SXSW 2023 Interview: Director of Photography Julia Swain and Production Designer Allie Leone Talk The Wrath of Becky (Exclusive)

People who have endured traumatizing experiences, especially during their childhood or adolescence, need to find their catharsis somewhere, even in the most shocking places. That’s certainly the case for the titular 16-year-oldprotagonist of the highly anticipated action horror comedy, ‘The Wrath of Becky,’ which serves as the sequel to the acclaimed 2020 crime feature, ‘Becky.’

Actress Lulu Wilson steps back into her celebrated role of the eponymous teen, who’s still contending with her anger management issues from the events that occurred in the original film several years earlier. Like all great sequels, ‘The Wrath of Becky’ builds upon what made its predecessor successful, while also establishing new details of a familiar character, and subverting the expectations of the first movie’s viewers. Becky has become a symbolic vigilante who’s determined to destroy some of the darkness in her world on her continued quest for justice.

Set a few years after the titular character escaped a violent attack on her family, ‘The Wrath of Becky’ follows her as she attempts to rebuild her life in the care of an older woman – a kindred spirit named Elena. But when a group known as the Noble Men break into their home, attack them, and take her beloved dog, Diego, Becky must return to her old ways to protect herself and her loved ones.

In addition to Wilson, the follow-up also stars Seann William Scott, Denise Burse, Jill Larson, Courtney Gains, Michael Sirow, Aaron Dalla Villa, Matt Angel and Kate Siegel. Franchise newcomers Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote directed ‘The Wrath of Becky,’ which Angel wrote, based on a story he created with Coote.

Julia Swain served as the director of photography, and Allie Leone worked as the production designer, on the upcoming horror comedy. The filmmakers’ ability to adapt their skills to different genres is a testament to their versatility and creativity in their crafts. They expertly bring the story’s vision to life through their stunning visual skills.

Quiver Distribution will release ‘The Wrath of Becky’ exclusively in theaters on Friday, May 26. The sequel’s official distribution comes after it had its World Premiere in the Midnighters screening section of this year’s SXSW. Swain and Leone generously took the time during the festival in March to talk about serving as the film’s director of photography and production designer during an exclusive interview over the phone the day after its premiere.

Film Factual (FF): Julia, you served the director of photography, and Allie, you served as the production designer for the new action horror comedy sequel, ‘The Wrath of Becky.’ What was it about its story, which was created by the movie’s directors, Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote, that inspired you to join the project?

Allie Leone (AL): I had seen ‘Becky’ and enjoyed the movie a lot. When I read the script for this film, I was very excited about it. I thought it would be a fun story to help tell, and it definitely was. It was a great project to be a part of.

Julia Swain (JS): My agent sent me the script. I’ve done other things in the genre space, so I really love these movies that break the normal rules, especially in terms of camera angles. I also really enjoyed the first film, and thought it would be a fun challenge to work on this movie.

FF: With Matt and Suzanne having penned and helmed the follow-up how did you both approach working with the directorial duo to visually tell the story?

JS: Matt and Suzanne are super visual directors, so I think having the two of them, and I think Allie will agree, was pretty luxurious. We had two brilliant people at the monitor who were always open to really collaborating with us. There was a constant back-and-forth, and rhey were always pushing to move cameras.

They took everything we already planned and took it to the next level. They did everything they could to make the film stand out and bring the excitement of Becky back. They’re fantastic visual collaborators.

AL: I love the word luxurious! (Leone and Swain laugh.) I totally agree – they were wonderful to work with, and I feel like they were always very aligned. Making decisions with them was easy because they were always on the same page. I loved coming up with ideas with them. So working with them overall was a great experience.

FF: ‘The Wrath of Becky’ features an ensemble cast with Lulu Wilson and Seann William Scott in the lead roles. How did you both approach working with them on the film’s set, as well?

AL: Seann and Lulu were so amazing and talented, and so great to be on set with throughout the shoot. The whole crew was so wonderful, and the entire team worked together so well.

JS: Yes, they’re both super exciting, and are pros at working with the camera and the movements they had to do for the stunts. Lulu’s so incredible, but I always felt bad for her having to be in all that blood all the time. She was covered in blood the last few days of the shoot, and had to eat lunch in the blood. (Swain laughs.) The whole cast was amazing.

FF: ‘The Wrath of Becky’ is driven not just by the characters’ emotional arcs, but also the stunts the actors had to perform during the shoot. Julia, how did you capture those sequences? Allie, how did you approach setting up the locations to accommodate the action sequences throughout the production?

JS: We had the best stunt coordinator, Corey Pierno. He was so communicative, in terms of what we had to do and how to set up the camera angles. We talked about making sure they were dynamic and fast, as well as the placement of all the stunts. We always felt very safe and clear on what we were doing, which was so important. Corey made the whole stunt process amazing. We also had incredible stunt doubles. So that whole process was easy, which was refreshing and amazing.

AL: I definitely agree that Corey was such a dream to work with on the film. Blocking everything out was definitely difficult at certain points, especially with the chair stunts, so I definitely think he made the whole process great.

It was definitely a lot of team work collaborating on that, as well setting up the locations to allow for the most sunlight to come through. But everyone was so great at what they do that the whole thing was pretty seamless.

FF: Allie, how did you approach creating the look of the locations that are featured in the follow-up?

AL: We were really fortunate that we had some really great locations on this film. I chatted a lot with Matt, Suzanne and Julia about the different colors and looks we wanted to use. So throughout the whole process, we wanted to make each location really feel like its own. We reserved certain colors for certain locations to amplify that. I was really happy with the way all of them turned out.

FF: Julia, how did the colors that Allie used for the movie’s locations help influence the way you visually shot the feature?

JL: I think a fun thing for Allie and I is that the film opens on a very different and unexpected setup than ‘Becky’ did, and it’s not the same Becky that we knew from the first film. So the world that this film opens on is quite different; there are a lot of blues and pinks. We kept saying, “It’s like Pixar,” as it’s happy and saturated.

Then when we get into the meat of the story, we’re in the woods. In those scenes, it’s more earthy tones, and those bright, saturated tones are gone.

Something that was challenging was that we were in a cabin for a lot of the scenes during the shoot. So there was a lot of wood and other things you have to look out for and neutralize on set.

A lot of the movie takes place during the day. So we had to make sure there was a strong presence of daylight, while still letting the cabin be an unsettling place, which was really important.

Than, of course, there was all the blood.  (Swain laughed.) That’s why we talk about red being such an important color. The blood allowed Becky to really stand out amongst all the trees and against the sky. So we made sure Becky’s wardrobe and everything involving her really stood out.

FF: ‘The Wrath of Becky’ is the anticipated sequel to the acclaimed 2020 action horror film, ‘Becky,’ which you just mentioned, Julia. How did you both work to make sure the follow-up paid tribute to its predecessor, while also being its own unique story?

AL: I think there are fun little Easter eggs throughout this film, with her hat, in particular. Elena Lark, our costume designer, had gotten that, and I think that was a really fun nod to the first film.

JS: There were cute nods to the first film in this one, but I also think we wanted to make it different. There wasn’t a lot of creative cross-over from the first film, as the team is pretty different, in terms of department heads.

So we tried to do something that was our own, and we didn’t really base any of our decisions off of the first film. For example, we don’t have a lot of handheld shots, whereas in the first film, there were a lot of handheld shots as the characters were running through the woods. There are a few handheld shots in our film, but we wanted to make this film more grounded, and differentiate it from the first one.

We wanted to make this film our own, and a lot of people (at the film’s premiere screening at SXSW) noted that we embraced the comedy. We pulled from films that break genre rules, so that it wouldn’t just be one tone.

FF: ‘The Wrath of Becky’ had its World Premiere screening (the night before the interview) in the Midnighters screening section at SXSW. What was your experience like getting to see the film at the festival?

AL: I think seeing it with an audience was so exciting, as we were able to hear everyone laugh and gasp, as well as their overall reactions. It was really gratifying. I felt like it was so much fun to watch it, and it’s great to see your work up on the big screen.

JS: It’s definitely a movie to see in a theater with an audience. If people can see it in a theater, I definitely recommend it. I’m really proud of all the work that we did, and it definitely feel like it’s meant for the big screen. Hearing the audience’s reactions is the reason why we do this; it’s really rewarding.

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