The UHF of the film world.
Latest news

Marina Antunes [Celluloid 11.09.20] horror drama

Adrienne Biddle has been working in the film business for decades, but she's perhaps best known for her long-time collaboration with Bryan Bertino.

With their production company Unbroken Films, the pair have ushered into existence not only Bertino's projects but also a steady stream of outstanding horror offerings including Oz Perkins's unnerving The Blackcoat's Daughter, and Akiva Goldsman's Stephanie.

The latest partnership between Biddle and Bertino is The Dark and the Wicked. Written and directed by Bertino, it's the unnerving story of Louise, played by Marin Ireland, who returns home to care for her mother who seems to be losing her mind as the family patriarch slowly dies. The rural horror delves deep into family dynamics and unspoken truths but it's also a creepy, sometimes horrifying exploration of pain and grief.

The film is also the last in the long-running partnership between Bertino and Biddle.

We recently had the chance to speak with Biddle about the partnership, the making of The Dark and the Wicked and what she has planned for the future.

The Dark and the Wicked is now playing in theatres and is available on digital and on demand.

Quiet Earth: What was your interest in movies to begin with and how did you get into the industry?

Adrienne Biddle: I grew up as a reader more than a cinephile and I like to say that Stephen King kind of narrated my childhood. I always found myself fascinated with a lot of the genre stuff. Horror is not my only love. I'm a huge reader.

I got a master's degree at USC. The program gave me a good overview of the business and I realized that I really loved working with creative people but I also liked problem-solving. I'm a project manager so putting all of this together is a first step.

As you're working with business for other people and you start to come and develop your own voice and you sort of say to yourself: what are the stories that I can't forget? And I found genre material was what I found the most interesting.

I liked monsters, they're fun, but I also like complicated people and interesting relationship dynamics. And I found that it was a really interesting place to kind of put a light in the darker corners of society. That's sort of where I was drawn and Bryan [Bertino] and I kind of teamed up way back when I was a senior executive. We made The Strangers. His work was so complicated and interesting and quiet and dark and I liked the sophistication. I like the simple. He would just have very simple ideas and then put complicated people in them. That makes it interesting to me.

I think we both had a real vision of what could be, or could be again. And that was kind of what set us out on this journey.

Can you elaborate on how the relationship between you and Bryan has developed?

I got sent a script by an agent that I knew and that happened to be The Strangers which had sold to another studio. I read the script and it scared me, and it's very difficult to scare people on the page. It's terrifying to read it. It's frightening. And so that really stays with you and it stayed with me. So I had gone on a job interview and I had just finished reading the script and my future boss asks me about what I'm excited about and I tell him I'd just read this amazing script called The Strangers and he proceeds to tell me that they own it. I thought I wouldn't get the job because I should have done my research but anyway, we kept talking and, and he was talking about how his big problem with the script is that he couldn't figure out why they were doing it. I told him that it was my mother's worst nightmare. The idea that, you know, someone comes and gets you randomly. Anyway, long story short, I got the job and Bryan got his shot to direct even though he'd never directed anything before. And he wasn't even really lobbying for the job.

I wasn't involved in the delivery from start to finish other than that piece of it so I really got to watch the movie as a fan, but in the meantime, I had hired Bryan to do a rewrite on a project that I had at the studio and it was there that we really developed a conversation.

He thought that I came from a place of trying to understand what he was trying to do. And I liked the fact that he fought for his stuff and he had an opinion and a point of view. We developed a good professional relationship, and then we became friends so when our jobs went out the window...

I was bored and just started talking about how we should go into a company together and shepherd your projects, projects that are doing the things that you and I both believe can be done in the genre. So that's kind of what we set out to try to do. This is my last project with Bryan cause like any great, intense, amazing, productive relationship, you reach a point where it's time to move on. I'm incredibly proud of what we've done.

Looking at the films that have been produced by Unbroken Pictures, it's quite a lineup of really great films. How do you and Bryan work?

Bryan and I are business owners so any piece of work between 2009 and the end of 2019, we did as a team. This particular part is interesting because I have two producing partners on the new project, both of whom had prior relationships with either Bryan or myself on other projects.

So Sonny [Mallhi] was a producer on both The Strangers and an executive producer on The Monster and Kevin [Matusow] I met when he actually came in and helped put The Blackcoat's Daughter together. These are two people who had shared kind of our creative goals in terms of being supportive of the material that Bryan and I both like and wanting to shepherd along.

In addition to producing, Sonny had made a movie called Harvest, it's now been retitled and I believe the new title is Inspired by True Events. It's great. Sonny had taken up an interesting production challenge with that movie. We made it in a particular way, with a particular goal in mind. So after Bryan kind of talked to Sonny about this, he called me and said that we should try to make a movie like Sonny did and that it would give us more creative freedom. I think it could be interesting financially, blah, blah, blah.

Neither of us like it when movies get made and they just look like somebody made them for less. We wanted to actually just make a movie that was organic to kind of our production philosophy.

Bryan's family has a working farm in Texas, which is where we shot the movie, and the house that's in The Dark and the Wicked is actually the house that Bryan stays in when he goes to visit his family. So the movie is shot on his family farm, and his parents are unbelievable people and were incredibly generous to let us descend upon their working goat farm but that is how it came about.

And so after he had a first draft, he called Sonny and said: look, you're the expert on making movies this way. Will you come and work with us on this? Sonny, creatively, has similar taste to us so we sort of formed this little collective and here we are. And Kevin also came on and wanted to both finance and be on the ground with us, so those two really helped us make this happen. I mean, we couldn't have done it without them.

Is it scary as a producer, someone whose job is essentially a project manager keeping taps on everything and making sure it all runs smoothly, to jump into something that's so unknown?

I've been doing this for 20 some years and I think I reached a point where I was like: I don't know what the problems are, but I think I have enough experience that I can probably solve them if I had help. I had two partners, you know what I mean? It was a truly independent film. It's fun to get your hands dirty and be like: today I'm going to be the production accountant, tomorrow I'm going to be the head of whatever, whatever is more important that needs doing that day. We all really bonded together and it brings you back to your roots.

To be able to work with professionals, to do this at the top of their game, throughout the business, but to kind of all, let your hair down a little bit for a project like this is really fun. It's really, really nice to be able to work with such a top-notch crew who understood the spirit of what we were going for. And it shows. That kind of craftsmanship and love of making movies... it comes through.

You mentioned that this is it for your partnership with Bryan. I'm wondering what's next for you? Are you going to stay within the horror horror genre?

One of the things that when you're in a place like I am, you feel like it's time to see other people. You know when you can finish someone's sentences and thoughts... the idea of being challenged in a different way is really appealing to me. And I have other areas of interest that I want to pursue. I like to read, I play video games and read fantasy, and horror, and science fiction. So I would love to kind of spread my wings a little bit sci-fi and maybe the fantasy realm now.

I mean, honestly, COVID has put a pin in almost every bit of planning. I could come up with something glossy about how it's different but the truth is it's really kind of like a wait and see. Sonny and I are talking about maybe collaborating on something in the future and I've been reading some really interesting books. We'll see what the world kind of shakes out and what we're left with will really determined kind of what the next steps are, but in terms of creatively, yes, for sure. I'm excited to do stuff other than horror, but I also haven't lost my passion for it.

The Dark and the Wicked is now playing in theatres and is available on digital and on demand.

Recommended Release: The Dark and the Wicked

You might also like

Leave a comment