It seems like years since Drafthouse Films announced that they’d be boldly making a 26-part anthology that would shed a bloody spotlight on 26 different ways to die. With entries like “B is for Bigfoot” and “J is for Jidai-geki,” The ABCs of Death appears to be the kind of teaching tool that’s almost perverse enough to end up in Texas public schools.
Amidst a coordinated slew of interviews, I was lucky enough to speak via email with a personal favorite, filmmaker Angela Bettis, who starred in May, directed Roman and helmed the ABCs segment “E is for Exterminate.”
What excited you most about making a short for ABCs of Death?
What excited me most was the opportunity to pull together some of my favorite artists and make a collaborative piece. I managed to pull together a great little group! And we had a lot of fun problem solving and creating.
How did you get your letter: was it chosen or picked out of a hat or auctioned off?
We, the directors, submitted a list of preferred letters. Five of them. Then, we were assigned a letter from that list. I got my first choice.
When you get your letter, where does the creative process start? With the word you choose, with the kind of story you want to tell, or somewhere else?
All I really knew was that I wanted to use animation in some way. After the letter was assigned, I went to work on a concept. I submitted some ideas to [producers] Tim [League] and Ant [Timpson], and they approved the “Spider” concept. Inspired by a short story from the beautiful mind of Brent Hanley.
Is there a sense at all that you’re in a friendly competition with the 25 other filmmakers?
Nah. I really don’t feel like I’m in any kind of contest. Except, maybe, with myself. Just want to learn and create and grow. Get better all the time with these filmmaking tools. I don’t expect perfection from myself. Just progress.
Almost 20 years later, is there anything you learned from working with Franco Zeffirelli that you bring to ABCs of Death (or any contemporary work)?
Wow! THERE’S a question. One learns from every experience, right? So, I’m certain that what I learned from Franco all those years ago has influence on what I do, how I do it, the choices I make. But I am not all that conscious of it at this point. So long ago. Seems like another life. But, I surely love Franco Zeffirelli and his work. It is truly inspiring, his beauty. I will always love his heart and mind.
After portraying the main character back in 2002, are you interested to see what another production can do with Carrie?
What a great story. I understand why folks want to tell it over and over again. God be with those who tell it. Those who portray it. No other story or character quite like Carrie. But she is in us all. Always interested in a telling of that great tale.
What’s your favorite fake blood recipe?
Hmmmm. I guess I like the old fashioned corn syrup and food coloring recipe. Always works in a low budget, last minute pinch!
Do you feel a responsibility to encourage other women in horror – to direct, to act, to write, to gaff, to edit, etc?
GO, Females, GO! I don’t know if I feel a responsibility to encourage women, I just do! Yes, I think all of us chicks should be inspired and create! In whatever way that inspiration comes, we should shine! Honestly, I feel the same way about men. I find human beings to be so complex and full of beauty. Creativity is our way to express and challenge and flow. So, all you humans, create and flow! I’ll be over here thinking you are beautiful and creepy and freaky and wonderful!
What can we expect from your short film, or should we even try to anticipate it?
You can expect some 3D animated spider action!
What’s your favorite kill (from one of your flicks or someone else’s)?
Lately, I keep thinking of that massive battle at the end of the second season of Game of Thrones. Massive medieval swords, wielded by massive hairy men, chopping people in half, clear through. Guts spilling. Tops of heads being sliced clean off. Explosions, Burly Knights, and mayhem! Love that stuff.
What specifically about human psychology astounds or interests you?
I’ve been very interested in the psychology of depression, in recent times. The condition resides in the brain with its chemicals or lack thereof. Fascinating stuff. Much love and light to those who face depression’s demons.
What’s the scariest thing about human beings?
Their complexity is both beautiful and frightening. Their inability to truly see and understand themselves is beautiful and frightening. Our massive and dominating subconscious mind is scary. Our egos = truly, truly scary things.
What did you learn about yourself as a filmmaker shooting a short?
I learned a lot about 3D animation from and with my dear friend Michael Hemschoot of Workerstudio. Taught me that I want to play more with animation and image manipulation. Fun stuff!
What other ABCs director’s film are you most looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to all the films. It’s a great and talented bunch with whom I am proud to share the screen! This girl is nearly beside herself to see what tales are spun!
The ABCs of Death is available On Demand now and hits theaters March 8th.