I Didn’t Come Here to Die is not only one of the best titled horrors in recent years, but it’s also the stunning début from writer and director Bradley Scott Sullivan. We got to pick his brains on his love of horror, how he made his movie and ‘if he didn’t come here to die where would he go’?
Love Horror: How did you get into making movies?
Bradley Scott Sullivan: I’ve wanted to make movies since I was 10 or 11 years old, and I got a book on the making of “Independence Day”. That’s how I learned there were actually people that worked behind-the-scenes on films, and was more than just actors playing out the scenes. I just started out by making videos with my parent’s VHS camera. I would film stupid adaptations of novels, and turn those in instead of book reports in school. I got my first jobs in high school so that I could buy better cameras and editing equipment. And for the last half of high school, and a few years following, I worked as a wedding videographer and editor.
I was kind of scared to move to LA, so I moved to Austin, TX instead. One of my filmmaking idols, Robert Rodriguez, was from there, and at the time it was ranked the number one place in the US to live and work as an independent filmmaker. I was able to weasel my way into a few production assistant jobs on a few larger budget movies that were shooting out there (including a Rodriguez movie), and that led to production assistant jobs out in LA. I got to shooting behind-the-scenes video on this film called “Expecting Mary”, and Kim Waltrip was the producer of that. We got to be close, and when that film was over and I was on my way back to Austin, she asked what I was up to next. I told her I was planning on trying to get this low-budget horror film that I wrote off the ground. She laughed when I told her how low the budget I was planning to make it on was, and then to my surprise, she asked to read the script.
Long story short, she loved the script, and we were shooting it about six weeks later.
Love Horror: Have you always loved horror? And what where your early horror movie memories?
Bradley Scott Sullivan: Yeah, I’ve always been fascinated by horror films, horror imagery, and horror stories in general. One of my earliest memories as a young child is of Freddy Krueger. I think my dad was just flipping through channels when I walked into the living room, thumb-in-mouth and blanket in-tow. I don’t remember exactly what “Elm Street” film it was, but I just happened to walk in the second Freddy, standing in front of an inferno, has shirt open, and there are all these screaming, tortured faces embedded in his flesh. At least that’s how I remembered it.
That was a rare slip-up with my parents. In general they were very strict about what I got to watch growing up, but that image stuck with me my entire life. I also remember sneaking downstairs while they slept to catch bits and pieces of “Predator” and the “Friday the 13th” films when I knew they’d be on TV, but nothing got under my skin like Freddy did back then.
Love Horror: What is your best advice for all the fledgling horror movie makers out there?
Bradley Scott Sullivan: Watch lots of movies (horror and non-horror), and when something frustrates you, write the version of it that you would have rather seen.
Love Horror: You wrote the script for I Didn’t Come Here to Die. How did the idea come about?
Bradley Scott Sullivan: I was actually in a volunteer organization very similar to the one in the film. We traveled around the US and did different volunteer projects for 1-2 months at a time. One of them really was building a summer camp for underprivileged youth in the middle of the woods. They gave us a bunch of power-tools, and we lived in tents out there the whole time. The truth of the matter is, it was one of the best experiences of my life. The movie stems from the hypochondriac part of me that played out the “worst case scenario” for lots of situations that came up while working out there. In real life, no one walked out with anything worse than a few scrapes and bruises, but maybe the film can play as some sort of extreme safety video for future volunteers there.
Love Horror: Once the script was done how hard was it getting the movie made?
Bradley Scott Sullivan: I had slowly played with the idea and written the script over the course of three years, but once we got the money from Kim, the whole thing came together very, very quickly. We only had 2-3 weeks preproduction, seven days of production, and maybe two months of post. To tell you the truth, the hardest part has been the waiting game since it was finished in 2010, and is just getting released now. I’m just really excited the people are finally getting a chance to see it.
Love Horror: What were your influences when writing and shooting I Didn’t Come Here to Die, horror or otherwise?
Bradley Scott Sullivan: Eli Roth’s films were a huge influence on this movie. “Cabin Fever” is definitely in there, and the whole chainsaw scene was inspired by the handsaw death in “Hostel: Part II”. The “Final Destination” movies as well. I even have a line in there that’s kind of my homage to my favorite moment in “Final Destination 2”. The grainy, gritty style was inspired by my love of “High Tension” (or “Haute Tension” over there). There’s also influence from the “Evil Dead” series, “Friday the 13th”, the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films, and I’m sure a bunch of other things that affected me over the years.
Love Horror: You have a brilliant set of actors, how did you go about casting the movie?
Bradley Scott Sullivan: They all are great, and we really lucked out with all of them, but we cast them all in the most simple way possible. We just reserved the back room of a coffee shop for a few days, and posted some ads online saying that we would be holding auditions for an independent horror film. That’s how everyone was cast! Well, other than Travis Scott Newman, who plays the cop that bookends the film. I had met him on a short film that my buddy David made a few years prior. I alway jokingly referred to Travis as my low-rent Bruce Campbell, and told him I’d be putting him in whatever I did next.
Bradley Scott Sullivan: Thanks, I’m glad it worked! I knew that the gore effects were going to be key in this film; especially for the chainsaw scene. We didn’t have the big-name actors, we didn’t have big set-pieces, we really didn’t have anything that would make you need to see this film… unless we could deliver some kills like you’d never seen them before. I mean, I tried to build a fun and entertaining movie around all the gore, but also wanted to truly deliver on the money shots.
The way you get that is just by working with people you trust. My friend David Templin (who directed the short that I met Travis Scott Newman on) was a practical effects wizard. And my good friend William J. Meyer (who also did the title sequence and color grade) is a digital effects wizard. I mean, part of the reason I’d been such good friends with those guys in the first place, was because we’d shared a similar vision of film. So I was already working with people who shared my sensibilities, and it was just about letting them work their magic in their particular field, and combing good practical work with good CGI.
Love Horror: Which do you prefer writing or directing?
Bradley Scott Sullivan: I love both, but both are equally hard goals to achieve. For me, it’s a very hard process to get into a writing mode, and it happens in short bits, and can be quickly halted by self-doubt. And with directing, it’s just as hard trying to get the money in-line, and put together the right group of people. Both are things that are more fun and easy to think about doing, rather than actually doing.
Love Horror: What’s next for you? More horror I hope!
Bradley Scott Sullivan: Lots more horror! I think I’ve got a lot of exciting ideas to bring to the genre, but now it’s just about tackling that writing hurdle that I just went on about. It’s extra hard now, because I feel like I have to step my game up to a whole other level.
Love Horror: Last of all, if you didn’t come here to die where would be your ideal place to be bumped off?
Bradley Scott Sullivan: Actually, the movie is based on a volunteer project I was working on in Burlington, Vermont, which is a pretty heavenly and idyllic place. So that might not be a bad place to eat it! Sounds better than a cold, dingy basement, right?
I Didn’t Come Here to Die is Out 15th April and you can read our review right Here