33 Things We Learned From Benson & Moorhead’s Spring Commentary

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SPRING commentary

2012’s Resolution caught the attention of genre fans with its smartly layered script and story that evolves in darkly curious directions, and it marked the film-making team of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead as ones to watch. Their second feature, Spring, confirms that sentiment with a beautifully-shot and crafted love story that just so happens to also include a murderous monster.

The film hits Blu-ray this week ‐ exclusively at Best Buy until late August when it releases everywhere ‐ and in addition to a feature-length behind the scenes featurette and some shorter extras Drafthouse Films has also included a commentary track with the two film-makers.

Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for Spring.

Spring (2014)

Commentator: Justin Benson (writer, producer, editor, director) and Aaron Moorhead (producer, editor, cinematographer, director)

1. Moorhead apologies right off the bat for the fact that their voices sound so familiar. Or maybe it was Benson.

2. The pair met as co-workers at a commercial company, but they realized that between them they have a fairly complete set of film-making skills. “If everybody like ditched the set we could still make the movie happen,” says one of them.

3. They praise the make-up work (by MASTERSFX) on Evan’s (Lou Taylor Pucci) dying mother to make her look so close to the end. They wanted a frightening image to open the film. “She’s [Holly Hawkins] actually a really beautiful, very healthy young woman,” says Moorhead, probably.

4. The bartender in the early scene is played by Vinny Curran, who not only starred in Resolution but also owns the bar they were shooting in thereby saving them the cost of having to rent a location. And yes, he is wearing a tee-shirt from Resolution.

5. Also in the bar scene are Jeremy Gardner (writer, director and star of the terrific zombie drama, The Battery) and Chris “Cage” Palko who the pair met via a screening of Resolution hosted by Marilyn Manson.

6. The early scene at Evan’s home was actually filmed at Moorhead’s house, and Benson’s 1997 Acura “with gold tape on its rims, with a ratchet-strapped spoiler which falls off” also makes an appearance.

7. “Aaron and I hate establishing shots,” says Benson, “so we have this beautiful long Steadicam shot that introduces us to the world that Evan will be in for a while.” The preceding overhead shot of the town of Apulia was accomplished via a drone camera. They describe their intention as wanting the “subjective presence of the camera.”

8. They want it known that they don’t frequent strip clubs.

9. The scorpion was actually found in a camera operator’s room. “Apparently Italy has scorpions,” says Moorhead. (This is also news to me.) They gently captured the creature and shot it in several locales around town with the intention of cutting to it periodically as it progressed, “but the scorpion got bored, when we put it down it would take three steps.”

10. They joke about a furthering side story with the two Brits, but are actually content with the knowledge that supporting characters should serve their purpose in the story and then leave. “You don’t need to pay them back in the third act!”

11. The character of Angelo ‐ and his collection of bladed implements ‐ is meant in part as a one of the film’s handful of red herrings teasing danger from directions other than where it’s actually going to come from.

12. They talk about the difficulty of making “accidents” look naturalistic, so kudos to Pucci and the extra for making that shoulder bump in the alleyway (at 26:56) look real. I believed it.

13. “Can you make the penis larger and more erect?” They asked their production designer this question so the object in question would pop better onscreen.

14. It was important to them that Louise (Nadia Hilker) remain familiar and human as a character despite being an immortal. “Being as old as she is,” says Moorhead, “there’s still a balance that has to be ridden. She has a bit more perspective on a lot of things, she’s probably forgotten hundreds of years, but she has these emotions that have stayed.” They didn’t want her to be inhuman or detached from the rest of us.

15. Regarding sex scenes, “every single little tiny beat is worked out ahead of time.” Moorhead says it’s one of the more frequent questions he’s asked about film-making (the other being something about overweight people that I don’t fully understand), to which he replies that it’s a very meticulous discussion between director and performers. “You have a lot of conversations about it. A lot, a lot, a lot.” He says everything is detailed from what exactly will be shown on camera as well as the tone, approach and length. “It is not a sexy thing to direct a sex scene.”

16. They’re still talking about sex through our first look at Louise’s monstrous side.

17. They’re aware of what they did though. “We spoke through our first monster red herring,” Moorhead says. The scene is meant to suggest that Louise could be a vampire, as does the hand burning in the sunlight the next morning. They were concerned that audiences might be put off by the arrival of something supernatural so late in the film (past the 30 minute mark), but their fears were unfounded as viewers are already hooked by that point.

18. Man, I really thought I had a handle on who was who here, but when they start talking about TV series I completely lost track again. It’s a shame as it means I can’t point a finger at which of the two mentions that ABC’s Lost held off on the supernatural/weird stuff until later in the season. “Didn’t they have like trees falling down and a polar bear in the pilot?” asks the one who knows better. “I don’t think so,” says the other one, “just a crashed plane.”

19. Moorhead has apparently never seen a giallo film but included the red lamp in Louise’s apartment as a small wink towards the Italian sub-genre. Can someone in his proximity please sit him down for a couple hours and make him watch Dario Argento’s Deep Red? Thank you.

20. The bit where Evan picks up the Latin book and says he doesn’t read dead languages is in no way an intentional joke referring to Pucci’s role in Evil Dead in which he played the guy who reads dead languages.

21. The syringes belonging to Louise seen throughout the film are actually labeled with anatomical parts like “brains” or “testicles,” but early notes suggested they were too on the nose so they removed the writing digitally.

22. “Even baby chimpanzees are naturally afraid of snakes,” says Benson, citing the idea that fear of snakes is in our primate DNA.

23. Evan and Louise pass hand-written notes to each other a few times throughout the movie, and the contents were never meant for anyone else’s eyes including both viewers and film-makers. They apparently took a peak at some of Pucci’s and reveal that he was only drawing dicks.

24. The scene in where the American guy approaches Louise in the alley underwent some rewrites thanks to input from Pucci. Originally the guy (Shane Brady) attempted a more aggressive rape, but Pucci suggested it was creepier if the guy was being nice about his actions.

25. The big effects shot of Louise’s “evolutionary Frankenstein” required six hours of makeup time for Hilker and an additional four to eight hours on the floor for filming.

26. “This is exactly why you cast Lou Taylor Pucci,” says Benson referring to the conversation between Louise and Evan after he witnesses her transformation. “He does naturalistic, offbeat humor with an expression.” This is a true statement, and if you’re unfamiliar with his ability to bring that humanity into serious situations I suggest you immediately check out Brotherhood and the Evil Dead reboot.

27. The five minute Steadicam shot isn’t meant to be showy. “There’s a point to it,” says Moorhead, “it’s stream of consciousness.” They want the audience to focus and listen to the information being imparted, and the lack of cutting means we’re experiencing it at the same pace as Evan.

Drafthouse Films

Drafthouse Films

28. The scene with Evan and Louise walking and talking towards the end shows her with a partially eaten piece of pizza, but since Nadia didn’t want to keep eating it (for fear of weight gain) Benson became the designated biter.

29. The church scene is one of their favorites for several reasons. “She’s implying that she is the universal origin of monster myths,” says Benson. Moorhead adds that while they were given permission to shoot in this beautiful church they were forbidden from shooting anything “supernatural.” The make-up shots were actually filmed back at the production office with borrowed pews.

30. They point out the one jump scare in the film and immediately apologize. “Sorry about that,” says Benson. “We didn’t want to do any of that, but it just felt right.” Moorhead said he had no idea what he was going for at first, but after playing around in Adobe After FX he landed on a design he liked. “I had the worst designs, I will never show you what I had before,” he says. “She looked a Goomba from Mario when I was first playing with it.”

31. A Pompeii-like location was scripted for late in the film, and they were concerned they wouldn’t be able to find a suitable place near Apulia. Turned out they had at least three options in the nearby vicinity. The production design department made the petrified corpses out of Styrofoam.

32. They knew they wouldn’t show the “biggest monster of all” both because they wouldn’t be able to pay it off properly and because it ups the future danger facing Evan.

33. They received production notes on the end requesting just a little bit more time with Evan and Louise ‐ basically just extra confirmation that she loves him ‐ so they slowed down that final shot adding five more seconds to help satisfy viewers emotionally. They never got that note again.

Best in Commentary

  • Moorhead: “She’s [Augie Duke] like the ultimate, spunky, energetic, cool girlfriend. I’m sorry, female friend, she’s not my girlfriend. Not that I wouldn’t. Hang on I’m gonna keep digging out of this hole. Hi Augie.”
  • Benson: “This is a real cop actually that came to set. They were looking for Lou Taylor Pucci for smuggling 14 kilos of hashish into the United States.” Moorhead adds, “for liability purposes,” that this was a joke.
  • Benson: “It’s impulsiveness that leads him to the love of his life.”
  • Benson: “By the way, there was just a very clever, if we may say so ourselves, subtitle joke that just happened that no one will ever catch until the 2nd or 3rd viewing.”

Final Thoughts

The pair deliver a fun and informative commentary filled with entertaining anecdotes and technical tidbits. Their friendship is as evident as their skill sets, and it adds a flow between them as they bounce from one observation to the next. The pair also offer insight into low budget film-making that should serve as incredibly helpful advice for other film-makers smart enough to listen. That said, they mention that there would be bloopers on the Blu-ray/DVD, but I’ll be damned if I can find them. So screw those guys.

Check out more commentary commentary in the Commentary Commentary archives

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