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An Interview with Benjamin Roberds and Jordan Reyes, Directors of A Plague so Pleasant

by Mike Haberfelner

August 2015

Films directed by Benjamin Roberds on (re)Search my Trash

Films directed by Jordan Reyes on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie A Plague so Pleasant - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Benjamin Roberds (co-director, writer) - A Plague so Pleasant is about a post apocalyptic future where people have learned to co-exist with the undead and have built a society around not provoking them.

 

Jordan St. Martin-Reyes (co-director, cinematographer) - To me A Plague so Pleasant will always be about quitting your job to pursue your passion. Hopefully this can inspire even more people to take up the DIY ethos and start financially irresponsible projects of their own.

 

With A Plague so Pleasant being a zombie movie - is that a genre at all dear to you? And since zombie films these days are a dime a dozen, what do you think makes yours stick out of the crowd?

 

Jordan - As kids we used to watch The Evil Dead all the time, but aside from that we never really watched zombie movies. It was more about zombie video games like Resident Evil. They felt a lot scarier. A Plague so Pleasant is kind of like our farewell to that part of our childhood. As teenaged degenerates we tried to adapt Resident Evil into a HI 8 movie once but we failed. So this was our chance to rectify that.

 

Benjamin - I've always been really interested in zombie films. I think what makes ours stand out is that it begins with a slow depressing hopelessness and evolves from there. The zombies pose as more of a background aesthetic than a threat.

 

(Other) sources of inspiration when writing A Plague so Pleasant?

 

Benjamin - Everything from the 1968 Night of the Living Dead to the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake and in between. The film itself evolves much like the genre did between that period.

 

Zombie films just don't come without their fair amounts of shocks, gore, violence and the like - so what can you tell us about those aspects of your movie?

 

Benjamin - All the makeup in the movie was done by Tylar Carver who was 16 at the time and very passionate about making gory effects with next to no budget. With a mixture of liquid latex, gelatin and fake blood she made up well over 100 zombies in the movie.

 

Do talk about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand!

 

Benjamin - Jordan and I took turns framing up shots for this film and we both just kind of winged it. This film had no storyboards or organized shot lists so it was all a very organic directing approach.

 

What was the collaboration between the two of you like?

 

Benjamin - Jordan and I have been making movies together since we were 11 years old, so our collaboration on projects is very innate and often requires far fewer words than most directing duos. It's almost like old teammates passing a ball back and forth.

 

Jordan - We've been friends and making movies since childhood so it wasn't too different. I think we learned to work together in a more professional environment. This time it wasn't just messing around in our backyard. We had to see this through to the end. There wasn't anyone trying to keep us on a schedule. If we stopped taking it seriously, we would have never finished.

 

What can you tell us about your key cast, and why exactly these people?

 

Jordan - We've been lucky enough to meet and become friends with very talented people. Dave Chandler and Max Moody had been in a lot of our short films. Eva Boehnke responded to an open casting call we put out. She had a very tight schedule so we ended up filming all her parts in a few days and we used a stand in with a wig for all of her shots from behind. Even the final shot on the hill was a stand in dancing. We knew Kaylee's (the little girl) mom from when we both worked as servers at IHOP.

 

Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere!

 

Benjamin - Whenever we captured sound it had a calmness to it because of the necessary silence but in many of the action scenes it had a unique guerrilla style chaos of Jordan and I chasing around David and the extras with a camera. One time a light fell on a sink, exploded and blew a fuse in the house we were shooting in. We learned a lot of lessons the hard way during this film.

 

Jordan - I remember most every day starting around 8am. I would cook plain white rice because that's all I could afford. I had quit my day job and started selling all my belongings to pay rent and bills. A 20 lb bag of rice is pretty cheap and it lasts forever. Soon Ben would burst through the door and we'd be on our way to the day's location. Mostly we shot at friends' houses or friends' of friends houses. We basically just called in favors. The local paper wrote a few articles about us so it was never to difficult to get zombies. The day Bin Laden got killed we were on the front page of the paper instead. That was pretty chill. They must really like zombie movies.

Our shot lists were vague and scribbled on notebook paper the night before. What we shot was usually dictated by who was available the next day. We had a piece of paper where we would scratch off parts of the movie we had filmed. Because of this, parts of the movie evolved organically. The original zombie chase was about a paragraph and it basically just said "Clay gets chased until he doesn't."

 

With A Plague so Pleasant only about to come out, anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception so far?

 

Jordan - It's been pretty well received. We had a screening for friends and family that was standing room only. We got a standing ovation. I nearly cried. It was one of the best feelings in my life. I hugged everyone on their way out.

 

Benjamin - The premiere was a really great night. All of our friends, family and cast packed a local movie theater so tight that people were sitting along the stairs to either side of the seats and a crowd stood in the back. It felt really good to see them cheer at the end.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

Benjamin - Right now we're really focused on music videos through our production company Dominar Films. We've made many short films for a local 24 hour film fest at Flicker Theater and Bar in Athens Ga. We're still riding the momentum that A Plague so Pleasant started.

 

What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?

 

Benjamin - When I was 8 years old I started using my dad's camera but he refused to let me turn it on unless I wrote a script and he approved it. That made me respect the art form early on and once I met Jordan filmmaking became an everyday activity that we shared amongst friends. I've never been to any kind of film school. Honestly A Plague so Pleasant was our film school.

 

Jordan - I took a film studies program for a year but dropped out because it felt like a waste of money. I made good friends but it felt like an expensive way to meet like minded people. I think I realized people are always looking for that collaborative team that can make a project better and more fun. But I always had that when I was making movies with Ben. So I said "Fuck higher learning. I'm gonna make movies with my friend."

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to A Plague so Pleasant?

 

Jordan - We had made a couple shorts that we put in local festivals but aside from that it was all years of HI 8 movies shot on Ben's dad's camera. We had to shoot everything in order back then. All music was played on a boombox next to the camera.

 

Benjamin - Jordan and I made countless home movies and then right before A Plague so Pleasant we put together two short films: Calm Life of a Peasant and Hatch. The feedback from these two was so encouraging that we quit our jobs and started on the feature.

 

Besides movies, you have also directed a host of music videos - so do talk about those for a bit, and how does making them compare to narrative filmmaking?

 

Benjamin - Not being bound to narration frees our imagination much more to create the most abstract imagery we can dream up. It also helps to not worry about collecting sound on set. It allows us to maintain the chaotic onset energy that makes for a really fun shoot.

 

Jordan - A Plague so Pleasant was our film 101. Our music video company is our foray into the industry. We are learning how the "real world" works. Even though we've made a movie people in the business are less impressed by that these days. With good reason. Anyone can make a movie which has been both a blessing and a curse. We have a bigger pond that we have to stand out in. We do that by creating innovative music videos. We are trying to show the world something they've never seen. A Plague so Pleasant was the just the beginning. We have to show people that we're here to stay.

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

Jordan - I want to make people feel weird inside. Everything I do as a director stems from that drive.

 

Benjamin - Film is the language I'm most fluent in and even then I sometimes say the wrong thing. I'm always learning how to be a better director and to rethink what a movie is.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

Jordan - Currently Gaspar Noe (Enter the Void) Harmony Korine (Trash Humpers and Gummo) theres also David Wilson and the Daniels who make amazing mind blowing music videos.

 

Benjamin - I really like Alejandro Jodorowsky and the ones Jordan mentioned as well are all people that we discuss while setting up a shot.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Jordan - It's funny because I don't watch too many movies. Generally if I start watching one I have to turn it off because it makes me start thinking about making movies. I just saw Sleepaway Camp for the first time and I have to say I really fucking loved it.

 

Benjamin - Like Jordan, I too don't spend much time watching movies these days, but Samsara, Holy Mountain, Rubber and Enter the Void are all extremely outstanding movies. Our editing schedules can be pretty hectic so it's hard to look at another screen at the end of the day.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

Benjamin - I can't think of a specific film that I deplore. I can think of countless movies that aren't for me. The films you enjoy are like your specific size of T-shirt. I wouldn't say I deplore small or large clothes. They just don't fit me and they weren't designed to.

 

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Jordan - I can't think of any ones that would make me violently ill at the thought of watching them. Are there openly racist movies? Those might be kinda lame. I think we're all (filmmakers) trying to either make great art or great amounts of money. Sometimes it works out where we get both. Other times quite the opposite. Either way, all you can do is try.

 

Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

You can find more information through DominarFilms.com

 

Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

Benjamin - No, these were all fantastic questions. Can't thank you enough for reaching out to us and I look forward to reading the article.

 

Jordan - Thanks for the interview!

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

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