The following is an interview with writer/director Ioannis Argiris regarding the recent release of the short film, blends, as it travels the film festival circuit. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Argiris about the shared creative process of bringing the story to life on the screen, critical and audience reactions to the film, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of blends! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you share with us about the premise of this film?
Ioannis Argiris: blends is about a business owner who is faced with a moral dilemma when they deliver their psilocybin spice blends to an underground restaurant that serves a unique cuisine.
Sadie, the protagonist, possesses an exceptionally acute sense of smell, which she manages through microdosing psilocybin. To make ends meet, she operates a clandestine business, blending psilocybin with various spices and catering to a wide range of clientele across Oakland. Sadie is portrayed with captivating nuance by the talented actor Natalia Dominguez.
BD: As the film’s writer and director, what interested you in taking on this particular project, and what can you tell us about the shared creative process of bringing it to life?
IA: I wrote the short story a year ago, and there was a seed in there that resonated on a deeper, personal level than most of my other stories. The story’s setting was in a restaurant which was all too familiar since having grown up as a child of Greek immigrants working in restaurants. I also wanted the story’s themes to be focused on sibling dynamics, which is often the case in family businesses. Additional themes I narrowed in on were the blurry lines of morality with drugs and horrific crime wrapped up in the idea of classism. (Spoiler!) The cannibalism in the story represents both the example of insane experiences the wealthy indulge in (like going to space), but also the feeling of oppression for the many.
I worked with story editor AM Larks before adapting it to screen. Then during pre-production, I worked with each actor on their back story and motivations, and collaborated on how they interpreted their characters to continue to evolve the story. I shared a baseline of the film’s vision in a pre-production book with the 20-person crew so that they could meet me 80% of the way, the other 20% was left for on-set spontaneity of experimental shots or suggestions of character blocking, set design choices, and lighting. Every time I’ve worked on a set, I’ve had the philosophy that you can plan for most of it, but you have to embrace the uncertainty of the day, because it could lead to some great collaborative art. Working with both the cinematographer Jason Josefer and gaffer Siraj Fowler, I wanted blends to be enveloped with color to express the emotions of the characters. For instance, AJ’s prep kitchen is purple because they are catering to the wealthy, whereas Sadie’s exterior shots are warmer tones because she’s feeling the heat of trying to make it day to day. Another example is Sadie micro-dosing to help with her hypersensitivity of smell, so we used a POV lens choice to frame her perspective in intense moments.
BD: You have garnered incredible success with the film throughout the film festival circuit. How would you describe critical and audience reactions to the film thus far?
IA: Since late September, blends has embarked on a thrilling festival journey, garnering positive emotions and electrifying reactions. I’m deeply appreciative of the positive feedback the film has garnered thus far. As a horror/suspense film, the audience reactions have been precisely what I had envisioned for those intense and unsettling moments. The impact of these reactions has been amplified by the exceptional work of the cast and crew on set. It’s one thing to envision these scenes while writing them, but witnessing them come to life on screen and evoke the desired emotions in the audience is truly remarkable
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that the story may connect with and impact audiences?
IA: I hope that the film’s stark depiction of a world with an extreme wealth gap resonates with the audience. I want them to feel the desperation and moral compromise that working-class people face when they are forced to make impossible choices just to survive. If the audience is left with a lingering sense of unease and a desire to examine their own role in perpetuating inequality, then blends has fulfilled its purpose.
BD: Are there any other upcoming films or projects that you would care to share with our readers?
IA: I’ve created a zine for blends that includes the short story, script pages, behind-the-scenes stills, production artifacts, and film stills. blends is part of a larger collection of short stories I’m working on titled encinal nights. I’m also searching for an illustrator collaborator to work on a post-anthropocene graphic novel that I’ve written. And I have a speculative thriller novel out for query. Lastly, at the end of blends film, I tease more of the world in a follow-up story, which I’m working on now–it’s unclear what medium it’ll be in, but film is a possibility.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about blends?
For those in Northern California, the San Francisco premier will be part of the 20th Anniversary of Another Hole in the Head Festival, screening at the historic Balboa Theater on December 2nd.