Ella Balinska and Shana Feste on their feminist horror movie Run Sweetheart Run

On the surface, Run Sweetheart Run is a cat-and-mouse horror film a couple of young woman, Cherie (Ella Balinska), running for her life. Seriously, Balinska runs loads. The actress became so engrossed in sprinting that author/director Shana Feste asked Balinska to decelerate during takes since the camera department couldn’t sustain. The quantity of running will catch your eye, however the film’s portrayal of an intelligent woman fighting back against the patriarchy will grab your attention.

Cherie is a single mother in law school who works at a law firm to make ends meet. Cherie agrees to go on a date together with her boss’s client, Ethan (Pilou Asbæk), a captivating businessman. After a beautiful night, Cherie agrees to 1 final drink on the client’s home, however the date suddenly becomes a nightmare after Ethan violently attacks her. This leads Cherie on a fast-paced adventure throughout one night in Los Angeles because the bloodthirsty Ethan methodically hunts her at every turn. Based on events in Feste’s life, the film becomes a champion for female empowerment and depicts a lady’s battle with the misogynistic forces attempting to tear her down.

In an interview with Digital Trends, Balinska and Feste discuss the importance of a Black female protagonist, the harrowing relationship between Cherie and Ethan, and the balance between social commentary and horror.

Director SHANA FESTE and ELLA BALINSKA on the set of RUN SWEETHEART RUN Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video
 © Amazon Content Services LLC

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

The film premiered at Sundance almost three years ago. It was imagined to come out within the spring of 2020. The pandemic began, and it was pulled from its release date. Now it’s finally going to be seen by audiences in all places. Are you able to describe your emotions knowing that this three-year journey is coming to fruition?

Ella Balinska: I could speak for ages on this, but I believe the word is “finally.” It’s really great for it to be coming out. The themes on this film that was so relevant back in 2019 are still relevant now. I also would love so as to add that it’s so nice to find a way to finally shake the last of this character. [Laughs] It’s a pleasant little bit of closure.

Shana Feste: It’s a combination of like “finally,” and the way drained I’m. I told Ella the opposite day, “I believe that is the longest relationship I’ve ever had with an actor in my mind.” Like, we’re still in it. We were shooting this last yr. We were doing a reshoot last yr that we never expected to do. But, I’m just incredibly grateful that it’s finally going to see the sunshine of day because that was the worst for any filmmaker releasing a movie at the peak of the pandemic. We were all just so lost and scared and wondering if our work would ever be seen. For Amazon to be supporting and putting it out like this, I’m very grateful.

Shana, you’ve talked about how personal this film is for you. It was inspired by events that happened in your life. As a filmmaker, how did you channel those feelings into the film? How do you balance what to incorporate and exclude about your experience?

Feste: I believe for me, I don’t know how one can direct anything that isn’t personal to me. It has to come back from a extremely personal place. The rationale there’s a lot period blood in it, I used to be attempting to confront my very own shame of getting my period after I was 13 years old. That’s something that I used to be really scared to shoot. I like feeling challenged by my very own material, and I knew I needed to do it. I knew it was the fitting thing to do.

Whilst a survivor, it definitely impacted the way in which that I shot the film. I didn’t shoot a rape scene on this film. I did the other. I stayed outside the door the entire time, which made it even tougher as a filmmaker to depend on your collaborators. I used to be counting on our sound design and our locations department to seek out the right location. Our cinematography, the music, the rating by Rob, all the things was helping me tell that story and making it just as terrifying as in the event you were in a position to actually watch it.

Ella Balinska stands outside of the house in fear in a scene from Run Sweetheart Run.ELLA BALINSKA stars in RUN SWEETHEART RUN Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video
 © Amazon Content Services LLC

Using blood was interesting, especially regarding Cherie’s period. Ella, why was it vital to normalize periods on this film? 

Balinska: This can be a really awesome portrayal of it [Cherie’s period] getting used to empower the character. It gets used as a mechanism to avoid wasting her life. Within the overpass scene, she throws her tampon to literally save her life at that moment. And it’s so smart. I don’t even know if I’d take into consideration that. I’d think it’s so taboo.

That was the opposite thing. Being on set and addressing those scenes, I’m like, “50% of us on this planet undergo this.” That was a journey for me, too, getting comfortable. I hope that folks can watch this film and begin their journey feeling more comfortable, too.

What stood out about Ella during this process?

Feste: I believe she’s only a force. A lot of what I did, by not showing Ethan’s true form, I selected to play all of it in her face. At the tip of the film, it’s all played in these tight, close-ups. I knew I needed an actress that would mainly be in a rom-com in the primary act and a thriller within the second and a horror film within the third. That would play all those various colours. Ella impressed me a lot with what she was in a position to do, and it was an incredibly physical role as well. Not only is Ella an motion star, but she’s a dramatic actress so she was in a position to bring all the things to the table.

Ella, what was your response when reading the script for the primary time?

Balinska: I actually was blown away by the arc that she went on. This film isn’t structured like a standard horror film where something scary happens, after which there’s the ghost. After which all of us get up the subsequent day and talk concerning the ghost. Then, it happens again. Once you begin this movie, you’re in and also you run and the film doesn’t stop until the situation stops. It’s really sequential in a single night. The sheer amount of growth that she goes through this one night is something that, as an actor, I actually was open to taking up that challenge. It isn’t something that you just see too often.

Ella Balinska kneels in a bloody suit in a scene from Run Sweetheart Run.ELLA BALINSKA stars in RUN SWEETHEART RUN Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video
 © Amazon Content Services LLC

Did you expect to be running this much within the film? It felt such as you ran the equivalent of a marathon.

Balinska: Yes. It’s funny, they did warn me that I used to be definitely going to be needing to place one foot in front of the opposite a number of times here. [Laughs] I believe the most effective features of the film is the pace it brings to the movie.

Feste: Sometimes, she was almost too scared. Sometimes when she was running, the camera department couldn’t even sustain together with her because she was so in that moment of being terrorized, and he or she was truly running for her life. I’m like, “OK, Ella. You bought to decelerate for these guys.” [Laughs] It was so real, and he or she had conveyed it so powerfully that it was almost too fast to film.

Shana, what got here first? Did you’ve gotten an idea for a horror film, and then you definately decided to include social commentary and themes about misogyny and feminism? Or vice versa?

Feste: Yeah. It stemmed from my frustration and anger. And having a daughter and living and growing up in Los Angeles and considering, “I don’t want her to experience Los Angeles in the identical way that I did.” I believe I’m finally able to write down about what happened to me. Los Angeles is unquestionably a personality within the movie since it’s obviously a good looking city that all of us love. It’s glamorous, nevertheless it has a extremely dark underbelly. It has a extremely vicious side to it, and so I wanted to point out that side and let it in as a personality in my movie.

I liked the way you set it at night. It gives off this gritty, tenacious feeling. I assumed of Michael Mann’s Collateral, Nightcrawler, or Drive. 

Feste: One thing I won’t ever do again is ready a whole movie at night. Ever.

It must be difficult.

Feste: It was so intense and far worse for my actors than for me. [Laughs]

Run Sweetheart Run – Official Trailer | Prime Video

Cherie is a Black female protagonist. She’s a single mother who’s extremely smart. She’s not your typical damsel in distress. She’s tough, and he or she’s a survivor. Why was it vital to showcase the sort of protagonist that perhaps we don’t see too often?

Balinska: It’s an empowering portrayal of a lady put through these extraordinary situations and circumstances. I believe audiences would find a way to see quite a lot of themselves in quite a lot of what she goes through. The vital thing for me, Shana, and Effie was to keep up the authenticity of every moment that Cherie was going through.

It’s really easy to fall into the screen queen element of all of it, nevertheless it wasn’t right for this film. [We] Made sure that we balanced the horror and the joys of the genre, but in addition with the authenticity of what this film is attempting to say.

Feste: Well, I actually did want her to be smart. I wanted her to figure her way out of this example continually because I hate those horror movies where you’re watching and also you’re like, “Don’t go in there! Don’t go in there!” I don’t think Cherie ever has that moment where you’re like, “Don’t do it. Please. Come on. He’s behind the door.” Whatever it’s.

I actually desired to create a Black final girl. That’s something that we don’t often see. We don’t often see women win in film, on the whole, and we definitely don’t often see Black women be the last survivor in a movie. I believe with the assistance of Effie Brown, we got to return into the film, and we got to open a writers’ room with Black writers who were incredibly talented, Kellee Terrell and Keith Adkins. We got to bring so far more authenticity to her character and really amplify the film with their collaboration.

Pilou is fascinating and magnetic onscreen. Ella, what was your experience like working alongside him?

Balinska: He’s the everlasting gentleman. He’s so charming. He’s wonderful. He at all times asked permission for all the craziness that he went and did. The thing I’ll say is that after you’re in a scene with him, he doesn’t say when he’s going to do it. [Laughs] He’s terrifying, but I believe that is ideal. Shana greenlit him on that since it meant that from moment to moment, the audience and Cherie feel that fear.

Pilou is understood for taking part in villains. Shana, why did you think Pilou could handle the romantic aspect of the character in addition to the monstrous side? 

Feste: In his body of labor in Denmark, you see that he’s like a master class in acting. He’s done all of it. And I used to be so charmed by Pilou personally because he’s such a sweet, affable, lovely guy that you just just wish to laugh with that. I knew there was this whole other side, and we talked loads about like romantic comedies. We talked loads about Hugh Grant and the physicality of a romantic star.

Because he [Pilou] is a physically imposing person and he has that intensity, how could we dim that? Was it that he needed to at all times be looking up at Cherie? Does his posture change? His physicality needed to be less threatening. He was like, “Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s have some fun.”

Pilou Asbaek stares menacingly into the eyes of Ella Balinska in a scene from Run Sweetheart Run.ELLA BALINSKA and PILOU ASBAEK star in RUN SWEETHEART RUN Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video
 © Amazon Content Services LLC

You furthermore mght decided to not show Ethan’s initial attack against Cherie. Why did you’ve gotten Pilou’s character stop the camera and break the fourth wall?

Feste: Well, I used to be considering loads about what’s essentially the most terrifying villain. How could we convey to the audience exactly how powerful he’s? Well, he should control the camera, too. He’s controlling the narrative. He should absolutely control the camera. The folks that are essentially the most frightening to me are those men who present as one thing in public, but behind closed doors are something truly different and evil.

And so Pilou stops the camera from seeing his true self. I believe that’s incredibly relatable within the MeToo movement. That you could be on the market publicly as someone incredibly loveable, but behind closed doors, you’re a unique person altogether. Progressively, that’s being exposed and has definitely been exposed on this film.

The film is directed and co-written by a lady together with female producers and feminine crewmembers. Due to the female representation, did you’re feeling a way of importance while telling this story?

Balinska: Yes. Absolutely, especially with quite a lot of the themes that arise within the film. [Having] That support and being surrounded by other women, too, there have been moments on set which were very triggering for quite a lot of people since you never know what other people have experienced. Because Shana built an environment of such trust on set, I, especially as an artist, was in a position to go to those places.

Much more so after I was in those moments of things that perhaps I haven’t experienced, or the exact opposite, feeling so vulnerable because I didn’t wish to reignite those feelings to permit myself to go there, considering of other women who is perhaps watching this, seeing this story and feeling seen. That was the true fulfilling element of this film.

Shana, how did you balance the thrilling elements with the social commentary?

Feste: Well, I don’t think anybody desires to be fed medicine. I knew this film needed to work by itself within the horror genre. There’s incredibly fun music, and there are unexpected twists and turns. There’s an incredible solid of characters which might be popping up which might be unexpected, a few of my favorite actors on the planet.

The music is de facto fun and also you laugh on this film. Sometimes, it’s funny when people come as much as me they usually’re like, “That film was a lot fun,” and also you’re like, “Wow. I actually was in a position to take a extremely dramatic experience and one way or the other channel it into a extremely fun ride for people.” That’s what the genre is, and that’s what you wish in horror movies.

A bloody Ella Balinska stares at a smiling Shohreh Aghdashloo in a scene from Run Sweetheart Run.ELLA BALINSKA and SHOHREH AGHDASHLOO star in RUN SWEETHEART RUN Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video
 © Amazon Content Services LLC

Like every final girl, you had a number of hardcore montages.

Balinska: I mean… you understand. [Laughs]

I liked the one when Cherie placed on the soldier’s jacket. It signified that she’s a fighter. Did you’ve gotten a favourite scene to shoot?

Balinska: Yes and no. It’s a love-hate thing. It’s a traumatic film. [Laughs] I used to be like, “I adore it, but I type of didn’t prefer it.” The jail cell scene with Pilou was amazing. I hated the set, but I loved working with him in that scene. The underground rave was an actual location that was built with all of the lights to feel like a rave. I’m a little bit of a rave kid. I mean I actually have neon lights in my room straight away. That was epic. [Laughs]

It looked like time.

Balinska: We actually did have pounding music on set. Plus the lead-up to that scene with the bleach was really enjoyable. I could see within the mirror that I used to be looking in, the crew wincing.

Enjoyable is an interesting word to make use of for that.

Balinska: I’m using makeup wipes. It’s makeup wipes and plastic. It goes to point out how amazing the world-building is on this film. That you could really think that’s real.

Run Sweetheart Run is on the market to stream globally on Prime Video.

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