SPOILER: How did James Villeneuve evolve your story?
CODY CALAHAN: It was a far more contained character piece [originally]. They never even left the Chinese food restaurant in the version we had put together. And then when James came on, and our story editor Chris Smets, it was nice because we had these rough outlines of these characters—some sketches, images pulled from magazines and the web and other films—and they breathed life into each of the characters. And once they did that, the story started to evolve on its own, which is great because they took it out of this contained environment and ran with it. We let the characters dictate where to go. So James and Chris were really good with managing the budget restrictions that we had, but also not creatively putting themselves in a box.
I actually think it was still sort of contained until we were shooting another movie called I’ll Take Your Dead and we were in a studio that had a hospital and a police station and a bunch of other locations. And I started sending them photos of all of these locations, just because they were things we could get, and that opened the door even more. But James and Chris, their strength definitely lay in the development of the characters. We sort of knew where the story was going, but the characters took us in different directions.
SPOILER: How long have the two of you been working in tandem and how did that relationship start?
CHAD ARCHIBALD: Man, it’s probably been, what, 14 years now,Cody?
CODY CALAHAN: Yeah, something like that.
CHAD ARCHIBALD: 13, 14 years. We met a long time ago and pretty muchbecame best friends since. We get to work together all the time because we created this company [Black Fawn Films] and both, creatively, are always working on concepts and developing for it. But also when we’re not working, we’re hanging out and doin’ what buds do. It’s been great! Since the start, I feel like our whole company’s been a little bit of a family. [Cinematographer] Jeff Maher, [composer] Steph Copeland—a lot of us have worked on the same films, with us and Breakthrough Entertainment.We’ve been able to grow and evolve together.
SPOILER: Ari Millen is another person who’s been in a few of your films on the acting side. What kind of direction did you give him for the role of Bob?
CODY CALAHAN: I have a pretty good shorthand with Ari. We grew up together—his mother’s my godmother kinda thing. We kinda grew up in the same crib, as they say. So as we grew up, he wanted to act and I wanted to write and direct. We came up in the industry together. So when the concept came around for Vicious Fun, he sorta knew about it because we bounce ideas back and forth. When he’s reading for a part, sometimes I help with auditions, and sometimes when Ihave a concept, I’ll run it by him to get his perspective as an actor. For this, I think he read the first draft and just attached himself to Bob and said, “Oh my God, the things I could do with this!” So we started talking, around 2017, 2018, maybe even earlier, about what the character could be. He started to throw out ideas early, and I do remember some of the ideas making their way into the script. It was a long process of designing a character, but to be honest, it wasn’t until about a month out [from shooting] that we started really talking about what we were gonna do with the character. But a lot of it came from Ari. He’s such a good character actor that he brought 90% of Bob to the table, and it was just about tweaking and reining him in, believe it or not, on certain scenes, and pushing him to go further on a couple. But the strength in Bob lies in Ari, and probably the fact that we’d been talking about it for so long.
SPOILER: I love the absurdity of Joel and Carrie teaming up together—two characters who would never be partnered in a movie of any kind. Were they inspired by anyone?
CODY CALAHAN: Again, it’s really a smorgasbord of characters that Chad and I have grown up on, so there’s not a specific character that [we were trying to recreate]. Obviously there’s references, like he’s dressed like Marty McFly, because growing up those movies [Back to the Future] were such a big influence. But he has sort of the cheesiness of somebody from Scream who knows horror better than the killer himself, but we took a spin on that as well. Joel is the awkward filmmaker that I am— that young wannabe that we all are before we start making films. There’s