July 20, 2021
Craving summer horror? If so, please join me for a special booster performance from last fall. Director’s Cup Halloween special at 10 p.m. on Friday July 23. My guest is director Tate Bunker, who tells us about his macabre film, Field. Stick around to see the feature film at 10:30 p.m. on The director’s cut presents.
Field offers classic Halloween goosebumps. Set on a Manitowoc County farm, the story follows a young couple, Ben and Lydia, who leave the Chicago rat race for a fresh start. Shortly after arriving at the isolated farm, Ben – an aspiring photographer – notices characters hidden in the photographs he takes, characters who weren’t there when he took the real photos! According to Bunker, this is an original and unique mechanism in cinema. This technique sets the tone as this mysterious film unfolds.
As Ben and Lydia interact with the townspeople, they soon discover that a young girl disappeared from the farm decades ago. Personally, that would be enough for me to set the record for the shortest farm in history. I would put it on sale faster than you can say “John Deere”.
The older version of the girl is played by Veronica Cartwright, who is no stranger to the horror genre. Now 70, Cartwright has appeared in cult classics such as Extraterrestrial and The Witches of Eastwick. But she made her debut as Cathy Brenner in Alfred Hitchcock’s The birds. For those of you reading this who aren’t movie buffs, Alfred Hitchcock is commonly known in the movie industry as “Hitchcock” and is well worth a Google. One of the questions I was most excited to ask Bunker was what it was like to direct someone who was directed by Hitchcock and the like.
To complete this impressive set, Mark Metcalf (Animal house, Seinfeld), Barry Bostwick (Spin City, The Rocky Horror Picture Show) and Wisconsin indie film darling Mark Borchardt (American film, The Godfather of Green Bay). I rarely get the chance to mention my own films in an actor’s credits, and let me tell you, it’s glorious! As the young couple, Tim Higgins, who plays an ordinary big man, and Kara Mulrooney, who pulls one of the best Hollywood screams I’ve ever seen. She uses it a lot in one particular scene as she watches her husband walk with a strobe light through a field of ghosts. It is one of the strangest and most intense scenes I have ever seen.
I had wanted to interview Bunker for several years. I have come to know him personally over the years by meeting him at film festivals. His ideas on this genre are genuine because he once led horror. A few years ago, Bunker wrote and directed the scary movie Small red, which also starred Mark Metcalf.
In addition to his career as a director, Bunker teaches filmmaking at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It was interesting to hear his take on the challenges of filming scenes involving an actor sitting and staring at his computer or talking on the phone, and the obstacles directors face in keeping such scenes engaging, if not necessarily cinematic. I also asked him what it was like to lead his wife (he is married to Kara Mulrooney). His response did not include platitudes and was by no means frozen as it exuded genuine respect for Kara’s dedication to her craft.
The biggest challenge interviewing Bunker (or any director these days) was not having him sit two feet away from me due to the real horror of the COVID-19 pandemic that was growing locally in the world. time of filming of this episode. Bunker and I discussed his film on set via video monitors in various studios. Yes, whether on the big or small screen, filming still presents challenges even if you are not facing a pandemic! I guess to look at this like a half full glass, the coronavirus added another very real layer of “supernatural” to this really scary movie.
Please join me on Friday July 23 from 10 p.m. to Director’s Cup and The director’s cut presents. We promise you a spooky Halloween / Midsummer night on PBS Wisconsin, your home for independent cinema!