Hello FREAKS! Got something pretty cool to share with everyone. Our own Scott Lake got a chance to ask James Roland (the creator of ‘Blood Drive’ the new Grindhouse series on the SyFy network.) a few questions. We do hope you enjoy the interview, and be on the look out for more Blood Drive coverage from Scott Lake aka The Shinigami
SCOTT: Something we ask everyone in our interviews. What is your favorite horror movie?
JAMES: The Thing. Good god, it’s perfection. I remember watching that scene when the wolf walks down the hallway and sees the shadow on the wall of some poor guy minding his own business. And the dog pauses dramatically and THEN enters the room. The shadow turns around and FADES TO BLACK and it plays like a fucking jump scare. Subtle. So visual. Chilling. I just can’t even with that movie, it’s so good. And that bleak, thoughtful ending.
A love a lot of horror films that I think are great, like the recent Raw and The Babadook and I Am Not a Serial Killer and Spring (the past few years have been AMAZING for horror).
But in terms of also reaching me on a deep personal level (as well as objective craft) I can’t answer this with just one movie, so here’s the others that move me: Phantasm, Session 9, Return of the Living Dead, Red State (an unsung masterpiece regardless of what you think of Kevin Smith), Evil Dead (1 & 2), and Scream.
*passes out on keyboard from typing exhaustion*
SCOTT: What was it that first inspired you to write, and what was it that brought you to film and television?
JAMES: I started writing to make friends.
I was homeschooled and an extreme introvert, so I would hang out with a group of peers and not know how to connect, so I’d write a short story about a kid I wanted to hang out with and then give it to them. Really weird stuff with idiotic humor, but they were the protagonists. In retrospect this could have backfired horribly, but instead it worked out great. They loved them and kind of accepted me into the tribe.
The TV/film route all started with Jurassic Park. Watching that in the movie theater when I was twelve was like a religious experience. I’m talking head to toe chills, running around in some sort of mania, unable to sleep at night because I would re-watch the film in my head, shot by shot. I could literally quote all the dialog from start to finish. One day I just walked around outside, speaking all the dialog out loud. Jesus I was a weird kid.
SCOTT: Where did the idea for Blood Drive come from?
JAMES: Way back in 2011, it was going to be an entry for the Hobo with a Shotgun fake trailer contest. But I couldn’t figure out how to make a blood engine, so instead I made a fake trailer called Butt Spiders.
It did not win.
Four years later I still couldn’t get the idea out of my head, so when I snagged a manager I pitched it to him on a whim and he loved it. Wrote the script, Syfy bought it, hired John Hlavin to be the showrunner, and picked it up for a thirteen episode order. It had a life of it’s own, I couldn’t stop it if I’d wanted to.
SCOTT: What were some of the issues you had to go through to get this show made?
JAMES: Everyone loved the script but was afraid to make it. The original script budgeted out at like 8-10 million dollars so that didn’t help. But a badass executive at Syfy named Nixk Zigler kept it alive there and shepherded it through all the red tape corporate hurdles.
Other than that, just the usual production hurdles. Like, how do you make a racing adventure show with gore, extensive stunts and fighting, and sci-fi elements on a low budget model when cars keep breaking down and blood canons misfire all over a piece or wardrobe that has no doubles for alternate takes. Shit like that.
Ultimately, you go to South Africa and hire the most talented people ever. They got the job done, the show looks amazing and we made it on a dime.
SCOTT: How much of the shows effects are practical and CG?
JAMES: The blood engines are 100% practical. And super dangerous, they could actually grip meat and tear it apart. Designed by Alex Wheeler and our production designer Andrew Orlando, a super genius who was prop master for Fury Road.
We exploded heads practically, shot blood out of the engines practically. Actors got soaked, hit in the eyes with goop, it was crazy. Also all the interior driving shots are rear screen projection using a video game generator for background environments. All in camera, no post work besides color correction.
We saved CGI for only the things we’re impossible to do practically, like The Scar in episode 9 and something called the Bloodgate which you’ll see in episode 5. In those instances we chose to make them a little more surreal than photo realistic, since we knew photo realism would be so damn hard on a small budget.
SCOTT: Did you have a hand in the casting, and if so did you have any parts written with a specific actor in mind?
JAMES: I was hands on with all the casting, which is not a euphemism for sexual harassment. I wrote the character of Slink originally for Doug Jones, who is a friend. But when it came time to cast he was unavailable for the show (he’s going to be AMAZING in Star Trek I can’t wait!). I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the part, but then I saw Colin Cunningham’s audition tape. I can’t describe to you how incredible it was, I hope they put it on a DVD set or something. I used to watch it to help me visualize Slink in certain scenes, that’s how quickly he took over that role and made it his own, incredible work.
Domi and Cliff were going to be the stars, back when it was a fake trailer, so I wrote them for Matt Peters (Orange is the New Black) and Susan Burke (Southbound) who I know personally. But we ended up shooting in South Africa so we cast from there obviously. Jenny Stead and Craig Jackson OWNED those parts in the end, their scenes are some of my favorite.
SCOTT: Are there hopes for a second season of Blood Drive?
JAMES: Yes. Fingers crossed!
SCOTT: With where we are at, (4 episodes in at the time of writing) what can we expect from the remainder of this season?
JAMES: The first half of the season is a lot more episodic. Then episode 7 the story shifts and we start learning about character back stories and personal lives. It also gets even weirder, increases the amount of science fiction type stuff, and Slink and Christopher and Aki start getting a bit more screen time as we see all the storylines and character motivations converge. The last three episodes are the very best I think. In terms of mythology we get goddamn epic but also do it through weirdly personal means. And a LOT of weirdness and gore.
Thank you for checking out our interview! Blood Drive airs on the SyFy channel Wednesdays at 10/9c. You can check out more on Blood Drive by going to the official site @ SyFy.com/blooddrive