Interview with Jakob Bilinski, director of Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh

Awhile back, I got the chance to check out Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh (read my review of the film here), a Midwestern Giallo-influenced revenge thriller from director Jakob Bilinski. I absolutely loved the film, so I was extremely excited when Jakob agreed to an interview. Check out what he had to say about Three Tears as well as his upcoming projects.

PopHorror: What made you want to become a filmmaker?

Jakob Bilinski: I’ve always been a cinema addict. Growing up, all my friends wanted to play outside… I wanted to stay in and watch movies. Somewhere along the line, that transitioned into wanting to know how this thing I loved experiencing got made. I made a short film as a sort of thesis project for a class in high school and went days with no sleep, working on it nonstop. But I realized it never really felt like work. The film got a standing ovation from my class and something clicked. I thought, “Hey, I really find value and reward in this process.” So I started chasing further down the rabbit hole, and kind of never looked back. Film is a language that just makes sense to me, and I also kind of love how the line between art and entertainment is so easily dissolved along the way, and it can exist as both.

PopHorror: What films and directors inspired you the most?

Jakob Bilinski: Oh hell… That’s a really long list. I’m inspired by such a wide array of films and filmmakers. I swear by anything Alfred Hitchcock, Ingmar Bergman, David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, and Nicolas Winding Refn, to name a few. I could sit here and list films and filmmakers and gush about it all day, but I’ll cite that I distinctly remember Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting being films that first planted the “Hey… I think I want to do that” seed. Then in college, I stumbled across Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (one of my favorite films) and Fellini’s 8 1/2 and realized film as a canvas could really be anything you wanted it to be. That as an artform, it was limitless. Those two films solidified my decision to be a filmmaker. But yeah, my taste is all over the board. I can go from Vertigo to Fight Club to Con Air with ease, from Seven Samurai to From Dusk Till Dawn to Bad Boys II on a dime. My inspiration is kind of all over the map.

PopHorror: Your first film was Shade of Grey. What can you tell me about it?

Jakob Bilinski: Shade Of Grey… Oh man. Yeah, that was my first film I put out there officially, although there are plenty of other flicks that came before it you’d have to get me really drunk in order to convince me to let them out of the vault. It was a learning experience, to say the least. Shot the entire feature in a weekend. It was a batshit madhouse. But it was a very personal film, and I’m proud of what it was… even if it does make me cringe to look at it today. It’s this tale of several stories that intersect and share a connection due to their taking place in the same anonymous motel room over the years. I think the intent was better than the execution, but hey, we all gotta start somewhere, right?

PopHorror: You’ve done a lot of shorts in several different genres. Is there anywhere to watch your shorts? Which one is your favorite and what is your favorite genre to work in?

Jakob Bilinksi: Yeah, I’ve done my share of shorts over the years. I’d say the best place to check them out is on my YouTube channel. My favorite short? Hmmm… I think some of my more recent shorts are better from a technical perspective, but I think my personal favorite is still Obsolescence. I shot that one with a great actor/producer friend of mine, Scott Ganyo, while in L.A. for Shade Of Grey’s festival run. We put it together on the fly, writing it in a couple days and shooting the entire thing in 12 hours, guerrilla-style. I’m just really proud with how that one came out, and the cast I had in tow was a powerhouse ensemble. As for my favorite genre to work in, I don’t know that I really have one. Horror is fun, but I really enjoy cerebral dramas. Action is probably the most fun thing to shoot, regardless of what the overall genre is. I always say that it doesn’t matter what genre I’m working in, I just make character pieces. If the characters and story are interesting, I’m happy working in any genre.

PopHorror: Your first feature horror film, Three Tears On Bloodstained Flesh, was recently released from Unearthed Films. How does it feel to have it finally be seen after all the time and work you put into it?

Jakob Bilinski: It’s surreal, honestly. It’s awesome to finally have this thing out there, because yeah, it’s been a really long and complicated road for this one. People have been asking for a long time, “When can I see it?!” So it’s nice to finally have an answer for that! I couldn’t be more grateful to Stephen Biro and Unearthed Films for believing in the move, championing it, and taking a chance on it. I’m honored to be in the Unearthed family as a part of their amazing catalog.

PopHorror: Where did the idea for Three Tears come from?

Jakob Bilinski: My lead actor and producer, Bill Gobin, is kind of responsible for getting the ball rolling. He had been bugging me – I say that jokingly – for awhile about, “Hey, when are we gonna do a movie together?” When I said I didn’t have anything currently that I thought he’d be a fit for, he suggested that I write something for him. Most people, if they’d said that to me, I would’ve thought, “Yeah, no.” But something about that intrigued me. So I thought about what kind of movie I’d like to make. I was obsessed with Gialli at the time… well, still am, Giallo is a go-to subgenre for me – and came up with the idea of playing with the structure of that – instead of taking an American to Europe, I took a dude from the city to a small town, and kept a lot of the conventional tropes at play. Sort of a modern, Midwesternized take on the genre, including the multiple, soap opera-esque twists. I sort of wound up merging that with a revenge thriller, and focused on the familial drama as the through-line for the narrative. The horror elements sort of are satellites to that, but I wanted to pay homage to the stylistic characteristics of a Giallo while trying to do my own thing. More of an homage than an emulation, if that makes sense. Anyway, so I sat down to write the thing and wound up killing a lot of people on paper along the way, and then we filmed it. It was fun.

PopHorror: What was the experience shooting the film?

Jakob Bilinski: Grueling. But awesome. But also ulcer-inducing. I crammed what probably was a four week shoot into 11 days, initially. No sleep happened in that stretch. Then we had a couple pick up days that I scheduled for weekends after that, but due to circumstances such as injuries – not from shooting, but I had to wait for an actor to heal multiple times after a string of bad luck events in life – scheduling conflicts, you know. Those reshoots dragged on for months. Post-production was arduous as well and took awhile to get right. Also, the edit underwent several revisions before it finalized in its current version. My first cut was way longer. Took awhile to hack it down. But I learned a lot on this thing. And I had a helluva team with me. Couldn’t have asked for a better cast and crew and support team, truly. They kept me sane… well, for the most part (laughs), during and after the shoot. But yeah, this was the biggest cast, with the most locations and set pieces – not to mention action scenes – I’d done, so it was ambitious but very worth it to me.

PopHorror: You had an excellent cast for the film. How did you go about finding all the right people for the roles?

Jakob Bilinski: Thank you! I couldn’t agree with you more. I love my cast for this thing. I wrote the role specifically for Bill so he was the only one set from the get-go. Although I’ll admit I wasn’t prepared for how good he would be in this thing – I originally hedged my bets and wrote him a little simpler in case he couldn’t pull off the emotional range Dominic needed, but on set, he went to another level and really enhanced the character into what it is on screen. I took auditions for all the other roles, pulling people from within Indiana and surrounding states, and two actors I’d worked with previously flew in from L.A. (Scott Ganyo and Rosalind Rubin). I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve collaborated with those two, they’re just amazing. The audition process was fun and it wasn’t too hard to find the right actors to fill the roles. I’m thrilled with the awesome group I was lucky to have in this flick.

PopHorror: Bill Gobin is an absolute force of nature in the film. Do you happen to know why he hasn’t done anymore acting?

Jakob Bilinski: Bill is great. I love his performance in the film. He has done other projects actually, and has a few in the works, I believe. He’s acted in two other shorts I made since: Three TearsGangster Redemption, and Infectious, a short film that was made as part of an anthology film that’s not out yet. I know he’s hungry to do more work, so someone should hire him! I’d buy a ticket!

PopHorror:  You directed a segment for Volumes of Blood. How did you get involved in the project?

Jakob Bilinski: I directed this short, Lucky, which was sort of a community outreach kind of thing at the local library where local filmmakers came in and made a film from someone’s screenplay, so people could come get an idea of how an indie film set works. I was one of two directors who came out to film the winning screenplays from a local contest and we had to make the entire thing in a night. Lucky wound up doing really well, got some great reviews and played a fair amount of festivals. So the team that organized that project and brought me on to make the film then put together Volumes Of Blood as a sort of logical, bigger next step, that time focusing on making several shorts that were connected. Since I made the short that kind of helped kickstart Volumes Of Blood into reality, I was asked to come on and direct a segment for it, 13 After Midnight. So of course, I said yes. It was a lot of fun, and I got to work with a lot of friends on that one, which is always a good time.

PopHorror:  If you could work with anyone in the horror scene, who would it be?

Jakob Bilinski: Oh hell… There are far too many to name, and it’s easy to just sit and daydream about who I’d love to work with in the genre, given the opportunity. I’d have to say though if I’m picking one: Udo Kier. I think he’s a fucking phenom, and is one of my favorite actors of all time. I would do just about anything to have him in one of my films.

PopHorror:  Any upcoming projects?

Jakob Bilinski: Currently, I’m working on finishing post-production on my new feature, Emergence, which is an emotionally intense thriller about a serial killer and his first victim, written by my good friend, Joe Atkinson. Beyond that, I’ve got a few features in development. I’m not sure which one will get off the ground first – nothing’s real until a camera is rolling – so not sure how much I’m ready to divulge, to be honest. I’ve written a new script that involves a group of actors that mostly destroy each others’ lives as they prepare for a local community theater production, which is kind of a dark, twisted drama and feels very different from anything I’ve done before. A good friend of mine has penned this amazingly twisted psychological thriller that’s one of the best screenplays I’ve ever read – kind of like a David Fincher film by way of David Lynch, which I’m attached to direct.

Another good friend of mine has written a surrealistic horror film I adore that’s more or less a love letter to Clive Barker that I’m attached to as well. And I’ve written a script about a couple who move back to their hometown after a series of family tragedies, only to find that something may or may not be wrong with their new house… and then it takes a hard left turn. I’m particularly fond of that one. I’m also writing and playing with a couple other ideas to see what sticks, but those are the core focuses right now. Forgive me for being intentionally esoteric there… I don’t even know that I’m ready to toss the titles out yet, as those are all kind of in progress as far as development goes. But, yeah. I’ve got some things up my sleeve for the – hopefully! – near future.

About Charlie Cargile

Indianapolis based Horror journalist. Lover of most things Horror (especially Indie), Pop Punk and the strange and unusual.

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