Jeffrey St. Jules is no stranger to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), but having his feature film debut selected for TIFF ’14 is still quite a coup. The writer/director will unveil “Bang Bang Baby,” his horror/musical mash-up on Monday, September 8 in TIFF’s Discovery section.
“I never thought of it as horror, but I understand it has horror elements. Initially, I wanted to make a musical, sort of an Elvis-type musical,” St. Jules explained when reached by phone in Toronto. “All the other elements sort of grew organically out of it in some ways because it was a way to express their insanities and nightmares. Actually, I am not a big horror buff, but definitely a lot of different things have seeped into this film over the years.”
“Bye Bye Birdie,” but with mutants
Jane Levy stars as Stepphy, a girl stuck in the 1960’s town of Lonely Arms. Saddled with an alcoholic father, Stepphy dreams of a better life far away from there. After rock idol Bobby Shore (Justin Chatwin) arrives in town, she thinks he’s her way out. But a mysterious purple mist wafts through town, causing the local population to change in horrific ways.
“I was really happy with the cast; they all kind of got the tone of it, which is the hardest thing for a film like this,” St. Jules said. “I didn’t intend to make a campy comedy. Even though they are all these archetypal characters, I wanted them to have real performances. I think they all got that, and that’s what makes the film work.”
St. Jules said they did studio builds for all the main locations, in particular the house and a lot of the forest, because they wanted to have a feeling of artificiality to everything.
“Our main composers were Rich Pell and Dave Wall. We kind of co-wrote the songs with them. Then, we had a few other people who wrote songs on the [soundtrack],” he added.
Moving from shorts to features
Previously, St. Jules’ short films, “The Sadness of Johnson Joe Jangles” and “The Tragic Story of Nling,” premiered at TIFF. “Toronto audiences are pretty excited about stuff, and they are not going to ‘Boo’ you—at least I don’t think so. It’s a good environment to show your film in for sure, like there’s sort of a good energy here,” he said.
The writer/director also pointed out that working on a feature is way more all-consuming, becoming the filmmakers’ whole world for a little while.
“With a short, it’s not really like that. The biggest difference is how important character is in a feature film. The characters are really what’s going to pull you through in a feature film, and what you’re engaged with over a longer period of time,” he explained. “Whereas in a short film, it can be more conceptual. You can’t get the sense of a character in such a short time. It’s the medium that works well for more conceptual films.”
“Bang Bang Baby” premieres Monday, September 8, at 7:15 p.m. at the Scotiabank Theater