The fabulously fun new horror romp Gremlin is out this July from Uncork’d Entertainment. We caught up with director and writer Ryan Bellgardt on NBA aspirations, the CGI effects for Gremlin and his new project The Jurassic Games.
Where do you hail from, sir?
I'm from Edmond, Oklahoma, a suburb just north of Oklahoma City.
Did you grow up with supportive parents – ones who encouraged your journey into filmmaking?
Yes they were always very supportive, but I really didn't start making movies until I was out of the house. I grew up wanting to be an NBA basketball player and they supported that even though they must have known I never had a chance to make the NBA! They are both very creative people and encouraged creativity. I never felt like me making movies instead of becoming a lawyer would disappoint them or anything like that.
What was your first project?
My first project on a bigger scale was a pilot for a TV series for children that I had written called Big Magic Book.
How did it go?
I had never done anything like that before and it was film school for me. It was a puppet show in the vein of Mister Rogers. I spent a year working on it and it eventually landed me in the office of the Disney Channel, pitching the show to them. I was really hooked after that. You can see and hear little parts of it in Gremlin. It's the show that Charlie is watching.
Did you do anything different on the new film, Gremlin, from what you did on that first one?
We did a lot of things differently. For one, I wanted to tighten the story and make a shorter, more concise movie. I also wanted to change the tone from goofy and campy (Army of Frankensteins) to dark and desperate. We tried to make a movie that builds tension and suspense. Those are all things I really wanted to see if we could pull off.
Did you use the same crew?
For the most part, yes. Producer/Director of Photography Josh McKamie and Prodicer/Editor Andy Swanson are the core members of the team and Producer Chris Hoyt's contributions really became even more invaluable during Gremlin. Nate Bright and Jenna Green were also back on special effects makeup and they did an amazing job. Also, returning are Composer David S. Hamilton and Sound Designer Ando Johnson. We added Stephanie Roach, our creature animator, to animate the CGI Gremlin. We could not have finished the movie without her amazing work. I really try to surround myself with amazing people and then stick with them. We're growing as filmmakers together and that's exciting.
What about distribution? Same distributor?
Scream Factory released Army of Frankensteins in the US and Gremlin will be released domestically by Uncork'd Entertainment.
You’ve clearly got a background in special effects, by the looks of the film. How was the ‘Gremlin’ created?
We acquired the Gremlin creature model from a CG artist who told us that the model was a reject concept for the remake of the "The Thing". We thought that was very awesome and went right to work rigging it up for animation. Stephanie animated about 150 shots of the Gremlin running around and then I rendered the scenes out of Maya and composited the shots in After Effects.
I've been doing CGI work as a hobby for about 10 years and finally decided I had enough skill to try to tackle a movie. It was pretty exhausting, taking about 6 months for Stephanie and I to complete all the shots for the movie.
How long ago did the journey begin for you on the movie?
I wrote the script in January 2016.
Did it take long to write the script?
I spent maybe a month in the notecard and outline phase and then wrote the first draft of the screenplay really quickly. I remember setting a goal of 10 pages a day for 10 days. I'm pretty sure I hit that.
Once the first draft was complete, I consulted our sales agent (Galen Christy with High Octane Pictures) and we worked together to polish it up and make it attractive as possible to distributors.
Were the cast attached from the outset?
The part of Adam Thatcher was written for my friend and great Writer/Director/Actor Adam Hampton. In retrospect, I maybe should have named him differently because nobody knew if I was talking about him or his character half the time!
How much have those positive reviews helped the film?
I'm not sure yet to be honest, but it's always nice to hear good feedback on your work. What matters to me is that we are able to use what we've learned making these movies and do it better the next time.
Are you working on anything new?
Yes we are! We just finished shooting our third feature film, The Jurassic Games. It's dinosaurs meets death row inmates in a fight to the death!
Emmy Award winning director, Ryan Bellgardt’s (Army of Frankenstein) highly anticipated creature feature Gremlin hits VOD July 11 from Uncork’d Entertainment.
Godzilla meets The Ring in a thrilling, uniquely-scripted horror jaunt that boasts amazing computer-generated effects and from some of the best in the game.
Adam receives a mysterious box from a relative containing a creature that will kill everyone he cares about. The only way to be rid of the curse is to give the box to someone he loves. As the ominous timer on the box counts down to its end, he can only imagine the horrors that await. Does he give the box away to save his family, or unleash a monster upon humanity? He can’t destroy it. He can’t escape it. He can only give it to someone he loves…
Adam Hampton, Kristy K. Boone, Catcher Stair, Katie Burgess, Mike Waugh and Caleb Milby star in Gremlin, available everywhere on digital 7/11.