Katie Aselton and Lake Bell Talk BLACK ROCK, the Challenging Shoot, and Bell Directing Her First Feature IN A WORLD…
The indie thriller Black Rock tells the story of three young women – Sarah (Kate Bosworth), Abby (Katie Aselton, who also directed the film from a script by her husband, Mark Duplass) and Lou (Lake Bell) – who decide to renew their bond by revisiting a moment from their childhood and returning to an empty island off the coast of Maine. Once there, they realize they are not alone when they encounter three recently returned servicemen who have come to the island to hunt, and things quickly get out of hand, leaving the women to fight for their lives.
At the film’s press day, actress/director Katie Aselton and actress Lake Bell talked about surviving the challenging shoot, the crazy weather, being game for anything, having no trailers or bathrooms on set, what they did to unwind, and wanting to do lighter fare once the film was finished. Bell also spoke about the experience of directing her own first full-length feature In a World…. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
Collider: With everything you had to go through, during the making of this movie, whether your character survives or not, did it feel empowering that you survived the filming?
KATIE ASELTON: Yeah, it was amazing! The story of survival is a nice metaphor for our experience making this movie, finding your inner strength and powering through and getting to the endpoint alive.
LAKE BELL: Sets were washed away with the tides.
ASELTON: Everything was a constant battle. My first film was beautiful. Everything fell into place so nicely. I was like, “Oh, I’m so lucky that Dax [Shepard] waltzed in at the 11th hour and we got this really cool bar.” Everything happened to work out nicely. With Black Rock, I got an amazing cast. That worked out great. Everything else was like murphy’s law. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. It snowed a foot of snow on our first day of location scouting, in April. We were scouted in a foot of snow, trudging through the woods. We had to cancel our boat trip to the island, so we were looking at our mainland locations, trudging a mile in because the road wasn’t plowed down. We were like, “What do you think is under this snow, grass or rocks?” It was crazy! And then, we showed up for production and Kate [Bosworth] showed up with severe bronchitis, and Lake [Bell] had to fly back and forth to finish How to Make it in America. And then, June in Maine happened and we had the coldest June in the history books.
BELL: There were lightning storms!
ASELTON: The very first day of shooting, we had a Ghostbusters type storm blow in with these massive clouds that were moving so fast I thought a tornado was going to happen. It was swirling above us. I thought it was the apocalypse. It was crazy!
BELL: It was the most remarkable cloud. I’ll never forget it. I took so many photos.
ASELTON: And the thunder just bellowed. And that was the first day of shooting. It would rain when we needed it to be sunny. It was sunny when we needed it to rain. We would show up to a location and, because of the tide, it was gone, completely. We were shooting nights on the shortest nights of the year, on the east coast, so your horizon starts to break at 3:15. That’s when it starts to change color, and we were shooting out at the ocean.
BELL: And we were shooting in the ocean sometimes, and the ocean was cold. It’s the Atlantic and it’s not fucking around! It was 42-degree water and 40-degree weather.
ASELTON: It takes no prisoners. We had to completely change wardrobe for the girls because we had summer wardrobe set and it was so frigidly cold while we were shooting. And the bug population was through the roof, that summer. It was just silly! The fact that we even survived at all is shocking. The fact that we came out of it with a movie that I really like is awe-inspiring.
Were you just grateful that the three of you got along so well?
ASELTON: Thank god! What if I had ended up with an actress that I won’t name? I might have killed her. I might have gone into my weird, primal, animalistic mode of survival.
BELL: Anybody on that set had to be game. It wasn’t like we had fancy trailers. There were no sets.
ASELTON: There was no glam squad, whatsoever. There were no dressing rooms. There were no bathrooms. Let’s start at our base level. We didn’t have toilet paper. We went to the woods to use the bathroom. I made Lake and Kate drip dry in the woods. I walked out in the woods with Lake and we had a full conversation while peeing.
BELL: Which you do sometimes, anyway. We see a bear!
Did you get to a point where you were just like, “Why am I making this movie?!”
ASELTON: Yeah, all the time! It was like a camp where, by the end, to graduate, you had to be at level 10. We went through the levels, and we got deeper and darker. Like the characters in the movie, we got more primal and animalistic, and our fight to survive got more intense. Lake would shake me and be like, “You are killing this! Go!” It worked for the characters, and it worked for us. But, I will never forget that the last scene was shot was me captaining the boat in. That was the hardest thing that we did. Do you know how hard it is to captain a lobster boat? It is a massive boat. The boat was so large and so counter-intuitive to when you’re using the steering and the gas, and it also costs $200,000.
BELL: Which was more than the budget of the movie.
ASELTON: Also, the owner of the boat is my brother’s very best friend, who has known me since the day I was born, and this is his life. If I crashed the boat, I could ruin his life. There was a dock full of people that included most of my family. If I crashed the boat into the dock, I would kill a family and ruin this man’s life. It’s not like I had time to train for how to drive a lobster boat, so we had to put the captain down in the hull. He was trying to tell me how to drive, but he was getting the directions wrong. It was so stressful! Every time that I see the footage – and I’ve seen it a lot – I get sweaty. I was terrified! I just had this collapse of relief and emotion, at the very end of it. It was such a big build-up, but we did it and everyone was okay and the boat was alive.
Were there things you did to unwind from all the craziness, after a day of shooting?
BELL: I’m vegan and I ate a lobster. I was like, “Listen, I earned this shit!”
ASELTON: There was a lot of beer drinking and some whiskey drinking. You’ve also got three girls in a house, and when does that ever happen? We were like kids on vacation who were just like, “Let’s stay up late and watch a movie!”
BELL: And we only had VHS tapes because we were borrowing them from Katie’s parent’s house.
ASELTON: It was really just goofy and fun and special. If we tried to recreate it, we couldn’t. It was nice.
When you tell a story like this, does it make you think about the friendships or people that you don’t have in your life anymore?
ASELTON: Yes and no. It took me 30 years to figure out who I really am, as a person, and who I want to surround myself with. I was very much the kind of person who would just meld in with whatever group I was near. It took me a really long time to decide who I want my circle to be and who I want to surround myself with. Once you make that choice, that is where I feel like I have built my strength. This is my life choice. These are the people that make me feel good about me, and that I love and adore and will do anything for. I’m not super nostalgic for friendships I’ve lost along the way. I feel like, if they were truly meaningful and really special, they would still exist. I think we grow and change, and that’s okay.
BELL: You can’t judge yourself for the other person. With certain people, your union is for the long haul. With other people, it’s just not, and that’s okay. Thank god we evolve, and thank god they evolve.
ASELTON: Everyone grows and changes. It’s not even to say that you become a better person than you were, but you’re morphing. This whole thing is just a weird river that we’re on. I get very nostalgic for times and places and experiences, but I have a wonderful group of core friends and family who I love and adore, so I don’t mourn the loss of any particular friendship. I think they’re all part of a path, and the ones that really mean something are still important in my life.
Did this experience make you want to go do a comedy next?
ASELTON: I want to do a big romantic comedy.
BELL: Right after it, we all went on to comedy jobs. I went on to direct my feature, which was not relaxing, but it was funny.
ASELTON: I got back and immediately went into shooting The League, so I was telling some really raunchy fantasy football jokes with a bunch of guys. I get to be sassy and wear make-up, with very curly hair.
Lake, how was the experience of directing?
BELL: Being in the trenches with Katie was extremely beneficial for me. It was like directors and actors boot camp. Just being around like-minded folk who are hustling and following their dreams too is just naturally inspiring.
ASELTON: There is something really nice about learning that you can take the reins of your life and your career. There are a lot of times, doing what we do, that you feel no control and get very panicky feeling. It’s nice to know that you are able to do it on your own. You can’t sit there and feel bad for yourself and say, “But, it’s just not coming to me.” That’s an instinctual thing to do because that’s the way the business normally works. But, when you’ve got a good brain on your shoulders, I think you can make it happen.
Black Rock opens in theaters on May 17th.