Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The woman behind Blood Fare, JA Steel

If ever there's a woman who deserves honours for making a go of it in a industry that's traditionally male-dominated, it's JA Steel. For the last while I've been watching the progress on this amazing woman's work on the horror film Blood Fare, which I'm totally looking forward to seeing. Steel took a break in her busy schedule to stop by my blog today for a little Q&A. Welcome, lady!

Where did you strike the initial spark for Blood Fare? Is there a bit of a story behind it?

JAS: I wanted to do a movie that covered some of the local folklore of Utah. I came across the “Legend of Jean Baptiste” who was real-life grave robber who was imprisoned on the “unescapable” Antelope Island in the middle of the Salt Lake. But he did escape – and his body was never found. Unfortunately, at the same time the LDS church came up with a similar “redemption” type story. So, we changed ours – and like all my movies – I had a dream that I was visited by my dead cousin who was killed during the Civil War. Christian Koch, who’s been working with me since 2002, helped me flesh out the story. I then sat down and wrote the screenplay in about a week.

Can you sum up the film in sixteen words or less?

JAS: A story of family and honoring your history, not a ghost story like you would expect.

I've been following the production for Blood Fare via Twitter. This is quite a long and involved process. How does the final product measure up to your initial vision? Did the film evolve along the way?

JAS: The film evolved every step of the way. There’s the initial script that took a week to write and all the rewrites. Then, we had the shooting script and that changed. One of my key actors (literally) got trapped hunting in the mountains and couldn’t make it to set to film, so the story changed. There are only about 10 people that have seen the final script, which became the final film.

I’m proud of the final product. In some ways it meets and exceeds my expectations. In others, we had some technical challenges that were unfortunate. Filming in High Definition is a little less forgiving than shooting on film. Every detail has to be exact. Some details were missed, but catching every little aspect is difficult in an independent feature. Choices had to be made on the basis of the technical proficiency of a shot rather than performance in some cases.

Tell us a little more about how you went about choosing the locations.Were there any unique challenges there that you faced and overcame?

JAS: The hardest part was finding locations in Utah that actually looked like Northern Virginia/Pennsylvania.  I was intrigued by a Civil War group that does re-enactments locally. So, we went and saw them at a State Park called “This is the Place”.  We then shot a bunch of stock footage.

Finding fresh water for the rivers/lake that wasn’t surrounded by scrub brush was also hard. Utah is the second-driest state in the United States. Derek Mellus at the Utah Film Commission helped us out with a list of names of location where we could film. We got lucky and found Fort Buenaventura in the middle of Ogden.

And your choices in cast?

JAS: We had the hardest time casting the lead role of Tyler. We had approached three other actresses, but they all turned the role down. They were uncomfortable with some of the thematic elements of the story. I was like “this is ACTING people. That’s why it’s called ACTING.” Frustrated, I opened the casting call up for an “open” call for Tyler. We were so lucky when Brandi Lynn Anderson walked in the door. Tyler was originally supposed to be a brunette – but Brandi had just dyed her hair blonde – and it worked.

We had a really successful Kickstarter/Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign and managed to attract some more investors so I sat down and did the “who have I always wanted to work with?” list. Gil’s name was at the top. It was one of those “why not” moments. I took a chance and I sent the script off to his manager.  The rest they say, is history.

Are there any anecdotes and/or bloopers that you care to share?

JAS: It was the film of “oh we forgot to tell you”. We had permits (that we paid for) for filming at our various locations but consistently we had LOUD events that were right next door. School pep rallies and wedding receptions are typically very loud and not conducive to clean production sound. Needless to say, we are still in the process of some ADR.

I can’t really remember any. I was more serious on set with this film than I was with my first three features. On The Third Society, Salvation and Denizen we were prone to more bouts of laughter after a take. On the blooper reel for Salvation they have me laughing for a solid five minutes and to this day I have no clue what I was laughing at.

What's the future for Blood Fare after its Dragon*Con premiere?

JAS: I still want to go back and do a lot of sound work. We are getting there slowly but surely. I’m also toying with redoing some of the Charon effects. There were some compositing issues in post between some of the green screen and the plates. A lot of it will depend on the distributor – which we’re hoping that we will be able to find after Dragon*con.

You're a woman who wears many hats in the film industry. Tell us a little bit about a day in your life.

JAS: The day depends on what stage the film is in, but on a typical editing day:

I always start off with coffee – no matter what. Then it’s online catching up with Chris Koch on the overnight events.  He’s in Germany so there’s the eight hours to catch up on when either of us is sleeping.  Then there is the ever-dreaded “day job” as a systems analyst that takes about eight to ten hours of the day.

At the end of the day I catch up with Fred Mercer, who’s acted as an executive on all four features, plus all the shorts and documentaries since The Third Society. Then dinner. Then editing 'til midnight. Then up at 5am.

If I’m between clients for the “day job” or it’s the weekend. Straight to editing and only taking breaks for lunch and emailing potential “day job” clients.

Now that post is pretty much over, it’s doing press and publicity and working out.

My “vacations” are either filming or going to conventions.

See the Blood Fare trailer here.


  1. I really enjoyed your interview with J.A.Steel...

    1. Thank you! I was really chuffed she had a moment to spare for me.

  2. I always see J.A. Steel in my morning feed with the coffee and have watched her and Christian progress through the production of this movie. I really admire the dual-hats they have to wear in order to make films like this happen.

    This was a great interview as always, Nerine and J.A. Steel is a fascinating, strong woman (we share the same birthday, curiously) that I'd love to meet someday.