Interview With They Look Like People Writer and Director Perry Blackshear - Taylor Holmes inc.

Interview With They Look Like People Writer and Director Perry Blackshear

Interview With They Look Like People Writer and Director Perry Blackshear – First, I have to say, it must really suck to be interviewed by me. I eschew all the normal questions – just toss them out the window – and instead try to get at the intent and heart of a movie-maker. Yeah, it must really suck to talk to me. And yet, over and over again, I keep finding all these amazingly gracious, and truly kind people who operate in this world of Independent Film. Today might be someone you haven’t heard of? But if you haven’t we will fix that because your life is about to get infinitely better by learning about three eye-opening movies of his. And after that, we’ll get to the interview.

The movie that introduced me to Perry Blackshear, MacLeod Andrews, Evan Dumouchel, and Margaret Ying Drake was They Look Like People. And it is one of my favorite movies of all time… the ending is almost like a spiritual primer on life the universe and everything. It’s, shall we say, epiphanic? I thought so anyway. And GUESS WHAT? You can put this interview down, and watch the movie right here on Amazon for a couple buck rental fee. The next is Siren – which is a brilliant spin on the standard myth of the found mermaid story… but with body gore, and a deeper – much much much – deeper insights than Splash! hahah. Watch Siren right here on Hulu with your Hulu subscription. And the latest film, When I Consume You, which just recently had it’s premier in Canada (and I broke in to make sure I didn’t miss out – I kid you not. Gotta love VPNs! hahah. Sorry Perry, just move on, nothing to see here.) I’ll bring you my review and walk through of it soon enough. But suffice it to say? It was unbelievable. Loved it. Didn’t disappoint, 10 out of 10 would break in again.

I’ve interviewed a lot of cool people on this little itty-bitty website, but Perry Blackshear has been one of my white unicorns. He is a bit lower key, and stays off of social media (Twitter is magic for easily finding and connecting with movie makers… nope, he’s not on Twitter!) but I had been rumbling that I was dying to talk to him after interviewing MacLeod Andrews and he was kind enough to make the introduction for me. Thanks MacLeod!!

THiNC. – “I remember reading an interview you gave years ago now (and I can’t find it, or I’d reference it – no way, I found it!) where you said that you had a script written, but that it would have been too expensive to film. But you asked Evan and MacLeod to come out anyway, and you’d pull something together? That thing you sort of ‘pulled together’ was They Look Like People? Is that really how that went down or have I elevated the screenwriting of that film into the status of myth and legend in my mind?”

Blackshear –Haha, excellent question. Yes, that is true, I had a different script planned but actually it just didn’t seem like the right idea. I remember when I threw out the old idea and decided I needed a new one because it was Christmas. I had bought plane tickets for Evan and MacLeod already to come February 1st, so I had a month to come up with something we could shoot. I wrote like crazy, sent what I’d written to the guys late at night, and then got their feedback when I was at my job the next day. I think we did a week with the idea, a week with the treatment, and two weeks with the script. We liked the idea and the script OK but it wasn’t until I came up with the last sequence that we really loved it. It was a very stressful time, I don’t know if I recommend it, but it was also exhilarating. 

THiNC. – “One of my favorite cinematic quotes of all time comes at the end of They Look Like People – and the levels of which I adore this quote cannot be described really – “Trust me to trust you.” Where did that line come from? Because it is a level of emotional and dramatic brilliance I’ve never seen before.

Blackshear –Oh, thank you! That scene meant a lot to us. This was the decision in the script that really changed it for all of us, when Wilson decides to go along with Wyatt, that we felt like the movie all made sense. I think the lines in that scene come from Christian trying every way he can to get through to Wyatt, to let him know he’s all in with him, that he’s on his side.

THiNC. – “In another interview back in 2019 – I have the reference this time – you described When I Consume You, that you were working on then, this way: “It’s set mostly in Brooklyn at night, a brother and sister story where the sister gets hurt by something and she sort of Lady MacBeths her younger, really pathetic brother to help her take revenge, and then, when they find the thing, it turns out it’s not human. So it’s this kind of scary supernatural thriller. It’s really exciting to work on.” And I can’t think of a better way to describe it. Can you talk about how you scouted the locations there in New York, they are amazing spots… most shot at night. Did you get any permits for filming at all? Seems like you guerilla-filmed the entire thing? Which, I have to say, gave it an edge, and a visceral shimmer that wouldn’t come in any other way.

Blackshear –Wow, yeah, that’s an interesting way to describe it! The locations were all near where I’ve lived in Greenpoint for the last decade. I knew some places but one weekend I got on a city bike and just biked around for hours into all the corners of the area, trying to find places that looked industrial and forgotten. It’s funny, most of the locations by the water are all built up now, the two fight scenes that take place in alleyways have become totally transformed. For those scenes and anything that involved violence we had a permit and permission and police presence, but other than that it was just the actors and I wandering around Brooklyn. Yes, wanted it to have an almost documentary feel sometimes. We used very little lighting that wasn’t there, I had a floating little led light I bought off amazon I used sometimes but mostly it was just found light. The A7 Camera we used is incredible at low light and allowed all the amazing color mixing that naturally occurs at night in New York.

THiNC. – “In my discussion about your movie The Siren, I came away with several different life lessons that seemed like might be worth remembering, (Don’t do grief-filled vendettas, be careful fleeing one horrible influence that you aren’t consumed by to an even worse one somewhere else, and finally, even the hardest, most terrible people still might have the capacity in their hearts for love), what was your hope that would people would take away from that particular movie?

Blackshear –I’m glad you took those things from the Siren, the movie was loaded with so much personal stuff for me and for some of the team that it was, and sometimes still is, difficult to really boil down the themes. The way I describe it making films so intimately like this is like you’re making a kind of dream, and then with the actors it becomes this collective dream. And you have some ideas about what the dream means, but also there are things that you don’t see cause you’re too close to it. I guess what I’m saying is, maybe I’m still too close to it! I think that I hope people watch a film about these two brave souls fighting back against this cruel enemy, and finding some strength from that.

THiNC. – “During the Q&A at FantasiaFest, you mentioned that you had a health scare and that it drove you to all kinds of different religious texts? You sort of ducked and weaved on that, could we hear a little bit more? Not specifically about your health scare (unless you want to share) but more about the spiritual journey you took? As a Christ-follower myself, I love talking to others about their spiritual journeys specifically in the space of films, whatever they might be. 

Blackshear –Well, it still continues to be a journey for me, and I am (as I’m sure you can tell!) pretty private, but yeah, thanks for asking about that. I grew up atheist, and had been that way a long time. But even when I was young, I always felt a little like something was missing. This health scare made me face down a lot of frightening things, and sort of shocked me awake. Like, what actually matters dude? Are you spending most of your life on things that matter, like your family and friends and doing work that you care about, or on dumb stuff?  So like a nerd I just started reading every primary devotional or philosophical text I could. And I sort of loved them. They felt like a long cold drink of water after years of being thirsty. All that wisdom about how to live a good life. It was really eclectic: Seneca, lots of Zen Buddhism, Victor Frankl, St. Augustine, Confucius. More recently I’ve been reading Thomas Merton and enjoying him. Haha, oh, man, there’s a LOT more here, maybe we can have a beer and talk about it some time outside of the internet! I’m still searching. The journey means a lot to me and has had a big impact on my life.

THiNC. – “Personally, loved When I Consume You… can’t say enough good things about it. Can’t wait for it to get released wide – do you have an idea as to when that might be? And I would be an idiot to not take this opportunity to ask also if you have other movies rattling around in that mind of yours for the future?

Blackshear – “For When I Consume You, we’re currently in discussions but we will let you know! And we are all talking about the next one right now… we might be going a little more sci-fi next time? Maybe!”

Thanks so much for taking so much time out to talk to us Perry! Dream come true for me… and we can’t wait for When I Consume You to hit wide distribution!!!

Edited by: CY