Nothing about Colin G. Cooper’s “Bath Bomb” is safe. It started with big ambitions to queer the Giallo genre, and kept getting bigger and bolder.
The darkly comedic horror short introduces Jordan, a sullen, refined doctor, who draws what seems like a romantic bath for his narcissistic boyfriend, Grant. But it turns out that Jordan knows Grant has been cheating on him — and has a grisly revenge in store.
The original Giallo films of the 1960s and ‘70s —”giallo” is Italian for yellow, a reference to the trademark yellow book covers of Italian murder-mystery novels that inspired the genre’s lurid atmosphere — were known for at least winking at queer audiences, or sending them queer-coded signals, at a time when most films ignored them. But, like almost all films of the time that featured LGBTQ+ characters, it often stereotyped, sidelined or belittled them.
Making ‘Bath Bomb’
Cooper’s hope with “Bath Bomb” was to make a short film that could reclaim the genre for queer fans who have tolerated its flaws because they appreciated so many other elements of Giallo classics, such as Dario Argento’s 1975 Deep Red.
At one point, Cooper considered making the short with his familiar, reliable team of collaborators he knew from the world of modestly budgeted music videos. His creative ambition felt like enough of a stretch, without changing up his process.
After all, he says, he has attended countless filmmaker Q&As where a director advises the audience: “Just go out there and make your movie with whatever existing resources you have immediately available to you. You can even shoot it on your phone and get your friends and family to be crew if you have to.”
It’s often good advice, but as Cooper notes, it can inadvertently discourage budding filmmakers from aiming higher. Luckily, his executive producer, Ronnie Exley, urged him to push not only his creative boundaries, but professional ones as well. He encouraged Cooper to reach outside of his usual circle and aim for dream scenario collaborators who might be willing to work on a smaller scale if they felt connected to the project.
Cooper and Exley met years ago at a Nine Inch Nails concert in Las Vegas while waiting in line. “We kind of just hit it off,” Exley says.
For the past two years, Exley has been producing animated and live-action projects through his production company, Rabbits Black, as well as funding wide-reaching creative projects through its venture capital offshoot RB Venture Partners.
Exley and Cooper initially planned “Bath Bomb” with a $50,000 budget in mind. When Exley pushed Cooper to think of a dream cinematographer for “Bath Bomb,” Cooper’s thoughts turned to Jeremy Benning.
Benning is well known for shooting episodes of the Netflix series Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities and Eric Kripke’s Prime Video action-comedy series The Boys. But what impressed Cooper the most about Benning is that he was the director of photography for all six seasons of The Expanse, the sci-fi mystery drama that first aired on Syfy before moving to Prime.
As Cooper notes, being a cinematographer for the entire run of a TV show is “not normally a thing,” given that they are often hired for just an episode or two at a time. Cooper also felt that it was important that a queer cinematographer be behind the camera.
Benning was more receptive than Cooper expected, thanks to the originality and detail of Cooper’s vision.
Benning recalls: “He came out with the fact that it was kind of a throwback to the Giallo horror scene, which was new to me. I was familiar with it, but I’ve never done anything in that genre, and I thought that would be kind of a fun thing to do.”
He adds: “It had the gay theme to it, and I’m a member of the community as well, so that spoke to me a little bit because there was something interesting about doing something like that that was horror-themed.”
Benning was also impressed by Cooper’s pitch deck, genre references, and well-thought out shot list.
“It was pretty clear from the first conversation I had with him that he was super organized. He’s an editor, so he obviously understands what the shots he needs are,” Benning said. “Between his visual reference book and all the shot listing he had done, I knew that he was prepared and had a good plan.”
Once Benning joined in, Cooper’s vision expanded.
Suddenly, Benning was bringing on other high caliber teams to work on “Bath Bomb,” like Footsteps Foley, the foley team behind Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Denis Villeneuve’s Dune and Blade Runner 2049. He also brought on Walter Klassen FX, the special effects prop team behind David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future and the Guillermo del Toro films Crimson Peak, Nightmare Alley, and Oscar Best Picture winner The Shape of Water.
The high caliber of the team meant higher costs.
“The caveat is that even though Jeremy was getting all these favors, it still bloated our budget. We ended up spending almost twice as much as we had originally intended to,” Cooper says.
“The caveat to that caveat is that, yes, things cost more — but another benefit of having somebody like Jeremy on board and then having all of these other people on board because he’s on board is it made it a lot easier for me to go back to Ronnie and to a couple of other people who ended up also giving us money to help with the extra budget.”
Cooper adds: “It’s a lot easier to go to them when you have those people attached, because you’re not just some unknown director saying, ‘Oh, we went over budget on this project.’ You have these massive people attached… it becomes a much easier conversation.”
“As we got into it, there were more and more opportunities to do really interesting things with some really top end talent,” he says.
“As much as Jeremy was able to get us amazing things and some discounts that I think only he could, the cost was obviously going to go up,” he adds. “This is gonna get bigger. We know that. But we think that it’s going to make that much of a difference. We have this amazing opportunity now to make such a high end, amazing short, so let’s do it right.”
Now that the film is finished, Cooper is more than pleased with the result.
“I’m beyond in love with how the film turned out. It’s difficult to imagine having made it any other way, especially on a smaller scale. Obviously our situation is unique, but I encourage other emerging filmmakers to aim as high as possible when reaching out to potential collaborators or investors. Even if a person seems crazily out of reach.
“Worst case, they say no, and you move on to the next one.”
MovieMaker is proud to support “Bath Bomb” through MovieMaker Production Services.
Main Image: Caption Info: Grant (Daniel Henkel) brings cocktails to Dr. Jordan (Anders Yates). Courtesy of Colin G. Cooper.