Capturing scenes throughout the Lowcountry and directed by Charleston's own Adrian Roman, The Blood Thins follows Polly Duggin (Jessica Bell), a young wife and mother, who abruptly loses her husband and young daughter under weird and unusual circumstances. This loss begins a winding quest for the truth behind the tragedy while confronting strange visions and disembodied voices. In between projects, including Collateral Damage: A COVID-19 Lockdown Story and the political short, The Third Party, Roman spoke with us about his life making movies, watching movies and keeping that creative flame within from going out.
City Paper: What's the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?
Adrian Roman: I'm going to show my age here: My dad took me and my brothers to see American Graffiti. George Lucas directed. It was a fun film, great music, and I dreamed of owning a "muscle car" for years. I don't know if it influenced me as a filmmaker, but I think it influenced me as a teenager.
CP: Can you name a few of your favorite films?
AR: A Few Good Men, Casablanca, Blade Runner, Tombstone, Saving Private Ryan, Pretty Woman. Sometimes it's hard to say why one loves a film as the emotional experience doesn't break down as easily as saying, "Great acting, great score, beautiful cinematography, etc., etc." I know that I enjoy a romantic and heroic story. It's also important, to me, for it to not be predictable. I gravitate to stories where the hero has flaws and their humanity shows. One of the greatest films ever made that challenges our humanity is David Lynch's The Elephant Man. My favorite TV show is The West Wing. Nobody writes dialogue better than Aaron Sorkin.
CP: What was your first movie-making experience?
AR: The first thing I ever did in the film business was write a feature screenplay; a sophomoric comedy called Dick Sloan. It did well in the screenwriting competition and film festival circuit. Making a feature right out of the gate is too big a project as a first go-round, so I wrote a short, talked a few friends into acting in it, found a guy who is a videographer, and we shot it. I edited and scored it as well. I made every new-filmmaker mistake in the book. From that point on, I've written scripts, and directed on set, with the edits in mind.
CP: What are some themes in your work?
AR: Since I write dramas, comedies, romance, thrillers, and action films, I can't say, thematically, that my work fits snuggly into any one genre. That said, I know now, years into it, that people consistently mention the look of my films and the witty dialogue. I'm an oil painter and believe my work and study in that discipline bleeds into the cinematography of my films. Understanding light and composition as a painter has influenced me as a director of photography. Also, I enjoy TV and films with intelligent dialog and snappy repartee.
CP: With COVID-19, closing entertainment venues, do you find yourself missing the theater experience?
AR: Seventy-inch TVs are great, but there is something special about sharing the movie experience with several hundred people who feel similar emotions at the same moments. There's a synergy that happens in a theater, like when the shark is stalking a swimmer, and the audience, collectively, feels tension and fear; it therefore escalates that tension and fear. That is irreplaceable.
CP: While we're on the subject of on-demand, what is that process like to get your stuff on a platform?
AR: The relative difficulty of getting content on different platforms varies. The higher the platform profile, the more "deliverables" they require. Generally, they want a laundry list of things relating to aspect ratios, sound, artwork, loglines, and synopsis, as well as other technical requirements that a film must comply with to be accepted. The bigger, better platforms are rightly attempting to only allow content that fits at least a minimum quality standard. I respect that, even though I've seen some pretty bad films get on them. Some filmmakers complain when their film is not accepted, but my response is, make better films. Most of the really horrible films that are on these platforms got accepted before they tightened quality requirements. I expect that trend to continue.
CP: It can be a frustrating/exhausting trip — making a film that is. What would you say has kept you driven to create a film even when the chips are down?
AR: I've quit a thousand times. It's easy to make a bad film and brutal to make a good one. There is a saying, "you can make a good film with no money, but slowly, or, you can make a good film fast, with money." Aside from the difficulties of filmmaking, in general, making films on a low budget that have any true worth or value is 10 times more challenging. There is no accounting for passion. If I wasn't so taken by the visual storytelling venue of film, then I would simply write novels. (I am writing a novel, but that is beside the point.) Being on a movie set is intoxicating. There's no other way to describe it. All the pre-production work, all the post-production work, all of it is done for those days on set collaborating with other artists and technicians. They call it getting "the bug." I've quit a thousand times and then get up the next day with a new screenplay rumbling around in my head and thoughts of how to produce it.
The Blood Thins is currently available on demand on Amazon and Vimeo.