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Chords in Conversation: Todd E Freeman

A talented filmmaker from Mountain Home, Idaho, USA, Todd E Freeman was exposed to  film at a young age thanks to his dad’s 16mm film collection. Inspired by the works of David Cronenberg and John Carpenter, Freeman took a liking to the horror genre and has regularly worked with his brother Jason Freeman on a number of different projects. Freeman works as a director, cinematographer and producer. His films have included Cell Count (2012), Come Hell or HIghwater (2008) and Two Fisted (2004).

Todd E Freeman is currently developing his latest feature but we were lucky enough to catch up with the man to talk about his career, his involvement with ABC’S of Death 2’s 26th Director Competition and his latest feature Love Sick. Thanks for reading.

Hi Todd. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us. You have quite a few years experience making films under your belt, what inspired you to become a filmmaker?

Well it all started with our father.  I always love telling this part of our childhood because it really does frame our entire existence in film.  Our dad was an avid 16MM film collector and would sit us down on Friday nights to show us old black and white movies, trailers, and short subjects.  Before each movie he’d give us a surprisingly in depth making of story pertaining to the movie or trailer reel that had been cut together.  We’d find out about budget constraints, initial audience reactions, and on set shenanigans that he had gleamed from years of reading up on the films he collected.  So many things contributed to our filmmaking aspirations but this really was the jumping off point into clearly deranged life training.  (Laughs)

freemanbrosYou work with your brother Jason Freeman on a lot of your previous projects. You clearly work well together but has there been a time where your sibling rivalry has got in the way when collaborating on a project?

No my brother and I have been best friends for as long as I can remember.  We push each other to do our best as well as inspire.  We weren’t friends for so many years early on in life, since he’s 6 years older than me, and I think that really pushed us closer together once I was in my early twenties. We have the same visual aesthetic as well as communication abilities.  It’s odd but we have a shorthand that no one but us could understand.  Helps us on set tremendously as you could imagine.

You have a number of features under your belt but I see that the majority of your recent projects have been in the horror genre. What is it about horror that interests you so much?

We were raised on horror films… pretty plain and simple.  We’ve loved scary movies forever and their woven into our DNA.  Sad but movies are just about the only thing we think about outside of family.  Telling scary stories is just about the most enlightening form of entertainment.  If done right… it can expose all of the good and bad about the human experience.  And they’re also the funnest to make…  (laughs)

We were first introduced to your work during Celluloid Screams back in 2012 where your film Cell Count was played. What was your inspiration behind the film?

My mother fell down in the grocery store and was rushed to the hospital.  It turns out that a tumor had exploded in her abdomen and squirt cancer juice all throughout her insides.  The diagnosis was pretty dire.  In the process of shaving our mother’s head and trying to keep a positive attitude I also began to imagine what I would be willing to sacrifice for such an amazing influence in my life.  My mother was dying and I felt helpless.  What would I be willing to do to save her life.  That’s the genesis of the story.  I put a husband and wife in a similar situation and we were off to the races.

Oh and my mom beat cancer… full recovery.  We had the creative movie cake and ate the reality of her recovering fully.  And she hates the movie because she thinks it’s gross… that’s the best part of the story.  She inspired something so hideous in her mind… so great.

cellcountThe way Cell Count looks on screen screams Cronenberg and in some respects Carpenter too. Was this intentional?

Like I said we were raised on movies and Carpenter was a staple very early in my film going life.  I’ve always thought that Carpenter inspired so much more of Cell Count than Cronenberg but people have really focused on Cell Count being a “body horror” movie.  I love that comparison… but it’s not very intentional on my side.  Carpenter was a much bigger inspiration in tone as well as sfx usage etc.  Music as well I suppose.

Some of the effects in your film look outstanding. Who did your make-up and special effects?

The amazing Christina Kortum at Ravenous Studios did all of the practical effects on set.  We really see eye to eye when it comes to effects.  She’s so important to my process and I’m so excited to work with her again.

It must have been fun on set. What was your favourite or most memorable moment on set?

We had an amazing time on set but the most memorable part of the whole shoot was the fact that I stayed locked in an RV on set at the prison after shooting ended every day.  I essentially spent 3 weeks in prison.  Surreal to say the least.  Glad I don’t have plans to do that again.  (Laughs)

You once spoke about the possibility of a sequel, is this still on the cards?

We’re currently developing the sequel and it is absolutely still in the cards.  I’m imagining it’ll shoot after another 2 features that we’ve got lined up.  It follows the group of survivors into the land filled with experiments gone horribly wrong.  So much fun to be had.

Your most recent project Love Sick is gaining quite a bit of exposure on the internet. For those who aren’t aware how would you sell Love Sick to an audience?

Plain and simple:  It’s a very personal and relatable horror film.  Nothing raunchy or shocking just for the sake of doing so.  It’s about love and it’s eventual decay.  If it’s lost can it be regained?  Oh yeah and it’s really bloody… and gooey… and gross.  (Laughs)  I can’t give away too much but let’s just say it’s surprising and entertaining.

I read that you refer to the film as a Romantic Monster Movie. What was your inspiration behind the idea for the film?

My wife and I were at the end of our marriage.  We hated one another.  We hurt each other very deeply… often times on purpose.  We decided that we wanted to give a final shot at saving the marriage.  We dove in deeper to the hurt and exposed the nerves that had been enflamed for so long.  That was the genesis of Love Sick.  How bad can a relationship be damaged and still recover?  Then I added all of the added yumminess of the emotional pain becoming visible and physical.  Emotional pain hurts often more than physical pain.  I decided to show that very real truth.

That’s very brave of you to share something so personal with your audience. I commend you for that, it must be difficult for you to return to these feelings.

You created a short set in the world of Love Sick for the ABCS of Death 2‘s 26th director competition called M is for Marriage. What was your personal favourite in the competition besides your own?

I absolutely fell in love with the short that actually won “M is for Masticate.”  Robert Boocheck really understood the contest and deserved the win.  I also met so many awesome filmmakers during the competition.  What an amazing experience the shoot was as well as the contest online.  Ant Timpson and Ted Geoghegan were so cool and communicative before, during, and after the competition.  A great opportunity for us and we took it.

mmarraigeThe short starred Natalie Victoria in the lead role. She was fantastic and really captured the emotional range needed to sell the more fantastical aspects of the short. What was it like to work with her?

Natalie is not only one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with but also one of the nicest.  I wrote the short and then started talking to her online and she helped shape the short.  When we flew her up it was an incredible atmosphere and so much of that was provided by her.  She’s really is a bright and shining light in a crowded and often times dark arena.  I couldn’t have chosen a better actor for the role.  Looking forward to working with her again soon.

It’s disappointing that M is for Marriage didn’t win the competition but it was great to learn that you short will be featured in the feature-length anthology ABCS of Death 1.5. How do you feel about this?

Yeah recently we found out that it’s actually going to be titled ABC’s of Death 2.5.  Like I said before… this competition has introduced me to so many people and we couldn’t be more excited to be a part of it.  It’s opened so many doors and we couldn’t be more thankful to all of those involved.

Were you happy with the reception your entry received? Did it affect how you moved forward with Love Sick as a feature?

We were ecstatic!  Are you kidding me?  What an amazing response.  It was a very humbling experience and we were messaged by so many amazing new friends about their excitement about the impending Love Sick feature.  It was the perfect opportunity to get our “proof of concept” out into the world of genre cinema.  The feature would not be as far along as it is now without this experience.  It jump started it.  100 percent.

Returning to the feature, Love Sick sounds fantastic and i’m excited over who you have cast in the lead roles. When you were writing Love Sick did you write the parts for Tristan Risk and Francisco Barreiro or anyone else specific in mind?

I really didn’t have anyone in mind during the first draft of writing the screenplay.  Upon completing the first draft I did some Skype auditions with a few people but I had just seen American Mary and was entranced with Tristan’s performance so I got in touch with her.  We Skyped and I think I told her later that day that she’d been cast.  I knew immediately that she was Rebecca.  A week later I started talking with Francisco and we met up on Skype as well.  It immediately made sense and he was cast shortly thereafter.  Andrew, Augie, and Ruben were then cast in the next couple weeks. Then I began to look at actresses for the mother and Barbara Crampton’s name was thrown into the ring.  We contacted her management and got the script into her hands.  The rest as they say is history.

I know you are a fan of the horror genre so how did you feel when you got the call that horror legend Bill Mosely and Barbara Crampton had signed on?

I know… it really is so crazy.  The two of them are so interwoven within the genre that I love so much.  I’m stoked that we’ve got elements from old school and new school horror.  When I found out that they had even read the script I freaked out.  Then when I heard they loved the script… well let’s just say I almost didn’t make it to today for the interview.  Heart started back up… and thankful to still be alive to talk to you.  (Laughs)

The cast of Love Sick (left to right): Tristan Risk (American Mary),  Francisco Barriero (We Are What We Are), Barbara Crampton (You're Next) and Bill Moseley (The Devil's Rejects)

The cast of Love Sick (left to right): Tristan Risk (American Mary), Francisco Barreiro (We Are What We Are), Barbara Crampton (You’re Next) and Bill Moseley (The Devil’s Rejects)

Congratulations on the news that Love Sick has been selected as one of the twelve projects in the Official Frontières Co-production Market at the 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival. This will certainly open even more doors for you. How did you react when you heard the news?

Again this process since last August when we decided to shoot the proof of concept has been amazing.  We’ve had so much support as well as amazing people helping us guide the film where it is today.  The fact that we are in the Official twelve at the Frontières Market is mind blowing.  I’m not sure how I feel about it all… I think I’m still in shock.  I’ll let you know how I feel about it once it sinks in… probably vomiting and diarrhoea followed by a slow motion run with my arms pumping in the air.  And then more vomiting.  (laughs)  I’m excited and humbled by the news but mostly just jonesing to get the story out there more.  It’s a pretty special project and I’m stoked that anyone wants to hear or see anything about it.  Looking forward to meeting and hopefully partnering with some amazing people from around the world.  It’s gonna kick ass.  Excuse me a minute… gotta vomit really quick…

Okay… I’m back.

I understanding that you have already completed an official promotional shoot for the film and from what I have seen so far I am impressed. How do you feel at this moment in time?

Who told you this Jon?  Someone is lying to you.  There are certainly not any amazing images that will be revealed for the first time next month during the market.  That being said… I’m so excited about the whole project.  The script is ready.  We’ve got a kick ass poster designed by Phantom City Creative.  Concept art from artist Brett Weldele.  And I would be freaking out if we did have a bunch of kick ass imagery of Tristan and Francisco in character as well as sfx tests with them being “Love Sick.”  That would be awesome… sucks that we don’t have those.

I see *taps nose*. When does production on the film begin? Where will it be filmed?

We have not locked dates or shooting locations yet because we’re waiting until we put the final team together for the film next month at Frontières.  We are an open book and ready for anything that comes our way in Montreal.  The possibilities are endless.

CELLWhen the film is completed I hope I see you return to the UK for Celluloid Screams or perhaps even Frightfest. Do you have your sights set on the festival circuit?

Well like I said… the possibilities are endless but I absolutely would love to go to both of those amazing fests with the movie.  We’ll know so much more in the upcoming months.  I’ll keep you posted as the dots begin to connect.

We know you’re busy with Love Sick at this moment but are there any other projects that you might have further down the line that you could tell us about?

We’re currently writing and developing 4 scripts to be shot in the upcoming couple years.  The first is a thriller about “the violent death of a young mother that sends her teenage son to live with his estranged father who now resides in a thriving multi cultural utopia created on Native American land. Their new society is put in danger when the young man’s grandfather invades their land and demands that he take custody of his kin.” You heard it here first!

Thank you for the exclusive, Todd. I look forward to reading more about it but for now we have run out of time. As always, it’s always a pleasure to speak with you and we look forward on hearing more news of Love Sick when it becomes available.

Thanks for the chat Jon!  Always awesome talking to you!

We’d like to thank Todd for taking the time to talk to us. Love Sick will begin production soon but if you fancy checking out Todd’s short M is for Marriage starring the beautifully talented Natalie Victoria below.


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