Exclusive Interview: Angela Bettis on The ABCs of Death
This really is an exclusive interview with actor/director Angela Bettis. She didn’t do any official interviews for The ABCs of Death at Fantastic Fest but was nice enough to chat with us when we asked. The ABCs of Death is Drafthouse Films’ compilation of 26 horror shorts from 26 different directors, each made for $5000. Bettis’ bug infestation piece is E, but she saw an earlier cut where she was U. The film has played at TIFF and Fantastic Fest and is due out through Magnet Releasing next year.
CraveOnline: This is really significant for me because one of the first events I ever covered as a journalist was the Girl, Interrupted red carpet premiere and I interviewed you there. So now I get to talk to you as a director.
Angela Bettis: Really? That’s pretty weird. I love it.
Not weird, it’s just if you stay around long enough…
You’re the only female director in The ABCs of Death, right?
I think so. I think there was a pair, a guy and a girl pair, like a duo also. I think there was one other chick that was in a pair.
Is that important to you, being the only female director, or should we not even point it out?
It’s not important to me. It really isn’t.
Did you have your choice of letter?
They had us submit the top three letters that we’d want. One of mine was U and that’s the letter that I got, but I think they actually switched it. I think they’ve re-arranged the segments and I think they’ve moved me, but I’m not sure to what letter.
You’re E for Exterminate, which makes sense for the bugs.
Yeah, extermination in reverse. Right on.
What was U for?
U was, we ended up using Unsuspecting but at the time that I chose the letter, I didn’t actually know, I didn’t have a concept yet. But I liked the prefix “un.” I felt like I could put that in front of anything no matter what concept I chose. So we ended up with Unsuspecting.
Do you have a thing with bugs?
Sure, don’t we all?
I don’t know, I think I’m okay with them. I guess I don’t want them on me, but if I see them I won’t freak out.
I guess actually I’m pretty fascinated by them generally speaking, except for the highly poisonous ones. But I actually kind of find myself not that afraid of them so much as curious about them. They’re just intensely interesting and complicated intricate little things, and there’s some crazy statistic like a thousand bugs per person or something like that. I probably have that wrong, but so many bugs in this world. I don't know, there are certain ones that I’m super creeped out by but for the most part I just find them fascinating.
When you started developing the short, was the big idea always your plan or did you have other ideas you played with also?
I have a friend that does CG 3D, all kinds of animation, that I’ve been wanting to do something with for a long time and this seemed like a good opportunity for it, so it was more that I wanted to do something animated with him. So we just came up with a few concepts and the spider one was the one that the producers and Tim [League, Drafthouse founder] liked, so that was the one that we went with.
Was it really ambitious to try visual effects on a $5,000 short?
Yes. [Laughs] Yes, there were moments where I was like, “Why did I choose to do this?” It did make it a lot more of a technical, long process than it had to be for a four-minute thing but I learned so much about animation that that in itself was important to me. Here was an opportunity to learn and experiment. It’s great.
Was there one shot that turned out differently or unexpectedly for you?
I guess I would just say the most difficult shot is that last shot. It’s hard if you have any movement on the actor at all, it’s hard for them to animate and keep it from shifting around. So that last shot was pretty difficult to do but I’m actually pretty proud of how it came out. I think it looks great.
Have you seen the other segments?
Yeah, I saw this cut the other night.
What surprised you about the other filmmakers’ segments?
I had such a fun time. It’s such a roller coaster of experiences. I really love it. I think it’s so unique, all these little four minutes or less segments with different brains. I really did feel like I was on a roller coaster, not knowing what to expect.
Did you feel like you were a part of that community of filmmakers?
I did and I felt like each one of those things had a really unique voice in and of their own, which is why I can understand why they’re switching around the order of the segments to make things sort of flow in a certain way. So yeah, I did feel like a part of it and I felt like it was a unique little voice in there, among all these other incredible voices.
Was directing always a goal for you?
Sort of I suppose, yeah, in a way. I never thought that I could be. The guys that I really admire are the guys that are writer/filmmakers that bear a concept and have this baby and see it through beginning to end with a higher vision. I’m kind of not one of those. I don’t have these concepts that haunt me that I have to extract until they’re gone, but I do feel like I’ve learned a lot about the filmmaking process and that I kind of know how to do it and I find it really challenging and fun. I love storytelling and I want to get into something that I want to get better at. So I wouldn’t say it was a goal, but I guess I found it more just a successive “I can also do this. How’s that? Does that help?”
Do you know what your next directing project is?
I don’t. I have no idea yet. I just hope I get to do it more.
Were Girl, Interrupted and Bless the Child significant experiences for you as an actor?
Sure, they were my first film projects. I did theater for 10 years before that and they were among my first film things and they were great experiences all around. Great filmmakers, great actors. You can’t ask for a better start.
When did the horror genre click with you?
My first horror film was – – well, I don't know. Bless the Child is sort of genre, but May was such a cult hit that after that, I just started getting offers for horror. I think I got a little bit pigeonholed in it right off of May because there was just such a large response to that film. So I just started getting calls to do horror, so I did that for the next decade. I didn’t do a whole lot else.
Is it a genre you like anyway?
Sure, I do. I’d like to mix it up a little bit more though, because my love is for storytelling, all kinds. I’m not really devoted or specified towards any specific genre at all. I really like it all. There’s good storytelling in all the genres, you know. I just want to tell good stories and do good work.
Can you believe they’re already doing another Carrie movie again?
I can. It’s one of those stories that’s going to be told again and again. It’s just a really great story.
And it’s about time for another generation of girls.
Mm-hmm. And every generation’s got one of us weirdos to do it.