I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
A nice companion piece to this week’s theatrical release of ISLE OF DOGS is PATH OF BLOOD, a stop-motion (or cut paper animated) feature film that was filmed frame-by-frame in one man’s kitchen in Austin, TX. The highly entertaining and brutal film, about a masterless samurai who goes through a dangerous and impossible obstacle, recently was released on disc by Synapse Films.
Eric Power (seen in the picture above) wanted to become a filmmaker after seeing Akira Kurosawa’s 1985 classic RAN. He saw it as a teenager and it affected him profoundly. After years went by and he worked on various projects and short films, he watched a lot of samurai films to catch up on everything he had missed during his studies and experimented works.
“DVD was becoming more readily available, so I was diving into all these obscure genre classics that a lot of American audiences don’t really get to see,” Power said. “As I was falling more and more in love with the genre, I decided to make a short film version of PATH BLOOD (watch it here). I screened it at festivals and people seemed to respond positively to it. So I was thinking the next logical step was to make a feature film.”
Power had an idea for a horror film and a feature-length version for PATH OF BLOOD. But he ultimately decided to make the movie for two reasons.
“Well, first of all, the short did fairly well. So it only seemed natural to expand upon the story. Second of all, it seemed more feasible for me to accomplish from a technical standpoint, and here we are,” he said.
To make PATH OF BLOOD — which requires countless hours of designing shots, cutting out all the environment details and characters from paper and matching voices with paper — Power had to get into the mindset of all aspects of filmmaking. You could describe him as a one-man band that taught himself every instrument.
“It was a trial-by-fire process and extremely challenging. I had never tackled something that required so much thought in terms of the way a scene should flow,” Power said. “Having mouths match the dialogue seemed daunting, because I’m not formally trained in animation. So I had to figure it all out on my own.”
It wasn’t as laborious as Power had expected. As so often happens these days, technology helped Power match words with his animated mouths.
“It was all these things I was trying to reconcile at once. It was my first time writing a screenplay for feature, but I was trying to limit the amount of dialogue in the film, because I was terrified to shoot it. There’s a lot you have to think about when you don’t have a team,” Power said.
From writing the screenplay to putting out the film, PATH OF BLOOD took about two years. Power said it was essential for him to include Japanese actors to play the roles in the film. He had a translator to help assist him, but many of the actors also contributed to the creative process.
“I did a local Craigslist call, looking for people who would be interested. There’s a local Japanese society, and also my translator knew some people. So it was actually a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. It was really important to have Japanese speakers involved, because they also were able to go through the translation and point out things in the story that might have been flaws.”
PATH OF BLOOD originally released on Vimeo On Demand in 2015. During that time Powers was his own publicist, which meant his film’s traction solely depended on word of mouth. However, one day he read a copy of Fangoria magazine (which is returning to print just in time for Halloween) and saw an ad for Synapse.
“They were releasing a samurai film, so I thought they might be interested in my film. So I sent them a screener, and they liked it enough to want to release it. It’s been a two-year process, but it finally happened.”
The Synapse release includes an array of bonus features such as the hourlong feature film, the original short film and a making-of featurette. It can be purchased through synapse-films.com or locally at Movie Trading Co.