almost everything to make it, too. Glodell sold off his belongings to fund the film, and moved into an abandoned wing of an office building with his cast and crew for two years. If that weren’t enough, Bellflower seemed to lose its petals at every turn: Faulty cameras, mounting money woes and uninsured vehicles careening down streets… Luckily, there was never anything disastrous enough to kill, maim or halt production, and they continued their quest to get the film in the can.
On sight, Woodrow (Glodell) seems rough around the edges: A tattooed, shotgun toting adrenaline junkie to the nth power with a predilection for outlawed pursuits, and hopelessly addicted to the bottle and cigarettes. Naturally, he and his friend Aiden (Tyler Dawson) spend all of their free time building flamethrowers and muscle cars in preparation for a global apocalypse. But Woodrow is also a quintessential romantic, and like all romantics, he’s of two distinct sides—a man given to both the darkness and the light. It’s when a charismatic girl enters his life that he sets off on a journey of love and hate, betrayal and extreme violence, diving further and further into a dissolute lifestyle with no way of turning back.
Anthem recently sat down with Glodell at the Oscilloscope Laboratories office in New York to discuss director-actors, Mad Max and the epiphany that changed his life forever.
Bellflower hits select theaters this Friday.
How did the story for Bellflower come about?
I was going through a really bad relationship… I guess it was really the whole relationship. [Laughs] It really rocked my world. It was something that I had never experienced before, at least not quite on that level. At a certain point, while dealing with that, it clicked in my head that I should make a movie about it.
This is a ballsy film to come from a first time director. How did you pull off something of this magnitude with the limited resources at your disposal?
It took years of trying to figure out how to get it made. I ultimately came to the conclusion that, for me at least, I wasn’t going to be able to get someone to give me the money to make it. People always ask me this, ever since Sundance: ‘How did you get funding for your first film?’ We never got funding! Maybe if you come from a rich family or you roll in higher circles, you could get someone to invest in your career, but I think 99% of people probably don’t have that and you just have to figure something out on your own. So, you just get a camera and find friends, or whoever’s willing to work for free, and just start shooting. After making a bunch of short films, I realized that I had a crew. I had enough people to call on who believed in the projects that I wanted to make and they were willing to put in the time, for free.
You even built your own camera for this shoot, right?
Yes! I’ve been building cameras and optical systems since ten years ago. It’s a hobby of mine. When I’m working on projects, I’ll have ideas for different types of cameras. I’ll be like, “Oh! We should have this kind of camera for this shot in this set-up.” Aside from this movie having weird handheld stuff that I use anyway, we also had this one camera that we built entirely for that one shot at the end of the movie.
There are many scenes involving flamethrowers, guns and the Medusa car spitting fire and all that. Did you ever get into trouble with the law?
The whole time while we were shooting this, we were constantly worried that something like that might happen. There were a couple of close calls where we got pulled over in the Medusa, but the cops saw that we were all sober and had cameras. They were like, ‘Oh, you’re making a movie,’ and just left us alone.
Can you isolate an instance or an obstacle that you found particularly difficult to overcome during the shoot?
The times when we ran out of money were really tough. There were a couple times when we were shooting where we literally ran entirely out of money. We didn’t even have enough money to get gas to drive halfway across town to someone’s house to shoot scenes. Also, the engine on the Medusa blew up and we couldn’t shoot any of the car stuff during the main shoot, which lasted 90 days. We couldn’t afford to put a new engine in, so we had to come back to that later.
It must’ve been a monumental breakthrough for you when Bellflower got accepted into Sundance.
That was the moment when I realized it was all worth it. The reason that everybody put so much into this movie is because we all believed in it so much. One person would have a job and feed their minimum wage earnings back into the production, and we took turns doing stuff like that to get this movie made. We were all hoping that, if we did a good job, it would change all of our lives and our careers. We wanted to make a living doing what we love doing as opposed to what we were doing at the time, which were just crappy jobs. When we started shopping this movie around, we got shot down really hard by absolutely everybody. I was totally crushed and felt like, “I guess the world is a cruel place and no one’s going to give us a break.” I felt like I had done everything that I knew how to do. And then Sundance called.
Where did you meet Tyler [Dawson]?
Tyler tells a different version of this story because it was actually really different for him—that’s really funny to me. So, I got invited to this really small play in a black box theater that one of my friends was putting on and Tyler was in it. I saw him right after and said, “Dude, you’re totally in this movie,” and we ended up becoming the closest friends. I had been looking for someone to play that part in Bellflower even though it was like five years before we actually started shooting because I knew it was an important character, one that would be difficult to cast. But from Tyler’s point-of-view, the person who invited me to the play apparently had been talking to Tyler about me, like, ‘You have to meet this weird filmmaker kid. I think you guys would get along.’ But my friend wasn’t saying any of that stuff to me! Tyler was getting all excited to meet me, not knowing that I was a complete lunatic and didn’t have any resources or anything going on. [Laughs]
What is the significance of the word “Bellflower” for you? That word seems like the absolute antithesis of what this movie embodies.
In the neighborhood where I was living when I was going through the relationship that inspired the movie, my ex-girlfriend and I lived on this two-block section of Bellflower Street. There was a dead end on both sides and we lived on opposite ends of that street. It was an overgrown, forgotten area where all kinds of terrible late night drunkenness and fights would break out. Some of the worst memories in my life are either fights that happened on Bellflower while walking home from her house or walking to her house for any number of terrible reasons, which I won’t even get into. [Laughs] I started writing the script during that time and I could never ever find a name for it, even after having this script for how many years. I was running out of places to look and decided to go back to that neighborhood and just walk around. Right away, the name of that street weirdly seemed like it fit.
Was it always your intention to cast yourself in the leading role? Did you write the part for yourself?
When I first wrote the script—I think I was 23—we were literally shooting projects on a little Sony Camcorder with no sound equipment or anything. At that point, I definitely had to play myself because I had no experience casting. If you put up a casting call and you’re shooting a movie on a Camcorder with no money, the people who show up are… Well, it could be anybody so you might get lucky, but mostly inexperienced people. I also felt like, “This is my story and I don’t think I’ll be able to find someone who I’m excited enough about to play that part” or “I don’t have the skills to communicate on a deep enough level for them to understand what’s going on.” But I didn’t want to act in Bellflower because it was scary. I’m not very confident in myself as an actor. When we were getting close to actually shooting, I would constantly be like, “Should we have a casting call for my part? Should we cast someone else?” The other guys would be like, ‘You just have to do it… ’ [Laughs]
You put yourself through some unpleasant situations in this movie like eating crickets and getting punched in the face. There’s also scene in the movie where you’re riding off in a motorcycle and a car slams into you. Did you really get run over?
I didn’t. It’s interesting you bring that up because so much of the other stuff was real. But, no, that was a camera trick.
What sort of movies did you grow up with? What are some of your influences?
I have yet to be able to answer that question because I love movies and watch a lot of them. I bet you someone else would be better at pointing out what movies inspired me than I would.
Is Mad Max one of them?
That obviously is one of them, but I think that movie inspired me more in life than it affected me as a filmmaker. I don’t know if the filmmaking or storytelling style in the movie applies to Mad Max, or maybe to Road Warrior. There are certainly a lot of references to it in the movie because it had an affect on me as a person.
Was there an epiphany that made you want to move from Wisconsin to Los Angeles in your early 20s? You obviously wanted to make movies, but…
Absolutely. There was an intense spark. When I was a kid, I built things like gadgets and bombs or whatever else there was to get excited about. I could figure out how to fix anything and everybody was always like, ‘You’re going to become an engineer.’ When I got to college—I was there for like a week—I took this Introduction to Engineering class and they were like, ‘Today, you’re going to be a real life engineer.’ I pretty much had a nervous breakdown. I thought, “I’m never going to be able to deal with this life.” I think it took two or three days for me to digest it and, all of a sudden, I was like, “I’m going to Hollywood to make movies.” It was literally an idea that I’d never had before. I was 18 then. It took me three years of bouncing around being confused before I got my shit together and actually moved to L.A.
I just noticed the tattoo on the underside of your arm. It reminded me to ask you about “Coatwolf.” What does it mean?
The name didn’t have any actual meaning, but I’ve put meaning on it since. It’s just a word that came up by accident and I really liked the sound of it. My friends and I always make up fake words. “Coatwolf” was the dumb fake word that everybody was using all the time when we first started talking about forming our own production company. Our production company is called Coatwolf.
What are you working on next?
I have a script that’s fully written. It’s a work in progress, but I’ve been writing it for a year and a half now. I don’t have a name for it yet, but it’s definitely the project that I’ll be doing next.
Is it very similar to or different from Bellflower?
I really think people will see some similarities. When you’re watching it, you’ll probably recognize the style as being the same as, or very similar to, Bellflower—maybe a step forward. Thematically, it’s completely different. Bellflower is sort of a dark movie about love, heartbreak and trying to figure out the meaning of those things. This next one is about… different things. [Laughs]