A little over a month ago we shared the trailer for Tom Botchii’s directorial debut Artik, and with the release of this behind the scenes look at some of the production design, Artik is continuing to fascinate and excite us. Artik is about a family, whose father is a serial killer, that meets a straight-edge by-the-book man, who starts to have some influence over his son. From the trailer alone this film looks brutal, and visually stunning–which is in part from Botchii’s directing, as well as his director of photography and 3rd time collaborator, Martin Moody. Even though this is Botchii’s feature debut, it seems as if he and Moody were able to keep their style throughout the entire film, creating a dark atmosphere.
Artik is produced by Jerry G. Angelo, who plays the titular role, as well as Kodi Saint Angelo, both of whom run Fire Born Studios. The film boasts an incredible cast including Chase Williamson (Sequence Break, The Guest, All the Creatures Were Stirring), Jerry G. Angelo (Warfighter, Better Call Saul), and the incredible Lauren Ashley Carter (Jug Face, Imitation Girl).
Recently we had the wonderful opportunity to talk with the director Tom Botchii about Artik , his influences, his creative processes, and the production.
Brendan Jesus for Nightmare on Film Street: Who has influenced you the most as a filmmaker?
Tom Botchii: Honestly just people that have completed their films and have left a genuine piece of themselves in them. That’s what I did with Artik and it seems like I’ve seen a lot of that with other projects in the past five years or so. Jeremy Saulnier lost his dad during Blue Ruin, Justin Benson lost his mom during The Endless and the fact that they still pushed through carries so much meaning to me. More importantly at certain periods all of them had to take the risk and bet the full house on themselves. I find that super inspiring.
NOFS: Where did you derive your inspiration throughout the scriptwriting process?
TB:Trauma, lots of it. My friend Ashleigh suggested I write about a break up and as I was doing that it sort of morphed into the character of Holton in Artik . I kept doing that, the more I wrote the more that trauma started to fade away. It trickled into when I got stuck on the character of Artik, infusing the writing I was doing about my dad who had just passed away. That definitely helped round out the story and define the characters and was the biggest inspiration.
“…when you tackle the first feature everyone feels like they have to tell you how it works. There are a ton of opportunities they provide for you to accept failure.”
NOFS: You’ve made two short films, 11 Minutes and Goldblooded, how has your experience from those two shorts carried over into making a feature?
TB: The only way it helped is understanding how much I can pack into a full day of shooting. Cultivating the friendship with Martin Moody, a DP that I really trust and understanding how fast we can get through certain set ups was the big takeaway there. However that said, Mark Pellington told me if you haven’t done something, don’t act like you understand it. He was right. Doesn’t matter if you’ve done one, or one hundred other things. Until you’ve done a feature, you don’t know how it works so shut up.
NOFS: With Artik being your first feature, what aspect did you find the most challenging of making it?
TB: Just to keep on going, before we knew production was a lock and we were going to start I constantly heard “no” by so many people so many times. “That’s not how it works,” “You need $26m to do this,” “Why isn’t Tom Cruise in it?” Because Fuck You. That’s the hardest, when you tackle the first feature everyone feels like they have to tell you how it works. There are a ton of opportunities they provide for you to accept failure. And I think that’s honestly the hardest part.
“Artik is really a thriller trapped in a horror shell. I really wanted to make the movie that I had been wanting to see for a long time.”
NOFS: What about Artik sets it apart from other horror films?
TB: Well I’ve got really tired of seeing the same damn movie over and over again. So I wanted to do something that felt deeper, moved a lot quicker and didn’t insult the audience. In that way, I feel like Artik is really a thriller trapped in a horror shell. I really wanted to make the movie that I had been wanting to see for a long time. Something that doesn’t follow the typical screenwriting rules, isn’t full of all the stereotypes, shows deeper moments of someone who would be traditional considered the antagonist. Also, it’s my response to the current trend of social media comic book fan culture that so many people are over the top prideful about. I’m sick of it. It’s this weird filter people end up seeing the world through and I feel like they’re stuck in it. So I really wanted to base a character around that element. Everyday people go into work to a job they hate, spread the gospel of their entertainment as if it’s their life and then go home to the life they hate even more. What if that was a character? A serial killer, who is living with the same filter. Has a job he’s terrible at, doesn’t really like his life but it’s dominated by his entertainment. So much that it bleeds over and blurs the line of reality. I think that’s what sets it apart. It about living in that filter.
NOFS: How important was the world building process in regards to set and production design?
TB: That was huge. Working with great people like Chris Scott, he saw more in the script than I did and took the world and started laying out portions of it that I never saw in my head. Working with Lauren, Matt, Gavin, Chase and Jerry, all of them saw so much more and Chris was able to jump right in and bring it all to the forefront. He also worked closely with Martin and I on the layout of the colors, and making sure that we had everything in camera so we didn’t have to rely heavily on VFX. Production Design is one of the biggest elements in selling the magic.
“When you bring out the blood, and [Chase Williamson] starts smiling you know he’s loving it.”
NOFS: This film looks absolutely brutal, how did Chase, Jerry, and Matt handle those scenes?
TB: Chase was fantastic, he just went with everything. We laughed a lot and that was good to work out some kinks before getting serious. I trusted everything he did and all of his performance was exactly the way I was leaning and he was just a total pro with it all. Matt was one of the funnest people that I’ve ever worked with. Super nice and he loves everything horror so much. So you can tell he was just having a blast. When you bring out the blood, and he starts smiling you know he’s loving it. Jerry was laser focused and went to a really dark place during takes. It felt much deeper with him in that sense and he was really good about getting to that place.
NOFS: When it came to directing those gruff torture scenes how did you dole out your direction, or did the actors find the terror within themselves?
TB: It was a mix of both, thankfully everyone was on the same page and once we got there we really only had to block out the more complicated scenes that had lots of beats infused. In general it was mostly about seeing the edit in my head and getting that across during those scenes for everyone.
“Botchii’s advice for aspiring filmmakers: Stop talking start doing.”
NOFS: That torture chair is bad ass. Do you think that using an actual metal chair, instead of a plastic chair painted to look metal, helped the actors’ performances in those scenes?
TB: Oh yeah, originally it was on the page as a wooden chair. We came up with it being more of a character pretty close to filming. Chris Scott deserves a ton of credit on that. I sat in it for a scene to get a taste and you can definitely feel the chair working, while you’re in it.
NOFS: What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?
TB: Honestly, just to shut up. Everyone talks too much. Stop talking start doing.
A HUGE thank you to Tom Botchii for taking the time to chat with us! ARTIK looks to be a brutally fantastic film that will set its director apart from all the others in the genre. While there still isn’t too much word on the release yet, keep your eyes peeled so you don’t miss it!