Premiering at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, Blood (stylized as ‘”blood”) tells a moving story about grief and love— the latter is shown from many different angles: familial, romantic, friendship, and with one’s self.
The romantic drama follows a young widow Chloe (Carla Juri) as she travels to Japan and ends up rekindling her relationship with a childhood friend Toshi (Takashi Ueno). Blood is slow-paced and shows the duo’s lives through a series of snippets, adopting a whimsical “slice-of-life” format.
Bradley Rust Gray, writer and director of Blood, was first driven to work on this film by his personal experience with loss. He told us, “Originally, I started working on the script for this story with another actress that I was friends with. The thing that we had in common was that somebody in her life had passed away, and my parents passed away when I was a kid.”
He continued, “That was a theme that we shared. And that’s where this journey started. It didn’t work out with her. And then we found Carla, and I think it was like the film had this new life now.”
This isn’t Gray’s first dance with the Sundance Film Festival. He is well-established in the Sundance sphere and has celebrated many achievements with the institute. One of his older projects, the short movie hITCH, won an award at the festival back in 2010. He also produced the feature film Lovesong, created by his partner So Yong Kim, which premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
Monsters and Critics had the opportunity to chat with Gray and Blood’s leading actor Carla Juri about their experiences on set and how the movie came together.
Monsters and Critics: Carla, what was your favorite part about playing Chloe? Did you face any challenges tapping into this character?
Carla Juri: It started with Brad and everything. I met him in a coffee shop in Los Angeles, and I wasn’t sure about the script.
Bradley Rust Gray: You said you didn’t like it.
Juri: Well, we talked, and Brad told me about his experience of loss, basically. Or he acted the experience of loss for me, very naturally, and that got my heart and my brain right in his. That carries through the movie and through our friendship. I’m very fortunate.
M&C: How long were the filming days?
Gray: Traditionally, most people try to shoot something in 12 hours. That’s a union thing. And it’s also a realistic thing. Nobody wants to have to start the next day, and you haven’t slept enough. The one thing that I had wanted with this film, different than our other films, was I wanted more time and more days to shoot. We got the budget for the film, and then I said I wanted 30 days, but we didn’t have enough money to shoot 30 days.
So, we would be like okay, well, we’re just gonna use the gaffer half the time. And then we started pulling stuff out so that we could have that time. And that allowed us to have time and space to do what we needed to do. The schedule allowed us to go with the flow of what was happening and also change the schedule.
When we started shooting, [Takashi] Ueno was like, ‘Okay, well, I have to record this album, and then I’ve got a concert on this day.’ And I was like, ‘I need you for the whole time.’ An actor wouldn’t do that. Normally, he wouldn’t sign up for a movie and then have to go to a concert or go record an album in the middle of what he had agreed upon.
But then that’s a gift, you know, because I was like, ‘Can we film you recording an album?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, sure. Let me talk to the guys,’ and they were fine with it. So, that’s another sequence in the film. And what’s nice about that as a structure is that whatever he would do naturally was something we could incorporate in the film.
M&C: Wow, that’s fantastic. It sounds like the movie was part-documentary. Carla, what was it like building chemistry with Ueno?
Juri: I felt like I was observing loads of his world and his family and his four walls. It was wonderful because, in a way, Brad didn’t put me on the spot. I was allowed to be in a non-actor as well. That’s what I asked for. Because Ueno was a non-actor, and that’s wonderful. I wanted to just experience this first time with him. And Brad was very supportive of that.
I didn’t even know what we were shooting the next day. He [Brad] would say, ‘don’t look at the schedule,’ and I’d just turn up in the morning. I mean, I knew the scenes, I just didn’t know the order. And that made everything a bit more enjoyable. It was like being in a tent together, and the world is outside and the world doesn’t matter. It was a very organic, connection and filming process.
M&C: Brad, can you talk to me about choosing the slice-of-life scenes that are in the film. How did it all come together, in one movie, for you?
Gray: I’m glad you said it felt like that. That’s what we were going for. We filmed like 100 hours of footage, and most of them were different scenes, not multiple takes with the same scene. It was like trying to gather things that were slices of life.
And then in the editing, I worked with this wonderful editor, Susan Kim, our script was about 130 scenes, which was already too many. And then we shot these scenes that we called 200s that were just extra scenes that happened on that day, like the rain sequence, and then we would choose between those.
When we were recording Ueno and his band practicing, I messed up the schedule for that day, and we only had 30 minutes with them because they had to record an album. And they were having breakfast, and Eric [Director of Photography] and I set the camera up, and then we had Carla sit down, and we had all just woken up. And this woman asked Carla if she wanted a cup of coffee. And she was like, ‘Oh, no, I’ll just have a sip of Ueno’s.’ And it’s one of these moments that, because they’re such good friends, she would naturally do. But in the context of the story, I think that’s a really intimate moment between two friends.
That’s a scene that should go in the movie. You know what I mean? That’s a moment that says so much about the relationship. But, I didn’t write that. We found that.
What’s next? Check out our 2022 Sundance Film Festival interview with David Earl of Brian and Charles.
Blood is screening at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.