Written by Luke Barnes
I recently had the chance to interview writer/director David Axe about his new film Bae Wolf, which provides a fresh take on the classic Beowulf legend. We discuss issues of fantasy, representation and the importance of striking monster design. I hope you enjoy.
Q: What inspired you to make this film?
A: I was inspired by the set — a live-action roleplaying facility in Trenton, South Carolina that was convenient to where I live (Columbia) and affordable in my budget. When a resource like that presents itself, you’d be a fool not to take advantage of it. I was also inspired by one of my favourite books. GRENDEL by John Gardner. A postmodern twist on the Beowulf legend and a great political polemic.
Q: What would you say is the message of the film?
A: The message is simple. Monsters don’t always look like monsters. And kindness can be a radical act.
Q: How do you feel your film redefines stereotypes and cliches within the broader fantasy landscape?
A: My project in a lot of my movies is to create sympathy for monsters. To give hideous things humanity. With BAE WOLF, I wanted to create a heightened but believable world and populate it with desperate creatures, all of whom have the same needs. To be understood. To be loved. To be included.
Q: What inspired your monster design?
A: The monster design had to be striking but VERY simple and cheap. We were shooting in an austere location with no time and no money, after all. In my experience, a solid, bold color makes more of an impression than anything overwrought texture. So we just painted our monsters weird colors you rarely see in nature. Bright orange. Bright blue. That plus a simple prostheses — and energetic performances, of course — did the trick.
Q: What is your favourite fantasy film?
A: My current favourite is THE GREEN KNIGHT, which came out right after I finished editing BAE WOLF and scratched the same revisionist itch that drove me to make my own movie. Plus, GREEN KNIGHT is gorgeous. And it hides more than it reveals. I love that.
Q: Any future film plans?
A: In a few weeks I’m shooting a movie called ACORN. It’s about a young woman filmmaker who gets a cancer diagnosis and struggles to make her last movie — a weird, sci-fi Western. It goes badly. Also, there’s a man-eating tree. I’m also producing several movies by other directors, starting with Shawn Phillips’ WOODS WITCH.
Q: Any funny on-set stories?
A: My on-set stories are rarely funny. It’s really hard making microbudget movies. You can’t throw money at problems. So everything is a struggle. One funny thing did happen on BAE WOLF, though. I stayed on set, in a cabin. I brought along a bottle of bourbon so I could have a drink every night before crashing in sheer exhaustion. I know my cast and crew, so I hid the bottle. But those miscreants found it, anyway. Like bloodhounds. Every day that bottle got a little lighter as, I imagine, half my people slipped into my cabin to take sips they thought I wouldn’t notice. And I didn’t, at first. And then all of the sudden I was out of booze
Q: Do you have any advice for upcoming filmmakers?
A: My advice to filmmakers is simple. Don’t let anyone tell you no. Figure out how much money you can beg, steal or take from your own paycheck. Write a movie that you can shoot with the budget you have. Interesting locations are often free. Give some thought to lighting. Worry most about recording clean sound. Don’t be afraid to take chances with performances, camerawork and effects. Don’t think that an expensive camera can replace an interesting lens and strong choices. Always pay your actors, even if it’s $50 a day. Learn to edit. Once you’ve made your movie, let go of all expectations, You won’t get famous or rich, but you’ll get to tell a story.
If you would like to check Bae Wolf out for yourself then you can find it on DVD and Tubi now.
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