‘Bull’ Director Annie Silverstein On Discovering Her Dynamic Lead, Dangerous Bull Fights, & Post-Pandemic Film

The Illuminerdi got the chance to sit down with director and writer Annie Silverstein to discuss her award-winning directorial debut, Bull.
Bull Movie 2020 Annie Silverstein

Kind of on the same line too. In the movie there’s a series of false idols. People who you would first think “that would be a good mentor for her!” But many are taking advantage of her too. What does she find in Abe that she really connects to?

Annie Silverstein: Yeah. There’s something about the rodeo world that she finds thrilling. That she finds exciting. I think the way that Abe has found his family and has found himself and I think she sees that in him. There’s something about people who end up in rodeos, bull riding in particular, who feel like, this is from doing a lot of interviews and researching for the project, who feel like they couldn’t fit in anywhere else in society. And in was in this culture that they found themselves and found their family. 

Annie Silverstein Directing Rob Morgan on the set of Bull
Annie Silverstein directing Rob Morgan on the set of Bull

In a lot of ways Kris is abandoned by her mom and not connecting with her grandmother. And Abe was kind of an open door into a new world and how he found himself there. And all the excitement, the bull riding is intoxicating. It’s dangerous, but she also lives with danger in her life and there’s something about the idea of trying to master that in some way, or face that. That’s attractive to her, just like it is to Abe. Along with the connection to animals.

That leads me to another big question that I had about this film. So I’m watching the movie and while watching the bull riding scenes I keep asking myself, “How close are you to that bull?” Was there a person with a steadicam in the ring? How did you film these scenes and still maintain a sense of safety too?

Annie Silverstein: Yeah, we never put our D.P., Shabier Kirchner, never got in the ring. As much as he wanted to. [laughs] We couldn’t allow him to, because it wasn’t safe and we didn’t have the money in the budget to build a shark cage that he could be in to keep him safe. So for the rodeo scenes took a lot of experimentation. Pretty much what we figured out, for every rodeo we would do 3-camera shoot for those teams.

J.W. Rodgers was the first bull rider that we met researching during the writing process who introduced us to so many of the people that ended up in the film. Including the owner of the old Wayne Johnson arena, which is the arena of the first rodeo that Kris goes to where she sees Abe riding. That backyard rodeo, that was the first place we saw J.W. ride.

Bull Dir: Annie Silverstein

So all these places in the film were actually were part of our experience in the research process and where people like J.W. brought us. So J.W. was like our consultant and was advising us for awhile on how to achieve these scenes. Then he ended up being the best fit for stunt double for Rob. And was our main stunt double.

And you know, just like old school. Thankfully because we didn’t have the money to do a bunch of face replacement, right? So old school! Dress them the same. They wear cowboy hats that obscured a lot. They had facepaint on. J.W. would go and do his job, he was bull riding anyways at these rodeos. He would ride and right when the bull went into the shot and the other riders get onto the next bull. Rob and our D.P. would pair into the arena, I didn’t even go in because we had to be as fast as possible, so I would be at the monitor.

Rob [Morgan] would like run in circles. Or have an interaction with another bullrider. We would have about 15 to 30 seconds to shoot that and then they would run off before the next bull came out. So we kind of just pieced these scenes together in that way. Those scene were very much like a documentary in the sense that we really couldn’t control what was going to happen for each bull ride. For many of them they were actual bull riders who were competing for money that’s part of their work. So we inserted our fictional characters into their world and shot it like a documentary. There was a lot of work in the editing room! [Laughs]


Braxter Timberlake

Braxter Timberlake

Braxter Timberlake was born in New York and raised in California. He’s a graduate of UC Berkeley and the School of Hard Knocks and is always in search of the next adventure. The daring writer and editor of The Illuminerdi is also a veteran of film and television production, with an unquenchable thirst for stories, whether on the comic page, video game console, or small, medium, or the big screen. After years of expeditions in search of K’un-Lun and Wakanda, he now spends his time investigating all things geek and shares his spoilery findings with anyone with open ears. Aside from on the internet, he can be found on the basketball court, hiking with his dog, or at a screening near you.