Tom Green Starring in First Horror Film: How a 22-Year-Old Director Landed the Comedian
Indie filmmaker James Cullen Bressack met Green in an alleyway — and a few months later was on set directing him.
Like the best horror films, Bethany's story starts with a classic creepy location: a back alley.
Director James Cullen Bressack, then 22, was taking a break from postproduction on Animal Planet's Blood Lake, a B-horror film he was directing for Sharknado producers The Asylum.
In the alley behind The Asylum's Burbank offices, Bressack spotted Tom Green, whose office was in a building nearby. Bressack stopped to say hello, and they quickly built a rapport over the coming days, with the young director eventually pitching him the idea of collaborating.
"I was really inspired by his enthusiasm," Green recalled on the Van Nuys set of Bethany earlier this month.
Shot over two weeks on a microbudget, the film centers on a woman named Claire (Stefanie Estes) who moves back into her childhood home with her husband, Aaron (Zack Ward). She begins reliving traumatic childhood memories — including flashbacks to tragic events involving her late mother (Shannen Doherty). Green plays a psychiatrist who becomes involved with the couple's lives.
"I've obviously done a lot of outrageous characters and ridiculous things in my TV show, and this is a more serious role," said Green.
Despite his youth, Bressack has the hard-earned air of a movie veteran, which helped him bring Green on board. Bethany marks the ninth feature he's directed, and he grew up in an industry family. His father, Gordon Bressack, is an animation writer with three Emmys for work on '90s staples Pinky and the Brain and Animaniacs. His mother is voice actress Ellen Gerstell, best known for working on Jem and the Holograms.
For the director, now 23, getting every shot he needs is a matter of doing the work before he sets foot on set.
"I did a ridiculous amount of prep," Bressack said in between scenes. "If you look at my script, I have notes on every single page, so much so that the notes almost cover up the actual page."
Bressack co-wrote the script with producing partner Ward via their newly created production company Grit Film Works. Ward has more than 100 credits to his name, but he remains best known for the 1983 holiday staple A Christmas Story, in which he played the red-haired bully Scut Farkus.
Bressack's relationship with Ward also began with a random crossing of paths when the director recognized the actor at a sushi restaurant in 2013 and struck up a conversation. The pair became fast friends, despite the age difference. (Ward noted that he will be double his producing partner's age when he turns 46 in August.)
"He immediately gave me equal respect. He never treated me like I was a kid trying to make movies. He treated me like a professional who is making movies," said Bressack.
The pair shot Bethany and another horror flick, Restoration, back to back with the same crew, funding it with help from private investors and calling in as many favors as they could.
"We're accomplishing a lot for the budget. If people didn't know the budget, people would watch and think it was closer to $1 million," said Ward. "We're going to owe a lot of people a lot of favors. Eating may or may not be an option afterward."
Bethany is currently in postproduction, and Bressack is prepping another two directorial efforts — Deadly Reunion and LimeLight. Here's the director and Green together: