Katie Aselton is most associated with lighthearted, improvised fare, such as the FX series "The League," in which she plays a foul-mouthed sports widow, or her film "The Freebie," which she directed and starred in opposite Dax Shepard. Her new film, "Black Rock," opening May 17, marks a siginificant departure for the actor/filmmaker. The story centers on three childhood friends--Abby (Aselton), Lou (Lake Bell), and Sarah (Kate Bosworth)--who find themselves terrorized by a trio of crazed hunters while vacationing on a remote island. Calling the film the most challenging of her career as both director and star, Aselton shared ways in which she managed to bring "Black Rock" to light.
Make new friends.
Aselton only knew Bell socially when she approached her about being in the film. “She was the prototype of the kind of woman I wanted in this movie; she has a really strong presence and speaks her mind and isn’t scared of her sexuality and intelligence. I love that about her,” says Aselton. “I certainly didn’t know her to the degree I know her now, which is better than some of my closest, longest friends.” It was Bell who recommended Bosworth for the film. “I sat down with Kate, and she’s amazing. The only word I can think of when I’m trying to describe her is effervescent. She’s like opening a can of pop; she just explodes with this beautiful energy. My meeting with her was the beginning of a love affair that hasn’t ended yet. I adore those ladies.”
2. Sleep with your writer.
“Black Rock” was written by Aselton’s husband and “League” costar, Mark Duplass. With his brother Jay, Duplass is also part of the filmmaking duo behind such features as “Cyrus” and “Jeff, Who Lives at Home.” Duplass got the idea after Aselton was bemoaning the lack of good roles for women in action/thrillers. “I said I wanted a movie like ‘Deliverance,’ and that got the ball rolling.” Duplass’ script puts Aselton through the wringer—was there anything he wrote for her that surprised her? “I was super shocked that he wrote me naked!” she admits. “He’s the guy who will point out if I’m showing too much skin. Like, ‘Katie, I can see the side of your boob in that dress. Come on, clean it up.’ When he handed me the script, I assumed he had the role of Sarah in mind for me. He was like, ‘No, you’re Abby.’ I said, ‘You know I’m naked, right?’” But in the end, Aselton was grateful for the opportunity. “It’s a rad scene, I love it. I mean, I’m an actor. Throw me a really good challenge and I will take it. Throw me in the ocean in the middle of the night, throw me in a rape scene, torture me in the woods. I will take those challenges head on and say, ‘Please sir, may I have another.’”
3. Embrace your labels.
Many critics have referred to “Black Rock” as a horror film, which Aselton finds surprising. “I don’t want people to be disappointed,” she notes. “It’s really a thriller.” The word “feminist” has also been popping up in descriptions of the film’s plot. “I guess in that it stars three strong women, maybe that spins it into feminist horror,” she says. But ultimately, she’ll take the classification. “You know what? Sure, I’ll call it a feminist thriller, let’s go there. It’s made by a woman, it’s shot by a woman, we have female leads, our producers are women—so I’ll take it. I will say that that is not what we set out to make. Honestly, I think as long as people are speaking about our film, I will take any label they want to give. As long as they’re not calling it stupid, you can label it anything you want.”
4. Ask for help.
Before the likes of Zach Braff and the “Veronica Mars” producers were fundraising online, Aselton raised $33,000 on Kickstarter for the filming of “Black Rock.” While she can’t name the final budget, she notes it was well under $1 million and the money was specifically used towards the purchase of two Arri Alexa cameras. “Mark and I had the movie fully budgeted out and had budgeted for a very small camera package,” she says. “When we went to do our location scout we realized how incredible the movie could look if we shot on the Arri Alexa. It shoots beautifully—it shoots low light situations, which our movie is primarily made up of. And it doesn’t have issues with vertical lines like most digital cameras do. You get a wiggle when dealing with motion and if you think about our movie, we’re running through the woods!” While Aselton doesn’t necessarily like how Kickstarter is being utilized these days, she fully embraces the idea of the site. “I like it as a way for fans to become invested in something and feel like they’re a part of something. That is beautiful.”