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An Interview with Richard Bakewell, Director of Postpartum

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2017

Films directed by Richard Bakewell on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Postpartum - in a few words, what is it about?


Postpartum is a throwback psychological horror film about Alice, a mother who is told by the devil to kill her children, and her struggle to separate her dreams and reality as she tries to protect her unborn.


Postpartum is supposedly based on a true story - care to elaborate? 


The source for inspiration for Postpartum was based on five different cases I read of mothers killing their children. The most prolific was a mother who drowned her five children, one after the other, to free their souls and thought they would resurrect. I watched an hour-long interrogation video and it was absolutely chilling. She had no remorse for what she done. Never shed one tear.


Other sources of inspiration when writing Postpartum?


The biggest sources of inspiration were One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest and The Shining. The Cuckoos Nest has so many characters that stand out, and thatís what I based the foundation of my script around, characters who were slightly off their rocker but very distinguished. To me The Shining isnít scary; itís eerie and makes you uncomfortable from start to finish. And that was the tone I tried to emulate in Postpartum. There are also a lot of Easter eggs in Postpartum that reference Friday the 13th, A Nightmare On Elm Street, and a few others. And surprisingly enough not many people pick up on the fact that all of the character names are based on victims from other horror classics.


Do talk about your movie's approach to horror for a bit!


This is my first approach into the horror world. Iíve always done the heavy drama films. Being my first horror film I didnít want to overdo the gore/blood factor. I wanted the gore to be tasteful while making you feel slightly uncomfortable in your own skin. Camera movement and lighting were also of huge importance. I wanted there to be lots of dolly and steadicam to help build tension. And as far as the lighting the idea was to have large pools of light and then complete darkness, which I feel helped keep the audience on edge because at any moment someone or something could suddenly appear.


Postpartum is rather multi-layered when it comes to the perception of reality - so how hard was it to not lose your plot in the process of telling your story this way?


I had a hard challenge ahead of me with making Postpartum. I had to condense it from a 84-page feature length script to 16 pages. In post I relied a lot on editing to keep the audience aware of what was real and what wasnít. As a safety marker I went back to the interrogation room when I thought the audience might be drifting. Also to show that Alice is more or less having a conversation with herself, and the detectiveís questions are distracting her from truly remembering everything that she thinks is real and what isnít.


What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?


You have to have a vision. These days a lot of ďso-called directorsĒ donít know how to pick a shot or even how to call a lens. I knew how the film was going to look, shot by shot, even before we even started principle photography. I made shot lists, storyboards, and made a collection of reference photos. In addition having written the script I spent a lot of time in Aliceís mind and knew the interrogation scenes were so pivotal in making the film work with the intercutting of scenes. One of the stylistic decisions I made before principle photography was to not to shoot coverage on the detective. I felt that if we ever cut to him, even for a simple reaction, we would miss what Alice is experiencing. Plus there is no reason the audience should ever care about him.


Do talk about your cast, and why exactly these people?


Danielle Harris who plays a spin on the good olí Nurse Ratchet is someone I always envisioned being in Postpartum. I even put a picture of her in my vision board when I was writing the feature length script. What a delight to work with, a true professional. Jenny Curtis plays Alice, was someone I almost didnít bring into casting because she looked too sweet in her headshots. But when she came in to read for Alice the room came alive. Her voice was haunting, her eyes were black, and her tone was evil and her heart felt distraught. I knew after ten seconds she was Alice. Nicole Sterling who plays Carrie was the ideal casting. She had this wonderful headshot and I said I have to bring her in. When she read for Carrie, she transformed instantly. Sold. And Katie Beresford who plays Carol Anne did things with the Teddy Bear that no one else did. She used it to comfort herself in times during her read where she convinced me that she was this scared child-like adult. I do feel that I had the perfect cast, and no one ever needed help finding their performanc,e just an occasional tweak.


A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


The mood on set was very fast-paced as we had seventeen scenes to shoot in 3 days. One day of filming in Anaheim, and two days at an animal shelter in Riverside. At the shelter there were so many dark hallways to walk through to get to set, you occasionally would run through a handful of cobwebs or see remnants of blood from other horror shoots, or see the end of a crew member crossing into the other hallway. And I ended up sleeping there the second night of filming to help finish painting the therapy room, and to set up the shock therapy set. And letís just say that I heard some strange noises coming from the vents that first hour alone. Or maybe I was just going crazy from lack of sleep.


The $64-question of course, when and where will your film be released onto the general public?


Once the festival circuit ends in November I will put the film on Amazon, Indieflix, Vimeo, Youtube, and a few other sites for everyone to see. The new trick is now is to make a good short and let the studios seek you out.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Postpartum yet?


I did a test screening over the summer before it was finished. I like to sit in the back and watch people. If they move in their seat a lot it means theyíre bored. When theyíre still you have their complete attention. The test audience watched it without the haunting score by Karin Okada or the brilliant sound design/mix thanks to ToneMesa, and yet the response was very positive. That test audience helped me fill in the missing pieces. So far everyone has said how much they enjoyed it, and how creepy it was. We have gotten into three festivals so far, and itís only February.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Currently writing two new horror films. One is about a 911 operator, and the other is about a Vietnam soldier. Canít say much more than that at this moment. Looking like we will be filming the Vietnam story in September or October this year.


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


Star Wars. My dad took me to see it when they re-released it and it ignited a never-ending passion for wanting to be a filmmaker. Even when I was five years old I wanted to make my own version of Grease. Having no concept of money at five I did try, but didnít get very far. As far as colleges, I went to Columbia College Chicago and had some really amazing old school teachers who were very hard on me and always pushed me to do better. If I were four minutes late to class my lighting teacher would tell me I might as well go home because I wasnít going to get credit for showing up late. His mindset was if I got to class on time I was ďlateĒ.  But nowadays these young filmmakers, artists, new wave DPs donít go to film school. They feel entitled and think they can just buy a camera, read the latest edition of American Cinematographer, and go make a film. And sadly enough a lot of them do.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Postpartum?


Primarily I have been a cinematographer and have worked on several docs, reality shows, music videos, commercials, just about everything. Before Postpartum I directed a feature length film called Officer Down about a rookie police officer suffering from survivors guilt. Filmed that in Chicago and wrote that based on my time working as a cameraman on Cops. And after that I began work on a bucket list documentary about children with cancer called Before I Die. Two years into that film now, and hope to finish it before 2020.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


As a director I am very calm, efficient with everyoneís time, will do my best to make everyone feel important even when I donít have a second to spare. I do not yell as I feel that people who have to yell are telling everyone that they donít know what theyíre doing. I will not eat until I know everyone else on set has, so I usually donít eat when Iím directing. And I will do everything I can to create a safe place for an actor to be vulnerable, and allow them to just trust me. If that means kicking the entire crew out of the room to give the actors time together to really find their way or crying with them when they want to know what they should feeling. And I never say the word ďaction.Ē  I let the room settle and breathe, and then say, ďWhenever youíre ready.Ē


Filmmakers who inspire you?


P.T. Anderson for starters. Magnolia is a rare piece of art from start to finish. Clint Eastwood, who I have built my directing style around. Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese are probably two of the greatest storytellers of our time. The movies theyíve made, unfortunately we will never see films like that again.


Your favourite movies?


Dances With Wolves, Forrest Gump, Rocky, Back To The Future, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, Magnolia, Goodfellas, and The Empire Strikes Back.


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


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I totally despise the shaky cam horror movies. It worked once with The Blair Witch Project but has not worked since. I am hoping that this kind of format goes away forever.


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


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


Postpartum was made as a proof of concept / short film to generate an audience and see if we could find investors to make the full-length feature. Hopefully in 2018 weíre talking in greater detail about the feature film Postpartum filled with old familiar faces as well as a couple fresh ones.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
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... and for the life of it,
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD