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The Brick House
2013, 92m, drama, fantasy, western
The Brick House is a modern retelling of the classic "three little pigs" tale in a fantasy western drama, where three estranged brother pigs are reunited by the inheritance of their Uncle's countryside homestead after his death in a house fire.
Deciding to repair the home for themselves, they become the target of some local business tycoons; a ruthless pack of wolves who's seedy plans will have them stop at nothing to claim it for themselves.
Produced by: Gustavo Cervantes, Douglas Layne Anderson
Cast: Josh New, Gallagher Goodland, Thomas Andrew Johnson, Brendan Hopkins, Bill Aaron Tarpenning, Andy Woodard
10 questions with The Brick House director, Gustavo Cervantes at the half-way mark.
Wednesday, April 27th, 2016
1Hi Gustavo! I wanted to thank you for being a part of our spring festival. First, what was the initial seed that made you want to make The Brick House? Thanks to you guys for welcoming us, glad to be a part of this. My buddy Doug and I had wanted to make another film for a while but always had the excuse that we had no money or people around to help. Then Kickstarter came out of nowhere and we saw a friend of ours was able to fund a project of his on there, so that sort of got the gears in our heads spinning about making this a reality.
2I was so blown away when I first saw this because it's a film that could be silly or a comedy but this film is a straight drama. What made you decide to go for the darker tone even though it's based off a children's story? We asked ourselves that a lot too, and whether or not it was too weird to treat something that's so traditionally kid-oriented and tame in this mature manner instead. We even experimented with puppets and animation for a while as a way to sort of counter the more serious approach, but every time we went back to look at the source material, like a lot of classic children's stories, it had it's dark undertones that seemed to support our thinking that this didn't have to be another cartoony or silly adaptation. It was a much more interesting and original idea to bring this story some drama and characters with dimension, plus nobody else was going to make this movie in this way, so we felt it was the right way to go.
3You and Doug Layne Anderson both wrote the script. What was that process like and why did you two choose to work together on this project? It took us a while to write the script because at the time Doug was in Connecticut and I was in Texas, so we did it mostly over email and phone calls at first. I think it started as more of a writing exercise, but when we started to feel that it was coming together in a fairly decent way we decided we should relocate to be closer and try to actually make it; that ended being in Tulsa where it was shot. He and I had worked together before on some smaller shoots in South Florida where we're both from and we've always made a good team. I think Doug is a better writer in general, better with story structure and action, whereas I'm more of a visual and conceptual person. I knew he could help put together a cohesive film that wouldn't just look pretty.
4The makeup effects are really great in this film. How long did it take to get an actor ready in full pig or wolf makeup? That was definitely one of the hardest parts of this whole project. Because of the way these masks had to be applied to work well on camera, a pig could take up to three hours to fully make up and a wolf could take up to five, it really depended on the day and what the specific scenes called for. Throw into that the fact that our makeup team had to be up around 3 am to start the process and talent had to endure wearing the makeup until as late as 10 pm, all while eating through straws and constant touch-up throughout the day, I'm surprised no one ever ripped one off out of frustration and quit. We had an incredible group of people working with us, and in the end I think the whole makeup job was worth it for the look and feel that it gave the film.
5What was the biggest challenge making a film like this? Wearing what felt like 500 hats at all times. We had a budget but it was tiny, so Doug and I had no choice but to be thoroughly involved in every detail of production from pre-pro to post. We had lots of excellent help in making everything happen and we did not and could not have done it alone, but the amount of things we had to keep track of would make your head spin.
6This is your second feature and I'm curious what are some things you learned from your first feature that made you approach this film differently? The first feature was 45 or 48 minutes long, whatever the minimum to be considered a feature is, and was actually my senior project in my last year of college. We learned a lot about both the technical side of film making and story structure in general. We were able to learn a lot from our mistakes in those areas that allowed this film to be another level in comparison. For example, organization and planning was something we improved on a thousand times over, and that helped immensely. We were tight-knit on The Brick House, carefully breaking down our script into shoot days and scheduling everyone around that meticulously so as not to waste a second of time or money. Setup and payoff at the writing stage was a definite weakness in the first feature that we were able to address and improve on this time around. We definitely grew and learned a lot from that experience.
7What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? I think Jurassic Park lit such a fire under me as a kid. Everything about it just blew my little mind wide open and kept me interested in the movies and how they were made. To this day, if I catch it on TV I can't help but to stop and watch.
8When did you know you could make a dramatic film with actors dressed as pigs and wolves and not come off as silly? Did you do screen tests? When did you know this film would work? We came across a company called NorthFur in Canada that was making these incredible animal prosthetics for film and theater, and I think it was a product photo or demo video of one of their masks that sold us. There was something almost disturbing about how it blended animal features with human anatomy that seemed to be the key in bringing what we had on paper to life.
9The indie world has flipped completely upside down these last five years. What are your thoughts on the current state of indie film and distribution? Film in general is going through an insane revolution as an art form, and indie film I think is inherently poised to benefit in a big way from it. The amount of and different kinds of ways to put a film out there today is mind-boggling; you guys are a prime example. Technology is to thank in a big way for that; it's evolving stupidly fast and making incredible production quality accessible to the masses. I do think there's some weird things happening too that I don't agree with, such as the liberal use of the term indie itself. Something shot on a 10 or 12 million dollar budget with the occasional big-name talent attached just doesn't ring indie to me, although that's the way it's often marketed. I feel like I began noticing that trend sometime around when Juno came out; great movie but the struggle behind that one likely wasn't real. That's not to say that an indie movie needs to have been through hell and back and feature only fresh talent to be good, but I do find that the limitations of truly small budgets are what have produced some of the most creative works I've ever seen. Look at Primer, Brick or Paranormal Activity, or most recently, Turbo Kid. Small budgets, big results.
10What's next? I'm back in Miami now and I work in broadcast as a motion graphics artist, so I use that to exercise my creativity on a daily basis, That has it's ups and downs, because I love what I do but after long hours at that end of production I don't often have much left in me to pour into my own projects. Recently, however, I have had something interesting happen: I've come across an idea for a film that I can't let go. In the past that's usually been the beginning of my next big thing, so I'm excited for that.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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