44-year-old Jared Bentley has enjoyed a long and varied career in the entertainment industry, with highlights including a period spent as PA to The Simpsons voice artist Nancy Cartwright, one of the special effects crew on Army of Darkness and working as exclusive video director for the legendary band The Jacksons on their Unity tour. He’s currently a ‘content producer’ for Rotten Tomatoes and has just released his first full-length feature film as director. Intensive Care is a tough, no-nonsense thriller in which three low-life criminals attempt to rob an elderly dying woman’s home but find that her live-in nurse (played by stunt performer/actor Tara Macken) is much more trouble than they’d bargained for. The film wilfully evokes the spirit of the action movies of the 1980s and 1990s and STARBURST spoke to Jared about his time spent in Intensive Care…
STARBURST: How did you make the leap into making a feature film with Intensive Care? Presumably making a feature was always the plan but how did the opportunity arise?
Jared Bentley: My partners and I had been trying to secure financing on another project for a couple of years. The screenplay placed in a lot of credible festivals and we made a trailer as a proof of concept that people loved. But we found that people only wanted to take the idea from us, in exchange for a few bucks. That didn’t interest us. We decided that we had to take control and just do it ourselves. We didn’t know quite how we’d fund the whole thing, and just how far it would go, but we knew we needed to at least try. Self-funding a film is stressful and it can test the relationships of those involved.
When we were writing it, we thought we’d be happy just to get it on Netflix. Now it’s on every major platform in the US, as well as in several other countries and has just been released on DVD so the film’s reach far exceeded our expectations.
What inspired the idea for the film? Was it always your intention that it would be a vehicle to put Tara Macken front-and-centre on camera?
The genesis of the idea really came from one Darrin Scane, one of our executive producers and co-writers. He is our in-house martial arts expert, and he and I grew up on a steady diet of B-level action movies in the ‘80s and ‘90s. At first, the thought was that it was going to be a horror movie, but he pushed it into an action realm that was far more interesting to us. Tara Macken was actually one of the last pieces of the puzzle and, to be honest, before we found her, we were getting worried. We had auditioned about fifteen women for the role. There were some good applicants, but nobody was the complete package: a great actor who could be funny and sexy, with stunts or martial arts expertise, who was willing to take a risk on a low-budget film with an unproven production company. The women that meet that criteria are on a very short list… even in LA!
We were getting down to the wire, when Kevin Sizemore - the actor that plays Seth in the film, and who is also a producer on the project - forwarded me her stunt reel. I immediately said “Yes! Exactly! But can she act?” We brought her in to read, and we were so relieved and excited all at once because it became obvious from the get-go, that she was our Alex. I was very familiar with the films that she had performed stunt work in such as Suicide Squad and True Detective as well as the ones she acted in like Hunger Games and Fast and Furious 7, but I wasn’t specifically familiar with her.
What was Tara like to work with and what else did she bring to the production?
Tara was super pro and was game for everything we wrote in the script. We hung her, threw her through walls and windows, dragged her behind a car, drowned her, and had her give and take numerous beatings. She brought intensity and energy to every take and with great enthusiasm for the project. But the part that was a bonus, was what a great actress she was. She was very funny and showed great instincts. Plus, she and Jai Rodriguez - who plays Danny - had a fantastic chemistry together. I guess that’s where the Howard Hawks inspiration comes for me; a relationship where the couple is adversarial, yet amorous.
We noticed a very specific Tarantino influence to the film; it’s very definitely got an early ‘90s vibe. Were you aiming for that gritty, freewheeling feeling for the movie?
Absolutely, and I’ve been stealing a line from the STARBURST review and telling people it’s a “Tarantino-esque, bloody-nosed Home Alone”. CGI has its place but my partners and I aren’t big fans of it. We feel it robs the film of any drama or real tension because you know that these actors didn’t actually experience that. The reason Tarantino’s Death Proof is so intense is because Zoe Bell really was on the hood of that car the entire time. Intensive Care is definitely a throwback to simpler filmmaking, with practical special effects and fight scenes that are shot in a way in which the viewer can actually tell what is happening. We didn’t want the usual fourteen cuts and then boom, somebody is on the ground and you don’t know what happened. I had never directed an action film before, so I looked at ones I liked - John Wick, for example - and thought about what it really was that I was drawn to in them and it was how they filmed the action scenes in medium and wide shots, with minimal editing, instead of extreme close-ups. It makes it all much more engaging and visceral, but, of course, you need a talent like Keanu Reeves or Tara Macken to pull that off. It also helped that Pete Porteous and James Fuentez were there to oversee our stunts and special effects. We wanted old-school, practical effects and they brought decades of expertise to the project.
How would you describe the finished film? Does it bring your ‘vision’ to the screen as you’d hoped?
No filmmaker is ever 100% satisfied with their film, and anyone who says they are… don’t trust them. That being said, I’m very happy with the finished project. I had a very simple vision for this film, and tempered my expectations, knowing that we were attempting to do quite a lot with very little capital. But my vision was realised, and in many ways, it exceeded my expectations.
INTENSIVE CARE is available in the US now. A UK release will be announced soon. You can read our review here. Read more from Jared in Independents Day in a future issue of STARBURST.