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1BR – David Marmor and Alok Mishra talk about their new thriller

1BR played this year’s Grimmfest, and was one of the highlights of the festival. You can read my review here. It didn’t really fit in with the others (which was actually good). Most of the years offering was female-centric horror movies. It concerns a young woman who moves to L.A., gets a place in an apartment complex, and soon finds out that strange things are happening in her new home, with an occult twist. Nicole Brydon Bloom stars, and is fantastic in the roles despite being a last-minute replacement for an actress who had to do a CW show. The film also has an interesting supporting cast, and a knock-out ending that really elevates the movie.

1BR is definitely one of the most impressive indie films of the year. I interviewed director David Marmor and producer Alok Mishra at Grimmfest—and right after the interview we went across the street to the Scientology centre for a photo op.

Not to introduce any spoilers, but—was there any pushback with financing with the ending?

Mishra – As it happened we financed this ourselves, so there was no pushback and it was a thing we realised with a 15-day shoot. We definitely needed to have the ending we originally wanted. We kind of cut for time and for money, so that’s the reason we went back and did it. The only thing that delayed us was we were trying to get the band back together, so to speak, and some actors were busy with other projects, and it was tough to get them back. We knew we needed to do it, and we were all in to make sure we had a quality product, it didn’t matter about the expense at that point.


What part of L.A. was it shot in? 

Mishra – The Valley.


Do you have any favourite movies about the dark underbelly of L.A.?

Mishra – ChinatownL.A. Story. 

David – It has nothing to do with our movie, but to me it’s a underseen movie that feels very L.A.: it’s a movie called Miracle Mile. It’s an incredible movie, I saw it when I was pretty young and it’s really stuck in my mind, I have never seen it since, I have only seen it the one time. There are indelible images from that movie. It’s all set along Wiltshire, so that is to me a big L.A. movie.


Have you guys seen Under The Silver Lake? I do see a few parallels.

Marmor – I haven’t yet, and I loved It Follows.

Mishra – As much as I loved It Follows, I hate Under The Silver Lake, sadly. It was just a mess to me.

Marmor – It looks like a movie version of a Pynchon novel to me, and I love Pynchon.

Mishra – I feel like they let that guy have all the money in the world to make a movie, the stars and everything else. It has a couple different endings, a bit of a beautiful… I’ll call it that a beautiful mess.

Were the sunglasses with only one lens a reference to Repo Man?

Marmor – Lester’s? Not on purpose—and Repo Man is another movie I’ve only seen once, and it was a long time ago. What’s the scene?

Mishra – The guy who has the thing in the back of the trunk has these glasses one lens, I’m a huge fan of Repo Man. I have the Repo Man soundtrack, and it’s one of the best soundtracks ever—and no, I didn’t think about that till you said it. You think I would’ve.


How hard was it to find the right apartment complex?

Marmor – Very hard! We were a really small production, so we had limited resources and we didn’t have a lot of places to choose from, honestly. Me and you, like, walked from one apartment complex to another for weeks.

Mishra – We got it at the very last minute. It’s a functioning apartment complex, people live there, and they were lovely. They were getting money out of it to live there in some way, but I don’t know if they were. There were things you deal with, like, there was a dog barking and I’ll be, like, “Somebody pay them $20 to take that dog for a walk,” and we did. They were really great, and we even went there for the reshoots, and they were lovely then too.

Marmor – We got Super lucky.  One of the few places we could afford and were willing to do it, and it was kind of perfect for the story.


What was up with the CGI blood in one of the pivotal scenes? It’s one of my pet peeves normally, although it’s done perfectly fine in the film. 

Marmor – We didn’t set out to do that, I love practical effects and always want to do practical effects. We were moving very fast and we just didn’t have money for special effects and it just didn’t work.

Mishra – I’ll say specifically what happened the fake hand that we had: they put it on the wrong side and when we nail the nail in or whatever, it didn’t explode out of the thing the way it was supposed to, and it was just something you had to deal with and fix it in post. We wanted to have practical effects, but it just didn’t work out.

Marmor – We wanted to do it practically, and you just at a certain point stop and do more takes of this or make our day. We just had to move on and we ended up with some CGI.

What cults did you study in particular? 

Marmor – The main sort of cult that was a model for a lot of stuff in the movie was a group called Synanon, which was founded in the late ’50s in L.A. as a drug rehab, and then became a residential organization. The guy who started it (Charles Dederich Sr.) decided the people would never fully be free of their addictions, so they just needed to live there to stay healthy. It coalesced into a cult over the years, but it never started out to be that. It was something that was attractive to me, and the idea behind the community is it was just an experiment in utopian living initially. A lot of details came from Synanon, including there is a scene in the middle where someone is confessing to having done something wrong, and that whole scenario they used to do in Synanon.


Scientology does that too.

Marmor – They don’t do exactly that, the polygraph scenes are all modelled after that. The circle where everyone is confessing came from Synanon.


Why do think all these cults start in Southern California? 

Marmor – That’s a good question, and I’ve thought about that a lot actually, I think it has to do with the nature of L.A., it’s this kind of collecting area for lost souls in some way. People move to L.A. by themselves, and often are people who either have dreams of stardom or artistic ambitions, and they are often alone. They are people who are spiritual seekers and lonely. I think it makes people vulnerable to wanting to find some kind of family, surrogate family to create around themselves.

Mishra – It was either Jon Favreau or Vince Vaughn in Swingers, and I think the quote is “They took the country and they shook it and like all the craziest people came down to here if it women, men or whatever the hell it is but there crazy and they’re lonely.”


Do you have any favourite movies about cults? 

Mishra – I feel our film is such a companion to Rosemary’s Baby, so that’s certainly something for me that was great. We’ve been told we have similarities to The Invitation, which I think was really great too. I happened to know the guy who wrote The Invitation and went to high school with him, so before we did our film I told him “we have a thing that happens that’s like…” and he “that’s fine, it has nothing to do with it,” and he was cool with it.

Marmor – The Wicker Man—you can’t go too wrong

Mishra – Some people have said it’s “The Wicker Man in an apartment complex,” or Midsommar.

Marmor – I haven’t yet seen Midsommar

Mishra – Oh, I hated Midsommar—and I wanted to like Midsommar so badly, I saw the director’s cut, and that’s 2 hours and 45 minutes of my life I’m never going to get back. You can see everything coming from a million miles away, and it takes a million years to get there.

Marmor – Make sure you attribute that to Alok and not me.

Mishra – That movie made money, he should be happy either way!


Any new films you’ve liked?

Marmor – I have a small baby so I don’t get out to movies anymore.

Mishra – I fucking love Parasite, it’s so amazing. Jojo Rabbitloved that too. And I saw the new Dolemite Eddie Murphy movie [Dolemite Is My Name] last week as well, which is seven or eight minutes too long, but excellent nonetheless. I used to test movies for a living, so the two scores you care about are “excellent” and “very good,” and then “good,” “fair,” “poor,” and finally “would you definitely recommend to your friends?” I would definitely recommend all three of those movies to my friends, and that’s better than any trailer I could cut.

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