Jakob Bilinski is a fellow Indiana University graduate and a hopeless film-addict who’s had an obsessive, fervent passion for all things cinema. He was one of the directors from this year’s Volumes of Blood where he directed the 13 After Midnight segment. You can read my full VOB review here. Jakob’s next feature Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh is due out next Spring… more on the later. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jakob and I’m thrilled to share that conversation with you today.
ScareTissue: Tell us about yourself.
Jakob Bilinski: Easiest question in the world and yet I always struggle answering this one. I’m a filmmaker… Primarily I’m a director, but I also write, edit, produce, do my own color grading, often I do my own digital FX, graphic design, and sometimes more… kind of just whatever needs to be done. I’ve been making movies for… hell, awhile now. Shorts, music videos, some documentaries, but primarily I focus on features. I’m obsessed with films in general, kind of always have been. Basically I’m a giant movie nerd turned filmmaker who is probably at least a little bit crazy. I love animals (I’m obsessed with my cats), and appreciate a fine bourbon. Bacon is pretty rad. What the hell else do you want me to say here?
ScareTissue: Volumes of Blood is a horror anthology (and a great one at that!) – before working on this project were you a horror fan? What’s your favorite horror film?
Jakob Bilinski: Oh, definitely. I’ve been a horror fan since as far back as I can remember. As a kid I was fascinated and terrified by tales of the macabre. I remember being freaked out the first time I saw what Freddy Krueger looked like. Loved murder mysteries. I was mostly forbidden from watching R-rated flicks when I was young, so I had to sneak off to check things out. I loved being scared. Honestly, that’s the hardest thing nowadays: I rarely find a film that scares me anymore. I’m fascinated by watching other people get freaked out by a film, but it doesn’t really register with me. Maybe I’m too caught up in the technical aspects of how to pull those strings to get a reaction from an audience that I’m just numb to it. But horror is a true rush, I think. Whether it’s scary or funny, creepy or gory, it’s all just so visceral and primal, and kind of the cinematic equivalent of skydiving… just an adrenaline rush. So yeah… Big fan of the genre. I’m definitely a horror junkie. Favorite horror film? Shit… I’m awful at narrowing to one, so I’m going to cheat. A shortlist of a few of my favorites: The Exorcist, The Shining, The Thing, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original), Suspiria, Deep Red, Zombi 2, The Beyond, Psycho, Halloween, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Evil Dead (whole series).
ScareTissue: How did you get involved in the project?
Jakob Bilinski: P.J. asked me to come on board as one of the directors after the success of Lucky, a short I made for the previous year’s Unscripted that he organized. That film did well enough that he told me he wanted to expand and have several shorts this time out, where they all connected into a feature-length anthology film. I was in the middle of several other projects at the time and was pretty hesitant about if I would be able to take on another film at the time. But P.J. is a persistent sonofabitch and wore me down eventually, after numerous calls, texts, and emails. He said he had this script he wrote called 13 After Midnight, that he wrote it for me (which was very flattering), and that was the segment he wanted me to direct. We bounced a few revisions back and forth from there and next thing I know I’m filming in a library again.
ScareTissue: How was the location of the library chosen? Did location help / hinder your particular piece of the anthology?
Jakob Bilinski: The library was an assigned element, P.J. had everything arranged with them in advance so that all the stories would take place there and we had to work around that. Which was great because we, the other filmmakers, didn’t have to coordinate any of that. But it was a bit strenuous, being tied to that location. The folks at the library were very accommodating and great to work with, but there were some definite time limits imposed in regards to when we could start filming and when we had to stop for the night, which left little to no wiggle room and a lot of the projects wound up rushing to get finished in time – I know 13 After Midnight did. Luckily we were able to come back another evening in for a few additional crucial shots that I had to drop initially due to the time constraints, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t pretty stressful. We were also relegated to shooting indoors when we shot our segments, which cut out the option for exteriors/establishing shots. It worked out overall in the end, but was far from a cakewalk.
ScareTissue: Are there difficulties specific to directing a piece of an anthology that aren’t there when directing a stand alone piece?
Jakob Bilinski: I wouldn’t say difficulties, no. At least not from my experience. I’m sure on certain projects, yes. But the individual tales were pretty segmented and kind of their own thing. The wraparound tale was the one that had to be most conscious of the in and out points between each segment. For the rest of our tales, we just had to follow the script and the location of the library is what tied everything together. I can’t speak for the other directors, but mostly I just came in and did my own thing with my cast and crew, which I think is what P.J. wanted all of us to do when he asked us to come on board. You’re just making a piece of the film’s puzzle as opposed to the whole thing (the feature) yourself.
ScareTissue: What makes Volumes of Blood different (better) than other horror anthologies?
Jakob Bilinski: I think the single location element is a nice touch, and the film has a pretty apt wit. It’s very self-reflexive, very aware of itself. Never takes itself too seriously. That sort of humor helps the film in a lot of ways, I think. I think it’s a pretty diverse group of storytellers, too. I read a couple reviews that criticized there was no noticeable difference between each tale… Personally, I don’t understand that at all. There are some similarities in the stories, sure. But each segment is shot and directed completely differently, and is quite distinguishable from the other ones. I think when you look at them all back-to-back you can really see the different styles and approaches. But maybe I’m in the minority there, it’s really up to the audience to decide that.
ScareTissue: What’s your next project?
Jakob Bilinski: The last feature I directed, Three Tears On Bloodstained Flesh – a modern, Midwestern spin on the Giallo, just got its release finalized and will be coming out Spring 2016 on DVD / VOD from Unearthed Films, so I’m organizing materials for that. I’m in the late stages of post production on my newest feature, Emergence, about a serial killer and his first victim, which should be hitting festivals throughout 2016. As for what’s next – several options are up in the air there, still trying to figure it out.
Editor’s note: check out the trailer for Three Tears On Bloodstined Flesh!!!
ScareTissue: If you had it to do over again, what would you change?
Jakob Bilinski: I’d either truncate the script so there wasn’t as much to shoot, or I’d have pushed harder for either more time, or an additional shooting day. With more adequate time, I think it could’ve been a stronger piece, but I’m still insanely proud of what my cast and crew did on 13 After Midnight. In particular, Paige Ward and Grant Niezgodski are just phenomenal actors, and did an incredible job with their roles, infusing them with a huge amount of charisma and charm that I think is what ultimately sells the story. And DP Bonnell is a brilliant cinematographer, and is great at finding a way to execute the visuals you want flawlessly. He’s always awesome to collaborate with.
ScareTissue: What was the biggest budgetary constraint you ran into?
Jakob Bilinski: Same thing: Time. And we had some limits to work around dealing with blood in the library (obviously we couldn’t ruin anything in the place!). Time and money fix everything, but part of the indie creative spirit is finding a way to make things work within the parameters you have. In that regard, I think all of us were pretty successful with the endeavor.
ScareTissue: Other than Volumes of Blood, what is your favorite project you’ve worked on?
Jakob Bilinski: Favorite… Hmmm. Probably a tie between Three Tears On Bloodstained Flesh and Emergence. Had a lot of fun with both of those, am pretty proud of them, and learned a lot that I’m eager to apply to the next film.
ScareTissue: What was your favorite bar at IU? (I graduated in 98 – #Hoosier4LIfe)
Jakob Bilinski: Nice! Definitely Nick’s. Spent a lot of time there during my stint. Runner up for me would probably be Kilroy’s.
ScareTissue: If you weren’t in film… what would you be pursuing?
Jakob Bilinski: I don’t know… Probably something involving writing. Or animal rescue / help.
Special thanks to Jakob Bilinski for taking the time to speak with me! You can follow Jakob on Twitter @CinephreakPics.