13 + five =

twenty − thirteen =

Wander x 2020 x Thriller/Mystery

The thriller film Wander follows a paranoid private detective who has the job of investigating a suspicious murder in a small town and becomes convinced that the case is connected to the same conspiracy/cover-up that caused his daughter's death. Starring Aaron Eckhart, Tommy Lee Jones, Heather Graham, Wander is directed by April Mullen and written by Tim Doiron. Borrowing Tape writer Nace DeSanders had the opportunity to interview Director April Mullen on working on the film, which releases in Theaters, On Demand, and Digital on December 4th. Watch the interview video, listen to it, or read the transcript of the interview which has been edited and condensed for clarity:


Hi everyone. My name is Nace DeSanders of Borrowing Tape and I am here with April Mullen, the director of Wander, an insane conspiracy theory-driven thriller starring Aaron Eckhart and Tommy Lee Jones. The film comes out on December 3rd and is sure to be a hit! Thank you for being here, April.
Of course, thanks for supporting Wander.
Of course. So, I guess we'll jump right in so everyone can hear a bit about it. Can you discuss how you approached directing Wander and your favorite moments from filming?
Yes. the concept came to us, my producing partner and I writer Tim Doren five years ago. So, it's been brewing for a very, very long time and I've been pulling from memories, moments, photography, and the locations. We shot in Carrizozo, New Mexico went down early, got to be really in it, and inspired by the landscape of New Mexico, which was fantastic. So, how did I approach it? It was like in my body for five years and I was living with the story and the sort of incredible fight there was with our hero for the light and being a silent warrior against government conspiracy and getting his voice sort of crushed. I just that's been brewing for a very long time.
That's so cool.
Yeah.
Yeah. The story is definitely very unique and super interesting. So speaking about the main character, Aaron Eckhart gave a hell of a performance in this film. Was he your initial pick for the role? How did Aaron come on the project? What was the casting like?
He was the first actor to read the script and he was the only Arthur, which was so serendipitous. We flew to Los Angeles after he had read the script and the meeting was a meeting of minds. He was so on board, loved the challenge of a man going through grief and mental health issues and sort of breaking through the paranoia and the fears and anxiety he had through. Nope, being brought down and isolating himself, believing that there was a conspiracy that had killed his family and destroyed his life. And the film starts at the very moment, the pinnacle moment, where he has to make the decision to go out in the world and fight for the light and get event; avenge [his] daughter's death, and that involves facing all of his biggest fears and whether the audience believes those spheres are reality, or whether they're all in his mind is up to the viewer especially at the end. It's kind of left to the viewer's own discretion. He was so on board with that challenge and every day he brought 150% to the set and set the bar so high and is such an incredible performer. He is always looking for the spark originality.
Every scene had to be perfectly plotted out and we worked hand-in-hand and we're attached to the hip. From the moment he landed to the moment he left and talk about blood, sweat, and tears. He was with it. He had the indie spirit in his body and he was unbelievable every day. We were either crying, laughing, or filthy and exhausted and he gave it everything he had, which was unreal.
Aaron Eckhart in Wander (2020)
Photos courtesy of Saban Films
That's amazing and so awesome how you don't have to go through the process of looking for a million different people to see if he's right.
It's not always like that, but yeah.
It's great that right from the start you knew exactly who was going to be playing the character you got to work with.
Yes, it was, it was definitely meant it was written in the stars. A lot of this film, I call it movie magic. So much of this film just came together organically. Sometimes you question it, but at the end of the day, the film makes itself in a lot of ways. Although you prep and you are so meticulously, phonetically planning, all these shots and choosing the actors and what they're wearing and the music and bringing it all together at the same time, it's organic, it's like a living breathing organism. When you step on set every day, anything is possible. There could be a lightning storm, which sometimes there was, or could be, a performance that just was worth saying, "Let's explore that further." I never dreamt it would be like that. Like it was always such a moving train, It was amazing. Wow.
That sounds fantastic. Like a perfect scenario to be making a film and it sounds like that. Before all of that, what was your experience working with Writer Tim Doiren?
We've been partners for almost 20 years now. So, we've made seven films together and it started with micro budgets. Like there was only seven crew members and we were first aid, costumes, everything like makeup, hair. We were kind of every department and slowly, our films grew, as did we. In the beginning, we were forced to be producers because we wanted to make content. We wanted to make our own content and now we're pro producers in a lot of ways, not 'pro pro', but we know how to finance a film — whether it be in Canada and the US and, and our budgets continuously got larger and larger. We're a story from the ground up, a couple of punks who had nothing, who decided they loved making movies and we're going to stop at nothing. Even though every door closed in our face, we just never gave up. We had this blind ambition to make it to the finish line. Every time we started a project, whether it be five years, three years, whatever it took to get it to the finish line, that's who we are. It's a blessing and a curse.
I love that. It's it sounds beautifully poetic. Yeah. I love it. So what about the town that the whole movie is based around and the title comes from? Where did that name Wander come from?
Wander, the title actually came way before we went to New Mexico. It was the title from the very beginning. It just had this innocent vibe to it of a sense of wonder and wander and the character wandering into sort of his own mind, and into conspiracy into what was happening underneath the surface. So it kind of had this, horrific nightmare and magical feel at the same time where anything was kind of possible and we needed that to kind of resonate. We arrived in New Mexico six months before shooting and could not find our town like everywhere was too modern. Everywhere was too populated. Everywhere looked 2020, and somebody had to go pee and we pulled over at a gas station, and low and behold, this incredible gem of a cinematic perfect town appeared like out of a Mason Jar box, the genie in a box and it was the town of Carrizozo.
And it was almost like it had been paused and frozen in time and there was very little technology. There was about 150 population, one restaurant, two motels — motels which we took over and I lived in for four months with a little mini-fridge, you make it work. The community embraced us, open[ed] their doors. We were able to shoot in their homes, their high school. That's where we built the foxhole. We took over their streets. The Valley of fire was right up the road and we shot there too. The landscape of the land is absolutely stunning and then the character of Carrizozo just became Wander like that. It was heavily the production value and the signs and the homes were heavily designed, but in a lot of ways, it spoke for itself. It was an energy, it was a vibe. And we had to, we knew we had to shoot in New Mexico because that's where MKLtra and conspiracy theories and, all of that came from, so we wanted to go to a place where those things were happening in the past.
Wow.
Yeah.
I love it. So, on the topic of location: the film was shot on Pueblo, Navajo, and Apache lands. What was it like shooting in such a location? Like, I mean, you already told us a little bit about it, how you found this amazing town, but I feel like the beauty of New Mexico, the landscapes really showed on film.
Image of Tommy Lee Jones and Aaron Eckhart in Wander
There's a spirit there, you know, and there is a strong spirit there of history and a dark past a bloody past, but one that is, feels ever forgiving and welcoming to anyone who comes there. The earth, as silly as this sounds really is open. And it's such vast landscapes. It seems to go on for an eternity. And there's something so beautiful about the infinity there, it's almost like the skyline of the horizon line disappears into the earth itself. And there was such a love for nature, the environment, the history, and respect for where and what lands we were shooting on. We did this beautiful ceremony and did a smudging, with the indigenous community there our very first day to make sure we really respected the land. It was a gift. It was a gift to be able to shoot there.
Oh, wow. Yeah. So, speaking of that, in the opening moments of the film, there's a message to all black, brown, and indigenous peoples who have been displaced through or to border control on stolen land. Why was it important to you to have this message included in the film and right in the beginning?
You know, I've always been sort of tiptoeing because I want to keep creating. And as a female director, especially, I often silence my own voice to allow myself to continue to stay in the director's chair. Sometimes I would do things that I didn't believe in or shoot things that I creatively didn't agree with and I did that because I love so much what I do. Five years ago when we were making the film and there's chip technology and border control and stolen land, and we really show that the victims of government violences and surveillances often are indigenous. Why would we, at least for now in my career, why would I silence that again? The card was on and then it was off and then it was on. Then I thought I've been doing this 20 years. It's my voice. I finally am able to define my voice in a world where I believe it will be accepted. And without it being there, I felt uncomfortable because it wasn't my truth. So we said, you know what, this time we're just going to do it. Whether the repercussions are positive or negative, we're being honest. We're champions of the light and trying to propel growth and change and awareness and this is why we made the film. So let's just make it known this time.
Yeah. I liked it. I definitely thought it was good to have the card there in the beginning, especially because you were filming on these lands to make sure that people watching know that you understand what's going on, where you're coming from. I thought it was a wise choice.
Thanks.
Tommy Lee Jones and Aaron Eckhart in Wander
So, on a lighter note, the music for this film was absolutely beautiful. Normally that's not the normal score that we hear in movies. So I wasn't expecting this at all. It was so great. Can you tell us a bit about the soundtrack for the film and the collaboration with Composer Alexandra McKenzie?
I'd love to. I mean, working with a composer, I've always been, I'm huge on music. Every one of my films, I pay enormous, too much attention to the score and the music and Alexandra and I, she was working in Montreal because of COVID. We were at a distance, which is odd for a composer. We got to meet up a few times before, but it was mostly at a distance. We came up with this sound of this droning kind of yearning, almost alive, bubbling at the surface sound for the film, which was terrifying and both of mentoring the picture, but never overstepping. It was a real organic process. It was her first feature film to score and I swung a big bat and just like cross my fingers and toes and believed in her and believed that she had it within her and I think your first job into a big feature film, like this is a huge opportunity. I felt grateful to be able to give that to her because it could be 10 years before anybody. She's an incredible audio and also visual artist out of Canada, who has not been recognized in the ways I believe that her talent should be. I was like, I think you can do score. I think you can do moving pictures. But I'm supremely excited and proud of her and her music label is Petra Glint, so check her out. She, she also did a bunch of music in 88, my last feature film, and she's bold. Like she just has it, she has this weight and she's honest and she's takes big risks and I loved working with her. And on the flip side, I really wanted to include indigenous language in the film. I'm on a snobby Algonquin and I wanted to, the language is so very rarely spoken and the song is so rarely heard in common culture, let alone like the film industry or feature films. I don't even know. I don't know if anyone has ever even done this before, but I really wanted to include the language of our people, and Jeremy Dutcher, an artist, again, out of Canada has this generational ancestral backdrop to his music and tradition to the music. He puts it up against this operatic, modern new-age sound. I think he is brilliant as a person and what he's doing to sort of champion tradition and this the sounds and the medicine of our ancestors in a new way is, just like, it takes my breath away. He brought me to tears the first time I heard his music and ever since then, I've been just dying to find a way to collaborate with him. I really went to him with collaboration in mind and told him why it was so important for me to sort of set whether people understand it or not. Their spirits are sort of taking in this healing music the medicine of our ancestors and against the backdrop of such ugliness of what humans have done to one another to sort of test chip technology and government surveillances and what people sort of the terrible aspects people put on to mental health and, and not believing in those voices. And I just thought what a beautiful way to add healing to this journey and Arthur's journey and to the audience into whoever's watching. But I do it through music. It's not heavy-handed and most people won't ask you to, but most people won't ask or won't understand or won't know why, but as the director, that was my intention and it was so pure and, and Jeremy was kind enough to allow us to showcase his incredible voice and the story and songs of the host of way of people. So it was beautiful.
It absolutely is. And other one directors really look at all the tools in their belt really makes sure that the music has something to do with the story with the locations. Absolutely everything is tying in beautifully in Wander. Absolutely does that. So we are almost out of time. So I got to ask you one more question and let you go. What are some of the films or directors that have influenced you as a filmmaker and the film, Wander?
Woo. Okay. This is a tough one, but yesterday somebody asked me, "What are films that made an impact?" And I said Run Lola Run right away. Edward Scissorhands, Old Boy, In the Mood for Love, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, District 9, Chronicle, like I kind of am across the board, I'm a real mix of everything. And of course, Jacob's Ladder, those are a few.
So that is definitely a mixed bag, but I like it.
Yes.
Thank you so much for taking this. It could be today, April. It is absolutely been a blast.
Thanks so much. Thanks so much for supporting Wander.
Of course, everyone makes sure you go see Wander. Where can they see Wander?
We're on December 4th available download iTunes, Apple, Amazon, everywhere, every platform you have it will be over there. So, make sure you spread some love.
Friday. It is absolutely fun for- I was going to say the whole family, but not the younger members. Maybe not the kids. Older members of the family.
Yeah, definitely spread the word. Help indie cinema, especially during COVID.
Exactly.
We need it. We need it.
Thank you, April. Bye.
Thank you. Bye.

Watch Wander via Amazon

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