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April Mullen on Violence, Motivation, and Creating ‘Badsville’


There’s a gritty little feature called Badsville that’s been making the rounds on the festival circuit, and is now on VOD for you to enjoy. Well, as much as one can enjoy graphic violence and toxic masculinity – however, the script has heart, and the struggles the film portrays are universal.

Badsville Movie

Directed by April Mullen (Below Her Mouth), the film takes place in a crime-ridden, small town that essentially eats its young. Filmed in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, you can feel both the heat as well as the oppressive atmopshere of the place rising from the screen.

Badsville centers on the animosity and violence that perpetuates between rival gangs the Kings and the Aces. However, the story centers specifically between Wink (Ian McLaren) and his best friend, the unhinged Benny (Benjamin Barrett), both members of the Kings. (McLaren and Barrett pull double duty as co-writers of the film.) Conflict arises when Wink meets the beautiful and jaded Suzy (Tamara Duarte), and Wink decides that he wants to leave town, especially after the death of his mother.
It’s worth noting that Emilio Rivera of Sons of Anarchy fame has a small, but fun role as the sage bartender Lucky Lou, as well, so fans of the series will definitely want to check this one out.
Badsville shines because what it’s really about is the struggle to find love and to try to escape a life of crime and poverty — to better oneself in an environment that would rather snuff you out face down in the dirt than see you succeed on any level other than a cyclical hellmouth of crime.
The feature most recently won “Most Badass Feature Film” at Vancouver Badass Film Festival. It also garnered Best Director at the Canadian Film Festival for Mullen and two Best Picture awards — both at the New York Latino Film Festival and the prestigious Oaxaca International Film Festival in Mexico.

I was able to talk to Mullen about Badsville and on what it took the make the film. Check out the trailer after the interview and find where you can watch Badsville on VOD here.

ScreenAnarchy: Ian McLaren and Benjamin Barrett wrote the film but also have roles in it; their very first film roles, if I’m not mistaken. Tell us about the process — the very seeds — of working with them and how the film came to be.

April Mullen: Yes, it is Ian and Benny’s first film; first script and acting onscreen experience. I love working with new voices; it’s inspiring. David Philips, a Canadian producer living in L.A., had seen my work and thought I might be an interesting fit, so he sent me the script. The script resonated and I connected with the characters, style, high stakes, unique perspective, and raw violence opposite a very strong love story. After reading the script, I met with the team. I had put a visual treatment together along with some music samples to pitch my take on the film, and creatively we were instantly on the same page. I was extremely passionate about the story telling, adored and respected Benny and Ian’s intentions, and we all fist bumped and got started right away.

There are plenty of real places where violence begets violence. Was BADSVILLE inspired by anything or anyone in particular?

Benny, our writer and star, grew up in a town called El Monte, which was nicknamed “Badsville.” It’s in California; there were a lot of gangs and violence in the town, and this inspired him. We wanted the film to be timeless, almost forgotten in time, iwth no cell phones, and hitchhiking and going bowling are the norm. We wanted the audience to focus on the characters, on their stories and development.  The timeless aspect allowed for unique creative choices, with locations like Piru and Santa Clarita, with wardrobe, speech patterns, and overall — an innocent tone smashed up against the violence.

Some of the violence in the film is brutal; discuss what choices you had to make about portraying certain acts. Did you feel like you had to dial back the violence or amp it up for the story?

The violence in this film stems from a place of love and protection; it is the key that motivated every fight sequence, choreographed. Every single act of violence is specific to the character and scene, and therefore they were all portrayed very differently then each other. I never dial anything back, not the violence or the love — I always dial it up! That being said, story comes first, and the violence is there as an expression of what the character is going through. Our bodies express our inner desires, or fears; cinematically it’s thrilling to watch, because we connect to it on a human level.

What challenges did you have to overcome in filming BADSVILLE?

This is truly an indie film, shot in 18 days with a crew of 15-20 passionate individuals. Badsville was a highly ambitious story to tell with large location moves daily, so it was always a balancing act. It’s high-paced shooting, where you truly have to be a hundred steps ahead, yet completely in the moment with the cast and what’s on your monitor. I love indie filmmaking, it’s my roots, it’s all for the love of story telling, and creating magic together. One team, one mission!

How did SONS OF ANARCHY’s Emilio Rivera get involved?

Our producer Douglas Spain had worked with him before, and once he got his hands on the script, he fell in love with the story and his character. He is such a talented, kind-spirited man; he is dedicated to his craft and family. Emilio is a lover of indie cinema who supports new talent and young filmmakers. I loved working alongside him, we discovered such a strong subtext for his character, his compassion for the Kings can be seen in every frame.

You’ve been touring with the film in many places; it seems particularly well-received in Canada. What have been the reactions?

Overall Badsville has been adored and very well-received by audiences and critics, which is a rare combo. I feel people connect to several characters in the film; they have compassion for all of the kings, and especially to Wink and his journey. The film is full of raw, gritty violence and surrounded by love and big dreams; it’s a strong combo and story.

Without spoiling the ending, was there ever a different outcome for these characters that you considered? 

No, our ending comes full circle; in my heart I dream and hope for more with Wink and Benny’s journey, but the film would not be as strong story wise if we changed anything. It’s full of so much love, hope and tragedy… my heart explodes…

What surprised you the most about making BADSVILLE?

It was full of surprises, too many to list really; the filmmaking process is like catching lightening in a bottle every second. But on a personal note, I still stand in awe of the creative process, that a film can embed itself within your DNA, it’s all consuming and every cell is involved in exposing a truth within each story — it’s hard to explain, but I’m always “re-surprised.”

Also, Badsville was my first “work for hire” film; the previous films I’ve directed were all through my production company, where I am normally heavily involved in the producing aspects from concept, all the way to the poster. It was very different for me to let go of a lot of things, as I love it all so much. Either adopted or mine through birth, once I’m on board, the film takes over and all I have is sheer passion, love, forgiveness, and determination to get us there.

Are there any stories from the set you’d like to discuss?

I love Benny and Ian so much, it’s hard to separate them between set life and real life. They are forever locked in my mind as those incredible human begins I saw bringing their best selves forward everyday on set. The journey is so unpredictable and vulnerable, and I enjoyed working with them so much and hope to again in the future.

Our producers Dave Philips and Douglas Spain were a force on set. I had my Canadian camera team there, my DP Russ DeJong and First AC Michael Fisher that made us move like butter, as we had done a few films together. The entire cast and crew were talented and we had a blast blowing up trucks, punching cars in, eating desert sand, hangin’ greaser styles, and drone dancin’! All in all, shooting was my absolute favorite time with Badsville and I’d do it all over again in an instant.

Is there anything about the film or yourself that you’d like our readers to know?

What secrets! Oh…I’ll let them come find me and ask! Badsville is all heart, indie cinema at its best — fresh voices and new stars — check it!

What’s next for you?

I just finished some work for DC Legends of Tomorrow for the CW and Imposters for Bravo, so some TV will be airing shortly. As for features, I’ll be shooting my next feature in a few months with my long-time producing partner Tim Doiron and our production company Wango Films. I’m pumped up! My last feature Below Her Mouth is also out on demand everywhere.

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Badass welcomes Badsville at film fest this weekend


The Fourth Annual International ‘Vancouver Badass Film Festival’ is the biggest edition of the annual festival in its four-year history.

Running Feb. 23-25 at the Rio Theatre (1660 E. Broadway), the event includes six feature-length films (including four premieres), shorts, special guests and a circus performance. Visit vbaff.com for details.

April Mullen.jpg

One of those feature-length films is April Mullen’s violent gang film Badsville (screening at 10 p.m. Feb. 24). We talked to the director, who splits her time between Toronto, L.A. and other locales, about Badsville, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, and being part of a festival like Badass.

Q: You shot an episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow in Vancouver recently. What was that like?

A: The studios were fantastic. And the crews were top-notch. I had a great time in Vancouver. I bought two umbrellas, one small portable one and a large one. I did a lot of hiking on the weekends. Even in the rain. Because it’s so god**** beautiful over there.

Q: Was Legends your first superhero-type production?

A: Well, Killjoys and Wynonna Earp (both TV series) both have lead characters with superpowers. But that definitely my first traditional DC traditional comic book superhero episode. I’ve just finished editing my episode down here in Los Angeles.

Q: Do you see all the superhero features that come out? Have you seen Black Panther?

A: Yes, I see all the superhero features that come out. I’m a big fan of anything that is Fan Expo-y. I’ve always been into comics. I absolutely loved Black Panther. It had so many refreshing things to add. I loved the female characters. I was literally fist-pumping the whole time: ‘Yes! They got it right on so many levels!”

Q: Do you have a dream comic-book or graphic-novel project?

A: I’ve been hunting down Batgirl. It’s in development. I just want to get in the room and pitch my concept because I think it’s so new.

Q: How did you make the transition from actor to director?

A: After graduating from theatre school, I wanted to start making original content. A friend from theatre school and I started a production company the year we graduated and started making micro-budget feature films. He writes, I direct, and we produce together. We’ve made five features together. Then I started doing work-for-hire in the TV world and film world in the last three years and it’s kind of exploded.

Q: Why follow-up ‘Below her mouth’ which is essentially a drama (now airing on The Movie Network—every. day.) with a genre movie?

A: I actually shot Badsville before Below Her Mouth. For Badsville, when I first read the script, I loved the gangster angle. It was set in this rockabilly town, which was non-specific in its time era. So there were a lot of creative decisions to make there.

And I loved how raw and brutal and frenetic the violence was. I couldn’t stop thinking of how I wanted that to look. And I thought the idea of these really masculine characters showing these beautiful, vulnerable sides was a refreshing take on what you would expect from a gang film. That, opposite the over-the-top violence and brutality, was intriguing.

Q: How important are independent film festivals like Badass to your work?

A: This is truly an indie film. We shot it in 18 days, it was really run-and-gun. It brought me back to my younger days.

With smaller film festivals, the passionate people who keep the fresh voices coming to the screen are crucial. I’m always going to be an indie filmmaker at heart and spirit. I champion them all.

Source : Inside Vancouver (22/02/2018)


Burning Passion: An Interview with Badsville Director April Mullen


Q: You have said many insightful things about the female gaze in cinema. What does your female perspective bring to the world of Badsville (out now on VOD)?

A: THERE is this pulsating raw guttural feel to the violence in Badsville and I approached it with love; that might be female or just a choice I made, or both.

I know that sounds strange, but the motivation of each character’s actions, no matter how horrific, were innocently motivated by love and protection. This was important to me, to allow the human spirit to fuel every punch.

Badsville explores how difficult it is as a male to want to protect, dominate and be vulnerable as a result of expressing their feelings. These are old themes but they still hold true today in terms of what society expects out of a man, and what I see them struggling with daily.

Badsville Movie

Q: Ian McLaren has an incredible presence and look, but this is only his first film. What was your approach to casting?

A: YES it is his first film. He is a gift, an ex pro hockey player with one of the biggest hearts I have ever met. He is extremely dedicated and transformed into his character.

He gives everything to the screen. He holds absolutely nothing back, feels everything in the moment and allows it all to happen. As a director this is what I look for in a lead. He is unconscious and completely loses himself.

It is Ben’s first film as well (an ex pro wrestler). He too has this cinematic quality. He is charismatic, makes strong choices as an actor and is fully transparent. I look for magic, that spark – both Ian and Ben are leading men who physically and emotionally can captivate an audience for 90 minutes.

Ian and Ben wrote the script with these characters in mind and were attached to the film when I met them. The second I walked in the door and heard them speak I knew and never doubted they would be incredible as our leads. It is a gut instinct thing with casting. I love working with new faces, especially ones I love.

Q: We often hear actors say they like to work with directors who have had acting experience. Do you feel your work in front of the camera has helped you as a director?

A: IMMENSELY. Big time, oh ya baby, it is something I lean on every second while making a film – finding those moments in a scene that break into the subtext.

I am completely obsessed with performance – allowing, pushing and finding new moments with actors. I always aim to go deeper and love the challenge of finding the keys into every actor’s personality to get them there.

I am so invested in every breath the actor makes at the director’s monitor it hurts. Seriously, I crave it if I am not on set for a little while. I love the craft of acting, the discovery and fragility found in the moment of the take and capturing it.

Q: How would you describe your style as a director? Do you have any influences?

A: LIFE influences me. Every moment, scent, touch, sound and memory makes an impact, resonates and somehow these heightened experiences find themselves into my work one way or another.

So much inspires me daily. It is as if my brain files it all away for a film to come. My style as a director is to deliver stunning images wrapped in moments of impact where audiences are compelled to feel something. I love tackling different genres and losing myself in the creative process.

There are similarities now standing back that I can see as I continue on this journey. Some of them are bold visuals, strong performances, unique worlds, refreshing scores and music, raw emotion and lots of neon lights. Ha!

April Mullen @ TIFF 12.09.2015 (28)

Q: Below Her Mouth is fantastic piece of work and has reached a global audience. How do you reflect on the project and its success?

A: BELOW Her Mouth brought to the screen something original. A raw female perspective on love, intimacy, sex and even the female orgasm with its all-female crew. It was a film that audiences saw before they knew they were craving a refreshing point of view. It is a landmark in cinema – at the forefront of the movement towards equality as the voices in film change and how women are depicted on the big screen. I feel honoured to have been at the helm of such a special film.

Q: After the love story of Below Her Mouth, what attracted you to the more violent world we inhabit for your latest film Badsville?

A: BADSVILLE was shot first. The film did the festival run to build up some momentum before its release. When I read Badsville I could see the world come to life and it seeped into my heart instantly. That is just what happens when I respond to a story.

I see the image play out all hours of the day in my head. The script was so refreshing in terms of its throw back rockabilly greaser style and it showcased this vulnerable side to our lead gang members.

Overall it was the various love stories enwrapped in the harsh polarizing violence that appealed to me. I felt compassion for Wink and Benny and wanted to go deeper with both Ian and Ben (our writers and stars) to unravel them and expose them to the audience.

After my first meeting with Ian, Ben and Dave it was clear we were all on the same page creatively, which is crucial. Working alongside the writers is something I put a lot of value on. I want to build their vision as a team, and I believed in this team instantly.

Q: What was it like working with an inexperienced actor in Erika and an experienced one in Natalie? Was it a conscious decision to go for that dynamic?

A: AFTER auditioning for months for the role of Dallas we did not find the right person. Then I saw an image on-line of Erika Linder and in my gut felt this was our Dallas.

She was modelling male clothing at the time and her motto was: “I’m too creative to be one gender”. We met and auditioned her several times with different Jasmine. Then in Toronto, when she read with Natalie there was this spark on screen and instant chemistry which we were looking for. It was all about the connection while casting these two leads.

Yes, it was completely different working with Erika vis a vis Natalie. Every person is so different when it comes to my approach with communication and building trust with an actor. Erika has all these natural mannerism which make her mesmerizing on screen. I wanted her to feel confident and never doubt her natural instincts – it was important to keep these elements. For Natalie, she has this vulnerability and honesty she shows as an actor if and when she feels safe as a performer. This was crucial to bring out as a director.

Q: Below Her Mouth has plenty of intense, physical scenes – just as Badsville does. How did you set about constructing them?

A: EACH one is a completely different beast. It would take a novel to go into how much detail and planning is put into these types of scenes. To generalize, every aspect has to be meticulously plotted – physical movement, camera positions, locations, clothing, lighting and motivation. But then during the shoot it all has to be forgotten. As a director you have to surrender to the moment and be with the actors.

Q: What have been the biggest challenges – and the biggest joys – during your rise as a filmmaker? Do you have any words of advice for young female filmmakers?

A: BIGGEST Challenge? I feel everything always takes so long and by the time you complete a film you are literally a different person and your work feels dated before you even start editing.

Joys? Connecting to audience members who are moved or touched by your film, delivering something human beings can all relate to. I also love watching people all excelling creatively on set doing what they do best. It is both motivating and thrilling to watch.

Advice? Take Big Risks, Create Your Own Work, Stay Focused, Be Bold, Never Doubt, Thrive & Indulge In The Moment, Keep Your Head, and Have Fun Always – no matter how hard it all is. Laugh, jump, play – we are all building an imaginary world together. It is like playing outside in those summer nights as a kid. Love it!

Q: What are your ambitions for the future? What kind of stories would you like to tell?

A: I HAVE so much burning inside me to be told, I can’t wait to keep creating moments for all of you. Some of my ambitions right now are to grow and learn to be a better person every day. To bring light and love into the world, to motivate people on set to create things they never thought possible, to protect my sense of wonder and push it even further. Laugh my head off, be with my family, roll around in the tall grass as much as possible, make special films and content that moves audiences.

Q: Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

A: I AM super pumped up as I am going back to my roots as a filmmaker and doing a WANGO film next up. WANGO films is my production company, co-funded with Tim Doiron. We have done five films together, 88 being our last. All Indie. We have grown so much as filmmakers I can’t wait to work together again. We are going to camera this summer on our new feature.

Source : Closeup Culture (12/02/2018)


April Mullen interview for CineDump


It’s probably safe to say that one of the quietest yet most inspiring success stories of the past few years has been that of April Mullen. Her star quickly rose with the release of 2016’s Below Her Mouth, an erotic drama praised by critics for its’ sensitive handling of a lesbian love story and for the employment of the female gaze in its visual exploration of the romance at the heart of the story. Audiences ignorant of the indy film world could be forgiven for thinking that ’16 was the year Mullen exploded onto the scene, but that simply wasn’t the case—the Niagara Falls, Canada native has been quietly making a name for herself since the early 2000’s as both an actress and director, churning out multiple films in a variety of genres from comedy (Rock, Paper, Scissors: The Way of the Tosser) to exploitation (88) to horror (Dead Before Dawn 3D). With her name now firmly enshrined as one of the premier indy directors of the 2010’s, it’ll hopefully lead audiences to not only check out her earlier body of work but to keep their eyes peeled for her upcoming projects as well.

Case in point: Badsville, out now on VOD from Epic Pictures. Set in the titular hellhole-out-of-time, the film tells the story of the Badsville Kings, the sort of gang that springs up in small towns when there are no prospects for the future and getting drunk and beating someone up on a Friday night is a viable form of entertainment. As the audience comes into their lives, though, the Kings find the fabric of their gang unraveling at the same time Badsville seems to be taking its last breaths, with family deaths, clandestine romances, and increasing tensions with other gangs all coalescing to form a sort of dirge for their way of life as they’ve known it.

Employing the same sensitivity with which she explored feminine identity and crises in Below Her Mouth, Mullen uses Badsville to engage in a very pertinent discussion of masculine identity. Rather than writing off maleness as inherently destructive the way a lesser director might have, Mullen instead engages in a far more complex exploration of positive vs. negative modes of masculinity, the environment and sociological factors that creature and nurture toxic masculinity, and the ways in which society can hit the reset button and begin redefining what it means to be a good man. Relevant material, indeed, but rather than a bland Feminism 101 lecture, Mullen has instead wrapped it up in an aesthetically pleasing and propulsive package, with plenty of beatdowns, sequences of gang warfare, and some truly stunning cinematography. It’s a master class in engaging an audience in an intelligent discussion while keeping them entertained at the same time.

It was CineDump’s pleasure to have the chance to sit down with Mullen and discuss Badsville, the trajectory of her career, and what factors came together to make the film the unqualified success it is.

Jessie Hobson: What attracted you to Badsville? Did the success of Below Her Mouth and the resultant publicity and dialogue around it influence your choice of next film at all, or was it a project you think you’d have been attracted to regardless?

April Mullen: We shot Badsville before Below Her Mouth. It traveled the festival circuit for an extra year, and as a result, it is now available to audiences.  The unique world, characters, and voices found in the script attracted me to Badsville. I found the contrast between the harsh violence and vulnerable love story to be vital. The script is full of passion and I responded to the rockabilly/greaser gangster world as well.

JH: Badsville has a unique, sort of out-of-time aesthetic that recalls a mashup of the 1950’s and the present day the way that certain films like It Follows evoke a combination of the 60’s and the modern era. What was the idea behind that decision?

AM: This town is forgotten, broken and lost: it exists only within our film and was based on the writers’ hometown of El Monte, nicknamed “Badsville”.

The film is timeless. The style and old-time feel is part of the entire world which is Badsville. It’s about a dreamer who is reaching for more, about loyalties, family, and violence, which are all heightened in Badsville. As a director, I love creating a unique micro-universe as a stage for characters to experience things on one that allows for large creative choices, such locations, costumes, dialogue, props, music and shooting styles, etc.

There is a lost feeling in this town, no cell phones, money, technology or cops. This way, the audience can focus on our characters and nothing pulls us away from the story. I love this innocence Badsville retains throughout its violence and heartbreak, it feels real to me, like a place we all remember somehow.

JH: Much was made in the media about how you brought the female gaze to the love scenes in Below Her Mouth, as opposed to the traditional male gaze usually reserved for woman-with-woman sex in cinema. How does the female gaze effect the filming of a heterosexual sex scene, or, does it at all?

AM: Everything I create, I do so with my entire body and spirit. It’s simply as truthful to the moment and characters as possible. I attempt to bring the spark of connection to every frame in a film, and even more so in intimacy scenes. Every film and character is so different. The goal with Below Her Mouth was to deliver a female perspective, so it was designed and heightened in that way. With Badsville, the connection between Wink and Suzie is one of being found, and amongst their empty lives, they find a potential future and hope within each other… the intimacy reflects that.

JH: There’s some really beautiful location shooting in Badsville. Talk to us about the filming location?

AM: The locations in Badsville are essential to building our world, and it’s a large character in the film, as our hero is trying to escape this place. It’s beautiful, yet isolated and empty. We shot the film in Los Angeles, which included El Monte, Piru, Atwater and Santa Clarita. I’ve always dreamed of shooting a film in LA: one that showcased the mountains, a desert feel and blazing hot sun. We started location scouting very early on in prep because we wanted to find perfect locations that were timeless and very cinematic. Ben, Ian, Dave and myself started hunting months before official prep. I loved creating this universe early on, being able to visualize how it would all come together as a team was special.

April Mullen

JH: While Below Her Mouth was this sort of exploration of feminine identity, Badsville came across, at least to me, as an exploration of masculine identity. Specifically, negative vs. positive modes of masculinity, being a protector vs. being an aggressor, etc. Talk to us a little about that? Was that something really present in the script, something you wanted to draw out? It’s certainly a pertinent topic.

AM: It’s true the film is very “male” in a lot of ways in terms of its violence and gang the Badsville Kings. However, the script showed this vulnerable and fragile side to our gang members as they exposed their love to one another and for life. There are deep through-lines within the film of what it means to be a protector as a male and what is expected. What I appreciate is we expose the heartache that comes from being an aggressor and trying to sustain an image and reputation.

A huge part of what drew me to the script was how exposed these violent yet tender heroes were in the film. The audience is let in on the inner struggle of Wink and Benny as they discover a desire to break free of their roles and the constant expectations others and society have on them. I feel the film pushes boundaries on the stereotypical ideas we might have when it comes to gangs and male violence, where it comes from and why it exists.

JH: You’ve directed comedies, violent revenge dramas, love stories, and even documentaries. Do you see yourself as a particular type of filmmaker? Is there a narrative or thematic thread linking the projects you’re interested in, or, it just a matter of “hey, this sounds interesting?”

AM: I love film and creating in all aspects.Human behavior and connection is intriguing to me, moments and memories that jump out and strike a chord within us… the ones that awaken us and our imagination… the genre is just a cardboard box really. I love storytelling and impacting an audience with a feeling that transcends them to a new feeling, thought, and perspective.

JH: Anything else you just want to add or talk about? What’re you working on next?

AM: Badsville is truly independent cinema at its best. If you are looking for a refreshing story, new actors and a strong unique film, this is it. The film is made with pure passion, was shot in 18 days by a crew of less than 20. The film is about dreams coming true and two incredibly talented artists’ –Ben & Ian— dreams DID come true, and the audience gets to watch it come to life on the screen!

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting what my next feature would be, I’m thrilled to say I’m going back to my roots with my own Production company WANGO and shooting one of our original screenplays by Tim Doiron. We’ve made five features together and it will be nice to team up again.

Source : CineDump (06/02/2018)


‘Badsville’ available on VOD


Peeps, ‘Badsville’ is out today on VOD everywhere ! You can also get it on iTunes.


Interview: Badsville’s April Mullen


April Mullen is one of our favourite people. It was her interview (where she was joined with her Below Her Mouth leads Natalie Krill and Erika Linder) that launched our humble platform back in 2017. This time, after returning from Vancouver to shoot Legends of Tomorrow, Mullen meets us in a coffee shop in the Ryerson area of Toronto and even sweetly shared with us her peanut butter cookie. We had some very interesting off-the-record discussions about Below Her Mouth, and she passionately talked to us about her latest film, Badsville, which opens Friday at the Imagine Carlton in Toronto.

April Mullen-Headshot 2013 (2)

Brief Take: Badsville already has quite a pedigree.

April Mullen: The actors bring such a humble vulnerability to both Benny and Wink and that’s what I think makes the film really, really special. We’ve won so many awards all over the world and I think that people are connecting to their story and the honesty behind it all.

BT: A lot of your projects focus on the female perspective, and yet this one is quite different. 

AM: It’s the complete opposite. You’re right. A bunch of guys, and they’re a gang, very violent and they’re deadly in the town. It’s an all-male cast, except for the love interest [played by Tamara Duarte], which is very traditional because it’s an homage to the ’40s, so her role is very much the love interest and it serves Wink’s story. But the scenes of violence, I wanted them to have this really gritty, messy and unpredictable feel to them, which, in a way, Below Her Mouth had them to the love scenes, in which they weren’t perfect but in their imperfections it makes them perfect in terms of what you look for on the screen, which is where the sparks happen.

BT: What do you think is your directorial style?

AM: There’s a huge similarity, like if you go back, even though the genres are drastically different, like it’s a paranormal thriller or it’s a thriller or it’s a comedy, or it’s a spoof, or it’s a mockumentary or it’s a horror film or a priest or gangster film, whatever it is, I feel like it’s a unique landscape that has been isolated from the rest of the world it seems. That allows you to have that sort of fantastical cinematic moments in the film, where you either go into slow motion, or you go into voiceover or you go into imaginary pop-ups. I feel like those things allow you to experiement with the filmmaking medium, where you can just do things, because it’s a fantastical world, I love that. Lighting-wise, I’m very consistent. I love neons, I love long very choreographed shots. I’m really big on large contrast, dark shadows, instead of frontal-lit similar whitewash, that’s not my style at all. It’s really in a world of neons. I love film production design as well, and I’ve worked so hard with my sister Faye Mullen, who’s the production designer. That aesthetic is very similar throughout the films. Even though she didn’t do Badsville, that visual aesthetic is very familar. It always sort of looks of the same, but different in each world.

BT: You do linger on bodies and faces.

AM: I like that. I like that you can stay with them for a second before a quick cut. It sort of allows you to catch up with the story and feel something. I’m big on eyes, and seeing into the soul and eye connection. For sure, or movement of the body.

BT: Do you like to suggest a breaking of the wall?

AM: I think I break the wall, to be honest. I think I’ve broken the wall in every one of my TV shows or films and I do it in slight ways all over the place, because I know it’s a medium, and I indulge in the fantastical elements or the over-amplified kind of emotions, or the brighter green on the colour palette when I’m deciding on the room. I definitely see it as pictures and want to create the world that the character is revealing, so it’s really so character-centric all the time. That sort of dictates as well, a big part of what I choose in terms of the environment.

BT: What about some of your TV projects?

AM: You know, what I love about TV is there’s a wide range. You get to do in three to six weeks, depending on how many episodes you do, you get to do everything from Bellevue, to Killjoys to Wynonna Earp, like western comedy to sci-fi to hard sci-fi, to a very dark thriller, and I love the fact that you can go into a world where everything is already set in stone and do a splash and make it your own.

I had such a great experience on Wynonna Earp. I think it might have been because Melanie was pregnant and there was so much strong emotion and depth behind her character but yet she was living in this comedic, sort of tongue-and-cheek world and I thought that was a really cool tone that’s very difficult to achieve. The writers did an amazing job on Wynonna that people found themselves crying on the end of the episode. I’ve had so many emails, because in my episode she revealed that she was pregnant and it was in real life that she was pregnant too. So it was just amazing with what you can do as a woman in film and sort of make it work, even though that’s always been a tough thing with the family and the hours, but there was something really wonderful on that set. I think it’s because it was so…just, truth. This is how she really felt and there was something really special with that episode.

BT: You imbued your sense of style in that episode.

AM: With lingering, exactly! There’s a bathroom scene in Wynonna, where they’re both on opposite sides of the door, and I designed that, just putting in my shot list. Creating a flyaway door here, which is easier than shooting on location, of which I’m usually a bigger fan. Sometimes you can just design a scene.

BT: How about directing DC’s Legends of Tomorrow?

AM: I can talk a little bit about my episode. It’s unique in terms of the arc of what’s happening this season. It’s dark, it’s very thriller and it’s self-reflective. So each of the characters get pinned up against a dark version of their past, which was very cool to explore. It was almost like going to a confession booth with them and the whole theme of the episode is like that. It’s dark, it’s scary, it’s very much like Alien and…that’s all I can tell you! I’m getting carried away!

Source : Brieftake (24/01/2018)


New Release Review (VOD) – Badsville


Opening with a gruff voiceover wistfully enumerating the grim ghettopia of its setting – ‘a shit stain on map’ – Badsville wastes no time in establishing the civil hopelessness of its lower-working/criminal class as they eke out an existence within the titular ‘ville’; a rundown, gang ridden town, forgotten at the far south of California. The monologue, gruff as the edge of a matchbox, outlines the limited opportunities for young men within the area; “I learnt at a young age a king does what he’s got to do to stay on top,” recounting the sort of ruthless clichés that all men secretly love to believe, and which constitute a societal contract within this ghost town where lead roadman and speaker Wink (who is probably getting a bit old for all of this nonsense), resides in sleazy splendour. To cap off the badboy bleakness of Badsville’s outlook, this desolation is expressed over scenes of petty violence, sinister mischief and, in unforgiving dusty close up, the dead as disco face of Wink himself.

Badsville Movie

In flashback, we learn more about Wink (Ian McLaren, who also scripts) as he was, with his de rigueur slicked back hair and tight-jeans-vest combo barely covering a body sculpted from shining muscle, and, in time honoured gangster tradition, his abiding affection for his dear old mam. We see that a heart thumps beneath Wink’s knife-edge physique as he cares for the dying woman, and thus sympathy is built for when she soon passes away, prompting our hero to consider a change in his ways. And here is where it gets interesting. The anti-hero-with-Oedipal-complex trope is expounded by Benjamin Barrett and McLaren’s screenplay, as Wink falls, almost immediately, for cute Suzy (Tamara Duarte) a waitress in the diner where Wink is a short order cook. Problem is, as ever, that Wink’s boy Benny (Barrett, also multitasking) is gay, a disposition which everyone else seems to realise and accept, except for Benny himself, who is at odds with his desire for the fellas and his own conditioned homophobia (he’ll pick up rough trade in a stupor, and then duff up the poor chap in self-disgust when they’re done). This explication of the gangster bromance trope is fascinating, probing what other blokey films coyly imply, but don’t dare to explore, with unflinching sensitivity.

But here’s the thing: nothing much changes in Badsville. Wink takes Suzy on a double date with Benny, and it’s ruined by Benny’s disregard of his own (female) partner. Poor Wink really made the effort too, bringing along the gift of a cheap teddy bear for Suzy, a woman who is in her early twenties. Travis Bickle taking Cybil Shepard to a porn film has nothing on the cluelessness of our guy, whose complete inexperience in relationships that aren’t coded within gang rules and regs is made sweetly clear. And, as these things generally do, the situation goes from bad to worse with some sort of beef (the details of which are irrelevant in their inevitability) with another gang, impacting upon the tentative couple and initiated by the most kinetic bar room brawl this side of Terminator 2.

One of the most impressive aspects of Badsville is how its clumsy and realistic violence contrasts the emotive dignity of character based sequences. Renaissance woman April Mullen directs with a sympathetic understanding of who these people are, and what limits their potential: Wink, Benny et al may live as stereotypes, but Mullen crafts characterisation that reveals deeper capacities and draws upon deep wells of sadness. DoP Russ De Jong’s iconography creates the sort of high plains Hispanic look that Robert Rodriguez would die for.

The burnished mise-en-scene looks incredible, with a night time composed of electric blues and deep reds, a sensual and dangerously seductive world that contrasts the dirty, sun worn day time; it’s telling that Badsville’s major acts of violence usually happen in daytime, giving such territorial pissings a flat and pointless feeling. In a further bonus, the main baddie is played by Prison Break’s Robert Knepper, whose campy menace is put to its usual scary use. As the patriarch of a rival bunch, he’s too far gone to change now, and perpetuates the violence that establishes Badsville’s society; a lingering close-up on his visibly shocked son, whom he has beaten for being a ‘pussy’, finally goading him into a shocking act of violence, compounds the cycle.

As Badsville’s bros race about to a score of screaming guitars, and leather jackets are scuffed in further skirmishes, Mullen indulges every trope in the greaser gang book: but only because these characters live by a strict and repetitive code of cliché themselves. In a forgotten area of economic desperation and circumscribed opportunity, conforming to gang principles is a way to forge an identity, a way to fit in, with an ad hoc macho status tempered from stereotype and juvenile ideals. This film, which I loved, is a tragedy that takes masculinity as its psychomachia; the fatal tension between the expectation of the crowd and the hopes of the individual, between image and the person beneath. What does it mean to be a man in this town where love is contraband, and instead violence, love’s very opposite, abides? As befits this sincere and heartfelt film, at Badsville’s fatal conclusion, Mullen offers us no easy answers.

Badsville is due to release on VOD in February following a Canadian theatrical run on January 26th.

Source : The Movie Waffler (20/01/2018)