Wildling is the debut feature directed and co-written by Fritz Bohm. The film stars Bel Powley as Anna, a girl who has been kept isolated from the outside world as a means of protection from mysterious creatures known as Wildlings. Bohm manages to tackle a coming-of-age narrative through a supernatural/horror lens making for a wildly interesting premise.
About how long would you say you’ve been working on this film?
It took about three years to land on the version which became the movie. That final version was written in 2014 over a period of eight days. Then it took about a year to get the movie greenlit, 23 days to shoot it, and almost 2 years to accomplish all visual effects on our limited budget.
Transformative creature features typically portray a male protagonist. The film Ginger Snaps comes to mind, but even then it is told from an outsider’s perspective, not the creature itself. Why a female protagonist and why put us into her perspective?
My mother often read fairytales to me as a child. I always found myself drawn to the strange, mythological creatures, far more than to the typical prince or princess. I felt their characters were so much more heartbreaking. Out of that grew the wish to create my own misunderstood creature, the Wildling. It was important to make the movie from the creature's point-of-view in order to understand what's going on inside. I deliberately chose a girl/woman because I felt a lack of female-driven stories in the genre. Most of the time women are still boxed into some version of the “damsel in distress”. I wanted to counteract that with a powerful heroine who embodies the spirit of a Ripley or Sarah Connor, except she happens to be non-human.
Once the script was done, it felt like we had written a role that's impossible to cast. From a casting standpoint, Anna's character is a really tall order. She ranges from childish innocence and a sense of wide-eyed wonder, all the way to mature femininity, a feral rawness, an animal-like athleticism. The movie only became a reality when Celine and Trudie introduced me to Bel whom they had seen in “Diary”. I was startled by the extreme contrast between her performance in that film and her real-life persona, it was clear she's a master of transformation. And transformation is what Anna's story is all about. Liv and Brad came on board shortly after, for the most part, because they responded to the script and felt they had good character material to work with. Of course, they were also looking forward to working with Bel.
Toby came on late since my original DP was still stuck in another project. I loved Toby's work and lighting, and the visual ideas he pitched. We agreed to work together in a single phone call. I got a strong sense he was capable of mastering our extremely tight schedule, due to his experience and pragmatism. I think we averaged around 60 setups a day. I learned a lot from Toby and treasure his friendship.
It’s apparent that you’ve steered clear of every popular werewolf trope, so the film kind of presents Wildlings as their own creatures and not as a derivative of the werewolf. How did your mythology of the Wildling come about?
At the core, Wildling is a coming-of-age story. It's about that strange phase in life we all go through called puberty when we find ourselves at odds with the rest of the world. Except in Anna's case, it goes a lot further. But since puberty is a biological process, it just didn't make sense to load our story with magic tropes such as amulets or silver bullets. Also, puberty is irreversible, whereas your typical werewolf shifts back into a human shape once the full moon disappears. Even though Wildlings are fictional, we designed them as if they were an actual species. An older version of the script started with a voiceover, “They say the cradle of man was in Africa, where the earth is the warmest. But far up in the cold north, there was a second cradle...”
What is your favorite werewolf transformation in film or television? I, personally, am a huge fan of the how the mythology and transformation are handled in season one of Hemlock Grove.
For me, nothing beats “An American Werewolf in London” and the fantastic work of Rick Baker, probably because it's the first creature film I ever saw. I also loved Darren's approach in “Black Swan”, which really is a werewolf movie in disguise.
With an unlimited budget and infinite resources, what project would you like to tackle?
I would love to continue exploring the world of fairytales with a modern twist, for example, my version of Rapunzel or the Hunchback. However, more important than budget and resources are powerful characters. That's what I look at first, genre always comes second.
What’s next for you?
I'm currently working on a very dark gothic horror thriller, a character-driven sci-fi/action piece, and a TV-take on an old European legend.