I want to talk more about Abe, Rob Morgan’s character. I think that this film is successful on playing on societal expectations and even stereotypical expectations. Like, you wouldn’t necessarily look at Rob Morgan and think, “Oh a bull rider!” Where did the genesis of the movie come from? Did it come from Kris’ character? Or did it come from Abe’s character?
Annie Silverstein: When I sat down initially I was trying to expand a short film into a feature. So it started from Kris’ character. The short film, Skunk, focuses on a 14 white girl growing up in the rural bend area of Texas. But sometimes when you’re writing, as I’m sure you know, you experience that what you start to write about isn’t at all where you go or where your unconscious goes.
And what had happened was that a couple of years earlier when I was location scouting for Skunk, my producer Monique [Walton] and I met a man for a scene we were trying shoot. It didn’t end up working out. But when we started talking to him he started sharing his family history with us and he came from a black rodeo family. And I literally didn’t know the history of black cowboys.
[At that point] I had moved to Texas fairly recently and had no idea about that history and culture. We were in rush to finish the film we were making, so we were like “whoa” this whole part of America…my curiosity was certainly sparked. But then we had to finish production on the other film.
When we sat down to write about Kris, it was like this character, it wasn’t based on the man because I barely knew him. The interaction was brief, but it was kind of what he represented, his whole history. His character started to form. You know for me part of filmmaking and storytelling is an excuse to learn more myself about history and people and where we come from. So that’s what drives me.
So there’s this whole world and history that I didn’t know and hadn’t seen depicted in cinema and history books. It was a way to learn more and go into that world. You know? This intersection between these two characters and spent several years interviewing bullfighters and bull riders, in and around Houston from the community. To really try to make sure it felt a representation that they would feel like is accurate you know?
So far at every step of your filmmaking career, it seems like you’ve experienced high levels of success. You even just won the “Lonestar Award” at SXSW festival. So congrats on that!
Annie Silverstein: Thank you.
What’s your next goal? What’s your dream project? If everything was perfect what would be your dream movie?
Annie Silverstein: I would love to make this TV show that me and my husband just wrote. Johnny [McAllister], he and I wrote Bull together, we’re also married… so we’re writing partners [laughs]. But we just finished a pilot for a slow burn character driven crime drama set in Ireland, where he’s from. I think that my head has been so in that, in the writing mode, I feel like becoming friends with all the characters. So that’s where I would like to spend my time and getting to know them more and following them through these adventures and drama that they attract.
But you know, I have another project set in Texas that I want to develop that I’ve just started writing. That’s probably a smaller film still, but one that feels very specific to a culture and a point of view that I haven’t seen before and I want to spend time there to.
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I would love to direct a big-budget movie…if the right script speaks to me, that would be my dream to certainly do that. But I’m still very much rooted in films that come out of a personal experience or things that I’ve witnessed that are just people or places that I want to learn more about.
That actually makes sense… So do you have interest in taking some of the themes that you’ve been exploring in your dramas and possibly setting them in kind of a sci-fi or fantasy setting to get that bigger budgeted film? Do you have interest in that?
Annie Silverstein: Oh sure! If it’s the right script totally! For sure, if I connect with the script I can imagine doing that. You know? Or if I wrote the script myself. Yeah. For me, I’m interested in all kinds of things. I don’t feel like I only want to work in the wheelhouse of Bull. But it’s just about my gut, what I respond to. It takes so much work to make a film and it’s a lot of sacrifice. As much as it’s fun, it’s a lot of sacrifice. So I just always want to make sure I always feel personally connected to the material.
There’s been great change in the world in the past few months, assuming that there’s a vaccination and people are able to come back to theaters, say by next year, how do you think that this whole traumatic experience is going to shape storytelling in the future for film. Not as much about fears of theaters, but just as far as storytelling. I mean it’s going to be hard to tell a drama set in 2020 without acknowledging what has happened. How do you think that it’s going to affect storytelling in the future?
Annie Silverstein: I’m not totally sure because I think about that now as I try to write stuff. It’s like how much should what’s happening now be a part of it. But I think two things. For one, part of why we love stories is because we like escapism. Right? And they allow us to go somewhere else outside of our own reality. And I think that will always be true. So I don’t think that every film that’s made in the next ten years will have to address COVID, or have that be a part of the film.
But on some levels, we are all going through this together, this is affecting everyone very differently, but it’s affecting everybody. How that relates to the themes that everybody wants to explore. How that makes people more reflective of how human we are and the need for human connection and we’re actually vulnerable and not the center of the universe. I hope that all of this stuff that we’re all going through emotionally, I expect it to come out thematically in stories. But how that will look.. I have no idea. And then how long will it be before people will begin to go into production again…I’m not sure. But it’s clear that now more than ever, we need stories…
Bull Official Synopsis
The film centers around 14-year-old Kris (Amber Havard), who, after trashing her neighbor’s house in a fit of youthful defiance, seems destined to follow in her mother’s footsteps to the state penitentiary. To make amends, she is forced to help Abe Turner (Rob Morgan), an ex-bull rider scraping by on the Texas rodeo circuit, with errands at home and at his work. While traveling with Abe, she discovers a passion for bull riding. Yet, as Kris sets out to learn the dangerous sport, bad influences lure her back into delinquent ways. Meanwhile, Abe struggles with the aches and pains of growing older and aging out of the only life he has ever known. Together, Kris and Abe forge an unexpected connection, helping each other see new possibilities and hope for the future before it’s too late.
Bull is now available on VOD. Have you gotten a chance to check out the movie yet? What did you think of what Annie Silverstein had to say? Let us know in the comment section below and share our stories on your favorite social media!