The director of “Treehouse,” Michael Bartlett, spoke about his experience while making the movie in an exclusive interview with International Business Times Australia. The director compared the filmmaking process to leading an “army” to war. He also shared details from his personal life that had an impact on the script of the movie.
“Treehouse” tells the story of two young people who meet deep in the woods under perilous circumstances. They find courage with, and support each other, as they take on mysterious villains and endeavour to survive the night.
The challenges a director faces while making a movie could be unknown to many. Budget concerns and time constraint are some of the usual challenges. “Treehouse” was no exception, the director revealed to IBT AU via email.
Bartlett admitted that “Treehouse” was a “huge step” for him in terms of the budget. He said that the crew members of the movie, hired by Chris Campbell, were used to working for big studios. They had not really heard of Bartlett prior to production.
Asked to describe his “Treehouse” filming experience, Bartlett said that making a movie was similar to leading an army to war, where failure is “not an option.” One of the major necessities for winning this war is to have the respect of the “army.”
Bartlett also noted the crew of the movie had each other’s back, the way the Spartan soldiers supported each other in the “300” movie.
The director said that due to budgetary constraints, not all the crew members in the movie were veterans in film production. But he noted the experienced and inexperienced crew members coordinated well with each other in order to make the movie a success.
Talking about the difficulties he faced during the filming, Bartlett said it was not easy to film the movie during the “cold and intense” Missouri winter. He said that despite the harsh conditions, he always asked himself whether his team was F.I.N.E – a short form for Focused, Inspired, Nurtured and Empowered. The five-day week schedule for filming is said to have ensured that the crew would not “burn out.” The director, however, had to work for a month without a day off.
Bartlett said that he made sure the movie project had “real leaders” who were respected by their team. He said that Chris Campbell acted like a “general on set” to ensure that the camera team worked “wonderfully.” The Art Department, handled by Jeremy Borg, is said to have hired many interns for the project. The interns were reportedly given “real meaningful experience,” instead of “just making coffee.”
It was not all smooth sailing while filming “Treehouse,” the director revealed. One of the generators got busted, giving the crew no choice but to pull a filming all-nighter. A vendor drove all night from Kansas City in order to deliver a new generator by morning.
Actor J. Michael Trautmann, who plays the important role of a character called Killian in the movie, is said to have fallen sick with the flu for three days during filming. Bartlett said that instead of getting upset, he had a “laid back and calm approach” to the situation. He asked relevant questions like finding out what scenes the actor was involved in and made sure that necessary arrangements were made to reschedule and “move on.”
Killian is the teenage boy who goes into the woods with his elder brother to have some fun in the movie, but he is instead confronted with a dangerous situation. Killian and Elizabeth are the two main characters in the movie.
Explaining the influence of his personal life on the script of the movie, Bartlett said that after immigrating to the U.S he felt a “lack of a strong family bond,” because his brother and sister remained back in the UK.
The director said that having grown up with an elder brother who would often stick up for him, he understood what Killian felt like in the movie. Killian’s elder brother Crawford is the one who stands up to the bullies in the movie.
Another aspect the director said he wanted to highlight in “Treehouse” is the impact of parents’ choices on the bond that develops among their children. According to the director, the reality of modern life is that children get “shuttled between different houses and dads.” This leads to siblings coming to an understanding that “all they really have is each other.” The director said that although this was “depressing,” he wanted his movies to tell “honest stories.”
“Killian’s father is dead and his mother is in a hospital after suffering a breakdown. Elizabeth’s dad is a dead beat and likely alcoholic,” the director said. The two characters each have their siblings who they love dearly in the movie.
After doing all the hard work of making the film, the producers still have to ensure that the movie does well in the movie theatres. As a filmmaker, Bartlett’s insights on piracy in the film industry was sought during the interview with IBT AU.
“I can’t see any practical way of stopping [film piracy] without allowing the government to completely take over the internet, which would not work out in anybody’s interests other than the politicians and any special interest groups,” the director said.
Bartlett said that the makers will have to be “strategically savvy and adapt” if they want to survive in the industry. The director was hopeful for the future and said that new concepts like Video on Demand make it easier for the fans to “spend $3 [rather] than download a crappy quality film for free.”
The director shared his experience at the St Louis International Film Festival where the film was screened to the public for $ 10 per person. The theatre is said to have experienced some technical issues with only two sound channels playing out of the 5.1 mix. There are also problems in the aspect ratio of the movie.
Bartlett said the experience has been “humiliating” for him, adding it made him look like an “amateur.” Realising the impact of unsatisfying movie viewing experience, the director felt compelled to address the audience.
“So at the end I addressed the entire audience and I told them, ‘Go illegally download the film and get your money’s worth,'” the director said.
Bartlett stressed the importance of building a strong relationship with the fans. He also said that a “good title, a good poster and a good trailer” are also important for the movie to do well. (See the movie poster in the accompanying photo.)
“Treehouse” will be released on Feb. 20 at Arena Cinema in the U.S.