"The League" star Katie Aselton was looking for a change of pace for her second feature as a director, and boy did she find it.
"My first film, 'The Freebie,' was a very quiet, intimate, emotional talkie-talkie movie that was all inside a very small Spanish bungalow, and I felt the need after that to get outside and move my body and maybe kill someone," she says. "It's just something I had to do, I don't know why."
That feeling led to "Black Rock," a thriller co-written by her husband, Mark Duplass, about three former childhood gal pals (Aselton, Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth) who reunite for a camping trip on a deserted Maine island that turns deadly after the arrival of some Afghanistan veterans on a hunting trip. As harrowing as the film's story is, the shoot itself turned out to be nearly as life-threatening. "It was a challenging film from start to finish," Aselton says. "It was not like 'The Freebie,' which we went in pre-lit and so we would literally go in and plug in the plug and, 'Let's start shooting.' This was very different. And honestly, the logline for the film — this fight for survival — became sort of a metaphor for our experience making the movie. We just needed to get out of the month of June alive, and the fact that we have a movie that I love to show for it is really exciting."
An all-outdoor shoot in rural Maine is no picnic, as she found out. "It was hands-down the most challenging shoot I could ever even conceive of. Every day it was a new challenge," Aselton says. "It rained when it was supposed to be sunny, it was sunny when it was supposed to rain. The fog would be so intense that you couldn't see where the characters were. The temperatures were super-low, the water is as cold as we claim it to be in the story — and colder. I almost killed Lake. Tides coming in and going out."
Wait, what was that about almost killing Lake Bell? As it turns out, a nighttime scene featuring swimming in the waters of Frenchman's Bay — frosty even in June — can be hazardous to an actress' health. "Lake literally almost died. She went into a 24-hour asthma attack with the cold temperatures. It was really intense and really scary, so anything after that was a win because she was alive," says Aselton.
On the bright side, a near-death experience made some of the later challenges in the film — brutal fight scenes and some on-screen nudity in less than ideal conditions — were not so bad after all for Bell. "Because we shot it chronologically, I think we were already sort of preparing ourselves for certain moments to attack — literally and emotionally — so I think that sort of cold, vulnerable, raw, nude, very emotionally raw scene was on slate, we knew it was coming up, and it just became another thing to tackle. By that point we had already done the water stuff," says Bell.