Quantcast Brandon Johnson interview - MALEVOLENCE, LITTLE ERIN MERRYWEATHER

Brandon Johnson
Brandon Johnson played the lead role of Julian in Stevan Mena's 'MALEVOLENCE'; which hits DVD on April 19th, 2005 courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. After following this film for a while, we knew we had to have a chat with Brandon about his experiences making what we consider a great throw-back to classic 80's slasher horror. We talked to him about the long shoot on 'MALEVOLENCE', what is was like to film a feature on location in Guatemala, and uncovered that he'll always be a drummer at heart. Here we go! - by Robg. 4/05

Are you a fan of the horror genre in general? What are you're earliest recollections?

My favorite thing about horror is facing the fear. It's like riding a rollercoaster. The thrill comes from the payoff of going through the fear. I suppose that's a motto for life. My earliest recollections stem from 'Halloween', 'A Nightmare On Elm Street', 'Friday the 13th', 'The Exorcist', 'Magic', 'The Amityville Horror', 'The Thing' and 'Poltergeist'. I find the psychological films have the greatest affect on me.

Tell us a bit about how you initially got involved in acting?

I'm an only child so I spent a great deal of time alone and in front of a mirror. In the mirror I created various characters, friends, alter egos - so in a way I've been acting my whole life! My first play was when I was in 4th grade. My character was 'Old Father Christmas' and I was a total ham! As the years went by I did the usual bizarre skits with my friends in our basements. My buddy Jamie had a video camera so we were either making skateboard videos or crazy home movies.

Christ, we were making 'Jackass' back when I was 15. We used to make bombs and blow a lot of shit up. I had a beat up '71 Oldsmobile which we used to destroy garbage cans on every block - we'd film the whole thing. I'd tear up lawns, do brake stands everywhere, a lot of fire, etc... Anyways, you get the idea. It wasn't until I got into college that I actually started studying the craft full time.

How early on were you cast for 'Malevolence'? Did you take part in the promotional trailer that Stevan Mena shot to help get financing for the film?

I was the last out of 400 guys to audition and the last one to be cast. I actually cancelled my audition twice due to scheduling conflicts. Eventually I ended up at the right place at the right time. Regarding the trailer, Steve showed it to me at the audition to give me an idea for the feel of the film and what they were working toward. We started principal photography one week later.

What were your initial responses to the script?

I was excited because it wasn't a typical genre rip off. There was an opportunity for character development, drama and suspense - it wasn't like people's heads were exploding because aliens were exiting their skulls - and trust me I'd read a few of those! Plus, I hadn't worked on full length feature before so I was down for anything. Perhaps I got more than I bargained for! (laughs)

Considering 'Malevolence' is considered the middle part of an intended trilogy, did Stevan give you any info on the backstory for your character to help with how you approached the role?

None at all. It was up to us as to how we wanted to develop our characters. Steve guided us at moments, but also gave us freedom to experiment. If we were going off from his vision he'd straighten us out. Steve never mentioned parts 2 and 3 to me for a while.

Speaking of, how did you approach working on this film? Considering it homage's a lot of the horror classics, did you look at any of these films before beginning work on 'Malevolence'?

The thought had crossed my mind, but no, I just tried to observe the logic of each scene and play it as honestly as I could. It was important to be as invested as much as possible to what I was doing. When an actor is interested, the audience will be interested.

The shoot stretched out to almost 2 years of filming. How difficult as an actor was it working on such a long production?

Oh Christ, that was nightmare. Continuity went out the window and every so often I 'd get this call from out of the blue saying, "We need you this weekend." I had to miss a lot of other jobs because of the obvious: time and money. That sucked big time. We had to get the shots and a lot of times we were fighting against weather, locations and everyone's schedule. As an actor, I'm out there everyday looking for work and when it comes in I can't really let it pass by. Let's just say that there were very challenging times.

Were there any particular sequences that were difficult to shoot?

Because of the time of year we were shooting in it got very cold at night. There were days/nights where we were doing 15-18 hour days. By the time we'd wrap you'd by frozen to bone-literally. I'd close my eyes and then there would be a knock on my door saying, "WAKE UP!" Another challenging sequence was when I would be driving with Marilyn late at night. We were shooting in the boonies and there were no streets lights... anywhere! On the hood of the car was a big camera, I had kino flo lights tapped underneath the dash blinding me, no clue as to how fast I'm going 'cause I can't see the speedometer, couldn't see the road - I couldn't see a frickin' thing!! Oh yeah, I also had to do the scene as well. I wasn't big on laying in the body bag either! That was the real thing - smelled terrible.

Tell us about filming the bank robbery. For a low budget film, even we were surprised that you guys pulled that scene off!

Yeah that was fun. I think we were all surprised we pulled it off! The extra's were great and didn't know what to expect at times. I had a moment where I knocked one of them over (our UPM Natalie). We rehearsed a few times, but to make it look natural she couldn't anticipate it. On the last take, I think I went for it a little "too much" and totally knocked her on her ass. Please keep in mind it was an accident and she was a real trooper. When I was younger I played hockey for 14 years; I can check.

What would you consider one of your favorite moments in the film? Both to film and to watch on screen?

My favorite moment in the film is the "trunk scene" with Marilyn. When you watch it's broken up, but we shot that in one take everytime. Everything had to be timed out just right. We had to hit our marks no matter what. Lighting, focus pulling, camera moves, acting/blocking - it all had to be seamless. My favorite moment on screen is a tiny one, but gorgeous. It's toward the end of the film when Officer Riley is driving back to the hideout house. In the theater, the screen is pitch black and then slowly in the upper right hand corner two small headlights appear and the patrol car flies across the screen. I don't know why, but I just love it.

You obviously spent a long period of time working with Stevan Mena on 'Malevolence'. What can you tell us about your working experience with him as a director?

What I love about Steve is he let's his actor's bring ideas to the table. He has a vision, but he's open to what you have to contribute and he listens; Steve's very collaborative in that way. Plus, he'll look out for your best interest as an actor and as a human being (which is rare). We still speak all the time and it's been an extremely long process so if anything I've gained a good friend. I hope to continue working with him for years to come. We've really gotten to know each other over the years and for me, I just feel more comfortable working in that environment. It's familiar, ya know?

You spent the majority of the film with the two female leads. (Lucky dog, you!) Tell us a bit about your working experiences with both Samantha Dark and Heather Magee?  Is it true Heather had to give everyone a ride to the set?

Most of my scenes with Samantha she was duct taped for 15 hours God bless her soul!!! She was a good sport. And yes, Heather indeed played taxi quite often. It was in those car rides where we got to know each other actually. We'd drive late at night back and forth to set, to NYC and Pennsylvania - we'd talk about everything. That was beneficial to our relationship in the film.

Both the slaughterhouse and the house in the film were perfect for the story. Any odd occurrences happen while being around those particular locations?

Nothing really odd, but the authenticity was incredible. I'm still blown away that we found that slaughterhouse. The environment was helpful to me as an actor. You could feel the creepiness surrounding you.

What was it like to finally see the film with an audience in theaters?

Well, the fact that it made it that far was just a trip. I love seeing people jump, laugh, scream - that felt good. Also, it was great to be able to hear all of the wild sounds that Steve put in. You don't always get that from seeing it at home.

You're a musician yourself. How pivotal is music for a film such as this, and how do you feel about the music Stevan wrote for his feature debut?

For a film like this, it's crucial. For horror films it's so important. The fact that Steve created it on his own in his bedroom through me for a loop when I found out. He's multi-talented and I think that's awesome he took the risk by doing it himself. As you said it's his debut & given the circumstances, he did one hell of a job.

You currently play in 2 bands 'Ill Rocket' and 'Progress'. Tell us about your musical background?

In a nutshell it started with sitting in front of the television as a young boy watching MTV and air drumming. Then I found pots and pans. Soon I graduated to a real drumset. Friends migrated over and we began writing and playing cover songs. Eventually I started recording and putting my music out. Nothing really brings me closer to God than drumming. I formed a band in Minnesota that was originally called 'Yellow No.5', but then we changed it to 'Touch is Automatic'. Playing with those guys were some of the best times of my life. We did 4 U.S. tours, made 3 albums, and a couple ep's. I was living the dream. We were right on the cusp of something really amazing, but I wanted to get out of Minnesota and they weren't keen on moving. Anyways, I sold my car, bought a one way ticket and came to NYC. Played with some other people, but it wasn't the same. I put the sticks down for 4 years and went full force into my acting. As time went by I was yearning to play again. That's how the fuse was lit for my 2 current projects. It feels amazing to be back up there. Nothing better than the sound of a mic'ed bass drum. When the hammer comes down? BOOM!!!

Your other foray into horror was an indie called 'Little Erin Merryweather'. Tell us a bit about that?

That was an interesting project. The antagonist is a female and she's very spooky. David Morwick sort of falls from the same tree as Steve in that they both wore many hats. The film is more story driven than full of gore. I did 'Merryweather' right after 'Malevolence'. I didn't plan it that way it just happened. We shot the film up in Boston. That too was a long trek. We'd shoot for a couple weeks and then every weekend I'd take the bus 5 hours up, 5 hours back. The film is in its final stages and will be released soon, I hope. So keep your eyes peeled.

You worked on a feature called 'Invisible Evidence' which was shot on location in Guatemala. What can you tell us about that experience?

The experience was incredible. It was my first time in a 3rd world country. Needless to say I stuck out like a sore thumb. Not a lot of films are shot in Guatemala so people were curious as to what was going on. It wouldn't be odd to have 150 people on the other side of the camera yelling, making faces at you or doing whatever they could to distract you. We had National and Presidential security with us at all times. Our first day of shooting we almost got jumped. Sometimes we get surrounded by M16's and the military, but the second we flashed the Presidential seal they all backed off.

One had to be really careful too. We had a tiny crew and I had to do my own stunts without padding or rehearsal. We were flying by the seat of our pants. Because I was still non-union at the time, they could work us as long as they wanted. I had 2 days were we shot for 22 hours. Our hotel was solar powered so sometimes there would be no hot water or electricity. It wasn't odd to have strange creatures crawling around your room. One night I had a scorpion on the ceiling above my bed. I'm glad I slept with my mouth closed that night. The most devastating thing was seeing the homeless children. That stayed with me for a while. When I returned to NYC my gratitude list went through the roof.

You've worked in both films and also some television. What have been some of the differences in your experiences with working in both mediums?

With TV you move very fast. "Know your lines, hit your marks. Moving on." There's maybe a rehearsal for camera and that's about it; there's no time. This can apply for film as well, but usually you have an option to go back and reshoot if you need to.

You recently recorded the audio commentary track for the 'Malevolence' DVD. What was it like to rewatch the film & record the commentary with Stevan?

There was a lot of, "Remember how many times we did that!" It was kind of cool to be sitting there doing that because I never thought we'd get this far. I hoped we would, it still wigs me out. I felt happy and had a sense of accomplishment. Steve was kind enough to edit out some of the stupid and inappropriate things I was saying!!!

Would you be excited to take part in the prequel & sequel?

Absolutely. I don't know what Stevan has in store, but perhaps that's the fun of it. I'm at the top of the rollercoaster and we're about to go over the edge.

Special thanks to Stevan Mena!!!
Visit: MALEVOLENCE Movie.com

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