In an age when so many major films have escalating budgets that rely on soulless, artificial digital CGI effects to tell their stories, it is refreshing when a micro-budget film like Sister Tempest arrives to remind us of the exciting possibilities still inherent in cinematic storytelling.
Using a budget that is only a fraction of the cost of a typical studio film, the filmmaker Joe Badon uses practical effects, as well as carefully, hand-crafted costume and set designs to tell an expansive story with loads of imagination in “Sister Tempest.” In this interview, Joe Badon discusses what inspired him to make “Sister Tempest,” as well as his thoughts on film and art.
Can you talk a bit about your own background as a visual artist and illustrator, and how this inspired your films?
I’ve been professionally illustrating comics and storyboards for about 13 years. Somebody once called comics the “Poor man’s movies”. That’s basically why I pursued comic illustration for so long. Also, storyboarding under other directors gave me plenty of insight on how to tell a story visually.
“Sister Tempest” provides a very unique take on the family drama story of the bond between sisters. What inspired you to create this story?
This story is one of the most personal pieces of art I’ve ever created. It’s me dealing with my personal relationships and also my divine relationships. I have a lot of religious shame from growing up in a Catholic Church to then eventually becoming a Youth Pastor at an Evangelical Church and then leaving the church having to deprogram myself from basically this cult that I was once in. And then after all of that, having to come to terms with and accepting who I really am– which is basically just a screwed-up weirdo.
I took those experiences and funneled it into this fantasy tale about a torn relationship between two sisters.
The special effects, as well as the set and costume designs, for “Sister Tempest” were very impressive. Can you talk a bit about the budget for “Sister Tempest,” as well as some of the visual and cinematic influences on your visual design for the film?
I wanted this film to be a cinematic mixtape so each layer of the movie had to have a distinct style. BUT we were on a VERY tight budget of $25,000. So, I decided that the best way to pull off big ideas on a tiny budget was to keep everything retro looking and kitschy.
I remember that I told my special effects guys that I wanted us to pretend that we’re in the 70s and we’re trying to pull off this big sci fi film with only the available resources and style that would be available to us in the 70s. I’m not sure if I pulled that off but that’s what I was aiming for, at least.
With the family drama, we wanted a 70’s tv show sitcom meets Wes Anderson style. My wife Tonya really helps me with the look of my films (sets, costumes and wardrobe). So, we both looked at shows like “The Brady Bunch” and “One Day at a Time” for the sets, wardrobe and hairstyle of the family drama aspect of the film.
For a lot of the fantasy and choir sequences, we referenced “The Color of Pomegranates” because I am obsessed with that film. It’s a perfect visual style that is obscenely underused. For the Kaiju sized spaceman sequences, we studied “Godzilla” (of course) but also the TV show “Danger 5” for its miniature work.
There’s a Space Council in the film. That was mainly inspired by the space council from the film “The Evil Brain from Outer Space” with some “Zardoz” and “Zeta One” sprinkled in there.
How did you find the performers for your film? In particular, the lead actress Kali Russell gave a very powerful performance.
I put out a casting call on Facebook and that’s how I found the vast majority of my performers from both the films I’ve made, and Kali nailed her video audition. Then she came over and read for me and I was convinced because she could change emotions on a dime and completely convince you. She’s classically trained and because of that, she makes it look effortless. Plus, she was EXTREMELY easy to work with. She was up for anything you needed her to do, any last-minute changes or requests– she just went with it.
Your own films have very elaborate and impressive production designs but on a limited budget. Would you ever want to work on a huge budget Hollywood studio film, and if so, are there any film franchises, books, or existing characters you would like to make with this increased budget?
Honestly, I really just want to get my own stories out there instead of working on someone else’s creation. It feels weird. Not to say that I wouldn’t do it but it just feels weirdly unfaithful to tell any stories other than my own.
BUT for shits and giggles, in another reality: take a stab at Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “Dune.” I know I’d fuck it up severely but it’d be fun to shoot! “Dr. Phibes” would make a fun remake that everyone would probably hate.
Maybe lovingly remake “Exorcist 2: The Heretic” because Boorman is incredible and that was an incredibly underrated film. Oh, and “Krull”…that has so much potential for sci-fi, psychedelic, fantasy insanity.
Can you talk about any future projects you are working on now?
We’re currently touring film festivals with a short film entitled “The Blood of the Dinosaurs: A Prologue to the Wheel of Heaven,” and we’ve just wrapped shooting our next short film, aptly titled “The Wheel of Heaven,” and now we’re deep in post-production on that film. Plus, I’m finishing the rough draft on a new Action/Surrealist/Arthouse/Family/Holiday feature film (title withheld) that we’re currently seeking funding for.
I also have an arthouse anthology, a few more shorts, and a stage play musical all in the works.
Thank you for your time, anything else you would like to mention?
Thank you so much! I appreciate you taking the time to watch the film and interview me! You can check out Sister Tempest at Sister Tempest Blog, or look us up on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Just search for Sister Tempest.
Additionally, Sister Tempest is currently for sale on Bluray at:
Plus, you can rent it streaming on vimeo at:
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