Body at Brighton Rock: Director Roxanne Benjamin on Creating a Character in an Unfortunate Situation [Exclusive Interview]

It meant to be a simple assignment for Wendy.

The volunteer park ranger was supposed to hike along a trail at Brighton Rock to change notices. Her decisions and ill luck led her off the beaten path into a discovery of a dead body in the middle of the woods. Being lost with a cadaver, her superiors order her to stay with the body overnight until help arrives in the morning. As always, her night is not proven to be uneventful.

Body at Brighton Rock is a film by horror specialist director and writer Roxanne Benjamin. She directed Southbound and cult favorite short film XX. She was also a producer on horror fans’ favorite anthologies series of V/H/S and V/H/S/2.

This wilderness thriller stars newcomer Karina Fontes in her first major staring role.

LRM Online sat down and spoke exclusively with director Roxanne Benjamin yesterday before a special screening of the film in Los Angeles. We talked about the originations of the story and developing an incompetent character to be empathic for the audiences. We also discussed about filming a simple film in a challenging environment and presenting Karina Fontes into this role.

Body at Brighton Rock will be playing in limited theaters and On Demand starting tomorrow.

Read our interview transcript below.

LRM: I’ve seen this film Body at Brighton Rock. Actually, I watched it twice.

Roxanne Benjamin: Twice! Alright!

LRM: It’s one of those interesting films. It’s like repeatable because the character is just so interesting.

Roxanne Benjamin: That’s good to hear.

LRM: I think I’m watching it again tonight. [Laughs]

Roxanne Benjamin: Nice. We’re going see all kinds of things.

LRM: I know, right? Hopefully, it’ll be different since the third time is going to be on the big screen.

Roxanne Benjamin: The cinematography definitely deserves it. That’ll be with Hannah Getz, my cinematographer. We chose that location, because it looked so much like we’re out in the middle of nowhere. I just wanted it to feel a little more epic than your standard kind of lower budget genre in a house with some teens. By putting things in the great outdoors, it gives you a lot of production value in my opinion.

LRM: I can’t wait tonight to see the difference between the big screen and on the small screen. For this film, where did you get the original idea from?

Roxanne Benjamin: I was working at a park at the time. A lot of people who worked there are retirees and students. I go to a lot of national parks every year and hiked quite a bit. A lot of people who aren’t necessarily rangers, there are a lot of volunteers. I wanted to see what would happen if you put one of those people in a situation that’s meant for someone who has training and the job that actually would be to go find someone lost in the woods or to deal with that sort of emergency situation.

I put to the least competent character I could come up with in that situation to see how that would play out. I wanted it to be something more than just the premise and the simple way that the premise could go. You would know in the first 15 minutes of the movie like, “Oh, this is what’s going to happen.” I wanted to play around with it and see how that would feel if you just tried to blend a couple different things together. So it wasn’t just one thing.

LRM: Did you follow park policy protocol if a dead body was found?

Roxanne Benjamin: Yeah, that is actually what happens. You have to stay until a coroner can get there. You have to stay until an official can get there to determine cause of death. That is a real thing. In case there’s foul play. When they’re talking about on the radio, that’s actually accurate. I think what’s more accurate to that situation is that she should not go anywhere because she doesn’t know where she is. They potentially not be able to find her. That’s what you are supposed to do if you get lost in the woods. Don’t move. Just stay where you are. Wait for help to come. That’s the situation that I wanted to put her in that is built on real life.

LRM: The thing that I do find it fascinating is the character that you created for the film. What was the word you used? The word that you used was incompetent. To the point where she was making silly decisions that I am so glad I was watching it alone, because I was yelling at her on screen.

Roxanne Benjamin: [Laughs] That is the intent. That is 100% the intent. You got a character that you don’t really have a backstory for. There’s not a lot of development up front for in the script, which is intentional. I wanted to see if people would still care about her and the decisions she was making. It want to have empathy for the mistakes that she’s making when she’s making some that are very obvious. It is something that everyone might make or a situation they might get themselves into. I actually had more things in my first draft of like stuff that she did wrong. I got a lot of feedback that it’s just too much of like her seeming like she doesn’t know what she’s doing. It is a movie for people who aren’t wilderness savvy.

It’s more to the more to the point of her having like a naive outlook that things are always going to be okay. Someone’s always going to come save her. She’s always going to have this kind of rosy outlook on life. It is someone who literally is just kind of traipsing along and then falls flat on their face. She has to get up and deal with that when they don’t necessarily want to or think that they’re able to.

I also just hate movies where like a character immediately knows we bought to do in a situation, because a lot of times you don’t or you don’t realize you’re in a situation yet. I think that’s the bigger thing is we don’t even realize that we’re in trouble until it’s way too late.

LRM: What were some of the mistakes from the script that didn’t make it into the movie?

Roxanne Benjamin: She tripped over the tent. When she jumped behind it and saw that there was nothing there to discover it’s leading up to the ropes and the trees. She backs up from that to fall over the tent stakes and gets wrapped up in the tent. At one point, she cut down the bear bag and then got the stuff all over her. Ultimately, it didn’t need to be in the story. Again, these are all things that like I’ve actually done.

I grew up in the woods. These are things that I’ve done at multiple different points while camping. Particularly like getting freaked out by something and then knocking over the tent. =I’m like a complete Homer Simpson when it comes to it. It’s maybe putting all of those things together that makes her seem like just a little bit too ditsy. No one’s prepared for a lot of situations in life. How do you get around yourself in a situation like that?

LRM: Wow. This character here is totally relatable. It’s almost you. More as an exaggeration part. [Laughs]

Roxanne Benjamin: I guess that element is. Every character is made up of like so many different elements of people that you know. I wouldn’t say that I have the naiveté that she has for life and thinking like things are just going to be okay. That’s definitely not me. But, that is what the character is meant to be. It’s getting over her own fears, her own kind of inability to handle a situation and realizing that she can–despite what she thinks of herself or despite what other people might think that she’s not capable to handle. That makes her prepared for real life dangers that pop up later on. One of those that is probably my favorite, while watching it with an audience, is in the morning when she starts going up the hill. It’s a pretty violent thing that happens that’s rather unexpected I think.

Even the score is telling you that like, “Yeah! We’re doing it. We’re getting there!” Then it’s cut short real quick. By hearing the audience almost get mad, because they think she’s out of it and she’s out of the woods. We’re supposed to be at this point in a movie. By seeing their shock and almost like anger that she’s been hurt, is the best. It means they have empathized with this character and like are rooting for her despite all of these things that she’s shown that are her own fault for getting in the situation. They still want her to succeed. That to me is fascinating.

LRM: [Laughs] I have a different opinion. Maybe it’s because then sadistic. I was watching the movie only wanting see how she dies. [Laughs]

Roxanne Benjamin: That’s funny. Definitely a different movie. [Laughs]

LRM: I don’t know if I’m trying to watch it again for a different ending.

Roxanne Benjamin: Alternate ending. Maybe there’s an alternate ending where she just like goes off and has a new adventure with her new friends. I also was trying to make it into different kinds of movies all in one and blended bunch of different tones. There’s kind of an eighties fun campy tone too in certain moments. I hope pop out that with the movie.

LRM: Hence that music at the beginning of the movie with the music player, right? I noticed that.

Roxanne Benjamin: Oh, good!

LRM: Talk about the horror elements that you actually added in. A concept like this could have just been a simple thriller. You had to bring in a twist.

Roxanne Benjamin: A couple really. I have great fondness for like the, this anthology things that I saw as a kid such as Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. I was like an eighties kid who grew up with like seventies content and seventies movies. It’s that kind of poppy color palette that I really like along with them. They always had more going on than just one thing. I wanted to play with.

It’s just boring to have like a simple thing that you know immediately what’s going to happen or the direction it’s going to take. I didn’t want to make it just horror either. It’s more that there’s nothing to fear, but fear itself would be a bigger fear for me. I think the bigger fear that people really experience. It should be kind of relevant almost to an audience in a situation that they would never get themselves into. It would be relatable on how your mind will take any situation that might be threatening and turn it into so much more in your head. It is maybe nothing’s happening at all. It’s about getting out of your own way. She’s ultimately able to do that over the course of the night. She’s able to face the real dangers in life. It’s almost like I was trying to make a folktale more than a movie. [Laughs]

LRM: What about the production itself? Where was this filmed at? Was it difficult to have both cast and crew out there in the middle of nowhere? There’s probably not an in the middle of nowhere.

Roxanne Benjamin: Yeah, it actually isn’t. We’re up in Idllwild, California, which has a high elevation. It was the middle of winter, so it’s cold. We ended up in a wind storm that they created a new category of windstorm for. We had to shut down for like a day and a half, because the whole shoot is outdoors. There’s no real cover sets. We managed to end up shooting the interior tent scene inside the nature centers. We got that at least. We shot it in 11 days and that got knocked down to like nine and a half. Not exactly what you should be doing for an independent movie, but you do what you got to do to get the shit made. We were hiking quite a bit. We were going up and down a mountain. We had to bring all our gear and with us wherever we went. That limits what you can do.

Plus, we have limited daylight. It’s the middle of winter. A lot of the movie takes place in daylight. When you’re up on the mountain too, the light changes so quickly throughout the day. One of the bigger challenges was into color making scenes match. It’s to have a full course of the day rather than feeling like it’s jumping back and forth with our lighting that we can’t control. There’s a lot of uncontrollable elements to the production that I think also speak to like what the movie is saying. [Laughs]

LRM: It looks challenging to say the least. Karina Fontes. Tell me why she was perfect for this role.

Roxanne Benjamin: She’s a model by profession. I worked with her in Southbound. She was the girl who wasn’t there. Basically, she was the ghost of the other band mate. I think she has a great look on camera. I didn’t know that she wanted to act really. She was friends with one of my actresses in Southbound, which is why she came out to play that role–basically, an extra.

I had her read for another movie that I was doing that the financing fell through and was going to be my first feature. It had a much higher budget. When that fell through, I wrote this movie. She was so amazing at the table read for the other movie, I had called her in just to read it. When you’re developing a script, you have it read out loud a couple times by actors just to get a sense of how the pace flows. If someone just doesn’t speak for 20 pages, you don’t realize it until you hear it out loud. Oh, he’s in the room and he’s doing nothing.

She was so amazing as one of the lead characters in that. I was blown away. I didn’t know that she wanted to act. I wrote to the character of Wendy for her, because I think she has a very kind of open vulnerability to her. It leads to a great portrayal of this character specifically. She has almost like a delicateness that you don’t want to see her in this situation.

LRM: Isn’t most of the dialogue is really her talking to somebody on the radio though?

Roxanne Benjamin: It is actually pretty hard for an actor to pull off. Any actor or let alone like someone who doesn’t necessarily have a lot of acting experience. These are very long monologues that she’s having to play against basically no one while we’re filming. That’s all added in later with the radio stuff, There wasn’t an actor reading that part for her play against. It was me reading it. In my terrible monotone, she has to like play off of that. [Laughs] It was actually one of those monologues that got her the part, ultimately, it convinced my producers to let an inexperienced first time actress to carry the movie. She has, she has to carry the movie on her face. They saw her perform one of those monologues on tape. They were like, “Great. Sold.” So that was kind of a perfect.

LRM: Can you talk about any future project? Are you going to stick in the horror genre?

Roxanne Benjamin: It’s kind of what I know. This horror genre. This is my attempt to kind of step outside of that a little bit. It’s play around a little with other tones and other types of movies–kind of kitchen sinked all into one. I just finished up on Creep Show. I did a couple episodes of that for Shutter with Greg Nicotero, which was awesome. I wrote the Night of the Comet script. That’s done. Just looking for more projects now.

LRM: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Roxanne Benjamin: Thank you.

Source: LRM Online

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Gig Patta

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and IESB.net. He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @officialgigpatta.

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