In the midst of chaos and uncertainty, Amazon eases our collective anxiety with the release of “Blow the Man Down,” a new film from a pair of talented women. Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy co-wrote and co-directed this mystery that is part drama, part comedy, and entirely captivating.
Sophie Lowe and Morgan Saylor play Priscilla and Mary Beth Connolly, two sisters in a small New England fishing town who have just lost their mother to cancer. While Priscilla tries to keep their mother’s fish market afloat, Mary Beth runs afoul of a stranger that leaves the sisters covering up a crime. Meanwhile, their mother’s friends (played by June Squibb, Marceline Hugot, and Annette O’Toole) wage a quiet war against a business of ill repute owned by their former pal Enid (Margo Martindale).
“Blow the Man Down” enjoyed a run on the festival circuit that included a premiere at Tribeca last year, and included Main, TIFF, and AFI Fest. Amazon purchased the film and it is now available to watch on Prime.
I had the chance to chat with Bridget and Krudy about their long journey and what they learned about themselves and each other along the way.
Karen Peterson/Awards Circuit: I got to see the film at AFI back in November and it’s exciting that it’s finally coming out.
DK: We’re tripping out! We can’t believe it’s coming out.
BSC: Yeah, November literally seems so far away.
DK: Yeah, whoa. I keep forgetting it’s not already out!
KP: What has your journey been like? When did you start this, when did you finish, and how are you feeling now that it’s coming into the world?
DK: Answered in reverse, it feels amazing to share it, it’s been a really long journey. It’s probably seven or eight years in total. We wrote the script for forever. And making the movie is its own journey. That took about three years.
BSC: We really grew up trying to make this movie. It’s insane. We started writing it like eight years ago. We really learned how to write over the course of writing. We stopped, we’d do other projects, had day jobs. It took awhile. But we kept coming back to it. It’s like a larger than life tale, but it’s a super personal movie. To have it and finally be able to share it with people, to share it with our relatives, it’s such a family movie. Our family members are such an inspiration for so many of the characters, so it’s really a trip.
DK: Some know it, some don’t! Some people, it’s best not to tell.
BSC: But yeah, sharing it finally, it also feels like, “Oh! We figured it was already out.”
DK: We have had opportunities to show our home town and stuff. It’s gonna be a trip. The things Amazon is doing to promote it, it’s kind of surreal. Honestly, I have out-of-body moments every time we have a marketing call.
BSC: That’s very true! There’s billboards around town right now and we’ve taken dorky photos in front of them. We’re like, “I don’t know what this means, but it means something!”
DK: And it’s fun to have a movie that has these characters because it really does feel like these characters actually get to become bigger than anything else. I’m so glad the world is going to learn about some of these women characters.
BSC: By the time you’re done with a movie, it’s so not about you. It’s been informed by so many bazillion things and the movie tells you what it wants to be a lot of times. The movie doesn’t care if you loved this scene, it’s gotta go. It’s weird. I feel like I’m talking about a child. It’s not like talking about yourself. You know what I mean? It’s crazy endurance. It was almost a decade.
DK: There were so many moments where we didn’t think it would ever get made. It’s hard to stress that enough. You just don’t think it will ever get made. So to have it going to be out there in the world, we hope a lot of people see it and it really is a dream come true.
KP: What’s something that you each learned about yourselves as you were dealing with the setbacks?
BSC: There were so many setbacks.
DK: I felt like I’ve always wanted to be a filmmaker since I was really tiny. I was obsessed with becoming a director and wanting to make movies. When I was growing up, you’d go to these talks and everyone would talk about the sacrifices that you would need to make. And I was always like, “Yeah, yeah, okay, yeah, I’m in!” And really, making the movie is not sacrifices in this sort of martyr, grand way. I mean sacrifices in terms of the commitment level that tests your depth.
I would say this one anecdote of this woman filmmaker when we were trying to get the film off the ground, she said to me, “You’re not crazy. It is this hard.” That was a really cathartic moment. Because at points it did feel that hard and just feeling like recommitting over and over to something I thought I had committed to when I was very young was a journey. It was really testing me over and over again in a way.
BSC: You’re really not doing it for the money. You’re doing it despite the money. For me, I just remember making so many choices to live in low rent areas, and not buy clothes. It sounds dumb, but keeping my overhead low was this really important thing for me. I felt like the freedom to make your creative vision is so fragile. It’s so fragile and it goes so fast. And the older you get, the harder it is because you start to feel like you’re really off the rails with what society wants you to do.
DK: Yeah. You don’t have health insurance and you’re living in a crappy place and your friends all have nice jobs and nice apartments. I know it sounds shallow, but it’s easy to question yourself as you get older. It’s a lot easier to be punk when you’re 22. And so when you realize 8 years is a long time, you’re going to be well into your thirties—
BSC: And you don’t have control over the timeline.
DK: No control over the timeline and I think that sort of zen lesson of acceptance and constantly pushing was sort of a brain training that happened during the process of just being like, we’re never going to fully celebrate a step forward and we’re never going to fully mourn a step back. We’re going to develop this weird mentality. We’re oxen strapped to a cart and we’ll just take one step at a time.
BSC: Yeah, it was definitely one step at a time. Totally.
KP: That’s generally good advice for life.
DK: Keep your overhead low!
BSC: Literally the one piece of advice we give filmmakers.
DK: Bridget really was like, “This is the way!”
BSC: I was all the freedom and not having a job, but I also benefited from Krudy putting in the time and having jobs. We learned a lot. Krudy has had multiple lifetimes. She was a personal assistant to Matthew Libatique, the cinematographer. She worked in camera departments for years and then she was working at Annapurna. So she had these masterclasses where she really knew how high level stuff was made.
DK: And then Bridget was like, “Quit your job!”
BSC: I was like, “Quit your job and let’s make shit!” And I’m like, “I got a DSLR, we can’t be stopped! Let’s do it!”
DK: Yeah, and it’s like, “You want to make a film… You don’t have a million dollars.”
BSC: I am just laughing at me pep-talking you and you’re like, “Dude, you live in a basement.” I’m like, “Look at me! I’m living the dream!” And you’re like, “Uh, you’re below the poverty line.” I was like, “No, I want that!”
DK: But it actually took both sides of the equation to work. You know? Take from Hollywood what was useful for us and take it into the indie world.
BSC: And then let go of some of the Hollywood shit.
DK: Take it, leave it.
BSC: Take it, leave it, and then go your own way.
KP: How did your different backgrounds and experiences help you work together better as a team?
DK: At least as far as getting the movie going, it really took all our collective skills to get the script in the place to be eligible to be considered by a financier.
BSC: We also have a lot in common. That’s the thing. We have different hats. But we started in the same place. Krudy and I were both camera chicks. Girls who worked in camera departments. Girls who wanted to hold the camera themselves. We were lugging tri-pods and C-stands.
DK: You might remember us as operators on the Lifetime TV show, “The Conversation.”
BSC: Oh yeah, we both worked as operators! We had this weird DIY camera background originally. And so when I first became friends with Krudy, she had a buzzed head and was wearing a tool bet and was this hardcore chick.
DK: We were shooting and I was her AC and it was like, “Yo.”
BSC: We started like these hard knock girls working the beat and we’re just like, “I’m gonna make sure. We’re gonna make shit and guys don’t expect us to know how to use this camera, but we know! We know how to use it and we’re just gonna do it.” And then we started going our separate ways as we started different skill sets. We were honestly trying to figure out how to make money.
DK: Yeah, it was a necessity.
BSC: I started doing commercials, which was really great practice for being used to a big crew. That was great to have.
DK: And also getting to direct a lot.
BSC: Yeah, getting to direct and being comfortable not looking over your shoulder to see if your decision was okay. That was good practice.
DK: And I saw Bridget all the time, while we were trying to make “Blow the Man Down,” accumulating skills and growing into herself as a creator while she was moving through commercials and shorts.
BSC: And then Krudy had this amazing body of knowledge. She had been reading so many scripts and writing. I felt like the depth of the writing got so much better with the work you were doing, Krudy.
DK: I had made some shorts and thought, “Oh, man, I’ve got to go to storytelling school.” We had done so much camera stuff, I didn’t think about storytelling. It felt Level 2.
BSC: And I worked on stuff that had a really big budget but a bad script.
DK: That was big. I worked on [redacted]. And it doesn’t matter how excellent your cast is, or the production designer. The script’s got to be good, man. So that refocused all my energies of how do we do this. And Bridget was like, “Yeah, how do we do this?”
BSC: We need to learn how to write, and there’s only one way to do that, which is the hard way.
KP: You do have a great script and you have a great cast. So you’ve got both things working in your favor. How did you put together this cast that you’ve got with people like June Squibb and Margo Martindale and Annette O’Toole?
DK: It took like a year. It took a really long time. We met a lot of the younger women first before we had a casting agent. And our EPs, Albert [Berger] and Ron [Yerxa] had worked with June Squibb on “Nebraska.” They helped us reach out to June. She was one of our first attachments. And sometimes casting for movie has crazy, quirky stories. Our casting was actually not an exciting story. It was exciting when we finally found people after a long search.
BSC: Yeah, like locking in Margo Martindale happened pretty late in the process and it’s one of those decisions that feels like it defines a movie. That’s something a director dreams of. That cast that’s different than you thought — but wait, it’s better! All of a sudden we’re really inspired.
BSC: Bringing in Margo… Margo sets the tone of the film. It’s really rare to find somebody who can play angry and distrustful characters in a way that’s fun to watch. She brings so much charm and natural swagger to Enid that it was such a gift to the movie.
We wanted this movie to have something to say and have a real storyline, but we also cared about the movie being fun. This is a movie that we’re drawing so much from our family and we actually want our family members to like it. So it was this weird litmus test. We need to like it, and it needs to be accessible on a level that our parents would watch. It was this rule we always had that we just wanted it to be accessible on some level and have fun and enjoy. Krudy and I have such a little kid joy when we’re talking about movies. We love the Spielbergs and the dorky stuff. We wanted to keep that fun.
DK: Yeah, keep that fun. The fun that we had making it. And I feel like what I meant to say about the casting process not being exciting… The casting process for an indie movie when you’re not legit yet, when you don’t have a casting agent and you don’t have financing, is another kind of endurance test. It was Bridge and I. We would have submissions from agencies of young women, but it was us going through all the materials and doing so much without any support a lot of the time. You’re waiting a lot. You’re waiting on people to read — knock on wood. You wish there was this casting whirlwind where it’s like, “And then we found our people and it was an amazing meet-cute.” And it’s not a meet-cute sometimes. When you get a casting agent, it feels like things open up. But when you’re just trying to put a movie together and give it momentum, it’s very hard.
BSC: It’s like watching paint dry.
KP: Now that the film has played at some festivals and it’s coming out, what are some of the best reactions you’ve heard from people?
BSC: I was thinking probably one of my favorite moments… After we screened it in my hometown, I was at a Christmas party the next night. A bunch of my mom’s female friends started talking about the movie and just seeing how activated they were by it and talking about seeing women in charge, how we don’t think of them as in charge, but they actually were. Seeing the way it started a conversation about how they see themselves and how they thought of older generations was probably one of the best moments for me. My Aunt Priscilla, who’s in her 80s, sent me texts from her friends saying, “It was nice to see a movie seeing women smart and in charge finally!” That stuff, the fact that it means something to that generation is a special joy.
DK: There was this one guy who was an unexpected character and he said with sincerity, “It had me thinking about my mom and all the secrets she has and all the stuff she went through that she’s never going to tell me.” But it really started turning the wheels for him on his mom. So just that people would see their moms and grandmas and sisters a little bit differently.
BSC: Cause that’s what we did writing it. We investigated the way we had dismissed things and written things off. This film invites you to underestimate women and then shows you how much more depth there is in their closet or behind closed doors.