Ricky Bates Jr. is one of our great writer/directors. He took time to speak with Horrornews.net about his new film, TONE-DEAF. He is one of the most thought-provoking director/writers of our time. EXCISION, SUBURBAN GOTHIC and TRASH FIRE are some of the most original films. He shares some film wisdom. Check it out.
Hi Richard, How are you?
Richard- Hey! How are you?
I am doing well. Thanks. So, I watched TONE DEAF and I did get to speak with Amanda Crew. It was regarding another film but she did mention TONE DEAF! I sometimes put a movie on while doing homework/work etc. But, I love to review the films and I was so excited when I saw that you had made another film. I put TONE DEAF on and oh my God, I was legit picking my laptop up and I could not look away. I was just staring at my laptop. Just, staring at my laptop and I thought, this is so good. You never get bored. The movie is just awesome.
Richard- That’s so cool. Thank you. Thank you for saying so.
I love “Excision,” it is one my favorite films. How did this happen? Where did the idea manifest from? I also love Robert Patrick in this movie. It was as if he was just made to play Harvey. So creepy but so good.
Richard- I guess the idea came when the election happened. That’s no secret right!
Richard- My wife and I were watching the news and I turned to her and asked her what scares her the most in the world right now? She just turned to me and said, old men.
Oh lord, I agree.
Richard- Yeah, I went to my little writing corner that she made for me and I tried to figure out how the hell to tell the story in a way that I thought was interesting. I went into my corner and I started speaking to relatives, pulling information from various Facebook post, Twitter post… The idea was to sort of create a cultural artifact that would be fascinating to watch in like five or ten years? Sort of capture and document something through my own lens. When I’m writing now, every week I am out there pitching ideas and stuff. It is a crazy time because there’s more content being mad than ever before. But, the rules are more rigid. If you don’t work within five or six predetermined structures, you can’t sell anything. So, the idea was I started listening to music. There are no rules in music you know?
Richard- No one complains that there is a rain stick in the background of an indie rock song and then there is all this sampling. So, I thought… Why don’t we make a movie, like we are making a song? So, the idea was to create like a dance track or a hip-hop track like sampling. It’s got this horror structure right? But then, we cut between coming-of-age, horror-slasher and insert some comedy with equal measure. The idea behind that was to sort of create this feeling that my wife and I were feeling right now. Over the course of all of this bombardment of information and it feels like we’re living in fifteen movies. This notion of creating this tone or being subtle. In a lot of conversations, there is no subtly anymore. Everyone says how they feel. No one is afraid to say just how they feel. So, we really tried to capture this moment.
I do agree with you. There has been so many incidents and this may be off-topic but several times over the years stopped at a STOP sign my mom has always said, oh, old men. We are stopped at the STOP sign and this older gentlemen was stopped but not Stopping and he just went and I was there. So, I thought just go. And, he did. No thoughts about it. No offense, not all are like that.
Richard- I don’t think that is off-topic. There is just entitlement.
Richard- Stop signs don’t apply to them. And Janel that is everything. That is the whole idea right. One generation criticizing another generation for being entitled. No one is more privileged or entitled than them. To them it is a birth rite.
Exactly. When you say it, it makes sense. It is always sort of older grumpier men. I had a horrible experience once and I was thinking, do I tell this older man?
Richard- Unreal. No, Janel never feel afraid to yell at an old man. Just imagine the kinds of conversations he has in private. Yell, away! That is part of the thing right. It is the hypocrisy of it all. The notion and the fun of this especially with Robert and Amanda and take this character of Harvey who is done growing. He is not open to anything anymore, he is completely…. He thinks he knows himself and he is right about everything. Then we have this character Olive and she is open to everything. There is no more growth for Harvey. She doesn’t know exactly who she is yet? Once Olive realizes this, she becomes a participant in her and she fights back. Casting Robert for instance was, Amanda and I are more liberal leaning and Robert is a little more conservative and I didn’t want to cast someone who was going to make fun of him the whole time. I wanted someone who was going to try his best. The message is that everyone is full of shit, myself included. We are all hypocrites. The difference at the end of the day is there’s some people that are completely motivated by self- interest and then there are others who, regardless of how ill-conceived the message is, they are trying to make the world a better place. This is where the difference lies for me. A lot of the audience will be a younger crowd and if Harvey knew this would be the crowd, Harvey would chastise the crowd.
I agree with that and even the scene where Olive is sort of bargaining about her job and stuff. This movie is relatable.
Richard- Look, I’ve been there too. I mean you’ve seen the kind of movies I make. I get fired all the time.
What would you want to say to the audiences that will be watching TONE-DEAF? I always get really excited when I find out you make a film.
Richard- They are all full of shit.
Richard- If I designed the posters myself, they would all say, “You are all full of shit. All of you!”
I kind of wish you would do that. Just make one poster. With a bright neon background. I would love that!
Richard- It would have nothing but that text. I spent countless hours choosing the font.
But, what would you want the fans/audiences to know?
Richard- I guess I want them to know… Hopefully you will never see another slasher/horror film that is made like this. Hopefully it a completely unique experience. I mean, imagine trying pitch that you want to make a movie by sampling as if it’s a song. I completely endorse the movie. I like the movie, I am proud of this movie. I am really excited by the fact that it exist in this current climate with this tone and structure. These actors were so cool. The great thing about the fact that I had three movies before this, is no one says yes to my movies anymore without having watched one of the other ones. They know they are in for some crazy shit. I don’t have to convince anyone of anything anymore. When Robert and Amanda said yes, they were down and we had a blast.
I have a friend who asked me about Horror movies and what to watch and I randomly blurted out, EXCISON but you can’t have my copy, you have to give it back.
Richard- Oh, that’s so cool. That was a nutty experience.
My friend watched it and was like, I don’t know what is wrong with you but I liked the movie. I kind of get it. I love Horror and I watch these movies to sort of escape the really horrible stuff in life. But I did say, I do want my movie back. You can’t keep it. (Laughter)
Richard- Laughter- That’s so cool. Going with that is I think one thing I want audiences to know about TONE-DEAF is that you are not going to be bogged down. It’s not going to feel like you are watching the news. We created a heightened reality and satire by definition is all about exaggeration. So, there is going to be a sense of midnight movie escapism. It is not going to feel like you are being inundated by the things you are trying to get away from.
And the movies you make are always so different and there are subtle things that stand out. The scene where Harvey opens the glove compartment and very calmly pulls a hammer, gloves and there is a bible. I am thinking…. It is so subtle but incredible.
Richard- Yes, the little bible too.
I felt bad for Amanda’s character. She is a fighter. Another thing, I noticed, you are not sending these people to a cabin in the woods. It wasn’t the typical location. The house is amazing.
Richard- That was so important to avoid the typical, we are sending them to a farmhouse movie.
What are you working on next? Do you think you would ever do a sequel to TONE-DEAF or anything more with this film?
Richard- I don’t know what is going to happen. From the responses this has become one of my most controversial movies. I mean, I am excited to see what happens with it. As far as the next movie, I wrote this comedy a while back. No one will finance it because imagine pitching a Pagan comedy. It hasn’t been easy. I sort of said, fuck it and was like let’s just make this movie. We love making movies and I am at my happiest making movies.
How did you feel about Robert and Amanda working together? Watching the film, it sort of seemed as if they knew each other. Kind of in a past life or something. I know that sounds crazy.
Richard- No, nothing sounds crazy to me. Look at who you are talking to here. They got along great. We all got along great. There was a little bit of separation because I was secretly telling each one of them that this is their movie. So they would fight for it. A little bit of healthy competition.
When you are directing, do you always plan out where you will be shooting or do you kind of wing it? The locations are so fascinating. Like, I said it is never just, oh the cabin in the woods. (No offense to anyone who does this.)
Richard- I have an amazing production designer. On this movie, god it was a few months location scouting, to find the right places. I pick every frame and I only shoot with one camera which is a producer’s nightmare because they want a lot of footage. I shoot with just one camera so every frame is as perfect as I can get it.
Is there anything else you want to share? The work you do is beyond creative. It is bright and dark yet subtle. I could watch you just film a movie in a room. It would be great. TONE-DEAF was fantastic.
Richard- That is so cool of you to say. You made my day.
It was modern and you could relate to it.
Richard- Here is a fun thing I failed to say. You know in the end when Olive… (Spoilers) stabs him through the heart with the letter opener.
Richard- I had this idea and I called Robert because he has a millennial daughter. I called him and I said, I think it would be cool if your own millennial daughter was the one who killed you in the movie. We had her come in and we used his daughters hand for that whole sequence.
Was Robert’s daughter freaked out? That is amazing though!
Richard- No, she was laughing and smiling. She was covered in blood and I said, I apologize because we stained her clothes. She said, no, no we love blood in the Patrick family.
That is so amazing. Thank you for sharing that.
Richard- Thank you.
I thank you so much. The films you make rock and you are awesome. Please keep making movies,
Richard- Believe me, I am trying not to. My wife is being incredibly cool.
Tell her she is amazing and thank you.
Richard- Thank you. I appreciate it.
“TONE-DEAF is written and directed by Richard Bates, Jr. (Trash Fire, Suburban Gothic), and stars Robert Patrick (“Scorpion,” Terminator 2: Judgment Day), Amanda Crew (“Silicon Valley,” The Age of Adaline), Kim Delaney (“Chicago Fire,” “NYPD Blue”), AnnaLynne McCord (Fired Up!, “90210”), Keisha Castle-Hughes (“Game of Thrones,” Whale Rider), Hayley Marie Norman (I Am the Night, “Lonely and Horny”), and Ray Wise (“Fresh Off the Boat,” “Twin Peaks”).”
TONE-DEAF IS OUT NOW!