I was fortunate enough to catch the screening of recent, claustrophobic, body horror Cell Count at Sheffield’s Celluloid Screams Horror Festival back in October and for me personally, it is one of the best surgical based films of 2012. When I reviewed the piece I admired how innovative and visually interesting it was as it incorporated a powerful and relate able narrative focusing on how far someone would go for the person they love the most. Writer and Director Todd E. Freeman has kindly taken the time to discuss his his work on the film, the continuation of the story through its up and coming sequel as well as more projects alongside his brother Jason. The brilliant news is that Cell Count is now available to purchase and download as Todd will further explain in the interview below.
1. Firstly, tell us about your production company Polluted Pictures. How did it begin? And what was the main vision for the company?
Well my brother and I have been making movies for over 15 years. It really started when we were younger and Jason would make 8mm movies and I would be in them. Then we were in film school around the same time and began making feature films shortly after. Polluted Pictures was the production company name that Jason came up with and we’ve been producing movies under that banner ever since.
2. Which aspect of filmmaking do you enjoy the most?
You know, I get asked that question a lot. I’ve probably answered a million different ways. I guess my favorite part is that there are so many varied different parts. Whatever I’m doing at the time is my favorite. Then it gets old and I move on to the next step. It’s a constant merry go round of adventure.
3. Your latest directorial offer, “Cell Count” has been circulating the film festivals, what have the responses been like so far?
You know overall it’s gone very well. I was so lucky to be able to go to a lot of these festivals and meet fans from all over the world. I know that the movie is not perfect nor is it for everyone but it was just so cool to be able to show it to as many genre fans as we did. Some absolutely loved it. Some hated it. No one ignored it. When you are making something you always hope that people enjoy it and for the most part I think people really did.
4. Would you say there’s a difference between US audiences in comparison to the UK in terms of how they’ve received the movie?
It’s funny. I hadn’t seen the film until just recently with a US audience. We played all over the world and then brought it back home. I think overall the reaction is the same. Genre films cross most cultural barriers and are received the same all over the world. The audiences are very discerning and looking for a good time. Hopefully we were successful… but that’s for someone else to answer.
5. The ideas behind the heart of the story is very personal to you, was it a cathartic experience when writing the film?
Absolutely. As I came up with the idea for the film I was going through a very heart wrenching experience with my mom having cancer. Being able to write it and also have my mom be 100% cancer free is the best thing in the world. I was able to have fun with it and not feel like I was demeaning the experience with my mom. She’s fine… and now I can put some monsters into the story.
6. Would you advise aspiring screenwriters to write what they know from their own lives?
I think there’s truth to that statement but not absolute. I think the core always needs to come from something that you care about and know. The first nugget for me is always personal. Then there are no rules to where it can go. I know nothing from personal experience about monsters… but the kid in me is very much excited and scared by them.
7. “Cell Count” is visually fascinating, has body-horror always been something that’s intrigued you?
I’ve always had a thing for scars and stitches. Not completely sure why. The idea that something emotional can manifest in something physical is also something I’m excited by. The things inside of us make us who we are and in turn make the characters who they are in the sequel. I love the psychological aspects as much as the physical. But the physical ones are much more fun to shoot.
8. How long did the project take to shoot?
We shot the film in 23 days over a month and a half. It was intense since we were at one location for the entire shoot but that also allowed us to shoot more pages every day. Super happy with the way it turned out.
9. What was your favorite aspect of making the film?
In hindsight the shoot was the most exhilarating. Most of the time it is the most painful and exhausting things that you remember the most fondly.
10. …and what was the most challenging?
Completing the film is always the hardest to do. Making sure everything is ready to go and exporting the deliverables. It is the hardest and most frustrating part. But I assure you nothing feels better than the moment it goes out the door. I can’t even explain the relief and pride. Amazing.
11. Did you have any particular influences that inspired certain ideas in the film?
The Thing and Alien are the two most influential movies when it comes to story, location, and character. I think that’s probably pretty obvious when watching the film. Not to say it evokes much style wise cinematically… but when it comes to tone… absolutely inspired by those films.
12. You’ve hinted that you intend to make a sequel, is there anything you can tell us about that at this stage?
We are in development with the second film. Working on story aspects as well as concept drawings etc. The film has always been a part of a much bigger story. Hoping to shoot in 2013. I’ll keep you posted.
13. The next project from Polluted Pictures “The Weather Outside” is currently in post-production, where you worked as cinematographer and producer, what can audiences expect from the film?
Well my brother Jason wrote and directed an amazing film back to back with Cell Count and it will be able to be seen everywhere in 2013. We are talking to distributors and trying to find the right fit for the film. I have always joked that my brother is the Ridley Scott brother and I am the Tony. The Weather Outside is a beautiful and lyrical film that is precision filmmaking at it’s best. Expect to laugh, tear up, and be intrigued until the final frame. I’m so proud of the film and excited to get it out into the world.
14. Would you say it has any similarities with “Cell Count” in terms of visual style and strong characters and narratives?
Jason and I joke all the time that we are different planets when it comes to story but in the same universe when it comes to communicating visually. The two films look nothing alike and could not be more different in narrative. What we do have in common is our specific visual styles. Each film has it’s own that comes from the director but the other brother knows how to help get that vision on screen. He is a wonderful writer and an amazing director. I couldn’t ask for a better partner in crime.
15. Finally, what’s next for you? Anymore festivals? Release Dates? …and do you have any future projects in the pipeline?
Cell Count is available now on iTunes, XBox, PS3, VUDU, Amason Instant, and CinemaNow. Plans for a Special Edition DVD and Blu-ray are on track for early 2013. The Weather Outside is going out to distributors and film festivals. Our first Co-Director credited film will also be available in 2013 under the title “Wake Before I Die” which is based on one of our dad’s books.
As for what is next… well who knows. We are working on developing Cell Count 2, writing a film called “Devil Rides Shotgun, and also working on my next personal screenplay which is currently untitled. We have to juggle multiple balls until we find out what truly will be next but I’ll be sure that you are one of the first to know… once we do.
Thanks for the interview. Can’t wait for people to check out the films. We are very proud.
Thank you so much to Todd for this interview.
Hayley Alice Roberts