Horror fans tend to expect certain conventions from their movies – that’s part of the fun and comfort of the genre. The creative team behind Blood Widow was well aware of those expectations, and both honored and toyed with them during the production of this summer’s exciting new indie horror release.
The project was directed by Jeremiah Buckhalt only a month after graduating from the Film program, and incorporated the help of fellow classmates, students, and faculty during its production. In total, 19 crew members were drawn from Full Sail, including Game Design instructors Chad Coup and Ian H. Davis, who co-wrote the script.
While gaming teachers working in film sounds like an odd combination, their unique perspectives on storytelling were key to helping make Blood Widow stand out in the crowded horror market. The story is based around sketches Jeremiah did of a masked female killer, with the script focusing on a young couple who buy a vacation home next to a crumbling old boarding school where the ‘Blood Widow’ lives.
“The one thing I always wanted to do in life was make a movie,” Ian says. “I’ve always been both a film guy and a game guy. Growing up, I worked in video stores and Chad worked in movie theaters. I did a film minor, and Chad did a dual major of creative writing and film studies. I think that really helped us out at the beginning.”
“Going into it we asked, ‘What can we do that’s cheap and reasonable to do in Florida?’ So we came up with a slasher film, and Jeremiah pulled out some drawings of characters,” Chad says. “I’d never seen a masked female killer, so we went with that one. He had the idea for what he wanted to see for certain scenes, but we did the rest. Then we pitched it to investors and got funding.”
Chad and Ian acted as producers during filming, which shot over 25 days in the Central Florida area through the summer of 2011. The quality of the visuals, acting, and atmosphere captured during that grueling shoot are well beyond what you might first imagine considering the budget and time constraints – something the writers credit to the focus and creative eye of their director.
“The look and feel – that was all Jeremiah, he’s an artist,” Chad says. “He’s always been a visual guy, so he wanted it to be visually striking while telling a strong story as well. The actors were all a dream to work with, the crew was really dedicated, and I think it turned out great when we finally got it all put together.”
After filming wrapped, Jeremiah went straight into editing and spent four months on the first cut, then worked on the audio tracks for about a year on and off. Postproduction took them through October of 2013, and just when they were about to launch a Kickstarter to fund its distribution, Chad got an email from popular indie horror company Midnight Releasing. With their support, Blood Widow finally hit home video this June, and is available at Redbox, through online retailers like Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Best Buy, as well as streaming services Amazon Instant, iTunes, and more.
“That this distributor thought enough of the movie to support us and do a both physical and digital release in this era was amazing,” Ian says. “In our contract we got a box of 30 copies to give out to friends and family. When you open the box and it’s there in the case, shrink-wrapped, with a barcode on it – it’s a weird thing, but that made it real for me. That was my biggest moment through all of this.”
Three years is a long time to work on one project, but the amount of effort the crew put into Blood Widow is apparent on screen. This isn’t an amateur production, and Chad and Ian are looking forward to using the fan reception and lessons they learned on this film as they move forward on their next co-writing project.
“Some people love it because it’s old school and some people hate it because it’s old school,” Chad says. “It’s weird to see the difference of opinion, but also really inspiring to have so many people talk about your work like that.”
“It’s definitely divisive, but that’s what we set out to do – we pay homage to the formula but do things differently,” Ian adds. “A lot of fans are already asking about a sequel, and that might happen. We’ve also written a couple of other scripts. There’s a comedy we want to do, and we’ve been kicking around some other horror ideas. We’re looking forward to doing this all again once we decide what’s next.”
The Full Sail crew on Blood Widow includes:
Andrew Barton (2011 Film graduate; director of photography/camera operator)
Charles “Chip” Brandner (2012 Film graduate; first assistant camera)
Jeremiah Buckhalt (2011 Film graduate; director/editor/story)
Chad Coup (producer/co-writer)
John Czaban (music)
Ian H. Davis (co-writer/associate producer)
Joe Erhayel (2014 Film graduate; production assistant)
Albert Michael Gore (2011 Film graduate; special effects)
Rachel Wilder Gore (2011 Film graduate; second assistant director)
Julie Love (2011 Film graduate; wardrobe)
Derek Marunowski (production design/associate producer)
Phillip Marunowski (executive producer/Art director/actor)
Michael Mowen (2011 Film graduate; production sound mixer/boom operator)
Candra Pitman (2011 Film graduate; property master/assistant editor)
David Popovich (2011 Film graduate; production assistant/electrician/grip)
Richard Sanchez (2012 Film graduate; production assistant/electrician/grip)
Ryan Blythe Spencer (2011 Film graduate; production manager)
Glen Stewart (2010 Film graduate; best boy/key grip/dolly grip/gaffer)
Rebecca Wise (2011 Film graduate; first assistant director)