Q: For your directorial debut, why did you decide to do a horror movie?
BENTLEY: I have always loved scary movies. Especially the ones from the 70's like "Jaws" and the less commercial ventures like "The Dark Secret of Harvest Home", "Crow Haven Farm" and "The Wicker man". These are films that relied on story and these stories - when I saw them as a child - have affected and haunted me to this day. The fear in these movies was psychological - Not just a mutant chasing kids around with an axe. I wanted to attempt to do a movie that was scary because of the images, the story, concept, etc... They take longer to set up but the pay off is better (Like a rollercoaster). These days the movies start and the audience is supposed to care about the "Hero" JUST because he/she is the star of the movie. No time is being spent to set up the character(s). As a result, I find myself not really caring if the "Hero" dies or not. Or when the movie is over - I feel empty. I wanted to try to go back - Old school - and make a movie where we are involved with the character and what he goes through. I know in this MTV generation, it is a tougher sell, but I still had to give it a try. Old School horror and thrillers are my favorite genre.
Q: I think people primarily know you from your acting work (RUBY IN PARADISE, SHARK ATTACK, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK, et cetera)-but you also paint and you have a book coming out. How would you say all of these creative endeavors have influenced your filmmaking?
BENTLEY: I believe all the arts are related. That is why you see so many singers going into acting, actors going into singing, actors writing books, actors doing photography, painting etc.... I think there are so many ways to express yourself creatively and if you don't censor your work, people just might like it. Painting and photography are very similar in the aspect that they both deal with lighting and shadows - knowing the light sources, the lights and the darks. I think this (proper or dramatic lighting) could help any filmmaker set the mood of a scene. As for writing, there is a very specific structure to story telling that all "storytellers" should know. The more you practice it, the better you will get at it. Words are very important. Films these days are not silent and every word is pregnant with the birth of imagination and ideas. Constant practice of your writing helps you realize the power of words and which words to choose when scripting an idea. Soul Searchers was the first screenplay I wrote. I have improved much since the genesis of this project.
Q: What format was the movie shot in, how long did the production take, from Pre-production to the final edit?
BENTLEY: The movie was shot on Film. I prefer film to video for two main reasons. One, when you are shooting on film the actor's skills and awareness is heightened. They know if they screw up, they are wasting film and money. If it were shot on DV, all you would have to do is rewind when there was a mistake. The second reason I prefer film is because it has a warmer feeling to it. I think this is because film captures images with light burning itself into the negative. This is Energy being captured in a very pure sense. DV converts the energy and light into binary codes to capture an image. I feel something gets lost here. I can always tell when something is shot on DV. It is always a little colder, flatter and lifeless.
To address the other part of your question, the production took well over a year. The actual filming took place over the course of 18 days. I was, however, left with the task of editing, ADR, Foley, Soundtrack, Scoring etc... all by myself. This took time. Many late nights in front of the editing bay, recording studio, etc... Many long days. Re-edits etc... I rolled camera April 4th, 2005 and just finished the film in July of 2006 - a version I am willing to show people anyway!
Q: You've previously worked with Robert Rusler (VAMP, FREDDY'S DEAD) on the Stephen King movie SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK. How did you go about casting the rest of SOUL SEARCHERS.
BENTLEY: I had worked with Billy Drago on a couple of other projects and just love the man. He is the kindest, most interesting human one could hope to meet in their lifetime. When it came time to cast the role of "The Man In Black" I didn't even think about anybody else. In the role of "Jade" I cast an actress friend of mine, Julie St.Claire. I had the pleasure of working with her in the late 90's in another film. She is a great person and an accomplished actress and I thought she would be perfect for the role. The only snag was she would not do nudity. I had some boobs in another scene so it did not really matter and I decided it would be better to cast her for her acting instead of some lesser actress for her boobs. - Talent over boobs! Casting my Uber-hot wife, Jaime Anstead, an accomplished actress with a steady fan base (from the horror movie 'The Back Lot Murders')was a no brainer for the role of "Cat". She was excited to take on the role of a stripper (Cat) after her last role - in a thriller called "Death Train" - in which she had to tone down her looks. Jaime loves make-up and the stripper clothes but had never even been to a strip bar before this movie! I cast my Dad, Christopher Mitchum, as the Sheriff. He wanted to help me with the project so he offered his services and I accepted! He has had a huge career over seas which rewarded him with the equivalent of the Oscar in China and Spain. The rest of the rolls were cast out of Texas. I teach acting classes in Dallas, Austin and Houston and ended up using my most talented students. For some, it was their first film! I think they all did great. In fact, I think that one of the many things that sets this film apart from most "B" horror movies is the level of talent involved. I have seen huge budget horror films that got major play in the theatres and the acting sucked.
Q: The last third of the movie takes place in a small town. How did you get full access to it, as it looks like you really took the place over.
BENTLEY: We did!! The small town you refer to is, in reality, called Grandview, Texas. I went there scouting locations and talked with the Mayor. He was very receptive to the idea of us using his town. It is a VERY small town so I did not have to worry about traffic. In fact, the Mayor and the Police officer both ended up putting on a robe and chasing Charlie through the town! It was exciting for them to have their town used in a movie. Everyone pitched in and opened their doors to us. It was a wonderful experience - An experience that would have cost thousands had I tried to shoot it in a suburb of Los Angeles.
Q: What were the best-and worst moments-making the film?
BENTLEY: The best moments were the one's where I would take a moment to myself and just reflect on the reality that I was making a movie. Here I had all this wonderful talent and support around me, all pitching in, to make my dream come true. I hope that I will never lose that gratitude as I continue to make films throughout my life. Also, there was of course, the laughs and the late night silliness that occurs... But we are all sworn to silence about that.
The worst moment? There were many problems that would arise and considering the fact we were on a very limited budget we would take these "Worst moments" and use them as opportunities to get creative. There is the old ZEN saying that 'every problem carries a gift in its hands'. When you keep this perspective, there really are no bad moments. I was grateful to be making the movie. One of the things that bummed me out was when The LA talent had to go back to LA. I enjoyed them on the set so much, and they were also friends, so that was hard. There were also long nights... Very long nights carrying around the equipment, changing the film reels, trying to keep the extras, who were there just to help without pay, happy. Oh! And many of us caught poison oak. In the Texas heat, that is miserable, but I would do it all again.
Q: What's happening with SOUL SEARCHERS now?
BENTLEY: Right now, Soul Searchers is being looked at by numerous distribution companies and we are deciding, what is the best way to go? There is so much to consider when selling a movie. There are domestic rights, foreign rights, Pay-per-view, Cable, Pay TV, Video stores etc... I'll let you know when the deal is inked!
Q: Will the next movie you direct be a horror movie? Tell us about it.
BENTLEY: I have not decided my next project. I am still trying to unwind from a year plus of Soul Searchers. I have four scripts that I am interested in. One a comedy called "Chicks and Balances" about a guy who has the worst luck in the world getting laid. It's VERY funny. One is a Tarantino-esque gritty action film called "Dark Minds" that has great scene after great scene. One is a drama called "Sometimes Fish Eat Birds" - A Rocky-esque story about over coming your fears, demons and short comings - it's very uplifting. And the last script is a secret - a very disturbing dark secret that horror fans would love... When I am ready to take on another project, which will be soon, I'll have to see which one I am most passionate about.
Q: What is your website info, in case people want to check out information on you and the movie?