Chris and Travis interview for ‘Held’

We recently got to sit down with Chris and Travis of The Gallows fame, to discuss their new movie Held which is a relentless thriller. We talk about casting, shooting the really tense scenes and how it happened on set. Also the score of the film which is masterful in its own right.

AJ Friar:
Hi guys. So how did Held come about? Because it starts off like a typical home invasion kind of flick, but then it takes a turn into the Stepford Wives kind of genre, like if you fall in line, then you’ll be kind of released kind of thing, so how did that all come about?

Chris :
Well, we met the star, Jill Awbrey in kind of a funny way. Her sister actually lives across the street from us and one day she was out walking her dog. She’s visiting up from LA, where she was from, or living. And Travis went out and met her, just trying to be a friendly neighbor, just trying to say hi, and they got to talking and she said, “Well, I’m an actress in LA.”

Travis:
And I said, “We make movies, so if there’s something we can collaborate on, let’s take a look.” And so from that time forward, we watched a short film that she had directed and starred in, and we really liked it and asked her what the story was that she was wanting to tell. And she kind of put an outline together and then we met and discussed it and talked about where it could go and what it could be. And we really kind of, from that point, for about eight months developed this story, and she would just really kind of rework the script and really did a great job and doing all that stuff until we were ready to make this film.

AJ Friar:
Yeah, and getting the tense sequences down on Held, how was it just getting that on script or just getting that into fruition because it got really tense at times.

Chris :
Right? I appreciate that. Yeah, no, there was some definitely some tense moments on set too, just filming some of these sequences. You probably have in mind the ones I’m thinking of too. There’s some of them that were very intense, probably some of the most intense things we’ve ever put on camera.

Travis:
It’s great though. I love the way those things turned out because I feel it. I think we’re able to remove ourselves from our participation in the film as directors and as producers, but when watching, we feel like, our shoulders kind of get stiff and we tighten up like, “Oh, what is … This is really, really intensifying.”

Chris :
I think a lot of the credit for that goes to Jill and Bart for the performances, but also our editors, Andy and Aaron for the pacing and also Brandon and Reg, our sound team composer and sound designer. I mean the soundscape in our film, I think turned out really great thanks to those guys and that definitely adds to the tension and the tense feeling.

Travis:
I think everything from every side came together very well to make it the most potent, tension-filled moments that they could be, yeah, the most potent.

AJ Friar:
Yeah. And I’m wanting to talk about the score a little bit, because like you said, it had its tense moments as well and most of the time, in genre films, the music composition can act like a main villain by its own self, like most recently seen in A Quiet Place to where the score in that just kind of felt like its own character. So with this, how was it when you guys were collaborating with the film composer on this?

Travis:
Well, it was great. The guy we worked with on this, his name is Richard Breakspear and the guy’s just a great guy. He understands film. He loves film.

Chris :
And he’s just a talented musician.

Travis:
Super talented.

Chris :
I think the best thing about our relationship with Reg, as we call him, Richard is his full name, but Reg is what we call him, but we just have a great working relationship where we understand what each other is saying even though he has a musical background, he used to have a band, but personally, I’m not a musically inclined person. I don’t know how to speak musically, but with Reg, we were able to talk about character and pacing and sort of the tone and he just really understands that. And it was awesome. We actually had one piece in the film too, that we got to record live with The Budapest Orchestra. It was our first time ever having a piece of score recorded live with a real orchestra, which was cool, especially during COVID times to be able to pull that off.

Travis:
Yeah, we want to do that all the time now because it was so amazing. We want to do that.

Chris :
Yeah, funny too. I should mention-

AJ Friar:
Yeah, you tried something and you can’t go back to the other way you used to do it.

Travis:
Right.

Chris :
Right. You mentioned Quiet Place too. I got to give a quick shout out to our Sound Designer. Brandon Jones, who actually did A Quiet Place. He’s the guy. We met him and worked with him on The Gallows back in the day. And since The Gallows, he took off and just started doing Michael Bay’s movies. Godzilla vs Kong.

Travis:
Oh yeah, Michael-

AJ Friar:
I was so excited to see Godzilla vs. Kong too.

Chris :
Yeah. Yeah, no, he’s great. He’s a master. And we were very fortunate to get him because he had a window of time where he was working from home thanks to COVID. So he had a gap in his schedule to help do Held, which he loved.

Travis:
We actually had asked him for advice on who to go with or maybe just some tips.

Chris :
Some consulting.

Travis:
For who we end up with. And he says, “Guys, I love the movie. I want to work with you guys again. I miss you guys and I want to do this because I think the movie is great.” So we scored, he helped score, Reg scored. Anyway, we all scored, when it comes to scoring. We all scored big with that.

AJ Friar:
Yeah. Let’s talk about the casting process a little bit because, like you said, you got the main actress, but casting her husband had to be kind of difficult because they had to be balanced with each other and vice versa to where there’s a little tension between them as well. So how did casting the husband part of this all come about?

Travis:
Well, that’s a good question because we actually, these two were the only two that we went to for the part and we didn’t actually cast anyone else. We had met Bart Johnson at Sundance, January of 2019. We knew his brother from something, his brother, Brad, who was also in the film industry and we randomly bumped into him at Sundance and he said, “Hey guys, good to see you. Come up to this event we’re having.” And we went up to this event and we met his brother Bart there. Of course, many people know him as Coach Bolton from High School Musical, but he just became a quick friend. We shared a lot of similar life experiences and then we asked him, “What is something you’d like to do, a role that you’d like to do that you’ve never had a chance to do?”
And he says, “Man, something more gritty, something more dark, different than all the roles that I’ve portrayed.” And so Chris and I sent him the script like a week or so later and he just loved it.

Chris :
And then he met up with Jill and that was the test to see if Jill, if that chemistry was there, if that comradery.

Travis:
The compatibility.

Chris :
And they hit it off and then the rest of it-

Travis:
And he said, “This is a wise decision to move forward in this way. Let’s do it.” And so we all agreed and it turned out great. And I’ll be honest with you, we didn’t know how it was going to go specifically, but when we were on set and we had a couple of producing friends show up on set, they were like, “Bart is the real deal. He’s the real deal.” And so we were like, “Of course. Of course.” Our instincts were right as we hope that they always will be, but he did a great job. It’s different than what he’s done in the past and the two of them together really, they pull you many different ways in the film, so it was a lot of fun to see that.

AJ Friar:
And as filmmakers yourself, you love to see movies on the big screen, however, the time that we’re living in now, it’s kind of putting a small dent on that experience. So what can you say if anything about what the streaming experience that we’re going to get with Held release?

Chris :
That’s a great question. Yeah, you hit the nail on the head. As filmmakers, we want people to see our stuff on the biggest screen possible, the best sound quality-

Travis:
And that’s how we make it. We make it for that experience.

Chris :
We specifically tailor it for that, right? We’re fortunate with Magnolia because they’re going to be putting it in as many theaters as they can. And as many theaters as they can get to book it. We were fortunate enough to see it on the big screen with our cast and crew a few weeks ago. We did a small screening for the team and it does hold up. It’s definitely where it’s meant to be seen.

Travis:
It’s great to see it in the theater. Anyone that can, should see it there.

Chris :
But we know that streaming is where a lot of movies are being watched and I think viewers are savvy. I think people are not. For the most part, they’re trying to give themselves the best experience at home. They want the best sound and picture that they can do.

Travis:
So to help them, we suggest getting the best sound system that you can possibly use at home while watching it at home.

Chris :
Yeah, definitely watch it in surround sound if you can, on the big screen, turn the lights down, get rid of those reflections.

Travis:
Set the mood and the tone to allow yourself to be scared and trapped within our film.

Chris :
But at the end of the day, though we’re-

AJ Friar:
When this happened, I upped my sound system to Dolby Atmos.

Chris :
Oh, there you go.

AJ Friar:
And I got a Phillips hue lights to sync with the TV.

Chris :
That’s cool.

AJ Friar:
So it is a combination of Dolby, Cinema, and 4DX, so …

Chris :
That’s awesome.

Travis:
Nice, kind of a Smart Home, like a Smart Home.

Chris :
Like in the movie.

AJ Friar:
Yeah. Hopefully I don’t get trapped in mine.

Chris :
Trapped watching movies though, that’s not so bad.

AJ Friar:
All right. So is there any final things you would like to say about Held before we sign off?

Chris :
Look, Held is it’s a lot of fun. It’s very thrilling and suspenseful. We hope everyone enjoys it. It’s the first in a whole slate of films that we’re trying to get out as a company. Our company, Tremendum Pictures is very much an independent filmmaking company that’s making things on that bigger studio level to compete with those kinds of films, those great films that they’re always putting out. And I would just say anyone who wants to just support that and support us can just follow us at Tremendum Pics on the social media places and at tremendum.com, they can become an insider and help support more of this kind of filmmaking, because it really takes a lot to get this kind of stuff done, especially in the indie world and we appreciate and love any support, whether it’s helping get a film made or helping watch the film and giving it high marks on IMDB or whatever. So, we appreciate all the support from everyone.

AJ Friar:
Well guys, thank you so much for joining me at Infamoushorrors.com today. It’s been really fun talking to you and congratulations on Held and I can’t wait for more people to see it.

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