Terry speaks to Writer/Lead Actor Sean Elliot and Writer/Director Scooter Downy about their film It’s in the Blood.
Terry Wickham: I know you both wrote the screenplay for It’s in the Blood. But who actually got the first seed of an idea for it? When did it first happen?
Sean Elliot: It’s In The Blood is a derivation of a script I wrote for a screenwriting class some years ago. I suppose the initial idea occurred to me a year or two prior to then, when I began brainstorming on a film that would not only contain character and plot elements that Scooter and I would be interested in exploring, but would also be feasible to produce on a low budget. Keep in mind though the film you see on screen shares very little in common with the initial script/idea. As soon as Scooter and I decided we were going to independently produce this project, the script underwent extensive revisions as the first stage of our collaborative effort; and by the time we actually shot the film some 10 drafts of the film had been written.
Left to right; Lance Henriksen, Sean Elliot, Scooter Downy in backseat shooting It’s in the Blood
TW: How did you work together? In other words, what was your process? Did one of you write a draft, while the other polished or did you split scenes up?
SE: Yeah, initially Scooter and I took turns writing drafts of the script. I wrote the first draft and then he took the script and spent a few weeks rewriting it. Once he finished his draft he handed it off to me and so the cycle continued. Eventually we locked ourselves in a cabin for a month in the Colorado mountains and hammered out what I would consider to be the “real first draft” of the film we actually ended up making. I believe this was our 4th draft. All of the subsequent drafts that followed were 100% collaborative efforts between Scooter and I, where we both shared in all the responsibilities of polishing/revising/editing/etc.
TW: What did you bring to the script versus Scooter (and vice versa)? I’ m sure you each have your own writing/story/character strengths.
SE: In this particular script, I guess the element(s) I am most directly responsible for would be the wilderness/survival aspects. The very first draft I had written had largely been inspired by the movie The Edge, staring Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin. I really like man against nature stories. When it comes to Scooter and I writing in general, I would say I tend to focus on world building/mechanics, while Scooter is really good with characters/character development.
TW: How long did you spend writing it?
SE: We wrote roughly 10 drafts of the script, and when we finally got on set and the cameras started rolling, we threw them all out the window.
TW: Was it hard to get financing? How long did it take to get the capital to make your movie?
SE: It is incredibly hard asking investors for money to finance a film under the best of circumstances. When you do not have any resume whatsoever demonstrating your ability to successfully write/produce/co-star/direct/etc. a film, it’s even worse. Despite numerous pitches at varied venues (venture capital clubs, fund-raising parties, etc.) where we failed to generate any capital, we were really fortunate to find enthusiastic support from friends and family.
TW: Did the financing company take script as it was or did you have to revise & alter it? If so, how much?
SE: Because this was primarily financed by friends and family, we were able to maintain 100% artistic control of the film, which was really a blessing.
TW: Is either one of you from Texas? How did you end up shooting at Spiderwood Studios? Your locations have a rich and varied look.
SE: No, neither one of us is from Texas, but I had spent a year living there building up my acting resume. It was actually sometime that year that I wrote the very first draft of the script. A few years later, when it came time to choose a shooting location, I knew from the year I had spent there that Austin Texas had a really great film community with some of the best crew you can find anywhere in the world. Once we decided to shoot in Austin, Utilizing Spiderwood Studios was a natural progression. They have an incredible set up and are a fully functional studio. They have a 200 acre wilderness back lot which is where we did most of our shooting.
TW: Speaking of Spiderwood Studios and your locations, I read in Fangoria that you had trouble with snakes and spiders. Please elaborate. What kind of snakes and spiders gave you a problem and what exactly happened?
SE: We encountered every king of stinging, biting, clawing vermin you can imagine! Rattle snakes, scorpions, water moccasin, copperheads, cottonmouths, wasps, bees, ants, etc. I know Scooter has stories of his own, but my closest call was the night we were shooting an important sequence where both Lance and I had to be in the river. No sooner had we finished shooting the scene and gotten out of the water when a really large water moccasin comes cruising up the river, right through the spot Lance and I had been not 30 seconds prior. These kind of event became fairly routine for the crew. It really is a miracle that we didn’t suffer any casualties while shooting this movie.
TW: Casting Lance Henriksen as the father character Russell was an excellent choice. He fit the movie perfectly. Was he always your first choice and tell us how you got him?
Lance Henriksen gets ready to do a scene It’s in the Blood
SE: We had a short list of actors we were interested in pursuing for the roll that also included Will Patton, Robert Patrick and Ed Harris. However, as soon as we talked to Lance we knew we had our guy. Of all the people to read the script, He was the first to really “get” it. Ultimately, Lance understood this character so well that he was able to bring a level of humanity to Russell that was above and beyond what we had envisioned for the character.
TW: Sean was it always your intention to co-star in the movie or did that come about for another reason?
SE: Yeah, it was always my intention to co-star in the film. We designed this project to give both Scooter and I the opportunity to do what we love. After having been auditioning for a few years with limited results, I was tired of asking for permission to work.
TW: Was it easy balancing your responsibilities as an actor versus producer?
It’s in the Blood’s raven haired beauty Rose Serna
SE: This was one of the hardest parts of the entire process for me. I had been so involved with the development/production of the film every step of the way, that when it came time to step back as a producer and concentrate on acting, it was very hard for me to relinquish that control. The entire time we were shooting the film, Lance was always telling me to “surrender”. It took me a long time to learn what that meant, but when I finally did it made all of the difference.
TW: Scooter was it always your plan to direct this movie? Talk about your background. How did you become a filmmaker? What are the movies that got you interested in directing and what influenced this movie in particular?
Scotter Downy: From the get-go we developed the film as a way to to get feature film experience. But if James Cameron had wanted to direct it, I probably would have stepped down. Like most directors, I became a filmmaker by seeing way too many movies and behind-the-scenes documentaries. As a four year old I had an unholy fascination with Jaws which I watched over a hundred times. Then mom and dad bought a camcorder and editing software for me in high school and I started making spoof movies for the morning news program. This was thankfully before YouTube got popular. It’s In The Blood was influenced by lots of films — The Edge, Predator, Jacob’s Ladder, TV’s Lost.
TW: Scooter, what was your vision for It’s in the Blood? Do you feel you accomplished what you set out to do?
Lance Henriksen gets direction from Scooter Downy
SD: My vision was to make a character driven atmospheric fever dream of a horror movie that won the Sundance film festival and made millions of dollars. So yes and no.
TW: What format and camera did you guys film with? Talk about your director of photography Mike Simpson as well. Your movie as a nice visual look, very green which I kind of wouldn’t picture Texas very green because of the heat. Was that captured live or done with color correction in post?
SD: We shot digitally on the RED-One. Mike Simpson is a tremendous talent. We originally wanted to shoot the film in the Pacific Northwest to give it that dense, primordial green look but were surprised to find something comparable in Bastrop Park outside of Austin. So the color was captured live and enhanced in post. We wanted to do a spin on the bleach bypass look while still flooding the wilderness scenes with intense greens and blues and with strong backlight at night to see deeper in the woods. The pastel colors in the flashbacks provide a nice visual contrast.
TW: How’s the response been to It’s in the Blood so far?
SE: The response has been overwhelmingly positive. We were voted best horror film of 2012 by Planet of Terror, and were an official selection in over forty film festivals where we won a whole bunch of awards including Best Picture at Shriekfest LA. We successfully achieved distribution, and the film is now available for rent/purchase on DVD as well as numerous Video On Demand platforms (Amazon, Itunes, Vudu, and a number of cable on demand providers).
SD: Critically it’s been overwhelmingly positive. However for most audiences It’s In The Blood inspires wildly different reactions. It’s not your average horror movie — the focus is on atmosphere and the father-son relationship. The ambiguity at the end seems to be a sticking point for some while others appreciate the passion and ambition.
Left to right; Lance Henriksen, Sean Elliot, with Scooter Downy getting ready film a pivotal scene
TW: What’s next on your agenda?
SD: We just finished a short animated film called Political Earth (Preview) which won the $5000 Third Place Prize for the Infowars.com Operation Paul Revere film contest. It’s basically an animated political cartoon in the style of a nature documentary — a safari showcasing our world’s “political animals” — from the fat cats of wall street to the federal leviathan. We’re hoping to turn that into a webseries soon.
Please visit the movie’s official site: