Influences behind ‘Friend of the World’, Brian Patrick Butler’s short feature debut

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Friend of the World is available to Rent/Purchase on Amazon, Apple TV and iTunes, and available to stream on Troma Now, Tubi, Xumo Play and Filmzie.

After a catastrophic global war, a young filmmaker awakens in the carnage and seeks refuge in the only other survivor: an eccentric, ideologically opposed figure of the United States military. Together, they brave the toxic landscape in search of safety… and answers.

The first draft of Friend of the World (2020) was written in August 2016, amidst a U.S. presidential election even more controversial than usual, a growing fear of global war, and a burgeoning cynicism in America that was spreading like wildfire. All of this informed a script that was originally coming from a personal place of fear and isolation. Global drama aside, this project is intended first and foremost as entertainment: a presumably good character we can identify with up against an unstoppable monster who represents everything that scares and infuriates us. It is a tribute to and expansion of themes from the body horror sub-genre of sci-fi and horror.

The simple and seemingly small-scale story was of a young filmmaker who awakens amidst the interminable carnage of a war, which seems to have decimated most of the population. She tries to piece together the origins of this nightmare (in addition to staying alive) with the help of an infuriatingly eccentric, ideologically opposed figure of the U.S. military who begins to grow on her over time... in more ways than one.

This darkly personal little film about solitude, growth, and the corruption accompanying that growth within the enlightened, sometimes fractured psyches of our mentors (a forbidden fruit that gives wisdom but takes much in return) remains true to my original vision, though some time has passed. It is interesting to see the qualities of the film that retain their original effect, and those that have acquired additional meaning after the immediate passing of such an eventful chapter in our history.

Inspiration and influences list

Check out the full list on Horrorville here.

In making a movie with extreme circumstances that takes place in a minimalist setting, I drew from several films that balanced minimal locations with high concepts and emotional stakes.

The Thing (1982)
The obvious one. I’ve been watching this movie since I was a kid and it keeps getting better. Though the transforming alien body horror was the initial draw and remains unrivaled by other movies, I am now equally impressed by the paranoia and ambiguity concerning who is the monster, and how this feeling creeps out of the movie and underneath the audience’s skin. That magic combination of special effect and thematic impact is one of the big elements we aimed for in Friend of the World.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
This is a movie that works so well doing many things you wouldn’t expect to work together: 1) simultaneously being both a classic comedy and a Hitchcockian-level suspense-filled apocalypse film, 2) making a fantastical world (where one actor plays three of the many larger-than-life characters) somehow feel real and dangerous, and 3) being a war epic, but primarily dialogue-driven, taking place mostly in three small enclosed rooms, with the carnage outside only alluded to for most of the movie. Add to this the brilliant satire and timeliness of its release right after the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the world was at the highest peak of nuclear dread. While you laugh at its absurdity, it also finds a way to make you panic over the fates of these characters.

La Jetée (1962) 
Minimalism at its best. This French art film covers time travel, World War III, a love story, and existential concepts with most of the audio coming from just a solo narrator and the only visuals being black & white stills of minimal costumes and sets, all while maintaining a runtime of less than 30 minutes. Friend of the World sits somewhere between this film and a Twilight Zone episode.

Outside of conceptual inspirations, there are many nods and homages to other movies, from Society (1989) to Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995).

Other popular films I would say have inspired me as a filmmaker overall are Brazil (1985), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Children of Men (2006), The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Pulp Fiction (1994).

Brian Patrick Butler is an American actor, screenwriter and filmmaker. At a young age, he started shooting movies in San Diego with his brother and cousins, creating homemade gore effects to be used in absurd shorts that blended elements of horror and comedy. These films would evolve over the years into high school and college, where Brian attended the BADA acting intensive and directed Stephen Adly Guirgis' play The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. Brian made his first two short films in the mid 2010s: Hatred and The Phantom Hour. His upcoming releases are both full length features titled Hemet, or the Landlady Don't Drink Tea and Fruitful Mold. His other onscreen work includes short films such as We All Die Alone and Zach King's Day Off, and the feature South of 8. You can follow Brian on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Facebook or subscribe to his YouTube channel.