An interview with STRESS POSITION director and star, A.J. Bond
It is Thursday afternoon and I am excited and eager to meet local filmmaker, A.J. Bond. I am also incredibly nervous. His new film, STRESS POSITION, is essentially an experimental film about torture dynamics, most of which sprung directly from the mind of the man I was about sit down with. I arrive at our meeting place, scan the room to see he hasn’t arrived yet, and, relieved, I order a tea. As I am paying, AJ shows up and I introduce myself. Immediately, any anxiety I had over this interview disappears, as his warm smile makes me feel comfortable and relaxed. This relief is oddly unsettling though given what I’ve seen this man do on screen and I begin to wonder what other dark thoughts hide behind those eyes of his.
Black Sheep Reviews: So this is your first feature film, having worked with short film previously. Was a feature film something you always wanted to do? Was it a natural progression for you?
A.J. Bond: Features are always something I wanted to do, and I think that’s the case for most filmmakers. The truth is you watch a tonne of feature films so I think we understand the language of a feature film, where we don’t watch as many short films. It’s actually harder I think to intuitively make a short film than it is for most people to understand the structure of a feature.
BSR: STRESS POSITION opens with your character telling the story of how the situation came to be, but how did the movie itself come to be, and is that story in the movie true?
Bond: It’s sorta true. STRESS POSITION came about because I’ve been working on another film and it’s been difficult raising money for that film so I just wanted to do something. So I looked through this list of ideas I have, and I have always had an interest in torture and Stasian interrogation techniques. I thought, well, maybe I can do some of these things on myself and I immediately thought of my good friend, David Amito, who is an actor. So I pitched it with, “What if we tortured one another?” And he loved it and said, “Let’s do it!”
BSR: So, was he game for anything the entire time?
BOND: No, it was problematic and we really did have a falling out. The movie is very true in the fact that Dave started to believe that I was evil. And we have since patched up our relationship, but as I said, Dave takes things at face value. Even though I had said, “I am going to torture you for this film,” as soon as I spat in his face in the beginning of the film, he was like, “Woah, this guy is actually going to torture me.” It was almost like he hadn’t really processed that this was going to happen. Me and my producers looked back and asked, “When did we lose Dave?” and looking back at the footage, I think it was the very first day when I spit on him and he was really shocked and really angry.
BSR: Was there any moment where either of you said, “This is too much; we need to stop”?
BOND: There were moments, like when I brought out the cattle prod, Dave refused to film until we proved to him that the prod wasn’t real. I told him I wasn’t going to hurt him but he demanded to know the truth and said, “Sorry, I don’t trust you anymore.”
BSR: Earlier you had mentioned improv and I think I read somewhere that you were part of an improv group before this?
BOND: Yeah, I did a lot of improv when I was a teenager in high school and I always wanted to do dramatic improv because it’s almost always funny. That being said, I wanted the film to be funnier than it was. I think there is a lot of dark humour in it, but I kinda like to have as much humour in a film as you can without pushing it into a comedy, and I don’t know if I got that balance quite right. It was interesting because I was in every scene so in terms of improv and being a director I always felt I was in control. If a scene started to veer off into territory that wasn’t working, I was able to shift the scene rather than cut. I could improvise and guide us so that was a liberating way to work.
BSR: You mention control on the set, and in the beginning of the film, Dave is calling you out on some control issues that your character has. Do you yourself have control issues?
BOND: I do have control issues and everything Dave said is true. He said that I have to tell people that I am gay to have control, and while I was defensive at the time, it is something that I do. I guess I want to be in control of how my identity is portrayed to people, so I am almost feeding them information. In making this film, I was hoping to break out of that by using improv and not having a script and literally not knowing what was going to happen sometimes was my way of trying to force myself to lose control and live in the moment.
BSR: You mentioned you are working on a new film right now, how’s that going?
WYSTERIA is very different than STRESS POSITION. It’s a script i’ve been working on for literally 5 years, which almost makes me laugh because I went off and made a film with no script at all. STRESS POSITION is such a different experience but I am excited to do the exact opposite with a film that is very much geared towards an audience. It’s intended to have an impact and thrill an audience. We are close to getting WYSTERIA financed so hopefully we will begin to shoot this year or next. Fingers crossed!
STRESS POSITION is playing in select cinemas now, and, if you aren’t squeamish, you should check it out. And in the end, interviewing Bond was not the least bit tortuous.