Michael Biehn and Jennifer Blanc-Biehn Panel at Birmingham Memorabilia

Known for his role in films such as The Terminator, The Abyss and The Rock, Michael Biehn was joined by his wife Jennifer Blanc-Biehn on the stage for Birmingham Memorabilia at the NEC. Both were happy to answer questions (at considerable length) and talk about their film The Victim, which Michael wrote, directed and starred in alongside Jennifer who also produced. Michael also wanted to assure the attendees that while he may have sounded drunk, he was just jetlagged!

Recently released on DVD by Anchor Bay, The Victim tells the story of Annie (played by Jennifer Blanc-Biehn), who finds herself on the run from two sheriff deputies after witnessing them commit a horrifically violent act. She ends up seeking refuge with Kyle (played by Michael Biehn), a loner living in the middle of the woods. “I wrote it in three weeks,” said Michael of the script. “During that period of time we were doing our pre-production – casting, we dealt with the Screen Actors Guild, we found our locations, we crewed up – we did all that in three weeks while I was writing. After that we shot it in twelve days.”

Jennifer spoke about why people should buy it rather than viewing it through streaming media, saying, “We do a commentary together through the whole movie, there’s a behind the scenes movie that’s really cool, and if we see you again we’ll sign it. So pick it up!”

As questions opened up Michael was asked about his experiences on the set of The Abyss and what it was like doing the fight scene with Ed Harris. “I enjoyed it, other actors didn’t enjoy it so much. It was a great character that I got to play,” said Michael of his role as Lieutenant Hiram Coffey. “What I remember more than anything else from that scene was getting there early and checking out the set and seeing those steel chains. They were hanging from the ceiling, over the tank. I sat next to those and I started playing with those things. It just seemed to set the tone for the craziness of the character. I’ve always thought of him as somebody who was not really a bad guy, but was cut off from his chain of command. He was sick and people were telling him that aliens were running around, you know. It’s like, who’s going to believe that? I thought he was just doing what he thought was right, which I think everybody in this room would have done under the same circumstances.”

They were then asked if despite how established one is, is it always tough getting a movie made, or is it something that has changed recently? “I think that the industry has changed,” said Jennifer. “I don’t think it’s necessarily more tough. It is different. I think Michael has always worked really hard, whether it’s on a $20 million movie, or a $5 million movie, or one of our tiny little movies. The thing about producing his own movies with me is you get to do what you want and it gives you a little bit of leeway to look at other projects. A lot of the movies you’re getting offered are similar to the ones we’re doing anyway. So might as well do them ourselves and do them the way that we want to.”

Of The Victim, Jennifer said how they worked to a formula, which was simply to do it for a small budget and get it out there. “It’s just been released in stores and online and it’s already a success,” she said. “Sometimes movies have to go to everyone in the world before it’s a success. We’re way ahead of the curve. If we can continue to do that, I think it’s going to be a lot easier for us. When you work for yourself you can own a piece of the movie. All that hard work that you’ve done, you can actually wait ten years and still be seeing those results. The Victim has been that successful formula already. So we’re now able to meet with people and go, ‘Here’s our formula and here’s why it’s working.’”

Michael also stressed that technology has caught up to the film business. “Basically anybody can make a movie now,” he said. “All you got to do is go to YouTube and you’ll see some incredibly talented people. I was at a film festival [Fantasia in Montreal], and I was judging first time filmmakers. I saw this one film I really liked called Hidden in the Woods. I asked to meet the director [Patricio Valladares], he was from Chile.”

“He had seen The Victim and was seeking Michael out,” added Jennifer. “It was synchronicity!”

“I wanted to talk to him about the movie,” said Michael. “I wanted to remake it and I wanted him to remake it. We were talking, he had a camera and was kind of fanboying, taking pictures, going ‘Oh My God, Michael Biehn.’ The camera looked like the one this guy’s holding right here (points to an attendee). I finally said to him, ‘I really liked your movie, I loved the way that it looked. What did you shoot it on?’ He picked up his camera and said, ‘This.’

“It was a Canon, but it wasn’t a 5D or a 7D,” said Jennifer. “It was something very small.”

“I kind of dedicated my movie to Robert Rodriguez and his book Rebel Without a Crew,” said Michael. “Basically just go out and do it! Just go make films! You don’t have to go to acting school, you don’t have to go to directing school, just get a camera and go shoot something and then cut it. Now people are making movies for even less.”

Jennifer then explained how their company, Blancbiehn Productions, is helping to develop other filmmakers. “We have a movie that’s in post right now with a guy, [Travis Romero], who was part of the creative team on White Collar and he’d never directed anything. We were able to give him the open space to write something and come and direct it with a bunch of cool different actors. We’ll do that with Patricio with the remake of Hidden in the Woods.”

Michael was then asked about what he has learnt from his acting experience and the directors he’s worked with when it comes to making his own films. “I learned a lot with Jim Cameron. I was working at a young age with somebody who’s a real perfectionist, somebody who really has a vision and just doesn’t let stuff go by and is pretty intense about the way they work.”

“Shocker,” added Jennifer. “When you watch the Making of, of The Victim, you’ll see a man that doesn’t let anything go by! Am I right? How do you appear in the Making of?” she asked.

“Crazy,” laughed Michael.

“How do you describe yourself as a director?” asked Jennifer.

“I worked with William Friedkin, he’s pretty wild to work with,” he said. “Cameron’s got a reputation. Michael Bay’s got a reputation. When I directed The Victim, I was like all of them combined on their worst day! Because I only had twelve days!”

Michael was finally asked that with so many films, which has been the pinnacle of his career? “The problem with my career was that I was always known for being in a Jim Cameron movie,” he said. “It’s bizarre how Arnold became a star out of The Terminator and he didn’t even say anything in the f**king movie, except for ‘I’ll be back!’ People come up to me and say, ‘I’ll be back’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, well f**k you.’” The audience burst into laughter and mild applause! “I’m the one who had to tell the story, explain everything, do all that kind of stuff,” said Michael.

He then listed a number of films in which he was the lead and that for one reason or another didn’t take off, saying, “I never made a movie without Cameron, that I was a star of that made a lot of money. I did all those movies with Jim, but then when it came to me just starring in a movie by myself, I never got lucky enough to be in the right vehicle that propelled me on. After three or four $30 million movies that tank, they stop looking at you for starring roles. But I always continue to work, I’ve done great work inbetween, like Take Me Home Tonight, did the series The Magnificent Seven which I’m proud of. I never really wanted to be a star anyway. I always wanted to just be an actor. To feel like Charlie Sheen, Tom Cruise or Denzel Washington, it’s crazy, you just can not live a normal life, at all! And I can… unless I’m here [at Memorabilia]. The pinnacle of my career is probably now really. I’m able to work on films and do my own films, be a respected actor, but not one that is on the front of magazines.”

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