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Interviews

Chords in Conversation: Steve Oram and Kelly Byrne Talk The Canal

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Grimmfest took over Manchester’s Dancehouse theatre between the 2nd and 5th October for what was possibly the strongest line-up for the festival so far. Some truly incredibly films were shown which included Brian O’Malley‘s LET US PREY, Gerard Johnstone‘s HOUSEBOUND and James Ward Byrkit‘s COHERENCE but none of them held a light to Ivan Kevanagh‘s chilling horror film THE CANAL.

Starring Rupert Evans (Hellboy), Steve Oram (Sightseers) and Kelly Byrne, THE CANAL is the story of a film archivist David (Evans) who moves into a new house with his pregnant wife. Shortly after the birth of their child David comes across a film that reveals that his home was the scene of a brutal murder. Becoming more unhinged with the discovery his life is turned upside down when his wife goes missing and it’s not long before he begins to suspect that the presence in his house is not only supernatural but has something to do with the disappearance of his wife.

Ahead of the closing film I was lucky enough to catch up with actress Kelly Byrne and actor Steve Oram (Sightseers) who were attending Grimmfest to take part in an exclusive Q&A that was taking place after the film. We sat down and asked them questions about the film, what it was like on set, why they love horror and what their expectations were ahead of of the night’s screening. Thanks for reading.

grimm_canalJD: Welcome to Manchester and to this year’s Grimmfest, thanks for joining us. You’re here with your latest film The Canal. Would you mind telling me how you became involved with the project?

SO: I was asked by Ivan after he had seen Sightseers. He enjoyed my rendition of a man who kills people for fun *laughs* and he thought I had a vibe going on so he asked me to do it. I read the script and thought it was brilliant and the rest is history.

KB: I had done an acting class and the director recommended me to Ivan who came down to see me. We met and had a chat and we kept in touch and then he asked me to send some footage to him and a year later he offered me the part.

JD: Fantastic. Have you both seen the finished film?

SO: Yeah. I saw it at Frightfest and the crowd went crazy for it. It was a brilliant night and Frightfest is for the fans so everyone really gets into it. When we watched it Kelly and I both thought it had some very genuinely jump-out-of your seat moments…

KB: Yeah, that’s right. There were screams and some were from myself.

SO: *laughs* Yeah I was screaming myself too.

JD: That makes three of us then.

JD: So what is it specifically about the horror genre that you both love so much?

KB: Well I think the most successful horror films are the ones that draw you in allowing you to open up. It’s brilliant because they make you jump, the reaction is powerful…

SO: Yeah, it’s the reaction, the physical visceral reaction to what’s on screen…

KB: Yeah… and it’s the only type of film that never lets you go. It shocks you and makes you scream because they are so interesting and you find yourself absorbed into the film so when something pops up it really startles you.

SO: Yes. It’s similar to comedy which for me is the other genre that creates a real reaction in its audience. I have witnessed that as a member of the audience they are the best films to watch as you feel part of the crowd especially with horror fans.

KB: Exactly…

SO: My background is in stand-up comedy but in recent years it’s clear that with both genres you really see a connection with their audience. It is really brilliant fun.

JD: I had the opportunity to see the film ahead of tonight’s screening and I must say that it is one of the most unnerving and terrifying film experiences that I’ve had the pleasure to watch in a long time. Why do you think the film is so powerful when compared to the more standard fare out there?

SO: Our director. Ivan is very experienced and very good at what he does. He is a skilled filmmaker and knows what it takes to scare his audience. His sense of direction, the score and the overall effect, the film is incredibly powerful and it’s very scary too. The audience will love it.

JD: What was it like on-set? Was it a difficult shoot?

SO: Not difficult, it was a very organised shoot. The only challenging thing was that we had no money and we had a very short time to complete the film but they were very focused on what Ivan and the rest of the team wanted to achieve. It was a simple film based around one location but I felt the whole structure of the team and how they were was incredibly organised. It was only a few weeks ago when I first watched the film that I came to realise how powerful the film actually is. I had an idea in my head of how it would turn out but watching it I thought it was brilliant, it was really good technically and every other way.

canalfeatJD: The Canal is a very serious horror film. Steve, you come from a background in comedy, what was it like for you to play such a serious role?

SO: I loved it. With any part I do I approach it in a very serious way be it comedy or anything. So when I was doing Sightseers I did nothing different, I was playing that character and if anything funny came out of it then that’s great. With The Canal I took exactly the same approach to play my character who is this detective guy.

JD: Kelly, you play Sophie, the tormented nanny in the film. Your character goes through her fair share of trauma during the film. Was this your first horror experience? How did you find it?

KB: Yes. It was my first. I loved it. It was really challenging but the pay off was amazing. I would never have thought that I would have played a part quite like this that requires so much of you, that requires so much emotion and I think that’s the best thing to do as an actor – to constantly challenge yourself and learn. This is what the horror genre does. It’s very difficult in parts but the pay off is worth it by the end especially when you have a good director like Ivan behind you. I really want to do a horror film again, I had so much fun.

JD: I’ve read that The Canal has been compared to films such as Don’t Look Now. What is your opinion on this?

SO: Yeah, I heard that. I suppose there are similarities and there are some dream-like nightmares that go on and such.

KB: Ivan once told me that in some of his past interviews that it was his intention to pay homage to some of the films that he loves. I shouldn’t probably say this as I will be quoted… *laughs*

SO: He won’t mind. He’ll like it.

KB: He said that because of the type of film it is that Rupert Evans’ character is an archivist so it is his job to watch films so Ivan is saying that basically in the scenes where he is watching footage he could pay homage to his favourite films like The Shining

SO: Rosemary’s Baby was a favourite of his too.

KB: Yeah… also The Fly to which the birth scene is directly influenced by as well as the musical score.

(both Steve and Kelly Laugh)

KB: It sounds like I’m talking shite but the musical score is also influenced by these films. He said that because the dream-like sequences are influenced by life he would be inspired to film the dream-like sequences in the same manner. He thought it was a perfect opportunity to pay homage to the films he loves.

JD: The festival circuit here in the UK is a unique and incredible experience for everyone. Steve you’ve experienced Frightfest and now Grimmfest, what do you think about the UK horror festivals in general?

SO: There is no pretense with them, it’s all about fun. When you come to a horror festival you realise that it is not like other festivals where the talent and buyers are trying to strike a deal between themselves instead its about the atmosphere. There’s a real sense of fun and enjoyment and it’s like that at horror festivals around the world. It’s great.

JD: So you are here to promote The Canal which has been selected to close this year’s Grimmfest. What are your expectations ahead of tonight’s screening?

SO: I’m a bit nervous but i’m quietly confident about tonight because I think it is a good film. It’s there and it’s done so you can’t change it can you.

KB: Yes, lots of scares. They should be frightened.

SO: Yeah, I’m hoping they go mental and shit themselves at the same time.

JD: So what’s next?

SO: I just finished work on my next feature film about a world where there is no speech so there is no dialogue. That was completed last summer.

JD: Is that a horror title?

SO: Kind of. It’s very much in that realm of strangeness *laughs*. Julian Barratt is in it too as are many of my mates so yeah, that should be great.

JD: How about you Kelly?

KB: I just got cast in a feature film from Element Pictures. It’s a small part but I expect to be filming that at the end of this month.

We’d like to thank Steve and Kelly for speaking to us and wish them the best of success with The Canal and beyond.

We’ll leave you with the latest trailer of the film and urge you to catch it as soon as it reaches a city or town near you….

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Interviews

Chords In Conversation: Jim Mickle Talks Cold In July

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Jim Mickle_Cold In JulyWithout a doubt Jim Mickle is proving himself to be one of the most talented genre filmmakers of the moment and he just keeps getting better with each and every new project.

This was most recently evidenced in his most recent remake We Are What We Are as he cunningly managed to reinvent the original whilst maintaining its essence. Then, earlier this year saw the theatrical release of his pulpy neo-noir thriller Cold In July, bursting with a stellar, veteran cast lead up by Dexter’s Michael C Hall, Don Johnson and Sam Shepard. Hall plays protective father, Dave who finds himself thrust into a profusely dark and seedy criminal underworld after accidentally shooting an intruder in his home.

For Cold in July, Mickle once again teamed up with writing partner in crime, Nick Damici to adapt Joe Landsdale‘s novel of the same name. Whilst primarily a neo-noir revenge thriller, the film does indeed bring some of Mickle’s horror savoir-faire to the table so fans of Mulberry St., Stakeland and We Are What We Are are perfectly pampered. This genre feel is further cemented as Damici puts in a short-yet-rewarding role as the town’s Sheriff.

We got to speak with Jim who openly discussed Cold in July, his undying love for genre films and how increasing prestige and budget changed his work ethic. He went on to reveal he’s constantly collaborating with his cohort, Damici so we should expect plenty more sophisticated and deft feature films (and TV shows) in the not too distant future.

Although Cold In July moves slightly away from horror, your roots are essentially genre movies. Where did your love for horror spring from?

When I was really young I was fascinated by horror movies and they always scared the hell out of me. I was literally a baby when I started seeing horror movies and they scared me so much I always ended up sleeping on my parents’ floor. I think that as I watched more and more I kind of desensitized myself to it and I started being interested in how horror movies worked and how they were able to have that effect on people.

You had a real interest in special effects and animatronics as well I understand.

Yeah. I had a stage where I was interested in magicians and magic tricks and that kind of grew and went on to make up effects and that lead me to watching a lot of horror movies to see how all that was done. That was the point were it transitioned into filmmaking in general.

So what pushed you towards a directing and writing career rather than a career in special effects?

I started even when I was just a teenager. My Dad got a home camera to do home videos and that sort of thing and as soon as that happened I literally just picked it up and started making these little special effects videos which featured gunshots and bullet wounds. So I ended up making little films that all involved people getting shot and they were all backwoods type horror films. That was when I was about fourteen or fifteen. After that I started to get a little bit more artistic and did things like crime stories and stories about being a teenager. It just all sort of evolved and then my parents split up when I was 16 or 17 and my father ended up marrying a screenwriting professor who was incredibly supportive of trying to make a career out of this. Up until then I had seen it as just a hobby that I just tried to keep up with for as long as I could but then she really supported going to film school to learn the skills to then go on and make a career out of it. So then I went to NYU where I met Nick Damici.

How did Nick Damici end up becoming your partner in crime?

Well he was the lead actor in a friend’s short film which I was working on. We stayed in cabins in a small town for about a week and my cabin was next to Nick’s. Basically, we just hit it off. After a day’s shoot I’d see him sitting playing guitar on his porch and go over and talk. I really had never seen an actor as genuine and with as much screen presence as that for a student film so we hit it off through that. We both had very similar interests and he told me about some of the things he had been writing and I thought they sounded amazing and at that time I was trying to write but not with great luck on my own. When we came back to New York he ended up writing a script about that shoot that we were on. He sent it to me and I read it and loved the script and I gave him some thoughts. Then it just turned into a back and forth thing where he’d send me stuff and I’d give him notes and we ended up writing original scripts that way and then Mulberry Street popped up. At that point Nick’s acting career had stalled and I was working on sets but not getting to actually make movies so we decided that if we didn’t create an opportunity then it wasn’t going to come.

So you took the bull by the horns with Mulberry Street with a shoestring budget. Obviously things have come a long way for you since then but back then you said that if you ever got the chance to make films on much bigger budgets you’d rather spend the money on various projects or on other people’s projects. Are you still a believer of that philosophy?

Interesting! I do remember saying that. Things change and things become more difficult. As you get to work with bigger budgets things disappear much more rapidly. But yeah, I do still think that. I think things can get too bloated and too big very quickly. It’s tougher and tougher as you move up but I hope I’m able to continue making movies the size they should be rather than spending a lot of useless money on useless things. cold-in-july So coming to Cold in July, how did you discover Joe Lansdale’s novel and what was it about this particular book that made you want to turn it into a feature film?

I had been a fan of Joe since Bubba Ho Tep which I saw as soon as I graduated college. It just blew me away and I knew I just had to read more from whoever had written it. I loved his particular point of view and the great mix of tone and I started reading his stuff just as a fan at first and I fell in love with his characters and his whole world. This was after we had done Mulberry Street which was a very low budget and very much a New York movie and very much a 911 movie. We were coming to a close on that as we’d spent almost two years on it and we were so over the New York setting by then. I wanted to read something different so I had a couple of Joe’s books and ‘Cold in July’ just happened to be one of those. Instantly it was just like “Wow! This is a movie.”

Was it an easy book to adapt into a screenplay?

Well the first draft was very quick and really we just started adapting page by page. Then we ended up with a really long, dense script which had every element from the book. Then it was just a case of sitting with it and carving it down but then we’d feel we’d missed some bits so we were constantly massaging it to make it just the right shape.

So what about the casting process?

Well that was a totally different experience. We went through a lot of financiers, a lot of different companies backing the film at different stages and they all had different ideas about how they wanted it to be, the kind of scale they wanted and who was going to get it done for them. Ultimately, we got to a point where we were able to make it with the people that we thought would be best for the movie.

So neither Nick Damici nor yourself had anyone in mind?

No. I would find that that gets you into trouble. In Mulberry Street almost every role was written specifically for each character as most were people that Nick knew in the neighbourhood. That kind of thing is great when you have no money and you are just desperate to find people to fill the roles. It was a really amazing experience but I think it can get you into trouble as you start moving on because if you start thinking you want a certain person to play a part then you start writing the role a little juicier than you would otherwise and you start injecting scenes into the script. I find it much cleaner if you don’t do that and it helps you to really get the script on the page and then later go about figuring out who those different pieces are going to be.

Cold in July is certainly a move away from your previous genre projects. Have you turned your back on horror or have you got more in the pipeline?

Oh I’d love to get back and do horror again. To a certain extent the three that we did were really good and I’m really proud of them and, crazily enough, they have all gone on to have these long lives. They get discovered even though they’ve been out for a little bit so it’s funny how we are also just coming to the surface a little bit. I’m sure I will do some more horror though. It just really depends on finding the right story to tell. I’d also really love to do some science fiction. There’s also another project that we are casting right now which is an intellectual Hitchcockian thriller which is all very subdued. I love that as it’s completely different and it would mean making a completely different movie so, even though all are part genre in nature, I like that all of them are very different from each other.

And what can you tell us about the TV show you are adapting from Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard novels?

Well we’ve just turned the final draft of the pilot in and now we wait for the heads of the network to decide if it’s going to get a green light. We’re anxiously waiting to hear their decision for that.

And finally, please tell me the Stakeland TV series is still going ahead.

Yeah it is. Nick Damici has already written all of them which is kind of amazing. I think he was at a point where he was frustrated with writing jobs. He felt he was trying to put a square peg in a round hole so I told him to just write what he wanted to. He ended up writing some really beautiful stuff with a very similar kind of energy as the movie. I just heard recently that there is some network interest and we’ll see what happens.

We’d like to thank Jim for talking to us and can’t wait to see his future projects come to fruition. In the meantime, Cold In July is available on DVD and Blu-ray this Monday 20 October and we’ll leave you with a trailer for the film.

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Interviews

A Short Mission: Garrick Hamm Interview

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I’m wrapped up warm in a home office, guarding several animals and waddling through a sea of press and films. I say this because I am currently on the phone to Garrick Hamm, the charming and intellectual creator of phenomenal short – Retrospective. “I’m very jealous” he says to me, learning about my warmth as he huddles in wet and windy North London, “there’s a massive storm coming and I’m on my bike.”

Huddling into my scarf and counting my blessings, I am luckily away from the capitals impending flood. And we also get to warm our cockles as we talk about short film, especially Hamm’s evocative pieces on war photography. The film, based on a story by Kevin Wignall, revolves around a war photographer who must face the controversy surrounding one of his images whilst it is being celebrated. “I came to the idea after I had read his short, so it comes from him,” says Hamm, clanking on his side of the call whilst a bird happily tweets the McDonald’s theme tune from mine. “However, I felt compelled to the story. A few years ago, I had met Tim Hetherington. I was struck by his by his bravery, warmth and charm. What he brought back from the warzone was compelling. Sadly, he didn’t come back from his latest war zone. When I read the story, I saw Tim straight away. This guy comes back but he was changed.”

Retrospective definitely deals with the ethics behind war photography, Hamm is very interested in portraying the dangers that those go through and the effect is has on them. “I think they (the photographers) play an important role,” Hamm muses, bringing attention to two sides that are often forgotten by those who merely view the final image. “They are key to the war effort, bringing light to atrocities that many wouldn’t see usually, so they have their place in society.”

With this side, Hamm manages to balance it with the torture loved ones feel when they see their family members strewn across the rubble in death. “The movie has this interesting pendulum swing and you need to portray the full picture from both sides,” says Hamm, “It’s not about reducing it to its simplest form – this shocking image – it’s about the context and examining it from a different point of view.”

“Charles worked hard on that with me, about getting it right” says Garrick about his lead actor, a big name in this moving short. Charles’ task is to encompass the plight of the fictional photographer Jonathon Hoyle and he does it here with strength, mastering the pain behind taking the photo and his disillusion with his own work. “He didn’t want it to be too sentimental, we edited it and fine-tuned it so it felt realistic.”

Getting big names into his movies, similarly to Richard E Grant in Hamm’s fantastic The Man Who Married Himself (which won Best Comedy Award at the acclaimed LA Shorts Film Festival,) is often the key element to Garrick’s movies. “My strategy with filmmaking is to always go after the main actor,” he says stating that Dance and John Hurt were the first famed actors who he tried to pursue, with the latter being wrapped up in Hercules. “Dance had finished with Game of Thrones and was looking for his next project. Dance is a very commanding film. With him on-board, you have a better chance of getting other people into your film.”

10369413_675226075859352_1959361920_aBut there is still the struggle “We were very lucky to get Vincent, Emilia came with him,” Hamm mentions, talking about actors Emilia Fox who plays the exhibitor and Vincent Regan, the bodyguard. “We were having trouble finding this angry, Arab actor. It’s a difficult casting when you need to get their viewpoint across without them being the lead. Though we sent the script to his daughter by mistake” – the director laughs –“We managed to score Omid Dajili who had trained professionally as an actor who wanted to do more material and fell in love with the story.”

Garrick and I have similar thoughts when it comes to short film, “you can wrap your arms around it,” he mentions, talking about how compact and easy it is to digest short art medium when you are an impatient view or reader. “It is doable, you decide on something, with a lot of energy and commit to it. You can do it within a matter of days because cast and crew can also help you. Plus there are only fifteen minutes to do it.”

Certainly, audiences are heading to short film more often nowadays, consuming cinematic content in little bites. “The way people view films nowadays, on smartphones and tablets, short film is great for commuting – that little pocket of entertainment – and I think some commercials have expanded to that view point as well as television. There are better TV programmes and short films out there than in cinemas.“

That being kept in mind, would Hamm ever turn to features (currently he has worked on shorts and created shorts). “If I fell in love with something, then yes.” He says, remarking on the only downside that the short form in cinema has, “you don’t get to play with a character as much on fifteen pages. With a longer film, you get to dwell on it and expand it. Maybe one day that’s what I’ll do.”

Despite not watching his own films, boxing them away after creating them and leaving the final product separate, Garrick says that the process of filmmaking has a magical quality to it, “I love making a film, seeing it come to life the first time and the actors building your characters. I love it…”

“But I don’t love the end result.” With that in mind, I must urge you to see Retrospective if you can. After all, it is a thrilling and absorbing short film. Garrick has delved into the thematic nature of war photography and brought an engaging film. You can read my review here. If you manage to, make sure you catch Garrick Hamm’s work, he is a phenomenal filmmaker.

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Interviews

Interview: Alexandre Aja Talks Hitting Hollywood and ‘Horns’

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With Elijah Wood having recently terrorised the neighbourhood as an unhinged serial killer in director Franck Khalfoun‘s updated version of the 1980 cult slasher Maniac (William Lustig), the film’s writer and producer, Alexandre Aja, has turned his efforts to the dark love fable Horns, adapting it for the big screen in collaboration with the writer of the original novel, Joe Hill, son of another fairly well known horror writer, Stephen King.


To the surprise of many it was announced that none other than Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe had been cast as the protagonist Ignatius “Ig” Perrish with fellow Brit actress Juno Temple playing his love interest doomed for demise. With the film set to release later this year, in the US at least, and as Lionsgate UK recently picked up the movie rights, I hopped on the phone for a chat with Alexandre to find out as much as I could possibly squeeze out of him about his latest project.

CinemaChords – So, before we delve into what you are currently working on I just wanted to briefly ask you a bit about your move to Hollywood following the great success of High Tension back in 2003. From what I gather you had quite the dilemma when it came to deciding how exactly you wanted the film to be seen internationally. As you weren’t keen for English speakers having to read too many subtitles you chose to dub half of the content? What other problems did you encounter?

Alexandre Aja – Well, first and foremost, we really didn’t make that film thinking it would be a passport to Hollywood. My intention was basically to create a film with my partner, Grégory Levasseur, to serve as a kind of celebration of old style movies. We were highly influenced by films like the original versions of The Last House on the Left and Maniac. It was made with all our passion for the genre and, thankfully for us, when it opened in the US it became a small cult movie which opened to door to us in terms of studios and producers.

So there was never really any talk of producing a remake rather than releasing your original version?

Well we did actually get a number of offers to remake it but I always turned them down because if you look at the movie as a whole it’s pretty much a silent film. There are only seven minutes of actual dialogue so I really felt that the film was very accessible on an international level already.

Somewhere else where the film came up against a few problems was in Korea where the film was cut rather substantially – all of six minutes I believe. With directors like Park Chan-wook it’s pretty surprising that your film was so heavily censored. What went on there?

Well we didn’t really feel it was our place to ask why they did this but they pretty much butchered the whole thing. To add salt to the wounds the only DVD that was first available internationally was a Korean import that was absolutely terrible, at least in my eyes.

Having said that, that was a good ten years ago and I think things have changed substantially and Korea seem to be a lot more open to screening more hardcore content now.

Despite a few setbacks you haven’t looked back and apart from the French produced Maniac you have remained in the US ever since.

Well yes, the main reason is that the type of films I want to make really need to be produced over here. In Europe it is pretty much impossible to shoot a film if it requires a budget in excess of 2 million dollars so the best way to ensure my movies are made as I want them is to produce them over here.

Coming to the present, Lionsgate UK recently picked up your latest project, Horns which is based on the novel of the same name, written by Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill. Tell us a bit about how you got involved in the project.

Well I was just finishing up with Piranha and I had a sort of early version of the book to read. To cut a long story short, I just fell in love with the material there and then as Joe has created a world which takes readers from the absolute darkest of comedy to emotional drama to some seriously scary scenes. Both of us were in negotiations with Mandalay from the very start so we basically ended up working together on the screenplay together which was an amazing experience.

Something that really surprised me was your choice of protagonist, Daniel Radcliffe. I say surprised but, looking back, you also had Kiefer Sutherland star in a horror movie slap bang in the middle of his series 24 with the whole world rooting for Jack Bauer every week. Do you intentionally cast characters that audiences don’t expect you to go for?

I guess you are right. I mean, I brought action star Jack Bauer into the horror world in Mirrors, Maniac also finds Elijah Wood becoming a serial killer and now Horns turns Harry Potter into a fallen angel. I suppose there is something I like about bringing established, rigid characters into the darkest of places in my films. I also think that using unexpected but recognisable characters allows me to take audiences on more extensive journeys because the film starts off with these characters that everyone recognises and loves and who everyone can relate to and this is such an advantage as it helps you take the audience with you in this transformation into hell.

In the case of Daniel Radcliffe, the character he plays is a guy in his early twenties who is very much in love with his girlfriend and she is found dead and raped with Daniel’s character accused of the crime. Subsequently he acquires powers of the devil so this is a seriously complex character to pull off.

I just happened to meet Daniel at the same time that I had been reading through the novel and the script and everything seemed to click with him. He just had all the same qualities that the book possesses. As soon as I went back to Joe Hill with my idea of casting Daniel he couldn’t have agreed more. I mean, he just creates this real character that the audience can identify with and he also possesses this dark edge that we needed for Horns.

He is also at that age and moment in his career where he is trying out various roles and different genres and I think that people are going to be really surprised by his performance.

I’ve read that you go as far as saying that fans of Harry Potter will enjoy Horns as you believe it’s almost a natural progression for Daniel. How so?

Well, in a way I do think that. He is someone who has that kindness, honesty and courage. He is very brave, both as an actor and as a person, and that is exactly why I thought he would be the perfect person. It was also something that I was eager to experiment with as I wanted to see how I could take this very rigid Harry Potter character and turn him into a kind of fallen angel with the character falling into the deepest hell to come back in another form.

The majority of the cast are also British even though they mostly play American characters. Was this something you also did intentionally or was it all by chance?

Funnily enough it was all a coincidence really as the film is in fact set in Washington State. We have some great British talent involved such as Max Minghella and Juno Temple and, although it was completely unintentional, I do believe that the younger generation of actors coming out of the UK have more gravitas and add much more depth to their characters. They also tend to give much more believable performances as a general rule. We’re really happy with all the talent involved and are sure audiences will be pleasantly surprised, especially by Daniel’s performance.


Horns hits the UK this very 29 October so it’s right around the corner now at long last.

We also spoke to Alexandre all about the world of remakes, something he is heavily involved in, as well as a few other projects he has in the pipeline. Head back to Cinema Chords on Monday for that.

We’ll leave you with a recently released trailer:

If you have any thoughts or questions  for Howard Gorman? Fire over a message on Twitter.

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Interviews

Chords In Conversation: Tristan & Kiah Roache-Turner Talk Wyrmwood

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The Roache-Turner brothers look like they may just have concocted a winning recipe.

Tristan and Kiah came up with a somewhat newfangled concept for a zombie movie which, armed with what little budget they could put together, resulted in Wyrmwood. With Kiah on directing duties, the film follows a dying breed of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world up against zombies with a biting case of halitosis.

It might sound nuts, and it is, but in all the right ways. Think Mad Max meets Dawn of the Dead with a dash of The Battery and a slice or three of Shaun of the Dead and you kind of get the jist of what we have on our hands. With the film having wooed audiences at this year’s Fantastic Fest we caught up with both Tristan and Kiah in Austin to find out how it went down and where they’ll be taking things from here.

Great to hear the film went down so well at Fantastic Fest the other day.

Tristan: Yeah, it kicked arse mate. We filled out two theatres on the premiere night and had a little Q&A and got really positive feedback from everyone in the crowd and got some cool reviews. We’re really stoked and Fantastic Fest is such a whole lot of fun.

Kiah: Mate, Austin is a massive party town too by the way.

So how did you end up shooting Wyrmwood when you had little to no budget and you were all working nine-to-five day jobs?

Tristan: Well we’d made a few short films and we always knew that we wanted to make a feature length film and we just felt like we were ready to do it. We just jumped in there. We didn’t have like a script or anything but we had what we thought was a really cool concept. We thought about guys in battle armour with cool cars that catch zombies and then run their cars off methane that the zombies breathe out. So we just prepped up and started shooting and four years later we have a pretty cool film that’s getting wicked little reviews.

Kiah: The other thing is Howard, we’ve sort of been making films together since we were about 13. Tristan and me have always been massively interested in cinema and over the years we made a bunch of short films and music videos and stuff. Without making this interview an ad about Canon, I think basically when the 5D camera came out and I saw that you could duplicate 35mm film pretty easily on a really cheap budget we were like “That’s it!” So we bought that camera and just smashed it. We started filming in 2010 with the intention of shooting it for twenty grand in a year. We planned to do something with things like Peter Jackson‘s Bad Taste in mind and also Evil Dead which was another massive influence. Basically I think Sam Raimi was a film student back then and he just went out into the bushes with his mates and just made a film. Again, Mad Max was a huge influence. Tristan and I grew up watching that film and that was sort of the biggest thing in Australia in terms of genre film. The same was the case with that film as the director, George Miller wasn’t in the industry at all. He basically went out with Kennedy Miller, they raised the cash and made it for a very, very cheap sum. So we had a lot of zombie films and then we had this classic genre look with Mad Max and I think Australia is very well known for being the country that almost spawned the post-apocalyptic genre. We really wanted to see it done again and no one had really done that since kind of the ’80s so we thought “Right, fuck it. Let’s just get together and do it ourselves.” So we kind of mushed all these ideas together and out came Wyrmwood 4 years later.

I have read that your original idea was much darker than the final product. What made you decide to lighten things up a bit?

Kiah: I had just finished reading ‘I Am Legend’ by Richard Matheson which was a huge influence for me and the first idea we had was to go out and do a sort of God’s lonely man amidst the apocalypse where the protagonist, Barry is this lone survivor of this bleak zombie plague. He went around killing the zombies pretty much by himself and it was actually like the Taxi Driver of zombie films. Pretty quickly realised that it was a very bleak story so we studied Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero With a Thousand Faces’ and we thought “It’s time to shoot a different film as we should go back and tell the origin of where this guy came from.” There is actually a seven minute teaser on YouTube and that was the original film that we started shooting. That was very much more like Mad Max 2

Tristan: Can I just jump in there and say that we shot a couple of scenes and they kicked arse and were really, really bleak and we showed them to a cinema full of people. They loved it but we came away sort of shocked by their reactions and we knew we needed to put a bit more comedy in there to just lighten it up a little bit. During that screening I was watching people’s faces and they couldn’t take their eyes off the screen but they looked a bit shocked and we realised we needed to change some things to give people something to get REALLY excited about.

Despite a shoestring budget you’ve recreated a perfect post-apocalyptic world. How do you accomplish something like that whilst having to watch your wallet?

Tristan: As soon as we came up with the concept I jumped straight on eBay and just started buying up as much cool material as I could to make the costumes. I bought a 1987 Toyota Hilux for like fifteen hundred bucks, parked it right out in front of my house and just started attacking it with two of my really good mates. We just sat out in the front street with grinders and drills and just made it look really bad arse and yeah, we got some pretty weird looks from the neighbours. Then the final touch we did was to mount a harpoon on the bonnet and then we we ready to go, ready to make a movie…

The zombie genre has been done so many times and despite that you manage to add a whole bunch of fresh concepts. Where did these ideas come from and were you ever worried about making a film in such a long-standing genre?

Wyrmwood_brooke_on here ownTristan: I think we both kind of came up with the cool stuff together. We came up with the look and the feel of it so we knew we wanted guys looking bad arse in battle armour in a kick arse truck. I actually came up with the idea that the zombies should breathe out methane and it should be a renewable energy source. That way the guys in battle armour could just capture a zombie and stick him in the back to run their machinery off him. It was Kiah who came up with the idea of having our leading lady, Brooke (Bianca Bradey – pictured right) as a sort of zombie queen who has these psychic powers.

It was never daunting making a zombie film. It didn’t even really cross our mind the fact there are a million zombie films out there. We just thought we had a really cool concept and we were like “Yep. We are doing this. Let’s go.”

Kiah: We knew that we had to have a hook. One day Tristan sort of took me aside after having a couple of beers and said “How about having zombies that breathe methane that can be used as batteries to power these post-apocalyptic wagons?” When he said that I knew that was the hook and I thought “Man, if I was going out on a Friday night that is the film that I would want to watch.” So that was pretty much it.

Whenever a new zombie film is announced everyone starts wondering whether the zombies will be runners or walkers. Wyrmwood has a bit of both worlds.

Kiah: We hedged our bets. We looked at Dawn of the Dead and also 28 Days Later as I think they are your tentpole zombie creatures and we thought “Fuck it. Let’s have a bit of both.” It’s funny but in such an over-saturated market there were two things we knew we couldn’t do. We couldn’t do Dawn of the Dead again because that’s as good as a zombie film gets and we couldn’t do Shaun of the Dead because that’s as funny as a zombie film gets. We also knew we had to have a few hooks because the market is so over-saturated so it had to have a really interesting take, but I guess we took a little bit of everything. We thought “We’ll make it serious, we’ll make it funny, we’ll make them run, we’ll make them slow during the day.” So in the end we used every single zombie cliché that we could think of and then we put a few new ones on top to basically try and smash as much into this film as possible. We basically tried to make the ultimate Australian zombie film.

It may just have been my wishful thinking but did you purposely include zombie easter eggs in there? One that springs to mind was a teeth brushing scene that made me thing of The Battery.

Kiah: You know what? I hadn’t thought of that but I’m going to use that Battery one now yeah! I actually only watched that recently as my head of makeup sent it to us. We had just spent four years just making this truly massive, epic film where we wanted to put as much in as possible and then I saw The Battery and they made that for just six thousand dollars and it took them like five minutes. It’s an amazingly good film. That’s a testament to what you can seriously do with nothing and I guess we went for the other end of the spectrum and we threw as much into the pot as we could. But yeah, I was so impressed with The Battery and it’s one of the best zombie films in the last ten years for sure.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for low budget films tends to be the special effects. I know you tried out your own homegrown experiments that didn’t work as well as you’d hoped. How did you manage to pull the effects off in the end, particularly as you use plenty of extreme close up camerawork?

Jay and Kiah on set
Jay and Kiah on set

Kiah: Yeah we did some tests earlier on and we thought for a minute there that we could be like Peter Jackson who baked his alien heads in his mum’s oven. So we got some basic stuff together and made some zombies and they looked like angry papier-mâché ….. It just looked fucking terrible so we just got together pretty quickly  and went “Look, if we’re going to do this low budget then we have to approach makeup school and do this properly and get some talented people on board.” We were lucky enough to get Gavin Kyle and Lisa Cotterill. Lisa was our head of makeup and she was a real find as she is disgustingly talented. Once we’d set that up we knew that we had a decent story, we knew we could make a decent film, we had makeup artist who knew what they were talking about so the only thing left after that was really the acting and that was a huge part.

We knew Jay Gallagher who we’d worked with previously for a few things and he was kind of plugged into an acting school called The National Institute of Dramatic Art and he basically helped cast the film. One of the things that often lets down low budget movies is the acting so we really wanted to get the performances as real as possible. We were really lucky with the cast.

The camerawork was particularly novel for a zombie film. It was all very frantic and in your face. Where did this choice of direction come from?

Kiah: I had worked together with the DOP, Tim Nagle for years in advertising and we had shot a whole lot of fashion commercials and stuff so we were really used to shooting for beauty. We thought it would be interesting to take the fashion aesthetic focused photography and the lenses and nice lighting and all that kind of stuff to a film about monsters. Tim is a huge fan of handheld and he is a very small, nimble individual so a lot of the hardcore close ups and those things are very much Tim’s style. As he is so small you can fit him in places where you wouldn’t be able to fit another DOP. As we had no money and we had no car rigs there would be scenes which would be say a close up of Jay Gallagher as he’s driving and we’d have Tim in the glove box getting that close up. Basically he’s the ultimate tool for any DIY filmmaker.

How on earth did you manage to shoot and edit a feature film whilst you all had day jobs?

Kiah: It was difficult. When we were halfway through the production I started going part time so I would be working three days a week and spending the rest of my time on Wyrmwood. Tristan did it hard! He was working full time and producing a film and doing the production design and working out all the schedules with me so it was pretty much a juggling nightmare. But with something like this you’ve just got to get in there and smash it. Then towards the end of the process I edited it for nine months while working part time and as soon as we finished the film and approached Screen Australia for finishing funds and we started to realise that this was actually going to happen finally, I just thought that there’s a point where a filmmaker has to just put all his chips on the table and take the risks so I quit my job to do this full time. So Wyrmwood and filmmaking is now my job so we’ll see where that goes. What do you think Tristan?

Tristan: Yeah for sure mate! We just want to keep making films a hundred percent. We set up our production company before we started filming and we’ve got a pretty cool little website and we have some offers for a few films which are projects we definitely want to work on. Now it’s just about finding our funding and pushing on through.

Kiah: What we’d really love to be able to do is just bang out a bunch of really low budget genre Aussie films. I guess genre mashups would be our style if we had any so I guess we’ll be looking to do that. One of the things I love for example is when I was watching Wyrmwood the other day at our final Austin premiere I was thinking how it is a cool little kick arse action film and it didn’t cost much. I mean the big budgets now are like 20 million and 30 million and you don’t really need all that. All you need is a little bit of passion, a little bit of cinema know-how and you can bang out a film for a couple of million dollars that stands up there next to some of these larger films. I guess one of the things we want to do is show people how much you can do with so little.

Talking of future projects, I think you have various ideas already for films. A particular one I read about was that you have a fresh spin on a ghost story.

Kiah: Yeah, I guess we were about two years into Wyrmwood and I decided to take a bit of a break. I went to this tiny little spooky town in New South Wales called Hill End and we were staying at this creepy little house. While we were there I picked up this ghost book that was just in the house and started reading it and I was reminded of how obsessed I was of ghosts when I was a kid. Every time I went to a library I would go straight to the ghost section. I think with these types of films if you can find something that you are willing to give your life to for two or three years that means you have got a project you are passionate about and you should make it. With Wyrmwood it was such a great idea and a concept that I never got sick of and I realised that the next film HAS to be a ghost film because every single person I know has a ghost story so everybody can plug into that. Basically we’ve started writing a treatment for a film that is probably like an R-rated Ghostbusters with like huge splashings of Clive Barker and pretty heavily influenced by Stephen King.

So just to wrap up, having finished your first feature film now what have you learned from the experience? When you start work on your next film are there any things you would repeat of definitely avoid doing next time?

Kiah: Mate, that is a tough one! This is not so much a mistake we made or anything but we definitely need a budget next time. It was a lot of fun making the film the way we did – guerrilla style with no money – but I would not want to do that again. Basically we just want to be able to pay our cast and crew upfront as I think that would take a lot of pressure off. A happy crew is a paid crew at the end of the day and we are working with these amazingly talented people and it’s just so much better if people know that this is something where you can earn a crust on a weekly basis and not have to do it just for passion. The people we work with are too good for that and we never really want to have to ask people to work for free and if that is the result of Wyrmwood then it’s all worth it…

We’d like to thank Tristan and Kiah for speaking to us and wish them the best of success with Wyrmwood and beyond.

We’ll leave you with the latest trailer of the film and urge you to catch it as soon as it reaches a city or town near you….

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Interviews

The Imitation Game – BFI London Film Festival – Opening Gala Red Carpet!

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“I adore you, and I’m really, really grateful for your support, and I hope you enjoy the film.” Cumberbatch shivered down the microphone as the heavens above drenched the red carpet. For hours, for some up to thirty, a Cumber-collective had gathered to meet the acclaimed and talented star, and even the press were drenched with excitement over the event. As many stood the test of tentative weather patterns, the glamorous stars somehow managed to look exquisite despite the loss of umbrellas and windy antics. After all, what red carpet event can beat the opening gala night of the BFI London Film Festival? And with The Imitation Game being the film of the night, it was a very British affair indeed.
A truly elegant film with a master-filled performance from Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game has been met with much furore already. The telling of Alan Turing, a genius and mathematician who helped solve the enigma code but was persecuted for being homosexual, has had much critical acclaim that tinged the atmosphere with excitement as the score hummed through the air. Highly anticipated before word of mouth spread the brilliance of this movie on a global scale. And to pair it with the tantalising and prestigious London Film Festival seems like a match made in heaven.

“It’s a very British premiere to open a very British festival and the heavens have opened, it’s all very British” says Clare Stewart – the head of exhibition in BFI. If you are excited for all 248 films that are showcasing over the next two weeks in the heart of the capitol, then it’s her you have to thank. As she walks the red carpet, despite the heavens raining down on us, she is poised and exhilarated by the fact that her hard work is coming together. Wearing a white and black dress and talking extremely passionately about her love of film, Stewart has high words for The Imitation Game, “Of course, it has this overseas element to it. It was written and produced by Americans and we have that Norwegian spirit with Morten. They’ve all produced this phenomenal movie.”

Interestingly, The Imitation Game isn’t the only movie based around the Second World War, and Clare’s fantastic festival closes with David Ayer’s Fury which centres on the front line soldiers. “It wasn’t a thought through choice, much more of a coincidence.” She says, praising the talents of the filmmakers, whoshe states are the first things she considers in choosing films. “But people are turning to focus on the efforts of those who fought in the war and that’s great to represent these stories untold. We’ve also got Testament of Youth, the Vera Brittain story which conveys the First World War, too. It’s fantastic to convey these stories.

But tonight’s story is penned by Graham Moore, one of those Americans who has brought to life this British story. At merely 28 years old, the young screenwriter is perhaps best known for television series 10 Things I Hate About You and Best Seller book The Sherlockian. So it’s apt that he has penned The Imitation Game, adapted from Andrew Hodges story Alan Turing: The Enigma. As he comes over to answer a few questions, he is drowned out by the squeal of excitement from the fans as Benedict Cumberbatch emerges from the car, “this is my life at the moment, every time I go to speak it’s all excitement for Benedict,” he jests happily before divulging about the obstacles he may have faced when creating The Imitation Game; “doing research on the war and Bletchley Park is difficult because we don’t have that anymore. That scene where they are burning everything, that actually happened, so we had to make a guess on what we did have.”

Moore found himself drawn to the Turing story all of his life, “You know, I grew up into computers – I was a computer nerd – so his story really captivated me. That topic of who he was and what he did for the war and how he was mistreated, I read the book and knew I wanted to write about it.”

Putting his script into the hands of fantastic director Morten Tyldum is a fantastic achievement for the script writer, who found that the spirits of both he and Tyldum worked really well. “We have very different styles and aesthetics but he is such a cool guy and he is whip smart.” Moore enthuses empathically, “He’d calm me down because I’d have so many ideas and he’ll turn around and say, ‘that won’t work on screen.’”

Talking about Tyldum, the Norweigan is making his way down the red carpet suited and booted for his very first English speaking and British film, “I couldn’t have jumped further away from my comfort zone if I tried,” he laughs as his previous films include the critically acclaimed Headhunters, all in native tongue. Here, with The Imitation Game, Tyldum kept it filmed in London.  “I wanted to film it in London, keep the bombed out feel to it was well as keeping it focused on Bletchley Park, it’s nice the premiere is bringing the film back on home soil with this character driven movie.

Speaking about what drew Tyldum to the script, he echoes the theme of tonight – that Turing’s persecution was unjust- and tonight, we are honouring his work. “I was sent the script, which blew me away because I knew so little about it – he wasn’t on the front cover of my history books when I was two,” Morten says to enthusiastic agreement from the press who were equally swept up in his story, “I became obsessed; he was such an unsung hero. He theorised the first computer at 23 and broke the Enigma machine, saving millions of lives. But it was kept locked away and he was prosecuted as a gay man and sent for chemical castration. It’s heart-breaking but very touching, I feel honoured and privileged to do this film about a man who knew so little.”

The man who has the difficult task of decoding such an enigmatic character is Benedict Cumberbatch, who is flitting between press and his excited fan base, all screaming to get a little scrap of attention from the world’s hottest star. As he quickly trundles through questions, each microphone and thrilled reporter vying for his attention (and two possible fan-girls, myself and the Chinese reporter beside me, who found themselves in the press pen), still, armed with a bottle of water to verbose his enthusiasm of being in the film, Cumberbatch is ever the suited gentleman. “I loved the brain and personality, his complete character is engaging and I wanted to portray that,” says Cumberbatch surrounded by a flurry of cameras and lights (how he does this so often, so poised and polite, is a wonder in itself). Continuing, but very quickly as he is already running late for his own film, Cumberbatch says “He is extraordinarily under-appreciated. I wanted to do him justice because of what he suffered, and hopefully, we have.”

Assuring us that Turing would love the technical side of social media and all its functions in today’s society, Benedict rushes to sign as many autographs as possible for fans before being taken inside to enjoy such a glorious film. With one final thank you to a reporter who graciously congratulated him on a fantastic performance (me), it’s time for The Imitation Game to make its British debut.

The Imitation Game is out November 14th. Read Cookie’s review about it now! 

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Interviews

Chords in Conversation: Jane Spencer Talks The Ninth Cloud

Jane Spencer – The Ninth Cloud

Today we are sitting down with Jane Spencer to talk about her latest movie The Ninth Cloud and what it was like working with Michael Madsen and  Megan Maczko. We also cover a whole range of other topics such as the struggle involved in getting a film made, attending The Actor’s Studio with legends like De Niro and what Rik Mayall was like on set! Read on for more!

Before we start I would just like to say congratulations on the film and thank you for taking the time out to talk with me today.

Thank you very much!

There’s a lot going on in this film from a social study to philosophical musings to a loss of innocence, what, if you can only choose one thing, would you like people to come away from this with?

I think basically if people could question conforming to what they would call reality. I think everybody creates their own world in this, and somehow she [the lead character] triumphs even though one would look at her and think ‘wow she is in some other universe’. It’s about looking for some good in a very difficult world.

What did you start out with? What inspired the film?

There was a little kid who was in Venice, California who had a problem with his leg similar to the child in the film. He wasn’t hurt by a landmine like him but had been abused and was diseased. I felt that this kid needed help and so I went to some people and the very wealthy were the ones who would not put up anything and those who didn’t have much money were the ones who tried, and I thought that was really interesting in a social context. That was the seed where the idea came from, but then years later Zena and all that came from someone who is trying to deal with harsh reality in their own way.

When you first came up with her did you know that you were going to use the child with the leg story? How did they weave together?

As all writers do you identify with your lead character so I thought about what I was trying to do, but I’m obviously not her. She’s a lot more innocent and not very worldly. And I knew a girl who would never take her coat off because she had been through a traumatic experience and so it all just came together. It all started story wise with the kid but thematically it was with Zena. And I used her to ask questions like ‘why are we here?’ etc.

Her character is a tricky one to get right, a little more dreamlike and she would lack empathy, but if you had made her that little more grounded it wouldn’t have worked either…

Exactly. I didn’t want to write someone who the audience didn’t even want to know because she was too out there, but also everybody has had some sort of tragedy happen in life and I think our connection is that we are all looking hopefully for something. Unfortunately she focuses on Michael Madsen’s character though, which is funny in itself. I love Michael and he is a sweet person but he is pretty weathered, he’s been through a lot. But he’s also honourable in the film…

He is somewhat cast against type here, was he an obvious choice all along?

You know oddly enough I was thinking about Guillaume Depardieu who would have been more normal in this role, but actually a casting director came up to me and said what about Michael Madsen and I immediately said ‘what! He’s always got a gun!’ and he said ‘no no he’s looking for things where he doesn’t have a gun and isn’t cutting people’s ears off’. And I thought about it and spoke with him and found out that he actually is a poet, a good poet. He really wanted to play the role, so much so that he hung with the film until we got the finance, which was a couple of years. But on the other hand he’s going to do Tarantino’s next film playing some crazy Western guy!

Michael Madsen Ninth CloudHow much direction did you have to give him? How did you two approach the character on set?

You know he’s not an actor that you need to give much direction, he’s pretty independent!  And I always believe that you cast it as you wish and then you see what they do in rehearsal and carve it a little bit thematically. So I didn’t give him much direction I have to say, he just went to the part of him that was and is struggling and used it. He is a very well trained actor, he was at Steppenwolf and The Actors Studio so he just finds it and I let him go with it, within certain contexts.

How did you approach working through Megan’s character on set then?

Well I first saw her understudying Keira Knightley in a play called The Misanthrope and she was really good and I thought well, we don’t need a big name for the role and she has a quality that’s interesting. So we just worked on this weird strange girl who’s living in her mind and for me it was the strangest thing as she just seemed to morph into the character…. I had her watch A Touch of Honey, which is an old movie by Tony Richardson and she may have taken some of that in.

I was going to ask actually whether there were any characters that inspired her as, although they’re very different, I detected a touch of Amélie…?

Yeah I know, a lot of people have said that as she has a slight similar resemblance to her, and of course the hair! And there’s a similarity with that Amélie is trying to do good, but I didn’t mean to do it! This character was actually was created before that movie came out but I just didn’t think about Megan’s hair!

What was it like when you were at The Actor’s Studio when Arthur Penn was running it?

It was really great, I was very young and my eyes were huge because all these people would be coming in who I had studied. Elia Kazan was there and I was like ‘oh my god its him!’. Paul Newman would come in, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro would always sit at the back and not call attention to himself as all the unknowns were chasing him around.  It was really fascinating… Norman MailerShelley Winters was fun, just all these people who you would not normally see at a class, these were legends. So for me it was very vibrant, to watch them work.

Oh wow! How has your time there gone on to inform your career then?

A lot. I saw how they worked with actors and it was really interesting watching the process of how they would get to plays and the material. It was really fascinating like when Norman Mailer started reading his play Strawhead which was about Marilyn Monroe, Shelly Winters who was roommates with Monroe stood up and they started screaming at each other. He actually put that in the play in the end and I saw that happen when I was about twenty-three!

I saw how hard it is too. I see some of the actors who worked with De Niro who never quite made it, and they were as good as he was but they it just didn’t happen for them. But they were still working and going regularly. It was like a church really there, the people there were very dedicated to their work. Very different to Hollywood!

I came from New York and my first movie was Little Noises and I had to work with Tatum O’Neal and Crispin Glover and they were Hollywood kids! It wasn’t about ‘I shall do this for my art’ it was more ‘how much money do I get?’. But Rick Mayall was on it and I loved Rick.

How was he on set then?

He was very disciplined on set, he was very funny and inventive but he would always come up to me and say ‘if I get too big bring me back’ because he knew he came from broad comedy and was very careful about that. He was hilarious with Crispin who is just out of his mind half the time, brilliant, but out of his mind! Rick would say ‘just say the line!’ and Crispin would get all flustered… but they got along very well.

In what ways have you noticed your progression since Little Noises then?

Well it’s been slow going! It wasn’t a big box office hit, it mostly did well critically but I thought I would get a next film right away. But I write unusual scripts and being a sort of idealist I kept writing unusual scripts and in LA it’s difficult to finance those, so I ended up doing plays for a while. Then I came back and was trying to shoot a film in London but the company folded!

Years later I started on this one which was at first a play and I thought I would make it into a film but it took five years to finance because of the financial crisis. A couple of companies pulled out, and then one of our actors died, Guillaume Depardieu died of pneumonia after I had been working with him for a year. So we had to pick up the pieces and start over again. Michael stayed with us through the whole process though, just kept his name there for us.

Guillaume-Depardieu

With all of the setbacks that you had did you want to give up at times?

Yeah absolutely! I just wanted to make my other film (I have a science fiction movie on the way) and forget this thing about the girl with her coat! Also I was told many times ‘don’t have a female lead as you won’t get your money as quickly’, and then I used one who wasn’t known which was probably insane… but I thought she was great so here we are. Also the film before this one had fallen apart too and I guess I didn’t want to give up.

Is that other film something you want to return to in the future?

It’s something that I want to come back to it absolutely, I had a bunch of people interested, Johnny Depp liked it. He wasn’t set to do it but I met him at Cannes and he was interested so… it’s a nice piece and I would like to do it. I’ll see how this one does and see if I can get it seen by the right market.

The next movie is a science fiction piece called South of Hope Street and is set in Norway. We have a nice set of actors; Michael is going to do it, not a big part, but he is going to play a crazy ex-hippie called Benjamin Flowers who’s handing out flowers. It’s a strange piece! I’ve got Hilmir Snær Guðnason, an Icelandic actor who’s wonderful, and Tanna Frederick who’s an upcoming actress and then I’m going to put a couple of international names in there to round it out and have an easier time of it. But still have an interesting movie which takes place in Norway in the mountains.

Fantastic! I would like to thank Jane for taking time out to speak with us and wish her every success in the future. We will leave you for now with this trailer:

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Interviews

Chords in Conversation: Sadie Katz Talks Wrong Turn 6

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Sadie Katz is back on Cinema Chords! Last time we spoke to her she was promoting House of Bad and was very hopeful for the films that were coming her way. Let’s see how she is getting on now…

This interview was first published on Mr Rumsey’s Film Related Musings, check it out here!

 

 

 

Hey Sadie, it’s good to chat with you again! How are you?

James! So happy we meet again! Means we’re both working Hurrah!

Haha yeah! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today; I know you’re pretty busy. Last time we spoke you were promoting House of Bad and we also talked about your writing project Scorned, how has their success impacted upon your career at all?

The evolution of House Of Bad has just been such a trip to ride out. I think the big turning point was it’s winning Fan Favourite at The Big Bear Horror Fest because, we were able to get so many horror sites and reviewers to take a look at it like…aintitcoolnews.com, filmthreat.com, nerdremix.com, Maven’s Movie Vault to name a few. Fans were complaining it was flying off the shelf at Wal-mart and staying pretty high on IMDb and such…I mean that just doesn’t normally happen with these indies…so yeah…I think that coupled with my writing of Scorned with writer/director/creator of the original Leprechaun ummm…it certainly didn’t hurt things.

You do seem to be taking a lot on at the moment; do you enjoy the challenge of being busy and having a lot of work? Or is it a bit of a nightmare?

That’s funny. I like that! I think the on-going nightmare everyone in Los Angeles has in entertainment is you wake up and your phone isn’t ringing. No texts, no emails and you put on a mysterious 15 pounds and you can’t think of one creative idea and oh god…I’m going to cry or throw up just thinking about it. I love being busy. But, it does get in the way of my drinking wine. That means I’m really happy and working. I’m smoking too much though. Which, means ummm…I’m really happy and working hard. I’m grateful. Correction. I’m not like working hard as like a nurse or a construction worker or a teacher…I’m working hard doing what I’ve absolutely begged and dreamt and wanted more than oxygen.

sadie1

So, let’s talk about Wrong Turn 6. I’ve been told that I can’t ask you about your character at all… that’s very mysterious. What can you tell us about the movie?

Haha. Isn’t that crazy???  It’s scary, it’s sexy. It’s bloody. Okay, what can I say without Fox freaking out…ummm…the three baddies are in it. There is a sexy cast…the men in it are handsome geez. Chris Jarvis, Anthony Illot, Rollo Skinner, Harry Belcher geez they’re just heartthrobs. Look out for these guys. Aqueela Zoll is so sexy and her just her essence is a star quality and you see a lot of her. A LOT. But, enough of that. Let’s talk about what the fans want to hear it’s a freaking disgusting sick, twisted blood, gore bath. Valari…he…shit I can’t say that either well…Fox wanted to sorta relaunch and it’s a kind of a gift to the fans for hanging in there… the D.P. work is just so good. The kills are the next level. We kept saying….are we even allowed to do this??? Well, it’s unrated so…I guess that answers THAT question. Frank Woodworth wrote this wildly imaginative script that so strange, original…I don’t know. I can’t say anything about my character so….there you go…

And what particularly made you want to take this one on?

Dude, it’s Wrong Turn….and my character….is so freaking rad. Thanks Frank. And UFO Productions in Sofia Bulgaria has the best reputation for treating their actors well and they did. John, Jeff and Phil are just the coolest.

So you’d seen the Wrong Turn series before receiving this gig then?

Yes. They’re disgusting. They’re fun. They’re fantasy horror. You can’t take them seriously. I love them. I’m gross like that. Ha.

It’s one of the longest running horror series in recent times so it’s pretty exciting that you’ve landed a place in it! How does it compare jumping into an existing series like this compared with joining a brand new project?

It’s a total gift…the fans are wildly supportive. I feel very lucky and love connecting with them. I hope they love the film as much as we all did shooting it.

SADIEBIKINI

There’s no doubt that you seem to like your horror films! What is it do you reckon that seems to always draw people back to this genre?

I said it before but, the first game we learn as babies is peek-a-boo…we love being scared. It’s built into us. It’s that thrill. It never goes away. The challenge of survival we live with everyday. Watching a horror film is an hour and a half rollercoaster. It’s a thrill. It’s not real…let’s hope not.

That’s a really interesting point… . Is that why you act in a lot of them?

As an actor you follow the work…ha…I just got lucky I suppose. I’m a chicken so…I guess fate is leading the way. But, I have some drama and actions under my belt Chavez: Cage of Glory with Danny Trejo and Steven Bauer and Nipples & Palm Trees which is on Netflix now…check it out. It’s a rauchy sex cult comedy stayed in the top 100 films for a while.

Back in February I read that you were directing a documentary about your quest to meet Bill Murray. That sounds pretty different! How has that been going?

I love you mentioned that…but, I plead the fifth. Yes, it’s true. I’m on a Bill Murray quest. …I say no more. It’s my passion project. He’s an enigma.

How come you decided to pick that as your directorial debut?

He’s like the Buddah of the internet. And the truth is I love documentaries. When my engagement broke up I wanted to do a little soul searching my version of my own little “eat, pray, love journey” my fiancé gave me $10,000 to start anew I decided to find Bill Murray. Made sense to me. This should tell you everything you need to know how my brain works. Ha. Ummm..yeah.

Well it certainly sounds like an interesting and unusual idea! What about your other acting projects? What else should we be looking out for?

“State of Desolation” with the absolutely amazingly talented, sexy, intelligent Jamie Bernadette also directed by Jim Towns and another one with Trejo “No Way Out.”

Fantastic, thank you Sadie for chatting with me today!

Thank you!!!

Sadie has asked us to share her different social media profiles so here we have Facebook:
www.facebook.com/sadiekatz
Twitter:
http://www.twitter.com/sadie_katz
And Instagram:
http://www.instagram.com/sadiekatz

Wrong Turn 6 shall be at FrightFest on the 22nd of next month, we will update you when we know more!

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Interviews

Chords in Conversation: Amy Seimetz – Her Story So Far

Amy Seimetz 1

Known for numerous collaborations with people like Joe Swanberg, Ti West, Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett and so on and so forth, Amy Seimetz is a filmmaker raised through the festival circuit of indie films. Years later, Amy still mainly does indie work but that her purposeful decision, allowing herself to make what she wants, when she wants. Lately you may have seen her TV’s The Killing and Family Tree, as well as guest appearances in a few other programmes, but Amy is also known for two fantastic films from last year which are both very different – one the very entertaining, fun horror ride of You’re Next, the latter an abstract, surrealist picture that speaks volumes about everything called Upstream Colour. Below we begin by talking about Ti West’s great mockumentary (rather than found-footage) horror film about a fictional cult called Eden Parish, based on the story of Jonestown. Atmosphere is important and the palpable sense of dread and impending doom makes the audience tense throughout. Amy Seimetz talked openly about the film, reading abstract films on the page and her varied career.

Warning: Possible MILD SPOILERS ahead for The Sacrament and You’re Next.

How did you get involved with The Sacrament?

I met Ti West years ago with Joe Swanberg. It’s weird. I actually met Joe and Ti on the very same day. I was meeting Joe for another film, Alexander the Last. They were really good friends, they were friends from the festival circuit. Anyhow, I had known him and I did Alexander the Last and then I did Silver Bullets which I produced, I was in briefly and Ti was in. So we all became friends that way. Joe Swanberg, Kate [Lyn] Sheil – who’s also in The Sacrament – and myself in Silver Bullets, so it’s sort of a gang of us who all knew each other.

Does Ti approach you with all his projects?

My understanding is that Ti wrote the parts for us. Me, Joe, AJ Bowen, Kentucker [Audley] and Kate [Lyn Sheil], we all had made movies together or peripherally have made movies together and were all friends so we all have this short-hand together. I think Ti wanted that feeling, a familiarity with the characters, especially because of the style that it was, so he wrote these parts for us. He basically said ‘I wrote these parts for you, will you do it?’ so I said yes. [Laughs] Not only am I a fan of his work but he’s also my friend.

Is it a lot of pressure when someone comes up to you and says ‘I wrote this part for you.’ Do you feel like you have to accept? [Laughs]

[Laughs] Well luckily I’m a giant fan of his work so it works out nicely! It’s incredibly flattering. [Laughs] I guess we all kind of grew up together, too, as filmmakers. We’ve all worked on each other’s projects in different capacities so it’s all in that world. But I don’t want to say – I have to stress that I can make myself busy if I don’t want to do something. [Laughs] So to that end, I said yes because I’m a fan of his work.

I’ve been told that you had a interest in cults before the film. Is that what drew you to this particular film? Did you do your own research on the Jonestown yourself?

Yeah, I feel like everyone is sort of fascinated with cults. I was obsessed with them for a while; digging in and understanding like why these things happen and that it’s more common than you would think. You could say a religious cult but you could also go into politics and perceive the cultish elements of politics. Also, pop culture and the cultish elements of pop culture, again, where people are sort of obsessed in believing in a diatribe of sorts. I was obsessed with them for a while. Specifically Jonestown was of interest to me, before he had even approached me. The topic of how do people take that leap of faith and give over that much trust, is really fascinating. Also taking into account and understanding that it’s not something that happens overnight. People join cults don’t set out and go ‘Oh today I’m going to go join a cult. That sounds like a good idea.’ [Laughs] It’s a process. They want to believe in something. The rest of the world seems scary to them and these ideas – religious or political or whatever they are – seem to help them get through life. It happens over a period of time, it doesn’t happen overnight. Yeah, I had already been obsessed with them prior to Ti asking me to do it.

Amy Seimetz 3

It’s interesting you bring up the investment in it as well. I was curious, when you approached your character, did you see her more as a victim or as a perpetrator?

Hmm… [Fumbling] Hmm…

It’s weird because I’m also fascinated by things like ‘victim status’ and exploring that. I kind of explored that a little bit in a film I directed [Sun Don’t Shine]. ‘Is there a real victim? Who is the victim? Is there such a thing?’ It kind of goes hand-in-hand with victim and aggressor. In this situation, I think they are all victims to a mass idea. There’s power in numbers, in this group Eden Parish. That man is only as powerful as they allow him to be. They’ve given up all of their trust to him. They’ve allowed this process to occur and he’s taken advantage of it. Yeah, I think she is a victim in someways and, again, saying that, people have free will which is an interesting thing. You have to understand – specifically with her – she had a past with drugs, she’s struggled, she’s tried to cope with life in another way by numbing herself with drugs or finding something else. This seemed like the answer [to her], it got her off drugs which is very positive. She felt like this was the answer of how to cope with life. She threw herself full force into it.

She is a recovering drug addict but it isn’t played up that much in the film. Did that inform your portrayal of her? Did it change your performance?

Yeah. In a way. For her, it’s the answer. How do I explain it? Having had people close to me struggle with addiction, it’s hard! It’s a hard thing. In order to get of it, they have to find some other pattern to get into, to replace that addiction. A lot of times what happens is they can get really regimented and go full force into crazy exercise or being really strict with eating habits. They sometimes cover that one addiction with another addiction. That, to me, was where it helped. She’s still struggling in life but she thinks she’s found the answer. She wants to be really positive about how good this is for her and stress that and be maybe a bit delusional by thinking that this is the answer for her.

Yeah, so she becomes addicted to Eden Parish.

Yes. Exactly.

Gene Jones is brilliant in this and you both seem to have a rapport and chemistry on screen. Did you work on it behind the scenes or was that something that came naturally?

He’s just wonderful. He’s a wonderful human being. [Laughs] I should stress that! He’s not a manipulative monster like in the movie. [Laughs] He’s so well trained that it’s easy to jump in and have him respond. It’s a gift to be on screen with something that, you know, you reach for their hand and they know to grab it; they’re open to your suggestions but still in the zone of their own game. He is just so well trained that he’s so responsive and on top of his game that it was easy to work with him.

Ti West said that in the interview scene, he actually captivated the audience of extras in front of him. He said it was an incredibly enigmatic performance. Were you there for that? Did you get swept up in it as well?

Yeah! Even still, when we watch the movie, when he starts speaking we all just go silent – even Ti. We were doing video commentary recently. We were talking, talking, talking, you know, and then suddenly Gene came on screen and everyone went silent because you want to hear what he’s saying. His voice is so powerful. His delivery is so crafted and beautiful and effective. He just has this powerful presence that is so captivating. All of us were present. The takes were so long – I forget what it was – but it didn’t feel that long because he was delivering it so beautifully and took these ideas and made them relatable. The audience, the extras,  didn’t have the script but they were filled with the energy and were responding without being told to. Usually, you know, you tell the extras to be quiet but because they were responding so genuinely to their performance, that I think Ti allowed them to continue doing that because this works so well. They were not interrupting him, they were responding in the breaks, exactly when they were supposed to. He commanded the audience – which is something so rare, that you don’t really find in scenes where you have like 50 extras.

It definitely added to the atmosphere that he was sort of God-like to them.

Yeah. I think – and Gene’s talked about this too – is like he’s coming at it in he believes what he’s saying. He’s not doing it because he doesn’t believe in it, he believes what he’s saying. That’s what makes the performance really great is that this man believes what he’s saying, he’s not trying to pull a fast one on anyone. Another part of it that I think is really effective, something I discussed it with Ti, is when there’s these flickers of something dark, malicious moments, where he seems to be attacking AJ’s character in the film, it’s not out of pure malice, it’s more out of ‘I’m protecting my family’, like he does believe that this is his family. The ideas that AJ and the Vice guys are bringing in are detrimental to his family, he really believes that, that’s what’s really interesting about his performance.

The film is sort of filmed in a documentary style to it rather than found footage. Was this something new to work in for yourself? Does it change your performance at all?

The hardest thing with this was training yourself to look into the camera. [Laughs] At first, it really throws you out. Those sequences we’re shooting in long takes – we shot everything in really long takes. You’re in the middle of doing your character and you know you have to address the camera at some point so you look into the lens. Having done movies before where, if you do that, you think ‘I just blew a take!’ It’s hard to turn your brain off initially to look down the barrel of the camera and not think ‘I just blew that!’ [Laughs] Your body just responds out of the pattern of doing it over and over and over again where you’re not supposed to break that wall and look at the audience. When you do it, you’re like ‘Whoa this wrong, it feels wrong’ but once we got that pattern down it was kind of fun to use those moments, to pick moments, that you could use the camera to give insight into what you’re talking about or what internally you’re going through. Especially for my character who is paranoid of the camera, paranoid of the presence of the camera. This camera, as a character, is making me talk in a different way. She’s performing for the camera. So yeah, it definitely affects my performance. I’m performing as an actor, but on top of that, my character is performing for the camera. She’s not being honest, she’s selling this place to them.

You filmed a lot more scenes with yourself and the brother character but it unfortunately got cut. What did it really delve into and were you sad to see them go?

You know, there wasn’t that much that was cut. [Laughing] Of course, there could be a whole other hour of us just going into our family and stuff but… I think what is so shocking about is, is what doesn’t happen on camera. I think that’s another tool that Ti utilised too. Sort of, the suspense of it is that whatever is on the camera is the only things they have access to or the only things they’re investigating. That helps build the suspense of what’s going to happen next. Everything that is in front of the camera is just as important as what’s hidden from the audience as well. I wouldn’t say I missed anything too much.

That’s true. As an audience member, I was always worried about the brother character because you don’t see him and everyone points away from it so you’re concerned for his welfare.

Exactly. Yeah, exactly. He could be being brainwashed or he could be off being kidnapped. It helps not knowing what’s going on, this isolation feeling that these Vice guys have in this world.

You’ve directed a few times yourself, but only one feature so far with Sun Don’t Shine. What was the experience of moving into directing? Do you have any plans to direct in the near future?

Yeah, Sun Don’t Shine was my first narrative feature. I did another feature that was experimental that was called City on a Hill. I’d done a bunch of shorts and written a bunch of stuff. The thing is I’d made shorts from the beginning of… I basically started as a filmmaker and as a writer, more so than I was an actor. I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to continue acting, it’s kind of a surprise to me. [Laughs] Every day I’m wondering who’s going to figure out that I don’t what the Hell I’m doing. It’s a surprise to me that’s been the bulk of my work or that’s what people have recognised about me, because I started out as a filmmaker first and then fell into acting.

I guess when I was making Sun Don’t Shine it didn’t feel like I was trying anything new, it just felt it was about time for me to make the leap into narrative feature filmmaking. Not only that, for me, having acted in stuff, it really helped inform how I was dealing with my actors – which is something, when I was younger, I don’t think I was very good at. Like, first, casting people who I think are great storytellers to begin with, innately; secondly, understanding that they’re carrying the weight of the emotional storytelling, giving them the space to do that but also giving them the information to do that. Yeah, I’ll be directing very soon. I’m in the middle of writing something right now. I can’t talk about it yet, but it will be revealed soon. [Laughs]

Amy Seimetz, AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg

You continually collaborate with your friends like Ti West, Joe Swanberg, Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett etc. What makes you continue to work with them?

There’s a trust there. What I find interesting is that everyone there is a different filmmaker in their own right. I think they’re all exploring different genres and different forms of storytelling. I think that’s really exciting because I can see in their filmmaking how they’re evolving and it keeps it interesting, for me to continue working with them. But also there’s a trust when you go in with people [you know] that I think is overlooked in the Hollywood system of wanting to cast famous all the time. Those are fine, those movies are fine.

There’s a benefit to having famous people and new people in your films. There’s a benefit to bring something different to your films, but I also think there’s something irreplaceable when you work with the same people, time and time again. I think there’s an intimacy that you can execute that you can’t do when you’re working with new people constantly. I’m not sure I can put my finger on it but I know I respond really well to films where everyone knows what kind of movie they’re making. I feel there’s a way to get to a much more vulnerable place – as filmmakers, friends, actors, performers, whatever – when you’ve worked together repeatedly; you know about each other’s lives, you can talk openly about all that stuff, you can find an interesting way to portray it on screen.

Is it different working with your friends? Is it more open and honest because you knew each other so well or do you not want to offend each other?

I try to be open and honest even when I’m not working with friends. Not only that, but I should also stress, it’s not that we were all friends and suddenly decided that we should be in movies. We were all working in movies anyway – actors, filmmakers, whatever. It’s not like we just looked at each other one day and said ‘We should make movies too.’  [Laughs] For whatever reasons, whenever we read articles, it’s ‘Just these group of friends that decided to pick up a camera’ and it’s like ‘No, we were making films, we all came together while making films and collaborated’ so we became friends in the process but it all started with film.

I think there’s an honesty but we definitely… I don’t want to make it sound like it’s some amorphous thing, where we’re all throwing ideas out there and it gets out of control. Ti and I were in You’re Next and Adam [Wingard] was directing that; it was very clear that Adam was directing that and we’re actors. When we came up with ideas, we came up with ideas that only pertained to our characters – no one else. It wasn’t like I was overstepping my boundaries and being like ‘You know what would be great? If you made Sharni [Vinson] go do this thing!’ [Laughs] That way, the delineation is clear: ‘You’re the director, it’s your story, I’m here to help you see that through.’ It is honest, but it’s not amorphous where we’re all giving ideas of how to direct.

I’m glad you brought up You’re Next actually because I was wondering, did you ever get to watch it with a first-time audience?

No! I haven’t. I’ve heard that too. It’s really upsetting. For whatever reason, I feel like I was shooting… shooting… something when it premiered. I could never be in the same place as it was playing for whatever reason. [Laughs] I finally did see it and it’s like so fun. It’s such a fun movie. Sometimes it’s hard to see your friends in movies and be really objective about it, but it’s just a really entertaining movie. So I wish I got to see it with an audience because that’s all I kept hearing  was that it was such an audience thing, it’s so fun, and that seems like such a fun movie to experience with a large audience.

The reason I was asking is because you’re gearing up for your run in slow-motion, I was wondering if you were just sitting around the audience smirking to yourself because you knew what was coming.

[Laughs]

That got me so off-guard.

[Laughs] I think it’s such an absurd movie. I think what was so fun – again, going back to friends making movies – we all sort of clicked in. What was awesome is that the same team of people that we were all comfortable with, but then also bringing in new players who just jumped right into the dynamic as well. Like Nick [Nicholas Tucci], who plays the other brother, and Wendy [Glenn], who plays his girlfriend, and Sharni [Vinson], who’s the lead, she’s incredible and kick-ass. It brought something new because we get used to each other’s improvs, the rhythm of performing with each other. To throw these other great performers in there, it added just so much dynamic to the whole thing. They did great with casting. They couldn’t have cast better for that.

Upstream Colour 1

Another great film of yours from last year was Upstream Colour. Is it hard to gauge what the film will be like from a script or is it much more clear on the page?

I read it when I was talking to [Shane Carruth] about it, I was in the middle of editing my film, and I wasn’t sure if – I was a fan of Primer – it was the right thing for me to do, to walk away from editing my movie and go act in something. So I requested to read the script which I now realise was a big request because I was the only person who was allowed to read the script. I read the script and the first thing I said to him was ‘This is so ambitious…’ [laughs] ‘How the Hell are you going to do this?’ So we had a conversation about that.

I immediately responded to it. It’s crazy but it’s so detailed that whether or not I understood why things were there, in every single place, it was so confidently written. The same way is films are, it was so confidently written, that it didn’t matter if I understood why things were in certain places, like why I was reading about pigs. The confidence just took me on this journey and then by the end, the movie and script made so much sense, that it didn’t matter what the details were. I didn’t question it because it was so confidently written. Detailed. I knew it had something important on its mind. I think that’s a testament to his writing. His writing is so razor sharp.

It’s very similar to what was on the page – which is kind of crazy to say to people because it’s such a visceral, cerebral movie. Which is usually really hard to execute on the page but it was just so precise and otherworldly that it worked.

I know it’s a film open to interpretation. I found it really interesting the questions it raised and how it made me think about pretty much everything, big and small. I’m just curious what your interpretation is and what you thought while performing?  

Shane and I got on really well. He had never seen anything I acted in and asked me to do the movie from a cut of my movie that I sent him. We were talking, he knew I was an actress, our friend David Lowery [director of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints] had recommended me. He did the fine cut of my movie, Sun Don’t Shine, and did the fine cut of Upstream Colour. David – again another person from that world of Joe Swanberg. I met David with Joe Swanberg and Ti as well. David recommended me to Shane, so Shane watched an interview and was like ‘Great!’ or whatever, ‘Get her on the phone!’ [Laughs] Then we talked on the phone, I said I was editing my movie, he asked to see a cut of it. Similar to how I was the only person allowed to read the script, he was the only person who I had allowed to see the movie at that point. There was a lot of trust building already. He watched the movie and loved the rough cut of it and asked me to be in the film. I think already we had the short-hand of how we were storytellers. There was that.

His job was to keep in mind the spectrum of the entire story, my job was to focus in on Chris’s microcosm. The more grounded, the more focused, the more confused I could make her about her specific microcosm, that would help whatever he was trying to do. For me, it was to trying to understand her specifically and interpret what she was going through. Strangely, for me, at the time was very easy. I was going through something traumatic. To have something, for me, in its simplest form, is to have someone who’s gone through something traumatic, turned your life upside down, and now you don’t know why but you need an answer, you need something to blame. The upsetting part about that, and what’s so tragic for me, that’s not the answer, you feel like you need that to get through it. It was just completely relatable. Whenever something traumatic happens, it feels so abstract. You can’t put your finger on it but you have this desperate desire to want to identify what exactly is causing all of this stuff.

You have some seriously talented friends. I really liked Ain’t Them Bodies Saints as well.

[Laughs] Yeah, I do.

Amy Seimetz 2

You’ve been in a lot of critically acclaimed films and you’ve moved to TV with The Killing and Family Tree, they’re both really successful too. I don’t mean this in a pejorative way at all  but you seem to be just outside the mainstream, so to speak. I’m not trying to say that success is measured by the bigger films or anything like that, but I’m wondering if it’s a conscious decision? Do you find indie projects more rewarding because of the freedom you get?

It’s hard to understand that. I started out as an experimental filmmaker and I had no interest in doing anything that resembled a narrative at all, up until the age of 25 or 26. That included acting in stuff. I was in some really abstract things and made some really abstract things. Then I sort of became fascinated with narrative and what you could do with narrative and a little less defiant in my ways, maybe? [Laughs]

Again, I only know how to go about things the way I’ve developed. I don’t have the personality to wait around for something to happen. I’m constantly making decisions that fulfil me creatively – whether that’s going off and directing and writing my films or participating with a filmmaker I really believe in. That’s how I’ve been able to make my choices: whatever is right for me. Maybe it’s a little controlling [laughing] of my career since I don’t really wait for somebody to say ‘You could be in the next Marvel comics film!’ and you go ‘Oh great, I’ll wait for that to happen.’ It’s just not a part of my personality.

I just know I’ve made the movies that have seemed right and felt right for me. From where I started either, I don’t really care to be famous, I guess. Unless it means I get to make more of the stuff that I actually want to make but I don’t even know if that’s the truth. I think maybe if you get more famous, you get ushered into having to make other decisions that you don’t want to make. I guess my goal is not to be famous, it’s to make the films I want to make and I’ve been lucky enough to do that.

I’ve kept you over the time now so I just have two final questions.

Sure.

One of them is: how in the world do you have time? As you just said, you’re constantly working and your filmography seems like you’re constantly working. Is it exhausting? Will you be having a break soon?

[Laughs] What’s funny is, right now I’m only writing which feels like such a luxury. I’m always thinking ‘I have to be doing something else’ because of the years when I was writing AND producing AND acting and they were all three different films! [Laughs] Right now, my interest is focusing in on doing one thing at a time and seeing how that feels. [Laughs] I don’t know if I’ll end up going back to it. I always have stuff in play, that’s just the nature of film as you’ll never know what will go, but it feels nice to get to sit down and focus on writing. Just to be quite honest, television allowed me to do that. [laughs] It allows me to go ‘OK, I have the resources now to sit down and focus on this’, not forever but for a period of time.

It’s made me quite sad to know that writing is considered a break for you when I find it so difficult haha.

Oh no, no, no, trust me, it’s a constant battle. It’s a back and forth like all day in my head but it feels like a luxury to only do that.

My final question now. Just simply, what’s next for you? What are you working on next that you can tell us?

OK, I can say that the thing I’m writing right now is television. I’ve found recently that it’s a really interesting combination, because I went from total DIY and still do DIY stuff, the punk-rock filmmaking, to television and jumped over the whole Hollywood film system. Kind of by choice because I’ve found a lot of television is interesting recently and a lot of networks are open to a different approach to storytelling, more so than Hollywood is. Even in the independent world, it’s very rare that I really love a film. [Laughs] I like film but I feel like people are still catering to Hollywood’s format of storytelling. I felt like television was a place to break that open and, through the whole process, it’s basically been really encouraging. It’s gotten much further than I ever thought it was going to. That’s what I’m working on now. Then I’m producing for Shane’s next movie and then producing another film for Barry Jenkins.

With your TV series, how will it be distributed?                                                                                

I can’t tell you that yet! [Laughs] Soon, it will be revealed.

 

The Sacrament is available on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray now and well worth a watch. It’s also worth going through everything Amy Seimetz has ever done as she’s a continually interesting actress, producer, director and writer. Her TV series has since been announced. It is an extension of Steven Soderbergh‘s The Girlfriend Experience film (which he is attached as Executive Producer) that will be on Starz network in the US. No network is currently linked to the UK leaving it possibly open to VOD distribution like Breaking Bad‘s final season.

 

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Interviews

Chords in Conversation: James Ward Byrkit Talks Coherence

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Originally this film was quiet, entering the festival circuit around the world with very little known about it. The more it is shown, the more recognition and critical acclaim it seems to be gaining with plenty of festival awards in tow. James Ward Byrkit‘s feature debut, Coherence is a self-confessed “brain bender” shot in an entirely improvisational way but that in no way means it is nonsensical or badly thought through. The tightly plotted film recently struck up a lot of success taking home the Best Film prize at the FANT Bilbao Festival. We luckily had a few moments with the director and writer of this mind-melting thriller and chatted in depth about Coherence and his process in a tight scheduled, improvisational, actors’ heaven of a film.

The trailer was released today [day of interview] which gave more insight into the film and especially its visual style. I’m curious, what influenced it? It’s got that intimate style that a lot of independent films have.

Really the influence is necessity because of the unusual way I wanted to shoot the film – which was 90% improvised – so because of that, we could not rehearse shots or set up any fancy, big lighting setups like you would normally do on a bigger film. I wanted it to be as natural as possible in terms of performances and reactions. In order to do that, you’ve just kind of got to get in there with the camera and be reactive. I would tell the actors to show up at my house, be ready for anything and be open to any possibility. I had to convince them they were not in any danger. [laughs] But they would go into the house and then we would follow them. So the result is that I’m holding a camera and my brilliant DP [Director of Photography], Nic Sadler, is holding a camera and we’re just following the actors, trying to grab it in as real a way as possible. When you edit that together, it has that really indie vibe to it.

Were they all the first takes? Were there never secondary takes? 

Yeah, for sure. Not takes on the same thing, sometimes  – because I was allowing them to improvise – they would go down a route that for 45 minutes I’d know ‘Wow, this isn’t really what I wanted to happen’, but I have to allow the actors get it out of their system as they’re on a roll here. I would let them follow an instinct somewhere and then I would say ‘Keep the cameras rolling. We’re actually going to go back now but this time the choice needs to be this. It’s going to lead you down a different set of possibilities.’ So without relighting, without even stopping the camera, we would make a new choice. A microchoice sometimes and it would completely change the direction of the scene. You could call that another take or you could just call it another branch of their choose-your-own-adventure style story.

Are you an actor’s favourite kind of director for allowing them this creative freedom?

coherence_photo_still4[Laughs] Maybe. They loved it! By the end of the first day, when they realised they weren’t going to be hurt or embarrassed, they had such a great time and became super-charged with each other and loving the project. By the end, they didn’t want it to end. They couldn’t believe that they got to contribute so much to it. I’ve had this philosophy for a long time, because I came out of the theatre, and I’ve been working on these big movies that sort of stick to the script so diligently that it sometimes kills creativity in terms of performance.

I’ve been desperately wanting to find a system that allows the actors to contribute, because they’ve been trained for years to follow their creative instincts. It’s this huge pool of possibilities that a lot of scripts and a lot of projects ignore. Out of necessity sometimes because, you know, they’re on a budget or a schedule. I want to work with actors who are smart and can contribute in that way. It’s exciting. It opens up entire possibilities that you’d never find! If you script it down to the last possible word and you’re so sensitive to getting it written to the point where it sometimes doesn’t even sound like real people talking. Scripts are so efficient today, they have these sassy buttons, they have these perfectly designed interactions. That’s not how human beings talk.

How did you manage to get the best out of the cast considering your shooting method? It seems to be quite like a recent trend lately of the anti-scripting with films like MonstersWillow CreekIn Fear and maybe Locke. They allow room for improvisation so how did you get the best out of the cast when doing that?

There’s a lot of steps. The first step is you have to cast great people. You have to really think about who you’ve worked with before or who has shown potential to do that. A huge part of the battle is getting the right people. Not every actor can roll with that. Some actors have to be told word-by-word and given months to prepare their character. But if you get the right people together and you create a safe environment, you show them right away that you are open and that you’re not going to destroy their instincts; you’re not going to tell them they’re wrong all the time. You let them explore.

And then, you have to be a guide though. You have to have a strong vision of what it’s going to add up to. For me, for example, I realised very quickly that I had a living organism on my hands when you put eight very extroverted people together. They all want to talk at the same time. They all want to outdo each other. They all want to contribute. It’s like riding a herd of dragons! Through a scene. You have to be sensitive to it. You have to know when to give a little wink to tone it down or give a nod to someone that triggers something that you talked about hours ago.

You have to really become in sync with everybody, be an incredibly sensitive director who’s not just about making cool shots. There are a lot of different kind of directors. Some just want to make cool shots. Yhey couldn’t care less about what the actors are experiencing. This is all about putting yourself in their shoes and saying ‘OK, what is this actor feeling right now? Insecure? Are they getting enough information?’ You have to be sensitive to prepare them for something that’s coming up that might throw them a curve. We had a fight scene in ours where I knew there were certain people who needed to know what was coming and there were certain people that would appreciate it if they didn’t know it was coming.

You need to really be in tune with each and every single actor to really get the best out of them.

I loved that analogy by the way, “Riding a herd of dragons”, that’s a good one.

[Laughs] Good. It really did feel like that. It’s exhausting, to be honest, but it’s incredibly exhilarating.

You recently won the Best Screenplay prize at Sitges Film Festival. How much of it is actually scripted?

That’s a great question. For about a year, Alex Manugian, who is my co-writer, and I pounded out a very, very detailed treatment because we have a lot of twists and turns and clues. The whole movie is a puzzle really. From the beginning shot to the very last split second of the movie this is one big puzzle. All of those things did have to be figured out in advance, really plotted and broken down even into act breaks and things like that. It was sort of like building a fun house, where you know there’s room-by-room things that are going to happen but within each room the person passing through can act any way they want to react and are still going to be led to the next room. You can call that a screenplay but really it was a 12-page treatment and it didn’t have any dialogue written.

I would give each actor their own personal page of notes for just that night; whether it was a back-story they were going to tell or a motivation they had to focus on. We shot over five nights. They would be primed, their character would be primed with written material that I had given them, but it wouldn’t tell them what specifically to say and they would have no idea what the other actors had received. They’re definitely improvising about 90% of the actual dialogue that you hear in the film but at the same time it’s a very guided experience.

The plot is certainly very demanding on the audiences and, like you said, it’s a puzzle. Was it difficult to make sure it came across in a way that audiences would understand it, especially in only five nights of filming? Was it difficult to get every clue together?

COHERENCE-812x1200px-01-Emily-DeliverLuckily the clue part of it was worked out so diligently that it was not too stressful. We had months and months and months of diagramming branches of possibilities and what all the clues meant. There are so many items that had to be tracked. That part was actually OK. The hard part was, again, managing the improv of it all, dealing with unexpected things, dealing with uncontrollable, intangible surprises that would happen. So I had to improvise as a director just as much as the actors because we didn’t have a script that we could refer to. We would have to ride the energy and one night we would think ‘OK, this is going to be about this scene’ but really that night would take on a shape of its own. We had to be constantly redesigning the plans to adjust for what the actors were doing.

Sometimes crazy things would happen like one night we were supposed to shoot outside all night in the neighbourhood and of all nights, of all years, there just happened to be another film shoot in our neighbourhood. With hundreds of people, with lights, with cranes, with two hundred extras and horses! The horse trailer was parked out the front of our house. There were cones, sirens and people with megaphones so we had to deal with things like that on the fly.

I bet that was a complete pain in the ass.

Yeah, it was crazy. That was a Snickers commercial. Probably about 30 seconds of their commercial cost 10 times as much as our movie did.

Who or what were your inspirations for this kind of film? Was it stuff like The Twilight Zone?

The Twilight Zone for sure. That was the definitely the impulse that told us that a movie or story that is set in a contained location could feel bigger than just that location. Once you bring in that Twlight Zone reality bending vibe, it has a feeling of expanding the space. I would also say the stories of Ray Bradbury have this way of taking the mundane aspects of life and giving them a special brain expanding sensibility. There’s also a movie called Carnage by Roman Polanski, based on a play, that was a big inspiration.

Would you shoot another film with a similar process?

[Pause]

No. [Laughs] It was exhausting! I’ll tell you what: I would definitely repeat certain aspects of it. I would definitely do a film again where I allowed for actor contribution and I have to be really in tune with the actors, allowing them to participate much more than is normally done. I would also take some lessons about how fast we shot in terms of keeping the energy and not breaking every time to relight the scene and losing the energy. Staying in the reality of it had a huge bonus and that’s all about lighting. That’s about planning so well that you can keep shooting.

It’s often described as a creepy tale. The trailer has an eerie atmosphere, especially that closing song. Would you describe it as a horror film or does it contain horror elements and use the horror tone?

No, it’s not a horror movie. It’s a brain bender. It’s a mind-bender that is incredibly tense and I guess it does get scary but the fun of it is that you’re caught up in a mystery where you don’t know what’s going to happen, whether it’s dreadful or actually quite liberating. It’s just this enigma that starts to fracture everybody’s nerves. It’s a movie to watch on the edge of your seat because there’s so much thrown at you and you realise that you’ll probably have to watch it again or three times to really absorb all the layers that are going on. But I’m hoping most people will say it’s even more fun than a horror film. We don’t have any gore or anything like that. It’s not that kind of movie. It’s like a really trippy, modern Twilight Zone.

The biggest win we’ve gotten out of it is that Alex and I said ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have a movie that the third time you watch it, you have an even better time?’ The reports we’re getting back now from people who have seen it two or three times is that their eyes just get wider and wider, and they come up to us with these big smiles and they’re like ‘OOHHHHH it’s getting better!’

To end it simply: what is next for you? Do you have more brain bending plans in the works or are you looking for something simpler as a rest?

I would love to do another movie for the same audience because I’ve found that the audience for Coherence are the smart people who have been craving something special. They don’t want a movie to talk down to them or one that has been dumbed down.

They don’t want to be spoonfed.

Exactly! I found we’ve been embraced by the super-nerds who love movies so I want to make another movie for these people. Maybe a little bigger, maybe a little more polished, maybe slightly more commercial as in reach more people, but I want it to be the same crowd ultimately because they’ve people have embraced it. Why not make movies for smart people too?

Do you have anything in the works that you can tell us about or are your lips unfortunately sealed?

Well it’s one of those things where you hope you’re gonna do it but you don’t know if you’re going to do it. I have one that is definitely a brain bender that’s got a little bit of time travel in it. It’s a script I’m writing so I would love to make it next. Don’t have any concrete plans for it yet.

We’d like to thank James for taking the time to talk to us. Coherence is out in the US tomorrow June 20 and we hope to be able to report a confirmed UK release date some time soon. In the meantime we’ll leave you with a trailer for the film.

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Interviews

A Short Interview: Adam Stephen Kelly Talks Done In

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A couple of months ago we were really taken aback by a certain short film. Once you’ve been in the industry, doing the bulk of work I have been doing, you find that more and more, it becomes a rarity to be floored by a film. Especially a short one. But when Adam Stephen Kelly’s thrilling tale Done In fell into my lap, I was pleasantly surprised and haven’t stopped talking about it since.

Starring Guy Henry, of Harry Potter and ‘Holby City’ fame, Done In is a tender portrayal of a man recounting his youth as he dictates his suicide note. Screening at many festivals later this year and having made a splash at Cannes 2014, Done In is a superb effort from Kelly and denotes a perfectly stellar career start. Luckily enough, I was able to catch up with the up-and-coming director and pick his brain…

What inspired the short?

That’s an interesting question, I have no idea where it came from. I had written short films and feature screenplays before and one day, I sat down and needed to write something that I wanted to direct. Obviously, it being my first time, I wanted to start small (about 5-10 minutes long) and being a life-long horror fan, I knew it had to be in that genre. But I couldn’t think of anything I’d like in that amount of time. I had the title and discarded idea after idea. And then, Done In just flowed out of me.

Without giving any away, and I am being very tentative with details here, how did you manage to implement the ending?

The idea came out of nowhere but I had thought of it first. It became more about building the story around it. The film needed to be as good as the finale. The entire thing needed to be strong.

What was it like working with Guy?

Funnily enough, he was the person I had in mind when writing the film. But we had never had him on the shortlist. We really wanted talented actors to carry the role and luckily for us, we were put in touch with his agent and he loved the script, coming on board. To work with, he was incredible, a dream really. It was the perfect fit.

How did you find the gorgeous location, Nash Manor in Cardiff?

My producer is up in Wales. He knows all kinds of people and set up a large list of locations that were perfect on the outside but they needed something special on the inside. It had to be specific to what I envisaged. It was everything I wished it could be. The locations were fantastic despite being available for filming, no one had shot their before! It lends itself to the style of the film.

You smashed your Kickstarter campaign, how was the response from that?

Kickstarter took two campaigns. The first didn’t go so well as I had never delved into it before. But you learn your lessons, you have to keep your head on and see what goes into a crowd funding campaign.  We took it away and improved it. The success has been phenomenal. It’s surprising because crowd funding is popular and millions of new projects go on everyday. It’s wonderful to see the response in the midst of that.

What reactions have you had around the festival circuit?

The first festival we did, and have just submitted, was Cannes. When we were accepted, we were thrilled; it being the biggest festival there is. Now it’s just a waiting game. There is a bit of gap and there will be lots to enter come autumn as they are screening around award season. The reaction has been strong. Coming from a film journalist background and writing about film, I’ve been more terrified to receive reviews myself. It’s a different experience.

As someone who is interested in doing both, how do you balance working on film and being a film journalist?

It’s interesting, the sites I have worked for have both reviewed Done In. Seeing it on the sites was just outstanding. It’s all a matter of time, trying to get the projects going whilst working on my own personal ones. It’s a great transition and I met my producer through writing a review on his work. If it wasn’t for film journalism, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in so I am very thankful.

How about the transition from working as an executive producer on other projects to producing your own?

I’ve only had very small roles in obscure horror films apart from the recent Top Dog. I spent three years in a production company, working in development and packaging projects, putting them together for other producers and investors. It is important to strike up the relationship and my skills as a producer have helped me with that. It’s a difficult transition getting to more of a big scale and forefront position. One thing I have been taught is that I am very impatient. Filmmaking takes a a lot of time and you have to put stuff on the backburner. I learnt a lot from being a producer.

Does this inspire you to make feature movies? Is that a direction you are heading in?

I think the aim is always to make a feature. There is something special about writing your own script and developing them. The problem is, making a feature is a longer process. We shot Done In over two days and THAT was intense. I’d have to prep myself into making something longer. We’ll see what happens. After all, it’s a filmmaker’s cliché, carrying your child around for 17 months from script to screen and seeing how people react. A feature is on the cards but it takes a lot of preparation.

Previously underfunded and unsupported, do you believe there is a rise of short film?

I would say so to a degree. There is a lot of support from crowd funding for shorts. Going back to that, it’s still in its infancy and gains mainstream from people like Spike Lee and Zach Braff using it for projects. There has been a lot of interest from filmmakers around the world, like myself, that this is a good opportunity to raise and finance a film. It’s realistic too. Not everyone can reach into their pockets and make a film for £5000. This digital age makes it easier for shorts to be made. So yes, there is a bigger wave of films coming soon.

We’d like to thank Adam for his time and remind you that Done In will be heading to a festival near you. Make sure you are first on board for Adam’s stellar career path and you can read our five star review over here!

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InterviewsKiller Chords

Chords in Conversation: Evan L. Katz Talks Cheap Thrills

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Cheap Thrills is experienced screenwriter E.L. Katz‘ directorial debut starring quite the unconventional – yet perfect – cast made up of Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, David Koechner and Sara Paxton. Going down amazingly well on the festival circuit around the world Cheap Thrills is a comedic thriller everyone can relate to despite the darker than dark places it takes us to.

The film’s premiere at SXSW lead to a day-long auction between bidders with Drafthouse Films taking the rights home. With the film hitting UK cinemas today, 6 June, we recently spoke to Katz at the FANT festival in Bilbao to discuss the increasingly twisted dares on show in Cheap Thrills and where he plans to go from here. This is what he had to share with us:

So how did the Cheap Thrills script come to rest in your hands?

Well there was a script which had some great ideas in it so I took it but we were never able to find the money with screenwriters and production companies but I kept the script around and I kept playing with it. Finally, I had a roommate who was tired of working in another job and he wanted to be a film producer so he thought he would be able to get a tiny bit of money for this script for me. So I worked on it for another year because I’m crazy and needed it to be right and then we got the money and did it so this is something that’s been with me for a long time.

I understand one of the reasons you turned to directing for Cheap Thrills was because you felt some directors had screwed up some of your scripts previously. Could you elaborate?

Can’t name names. No way man! It would be horrible of me. I’m friends with a lot of people I work with. A lot of times things get fucked up before they ever get made. People can give you notes for a script that maybe could be good but then some of the story suggestions you get are just so wrong-headed that there’s never any chance the film will get made.

So what have you found different about directing a film rather than just writing one?

When you are writing a script it’s perfect and nothing’s going wrong. The power doesn’t go out, the performances are fucking great… When you are directing, everything that would go wrong will go wrong so it’s always theoretical that you get to control everything when you are directing. You really don’t, but at least you have the allusion to control things to some degree.

Here’s the thing! I’ve been writing for ten years and sometimes people don’t notice anything you do even though you are a part of so much stuff. With Cheap Thrills it felt like it was the first time I was getting people to watch what I was doing. That’s such a good feeling.

I did also work as a screenwriter for a lot of productions that didn’t get made. It was how I paid my rent. You work on an asignment for a production company or a studio and sometimes it’s a stupid idea. It’s like they are giving you some ideas because they don’t have a good idea and they just have to go on pretending that they can keep making films. It’s very bad as an artist to just be creating things and them dumping them in the garbage. You could have any other job that would make a lot more sense. So writing can be much more freeing in its own way because there are no restrictions, nothing goes wrong, but directing is my chance to at least try and get things seen.

Would you say the fact you lost your mother at an early age and had to help raise your brothers played a factor in you relating to the Cheap Thrills story, particularly to Pat Healey’s down and out character?

I don’t know. I think responsibility maybe has definitely been a theme in my work and then it’s usually reponsibility that drives me crazy or the aversion of fulfilling the responsibility becomes something destructive. So I guess maybe it could have had something to do with that.

People picked up on a class divide message in the film as the filthy rich characters take advantage by means of these wagers. Was this a message you consciously wanted to highlight when filming?

I think there’s sub-text and then there’s text. I think the text is that there is no way to avoid class divide in the story. It’s got rich people taking advantage of poor people. It’s just one of those things where this theme is so obvious in the film that I never wanted to get up on a soap box because I feel like I’ve done quite a bit of it already in the movie. I’m very left-wing. I come from a very leftist punk rock youth so I think that’s going to be in everything I do. It just seems like it’s better for me not to tell people too much about where I’m coming from. I think that if instinctively people feel these ideas when they watch the film then that will be much more powerful because then it’s not political. Especially in my country where right and left is such that you can’t have a rational discussion that’s nuanced in any way. It has to be right and wrong. That to me is really boring. Shades of grey is where you find truth and I think it’s better that anybody can watch this film, even if they are a Republican, and they feel something. And I’d be curious to hear what they think.

And what about the actors involved? You’ve often said you wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on without these guys? Did you always have them in mind when playing with the script?

NNVG10006735_CheapThrills_PosterI think having David Koechner as the villain, if it had been anybody else then the movie would have been completely different. The tone of the film is really tough so originally in one of the scripts the character of Colin was a young douche bag kind of guy in his 20s. We had the names of some good looking television actors and I just felt that the audience would hate them instantly. I think a big part of this movie is that it is a bit of a trick. You don’t really know how dark it is going to get or where it is going to go. I just felt if you have this goofy comedy guy then you are not going to suspect the film will go as dark as it ultimately goes.

When I met David we talked about things like the Coen Brothers and how he’d like to be in some darker films so I asked him as I thought he would be perfect.

As for the rest of the cast, I was a big fan of Pat Healy and I think Sara Paxton just has really cool eyes and you don’t know what the hell she’s thinking. Sara was actually the one that took a little more convincing as she doesn’t get to say that much in the film. Once she realised that she would be like the ringleader or the Puppet Master she was like “OK. This is kind of cool.” Ti West also convinced her to do it. Ti was definitely a big help in the casting of the movie.

And then there was Ethan Embry who I hadn’t seen in stuff in a very long time. I just thought he looked the part. He drove to our audition on a motorcycle covered in tattoos looking really rough and I knew he was our Vince.

You said Ti West helped in a big way with casting. You’ve worked with a lot of filmmakers in your time such as Adam Wingard. Did these guys serve as mentors for your directorial debut?

It’s funny because Adam Wingard and I kind of came up learning at the same time but did our own thing in many ways. Having said that, I’ve learnt a lot from working with him on stuff. To be honest I didn’t really have that much time with Adam while I made Cheap Thrills. We did have a good meeting here and there and I took that stuff to the set with me but I really didn’t have any ever-present mentors.

Basically I asked people a lot of questions and I found a DP I could talk to and I watched a lot of movies. That stuff just sticks with you and you’ve just got to go out and do it. I just couldn’t have somebody on set watching my back the whole time. Sometimes it’s just better to go in and not have anyone holding your hand the whole duration.

So you say you watched a lot of movies. What kind of movies do you think influence you or stick with you?

I love a lot of Swedish, German and Danish stuff. I love Refn. I love a lot of dark comedies. Haneke is great. I like the weird European style of dark comedy with things like With a Friend Like Harry. Those kinds of films that you can’t get a read on. They are sort of dangerous because they can be genre films in some ways but don’t always look like them. They feel like it could just be a comedy of manners so when people start pushing it it comes as a real surprise.

What about Breaking Bad? I know you are a big fan and Pat Healy’s character is willing to take as many risks for some ready cash as Walter White?

10330493_646400135409381_4730162787640509621_nOh yeah. Cheap Thrills is like that on crack. It’s like Breaking Bad condensed. We hadn’t seen the ending and I’m happy we hadn’t otherwise I would have thought like “Ah. Fuck!” but yeah I love Breaking Bad. The humour in that is so dark.

And what about all the wagers in the film? Where they all in place in the script or where there some you just couldn‘t do or did any more dark and twisted dares arise whilst on set?

Not at all. It was all just written in. We didn’t have time to improvise really. There was really only time for one take so you’ve really just got to fucking go, go, go and shoot, shoot, shoot. You’ve got twelve pages a day so at that point there are no fringes.

So how much of the script did you actually rewrite?

Well I did a certain amount and David Chirchirillo did a certain amount. I developed the wagers with him and I rewrote some of the dialogue and some of the turns and the atmosphere. You just have to tailor it to what you are going to shoot. A script is such a specific thing and it’s not always something that IS a movie. You have to bend it around a little until it’s something that you are comfortable making. But the final Cheap Thrills script wasn’t any more or any less twisted than the original version.

So Cheap Thrills has gone down so well at around the world. Tell me you have more directorial plans.

Well right now there is a thriller novel that I want to adapt that I just optioned called ‘Small Crimes’ by Dave Zeltserman. I’m talking to a production company right now who might hire me to do that one. Then I just got attached to a supernatural horror film which is totally different but which I think will still have some of the stuff I like. That would be a little bigger as it is through a studio and producer who makes a lot of horror films so you might be able to guess who it is. Then I’m also writing a script with Pat Healy for the You’re Next producers. That’s like a De Palma kind of thing. It’s a really twisted thriller.

There’s so much stuff. I might even do a remake of a Spanish movie but I can’t say which one. There are a lot of secrets…

Is your segment in The ABCs of Death 2 a secret too? Can you tell us a bit about that? It must have been pretty daunting making a short film without having any idea what the other filmmakers were up to.

It was very daunting. It was very competitive because these are people that you respect and you don’t want to look like a piece of shit so you’ve got to work hard. I can’t say much but it’s kind of a crime thing. It’s a black comedy. It’s got some good stuff and pokes some fun at movie stereotype that has been overused since the ’80s.

We’d like to thank Evan for taking time to speak with us and we can’t recommend Cheap Thrills enough. Go read our review over here to see how much we loved it. We’ll leave you with a trailer for the film.

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