Filmmaker Amelia Moses had an incredibly busy 2020, seeing her first two films hitting the film festival circuit during the unprecedented pandemic. Her feature film debut, Bleed With Me, premiered last year during the virtual Fantasia International Film Festival. While that film ambitiously utilized the familiar vampire creature, Moses’ second film, BLOODTHIRSTY, tackled the familiar werewolf creature last year at the Celebration of Fantastic Fest. Mixing commentary on the music industry with beastly transformations, the sophomore outing from the director showcases her promise in the horror genre and is guaranteed to excite many, especially werewolf enthusiasts.
For the upcoming release of BLOODTHIRSTY, Nightmarish Conjurings had the chance to chat with director Amelia Moses, where we discussed what initially drew her to the project, the logistics of choreographing werewolf transformations, and how the junkyard scenes were written into the film.
I spoke to Lowell a couple of months ago, where they had mentioned how exciting it was to bring you on to the project. What was the deciding factor for you when you figured out you wanted to bring this film to life?
Amelia Moses: I guess, in the script, I was just really drawn to that kind of core premise of this contrast between these horror kinds of monstrous elements, and then this woman writing this album, and this creative process, because it just felt like something pretty unique that I hadn’t seen before, in terms of these two things kind of coming together and the parallels, but also the, you know, the juxtaposition. So just bringing that to life, I think, really solidified that for me. Also, specifically the transformation scene in the recording booth like that, that was the scene where I was really amped up for that and really wanted to do my best to get it right, and I was very excited to shoot that on set.
And also listening to Lowell‘s music as well, you know, helped kind of clarify some of the intentions of the script, I think. And when you have a film that’s dealing with music that has songs that are going to be sung in the film? It’s a hard thing to get right. But, once I heard her music, I was like, “Okay. Clearly, she’s a very talented songwriter.” So, that made me feel much more confident in that element of the script, which I obviously wasn’t going to be able to…because I’m not a songwriter. I wasn’t going to be able to do that myself. So, hearing her music was really awesome.
How it’s interwoven throughout the story, where you can track the character arcs was really cool too. Since you mentioned the werewolf transformation sequence, in creating and conceptualizing the werewolf design, it seems to be very heavy in the prostheses. What what was that like? Did it go through different phases? What was the testing process like and the development process like?
Amelia Moses: There wasn’t much testing because there wasn’t much time. [laughs] So, I think the first time I saw the full werewolf look was on set when we were shooting it. I didn’t see anything prior to being on set, but I had extensive conversations with the special effects artist who was designing everything and I was able to see some work-in-progress. But in terms of on Lauren [Beatty], it was when we were first shooting. And, when I came on board, Wendy [Hill-Tout], who was one of the writers and also one of the producers, and Mike [Peterson] had already discussed this kind of hybrid look for the creature rather than, you know, someone in like a hairy wolf suit, because A) that can just kind of like look cheesy very easily, and B) we just didn’t have the budget to do visual effects or anything or CGI.
So, we landed on something that was going to be doable, but also something that was going to be a different version of it. Something we haven’t seen before. Coming on board, I just really embraced that, and tried to think about what I wanted to see within those limitations. And, for me, the transformation scene was really about trying to think about the physicality of it, and the pain of it too. A lot of that came from Lauren, and just working with her as a performer to try to feel that pain, you know, because there wasn’t much we could show in terms of prosthetics, or it was super limited. So, I knew we had to shoot things certain ways, or just have her move her body in certain ways. That was actually a really cool process because I think it was very emotional rather than just like physical.
I remember watching the scene. I used to work as a scare actor and I was watching the transformation sequence and like a lot of just, when you don’t have a lot of time to really capture the moment, there’s a lot you have to really express physically. I was curious about the choreography of that.
Amelia Moses: It was mainly just me and Lauren kind of figuring things out. We also tried to introduce, like, little moments of physicality throughout the film as well, where maybe it’s like, something’s about to happen. Or, you know, a hint of a creature rather than like the full thing.
Physical tics and the like.
Amelia Moses: Yeah, exactly. We worked on that together as well for other scenes.
Did you have much control of the lighting in that scene? I didn’t notice it until I rewatched the film, but the sequence with the lighting reminded me of the EEGs, which is what they do for seizure tests. And I was like, “I don’t know if that’s what Amelia was going for?” It was just fascinating to see how the lighting was done and also in connection to bringing out, triggering that sort of transformation.
Amelia Moses: That’s an interesting take. It wasn’t intentional in terms of the specificity of what you’re talking about, but the pulsing light was something the DP and I established pretty early on because we wanted the transformation scene to feel different. Also, it also helps to hide things, you know, the darker things are, the less you see, the more impact it has, especially when you’re dealing with practical effects and stuff. We were just like, how can we make it feel different for this one scene because we spent a lot of time in that location, but it had to feel different. It’s not really logical within the film. But, for me, the lighting becoming an emotional extension of her.
It makes sense to me. Working as a scare actor in mazes and such, we always have to find those workarounds. I totally get it. You mentioned the location. The house itself is its own character. It’s like a prison, but it’s also really lived in because of Vaughn. Did you have multiple sets? What was the location scouting process like?
Amelia Moses: It was mainly one house, which you see the majority of the film take place there. The recording studio was a separate location because it would have been a miracle to get a house that had a recording studio in it. So, that was separate. And then a few of the bedroom scenes were somewhere else just because of the amount of rooms that were available to us in the house. But it was mainly just this wacky house that we found. We shot in Edmonton, Alberta, in Canada. We really lucked out because there was nowhere else that we would have wanted to film. It had to be something weird and unique because it’s an extension of Vaughn’s character.
And also, when it’s low budget, you don’t have a lot of money or time to bring in a lot of set deck stuff, so having a place that already is filled with a lot of usable things, and this place was filled with stuff. It was more a matter of curating those pieces. The designer did a really great job at curating things, and we moved stuff around a lot. But just like the wallpaper and the weird arches, there [were] so many unique things, or like the junkyard in the back? That wasn’t written into the script. It was just supposed to be a forest. But we were trying to find like little patches of forest in this guy’s backyard for shooting, but you can see a road or it wasn’t big enough or whatever. Then I was like, we have this amazing junkyard that’s just such a unique special location that you would not find otherwise. So then we embraced that and moved a lot of things that were supposed to be these four scenes taking place in the forest into the junkyard.
In casting everyone, what was that process like? I noticed that there seemed to be a specific focus on LGBTQ+, which you don’t often see unless it’s like a niche type of casting call. What was that process?
Amelia Moses: So, when I came on board, the only actor who was already there was Greg Bryk, who plays Vaughn, and I know Lauren from a previous film I did.
Bleed With Me?
Amelia Moses: Yeah, my first feature. And then Katharine King So, who plays Charlie, we went to school together in Montreal and I’d always wanted to work with her as an actor, and when I read the script and read Charlie, I immediately thought of Katharine. Then with Lauren, I knew she was a singer and had some songwriting experience as well, so she seemed like she could be the right person for the role. I knew that they were both queer performers. So, that helps definitely. Katharine had been in a web series that she’d created as well that was very much about LGBTQ people in Montreal. And Lauren had talked extensively about that as well, in terms of like, not really getting the opportunity to play queer characters, you know, and a lot of those queer roles going to be straight people. So, it wasn’t going to be the only deciding factor, but it was definitely a priority for me. For this film, it was because I was lucky to know two really talented performers, and it all worked out, and I was really glad to work with them on this one.
Sometimes all you need is to know people and it takes the film to a different place. But you know, things then get also shot a little bit differently, I think, when you’re conscious of it.
Amelia Moses: Yeah, and I was able to work with them and hear their thoughts as well, which was really awesome. For me, the intention with the queer couple in the film was just to like, not really make it a thing. It’s not a plot point. It’s just like they’re just any other couple.
It’s really subtle and I love it. This is your second feature, correct?
Amelia Moses: Yeah.
I always like asking this because I know nothing, but also this could be helpful for other filmmakers as well. What things did you learn on this set working on this film, in particular, do you think you can carry to future projects? Since it was your second feature, and it was such an indie, small-budget type of feature?
Amelia Moses: I think the biggest learning process was how little time I had with the script prior to shooting. I only got involved, probably two months before we started shooting, and comparatively to my first film, which I wrote myself, and I was also part of the funding for that. I was involved in every single step. So, I had a certain kind of expectation when I came on set whereas, with BLOODTHIRSTY, it was all happening so quickly. So, I think just learning to be quick and having that sort of timeline where you’re just kind of like, “Okay, I don’t have time to really think about it. We’re on set. We’re shooting,” and really just making choices and committing to stuff. I think that’s probably what I learned the most.
Brainstorm Media is set to release BLOODTHIRSTY in theaters and VOD on April 23, 2021. Raven Banner will be distributing the film in Canada on the same day! Also, the BLOODTHIRSTY EP, with original songs written by Lowell for the film, will also be available for purchase on April 23rd via Apple Music and more.
Editor’s Note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.